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The art of mourning: Vintage wreaths & other memorial keepsakes made with the hair of the dead
02.21.2017
10:22 am

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Art
History
R.I.P.

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A depiction of a French cemetery scene in a mourning dome made with human hair from 1881.

Memorial artifacts that were made or contained the hair of the recently deceased is a mourning tradition that dates as far back as the 1600s. As a matter of fact, a place in Independence, Missouri that claims to be the “only hair museum in the world” Leila’s Hair Museum is in possession of a Swedish mourning brooch by that dates to 1640. Works of art made from hair were actually a pretty common thread throughout the world and while not all were intended to symbolize a person’s passing, the examples featured in this post were.

During the Victorian era, owning mementos made with or containing hair was a way of life. Some families would create a hair wreath using hair from every member of their family which were used as a family tree of sorts and utilizing the hair as a way to communicate details about their lineage. Even churches were known to create hair wreaths created by donations from members of their congregations. Mourning wreaths would generally be constructed in a distinct half-moon style to convey that the deceased had begun the journey to the afterlife. Though they are in every sense of the word macabre, they are also intricate, intimate works of art.
 

A close look at a memorial hair dome created in 1886.
 

A mourning hair wreath made with human hair, wire, and wood. Approximately 1850-1900.

More mourning wreaths after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Live! from Capitol Hill: Bertolt Brecht’s Folkways LP
02.17.2017
07:24 am

Topics:
Art
History
Literature
Politics

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On October 30, 1947, Bertolt Brecht gave a command performance for Congress. The House Un-American Activities Committee summoned the German playwright, poet, and Doors lyricist to the Cannon House Office Building to examine him about matters of the direst urgency and the gravest possible consequence to the Republic, such as the name of the leading actor in Hangmen Also Die! and the lyrics to Brecht’s song “In Praise of Learning.” By what vile, McCarthyist tactics they extorted from Brecht these most closely held secrets of the Third International, I dare not print.

The recording is presented by the critic Eric Bentley, whose narration bridges edits in the tape and provides historical context. Like most Folkways records, the LP comes with a booklet; this one reproduces the transcript of Brecht’s testimony and Bentley’s voiceover along with a facsimile of the hand-corrected statement Brecht prepared for the occasion but was not allowed to read. From the booklet’s introduction:

It is an encounter that rivals in drama some of the great trial scenes in Brecht’s plays, and it will fascinate equally both those interested in Brecht and those interested in the HUAC.

Although tantalizing fragments of the recording have been heard in Brecht on Brecht, and the complete transcript has been printed by the government, this is the first time that the encounter has been brought to the public. Bertolt Brecht’s voice was recorded few times in any language, and this is almost certainly the only recording of Brecht speaking English.

You know you’re talking about an old record when its subtitle includes the phrase “an historic encounter” (or, in the cover artist’s words, “an historical encounter”). But the interests of these ghosts’ voices, speaking in the Caucus Room 70 years ago, are not so remote. Over a decade before this engagement, Brecht had addressed Germans’ perplexity about truth in politics under the Nazis and what the Führer really believed in his heart in “On the Question of Whether Hitler Is Being Honest,” which cut the Gordian knot in its concluding sentences:

Certainly, Hitler could be honest and mean well, and yet still objectively be Germany’s worst enemy. But he is not honest.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
That time the ‘world’s dumbest’ terrorist blew up the Rolling Stones’ equipment
02.16.2017
01:10 pm

Topics:
Crime
History
Music

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Despite what recent political rhetoric would have you believe, terrorism is hardly the sole property of Muslims from the Middle East. Timothy McVeigh and his pals blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the left-wing Red Army Faction in Germany killed as many as 34 people in multiple incidents, and the Weather Underground destroyed the sub-basement furnace room of a townhouse on West 11th Street in 1970. One can multiply the examples.

Indeed, depending on the time and place, there have been terrorist incidents where the most likely suspects—the suspects many would have instantly guessed—were radical French separatists in Canada. Such a case occurred in the summer of 1972 during the Rolling Stones’ legendary American Tour that year, when a bomb destroyed part of a truck and several speakers of the group’s gear several hours before a gig.
 

New Musical Express, July 22, 1972
 
Rolling Stone reported at the time:
 

The two equipment vans had arrived from Toronto and were parked on a ramp at the Montreal Forum. The dynamite blast that exploded under the ramp blew out a slew of windows in a nearby apartment and the cones of 30 speakers inside one of the trucks.

“Whoever it was was the world’s dumbest bomber,” said press agent Gary Stromberg. “First he put the bomb under the ramp instead of the truck, and the other truck was the one with most of the stuff inside.”

 
Air Canada bumped luggage from a flight out of Los Angeles to accommodate the replacement cones, and the show was able to go on just 45 minutes later than planned. However, some sort of unrelated snafu left 3,000 disappointed Stones fans outside the venue without a ticket—they proceeded to engage in significant civil unrest, including pelting the building and police with rocks, wine, beer bottles, and bricks. Jagger himself was hit by a flying bottle inside the venue.

In his essential book S.T.P.: A Journey Through America with the Rolling Stones, Robert Greenfield provides this account:
 

Later that night the phone rings in Peter Rudge’s room. He picks it up, talks for a while, then begins making phone calls. “Rudge-O here,” he tells Gary Stromberg. “This is rather important. Could you come down to the hall? We’ve been bombed.”

Some person (or persons) has placed one to three sticks of dynamite underneath one of the trucks. Fortunately, it is the one that holds the steel loading ramp, so all it does is blow a four-by-eight hole in the bottom of the truck, disintegrate the ramp, and destroy all the cones in the speakers. The driver, who usually sleeps in the rig, is off somewhere, which saves him from at least a heart attack, if not actual death. All of the windows are broken in the apartment buildings on the street facing the Forum where the truck is parked.

The street is roped off. The police are making diagrams and gathering shards and pieces and a very French Sergeant de Detectif is in charge. Rudge persists in calling him “captain.” Someone says to him, “Certainly this is the work of one of your French separatists.”

“OH NO M’SEIU!” he replies with classic Gallic outrage. “C’est une American draft dodgeur. Zey are all over. Zey come up here with impunity.”

-snip-

The bomb at the Forum was just the first of four timed to go off at intervals during the day. They wake Jagger up to tell him about it. “Who did it?” he asks sleepily. No one knows. “Well,” he yawns, “why the fuck didn’t they leave a note?”

But he’s shook. The French separatists, it is well known, are cray-zee. They’ll stop at nothing, and all day long he keeps referring to the event uneasily, worried that they plan to pull something off at the show. But the show itself goes off peacefully, the bomb squad having turned the building upside down more than once. Outside the hall, the kids and the cops get down to it and fourteen people are injured, thirteen arrested, and a TV news cruiser is set on fire. UPI, in an inspired piece of fiction, reports that the Stones leave the Forum by means of a helicopter that takes off from the roof and circles the crowd announcing, “THEY HAVE LEFT THE BUILDING: GO HOME” in both French and English.

 
This difficult stretch of the tour was by no means over with. The very next day, in Rhode Island, the Stones’ entourage got into a fight with photographer Andy Dickerman, landing Jagger and Richards in jail.

New Musical Express image courtesy of the Library and Archives of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Grim postcards of executions and dead bodies from the Mexican Revolution 1910-17
02.16.2017
10:23 am

Topics:
Class War
History
Politics

Tags:

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The Mexican Revolution began as a middle-class protest against the oppressive dictatorship of the country’s President Porfirio Diaz (1876-1911). In 1910, wealthy landowner Francisco I. Madero (1873-1913) stood against Diaz in the presidential election. The election was rigged by Diaz and his cronies who then attempted to have Madero arrested and imprisoned. Madero escaped to San Antonio, Texas, where he wrote Plan de San Luis (Plan of San Luis de Potosí), a political pamphlet that denounced Diaz explaining why he should no longer be president.

Madero’s Plan was a rallying cry that asked the Mexican people to rise up against Diaz on Sunday, November 20, 1910, at 6:00 pm and overthrow his government. This is how the Mexican Revolution began. What followed was a bloody and ferocious civil war and one of the greatest upheavals of the 20th century. An estimated 1.5 million people died. Two-hundred-thousand were made refugees.

During the revolution (1910-20) hundreds of commercial and amateur photographers documented the events on both sides of the war.

Using glass plate cameras and early cut film cameras, primitive by today’s standards, the photographers faced injury and death to obtain negatives which would be printed on postcard stock and sold to the soldiers and general public on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. Some of the views were obviously posed, and others showed the death and destruction resulting from the violence of a nation involved in a bloody civil war.

The following postcards are part of a collection held by the Southern Methodist University archive.
 
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More postcards from the Mexican Revolution, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
None more black: The grim American gothic horrors of ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’
02.13.2017
11:56 am

Topics:
Books
History
Movies
Occult

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Black River Falls’ Miss Congeniality circa 1890

Between the years 1890 and 1900, something terribly wrong happened to the good people of Black River Falls, Wisconsin. A tiny mining town populated mostly by Norwegian and German immigrants lured by the promise of cheap land, the once-bustling community fell into disrepair in the late 1880s when the inhospitable climate caused the mines to shut down, essentially dooming the town and everyone in it. While the town did ultimately survive, the ensuing decade was merciless to Black River Falls residents. A thick, impenetrable darkness descended on the town as the population withered, succumbing to poverty, disease, madness, murder, and worse.
 

 
In 1973, Michael Lesy told the terrible true tale of Black River Falls in Wisconsin Death Trip, a book that juxtaposed stark images shot by photographer Charles Van Schaick, who documented the town’s downward spiral in a series of jarring portraits, with matter-of-fact newspaper reports of all the murder, mayhem, devil-worship, suicide, hauntings and general bedlam that infected the town like a virus. If ever a place was cursed, it was Black River Falls, and Wisconsin Death Trip remains one of the bleakest, most devastating accounts of rural American life ever published. Seriously, this place was essentially Hell on Earth.
 

All this and diphtheria, too: a typically unsettling slice of life death in Black River Falls.
 
Witness, if you will, just a smattering of the horrors within:

A ten-year-old boy and his younger brother run away from home, find a remote farm several miles away and promptly blow the owner’s head off. They spend the rest of the summer frolicking at the ill-gotten farmhouse until the farmer’s brother comes for a visit. The boy is sentenced to life in jail.

A funeral director is suspected of botching a burial. The woman’s body is exhumed and the woman is found to have been buried alive, her fingers bitten half off in madness after discovering her horrific fate.

A sixty-year-old woman, afraid that the rash on her back would kill her, steps into her backyard, douses herself with gasoline and self-immolates.

A young mother takes her three children out for a day at the beach, and then drowns them, one by one, while the others watch. A fifteen-year-old Polish girl burns down her employer’s barn—and his house—because she wanted some “excitement.” 

A young German man, having only moved to Black River Falls a month prior, attempts suicide by train, lying down on the tracks and refusing to move. He is finally removed by four men. He later vanishes.

A teenage girl, jilted at the altar by her fiance, goes mad with grief, hanging herself in the local asylum. Meanwhile a young man, also recently jilted, shoots his ex-fiance and then himself. A recently divorced man shoots his ex-wife and her family dead in the crowded town square.

An outbreak of diphtheria kills off a score of local children. The school is closed and the houses of the afflicted burned to the ground. A formerly world famous opera singer moves to town and within a month is reduced to eating chicken feed to survive.

A farmer decapitates all of his chickens and burns down his farmhouse, convinced that the devil has taken over his farm. A drifter is taken in by a kindly family. He has dinner with them and as they sleep, he shoots them all and then himself.

And there’s more, so much more. Just endless misery death, murder, mutilation, arson, starvation, cruelty and unrelenting depression. And all in the space of just a few years.
 

 
In 1999, a highly unsettling documentary based on Lesy’s book was released. Also titled Wisconsin Death Trip, it showed the photographs, recounted the newspaper reports, and recreated many of the crimes in black and white, bringing Black River Falls’ grisly past to life. The film also juxtaposes the town’s lunatic ancestors with dead-eyed portraits of the then-current residents, less murderous but still as dazed and depressed as ever, staring blankly into the camera at nursing homes or bus stops, clearly waiting for the Lord or somebody merciful to end their dreary, pointless existences. I would not recommend consuming both the book and the documentary in one sitting unless you have a bucket of Prozac handy, but I will say this: You might think you’re pretty goth ‘n all with your serial killer books and your Bauhaus records, but you are definitely not Black River Falls goth. Those motherfuckers were the real deal.

Watch ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’ after the jump…

Posted by Ken McIntyre | Leave a comment
Dope Man: Trump’s dad nearly ran for Mayor of New York, watch his racist 1969 test commercials
02.10.2017
10:50 am

Topics:
History
Politics
Race

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UPDATE: Politico is now saying that the videos were a hoax. It looks like Sidney Blumenthal got punk’d. The spots were pulled on both Vimeo and YouTube. About an hour later the London Review of Books scrubbed the offending paragraph (see below) from their website with this message:

The original version of this piece contained two passages that require correction and clarification. At the time of the Roy Cohn leaks mentioned, the New York World Telegram was owned not by Hearst but by Scripps Howard. A paragraph referring to Fred Trump’s campaign for mayor of New York, although it accurately reflected Trump’s racial attitudes and his hostility towards Mayor John Lindsay, has been removed because the campaign ads referred to appear to be clever fakes.

“Dope Man” also made Snopes just now.

Yet another skeleton hiding out in Donald Trump’s closet, these unused TV spots were created when his father, Queens-based real estate developer Fred Trump, was mulling over challenging Republican mayor John Lindsay—who had angered Trump by refusing him certain city contracts—in the New York City mayoral race of 1969. Ultimately Trump Sr. decided not to run, but at least two television commercial tests were produced, proving, if nothing else, that the nut didn’t fall very far from the tree in his son’s case.

At first glance, the “Dope Man” spot almost seems like a parody or media-jamming meta-prank. I mean, WHO would have been so classless as to do something like this? [Editor: A Trump?] Although the two commercial tests have been posted on YouTube and Vimeo since mid-October of last year, no one has really touched them. It just doesn’t seem like they could be real… (like that Woody Guthrie song about “Old Man Trump” that seemed so Snopes-worthy at first) but here’s a citation from an article written by Hillary Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal that appears in the February 16th issue of the London Review of Books.

Check it out, folks:

In 1969, Fred Trump plotted to run for mayor of New York against John Lindsay, a silk-stocking liberal Republican. The reason was simple: in the wake of a New York State Investigations Commission inquiry that uncovered Fred’s overbilling scams, the Lindsay administration had deprived him of a development deal at Coney Island. He made two test television commercials. One of them, called ‘Dope Man’, featured a drug-addled black youth wandering the streets. ‘With four more years of John Lindsay,’ the narrator intoned, ‘he will be coming to your neighbourhood soon.’ The ad flashed to the anxious faces of two well-dressed white women. ‘Vote for Fred Trump. He’s for us.’ The other commercial, ‘Real New Yorkers’, showed scenes of ‘real’ people from across the city, all of them white. Fred Trump, the narrator said, ‘is a real New Yorker too’. In the end he didn’t run, but his campaign themes were bequeathed to his son.

There are no more words. NO MORE WORDS.
 
Watch ‘Dope Man’ after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Territorial Pissing: The 19th century public urinals of Paris
02.10.2017
09:14 am

Topics:
Design
History

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A man entering a public urinal or ‘pissoir’ at Place Saint Germain l’Auxerrois, Paris, 1875.
 
The photos in this post were taken by one of the most notable and gifted photographers of the nineteenth century, Charles Marville. So revered was Marville in his native France that he was chosen by the city of Paris to document the changing city, especially landmarks that were built by Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann who had been tasked with the job of giving Paris a makeover of sorts. According to details found in Haussmann’s biography, he was also responsible for the introduction of new and improved water supply and drainage for the overcrowded city in an effort to remove “foul odors” from the streets. Which brings me back to Marville’s fascinating photos of public urinals—or as they were called during this time period pissiors—that were located all around Paris during the late 1800s and well into the turn-of-the-century.

The pissoirs were conceived in 1834 by Claude-Philibert Barthelot, Comte de Rambuteau—a French official who pioneered and implemented improvements to the existing sewer system in Paris. Barthelot was convinced that the poor, unhealthy conditions of the streets were directly correlated to a massive cholera outbreak in 1832. However, it would be Haussmann that would be instrumental in helping install pissoirs of varying styles and sizes all around Paris, which helped confine the stench of urine that before their arrival was overwhelming the city. Thanks to Marville’s camera lens, this transformative time in Paris was beautifully chronicled in his photographs.

Most of the pissoirs that Marville photographed are quite beautiful despite their lowly utilitarian purpose, while others are not much more than a slab of carved concrete for Parisian men to relieve themselves on instead of a wall. At one time approximately 1,200 pissoirs stood around Paris and according to some the more private varieties were also used during WWII as places to discuss private matters without worrying if a Nazi was eavesdropping on you (or perhaps this was just what the men who frequented them told their wives?) By the time the 60s arrived, the city of lights had begun the process of removing its pissoirs, and only one still stands in the city on Boulevard Arago near the intersection of Rue de la Santé. Photos of Paris’ elegant pissoirs follow.
 

Boulevard Sébastopol 1875.
 

A large, elegant pissoir located at Champs-Élysées 1874.
 
More period pissoirs of Paris after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Hell in 3-D: Stereoscopic pictures of Satan and his Underworld from 1875
02.09.2017
09:48 am

Topics:
Amusing
Books
History

Tags:

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‘Hell.’
 
Welcome to Hell!

As your tour guide today to our great Satanic Majesty’s diabolic underworld, may I suggest you pay close attention to the handy stereoscopic guide which was issued to you on your arrival. This is our most up-to-date edition which was published in 1875. Now I know some of you are already complaining it’s not on Kindle or Oculus Rift or whatever that new-fangled virtual reality shit you have up there. Well, this is Hell. Things aren’t meant to be easy here. In fact everything is meant to be a pain in the ass—though admittedly the music is pretty good down here. Anyway…

Stereoscopic images are very popular here as they once were back in the 1800s. It’s a simple way to see things in 3-D.

This infernal guide book was produced by two Frenchmen, François Benjamin Lamiche and Adolphe Block, sometime during the late 1860s and early 1870s. And as you can see from their exquisite handcrafted models—which always remind me of those skeletons Ray Harryhausen made for Jason and the Argonauts—Hell has plenty of interesting torments, punishments and the odd occasional pleasure…but not for you.

So, why not browse the brochure and get ready for some unrelenting torment, hm? Any questions? What? Oh, no, no, no. There are no rest rooms down here—you should surely know by now Hell is an eternity without relief.

Click on the double images for a closer look.
 
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‘Hell.’
 
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‘The railway to Hell.’
 
More old fashioned 3-D pictures of Hell, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Bizarre video of the Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ from Soviet TV of the 1970s
02.06.2017
11:31 am

Topics:
History
Music
Television

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The Beatles were big enough that even the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had to deal with it, somehow. In 1976 Soviet-controlled TV—the only available televised media in the entire country—played a peculiar Russian version of Paul McCartney’s deathless song “Let It Be” as an oddly baroque and defiantly un-glitzy bit of variety TV. Odd to say about television in the worker’s paradise, but the trappings of the proceedings seem to me somewhat ... bourgeois?

It doesn’t happen too often, but today I sorely wish I understood Russian. In the YouTube comments on the video, there is some healthy (and also rancorous) debate about the nature of the Russian translation and the degree to which they represent a stridently post-Marxist rewriting of McCartney’s text. One participant’s premise is that in Soviet Russia, where the authorities control all of the public propaganda and nothing comes about by chance, it was essential to rewrite the humanism of the original song to fit collectivist ideas, so everyone’s the same, no one is an individual, one must internalize Communist conformity, blah blah. The original Russian is (forgive any errors on my part here) “Bylo, est, i snova: budet tak,” which means something like “It was, it is and it will always be like that.”

What everyone seems to have missed is that this is a pretty fair translation of McCartney’s original sentiment. What is the phrase “let it be” if not an ode to quietism, however defined? It don’t take a lot to get from here to there, you know? The propagandistic component might have resided not in rewriting McCartney in any way but in choosing this song, of all Beatles songs, as the one to adapt.

The 2000 WGBH miniseries Communism: The Promise and the Reality features a brief clip of this mysterious video, although unfortunately not much information about it is supplied. It pops up in “People Power,” the final part of the six-part series, about 14 minutes in (you can check it out below). After discussing the strong demand in the USSR for banned western goods such as blue jeans, the voiceover says, “But occasionally the authorities made an effort to cater to the tastes of the new generation….” and we get to see the start of the video. They translate the opening lines thus:
 

Everything’s happened before in the world
People are always the same
That’s how it was, it is, and always will be

 
 
Apparently the religiously tinged references to “Mother Mary” were also expunged, which can’t be too surprising.
 
See for yourself, after the jump…....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Beautiful handmade Venetian carnival masks
02.02.2017
09:54 am

Topics:
Art
Fashion
History
Sex

Tags:

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‘Damask Joker.’
 
Reading The Story of My Life by Giacomo Casanova set me off on a browse of the beautiful masks famously worn during the Carnival of Venice. These masks were originally used to celebrate the victory of the Most Serene Republic of Venice against Ulrich II of Aquileia and his failed attempt to bring the city under German rule circa 1162. By the time Casanova was living in the city in the middle of the 18th century, citizens were allowed to wear masks for up to six months which enabled the wearer to indulge in an excess of food, wine and partying, and to mix freely with those of other classes. The masks also provided anonymity for those seeking to indulge in a bit of sexual shenanigans. Such hedonistic pleasures led Venice to gain its reputation as a strict yet deeply licentious city.

But back to Casanova who was much more than just a bed-hopping sex beast. He was a soldier, a musician, a dabbler in the dark arts, a novelist, a spy and eventually a librarian to Count Joseph Karl von Waldstein at his castle in Bohemia. Casanova also spent time in the Piombi prison for “public outrages against the holy religion.” Quite incredibly, he escaped from this jail situated in the upper floors of the Doge’s palace by climbing through the roof in 1756. He then fled to Paris where he set up a lottery to raise money for the French army. Casanova was a rather ingenious man and I think it fair to say throughout his life he quite literally donned various “masks” like an actor as he tried out the different roles he played. The real Casanova only became apparent when he sat down to write his memoirs when working as a librarian in Dux.

These gorgeous handmade paper mache masks are inspired by many of the traditional designs worn in Venice during Casanova’s era. They are for sale and though expensive, are utterly beautiful.
 
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‘Casanova.’
 
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‘Jolly.’
 
More beautiful masks, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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