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Archive for the ‘traditional singer’ Category

I spent the last weekend in the Allegheny National Forest way up over there in north-central Pennsylvania. I had a great time.

I had gone over to count bats. We mid-western cavers have watched entire bat populations disappear over the last few years due to “white nose syndrome” – a fungus pathogen killing bat populations as they hibernate. No one is really certain where white nose comes from or how it migrates from bat colony to bat colony. There is considerable speculation that the fungus is spread by cavers with contaminated gear or clothing. I bleach my equipment after I get home now and so do most of the rest of the grotto members. Another likely explanation for the spread of white nose is that bats are contaminating themselves as they mate, but it is all speculation at this point. In any case it is a bad business and the Cleveland Grotto is conducting bat survey work for several research organizations “doing the science”.

Our grotto Conservancy Chair Eric Topeke asked me to drive over to the Allegheny National Forest and count whatever bats I could find in the mouth of a certain small cave known to be a bat hibernaculum. Eric had GPS coordinates and a description of where the cave was located. The directions involved parking at the very end of a ANF logging access road, finding an abandoned railroad right-of-way and hiking through old growth forest to see if I could find the cave located in the side of a small sinkhole.

Eric’s directions also noted that black bear were reported to “be active” in the area off the logging road and that anyone walking in the area should be very cautious and should carry at the very least “a stout walking stick” as “protection”. Well I decided I would be cautious and I decided to carry “protection” but I decided I sure as heck wasn’t going to be using any walking stick to attempt to reason with a Pennsylvania black bear.

It occurred to me on the drive east that morning that I was rolling along in a jeep full of caving gear, camping equipment, guns, a fiddle and a five string open-back banjo. I was ready for just about anything the Allegheny National Forest could throw at me. With a certain amount of self-satisfaction, for at least a few hours, I thought of myself as probably the most well prepared man in North America.

I found the Minister Creek campground located off Pennsylvania SR (I am not making this up) 666 and I set up camp. Then I headed for the cave.

I found the end of the logging road and I found the abandoned railroad right-of-way. I loaded my 12 gauge pump with some deer slugs. I cradled the shotgun in my arms the way I used to when I hunted with my brother and my dad and set off down the trail to the right. Besides bear, Eric’s directions also noted that wildcats were “active” in the area. I had previously had some experience with Pennsylvania timber rattlers and between bears, cats and rattlers I had lots of opportunity to reflect on my position on the food chain (“dinner”) as I made my way through the wood.

I never could find the sinkhole. I’m dead certain that I must have been within 30 yards of it (and probably closer). And I never saw any bear. Or wildcats. Or timber rattlers. It’s probably just as well. I’ve never been a big game (deer) hunter – I don’t think I have it in me. I actually had to go and buy a box of slugs to take with me. On the other hand, I didn’t see any bats either, dead or alive. I waited till it began to dim a bit – I didn’t want to wait too long as I wasn’t real sure of where I was and I wanted to make sure I could get back to the jeep and back to camp before it got too dark – but didn’t see any bats in the air.

I made it back to the jeep, unloaded the shotgun and packed it away in its case. I headed back to my campsite.

The campground was beautiful. I had pitched my tent within feet of winding, bubbling Minister Creek inside a heavily wooded and secluded site. The campground was located on the Minister Creek Trail hiking loop and I got to say “howjado” to any number of day hikers as they drifted past my campsite when they began and ended the trail. I am going to make plans to head back to Minister Creek later this summer or early this fall to hike the loop myself and camp and enjoy the campsite over a couple of days.

The new/old banjo got a pretty good workout too. I’ve been spending a lot of time on Needle Case and Pretty Little Dog. My banjo is an open-back frailer and does not have a tone ring in it. It is not a loud instrument and I have been trying to teach myself to frail with a pretty light touch. As a result I have been concerned that I am not getting as much sound out of the instrument as I would like. I am learning that there is a technique to getting as much sound as I can out of the banjo without beating it to death. It has its own voice and I will have to adjust myself to that while I try to remember to hold the instrument correctly and frail “firmly and confidently” but without trying to force a volume or a type of tone.

I’m working through Salt Fork/Salt Creek/Salt River (what is the right name for that tune, anyway?) now. I’m playing it out of a G modal tuning and I’m getting it all by ear – no tab. I’m kind of surprised that I am beginning to be able to “hear” the tunes with my fingers enough that I am able find them on a fingerboard. Progress!!

Onward! Upward! Excelsior!

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Dean Radin, PhD is an accomplished bluegrass banjo and fiddle player.

Dr. Radin is also Senior Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) and Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Psychology at Sonoma State University (Rohnert Park, CA). Dr. Radin began his academic career after earning a degree in electrical engineering, magna cum laude with senior honors in physics, from the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), a masters degree in electrical engineering and a PhD in psychology from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

For a decade Dr. Radin worked on advanced telecommunications R&D at AT&T Bell Laboratories and GTE Laboratories. For over two decades Dr. Radin has been engaged in consciousness research. Before joining the research staff at IONS, Dr. Radin held appointments at Princeton University, University of Edinburgh, University of Nevada, and three Silicon Valley think-tanks, including SRI International, where he worked on a classified program investigating psychic phenomena for the US government.

Dr. Radin has presented over a hundred invited lectures in venues including Cambridge, Harvard, Stanford and Princeton Universities, Google headquarters, DARPA, and the US Navy.

I excerpted the following discussion from :

David Jay Brown and Rebecca McCLen Novick interview Dean Radin:

David: What do you think are some of the most important implications of parapsychological research?

Dean: I kind of get stuck on implications, because from a scientific point of view, in a sense, it’s extremely mundane. The history of science shows that for a long time scientists have a good sense of what they think the world is like, and then somebody comes up with a nutty idea and revolutionizes everything. There’s great chaos, and then it settles back down. It goes through these cycles over and over again, and the speed with which those cycles are changing are getting shorter and shorter. What used to take centuries, became decades, and now takes like six months.

The direction that science in general seems to be moving is perfectly compatible with the idea that there is some kind deep interconnection between things. There’s a quickly growing interest in religion and science, and the two are probably not incompatible, but, perhaps, are two sides of the same coin. I mean, they’re different obviously, but they may not need to be as different as people have thought. So where does it fit in?

One time I gave a talk where I was suggesting the topic of psychic phenomena as the middle ground between science and religion. This was because it addresses a lot of the phenomena that give religion it’s power– namely things that look supernatural, therefore can’t be us, and must be from some higher place or something. Yet all our research suggests that the cause of all this is people. It’s not disembodied entities doing it; it’s us doing it.

If you follow the logic out– especially with Eastern ideas, and even some Western notions about how reality is created– and if it truly is the result of an interaction between observation and some formless stuff out there, then parapsychological phenomena is just the tip of the iceberg. The evidence almost suggests that a solipsistic view of the world might be right, that we are engaged in continuous creation by virtue of our observation.

Jessica: What’s your sense of how music might influence the development of these kinds of abilities?

Dean: Well, the line of research came out of the observation that creative people generally have a much higher belief in psychic phenomena; correlations are very high, like .6, .7, or .8. Given the observation, empirical tests were done with different kinds of creative people to see who would be better in a telepathy test. It turns out that musicians are best, especially early-trained musicians. We know from other research that their corpus callosum is different from most other people’s.

If you’re an early-trained, string musician in particular, where one hand is doing something complicated, and the other hand is doing something even more complicated, the hemispheres need to talk to each other at a much higher frequency or facility, than in a person who is not trained to do complicated things with both hands, listen to the music, analyze it, do pitch intonation, and lots of other things. The brain is very fully engaged.

Jessica: So it’s a capacity for simultaneity?

Dean: Or a hemispheral integration of a higher order than is usual.

David: You know there’s culturally-created differences too in how brains respond to music. PET scans were done with American and Japanese musicians, and they found that Japanese musicians used their left hemisphere when they were performing more than American musicians, who used their right hemispheres more.

Dean: No, I didn’t know that. I do know that the musicians who are trained to read music are different than musicians who are learned by ear.

David: Their training is such that their brains actually get wired or programmed differently?

Dean: That’s right.

David: There’s more left hemisphere activity in people who were trained to read music?

Dean: That’s right, because it becomes another language. I was trained as a classical violinist, and played for many years. More recently I’ve switched into the banjo, because it’s just more fun. When I play the violin, or the banjo, I can not speak. I become aphasic. What it feels like internally is that whatever brain mechanism is used for language articulation is exactly the same mechanism for articulating music.
So it’s not surprising to me that some brain areas begin to specialize in these ways. There’s something perhaps we don’t know, but maybe for somebody to be perceived as good psychic in a lab test, where we’re asking them to articulate, they have to have this strange combination of perhaps right-brain intuitive who-knows-what, and a very fast connection to the other side so they can articulate it.

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devil with fiddle
I attended a song circle last weekend at at the Canalway Lodge in the Cleveland Metroparks’ Ohio and Erie Canal reservation. Hank Mallory, an Interpreter at the reservation was our host. Hank is also a caver who used to work at Mammoth and who picks a pretty good flattop when the mood strikes him.

I run hot and cold on open song circles. There are usually lots and lots of really shiny, cheap guitars that absolutely cannot and will not go in tune. But you can never tell who is going to show up and you can never tell what type of tunes they will bring with them. I always enjoy the opprotunity to meet and listen to acoustic musicians. This session was no exception.

There was one fellow who showed up and introduced himself as “Gary ‘The Guitar Guy’ from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” – I’ve seen him around and heard him play several times. Gary has stenciled “This Machine Recycles” on the front of his guitar.

I’m a great admirer of the iconic Woody Guthrie series of “This Machine Kills Fascists” photos. They speak loud and clear about the man, his music and the historical framework in which he practiced his art. The one photograph in particular I’m looking at now has Woody standing with a slot-head classical slung low over his shoulder with his weight on one side of his hip, a harp and rack around his neck and a cigarette dangling from his mouth. He is lean and mean and staring confrontationally right into the camera lens; “This Machine Kills Fascists” is hand printed across the front of both bouts of his ax. He looks like nothing less than some deranged gun slinger – Billy the Kid with a six string pistol.

The photo is startling and arresting. Whatever else you think you might know about “folk music” you know that you‘re going to at least have to take this man very seriously. There is absolutely no question in my mind that That Machine would in fact Kill Fascists or just about anything else that moved.

But, as Lou Reed reminds us, “…those were different times…”

“Gary ‘The Guitar Guy’ from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” also brought a made-in-China 5 string banjo with him. He tuned it like a guitar and strummed it with a flatpick “like Pete Seeger”. He lectured the circle about how “in Colonial America if you played forbidden scales on your lap dulcimer you would be burned at the stake as a witch”.

That was news to me. I regret that I don’t have the rigorous academic background of scholarship and historical prospective provided by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but evidently we were to take from this that the members of the colonial Dulcimer Star Chamber were barely one step removed from contemporary Christians or gun owners. Oh, wait… Well, anyway, I bet they didn’t even use the blue bin for their glass and aluminum.

It takes all kinds, I guess. But that’s what makes circles endlessly fascinating.

I had the great good fortune to learn to play in oldtime and bluegrass circles. Beyond chops, you pick up a real good sense of “jam manners” real quick. The great advantage is that when a given circle becomes too much “artiest oriented” or just plain dumb (“Hey…let’s play Rocky Top…”), you can always move on to the next circle. Or the next. Or the next. I’ve spent lots of festivals floating through the parking lots for hours on end.

The bluegrassers don’t suffer fools gladly, and I have seen plenty of people shouldered right out of a circle; the oldtimers don’t have any problem at all with “putting it in the case” until the participation in a given circle improves dramatically – usually by subtraction. But generally those are extreme responses to severe and aggressive ill-mannered assholery.

A silly old lady autoharp player stepped right up into the middle of a circle at a Pennsylvania oldtime festival I attended several years ago. She couldn’t play a lick but insisted that the “authentic” American folk tradition evolved from autoharp repertoire. She hadn’t learned banjo/fiddle tunes or if she knew them they were in her own “correct” key. That circle dissolved in under twenty seconds.

Circles are ephemeral and have their own “vibe” – very literally their own vibration. The best ones feel like some sort of reptilian, pre-verbal mental telepathy; everybody on the same wavelength communicating simultaneously and with absolute clarity with every other member.

Two years ago I played fiddle in a 3:00 AM circle at Clifftop with Mike Seeger at the center. The circle was better than 100 people around and we played in pitch darkness. That circle was a perfect and complete self-contained universe. We played some crooked version of Shaking Down the Acorns on and on and on for thirty minutes or longer until my psyche was lost in pulse and drone and completely absorbed within the group.

The pulse and drone open you up to all sorts of influences and I think the fiddle’s role in this kind of traditional dance music is one of the reasons the fiddle is known as the “devil’s box”. I honestly believe this is when competent oldtime musicians with an inclination toward that sort of thing can begin to call spirits.

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This in from my friend Chris Harrison. A nice short story for this nice short week.

“As a bagpiper, I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man who had no family or friends. The funeral was to be held at a cemetery in the remote countryside and this man would be the first to be laid to rest there.

bagpiper

“As I was not familiar with the backwoods area, I became lost and being a typical man, did not stop for directions. I finally arrived an hour late.

“I saw the backhoe and the crew who were eating lunch but the hearse was nowhere in sight. I apologized to the workers for my tardiness and stepped to the side of the open grave where I saw the vault lid already in place. I assured the workers I would not hold them up for long but this was the proper thing to do.

“The workers gathered around, still eating their lunch. I played out my heart and soul. As I played the workers began to weep. I played and I played like I’d never played before, from Going Home and The Lord is My Shepherd to Flowers of the Forest. I closed the lengthy session with Amazing Grace and walked to my car.

“As I was opening the door and taking off my coat, I overheard one of the workers saying to another, Sweet Jeezuz, Mary ‘n Joseph, I have never seen nothin’ like that before and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.”

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We should remember that ‘nice things happen to nice people’.

So far the nice people at United Airlines have watched their airline’s stock price free-fall by ten per cent, costing shareholders $180 million dollars since Canadian singer-songwriter Davd Carroll wrote and published the first of a three tune song-cycle entitled ‘United Breaks Guitars’.

Dave and his band Sons of Maxwell were flying on United to Nebraska for a tour in the spring of 2008. While watching out the plane’s window Dave noticed his Taylor road ax being thrown around by the United Airlines baggage handlers.

In the full sad, sad story posted on his website, David states “I discovered later that the $3,500 guitar was severely damaged. United Airlines didn’t deny the experience occurred but for nine months the various people I communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss.”

…and so the MP3 single “United Breaks Guitars“.

Did everyone catch that? UNITED (Airlines) BREAKS (Your) GUITARS (…and then treats you like the wretched little worm you know yourself to be when you dare lift your eyes in the presence these corporate titans, these transportation smart-money bigboys, these paragons of western capitalism…so if you wouldn’t mind too much, why don’t you just herd yourself back to your dirty, hoplessly cramped little seat in coach, sit down and kindly STFU. Thenkeww…)

There’s just so much to like about this story and this song.

I notce that Dave Carroll’s music is flowing like water around what could have been a real disaster. Let’s see:

  • YouTube video – check!
  • Branded website with long narrative explaining in great and excruciating detail the noxious free-floating assholery associated with United Airlines – check!
  • Interlinked Internet 2.0 social networking sites – check!
  • a well constructed guerilla marketing campaign – check!
  • …and a ruthless exploitation of the ‘new media’ – check!

There’s a lesson here for every working musician.

A pig is a Pig is The Pig and the new international corporate model of Debt Capitalism (aka ‘Slavery’) is very clear in its constant assertion that the only reason you are on this earth is to shovel money at your betters and be grateful for the privilege. And so when Dave Carroll pointedly and repeatedly sticks his thumb in United Airline’s eye I have to smile.

…because nice things happen to nice people.

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Here’s another YouTube find from the ‘they just don’t make ’em like they used to’ bin.

My ears perked right up; the guitar playing is sooo good here. I normaly don’t think of Huddie as a bottleneck player, but he has this one nailed down tight. Huddie learned to play by busking with Blind Lemon Jefferson in Dallas and later performed with Josh White, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and it really shows in this performance.

I can only reflect on how different this version is from the one Carl Perkins popularized from his rockabilly sessions at the Sun Studio.

Huddie made his reputation with popular melodies like Good Night Irene and folk songs and I sometimes forget that he was in fact a real-deal bluesman. John Lomax first recorded Huddie when he was serving hard time at Louisiana’s notorius Angola Prison Farm. Huddie’s first recordings were hundreds of blues tunes recorded there in Angola.

John Lomax described Huddie as ’emotionaly volitale’. There is a real visceral anger to In the Pines and Bourgeois Blues. Huddie had killed one man, had tried to kill at least four others and threatened to kill Alan Lomax (John Lomax’s son and Huddie’s touring manager) several times.

The process whereby this all gets turned into compelling, beautiful music is still a great mystery to me.
.

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Wow.

Just when you think it can’t possibly get any worse in the American political landscape along comes a rough beast slouching toward Conneaut, Ohio; Conneaut City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a proud resident of Cuyahoga County (practically next door to Ashtabula) where we have learned to shrug our shoulders at the antics of our own wildly corrupt, arrogant and retarded political class. We have determined over time that ‘corrupt, arrogant and retarded’ is a ‘lifestyle choice’.

No, we here in Cuyahoga are no pikers in that regard, I assure you. In fact, I would put our corrupt, arrogant and retarded politicians up against your corrupt, arrogant and retarded politicians at any time and at any place.

I can almost certainly say that in any such contest our corrupt, arrogant and retarded politicians would leave your corrupt, arrogant and retarded politicians in the dust, binding their wounds, crying for their mothers and otherwise turning tail from the radiant corruption, the epic arrogance and massive retardation embodied by Cuyahoga’s elected representatives.

I say this without boasting.

working man reading socialist newspaper

Or at least that’s what I used to think until I read the Ashtabula Star Beacon earlier this week. It seems that Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. had some concern over a local blog posted by Ms. Katie Schwartz.

It seems Ms. Schwartz had the temerity to publish ‘information concerning City offices, fees and other City government information…without the express (sic) written permission of the City.’ In his hubris Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. demanded that Ms. Schwartz immediately ‘cease and desist’ publishing any and all material related to Conneaut city government and under threat of court order remove any and all material related to Conneaut city government from her site.

Evidently, no one in Conneaut, or anywhere else for that matter, was ever going to publish anything regarding Conneaut city government without the ‘permission’ of the city’s political class. Presumably public information would hereafter be communicated in hushed and reverential tones only by certain officialy annointed individuals and only then after some sort of vetting process held deep within the dark bowels of the Conneaut Star Chamber.

That is, at least, if Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. was going to have anything to say about it.

According to the Star-Beacon article, it didn’t take long after Katie Schwartz posted her blog until Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. corralled lick-spittle thug Council President James Jones, lap-dog stooge Councilman-at-Large Chris Castrilla and lackey idiot Ward 4 Councilman Tony Julio to join him in attempting to crush Schwartz’s web site under the hobnailed heels of their collective jackboots.

The site is still active. The site and all its archived posts are there for anyone to read.

The site is pleasant, conversational and full of a charming, straight forward, mid-western boosterism. Nowhere does Ms. Schwartz stoop to calling Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. ‘an arrogant little snot’, ‘a martinet’, a ‘neo-Stalinist’ or ‘The Pig’. Nowhere does she suggest that Conneaut, Ohio or even the entire world would be better off if only Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. would crawl back into his dirty little worm hole and leave everyone else alone. She never describes Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. as ‘silly’, ‘puffed-up’, desperate’, ‘clawwing’ or even ‘laughable’. She never once declares that Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. is ‘just another stupid asshole’. Not once.

Because she doesn’t have to.

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. goose-stepping around his office in full SS regalia, grasping his riding crop and monocle, stomping his foot, shaking both fists, flailing his arms and screaming ‘But-but-but…she does NOT have my PERMISSION!’. Imagine Jones, Castrilla and Julio standing in a circle holding tire chains, and ball bats and with stupid, vacant smirks across their jowly faces pointing to Schaumleffel and muttering ‘yeah, what he said…’.

men and women of america - the militant

I think Schaumleffel and his goons are suggesting that the open exchange of public information is an idea which is probably too abstract for most of Conneaut’s huddled masses. It only follows that spirited public debate among free citizens in a free society will almost certainly lead to contention, ill will and possibly even (shudder) speech privilege abuse.

I think that Schaumleffel and his thugs are suggesting that the Little People frankly need to speak only when spoken to and otherwise keep their eyes lowered and their mouths shut in deference to their betters. The Little People frankly do not know what their best interests are and must never be trusted to use either words or ideas.

Far better that Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. and his brown shirted bullies take that gate keeping responsibility to themselves.

And anyway, aren’t the complexities, subtleties and nuance of city government best left to the great architects, the giants of public administration, the great and selfless Philosopher Kings such as are Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr., Council President James Jones, Councilman-at-Large Chris Castrilla and Ward 4 Councilman Tony Julio?

It’s for Conneaut’s own good, after all.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The current and continuing 20 year depression here in the rust-belt is not an economic failure; it is a failure of our political class who lined their own pockets and consolidated raw political power rather than advocate for the citizens upon whom they fed. Like a grotesquely bloated, insatiable and ultimately fatal parasite feeding on a sallow and wasting patient, our politicians grew corpulent and morbidly obese while willfully and systematically starving their constituencies.

Think Jabba the Hutt gurgling ‘I’ll teach them what it means to offend the Empire. Send me Solo and the Wookie…and then send me Kathie Schwartz’.

Which brings us back to our first question: what would Woody do?

What indeed.

this machine kills facists

Woody was no stranger to thugs, bullies and goons. Woody’s autobiography Bound for Glory is one tale following another of individuals betrayed by their institutions and left to fend for themselves in the face of desperate circumstances. Bound for Glory is that one simple story repeated in variation again and again.

Woody wrote of the worst of times and the worst of people in 1913 Massacre, Dead or Alive, All You Fascists, Don’t Kill My Baby and Son, Hangknot, Slipknot, Pretty Boy Floyd, The Outlaw and hundreds of other songs.

I imagine that Woody would shrug with a familiar ‘seen it all before’ attitude, pick up his six string and begin to document with simple melody and rhythm the names, places and details of each affront, each insult and each abuse. Woody would build a picture of each and every insufferable fat-head, each self-important Kommissar and each of the creepy sycophants with whom they surround themselves.

And in each song Woody would let those people speak in their own voice and he would let them strut and preen and posture and stomp in their own gait through their own stories of petty insult, intrigue, greed and malfeasance.

And he would let them tell their own story without editorializing, without adding any artificial emphasis on their insolence and venality and criminality and stupidity.

Because he wouldn’t have to.

And then Woody would move on to the next song. And the next. And the next. Because it would be just one simple song repeated in variation again and again.

Here’s hoping that Katie Schwartz tells Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. and the rest of his bully boys to take their ‘cease and desist order’ and go straight to hell.

Because THAT’S exactly what Woody would do.

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