The Shmooze

War, What Is It Good For? Jewish Sexy-Time

By Anne Cohen

War, what is it good for? Jewish sexy-time, apparently.

Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund- JDate Singles Trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travel to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.

The launch of Operation Protective Edge forced the organizers to tweak the original itinerary, which included tours through “the trendy neighborhood clubs of Tel Aviv, the wide expanses of the Negev, and the hi-tech center of the Gush Dan region.”

Far from putting a damper on the experience, a JNF statement reports that the alternative route “served to enrich the trip experience.” Said one participant from New York: “Because we were unable to go to some of the typical tourist sites in the center and the south, we got a chance to see another side of Israel. The main sites are important too, but this way we felt like we were really getting to know the country and its people.”

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Celebrities Tweet the Middle East — With Controversial Results

By Julie Wiener

First, there were the celebrity tweeter and deleters. Now it’s the misogynistic tweet.

As the Israel-Gaza conflict continues to spark a proxy war on Twitter and other social media, numerous celebrities are getting themselves caught in the crossfire.

Earlier this week, both singer Rihanna and basketball player Dwight Howard alienated partisans on both sides by tweeting the #FreePalestine hashtag — and then deleting it.

Then former Justin Bieber paramour Selena Gomez decided to get all political and post a “Pray For Gaza” photo on her Instagram feed.

Fans got upset, so she posted a photo of herself meditating on the beach with the caption: “And of course to be clear, I am not picking any sides. I am praying for peace and humanity for all!”

Now comedian Bill Maher is irking feminists (and, presumably, Hamas supporters) with the following post:

Jezebel took issue with the “crazy woman” analogy: “Making a joke about hitting a woman to make a point about a country where people are being killed is just gross.”

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Robert Downey Jr. Tops Forbes List of Highest Paid Actors

By Rachel X. Landes

For the second year running, Robert Downey Jr. tops Forbes’ list of highest paid actors in Hollywood. Since June of last year, Iron Man has made $75 million — impressive even by Tony Stark standards.

The tribe has done slightly better on Forbes list of highest paid actresses, with two fabulous Jewish ladies making the list.

Natalie Portman comes in 8th, having made $14 million last year from another movie from the Avengers franchise, “Thor: The Dark World.”

Mila Kunis made $11 million, due to the Wizard of Oz remake, “Oz the Great and Powerful.” She ranked 9th on the list.

Sandra Bullock deserves an honorable mention (Does anyone remember that time she had a bris for her adopted son?). She made $14 million as well for being suspended in front of a green screen for “Gravity”.


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Jill Abramson Champions Freedom of The Press

By Masha Leon

“She was reading the New York Times before she could transfer to a bottle,”Gail Sheehy said of Jill Abramson, at the July 15 reception she hosted at her Manhattan duplex for the former executive editor of The New York Times.

Author of 16 books — including megahit “Passages,” Sheehy touted Abramson as “among the first to invade the all-male testosterone preserve at Harvard…and because of her, the New York Times has an equal number of men and women on [its] masthead.”

Sponsored by The Common Good as part of its Leadership Series, the more than 50 guests included former, still active and young wannabe journalists. Standing on a white plastic stool — so she could be seen — barefoot in-a-chic-black and white pattern sleeveless dress, Abramson declared: ”The First Amendment is first for a reason… Jefferson famously said if you had to choose between having a country with a government and no newspapers — or the opposite — he would say that having newspapers is more important than the government. The founders of this country were desperately afraid of highly centralized power and believed that a free press was necessary to hold the government accountable to the people” and that “stories from [accused] whistle-blowers — if they are indeed the sources — were very much in the spirit Jefferson envisioned.”

Karen Leon
Jill Abramson

Abramson stated: “When Obama came into the White House, he pledged to have the most transparent administration ever… and in certain ways the Obama administration had been good — declassified millions of documents. But in terms of these leaks… they have been unusually tough, aggressive and I see that as a really disturbing trend.”

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Is Amar'e Stoudemire Looking For a Hebrew Tutor?

By Anne Cohen

He has part ownership of an Israeli basketball team, sports a yarmulke before games and thinks Shabbat is “awesome.” Now, it seems Amar’e Stoudemire is ready for the next step: learning Hebrew.

According to an email making the rounds, the basketball star is looking for a tutor:

Please let me know if you have any connections to a Hebrew tutor who could work with a professional athlete that is looking to improve their conversational Hebrew. The tutor would need to spend most of the next 6 weeks living in Florida with the athlete and then continue to work with the athlete back in NY after the summer. Obviously all expenses and a generous salary would be included.

A few lingering questions: If the email does in fact refer to Amar’e Stoudemire, does this mean his Israeli citizenship is coming through? Could he be planning a move to the Holy Land?

Of course, Knicks fans might prefer Stoudemire spend his summer working on his defensive skills, but that’s another story.


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Jon Stewart on What It's Like To Talk About Israel as a Jew

By Anne Cohen

Making jokes about Israel can be tricky. No one knows this better than Jon Stewart, who has been criticized for remarks he made on “The Daily Show” pointing out the asymmetrical distribution of force in Operation Protective Edge.

So in a segment on Monday night, Stewart responded using what he does best — comedy. Every time the host mentions the word “Israel,” the show’s entire roster of correspondents starts shouting at him. Over and over again.

“Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this,” Stewart said when the verbal onslaught finally subsided. “But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”

Cue the tongue-lashing — and on to a “lighter” topic: Ukraine.

Check out the whole clip below:


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'Louie' Renewed For a Fifth Season

By Anne Cohen

Fans of ‘Louie,’ rejoice!

Not for you the long, almost-unbearable two-year gap between seasons three and four. FX just announced that “Louie” has been renewed for a fifth season, with seven episodes set to run in spring 2015.

“Louie’s fourth season was once again groundbreaking,” FX Networks and FX Productions CEO John Landgraf said in a statement. “Sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking – always thought-provoking. The show went to narrative and cinematic places no comedy has gone before, and we look forward to seeing what Louis comes up with next.”

Now, we know what’s on your mind: Why is the Forward covering this? Well friends, here it is: Louis C.K. is Jewish. Kind of.

C.K.’s paternal grandfather, Dr. Geza Székely Schweiger, was a Hungarian Jew whose family emigrated to Mexico. In an interview with NPR, C.K. said that his grandfather agreed that his children be raised Catholic, while remaining “quietly Jewish.” When C.K.’s father remarried a Jewish woman, he converted to Judaism and is now an Orthodox Jew.

So there you have it. You can look forward to a lot more “Louie” coverage on this blog.

The hit dark, and sometimes surreal, comedy just earned five Emmy nominations — including outstanding comedy series, lead actor, writing, directing and casting. We can’t wait for the next round.


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The Middle East Crisis, According to Woody Allen

By Rachel X. Landes

The situation in Gaza is “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself,” Woody Allen declared in an interview about his new movie, Magic in the Moonlight.

Asked about the Israel-Palestine conflict, Allen explained, “I feel that the Arabs were not very nice in the beginning… The Jews had just come out of a terrible war where they were exterminated by millions and persecuted all over Europe, and they were given this tiny, tiny piece of land in the desert.

“If the Arabs had just said, ‘Look, we know what you guys have been through, take this little piece of land and we’ll all be friends and help you,’ and the Jews came in peace, but they didn’t. They were not nice about it.”

Allen concluded that “there’ve been public relations mistakes, actual mistakes, and it’s been a terrible, terrible cycle of mismanagement and bad faith.”


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Adam Levine Gets Hitched, Jewish Girls Mourn

By Rachel X. Landes

Women around the world are weeping as Adam Levine, Maroon 5 front man and coach on “The Voice,” officially took himself off the market and exchanged vows with Victoria’s Secret model Behati Prinsloo.

Levine and Prinsloo began dating two years ago, after Levine’s split from model, Anne Vyalitsyna. As you can see, he has a type. They got engaged nearly a year ago, but only after asking Prinsloo’s father for permission.

The couple tied the knot in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on Saturday night. Approximately 275 guests attended the wedding, which was officiated by comedian Jonah Hill. Stevie Nicks preformed.

Levine accepted no gifts for the wedding. Instead, he and his wife asked for all guests to donate to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. What a mensch.


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When Elaine Stritch Dated Marlon Brando

By Masha Leon

Elaine Stritch, who died on July 17 at 89, was as feisty off-stage as on— whether belting out the the ode to imbibing: “The Ladies Who Lunch” or the survival anthem “I’m Still Here!.”

A presence at many a New York City bash, she was a participant in the November 17, 2003 “Stella By Starlight” Gala at the Rainbow Room to benefit the Stella Adler School of Acting. Stritch — an alumna — recalled: “When Ellen (Stella’s daughter) and I were both dating Marlon (Brando), Stella invited him to lunch at the Plaza. After lunch she said, ‘Marlon, you are not going to see Ellen any more…unless, darling, you marry her!’” Stritch chuckled: “Three waiters dropped their trays.” Stritch also recalled: “Stella made a purchase at Tiffany’s and when asked where to send it, she gave a New York address. ‘I thought you were English’ said the sales lady.’ Stella replied: ‘I’m not British… just affected.’” Stritch smiled: “I started to talk like her! And it scared the s**t out of me!”

Elaine Stritch and Masha Leon // Photo by Karen Leon

When I called Ellen Adler for some Stritch memories, she told me that her mother — grand dame of the legendary Adler Yiddish Theater dynasty — would say: “’When students come to me, they are bums. They don’t know how to talk, how to walk. When they leave me, they are artists.’” As an afterthought, Ellen Adler said: “When Marlon and Elaine were my mother’s students — both he and my mother would always yell at Stritch ‘Silence’!’”

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Backstreet Boys Scrap Israel Shows Over Gaza

By JTA

The Backstreet Boys canceled three sold-out concerts in Israel due to the Gaza conflict.

The American pop band posted a message Sunday on its official website announcing the cancellation of the July 29-31 concerts at the Raanana Amphitheater “to assure the safety of the audience.” New dates will be scheduled for the spring.

“This is a major disappointment for the band and fans as this was to be our first visit to Israel and we looked forward to meeting our fans,” the message said.

Canadian singer Paul Anka also canceled two concerts set for this week in Tel Aviv. The concerts will be rescheduled “once the local situation is resolved,” according to a statement issued by his representative.

Earlier, the Gaza conflict forced the cancellations of a Neil Young concert in Tel Aviv and a performance by the band America.


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CO2 and the Jews — Both Victims?

By Gabe Friedman

What does carbon dioxide have in common with the persecuted Jews of Nazi Germany?

Plenty, at least according to Princeton University physics Prof. William Happer.

On CNBC’s July 14 edition of Squawk Box, a morning news and business segment, Happer said: “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler. Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews.”

The bizarre comparison came in a discussion about climate change, which Happer has denied in the past. He was a featured guest “expert” on the subject, even though he has never published peer-reviewed research on climate change

Happer also complained that he has been vilified for his unorthodox views and compared himself to Galileo, whose round-earth theory was slammed by the establishment of his day.

Jon Stewart featured Happer’s quote in his “Moment of Zen” segment on Tuesday’s edition of The Daily Show.


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Dr. Ruth's Sex Tips for Wartime

By Alona Ferber

Getty Images

(Haaretz) — If you were wondering what sexual position was most appropriate in a bomb shelter, don’t. That’s some of the advice Dr. Ruth Westheimer gave an audience in Tel Aviv Wednesday night.

The sprightly 4-foot-7, 86-year-old lost her parents in the Holocaust and was a sniper in the Haganah, prestate Israel’s underground army. But it was her sex advice over the radio that made her famous back in the ‘80s in the United States. On Wednesday, she addressed a crowd of 650 on the ninth day of Israel’s air offensive in Gaza.

The escalation between Israel and Hamas was very much in the background; Dr. Ruth applauded the audience for holding out despite the situation. Meanwhile, the event’s organizer, the Tel Aviv International Salon, reassured people that if the air-raid siren went off, they were in a safe zone.

“I want to applaud you for your resilience and taking the time to talk about subject matter that I am still talking about almost every day, even though I’m 86,” she said to laughter from the crowd, who had been woken up that morning by a siren. Then came her rundown on good sex, with a healthy dose of Jewish tradition mixed in.

“For Jews, sex has never been a sin; it’s always been a mitzvah,” she said in her famous German accent. And if you want to be “sexually literate,” as she put it, it’s better to be in a relationship. “I’m talking about relationships and commitment. Did you hear me? Commitment,” she said to laughter from the audience of mostly young professionals who have immigrated to Israel.

What else is key for a good sex life? Women must take responsibility for their sexual satisfaction, a message she noted that women in the United States had heard loud and clear. A couple’s relationship is a vital part of the puzzle. Don’t talk about past partners, “Use sechel,” she advised, using the Hebrew word for good sense. And don’t get too used to a vibrator.

Another important rule of thumb, if you’ve had an affair and don’t want a divorce, if you want someone else besides your partner, or if you sometimes don’t find your partner attractive, just don’t say it out loud. “You can have a whole soccer team in bed with you in your imagination,” she said. “Just keep your mouth shut.”

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How Did Chelsea Handler 'Nazi' It Coming?

By Rachel X. Landes

How did Chelsea Handler ‘Nazi’ this coming?

July 14, Chelsea did a Hitler parody on her E! talk show, “Chelsea Lately.” Two days later came the Anti-Defamation League’s condemnation.

During the parody, Chelsea’s sidekick, Chuy, dressed up as Hitler. When asked why, he told the audience it was in response to Germany’s World Cup victory. Various Nazi jokes were tossed around, continuing past the skit and into the program.

One panelist said, “I’m a Jew, but I’m still glad that Germany won. It’s nice for them to have something gold that they didn’t pry out of my grandfather’s mouth.”

How far is too far?

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, said, “While we try to give comedians leeway and do not believe that Nazi jokes should be completely off-limits, this was an instance of taking a Hitler parody to the extreme” and that “Chelsea Handler’s references to it throughout the program and her connecting it with Germany’s World Cup victory took the joke way overboard.”

He continued to say that it was “offensive and hurtful to Holocaust survivors and their families, and to members of the German team and all Germans.”

Germany’s World Cup victory in general has kept the ADL very busy, as Handler’s denouncing follows the ADL’s criticism of all the Nazi jokes that spread like wildfire on Twitter following the match.


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Chelsea Handler’s Latest Hitler Comedy Not Funny, ADL Says

By Miriam Moster

Getty Images

(JTA) — Were Hitler jokes taken too far on the late-night comedy show “Chelsea Lately”? The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) certainly thought so.

 “While we try to give comedians leeway and do not believe that Nazi jokes should be completely off-limits, this was an instance of taking a Hitler parody to the extreme,” the ADL said in a statement issued Wednesday, calling it “tasteless, offensive and hurtful both to Holocaust survivors and their families, and to members of the German team and all Germans.”

Dressed as Hitler, host Chelsea Handler’s sidekick Chuy Bravo cracked jokes about Nazi Germany throughout a segment about Germany’s World Cup victory on Monday night’s show.

The gag was used to promote the E! network show on Twitter: “Tonight! Nazis, selfies and LeBron James!” This isn’t the first time Chelsea’s name has come up in reference to Nazi Germany. Raised Jewish, Handler discovered the extent of her Nazi ancestry on TLC’s reality show “Who Do You Think You Are?” when she learned that her grandfather fought for the Reich during World War II.

One disgruntled scriptwriter for the show, has even argued that Holocaust jokes are a virtual expectation on the show. In the 2011 book “Lies that Chelsea Handler Told Me,” Brad Wollack writes: “The rule at ‘Chelsea Lately’ is that it hasn’t been a productive morning writers meeting if I haven’t made a 9/11 or Holocaust joke (and I’m talking about the Jewish Holocaust).”

But Chelsea Handler is hardly the only one referencing Nazi Germany in response to Germany’s win.

The YouTube channel FegelDolfParodies, which describes itself as “a channel dedicated to ‘Downfall’ and ‘Angry German Kid’ parodies,” also produced a parody to mark Germany’s win, as did Hitler Rants Parodies, another YouTube channel that produces videos taking the 2004 film “Downfall” and re-subtitling them in a comedic manner. (Yes, there are apparently multiple YouTube channels devoted to parodies of one Holocaust-themed film.)

Meanwhile, the “Chelsea Lately” segment in question is nowhere to be found on the Internet, perhaps purged by the show’s producers given its controversial nature.


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First Black Captain America Coming to Marvel Comics

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) — An African-American character will soon strap on the star-emblazoned shield and step into the red, white and blue uniform of Captain America in the pages of Marvel Comics.

The character of Captain America first appeared in 1941, as a super soldier fighting the Nazis. He was revived by Marvel in the 1960s and became an icon among Marvel’s lineup of heroes.

The change in characters was announced on the publisher’s official website on Wednesday. It is built around the retirement of Captain America’s original alter ego, Steve Rogers, who finds he has lost the extraordinary strength and agility he had once gained from injections of performance-enhancing “super soldier serum.”

Rogers will hand the Captain America persona to his much younger friend and cohort, the character Sam Wilson, already a comic book star in his own right as the true identity behind the winged superhero known as Falcon.

A three-page explanation of the transformation was posted under the headline: “It’s time for an all-new Captain America.” It was authored by Marvel writer-artist Rick Remender and editor Tom Brevoort, part of the creative team involved in the publisher’s re-launch of several of its popular heroes.

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LeBron James and His New Israeli Coach

By Raphael Gellar

Rookie Cleveland Cavaliers Coach David Blatt won a European title with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Now he gets to coach Lebron James. Getty Images

One year ago, David Blatt was working with Maccabi Tel Aviv’s management on signing new players for the upcoming season. A year later, Blatt is coaching the best basketball player on the planet — LeBron James.

After spending nearly a decade at the heralded Israeli club, Blatt was recently hired as the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He is the first Israeli to ever coach a team in the NBA.

When Blatt signed the contract with the Cavs, he knew that they were heavily pursuing James, but he also knew there was no guarantee. Even if the Cavs didn’t sign James, Blatt would still be happy, given how hard he has worked to reach the NBA.

After James announced he was returning to Cleveland, Blatt realized how quickly things had changed since he signed his contract.

Suddenly the Cavilers are expected to make the playoffs, as they have all-star Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, who was the number one pick in this year’s NBA draft, and the king himself, LeBron James.

The question now is, will David Blatt live up to the pressure?

To find out, the Forward spoke with David Pick, a senior Correspondent for Eurobasket.com. Pick is currently in Las Vegas, covering the NBA summer league.

We asked Pick about what we should expect from Blatt in his first season in charge and if Blatt would be able to transform his coaching style from European basketball to an NBA style. Pick spent the season as a beat writer for Maccabi Tel Aviv and developed a relationship with Blatt on and off the court.

Raphael Gellar: When the season ends, do you think the Cavs will have had a successful season under David Blatt?

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Jon Stewart Needles Israel on 'Bomb-Better' War

By Rachel X. Landes

Our favorite Jewish late-night talk show host tackled the violence in the Middle East last night — with a few sharp-tongued yucks aimed at Israel.

In a two-minute segment on the Gaza conflict, Jon Stewart highlighted the “asymmetrical” nature of the two sides pitted against each other.

“Both sides are engaging in aerial bombardment, but one side appears to be bomb-better at it,” Stewart said with a grin.

Israel, with its Iron Dome missile defense system and smart phone technology, has the means to save and warn many more citizens than their Gaza counterparts, the funnyman noted.

“Most Hamas rockets are neutralized by Israel’s Iron Dome technology and Israeli citizens can even download an Iron Dome app,” Stewart explained. This alert system, which can be accessed by any Android or iPhone, alerts citizens of incoming missiles. So far, this app has been downloaded by about 500,000 Israelis.

Palestinians cannot be quite so sanguine about the conflict, he noted.

“How are the Gazans notified?” Stewart deadpanned. “The Israeli military warns Gaza residents of imminent bombing with a smaller, warning bombing.” He smiled. “An amuse-boom, if you will.”


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Want Slice of Hamas Rocket? Just 146 Bucks

By Rachel X. Landes

Yochay Benarie

Want to have your own slice of the war in the Middle East?

You can bid on your very own “Hamas Missile Debris” on HappySale, an Israeli based auction website. The seller, Yochay Benarie, is asking for 500 shekels, or $146.70, for the fragment.

Benarie, who lives in Tel Aviv, put up the debris for auction yesterday, and since then, the page has had more than 6,000 views, no doubt helped by a Buzzfeed article that features the Hamas Missile Debris for sale. The debris is marked, “Slightly Used,” so consider those words before placing your bid. According to Benarie, it is “99.9% safe.”

Another commenter replied, “So basically I only have 0.01% of losing a finger? Hmmm… I’ll think about it :)”

Benarie also assures potential buyers that he can sell multiple fragments of the missile, and that they come in different sizes.

At least 150 civilians have been killed in the air strikes in the past 8 days, including one Israeli man. Israel reported that more than 1000 targets have been hit.


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I Got Text From Hamas — in Broken Hebrew

By Ben Sales

Facebook

(JTA) — I just got a text from someone who’s trying to blow me up.

“The stupidity of your leaders put all of Israel under fire, and forced all the Israelis to go into shelters,” it said, sent by a user named SMSQASSAM. “We will continue bombing every place in Israel until they answer all of our legitimate claims with total affirmation.”

It was signed, “The Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades,” Hamas’ militia.

Hamas is texting me. Awesome.

This isn’t the first time. Hamas has hacked Israeli phones several times during this and other times of conflict, sending messages to tens of thousands of Israelis.

I don’t know for sure if I can credit Hamas with this, but a text I got Friday from someone named SHABAK informed me that a “Suicide bomber sneaked into Tel Aviv and Center targeting shelters. Beware of strangers in shelters.”

Leaving aside how one suicide bomber could target more than one bomb shelter, I’m guessing that text wasn’t from the Israel Security Agency, called the Shabak. Maybe it was from Hamas.

Two days earlier, I got a text from a user named “Haaretz” informing me that rockets had hit Haifa. They hadn’t. The Haaretz newspaper sent out an email titled “URGENT CLARIFICATION” telling us that “The message was not from Haaretz.”

Was it from Hamas?

I’m not going to respond; I’m not the biggest fan of text-messages. I prefer phone conversations, even if they’re short. But I’m not going to call Hamas, and judging from this past week, it’s probably not going to call me. I guess I’ll have to wait and see what it writes me next.

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