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Archive for March, 2008

The Golden Rock Special Note

Sorry about not posting lately, as I have been extremely busy with many things. At least you have a report from the Hong Kong International Film Festival to tide you all over for about…2 minutes.

Will be back ASAP.

The Golden Rock - March 24th, 2008 Edition

The blogger has been extremely busy during the holiday weekend, which would explain the lack of posts. Maybe.

- Before we go over the Hong Kong box office tomorrow, let’s look at how things were on Thursday opening day. Patrick Kong’s L for Love, L For Lies actually remained on top with HK$680,000 from 35 screens. As for opening films, Spiderwick Chronicles opened on 35 screens with HK$650,000 and should do well for the weekend, Charlie Wilson’s War opened at just 19 screens and made HK$350,000. Under “possible disappointments” is the opening for Ching Siu-Tung’s An Empress and the Warriors, which opened on 35 screens with only HK$600,000. One of the possible reasons may be the audience not being able to find a Cantonese version (even though the trailers were dubbed in Cantonese and the film features actors based in Hong Kong), but I’m just guessing. Either way, it’s not poised to pass the HK$10 million mark at this point. We’ll know more during the week.

- The Winter 2007 Japanese drama season is pretty much over (with two dramas having yet to wrap up), and the highest-rated series of the season is the Monday 9pm Fuji drama Bara No Nai Hanaya with an average 18.2 rating a week ahead of its finale. In a far-off second is Saito-san with an average 15.5 rating. The disappointment of the season has to be Sasaki Fusai No Jingi Naki Tatakai, which opened with a strong 17.3 rating, but ends up averaging only 10.9 by the end of the season. Hell, even The Negotiator could recover for an average 13.4 rating by the time it ended. However, the lowest-rated drama this season belongs to Yon Shimai Tantei, which saw an average 7.0 rating and even saw one of its episodes get only a 3.5 rating. On the other hand, with an average 7.1 rating, Ashita No Kita Yoshio performed more consistently bad and had the lowest-rated finale of the bunch.

There ends another bad season for dramas, but with KimuTaku returning this coming season, perhaps ratings will pick up a little bit.

- Speaking of Japanese TV, this week’s Televiews column on the Yomiuri is about the various “Monagatari” (The Japanese word for “story) on the Japanese TV these days.

- While the usual big-time surely got what they wanted at Filmart this year, Malaysia companies also managed to strike some big-time deals on their own, especially in animation.

- It’s reviews time! This weekend, Japan Times’ Mark Schilling looks at actor Jiro Sato’s directorial debut Memo. Meanwhile, Japan Times’ Giovanni Fazio looks at Wong Kar-Wai’s My Blueberry Nights. In fact, the Yomiuri’s Ikuko Kitagawa also looks at My Blueberry Nights, although she seems to like it more than Fazio did. From the Hollywood Reporter, Elizabeth Karr looks at Joe Ma’s Sasori and calls it “vile” and “lacking in wit, irony and wisdom.” Meanwhile, Maggie Lee looks at the Korean film Man Who Was Superman, starring Jeon Ji-Hyun.

- Please, can someone tell me why the world needs an animated version of the hit Korean drama Winter Sonata? Oh, well, at least they got Yon-sama himself to dub the voice.

-  It’s trailers time! First, Twitch has a trailer for Katsuhito Ishii’s latest film Yama No Anata, with Smap member Tsuyoshi Kusanagi as a blind masseur who doesn’t kill people. They also have the final theatrical trailer for the Stephen Chow-produced blockbuster junk food Shaolin Girl. It’s not only Lacrosse with Shaolin kung-fu: it also has villains kicking ass.

- The comeback edition of the Yubari Fantastic Film Festival ended on Sunday successfully, and the short film Daichi o Tataku Onna picked up the competition prize.

Shin Ka-Hyun is now joining Song Kang-Ho for Park Chan-Wook’s latest Thirst. You know what that means? When Bae Doo Na’s in, we have ourself a Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance reunion!

- Lastly, the Yomiuri does a feature on African-American enka singer Jero, who has hit the big time with the young using an old-fashioned genre.

The Golden Rock - March 20th/21st, 2008 Edition

First, more news from the wrapping Hong Kong Filmart:

- The American economy is on its way down, but the Asian film industry says it ain’t got nothing to do with them.

- After 11 years, Filmart is now a viable launching pad for Chinese blockbusters, though the Chinese censoring body has spoiled the party for everyone. Sylvia Chang revealed herself to Oriental Daily that the film that was told to re-apply as an import rather than a co-production.

- Professor David Bordwell writes about the films he’s seen and the people he’s met at this year’s events.

- One of the events at Filmart is the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum, and Pang Ho-Cheung has won top Hong Kong Project award again this year for his proposed project The Bus (However, his other two awarded projects appear yet to be made).

- Bey Logan says Japanese movies should open themselves up to the world so that they can survive when the bubble bursts. I have my own doubts about the need for that.

- Twitch’s Todd Brown roams and share the promos he’s seen at the film market.

- Variety’s Grady Hendrix also shares info about the promos he’s seen at the film market.

- In fact, I waited so long to post this entry that Hollywood Reporter has already posted their wrap-up of the market.

And now, some number crunching:

- Japanese box office numbers have come out, showing that Enchanted scored a fairly huge opening (more on that later). Also, the other three family films on the top 10 (not counting The Golden Compass) dropped fairly little between 24.7% to 32% or so.

Oscar winner No Country For Old Men made 43.46 million yen from 41 screens on its opening weekend, which is damn good. It’s so good that it’s actually 152% of the opening for An Inconvenient Truth (which I’m sure is an inconvenient truth for that film’s distributor. Yes, I know it’s a bad pun).

Actually, Enchanted’s reported opening also includes last weekend’s preview screenings, so the 583 million yen gross isn’t exactly a three-day gross. However, Eiga Consultant did compare it with Ratatouille, which had the same release pattern. Turns out Enchanted still comes out on top, opening at 107% of the Pixar film’s gross.

- It’s Japanese music charts time! The Oricon and the Billboard Hot 100 charts are fairly similar, except Tetsuro Yamashita’s single got a bit of a bump on the Billboard because of its high position on the Radio Airplay chart. On the singles chart, Johnny’s Kanjani takes the top spot, as Namie Amuro’s latest stays fairly behind at 2nd, though it sold quite well. On the album chart, Kou Shibasaki’s compilation wins the day, while Ken Hirai scores a second place debut with his latest.

More over at Tokyograph.

- Doraemon has been picked as Japan’s animation ambassador, which I think it’s pretty damn cool as a lifelong Doraemon fan.

- Music show is a major part of many major Japanese TV networks: Fuji TV has Hey Hey Hey, and TBS has Music Station. However, NTV has apparently been without one with its primetime lineup for 18 years, though now that’s about to change. It even answers a question that I forgot to ask for years: What happened to Noriko Sakai?

By the way, keep checking the spin-off for those HKIFF reports.

The Golden Rock - March 17th/18th, 2008 Edition

Thanks to Filmart here in Hong Kong, there’s a ton of news happening out there.

Oh, look, new entry on the spinoff

- Of course, the big news is the Asian Film Awards, which seems to be less sloppily delivered this year (no David Wu and Fiona Sit trading quips), even though the star wattage has now dropped to the host from that entertainment news show on TVB. Also, there are reports that the awards were only half full, and that post-award interviews with Best Actress winner Jeon Do-Yeon were somehow moved to a back alley.

Oh, of course, there were awards passed out too.

- Anyway, time for number crunching!

At the Hong Kong box office, it’s no surprise, but it’s hard to report anyway: Patrick Kong’s L for Love, L for Lies made HK$1 million from 40 screens on Sunday and made HK$3.99 million over the 4-day weekend. With the Easter holiday next weekend, this is likely going to go past the HK$10 million mark (I somehow don’t think the same target audience will decide to flock to An Empress and the Warriors). Meanwhile, the animated film Horton Hears a Who! draws HK$320,000 from the first 2 days of previews on 31 screens, One Missed Call made HK$650,000 from 17 screens over 4 days, Woody Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream made HK$99,000 from 9 screens over 4 days, and Dan in Real Life made only HK$270,000 from 10 screens over 4 days.

With holdovers, 10,000BC passed the HK$10 million mark with HK$700,000 from 45 screens on Sunday, Shamo made HK$165,000 from 20 screens(the total is wrong on the now.com page), suffering a pretty significant drop, and Juno managed to pass the HK$4 million mark on Sunday as well.

In Japan audience attendance figures, Enchanted opens at number 1 amidst a very crowded family film market. If you count the dog movie, at least half the movies on the top 10 are aimed for a family audience (and I already didn’t count The Golden Compass). That’s because it’s Spring break when schools are out until April. More when the numbers are out.

- And now, news from Filmart:

China’s government is clamping down on co-productions, but that’s OK - Asian filmmakers will simply look elsewhere.

And experts at another panel believe that there will be one integrated Asian market, and that filmmakers are not really interested in challenging China’s censorship rules.

Oh, dear: The Pang Brothers are intending their Storm Riders sequel to be the Hong Kong equivalent of the Hollywood film 300, with the entire film shot in front of digital backdrops. Still, overseas buyers seem to be eating it up, so more power to them.

Meanwhile, Namson Shi, who seems to have a part in distributing Stephen Fung’s troubled dance film Jump, says that the film has not been sent for Chinese approval, nor has there been a decision made about keeping its troubled star Edison Chen.

Hong Kong’s Big Media promised to make 100 films in their first 5 years. Hell, we should just be lucky that they’re making 10-12 this year, even if one of them will be Marriage With a Fool 2.

Japanese director Sabu is in town trying to get funding for one of his latest films, a horror-romance set in Hong Kong.

For other Filmart coverage, go over to the Variety Filmart blog.

And now, back to your regular programming

- One of the few cinemas in Japan (in fact, the biggest one) planning to show the controversial documentary Yasukuni has backed off, citing that it might cause disruptions for the building’s fellow tenants. Then blame the right-wingers, not general courtesy.

- It’s Maggie Lee’s reviews time! All three from Lee are her takes on An Empress and the Warriors, her take on Fine, Totally Fine, and also her review for the Taiwanese youth film Orz Boys.

- In addition to wrapping up its run in Hong Kong, Karei Naru Ichizoku just picked up the award for Best Drama from TVNavi Magazine. Its star Kimura Takuya (AKA. Kimutaku) also picked up Best Actor for the drama.

Kimutaku is on a bit of a streak, as his new drama Change (the one where he becomes Prime Minister of Japan) now has Madonna providing it with a theme song.

- There’s a trailer for the horror prequel Kuchisake Onna 2 (The Slit-Mouth Woman 2).

The Golden Rock - March 16, 2008 Edition

- The 17th Japan Movie Critic Awards were announced, and the comic adaptation Yunagi No Machi Sakura No Kuni won Best Picture, though Kichitaro Negishi picked up best director for Sidecar Ni Inu. Why can’t Art Port co-produce something that classy with Hong Kong (instead of Dog Bite Dog and Shamo).

Full list over at Tokyograph

- The multi-nation production (Japanese and American financed with a Hong Kong director) remake of Japanese horror film Don’t Look Up has found its cast. Just reading who’s involved in it made me slightly dizzy.

- This weekend on Daily Yomiuri’s Teleview column, Wm. Penn looks at the upcoming quiz shows on Spring Japanese TV. Now the blogger will lament that Trivia No Izumi (Fountain of Trivia) is no longer on.

- The latest version of the Gegege No Kitaro anime has set the record for the highest-rated episode of the Thursday night 12:45-1:15 am animation block on Fuji TV.

- The potential disaster also known as the new Street Fighter movie (now named The Legend of Chun Li?!) has just dragged another actor into its mess. This time it’s Hong Kong Film Award-nominated actress Josie Ho.

- It’s reviews time! This weekend, Japan Times’ Mark Schilling looks at the sci-fi/horror/just plain weird double feature Ghost vs. Aliens by Takashi Shimizu and Keisuke Toyoshima. Menawhile, Twitch’s Mike McStay looks at the hit Korean thriller The Chaser. I’m glad to hear that Golden Scene in Hong Kong has picked up the rights for this.

- With the Korean wave slowly dying, new Korean president Lee Myung-bak still hopes Korean cultural exports will increase by over 400% in the next 3 years?

- Under “not very significant, but major awards” news today, Japanese group Bump of Chicken picked up three awards at the Space Shower Awards. In return, they have to explain clearly what the hell Bump of Chicken means.

- Wanna have Yuen Wo Ping teach you how to kick ass? Find out how.

- Under “not significant nor major awards” news today, Yui Aragaki, who starred in the Japanese breakout hit Koizora, was named the Best Girl of 2007 by Tokyo Girl Collection.

-  I left the best for last: a trailer for the new drama Cell Phone Detectives, directed by Takashi Miike. I sure as hell hope Miike got paid a ton of money to do this, or I’d think he’s kinda a crappy director.

The Golden Rock - March 14th, 2008 Edition

Happy White Day!

With no new news coming for the weekend, we’ll do mostly number crunching today.

- As expected in Hong Kong box office, Patrick Kong’s bitter “romantic” drama L For Love, L For Lies shot straight to the top of the box office on opening day. From 37 screens, it made HK$668,000 and will probably see close to HK$1 million per day over the weekend as the kids get out of school for the weekend. The weekend’s other wide opener, the Hollywood remake of the Japanese horror film One Missed Call, opened with only HK$111,000 from 17 screens.  As for limited openers, Woody Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream opened on 9 screens with just HK$52,000. Expect this to get a small boost from the adult audience over the weekend.

- It’s Japanese music charts time! On the Oricon singles chart, Smap scores another number 1 single, making this their 42nd consecutive single to debut at the top ten, tying the record with Southern All Stars. Meanwhile, Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s latest album debut at the top on the album chart, while Every Little Thing and Hitoto Yo are down at second and third place. More details at Tokyograph.

As for the Billboard Japan Hot 100 charts, the rankings are a little different, as airplay managed to lift Ayaka’s single all the way to 2nd place. Radio play also helped the foreign single by Adele get on the top 100, as well as some songs that were not released as singles, such as Keisuke Kuwata’s latest.

- On the Taiwanese G-music chart, Aska Yang seems to never leave the top, especially when sales are this weak. He only had to take up 2.46% of total sales to get that spot, which also helped Joanna Wang’s album as well. However, Gary Chaw drops straight down 12th place, though another new edition of the CD will perk those sales right up. The weak sales also helped Yui Aragaki’s album, which actually took up a bigger share of the sales this week.

- Hong Kong director Pang Ho-Cheung, whom I consider one of my favorites, has directed a trailer for the latest installment of the Udine Far East Festival. Hollywood Reporter has the story, and Twitch has the link.

- It’s like repeating the same story again and again: Japanese total video sales was down by 3.7% in 2007. On the other hand, rental store sales have actually risen.

That’s it for today, y’all

The Golden Rock - March 12/13th, 2008 Edition

- The story was first on Variety Asia, but I’ll reference Twitch because the story has simply disappeared at the time of writing: D-War director Shim Hyung-rae was a comedian before he became a director, and now that D-War was a big hit, he’s relying on cgi to make the next big comedy featuring himself. Specifically, he’s bringing back his old popular character and make him act opposite a cgi-created Marlon Brando playing the godfather Vito Corleone. Someone stop this man, please.

- Those looking oh so forward to the potentially-disastrous Dragonball live-action film will just have to wait a little longer: The film has been delayed from an August release date to next April. Unless you’re in Japan, then you get to see it a month earlier.

- Yet another country has picked up the rights to the hit Colombian telenovela for their own remake, and guess what that country is going to be naming it?

- Detroit Metal City, the high-profile comic adaptation starring Kenichi Matsuyama hopefully walking straight with less eyeliner this time, has finally started filming and is scheduled to open this summer. They’ve been talking about this movie so long, I thought they’re done shooting the damn thing already.

- With the recent scandal and controversy and the various failures, organizers of the Bangkok International Film Festival are still trying to keep on truckin’ for this July….even though no programming work has been done, and they don’t really have enough money.

- New artist Thelma Aoyama’s hit single “Soba Ni Iru Ne” has broken a record of being downloaded one million times to cell phones in the quickest time. With a catchy song hitting popularity this fast, let’s hope she’s not a one-hit wonder.

- Ryuganji’s Don Brown gives us his own thoughts on Yoji Yamada’s Kabei. I’m still on the fence over whether I want to catch this at the Hong Kong Film Festival.

- Both Variety and Hollywood Reporter are covering Ang Lee and James Schamus’ win of the Freedom of Expression Award by the National Association of Theater Owners for Lust, Caution. Variety reports that the film’s release in America went extremely smooth, despite the NC-17 rating, and The Hollywood Reporter even got an interview.

- Speaking of which, Jason Gray writes about a Japanese AV star who seems to have some breakout potential.

- Courtesy of EastSouthWestNorth, Danwei asks a question, and my answer is a definite yes.

- On the other hand, English literature about China is apparently the big thing right now, though the writers don’t exactly expect it to last.

- While the previously planned Justin Lin’s remake of Oldboy seems to have stalled, Charlize Theron is looking to produce and star in another installment of Park Chan-Wook’s classic revenge trilogy.

- There may be hope for band members everywhere who aren’t lead singers: Tokio keyboardist Taichi Kokubun now has a show on all six of the major networks in Tokyo. For most bands’ keyboardist. they’re lucky if they get their own show on public access.

- There’s another review of Singaporean director Kelvin Tong’s Rule #1, starring Shawn Yue and Ekin Cheng.

- The Nikkan Sports Drama Grand Prix for the Winter 2007 season has been announced, even though the season isn’t even over yet. Shikaotoko Aoniyoshi ended up winning 3 awards: Best Drama, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. However, the drama has been struggling in the ratings, averaging only a 9.9% rating throughout the season.

The Golden Rock Box office report - 3/12/2008

- Hong Kong box office over the last weekend may not be quite comprehensive because I could only get the Monday stats. As expected, the Hollywood film 10,000 BC won the weekend with 45 screens. However, the bigger surprise is Soi Cheang’s Shamo debuting at 2nd place. Not sure if it’s Shawn Yue or the subject matter or the source material, but it’ll likely pass the disappointing gross of Dog Bite Dog. Meanwhile, the Hollywood remake of The Eye fail to get much audience, making just over HK$700,000 from 27 screens over the weekend. The limited opener The Orphanage didn’t do so well either, making only HK$240,000 over 4 days.

As for holdovers, Fatal Move suffered a big drop, now with HK$4.27 million after 12 days. Then again, who expected a movie like that would make that much? Juno has surpassed No Country for Old Men (HK$3.66 million vs. HK$2.75 million over 19 days) by so much that it can’t be just because it’s playing on more screens (11 vs. 8).

- The power of Doraemon prevails at the Japanese box office, as the latest animated feature with the robotic cat made 516 million yen from 344 screens to top the chart. However, that’s 92% of the opening for the previous film. Nevertheless, it’ll make a ton of cash. Meanwhile, Jumper opens pretty high at second place, The Golden Compass drops by 60%, the drama adaptation Kurosagi opens at 4th, but with an impressive screen average (and it’s 97% of the last TBS drama adaptation on the big screen), forget Vantage Point, L finally suffers a big drop, and wait, Lust, Caution is still in theaters, and it’s made about 200 million yen. Not bad at all.

- Let’s look at the Korean box office….The Chaser tops the charts again (now with 3.6 million admissions), and 4 opening films get places 4th to 7th. More details over at Korea Pop Wars.

The Golden Rock - March 9th, 2008 Edition

- There’s a very interesting feature on Japan Times this weekend, which transcribes a panel discussing the Japanese war trial film Ashita He No Yuigon (Best Wishes For Tomorrow)  featuring Japan Times critic Mark Schilling and the film’s co-writer.  With two other contributors, the four discuss the impact of another war film on the Japanese, the message, and about its intents were successful.

- Yesterday we mentioned Mika Nakashima making the cover of Rolling Stone Japan, and now Oscar-nominated actress Rinko Kikuchi is on the cover of the British i-D Magazine.  She is not the first Japanese actress to appear on the cover, though: Chiaki Kuriyama made the cover back in 2004 thanks to her role in Kill Bill.

- It’s reviews time! Twitch offers a review of Kelvin Tong’s Rule #1, starring Shawn Yue and Ekin Cheng in their first official screen collaboration (they had an unofficial partnership in Shamo. You’ll know what I mean).  Then Variety’s Ronnie Schieb offers a review of Makoto Shinkai’s Five Centimeter Per Second, which I almost immediately dismissed because he dismissed the song in the film before he even bothered to understand it. Japan Times’ Mark Schilling offers a review for Gachi Boy (Wrestling with a Memory), the latest from the director of Song of the Sun. There’s also an interview featuring the director, who apparently made his actors perform their own wrestling stunts.

- Wrestling With a Memory will have its Asian premiere at the Hong Kong International Festival, and I already have a ticket to one of its showings. Not sure to what it can be credited to, but the festival is seeing an incredible 40% surge in online ticket sales from last year. Then again, after hearing horror stories of the festival’s ticketing system last year, no wonder more people decided to buy it the year the system happens to work.

- Eiga Consultant also looked at the box office performance of Wrestling with a Memory’s opening weekend. From 284 screens, the wrestling comedy/drama made 67.87 million yen, which is only 55% of another Toho + Fuji teen comedy Check It Out Yo!

Meanwhile, The Golden Compass made 550 million yen from 667 screens, which is 70% of The Chronicles of Narnia. Considering that Narnia made 6.85 billion yen, will The Golden Compass make it to 5 billion yen? Also, the ratio of the box office take for the subtitled version to the dubbed version is 53:47, which supposedly means that the film is attracting people of all demographics (in film market jargon, we say “demographics,” not “age”). Also, in case you’re wondering why the Box Office Mojo reported gross is so high, that’s because they included last weekend’s preview screenings.

- I think this would qualify as self-promotion: The Foreign Film Importer-Distributor Association of Japan will be giving its top award to Gaga Communications, who imported hits such as Babel, Earth, and the current box office topper The Golden Compass.

- Under “yet another comic going to TV” news today, the comedy comic Tokyo Ghost Trip is getting the live-action treatment.

- It’s trailers time! First, there’s the Japanese teaser for John Woo’s Battle of Red Cliff, and it still just looks really expensive, but not much else. Next is the trailer for the Mainland Chinese film Pk.com.cn, which may be the weirdest trailer I’ve seen all year. Considering that it’s from the conservative Mainland (more later), that’s kind of a good thing.

- With the National People’s Congress happening in Beijing right now (an ironic title, by the way), the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television of China are restating their rules on what movies are OK and what movies are not. In simple words: Most movies are not OK, but simple peasant stories with subtle allegories of government dictatorship will probably be. Zhang Yimou, you’re not out of work yet!

- Speaking of a filmmaker not out of work in China, Twitch has an interview with Stephen Chow and the star of his latest film CJ7.

Hayao Miyazaki spoke about his latest film Ponyo on a Cliff this week, and reading him describing the film just makes me look incredibly forward to it already. It seems like it’ll be a return to simpler fantasy tales like Totoro.

Kaiju Shakedown looks at another one of Takashi Miike’s latest films, which producer Haruki Kadokawa says is based on a novel that he read while he was in prison. Prison may be a good place to find films to adapt, but I still wouldn’t want to go there.

- Jason Gray looks at the lineup for the upcoming Nippon Connection Festival in Frankfurt, Germany. Man, that’s one hell of a lineup.

The Golden Rock - March 8th, 2008 Edition

- Japanese artist/attitude girl/real-life Nana Mika Nakashima will be the first Japanese artist to appear on the cover of Rolling Stones Japan. The question is, why did it take a year for Rolling Stones Japan to put a Japanese musician on its cover?

-  Twitch brings us the first teaser for Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest Aruitemo Aruitemo, which looks like a return to modern drama after his previous outing Hana.

- The global domination of Walt Disney continues: Disney Japan will be using Japanese animation houses to produce animation targeted at a Japanese and Greater Asia audience. Theese will start broadcasting in Japan in April.

-  While the information aren’t exactly all straight, and it lacks true balance, The Hollywood Reporter Asia has a feature on China-Hong Kong co-productions that’s fairly worth reading.

- This week on the Daily Yomiuri Teleview column, columnist Wm Penn looks at more dramas coming on Japanese TV come the Spring season, including the one where Kimura Takuya becomes the Prime Minister of Japan. In case you don’t know what that equates to, imagine an entire drama where Andy Lau plays the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.

- Despite saying the wrong thing on radio and people saying she apologized the wrong way, Koda Kumi will most likely open her nationwide tour on schedule.

Again a short entry, but that’s it for today. We’ll wrap the weekend up tomorrow

 
 
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