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REDeye
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Tue Dec-03-02 12:55 PM

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"ADAPTATION (only minor spoilers)"


          

I've been struggling to come up with as bizarre an analogy as possible to explain the viewing experience that is Charlie Kaufman's ADAPTATION. Why? you might ask. Thing is, the conventional explanations just don't work with this movie.

And I think I found one.

It's like if street magician David Blaine walks up to you and, without touching you, makes $10 disappear from your wallet. It's a helluva trick, but I'm not sure I wouldn't rather have the money.

What Charlie Kaufman does is a mean trick indeed, and this movie is very clearly the work of an inspired -- if very warped -- genius. He starts with a nice little book on plants. It's nice, but it's competely lacking in plot. So he proceeds to explain why it wouldn't make a good movie, and point of the things he would have to do to it to turn it into a movie. These things, he adds, are all anathema to him and his career up to this point, not to mention anathema to the source material. This conflict so bothers him that it results in an external manifestation of the split going on in him. (Check the movie's credits.)

Then what he does is chronicle his own torment and personality crisis in the script. In doing so, however, he manages to find a thematic connection between his own pesonal struggle as a Hollywood screenwriter and the book he is adapting. The resulting adaptation bears little resemblance to the book, yet finds an entirely new thematic level in the book, one certainly not even intended by the book's author.

The resolution of the conflict -- admittedly, the conflict he himself created -- is to then do the very things he didn't want to do but recognized were necessary to turn the book into a movie.

Confused yet? Don't be. The movie is really a lot more convoluted that I have explained here, but the last act crystalizes in such a way to make you forgive the twists, turns and multiple layers of reality in the preceeding two acts. (I doubt very much Kaufman things in terms of three acts, but they are there nonetheless.)

The third act, however, is filled with all the overused plot devices and Hollywood clichés that he didn't want to use. He knew they were necessary in order to make a watchable movie. Otherwise, it would have been a nice little documentary. It's all done well. More than that, it's done in a way to make it seem halfway organic. And to go even further (and here's where the genius really shows), he found a way to do the things he found abhorrent about his job and do it in such a way as to transcend the material. In short, he adapted.

On it's most basic level, it's sublime irony. But it's more than that. He made the material better, made it deeper, richer, more meaningful. It's been said that one element of genius is being able to see how seemingly random items or phenomena are connected on a higher level. Another mark of genius is being able to make that abstract connection seem obvious to all.

Who would have expected such a close bond between a Florida orchid thief, a New York magazine writer, and the life of a Hollywood screenwriter? Not me, but it's all crystal clear now.

My problem is that, to make it clear -- to witness this genius at work -- I had to watch a third act full of nothing but overused plot devices and Hollywood clichés.

It was a great trick. I'm just not sure it was worth it.

RED
Ora et labora

RED
http://arrena.blogspot.com

  

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Topic Outline
Subject Author Message Date ID
nice review, w/o too many spoilers, but
Dec 03rd 2002
1
the consensus...
Dec 03rd 2002
2
      you can get the script
Dec 09th 2002
6
Why oh why did they have to cast
Dec 04th 2002
3
they both did well, though.
Dec 29th 2002
13
acting was great
Dec 31st 2002
17
uppage
Dec 06th 2002
4
RE: ADAPTATION (only minor spoilers)
Dec 06th 2002
5
RE: ADAPTATION (BIG ASS spoilers)
Dec 09th 2002
7
That's Golden-Globe nom'd Donald Kaufman
Dec 31st 2002
15
      was that a line
Dec 31st 2002
18
           no not a line...
Dec 31st 2002
19
                agreed!
Dec 31st 2002
20
                     almost as funny as
Dec 31st 2002
21
                          fucking studios!
Dec 31st 2002
22
                          thats insane!
Dec 31st 2002
23
you know
Dec 09th 2002
8
Retraction + Review
Dec 11th 2002
9
RE: Retraction + Review
Dec 14th 2002
10
my thoughts
Dec 26th 2002
11
RE: ADAPTATION (only minor spoilers)
Dec 26th 2002
12
Great review and analogy
Dec 30th 2002
14
RE: ADAPTATION (only minor spoilers)
Dec 31st 2002
16
I LOVED IT!!!!
Jan 06th 2003
24

Iltigo
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Tue Dec-03-02 01:33 PM

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1. "nice review, w/o too many spoilers, but"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

how does it compare to 'being john malkovich' as far as creative, innovative movie making?

spike jonze and kauffman are an incredible team, i hope this movie doesnt prove their combo with being a fluke...

________________________________________
It's A Boy and his name is MILES KHALIL YOUNG

  

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REDeye
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Tue Dec-03-02 02:12 PM

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2. "the consensus..."
In response to Reply # 1


          

from critics I've read and friends I know who have seen it is that this movie will have next to zero appeal for the general public.

I think it's a better film than BJM. It's much more ambitious, more creative, and more daring. Much more accomplished.

Unfortunately, it's not more entertaining.

For film heads, there are things to marvel at. It's much more subtle, though. Except for Cage playing identical twins, the visual effects are minimal. But there are some scenes that will make the film buff gasp with shock and delight. Not sure the average filmgoer will appreciate many of them.

For screenwriters, it should be required viewing (and reading, if I can get ahold of the script). For the amazing skill handling so many different story lines and elements, and for just the representation of the screenwriter's life, it's a valuable experience.

Spike Jonze has grown as a filmmaker, and his pairing with Kaufman is certainly better than Kaufman with someone else. HUMAN NATURE was awful.

If you don't have an interest in filmmaking or don't care about the art and craft of film, this movie may seem like a giant waste of time.

I don't know. I'm loathe to discourage anyone thinking of seeing. It's so different, and I'm usually the one advocating some risk-taking in filmmaking AND filmgoing. People should make an effort to see things other than just the crap Hollywood grinds out every week. But I just don't want people to come back to me saying "you told me to see that crap and it sucked, I'm never seeing another movie you recommend again."

Not that I really care.

RED
Ora et labora

RED
http://arrena.blogspot.com

  

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AFKAP_of_Darkness
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Mon Dec-09-02 04:04 AM

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6. "you can get the script"
In response to Reply # 2


  

          

(an early draft of it, anyway) at www.beingcharliekaufman.com

the shooting script should be published later this month, i think.

_____________________

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The man who thinks at 50 the same way he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life - Muhammed Ali

  

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blue23
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Wed Dec-04-02 09:53 AM

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3. "Why oh why did they have to cast"
In response to Reply # 0


          


Nic Cage and Meryl Streep? You've got one of the most interesting writer/director teams working and these are your stars? I'm going to do my best to get over it but I really wish they would have used actors that don't have 10 ton suitcases of bad film baggage.

BTW

  

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jvictoria
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Sun Dec-29-02 12:59 PM

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13. "they both did well, though."
In response to Reply # 3


          

but i was underwhelmed by the movie by the time the crocodile ate homeboy and she was sniffing green shit.

by then, i gave up.

  

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MicheleQJ
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Tue Dec-31-02 10:58 AM

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17. "acting was great"
In response to Reply # 3


          

i would say don't let the casting influence youre decision in this case

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REDeye
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Fri Dec-06-02 08:21 AM

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4. "uppage"
In response to Reply # 0


          

RED
Ora et labora

RED
http://arrena.blogspot.com

  

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BossHogg
Member since Oct 18th 2002
491 posts
Fri Dec-06-02 07:21 PM

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5. "RE: ADAPTATION (only minor spoilers)"
In response to Reply # 0


          

if it weren't for the reputations of kaufman and jonze, i wouldn't entertain for one second the idea of seeing this movie.

having seen the preview, it took me about 3 1/2 seconds before deciding, no way.

though i know that previews aren't always the best marker (the best example of this being rushmore) of a film/filmmaker's work, this one really looks like a dud. plus i can't stand nic cage.

  

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ZooTown74
Member since May 29th 2002
43582 posts
Mon Dec-09-02 06:41 AM

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7. "RE: ADAPTATION (BIG ASS spoilers)"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

Very good review. You summed up all of my feelings about the movie. I think the conventional Hollywood stuff threw me for a loop, so it made my feelings for the last half of the movie wane a bit. But, if you think about it, it makes perfect sense, and I give Spike Jonze and Charlie (and Donald?) credit for not winking at us during those final scenes to tell us that it was all a joke...

Holy shit! Now I know why "Donald Kaufman" got a screen credit. "He" wrote the last half of the movie! Ha ha...but yo, that shit is a stroke of genius...I would have loved to have been there during Writer's Guild arbitration...

But yeah, maybe I'll peep it one more time, knowing what I know now. I was entertained by the first half, but like I said, the second half threw me a bit. This is one of those movies my boss says if "for filmmakers and film school students." But whatever, it was alright.
______________________________________________
"A Friend in Need is a PEST."
-Bobby "The Brain" Heenan



_____________________________________________________________
delete if there is a post, i couldn't find it

  

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ororo_munroe
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Tue Dec-31-02 10:00 AM

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15. "That's Golden-Globe nom'd Donald Kaufman"
In response to Reply # 7


  

          

to you!

lol!

Too funny.

______________________________
for a minute there, i lost myself.

  

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MicheleQJ
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Tue Dec-31-02 11:00 AM

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18. "was that a line"
In response to Reply # 15


          

in the movie? i dont recall it -
i can picture him saying it though-- too funny

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ororo_munroe
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Tue Dec-31-02 11:14 AM

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19. "no not a line..."
In response to Reply # 18


  

          

he was just really nominated for a Golden Globe...and I think that's hilarious

______________________________
for a minute there, i lost myself.

  

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MicheleQJ
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Tue Dec-31-02 11:19 AM

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20. "agreed!"
In response to Reply # 19


          



________________________________

http://myspace.com/139003080
http://www.last.fm/user/micheleqj/
http://myspace.com/alluswe
http://myspace.com/fermentedspirits
http://www.last.fm/music/Alluswe

  

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REDeye
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6598 posts
Tue Dec-31-02 12:10 PM

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21. "almost as funny as"
In response to Reply # 20


          

the studio claiming ownership of the name Charlie Kaufman since it's in the movie. They were going to make him have to get permission before he could use his own name.

RED
Ora et labora

RED
http://arrena.blogspot.com

  

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ororo_munroe
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Tue Dec-31-02 01:49 PM

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22. "fucking studios!"
In response to Reply # 21


  

          

WTF? It ain't like it's the first time, but whatever...that shit is fucked up.

______________________________
for a minute there, i lost myself.

  

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Mynoriti
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Tue Dec-31-02 02:55 PM

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23. "thats insane!"
In response to Reply # 21


  

          

>the studio claiming ownership of the name Charlie Kaufman
>since it's in the movie. They were going to make him have to
>get permission before he could use his own name.

but not surprising at all

  

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Dreadmedia
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Mon Dec-09-02 02:31 PM

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8. "you know"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

im glad i saw it before i read your review

but I am in complete agrement thats third act was just like wtf

  

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blue23
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Wed Dec-11-02 07:38 AM

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9. "Retraction + Review"
In response to Reply # 0


          


1 - My biggest hang-up with the film going in was Nic Cage. Coming out I can say with authority that Nic Cage is the best part of the movie. Plays both parts to convincing perfection.

2 - I agree with the OG review. The movie is a trick from a pair of very talented guys (very hesitant to throw out genius) who got so full of themselves they decided they could override their own rules. My ticket was free but if I paid I'd be left wondering whether it was money well spent.

3 - I think general audiences WILL like this. It's funny, it's different from almost everything they've ever seen, it moves fast, it has stars and a happy ending. I don't think it will be a hit but I think Joe Public w/Semi-Open Mind will like it more than cynical critics such as myself.

4 - Have to say that it bothers the shit out of me that no one, including Kaufman, has mentioned the fact that he completely lifts the concept of a very, very famous screenplay by Sam Shepard called "True West". Entire plot of award-winning play is intellectual, integrity driven screenwriter is having a tough time with his project. His seat-of-his-pants brother comes to stay with him, decides to be a screenwriter and sells his script for big money. Sound familiar?

Overall I'd say 7 out of 10 b/c it is well-made and well-thought out and it holds my attention. But from the time Donald arrives in NYC it takes a big downhill slide into some real bullshit.

BTW

  

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MellofromGI
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Sat Dec-14-02 12:47 AM

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10. "RE: Retraction + Review"
In response to Reply # 9


          

>Overall I'd say 7 out of 10 b/c it is well-made and
>well-thought out and it holds my attention. But from the
>time Donald arrives in NYC it takes a big downhill slide
>into some real bullshit.

I disagree. That's where the movie begins. Up until he added all the cleche hollywood screenplay shit, the movie was a bunch of loosely connected, random stuff. He mocks and adds value to the simplicity of hollywood at the same time, and gives the film some direction and glue. I like it.

  

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sevencents
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Thu Dec-26-02 09:18 AM

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11. "my thoughts"
In response to Reply # 0


          

**This post goes into specifics of the film so if you haven't seen it, don't read this....

After Donald returns from the writing seminar, he posts the writer's 10 commandments in front of Charlie's typewriter. I only read the first one on the list but it said something to the effect of 'don't dissapoint the audience' I'm curious as to what the other ones might be, because as I was walking out of the theater, I realized that the whole movie seemed to purposely contradict the traditional screenwriting format.

Also, when Charlie is at the bar after the seminar, Robert McGee tells him that you have to wow the audience at the end. He said that you could have a mediocre story all the way through but if you wow them in the end, then you still have a great picture. This movie seems to do just the opposite - wow the audience the entire time until the end. I'll admit that I clashed with the final 20 minutes of the film while I was watching it, but afterwards I truly apreciated what it was all about. How else could he have ended the film properly anyway? In the first scene of the film when he is talking to the studio exec, he says that he doesn't want to change the orchid into a poppy and make it some kind of drug, he didn't want guns, or chase scenes or to have a typical hollywood cliche and yet he does just that.

Whether you like a film or not, if it keeps you thinking long after it's over then it has done it's job. I left this movie loving it and hating all the mindless hollywood movies I saw this year even more.

  

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pdafunk
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Thu Dec-26-02 12:27 PM

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12. "RE: ADAPTATION (only minor spoilers)"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

most of my feelings about the movie have already been mentioned. one, i loath nicolas cage in almost everything he's done except leaving las vegas, and now this movie. he was my initial reason for never going to see the movie. the layering of the story was very well done, going from past to present, seeing the beginning of the movie before kaufmann decided what the beginning of the movie and he rants about it in his recorder. but i think the best part for me(and maybe the whole point of the movie) is that kaufmann (cage) is sitting there saying that he can't make a movie about flowers without all the hollywood shit, and as soon as the hollywood shit starts the movie sucks, compared to the rest of the movie. i liked the neurotic, lonely kaufmann better the the (obviously contrived) alligator in the swamp stuff. but realizing that the end is part of the overall message of the movie, it doesn't suck. don't know if that makes sense. and malkovich was definitely more entertaining, but maybe not as complex.

------
"I can't promise I'll try. But I'll try to try."

  

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Mynoriti
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Mon Dec-30-02 03:43 PM

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14. "Great review and analogy"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

Not much I can say that you havent. You pretty much summed up exactly how I felt after seeing this film.

From the time of his conversation at the bar with the Brian Cox character, all I was thinking about was "how the hell is he gonna end this movie? So naturally (judging from the film so far) I expected something "brilliant" or "mind blowing" but instead I got well..you know. Like you said it was a stroke of genius and a dirty trick. I felt very appreciative and cheated at the same time.

And IMO everything before the "Hollywood ending" was just as entertaining as Being John Malcovich.

A small observation, anyone else notice Ron Livingstons pictures of himself on his desk?

  

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MicheleQJ
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Tue Dec-31-02 10:55 AM

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16. "RE: ADAPTATION (only minor spoilers)"
In response to Reply # 0
Tue Dec-31-02 11:04 AM

          

id say youre right on - saw it this weekend and i think it was genius and an amzing set of ideas

that being said, me and my friend we're surprised the movie was only 2 hours because it sure seemed longer at times

gotta say, regardless of the fact that the 3rd act brought in all of the standard devices, i still love donald's line near the end about choosing to love and owning it - and now i'm pissed that I can't remember it

_________________________________

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DawgEatah
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Mon Jan-06-03 11:50 AM

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24. "I LOVED IT!!!!"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

This movie is NOT for everyone. This much is true. It is hard for me to pull myself out of my movie-nut-turned-wannabe-filmmaker skin and figure out if anyone who isn't like me or is outside of the film industry will like this film. I can do it with films like "State & Main" and "Swimming with Sharks" with ease, but Adaptation was so freakin enjoyable to me, it is too hard for me to not just say "GO SEE THIS MOVIE!"

I went into this film knowing nothing about it, other than the cast, writer and director. I am a huge fan of Being John Malkovich, so knowing Kaufman and Jonze were involved was enough to make this a must-see. And I like that I had no expectations. It worked out well this way.

As far as people hating on Nic Cage and Meryl Streep. They do a great job. Yeah they have made a lot of bad movies, but let's not forget the talent. They are both extremely gifted actors. So they make bad choices. Well working on this film was a good choice! Cage plays the twins masterfully. I forgot it was the same actor quickly and immediately bought into their unique and seperate personalities. Streep is great too. As is the Orchid Hunter guy (Forgive me for forgetting his name--- Chris Cooper?).

Anyway, there is not other film like this one in the history of film and i think it is definitely worth watching. Quite an accomplishment. I give it two thumbs way up. Like homeboy said above, people need to be raising the bar and pushing the envelope and Kaufman & Jonze take the bar and envelope, break them into small pieces, and start a 4 alarm fire with them.

In other words - I liked it.



*

Every battle is a chance to see another cat lose to me/I don't write battle raps. I write eulogies. ~Blueprint

Every dog has his day, and even more so in rhymin'/So I decided that I'd never play the fire hydrant. ~Blueprint


=


OG OKP.
I don't come around as often but I check in now & then.

  

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