bizarroMUSIC: Grammy Douchebaggery

Monday, February 9th, 2015

 

The Grammys,

Kanye West and

Beck:

douchebaggery continued unabated last night

and the results were rather sad

 

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…There are three things in the world of music that piss me off beyond all reason, and last night those 3 things collided.

Why do I hate the Grammys? Various reasons. Apart from being one of those gaudy, back-slapping exhibitions of excess called “award shows” that are popular at this time of year, I have never trusted the Grammys – their winners and losers seem just too perfect, too neatly arranged and playlisted like a commercial radio station. It seems as though the whole Grammy process is a manufacturing of music history: this is popular, therefore it is the best music at this very moment, and should be honoured and remembered as such, regardless of the thousands of other things that don’t get played to death on radio and television (and the internet) over the last 12 months.

 

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Don’t get me wrong; there have been worthy winners over the years, that deserve the recognition and the memorial of a Grammy honour. But if you think of the win in the grander scheme of things, it just doesn’t matter.

Two examples of what I mean, briefly

In 2001, the Grammys were a fairly bland affair by all accounts. A pre-Daily Show Jon Stewart hosted, Eminem performed with Elton John, Macy Gray won a couple and was never heard of again…blandest of all, U2 won Song/Record of the Year with Beautiful Day, which as we all know from it’s excessive use in television sports promos is definitely no Sunday, Bloody Sunday or Where the Streets Have No Name.

The lowlight of the winners, though, is this:

 

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“Who let the dogs out?”

A group of people called the Baha Men, who created a catchy novelty song about releasing canines from whence they were held hostage, were winners of the Best Dance Performance – one of the first years of the recording industry’s recognition of the dance/electronica genre, with dire results: it’s like asking your grandparents to pick out a t-shirt for you: ‘that one with those lovely flowers on, honey’- and this wasn’t the first time the Grammys shot way over the basket when it came to recognising new forms of music.

 

The first metal category Grammy went to Jethro Tull and the first rap/hip hop awards created saw DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince win immortality. Case rested.

 

Needless to say, the Baha Men were never heard of again, while their earwormy creation become an eternal cancer on daytime radio and nostalgic dinner parties that get out of hand when the bottle of apple sours comes out, and most vitally, a permanent carving on historical totem pole that says this is what music was all about in 2001.

There are many similar instances of this across Grammy history, all records now permanently kept to make us all feel pretty shitty about what music we wasted our money on over the last 40 years.

MORE GRAMMY TRAVESTIES HERE (The less said about the popular music entity known as Milli Vanilli the better):

http://www.spin.com/articles/25-most-inexplicable-wins-in-grammy-history/

 

“Hey, look a Grammy.”

The other example of how irrelevant and pointless is a personal favourite, laded with irreverence and a prime example of how some artists feel about Grammys – giving it the derision it deserves.

In a throwaway scene in Cameron Crowe’s excellent Pearl Jam documentary “20”, the camera follows PJ guitarist Stone Gossard on an impromptu tour of his home, as Stone explains why he isn’t too sentimental about keeping mementos of his career – it’s the music that counts, for Gossard (bassist Jeff Ament and Eddie Vedder are the band’s nostalgia hoarders)

As we follow Stone into his basement, this happens:

 

 

It is a perfect example of what Grammys mean to musicians – nice to have, to store away in the cupboard, maybe show it to the grandkids one day, but ultimately worthless when compared to the body of work that actually speaks as a historical document of any band, singer or group.

For interest’s sake, here is the band’s acceptance speech the year PJ won the Best Alternative Rock…or something or other Grammy:

 

 

And so, what about 2014/15?

What kind of historical document has the Grammys given the world to groan over in 10 years time, to hide behind the couch of embarrassment when our kids and grandkids go through our record collections – sorry, hard-drives – when we’re old and grey.

 

In two words: Kanye West.

 

For a more accurate, more serious evaluation of the event this year, see this link:

http://time.com/3700596/grammy-awards-2015-recap/

 

Kanye has been to the Grammys before, this isn’t his first rodeo…

The guy, apparently a musical visionary with his finger on the pulse of what will be cool five minutes from now (as well as in Kim Kardashian) has won his fair share of Grammys, most notably for paying really interesting and more talented music producers for their talents and equipment.

2009-VMA-Kanye-West-Taylor-Swift

KW is known more for his non-winning award ceremony performances, like that infamous moment he bludgeoned onto stage, like a drunken uncle at a wedding, to make his feelings known to the world about Taylor Swift winning a MTV VMA in 2009.

 

 

This time, he did it again, but this time he po-mo’d himself, and made it all a cool throwback joke on himself and the world.

Smugly hijacking the acceptance speech by folky-funky-cant-decide-what-kinda-music-I-wanna-make-but-the-melancoly-acoustic-thing-is-cool-with-the-hip-chicks singer Beck for his Grammy win

 

…For a moment, the world and Dr and Mrs Dre held their collective breathe. Was Ye gonna “Imma Let You Finish” again?

 

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Indeed, he did, but that’s okay, he was only joking…this white guy with a guitar deserves the award – a white guy, let it be known, who was burning up samplers and laying down the funk long before someone called Kanye West was a twinkle in the eye of hip hop.

 

 

Look, I am not a big fan of Beck myself – love Mellow Gold and Midnight Vultures kept me warm in a cruel, cold London in 1999 – however his whole creepy devout Scientology thing is a little off-putting – I’m afraid if I listen to his music, it may subconsciously make me want to read Dianetics and hold two copper bars for no reason whatsoever. As a rule, any music even tinged with trace amounts of zealousy religious dogma is not my bag. But…

You had to feel for poor Beck last night, with this raving lunatic showboating his spot in the light. Much like Swift did, Beck handled it all with as much dignity one could muster in front of a worldwide audience. And soon enough, thankfully, the incident was over…but was it?

Soon after, after faking-out Beck and the world all ha-ha-like, the Ye went on to offer some more commentary on the whole incident on the E! channel (otherwise known as “my wife’s personal YouTube channel”) and elaborated a rambling tirade about…well, some bullshit about “…diminishing art and not respecting the craft and smacking people in the face”

All essentially packaged in this handy soundbite: “Y’all know what it (means) when ‘Ye (walks) on the stage.”

Full transcript and video here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/style-blog/wp/2015/02/09/kanye-wasnt-joking-tells-e-that-beck-needs-to-respect-artistry-and-he-should-have-given-his-award-to-beyonce/?tid=sm_fb

 

 

That is Kanye West in a nutshell: the world’s greatest superiority/inferiority duplex, moneyed-up and click-worthy enough to be allowed to bungle uncontrollably with unlimited pop culture approval.

 

He did it once before, he did it again last night and give him half an opportunity on any world stage, he will keep doing it…God help us all.

So, well done to all the winners, Beck, Sam Smith -whom I am convinced is actually Adele in a tuxedo – etc., etc. you’re all deserving tastemakers for the year 2014/2015, and while we might not hear about some of you come next year, we hope you keep that trophy somewhere safe and special, like your basement, in a box, gathering dust.

 

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 …as if to say: “you kids, y’all be tripping”

Post-script: Prince, the artist formerly known as some sort of faux-Egyptian squiggle, who incidentally released a couple of kick ass funk records this last year, was on hand last night to present the Record of the Year award to Beck.

Prince/Squiggle/whatshisname was kinda like the Kanye of the day – except a little quieter and a bit more passive aggressive. Apparently, if you looked at him funny across a crowded Grammy after-party dance floor, you’d turn instantly into stone and he would sleep with your girlfriend.

 

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But, last night, Prince turned into an elder statesman of music with his quietly humble (for him anyway) presentation and in insistence that the “album” as art form is not dead. In the less than four minutes it took for him to walk about, give a short – powerful – speech and hand over the award, Prince managed to class up the place considerably, without resorting to hysterics and pomposity.

 

 

#albumsstillmatter

 

Prince has been around the block more than few times, and quite possibly ‘round the loop more often than not, but despite his various grandiose indiscretions and pronouncements, Prince still knows to let’s the music do the talking.

 

Something to think about, Kanye Kardashian.

bizarroMUSIC: Dreaming with JEFF BRIDGES

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

The Dude Speaks:

Jeff Bridges’ spoken word album

for sleeping coolly.

 

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If we are to know at least undisputed fact in this crazy universe of ours it is this:

 

Jeff Bridges is the coolest person in the world.

 

Why JB is cool is hard to pin down, he just is. Look at him, listen to him, see his movies, hear his music, see his incredibly talented photography, and one is washed over with a warm fuzzy feeling of being witness to some utterly cool shit.

 

Even in dogs of movies, he uplifts proceedings impeccably, and beyond anything they deserve (see: RIPD, Seabiscuit, How to Lose Friends…)

 

He’s been man enough to out-John Wayne John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, eaten more scenery than Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man. He can play everyman, the bad guy, the loser, the winner, the father, the son, the holy spirit; JB is one of the truly great actors…ever.

 

JB GREATEST HITS

http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/lists/10-greatest-roles-of-jeff-bridges-20101217/the-last-picture-show-1971-19691231

Naturally, every argument made to counter the true awesome power of Jeff is begins and ends in one word: Dude. Or The Dude, to give him his full name, or His Dudeness, or Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

 

Jeffery Lebowski, the Big Lebowski.

 

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In the 117 minutes of the Coen Brothers’ 1998 crime comedy anti-movie, Jeff solidifies an iconography that has lived on ever since, creating one of the best loved and most iconically, ironically, cool characters in the last 40 years.

 

 

Anyone who doesn’t at least fall in the love with The Dude, even if they don’t get the movie, doesn’t have pulse. Lebowski the lovable loser, creates high art out of slacker-dom, a philosophy out of not giving a shit, a religion of doing what you want, when you want, no matter what…or not doing it, whatever, man.

 

MECHANICAL

 

But as much as I can eulogise The Dude, there is now another chapter in the cool canon of Jeff Bridges and it is beautiful.

 

Bridges has been musically inclined before, not only earning Oscar gold out of his role as Otis Blake, the down-and-out Americana song-slinger on the road to redemption in the film Crazy Heart, he has also been a capable and understated musician in his own right, releasing two collections of subtle country blues rock over the last 15 years.

 

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In 2015, he has released The Sleeping Tapes aka Dreaming With Jeff, and it is something else altogether. It is essentially an ambient, drony collection of spoken word pieces, a series of disconnected but warm fever dreams, gently presented by Jeff in his relaxed, laconic drawl, over which Keefus Ciancia, keyboardist, producer and score composer for True Detective amongst others, lathers up some eclectic dreamy sound manipulations, sending a listener off on a sensual but good natured journey between states of consciousness.

 

As Jeff explains in the opening piece: the album has been created to

“inspire you to do some cool sleeping, some cool dreaming and some cool waking up”

 

It is a remarkable collection, there is nothing else quite like it, and as one listens to it more and more, you pick up new things, different directions and subtle messages in its undergrowth.
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The album is available to download (free, but it is recommended to pay what you can, as the monies from sales of the album go towards a worthy cause – the NO KID HUNGRY initiative to help eliminate child hunger – https://www.nokidhungry.org)

 

DOWNLOAD HERE: http://www.dreamingwithjeff.com/#music-section

 

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The album artwork is by renowned California surrealist Lou Beach (http://www.loubeach.com), in collaboration with Jeff, and also adds to the mischievous reverie of it all.

 

 

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A particular highlight is the 11 minute odyssey Temescal Canyon – a simulated field recording of JB narrating a walk through the wilderness – up a mountain – that, like any dream, moves swiftly between the serene to the absurd, covering such quirky tangents as finding a collection of old Spanish doubloon coins “hey, man, we’re rich”, to finding a discarded office chair “I’m going to sit on this when we get to the top (of this hill)”, to the final denouement:

 

“I hid a couple of hang-gliders (up here)…we’re going to hang glide outta here”

 

Throughout, Jeff’s voice is warm, friendly and inviting, you feel enveloped in the whole event with remarkable tangibility that is quite comforting, much like a dream, of course.

 

 

Jeff begins the latter half of the album with Feeling Good, a fun and funny take on the concept of popular subliminal sleep tapes that are supposedly designed to help you sleep while simultaneously giving you some much needed affirmation for life.

 

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In a voice with tongue firmly in cheek and a wink and twinkle in the eye, Jeff gently builds your brittle postmodern ego:

 

“I like your haircut”

 

“You belong…and are accepted”

 

“You have strong hands, capable of woodworking”

 

“You smell nice”

 

“You order well at restaurants”

 

“You are very good at guessing when a traffic light will turn green”

 

…And you believe.

 

 

Jeff Bridges is a remarkable storyteller on the Sleeping Tapes, creating a beautiful realm of the fantastical and slightly bizarre. Forming a world with words for us all to live in for a few moments, again and again, a truly original piece of sound art that does much to cement the continuing cool of Jeff.

bizarroHAHA: BILL HICKS

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

BILL HICKS’

PRINCIPLES OF COMEDY

…and life, really.

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1. If you can be yourself on stage nobody else can be you and you have the law of supply and demand covered.

2. The act is something you fall back on if you can’t think of anything else to say.

3. Only do what you think is funny, never just what you think they will like, even though it’s not that funny to you.

4. Never ask them is this funny – you tell them this is funny.

5. You are not married to any of this shit – if something happens, taking you off on a tangent, NEVER go back and finish a bit, just move on.

 

 

6. NEVER ask the audience “How You Doing?” People who do that can’t think of an opening line. They came to see you to tell them how they’re doing, asking that stupid question up front just digs a hole. This is The Most Common Mistake made by performers. I want to leave as soon as they say that.

7. Write what entertains you. If you can’t be funny be interesting. You haven’t lost the crowd. Have something to say and then do it in a funny way.

8. I close my eyes and walk out there and that’s where I start, Honest.

9. Listen to what you are saying, ask yourself, “Why am I saying it and is it Necessary?” (This will filter all your material and cut the unnecessary words, economy of words)

10. Play to the top of the intelligence of the room. There aren’t any bad crowds, just wrong choices.

11. Remember this is the hardest thing there is to do. If you can do this you can do anything.

12. I love my cracker roots. Get to know your family, be friends with them.

 

 

Bill-Hicks-001

 

original article source: http://www.nerdist.com/2009/08/bill-hickss-principles-of-comedy/

UPROXX article on the best of Bill Hicks on Youtube: http://uproxx.com/up/2014/02/5-bill-hicks-stand-bits-everyone-know/

bizarroSTARWARS: Mark Hamill

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

331 DAYS TO GO!

 

http://www.timeanddate.com/countdown/generic?iso=20151218T00&p0=64&msg=Star+Wars%3A+Episode+VII

What the hell ever happened to

Luke Skywalker?

luke_skywalker11

My mother likes to tell a story every once in a while, about how sometime around 1978-79, three-year old Me I went around insisting on being called Luke for about six months.

Coincidently, or not as the case may be, this was around the time the first Star Wars movie came out. I actually can’t remember seeing it the first time – I remember some years later, as an older ten-year-old enjoying Return of the Jedi- but the closest I can get to a memory about Star Wars 1 is an inkling of my dad getting a film reel of the film and putting up a sheet on the lounge wall and showing the family this new weird film about robots and starships – in those days, before the mainstream use of video machines in South Africa – people used to hire film reels for home use, at least I think you could…maybe my dad knew someone…

So, somewhere along the line during the late 70s, Luke was apparently my self-adopted name, apparently inspired by the hero-worship of the young Star Wars protagonist Luke Skywalker: who for millions around the world, became an embodiment of a new kind of screen hero.

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The wide-eyed innocence and excited enthusiasm of the young Skywalker became a sort of conduit for us all, in approaching the film and its later sequels, and I guess life in the 70s and 80s in general, too. Popular movie heroes up to then had always been the more mature, more roguish, less identifiable to younger audiences, more Han Solo archetypes, but in Luke Skywalker younger audiences found some identity on screen. The character was a large part of the film series’ success.

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Mark Hamill portrayed Luke in those first SW movies, and despite being half a novice actor, with a few soap opera and television appearances to his credit, pulled it off quite well…let’s all agree, if there is one thing we don’t really watch the SW movies for, it’s the acting: for the most part wooden, at best…cringe worthy, at it’s worst. (*Something that got amplified to its detriment in state-of-the-art high definition digital of the later SW prequels – Exhibits A, B, C and D: Jake Lloyd’s Anakin (the Munchkin) Skywalker, Jar Jar Binks and, later, Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman’s green-screen-addled marshmallow thespianism.

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In 1978 though, and with nostalgic viewings of the original trilogy later, we were less forgiving of the performances. For the most part, there was great chemistry between the film’s leads – Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. Besides the visual elements of the movie had us all awestruck that it didn’t matter that the characters were cast out of cartoonish over exuberance. It made it all even better…

Harrison-Ford-Carrie-Fisher-and-Mark-Hamill

Hamill was a bona fide world superstar by the time the following two movies arrived…but then, once that trilogy was completed, nothing…or so it would seem. While Hamill might not have been top billing on much else after SW ended, he didn’t go away.

The story of how Hamill got the part: the Freddy Krueger Connection…

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 9.40.53 AM

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Hamill

I like Hamill, particularly his obvious affection for his Luke Skywalker legacy, something he has from time to time, lightly satirised with great joy and glee in other media.

My favourite example is his star-turn in a classic Simpsons episode (Season 10, episode 9 “Mayored to the Mob”. In a nutshell – Homer becomes a bodyguard for Mayor Quimby, protecting him from assassination attempts by Fat Tony during a dinner theatre production of Guys And Dolls, featuring Hamill as Nathan Detroit whose main musical number is the hilarious and catchy Luke, Be A Jedi Tonight (Luck, Be a Lady Tonight…geddit) this is but one great example of the many consistently clever and incredibly funny SW references across the Simpsons universe. Simpsons writers wear their geek badges proudly throughout the show, not least when it comes to poking fun at Star Wars.

4ZKRVVO http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki/Mayored_to_the_Mob

Luke, Be a Jedi Tonight!

Another highlight of Hamill’s post-SW self-lampooning, is the geek mockumentry Comic Book: The Movie, a lovingly satirical take on the global boom of geek culture that defines the sci-fi fan community, particularly the behemoth that is Star Wars fandom. A self-referential Hamill is at odds with his peculiar brand of fame and also the fans themselves. Much like William Shatner grappling with Captain Kirk before him, Hamill wonders if Luke Skywalker will be his only crowning professional achievement in life.

But of course, it’s not. Mark Hamill has gone on, after SW, to achieve a lot as an actor, a voice actor and writer. None of which have anything to do with Star Wars.

In the early 90s Hamill …and not Luke…received another boost of cool, being cast as the voice of the Joker in the iconic Batman animated series. An accomplished voice actor for some of his post-SW years, Hamill made the role his own and created another facet of the Joker not again achieved until Heath Ledger’s portrayal in the Dark Knight.

mark-hamill-joker-retires

So influential was his voice for the Joker that he reprised the voice for a number of later appearances in video games and live-action (he voiced the Joker in the short-lived Gotham girl power TV series Birds Of Prey).

In between all that Hamill also appeared in notable theatre productions, including a star turn as John Merrick in The Elephant Man., as well as giving voice to several video games and writing for several issues of Dark Horse and the Simpsons comics.

And now Luke is back…

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Since the purchase of LucasFilms and the Star Wars universe by Disney, and the announcement that director JJ Abrams will be making a seventh SW movie, following the story after the events of Return of the Jedi, speculation was rife that the characters of the original trilogy, particularly Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker, would return, albeit older and in less prominent supporting roles.

It would be a popular option, after all. These are Classic Characters – ones most SW fans have grown up with, and it makes for fascinating speculation about what happened to them all, especially Luke: what happened after he defeated his arch-enemy (and the father he never knew) Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker. Where is he now, as a fully-fledged sole remaining Jedi, what is he doing and what are his relationships with other characters in the universe like?

Now that the rumours of these characters’ return is confirmed and the new Force Awakens movie is nearly here…December 18th…the premise and promise of these stories now being told is an exciting prospect, and judging by Hamill’s Twitter postings over the last year during production for the new film, he’s as excited as us about entering that world again as that ultimate iconic movie hero Luke Skywalker.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 11.11.45 AM

https://twitter.com/hamillhimself

I may not call myself Luke anymore, but I like to think I retained some his wide-eyed enthusiasm for adventure and doing the right thing. He is the ultimate movie hero, the kind we don’t see much anymore on screen or in real-life. It will be interesting to see Mark Hamill return to Luke, now older, wiser and with beard.

The student turned master…

bizarroMUSIC: Finding ESG

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

esg_2faced1copy

My latest musicological find…although appreciation for their music has been around for years, ESG are new to me, and what an interesting, unpolished gem it is.

ESG – Emerald, Sapphire and Gold aka the Scroggins Sisters are a bizarre fusion of DIY post-punk-funk pre-disco proto-hip-hop, full of erratic percussion, no wave guitars, killer basslines, cheerleader choruses and other weird and interesting sounds.

The band emerged out of South Bronx, New York during the musically fertile early 80s post-punk and hip hop scenes, releasing a couple of EPs and one album. Ever since the band have been off again / on again, enjoying a short renaissance in the 90s thanks to some exposure through the hip-hop of the day sampling some of their break-friendly tracks.

*For more bio info: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/esg-mn0000167386/biography

esg1

The band really tipped their toes in every genre around at the time, but ever-present are the plucky walking bass lines of sister Deborah and repetitive call and response vocals of Renee and Marie, that gave them their unique sound that subtly seeped into later alternative music.

Beth Ditto (with The Gossip) and Luscious Jackson are ESG’s most obvious musical descendants, but the band also fills that sphere of influence between Salt N Pepa and L7 by way of the Go-Gos.

esg-a-south-bronx-story-front

Some highlights below, but their compilation album A South Bronx Story (part 1 and 2) are well worth digging out on the internet.

(*I’ve included the studio recordings, but also check out some of the live recordings on YouTube for a fuller picture of the band…)

ESG-band

My Love For You – a rollicking cow-belling garage punk track that wouldn’t be out of place in any decent breaks or funky club mix…

Dance – the Beth Ditto blueprint, full of spunky attitude, earworm bass line and cool rolling drum breaks….

Erase You – a later track, a sassy girl power anthem – and my favourite by far…featuring some great whiny punk rock guitar and the memorable lyrics:

“…I was out with Tony/he had so much gold/but it was phony” – chorus: “E-race-shoo / just like a draw-ing/flush you like my toilet”

*Thanks to the band Moon Duo – whose forthcoming album Shadow of the Sun, out March 2014, I am really looking forward to – for turning me on to ESG via their Facebook post earlier this week.

https://www.facebook.com/moonduoofficial

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