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Woodcuts of Witches, Wizards and Devils
05.09.2017
10:46 am
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Well, here’s something you don’t see every day in real life: Witches with animal heads flying on broomsticks. Fuck. Why did all the good stuff happen before iPhones were around to capture it….? Or, is it just strange, nay fantastically unbelievable, that witches with animal heads ever flew around on broomsticks?

Now, once upon a time, long, long ago in a land not so very far from here, people actually did believe in witches and warlocks and wizards and animal hybrids flying with broomsticks through the devil-dark night. It was a form of mental aberration that infected the whole of Europe between the 15th and 17th centuries.

This dreadful fear of witches began with a couple of Dominican monks, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, who together wrote a barmy treatise on witchcraft called Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches) in 1486. This book reinvented witchcraft and the devil as something more than just “delusions,” as had once been believed, into something solid, active, real, and very, very dangerous. Unsurprisingly, it was a bestseller for some 200 years.

According to the Malleus Maleficarum the world was literally hoaching with witches and the only way to defeat them was by the worst kind of torture and execution. This treatise received Pope Innocent VIII’s blessing. He had already given Kramer a Papal Bull Summis desiderantes affectibus in 1484 which approved his “inquisition” into all reports and suspicions of witchcraft. This Papal Bull was included in the Malleus Maleficarum as part of the book’s preface, which meant that misogyny was not only acceptable but actively encouraged.

And so it began two centuries of terror and torture and mass stupidity.
 
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The great thing about witchcraft is that anyone could be accused of it. The accuser never had to prove the veracity of their statement. The accused always had to prove their innocence. But this usually meant forfeiting their lives. You see, innocence was often proven by use of a variation of the ducking stool—a device once used for scolds and prostitutes—whereby a woman believed to be a witch would be tied to a rope and thrown into a river or a pond. If the woman sank and drowned—then she was innocent. Hurrah! If she floated and lived, well hell, she’s a witch and must be burnt at the stake.

Usually, it never came to this, as most women ‘fessed up after hours or days of relentless torture and were then executed. Oftentimes, these women would name their accusers (or others they didn’t like) as also being witches and in league with the devil. And so it went, more and more women were questioned, tortured, and executed.

Stupidity does not discriminate—which explains why the hysteria over witchcraft was surprisingly flamed by the rise in literacy. The mass publication of pamphlets, news sheets, and books saw a great demand for stories “true” and fictional about witches and witchcraft. These stories were exceedingly popular and were spread in posters across the land like a virus. In every village and town, these reports on the occult would be read aloud wherever they were posted. The literate read the stories. The illiterate spread the tales word-of-mouth. The most potent part of these documents were the woodcuts which depicted the women (and some men) who were in league with the Devil and using witchcraft to spread his nasty ill-will throughout the land.

One of the earliest of these illustrated pamphlets was A Rehearsall both Straung and True, of Hainous and Horrible Actes Committed by Elizabeth Stile, alias Rockingham, Mother Dutten, Mother Deuell, Mother Margaret, Fower Notorious Witches first published in 1579. This booklet told the story of Elizabeth Stile, a 65-year-old widow and beggar who was accused of witchcraft and cavorting with three other witches Mother Margaret, Mother Dutten and Mother Devell, and a man called Father Rosimunde, who could (allegedly) transform himself “into the shape and likenesse of any beaste whatsoever he will.” Nice trick. Bet he never had to buy a round at the local inn.

It wasn’t just the lowly peasantry or working class who believed in such stories but the very highest members of the establishment. The first king to unify the nations of England and Scotland as King James I wrote a treatise on witchcraft Daemonologie based on his own personal involvement in the infamous North Berwick witch trials of 1590. King James believed that most women were “detestable slaves of the Devil, the Witches or enchanters” and he personally took part in the interrogation of those accused of witchcraft.

Many of these women were just dear old ladies who had lost their husbands or were destitute and had become victims to the unwelcome focus of a someone’s ire. As Jon Crabb notes on the Publlic Domain Review, it was from such poor women came the image of the “old crone” which was then promoted through books like The Wonderful Discoverie of the Witchcrafts of Margaret and Phillip Flower, Daughters of Joan Flower neere Beuer Castle (1619), A Most Certain, Strange and True Discovery of a Witch (1643) and The History of Witches and Wizards: Giving a True Account of All Their Tryals in England, Scotland, Sweedland, France, and New England (1700). It is this image of a witch as depicted in woodcuts that is still the most prevalent depiction of a witch used today.
 
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An early though hugely influential depiction of a witch from ‘A Most Certain, Strange and True Discovery of a Witch’ (1643).
 
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Witches cooking up trouble.
 
More weird and wonderful woodcuts of witches and alike, after the jump….

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.09.2017
10:46 am
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Stevie Nicks will fuck you up
05.08.2017
11:49 am
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In the 1980s, Fleetwood Mac employed an Australian bodyguard named Bob Jones. This would have been around the time the band was recording Mirage. Jones was an ambitious sort with some ideas about a harness that could be used in the water to assist in training known as the “swim-a-sizer.” He also was eager to write a book about self-defense that women could use to ward off attackers.

One day Stevie Nicks asked how his ancillary projects were going. As Jones tells it:
 

One day we were over at Stevie’s, and she’d asked how it was coming along. She was keen to understand the concept of how I intended to make it a train-at-home-alone manual.

“What can I do to help?”

“How about a photo shoot of you and me for the cover?”

Swear to God, I honestly meant this to be a throw-away line.

“It all sounds fabulous! I’d love to!”

“Great Stevie, I’ll ring your publicist to do a photo shoot here by the pool.”

 
And that was that. Nicks followed through on her promise to do a shoot for Jones’ book. The book came out in 1983 with the title Hands Off!, and there Nicks was, as promised, on the cover. Amazingly, Nicks showed up for the shoot wearing her trademark flowy gowns and the most incredible pair of platform boots, which prove her to be highly skilled in the martial arts indeed!
 

 
According to Jones, Nicks’ publicist professed to be astonished that Nicks had agreed to do the shoot, because she had recently bollixed up his negotiations with “one of the world’s top monthly magazines” (ahem, Playboy) by turning down an offer of $250,000 for a photo spread. I’m guessing it wasn’t the fact of doing a “photo shoot” that had caused Nicks to object. 
 

 
It all makes you want to tremble at the very thought of getting your ass kicked by Stevie Nicks in a dark alley, no? She’d probably use witchcraft on you too!

Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.08.2017
11:49 am
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‘Horror Comic Books’: A vintage news report on the evils of reading
05.05.2017
09:37 am
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EC’s ‘Crime SuspenStories’ No. 22, May 1954
 
In the hard “g” Los Angeles of the fifties, Confidential File was the name of Paul Coates’ column in the Los Angeles Mirror and his weekly series on KTTV, the local station then owned by the Times-Mirror Company. Coates’ beat was vice: housewives on goofballs, medical quackery, La Cosa Nostra, the “tragic social problem” of homosexuality. According to Stephan Hoeller, the bishop of L.A.‘s Ecclesia Gnostica, Louis Culling and Meeka Aldrich performed a Thelemic ritual on one 1955 episode of Confidential File that we would all like to see uploaded to YouTube.

One of the social ills Coates set out to expose on his TV show was an epidemic of children reading books. In this broadcast, Coates said the Comics Code the industry had adopted the year before, after Senate hearings had exposed the link between childhood literacy and juvenile delinquency, did not go far enough. He came out swinging against Big Ink in the introduction, calling for crime and horror books to be outlawed:

In this comic book is a love story, a boy and girl in love. They get married, and after an offensively lurid description (illustrated, of course) of the couple’s wedding night, the book shows how the bride murders her husband by chopping his head off with an axe.

This comic book describes a sexual aberration so shocking that I couldn’t mention even the scientific term on television.

I think there ought to be a law against them. Tonight I’m going to show you why.

(Do you think the scientific term was “coitus”?)

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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05.05.2017
09:37 am
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DEVO meet William Burroughs: ‘David Bowie would never make an audience shit their pants. We would.’
05.04.2017
02:44 pm
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Marilyn Chambers said no. The star of Behind the Green Door and Insatiable did not consent to participate in one of those two-way interview features with DEVO for Trouser Press in early 1982.

So Trouser Press enlisted William S. Burroughs to do it instead.

According to the magazine’s longtime editor Ira Robbins, the editorial assignment belonged to Scott Isler, “who set this thing up (after failing to get Marilyn Chambers to interview Devo).”

This was back in the days of no-Internet, when the U.K. audience and the U.S. audience could be considered two entirely unrelated entities. Trouser Press had an arrangement with New Musical Express to run the same material Isler had put together. Robbins noted that the encounter “proved to be a lot less entertaining or illuminating than we hoped it would be” and that “it took a lot of editing for Scott to fish out what we published.”

Even though they went about expressing it in entirely different ways, DEVO and Burroughs share an absolutely withering take on the accepted American empire as we know it. Burroughs responded to it with randomness, calculated perversity, and debasement, DEVO with a tongue-in-cheek insistence that the decline of the capitalist system was irreversible and indeed, salutary. Both placed the standard and stupid conformist stance of Middle America squarely in its sights.
 

Beat Meets Blank: A lovely spread from the NME version of the interview
 
According to Isler’s intro, Burroughs was on hand to promote Cities of the Red Night, his first novel in a decade, while DEVO was between albums. Their most recent effort was New Traditionalists, released several months earlier. Oh, No! It’s Devo wouldn’t hit the shelves until the end of 1982.

By the way, “DEVO” is here defined as the two main spokesmen for the group, Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh, who are both identified as fans of Burroughs in the intro to the piece. Unexpectedly, almost as soon as the interview is underway, Casale goes into a lengthy explication of DEVO’s goals and methods. Casale cites Burroughs’s 1974 conversation with David Bowie in Rolling Stone about “sonic warfare” and then the Casale and Burroughs speculate as to how much abuse it’s proper for an artist to put his or her audience through. Death is too far, surely, but “making them shit their pants”?

Read the whole thing after the jump…........

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.04.2017
02:44 pm
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Body of prolific ‘White City’ serial killer H.H. Holmes to be exhumed
05.04.2017
10:49 am
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In 1893 Chicago unveiled its massively impressive World’s Columbian Exposition, which had been organized under an extremely tight schedule by Daniel Burnham, and the impact of the idealized (white) urban setting, complete with newfangled electrical lighting, is difficult to overstate. The attractive power of Chicago and its fair, however, drew many thousands of unattached females to the city in search of clerical work, a startling percentage of which a medical doctor named H.H. Holmes would end up dismembering. Holmes’ totally creepy “Murder Castle” featured a gas chamber, a dissection table, and a crematorium to dispose of the cadavers.

Both sides of this story, the fair and the murderer, had become mostly forgotten until they were exhumed with great effectiveness by Erik Larson in his 2003 book The Devil in the White City, which rapidly became a bestseller and has become a fondly remembered staple of reading lists ever since. (As it happens, I reviewed The Devil in the White City for Publishers Weekly—you can read my review on the book’s Amazon page—and I’ve been joking ever since that I “made” the book.)
 

Diagram of the layout of Holmes’ “Murder Castle”
 
That word “exhumed” is an interesting one, because that’s what’s about to happen to Holmes’ body. One of the key points of Holmes’ life is that, in addition to his dozens of murders going unnoticed for quite a long time, there has arisen speculation that “he actually conned his way out of the death penalty and escaped to South America,” in the words of Stephen Gossett at Chicagoist.

Holmes has a plot at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. In order to put the scuttlebutt about his escape to bed, officials in Philadelphia and Holmes’ descendants have chosen to open up Holmes’ sepulcher and see what’s inside. If the official sources are to be believed, Holmes died in Moyamensing Prison in Philadelphia in 1896 at the age of 34.
 

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The exhumation comes at the request of Holmes’ great-grandchildren John and Richard Mudgett, who hope that DNA tests will settle the controversy of the identity of the body. A Pennsylvania court has approved the request.

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio have been said to have been working on adaptation of Larson’s book for several years, but that possibility is looking increasingly unlikely. Perhaps the exhumation is a last-ditch attempt to revive interest in the project?
 
via Chicagoist
 
Newspaper clippings: Illinois State Historical Library
 

Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.04.2017
10:49 am
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Paperback to the Future: Best of British science-fiction covers from the 1950s
04.25.2017
10:50 am
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The back story of Britain in the fifties reads like the checklist for a Star Wars script. The war is over, the Empire is dying and the New World Colonies are slowly taking over. Many British pulp sci-fi writers had only to look out of their windows at the bomb-torn urban landscape to find inspiration. Just like George Orwell who used his knowledge of the everyday world of rationing, deprivation, and squalor in 1948 and a little of his time working at the BBC in Room 101 to color his novel 1984.

There were—to put it simply—two schools of thought in sci-fi at the time: write about what you know (or more likely your obsessions) as seen thru the prism of science-fiction, or write space age fantasies about exploration of the stars and seeking out new worlds and life forms as a topical metaphor for contemporary tropes about empire, war, and civilization. 

Both of these were pretty much the mainstay of a whole range of short-lived British science-fiction magazines that flourished between 1950-56. These wonderfully lurid-covered magazines featured work by John Rackham (aka John T. Phillifent), Volsted Gridban (aka E. C. Tubb) and Vargo Statten whose name became the masthead for one popular sci-fi magazine of the day later retitled to the British Science Fiction Magazine. Statten was just one of the many pseudonyms used by the prolific writer and editor John Russell Fearn, who together with Tubb and Phillifent produced the bulk of work for Britain’s golden years of science-fiction magazines before these ‘zines were sadly snuffed out by the flood of comics, movies, and television programs from the USA.

Afterwards, Fearn continued to write sci-fi and crime novels. Tubb became famous for his space opera Dumarest of Terra and writing a series of novels based on Gerry Anderson’s Space 1999. Phillifent went onto write a library of sci-fi novels and a few novelizations for The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Most of the covers featured below from Vargo Statten, Tit-Bits Science Fiction and Scion publishing are the work of the brilliant artist and illustrator Ron Turner who supplied artwork, illustrations and comicstrips for Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and the Daleks.
 
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More gorgeous British sci-fi covers, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.25.2017
10:50 am
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BDSM, forced feminization & a little light torture: The erotic art of Bernard Montorgueil VERY NSFW
04.18.2017
10:58 am
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I suppose it was just another ordinary evening over at Bernard Montorgueil’s apartment. In the front room, there was gathered the usual array of flagellants, sadists, masochists, onanists, fellators, fellatrix, cunning linguists, sodomites and tethered cross-dressers. Each, in their own way, happily enjoying a quiet evening of sex and torture. Most of the men almost naked apart from their stockings and six-inch heels and the glitter of their nipple clamps and cock rings. The women, more sensibly, wore beautiful evening gowns, dress coats or fine tweed skirts and jackets matched by a stout pair of brogues.

It was just as Msr. Montorgueil had imagined it. For he had imagined it all and set it down on paper with a pencil. For this was what Msr. Montorgueil did most days and evenings sitting at his desk—draw pictures of men and women enjoying the carnal delights of S&M.

No one knows the true identity of Bernard Montorgueil. He was so mysterious a figure that “Montorgueil” does not merit even a full entry in Wikipedia. What little is known is that he (or she) was a French artist who produced the bulk of their erotic writing and artwork during the 1920s and 1930s. The work mainly focussed on the world of femdom-malesub with a dash or two of homoerotica and some forced feminization. Montorgueil’s work became very popular in the 1950s, where it was circulated around the underground fetish BDSM community. The drawings were originally produced in pencil and later colored for publication in the 1970s when they were collated into the volumes Dans La Maison des Amazones, Madame de Varennes and Barbara, and Les Quatre Jeudis. These books are long out of print though can be found on eBay. More recently, an edition Dressage was published.
 
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More of the mysterious Bernard Montorgueil’s erotica, after the work…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.18.2017
10:58 am
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Classic love and heartbreak songs illustrated in the style of Stephen King horror paperbacks
04.18.2017
10:12 am
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Artist Butcher Billy took iconic love and heartbreak songs and reimagined them as if they were Stephen King horror novels. They’re actually quite amusing and it works, in my opinion. The title of this series is called “Stephen King’s Stranger Love Songs.”

I may never listen to these sappy songs the same way again as I’ll have these horror-like visuals in my head from now on.

Prints and t-shirts of Butcher’s work are available through Redbubble.

A post shared by Butcher Billy (@thebutcherbilly) on

 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Tara McGinley
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04.18.2017
10:12 am
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Sex and Horror: The lurid erotic art of Emanuele Taglietti
04.13.2017
11:31 am
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Emanuele Taglietti painted some 500 covers for various fumetti or Italian comics during the 1970s. His work featured on such best-selling adult sex and horror fumetti like Sukia, Zora the Vampire, Stregoneria, Ulula, Vampirissimo and Wallestein, among many others. At one point he was producing ten paintings a month for these titles.

Taglietti’s sex and horror paintings often featured recognizable charcters/actors from popular horror movies like Christopher Lee’s Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, The Plague of the Zombies, and Creature from the Black Lagoon. According to Horropedia, Taglietti had “a fixation” with the actress Ornella Muti on whose likeness he based the character Sukia.

Born in Ferrara, Italy, in 1943, Taglietti was the son of a set designer who worked with film directors like Michelangelo Antonioni—who was also apparently his cousin. His father regularly took the young Taglietti on to movie sets introducing him to directors, actors, and crew.

Deciding to follow his father into the film business, Taglietti attended art college where he studied design. He graduated and then enrolled at film school in Rome. He became an assistant director working with directors like Federico Fellini and Dino Risi. But this wasn’t enough for the young Taglietti. By the 1970s, he switched careers to become an illustrator for the incredibly popular sex and horror fumetti.

Taglietti signed up with Edifumetto, where he worked at designing and painting covers. His style was influenced by the artists Frank Frazetta and Averardo Ciriello. His paintings successfully managed to convey thrilling narrative with highly alluring and erotically charged action. By the 1980s, fumetti were no longer as popular. Taglietti moved onto painting and teaching. He retired in 2000 but continues to paint.

A beautiful must-have book of Taglietti’s work called Sex and Horror was published in 2015. It’s one that is well worth seeking out.
 
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See more of Taglietti’s delightfully lurid artwork, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.13.2017
11:31 am
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The opera based on Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’
04.12.2017
03:05 pm
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Last year the Minnesota Opera showcased the world premiere of a new opera based on Stephen King’s famous novel The Shining, the starting point for an unsettling adaptation by Stanley Kubrick starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall. 

The operatic version was composed by Paul Moravec with a libretto by Mark Campbell. Moravec won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2004 for his work Tempest Fantasy.

The opera is an adaptation not of Kubrick’s movie but of King’s book—although the movie, firmly embedded in the minds of virtually everyone in the audience, will surely have an effect. As an example, the famous words “Here’s Johnny!,” shouted by Nicholson’s Jack Torrance in a moment of frenzy, is not in the novel and thus does not appear in the opera either. King has never had any affection for Kubrick’s version of his novel, so it’s noteworthy that the prolific author “maintained libretto approval and gave Campbell the green light 24 hours after receiving the final version.”

The Shining capped off the Minnesota Opera’s 2015-2016 season, with the premiere taking place on May 7, 2016.

The reviews have been respectful to more than respectful. In the magazine Opera News, Joshua Rosenblum was effusive about the production, saying that “Moravec proves to be a masterful musical dramatist.” He added that “Brian Mulligan does the seemingly impossible—he actually makes you forget Jack Nicholson” and that “watching Vega’s Danny step slowly toward the bathtub with the drawn curtain in the forbidden room 217 was as riveting as anything I’ve ever seen in a theater. “

Fun fact: Rosenblum did not mistype Room 237, nor did the librettist commit a flub—in King’s novel the locus of dread is actually Room 217.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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04.12.2017
03:05 pm
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