Spotlight: Sing – Gunter

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You can tell that I really enjoyed Illumination Entertainment’s Sing, can’t you, readers?

In all honesty, when I first saw the trailers, I did not think I would like the film. But then I began to take an interest in the trailers and found myself getting more and more curious about the story. Finally, I had the desire to watch the movie, and I convinced some friends to view it with me after it came out on DVD.

My post Sing: Of Hope and Optimism, covers my opinion of the show’s plot. In this Spotlight! post, I want to focus on one of the best characters in the film. And no, he is not my favorite; that honor lands squarely on Rosita’s shoulders. Even during the trailers, she was the one I “connected” with on sight.

Gunter is a European pig who somehow came to live in the city that is home to the other characters in Sing. Judging by his name, he is either from one of the Scandinavian countries or he is German. He has an accent that sounds like it is from that region. He also likes to wear sparkly body suits for some reason – probably because he has no qualms about showing off his “major piggy power” to the world whether they like it or not.

Anyway, after we watched the film, my friends and I fell to discussing it. Eventually we asked each other who were our favorite characters. In the process, we all discovered that we liked Gunter – even when some of us were sure at the start of the film that we would hate him.

I got to thinking about this a little while ago. Though my friends and each had a different favorite character in the film, we also had a lot of affection for Gunter. I wondered why this would be and came up with a possible answer some time ago.

Gunter is a hopeful pig, as I said in Sing: Of Hope and Optimism. Anyone who tells you that hope is not an attractive virtue has to be lying through their teeth. The reason that I say this is because I think that this quality of Gunter’s is one of the reasons that my friends and I like him so much.

As I said in the previous post, Gunter never loses hope. Now hope is not some ethereal, blithe belief that sunshine and rainbows will follow you everywhere you go. It is not a flimsy outlook that makes you go around smiling like the Joker every minute of every day. As I said before, real hope is the desire for some good you do not have but which you want to obtain, and which you are willing to stay the course to achieve.

Things happen in Sing that make Gunter sad, that make his face fall. But the key thing here is that he does not let these things keep him down. He can handle disappointment just as well as he can handle success; one will make him sad while the other will make him happy. But the fact is that failing or having a streak of bad luck is not going to break his spirit – and that is an amazingly great characteristic to have, readers.

This is the other thing that is so wonderful about Gunter. He has a palpable zest for life. From his enthusiastic dance moves to his belting out the lyrics as he sings to the energetic encouragement he offers his fellow competitors/performers, Gunter exhibits a contagious joi de vive that cannot help but bring a smile to the viewer’s face. He does not enter the competition for the money as much as he does for the fun. With the exceptions of Mike and, to a lesser extent, Ash and Johnny, none of the other performers audition to win the prize, either. It might have caught their eye initially, but for the most part they came to the theater to do something they enjoy.

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And boy, does Gunter enjoy performing!

Gunter also shows a sense of empathy and kindness in the movie, such as when he helps Rosita comfort Ash after her boyfriend dumps her. He does it again when Rosita succumbs to her self-doubt and leaves in the middle of rehearsal. He is, in many ways, the perfect counterpoint to Rosita, who has become so accustomed to being in the background that she stresses out about finally entering the spotlight. Not one to be part of the stage scenery, Gunter does his best to encourage Rosita to come out of her shell and strut her stuff. Thanks to Mike, his first attempts do not work very well, but Rosita later shows an appreciation for his efforts after she returns to the stage.

These things all add to Gunter’s natural sense of fun, which makes him such a happy performer. He does not care if people think he looks silly or stupid or like a dancing bowl of Jell-O. He is going to have his fun, and people can either have fun with him or laugh at him. He will shake off the mockery and laugh with those who laugh with him.

All these qualities come together to make Gunter a likeable character who could qualify as the bonding, emotional heart of the cast. At first he seems unimportant, but by the end of the movie, you wonder how any of the characters would get along without him.

He is one of the big selling points in Sing for this reason, and this is why I would say he is probably my second or third favorite character in the film. In a world where hope, fun, joy, and simple kindness are mocked and derided, it is nice to have a character that possesses all these traits and does not give a fig whether or not others care for these things or him. We need more Gunters in the world, readers. They make it a better place by far.

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Stargate SG-1, the TV Series


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All right, if there are any fans of the series Ancient Aliens who are following this blog, raise your hand.

I cannot see you, but I know you have probably just perked up right now and are paying attention. Personally, I cannot stand Ancient Aliens. I have been around when it is on the television, and sooner or later, I end up snarling at the screen because someone said something with which I disagree. And every time someone on Ancient Aliens or another show like it brings up Ancient Egypt, I immediately moan and groan, “Not them again!

You might think this means that I hate Ancient Egypt. I admit to having my fill of it – especially from people who do not know what they are talking about, but who act like they do. That drives me crazy anyway, but in relation to the Ancient World, it is a good way to get me mad. I like history, so I know a lot about it. For example, I happen to know that the Ancient Greeks wore thick bronze and linen armor when they went into battle, not fancy leather suspenders like you see in 300. Catching five minutes of that movie had me raving for two to three whole days with fury.

So I know my history. I am no Egyptologist, but I know my history. So why do I moan and wail whenever someone on the History Channel or Ancient Aliens turns to the subject of Ancient Egypt? I wondered about that and, with the help of El Rey just a little while ago, I finally figured out the problem: I have heard practically all of these people’s theories before. Specifically, I heard them when I was a child watching and enjoying Stargate SG-1.

Yes, I was a child when the show first came out. And I watched the show until its final season’s finale. I even watched two or three of the made-for-TV movies that came out with it. I watched the sequel series Stargate Atlantis to its conclusion, but I managed to miss Stargate Universe and Stargate Infinity. From the sounds of things, I dodged a couple of bullets when I missed those related shows.

After Star Trek, Star Wars, and probably the Marvel media I was exposed to, Stargate SG-1 was my go-to sci-fi fix. I already knew Richard Dean Anderson from the reruns of MacGyver, but I found I liked him a whole lot more as Colonel Jack O’Neill (with two L’s) in Stargate SG-1. I had never heard of Michael Shanks or Amanda Tapping before, but I found I liked them as well. I also think, rewatching the television series now, that Tapping’s character, Samantha Carter, grew as the seasons progressed. Some of her first appearances were waaay too stiff and full of “girl power” motifs, and the writers wisely stopped being so heavy-handed with this stuff as the series ran its course.

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Finally, we had Teal’c. Christopher Judge was the best possible choice for the character. It turns out that I heard him in X-Men: Evolution as the voice of Magneto without ever knowing who he was until years later, when I realized his voice was oddly familiar. Teal’c was the fish out of water before Thor, and Judge did a perfect job pulling off the confusion, shock, and outright clumsiness an alien in modern times would experience. It took the reruns on El Rey to remind me how much I liked him and the rest of the crew – and how much I missed them.

Of course, I cannot leave out the star attraction of the series. This was the alien Stargate for which the series, and the movie that spawned it, is named. But this Stargate is nothing like the Star Gate in Andre Norton’s novel of the same name. (You can find a post on that book here, too, readers.) This Stargate generates an artificial wormhole that connects two points in space together for up to thirty-eight minutes, less if you know how to shut the device down on your own.

To make the device work, you have to “dial out” by inputing some of the symbols inside the ring through a DHD or “dial home device” connected to the Stargate. Like an old dialing telephone, these symbols will rotate through the circular Stargate and stop beneath one of the red “Chevrons,” which will open and glow to lock in the coordinates as the gate “dials out.”

When the necessary seven “chevrons” are “locked,” you had better not be standing directly in front of the Gate. That watery substance may look pretty as it “flushes” out at you, but anything organic and most metals that touch that initial “flush” of liquid-like material will be incinerated by it. The same sort of thing will happen if your hand, arm, leg, or head is in the portal when the Gate is shut down; part of you stays on one planet while the other part comes back to Earth.

If you are thinking this was awfully gross for a kid to watch, no worries, my parents made sure I never saw the really disgusting stuff. This meant that I did not get to see much of the main alien antagonists for the series, either. These aliens were the snake like parasitic/symbiotic Gou’aould. They were intelligent and could not survive in their regular forms outside of water or some liquid like it. So to get aruond, they would highjack human bodies.

They did this often enough that they set themselves up as deities in Ancient Egypt – the deities all those Egyptologists and Ancient Aliens people like to rave about. According to the story, the Ancient Egyptians eventually rebelled against their Gou’aould controlled oppressors, who went off into the galaxy in search of greener pastures, continuing to play gods as they did.

Now, readers, we must fastforward to the time of the movie. In the film Kurt Russell plays Colonel Jack O’Neill and James Spader plays Daniel Jackson; these are the roles which Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks eventually took up. (And boy, in the early days, was Michael Shanks a ringer for young Spader!) I have never seen the film, but through the TV series I gather that Jack and Daniel, along with other Air Force soldiers, passed through Earth’s Stargate to a world called Abydos. On Abydos they found a civilization that was like a page out of an Egyptologist’s dream book – which is to say that Daniel loved it, because he was an Egyptologist.

While they were there, one of the Gou’aould, using a new host but the old name of Ra, dropped by to collect tribute from the Abydosians. Long story short, the SG team killed him, came back home minus a few members, and pretended that they had blown up Abydos and the gate before they came back. Daniel was supposed to have died in the conflagration with Ra, too, but this was a lie; he actually married one of the Abydosian girls and did not want to leave the planet, so the SG team left him behind to live happily ever after.

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Enter the TV series. In the first episode, a new Gou’aould, Apophis, visits Earth through the Stargate to see what can be seen. He picks up an Air Force officerette who was stupid enough to approach the device the Gou’aould threw through the Gate to see if Earth could support life. She did not last long, in case you were wondering, in Gou’aould land.

Well, Apophis’ arrival blows a big hole in the story Jack and his team told command about Abydos. So a new SG team, headed by Jack and including Samantha Carter, goes back to Abydos to ask Daniel’s help in figuring out Apophis’ identity – because who in the Air Force can tell one Ancient Egyptian inscription from another?

Well, Daniel’s been living happily with his wife, Sha’re, and the Abydosians for two years, but he has not been idle. He has deciphered a series of inscriptions in a place near the main Abydosian settlement, and he thinks there are a whole lot more Stargates out there. A whole galaxy full, to be exact.

But while Jack, Daniel, and Sam are out at this location, Apophis pops in to the main Abydosian camp and kidnaps several of the people there. This includes Sha’re and her younger brother Skaara, who is close to Jack. Our team Gates back to Earth, gets permission to go on a rescue mission, but arrives too late to save Sha’re from being made host to Apophis’ wife.

Daniel does not take this well, as you might imagine, and Jack does not take Skaara’s being turned into one of the “children of the gods” any better. But it looks like they may not have a choice about any of this when Apophis orders his guards, led by Teal’c, to do away with SG-1 and the other captives.

Only Teal’c has other ideas. Forced to serve the Gou’aould with all the other Jaffa, Teal’c is one of the few who knows the Gou’aould are false deities. But he and the others who know this are not in a prime position to do anything overt about it because the rest of their people are firmly under the Gou’aould’s thumbs. And since most of the other peoples in the galaxy that Teal’c has met are technologically inferior to the Guo’aould, he has not been able to defect to a stronger side to stop the false gods from doing what they are doing.

That is, he had not met anyone to whom he could defect until Jack, Daniel, and Sam showed up. Recognizing their technology to be superior to the other races’ – though not the Gou’aould’s – Teal’c decides the time is right to strike back at the slave masters who control his race. He frees SG-1 and the others in the room with them, but has nowhere to go after this until Jack tells him, “For this, you can stay at my place. Let’s go!”

Thus begin the epic adventures of Stargate One, SG-1 for short. This “army of four” manages to often single-handedly defeat the Gou’aould at every turn during the series, and it is a thrilling ride to run with them. They kind of lost me after Richard Dean Anderson left the show.   Seasons eight, nine, and ten also went a little weird…but it was still Stargate, and I could not find anything better that I liked at the time. I had to see the show through to the end, and I did, though I liked everything up to season seven or eight better than what I saw in season nine to ten.

One of the really appealing things about the series for me, early on, I think, was the fact that SG-1 was going up against false gods. Now, even at a young age, I loved history. I learned about Cortez and his march through Mexico, how he stopped the Aztecs’ bloody worship of stone idols and tore those stone statues down. I have since learned more details about the Aztecs’ sacrifices, and I can say with all certainty that the Spanish did us a favor by putting a stop to their murderous mayhem.

SG-1 reminded me of that a lot as a little child. Everyone around them believed that the Gou’aould were actual deities and, time after time, SG-1 would have to prove that the Gou’aould were anything but gods. It was a fun series with plenty of great sci-fi and character exploration, but one of the things I will never forget about the show is that it presented a group of modern “Conquistadors” who were not afraid to knock down idols others treated as divine and show them who the man behind the curtain really was.

If you are wondering if this is why I end up screaming at the History Channel and Ancient Aliens, you come close to the right answer. The fact is, all those theories the people on those shows have about Ancient Egypt have been thought of before – and I should know, because I saw them played out in Stargate SG-1. I do not need them repeated to me, and so when I hear someone waxing eloquent about these things, I cannot help getting a little…testy. That is why I usually avoid those shows. 😉

Well, readers, that is all I have for now. Other than to shamelessly plug the fact that El Rey is rerunning one of my favorite series, that is. If you have never seen Stargate SG-1, then this is your best chance to catch it on television. So what are you waiting for?! Dial up that Gate and go have an adventure!

Jaffa, kree!

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Aboard at a Ship’s Helm by Walt Whitman

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Aboard at a Ship’s Helm

by Walt Whitman

ABOARD, at a ship’s helm,
A young steersman, steering with care.

A bell through fog on a sea-coast dolefully ringing,
An ocean-bell–O a warning bell, rock’d by the waves.

O you give good notice indeed, you bell by the sea-reefs ringing,
Ringing, ringing, to warn the ship from its wreck-place.

For, as on the alert, O steersman, you mind the bell’s admonition,
The bows turn,–the freighted ship, tacking, speeds away under her
gray sails,
The beautiful and noble ship, with all her precious wealth, speeds
away gaily and safe.

But O the ship, the immortal ship! O ship aboard the ship!
O ship of the body–ship of the soul–voyaging, voyaging, voyaging.

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At Candle-Lightin’ Time by Paul Laurence Dunbar

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At Candle-Lightin’ Time

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

When I come in f’om de co’n–fiel’ aftah wo’kin’ ha’d all day,
It ’s amazin’ nice to fin’ my suppah all erpon de way;
An’ it ’s nice to smell de coffee bubblin’ ovah in de pot,
An’ it ’s fine to see de meat a–sizzlin’ teasin’–lak an’ hot.

But when suppah–time is ovah, an’ de t’ings is cleahed away;
Den de happy hours dat foller are de sweetes’ of de day.
When my co’ncob pipe is sta’ted, an’ de smoke is drawin’ prime,
My ole ‘ooman says, “I reckon, Ike, it ’s candle–lightin’ time.”

Den de chillun snuggle up to me, an’ all commence to call,
“Oh, say, daddy, now it ’s time to mek de shadders on de wall.”
So I puts my han’s togethah—evah daddy knows de way,—
An’ de chillun snuggle closer roun’ ez I begin to say:—

“Fus’ thing, hyeah come Mistah Rabbit; don’ you see him wo’k his eahs?
Huh, uh! dis mus’ be a donkey,—look, how innercent he ‘pears!
Dah ’s de ole black swan a–swimmin’—ain’t she got a’ awful neck?
Who ’s dis feller dat ’s a–comin’? Why, dat ’s ole dog Tray, I ‘spec’!”

Dat ’s de way I run on, tryin’ fu’ to please ‘em all I can;
Den I hollahs, “Now be keerful—dis hyeah las’ ’s de buga–man!”
An’ dey runs an’ hides dey faces; dey ain’t skeered—dey ’s lettin’ on:
But de play ain’t raaly ovah twell dat buga–man is gone.

So I jes’ teks up my banjo, an’ I plays a little chune,
An’ you see dem haids come peepin’ out to listen mighty soon.
Den my wife says, “Sich a pappy fu’ to give you sich a fright!
Jes, you go to baid, an’ leave him: say yo’ prayers an’ say good–night.”

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Even More Favorite TV Themes!

I have watched a lot of television in my lifetime, readers. Too much, some would say.   But there is always something in my favorite series that makes me go, “Yeah, I have seen a bit too much. But these shows were worth it!”

Andromeda Ascendant was kind of confusing, but I like Kevin Sorbo, so I am willing to rate that series as a win, weirdness and all. Gunsmoke, The Munsters, Bewitched and a couple of other series are old childhood friends. I still enjoy watching them. I recommend them to anyone and everyone for that reason.

Well, that is enough talk from me. You came to see the TV themes, not to hear me prattle on about them! Go ahead and enjoy the music, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

 

Andromeda Ascendant

Gunsmoke

The Rifleman

Viper

Beast Master

The Dukes of Hazzard

Highlander

Bewitched

I Dream of Jeannie

The Virginian

The Twilight Zone

The Munsters

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Maryland! My Maryland! by James Ryder Randall

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Maryland! My Maryland!

 by James Ryder Randall

The despot’s heel is on thy shore,
Maryland, My Maryland!
His torch is at thy temple door,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Hark to an exiled son’s appeal,
Maryland, My Maryland!
My Mother State! to thee I kneel,
Maryland, My Maryland!
For life and death, for woe and weal,
Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
And gird they beauteous limbs with steel,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Thou wilt not cower in the dust,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Thy beaming sword shall never rust,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Remember Carroll’s sacred trust,
Remember Howard’s warlike thrust,-
And all they slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Come! ’tis the red dawn of the day,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Come with thy panoplied array,
Maryland, My Maryland!
With Ringgold’s spirit for the fray,
With Watson’s blood at Monterey,
With fearless Lowe and dashing May,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Come! for thy shield is bright and strong,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Come! for thy dalliance does thee wrong,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Come! to thine own heroic throng,
Stalking with Liberty along,
And cgive a new Key to thy song,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Dear Mother! burst the tyrant’s chain,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Virginia should not call in vain!
Maryland, My Maryland!
She meets her sisters on the plain-
“Sic semper!” ’tis the proud refrain
That baffles minions back amain,
Maryland! My Maryland!

I see the blush upon thy cheek,
Maryland, My Maryland!
For thou wast ever bravely meek,
Maryland, My Maryland!
But lo! There surges forth a shriek
From hill to hill, from creek to creek-
Potomac calls to Chesapeake,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Thou wilt not yield the vandal toll,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Thou wilt not crook to his control,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Better the fire upon thee roll,
Better the blade, the shot, the bowl,
Than crucifixion of the soul,
Maryland! My Maryland!

I hear the distant thunder-hum,
Maryland, My Maryland!
The Old Line’s bugle, fife, and drum,
Maryland, My Maryland!
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she’ll come! she’ll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!

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Spotlight: Zoids – The Redler

Image result for zoids redlerHere we are on Zi again, readers! Today’s subject is a zoid that makes up almost ninety percent of the Guylos Empire’s air force. This zoid is the Redler.

Based on the Japanese dragon, the Redler usually seats one pilot beneath the orange or green canopy in its head. But it can be modified as a two-seater and – in a pinch – three big guys can squeeze into the cockpit behind the pilot’s seat. I know because I saw three of Viola’s male friends cram themselves in to her Redler’s cockpit while she flew it. And yeah, it looked about as comfortable as it sounds.

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The Redler is dragon-type, as I stated. This is its official designation, as well as my understanding of the zoid from its appearance. Like the organoids in Chaotic Century, the Redler only has three toes on each foot or talon. Japanese dragons only have three claws on each foot; Chinese dragons have five digits and Korean dragons have four. Japanese lore holds that dragons from Japan grow extra claws when they leave the land of the rising sun. Chinese and Korean lore hold the opposite; they say their dragons lose claws when they go to Japan.

Anyway, the Redler is definitely based on the Japanese dragon. It is a lightweight zoid that usually comes equipped with bombs and missiles under is translucent wings, which extend for flight and can fold closed when the zoid lands. Some Redlers also come equipped with mini-machine guns under their “noses.”

The Redler’s only built-in weapon is its tail sword. This sword lifts up from the tail, where it fits into a hidden slot. The blade is sharp enough to do damage to Shield Liger armor. Diving at a land zoid from above and with momentum from its flight behind it, the Redler can also knock such a zoid to the ground. Along with the damage inflicted by the blade, this is usually bad news for the pilot of the ground zoid.

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Most Redlers have Imperial purple armor. But the Redlers belonging to the Empire’s elite Eisenback unit are black and faster than normal Redlers. And in The Emperor’s Holiday, Rudolph is shown to have an escort of black Redlers with modified heads. These rounded heads give the Redlers a more dragon like appearance and make them look more like Redlers used for bodyguards of the Emperor, I believe. There is no given explanation in the series for why they appear different from normal Redlers, so this is conjecture on my part.

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Viola’s Redler was the only one with a personalized color scheme, just like Moonbay’s Gustav was the only one that would stand out in a parking lot full of Gustavs. Why Viola’s Redler had orange and red armor is not stated; it could be that she acquired the Redler with this paint job, or she had the color changed to suit her outlaw lifestyle. Either way, hers was the most recognizable of the Redlers seen in Chaotic Century.

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Some Eisenback and Imperial Redlers came with mini-machine guns placed on the sides of their heads instead of under them. These were no more powerful than the other kind. A few others came equipped with two large, long-barreled guns on their backs. These packed more of a punch than the mini-machine guns, but they were also fixed in place. Since the Redler’s fuselage is not articulated, it cannot bend very much. This would mean that the zoid would have to swing around and hold position to fire these large cannons, and that means the Redler might not be able to avoid enemy fire or an airborne opponent’s attack. A cannon of the same type with a single barrel was also available for Redler pilots and would be a drawback in combat for the same reason.

In fact, as a general rule, Redlers were the cannon fodder of aerial combat in Zoids: Chaotic Century. Van and his friends went through them like Luke Skywalker and the gang would go through Stormtroopers. While more impressive than the Republic’s Pteras Striker, the Redler was no match for a good pilot on the ground and it definitely could not compete with a Storm Sworder (but then, very few zoids can).

As you can tell, readers, the Redler did not make much of an impression on me. It is too slow for my tastes and not durable enough to take a beating in combat. Neither is the Storm Sworder, of course, but what it lacks in armor it makes up for in sheer speed. The Redler is a good zoid but it is just not my cup of tea.

However, that does not mean it cannot be your cup of tea. Until next time, readers, I will “see you on the dance floor – oops, I mean battlefield!”

 

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