Forrest Gump Directed by Wes Anderson: Here’s What It Would Look Like

Take Forrest Gump, the 1994 film directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks. Now let’s give it a Wes Anderson makeover. That’s the exercise Louis Paquet went through above, in making a short Andersonion version of Forrest Gump‘s opening credits. If you need an introduction to Anderson’s signature style, we’ve got a few helpful posts for you below.

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30 Errol Morris Movies That Can Be Streamed Online

Why do I check into Metafilter every day? Just so that I don’t miss a post like this. A Metafilter community member who goes by the name of “Going to Maine” has pulled together a list of Thirty Errol Morris movies that can be streamed on YouTube. The list includes some of Morris’ major documentaries, but also many excellent short films (and interviews) directed by Morris over the years. Above, you can see “Team Spirit,” a bizarre little film Morris made for ESPN about fans who are deadly serious about sports. In fact, they take their love of sports right to the grave. Below, you can find various other Morris films we’ve featured over the years. They otherwise reside in our collection of Free Documentaries, a subset of our Free Movies collection.

How Benoit Mandelbrot Discovered Fractals: A Short Film by Errol Morris

Errol Morris Captures Competitive Eating Champion “El Wingador”

Watch A Brief History of Time, Errol Morris’ Film About the Life & Work of Stephen Hawking

November 22, 1963: Watch Errol Morris’ Short Documentary About the Kennedy Assassination

“They Were There” — Errol Morris Finally Directs a Film for IBM

11 Excellent Reasons Not to Vote?

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Who Are the Most Pernicious Thinkers? A List of Five Bad Western Philosophers: Name Your Own


Over at his blog Leiter Reports, UC Chicago professor of philosophy Brian Leiter is currently conducting a very interesting poll, asking his readers to rank the 25 philosophers of “the modern era” (the last 200 years) who “have had the most pernicious influence on philosophy.” The pool of candidates comes from an earlier survey of influential philosophers, and Leiter has imposed some conditions on his respondents, asking that they only rank philosophers they have read, and only include “serious philosophers”–”no charlatans like Derrida or amateurs like Rand.” While I personally wince at Leiter’s Derrida jab (and cheer his exclusion of Rand), I think his question may be a little too academic, his field perhaps too narrow.

But the polemical idea is so compelling that I felt it worth adopting for a broader informal survey: contra Leiter, I’ve ranked five philosophers who I think have had a most pernicious influence on the world at large. I’m limiting my own choices to Western philosophers, with which I’m most familiar, though obviously by my first choice, you can tell I’ve expanded the temporal parameters. And in sporting listicle fashion, I’ve not only made a ranking, but I’ve blurbed each of my choices, inspired by this fun Neatorama post, “9 Bad Boys of Philosophy.”

While that list uses “bad” in the Michael Jackson sense, I mean it in the sense of Leiter’s “pernicious.” And though I would also include the proviso that only “serious” thinkers warrant inclusion, I don’t think this necessarily rules out anyone on the basis of academic canons of taste. One might as well include C.S. Lewis as Jean Baudrillard, both of whom tend to get dismissed in most philosophy departments. My own list surely reveals my anti-authoritarian biases, just as some others may rail at fuzzy thinking with a list of postmodernists, or socialism with a list of Marxists. This is as it should be. Defining the “bad,” after all, is bound to be a highly subjective exercise, and one about which we can and should disagree, civilly but vigorously. So with no more ado, here are my five choices for “Most Pernicious Western Philosophers.” I invite—nay urge you—to make your own lists in the comments, with explanations terse or prolix as you see fit.

1. Thomas Aquinas

The Dominican friar and author of the near-unreadably dense Summa Theologica made it his life’s work to harmonize logical Aristotelian thought and mystical Christian theology, to the detriment of both. While for Aquinas and his medieval contemporaries, natural theology represents an early attempt at empiricism, the emphasis on the “theology” meant that the West has endured centuries of spurious “proofs” of God’s existence and completely incomprehensible rationalizations of the Trinity, the virgin birth, and other miraculous tales that have no analogue in observable phenomena.

Like many church fathers before him, Thomas’s employment as a kind of Grand Inquisitor of heretics and a codifier of dogma makes me all the more averse to his thought, though much of it is admittedly of great historical import.

2. Carl Schmitt

Schmitt was a Nazi, which—as in the case of Martin Heidegger—strangely hasn’t disqualified his thought from serious appraisal across the political spectrum. But some of Schmitt’s ideas—or at least their application—are particularly troubling even when fully divorced from his personal politics. Schmitt theorized that sovereign rulers, or dictators, emerge in a “state of exception”—a security crisis with which a democratic society cannot seem to cope, but which is ripe for exploitation by domineering individuals. These “states” can legitimately appear at any time, or can be ginned up by unscrupulous rulers. The crucial insight has inspired such leftist thinkers as Walter Benjamin and theorists on the right like Leo Strauss. Its political effects are something altogether different. Writes Scott Horton in Harper’s:

It was Schmitt who, as the crown jurist of the new Nazi regime, provided the essential road map for Gleichschaltung – the leveling of opposition within Germany’s vast bureaucracy – and it was he who provided the legal tools used to transform the Weimar democracy into the Nazi nightmare that followed it.

This same road map—many have alleged—guided the unilateral suspensions of constitutional protections and human rights protocols machinated by Bush and Cheney’s Neoconservative legal advisors after 9/11, who read Schmitt thoroughly. (I intend here no direct comparison whatever between these two regimes, Godwin willing.)

3. John Locke

Though he wrote copiously on epistemology, religious toleration, education, and all sorts of other important topics, Locke is often remembered as everyone’s favorite liberal political philosopher. His anonymously published Two Treatises of Government has had an outsized influence on most modern democratic constitutions, and given his primary antagonist in the first part of that work—Sir Robert Filmer, staunch defender of the divine right of kings and natural hierarchies—Locke seems positively progressive, what with his defense of a civil society based on respect for labor and private property against the unwarranted power and abuse of the aristocracy.

But Locke’s Filmer works as something of a straw man. Examined critically, Locke is no democratic champion but an apologist for the petty tyranny of landowners who gradually eroded the commons, displaced the commoners, and seized greater and greater tracts of land in England and the colonies under the Lockean justification that a man is entitled to as much property as he can make use of. Of course, in Locke’s time, and in our own, proprietors and landowners seize and “make use of” the resources and labor of others—slaves, indigenous people, and exploited, landless workers—in order to make their extravagant claims to private property. This kind of appropriation is also enabled by Locke’s thought, since property only justly belongs to the “industrious and the rational”— characteristics that tend to get defined against their opposites (“lazy and stupid”) in any way that suits those in power.

4. Rene Descartes

Another darling of Enlightenment tradition, Descartes gets all the credit for founding a philosophy on radical doubt, and thereby doing away with the presuppositional theological baggage imposed on thought by scholastics like Aquinas. And yet, like Locke, Descartes gets too easy a pass for reducing his method to terms that are by no means unequivocal or universally meaningful, though he pretends that they are.

Descartes explains his method as a means of eliminating from his mind all conceptual clutter but those ideas that seem to him “clear and distinct.” Oddly the two bedrock concepts he’s left with are an unshakeable faith in his own individual ego—or soul—and the existence of a monotheistic creator-God. Thus, Descartes’ method of radical doubt leads him to reaffirm the two most core concepts of classical Western philosophy, concepts he more or less assumes on the basis of intuition—or perhaps unexamined ideological commitments.

5. Søren Kierkegaard

This is a tough one, because I actually adore Kierkegaard, but I love him as a writer, not as a philosopher. His critiques of Hegel are scathing and hilarious, his takedowns of the self-satisfied Danish petit-bourgeoisie are epic, and the tonal range and ironic deftness of his numerous literary voices—personae as diverse as desert saints and scheming seducers—are unequalled.

But I recoil from the ethical philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard, as so many people recoil from Nietzsche’s brinksmanship with traditional Christian morality. Kierkegaard’s reduction of the human experience to a false choice paradigm—“Either/Or”—, his ethics of blind irrationalism couched as a justifiable leap of faith, exemplified by his glorification of Abraham’s willingness to kill his son Isaac… these things I can’t help but find abhorrent, and if I’ve ever been tempted to read them as ironic expressions of the author’s many masks, further study has robbed me of this balm. Kierkegaard the writer offers us a great deal; Kierkegaard the moral philosopher, not so much.


So there you have my list—riddled, to be sure, with inaccuracies, prejudice, and superficial misreadings, but an honest attempt nonetheless, given my inadequate philosophical training. Again I’ll say that the inclusion of any of these five names in a list of philosophers, pernicious or no, means that I believe they are all thinkers worth reading and taking seriously to some degree, even if one violently disagrees with them or finds glaring and grievous error in the midst of seas of brilliance.

Now that you’ve read my “Five Most Pernicious Philosophers,” please tell us readers, who are yours, and why? Your griping explanations can be as short or long as you see fit, and feel free to violently disagree with my hasty judgments above. Ad hominem attacks aside, it’s all within the spirit of the enterprise.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

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Take a Virtual Tour of the Dictionary Shakespeare May Have Owned and Annotated


shakespeare dictionary

You surely heard plenty about Shakespeare’s birthday yesterday. But did you hear about Shakespeare’s beehive? No, the Bard didn’t moonlight as an apiarist, though in his main line of work as a poet and dramatist he surely had to consult his dictionary fairly often. The question of whether humanity has an identifiable copy of such an illustrious reference volume gets explored in the new book Shakespeare’s Beehive: An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light by bookseller-scholars George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler. In their study, they reveal that they may have come into possession of Shakespeare’s very own copy of Baret’s Alvearie, a popular classical quote-laden English-Latin-Greek-French dictionary the man who wrote King Lear would have found “the perfect tool, a honey-combed beehive of possibilities that may not have formed his way of thinking, but certainly fed his appetite and nourished his selection.” He would have, at least, if indeed he owned it. Some solid Shakespeare scholarship points toward his owning copy of Baret’s Alvearie, but did he own this one, the richly annotated one these guys found on eBay?

Experts haven’t exactly stepped forward in force to back up their claim. Plausible objections include, as Adam Gopnik puts it in a (subscribers-only) New Yorker piece on this Alvearie in particular and humanity’s desire for Shakespearean artifacts in general: “the handwriting just doesn’t look like Shakespeare’s,” “since Shakespeare wrote Elizabethan English, any work of Elizabethan English is going to contain echoes of Shakespeare,” and, of all possible annotators of this particular physical book, Shakespeare “is a prime candidate only because we don’t know the names of all the other bird-loving, inquisitive readers who also liked their dabchicks and their French verbs.” Still, in a striking act of openness, Koppelman and Wechsler have made their — and Shakespeare’s? — Alvearie available for your digital perusal on their site. You have to register as a member first, but then you can draw your own conclusions about Koppelman and Weschler’s discovery — or, as even they call it, their “leap of faith.” Overenthusiastic words, perhaps, but seldom do either successful antiquarian book dealers or dedicated Shakespeare fans lack enthusiasm.

via The Atlantic

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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Jimi Hendrix Unplugged: Two Rare Recordings of Hendrix Playing Acoustic Guitar

As a young guitar player, perhaps no one inspired me as much as Jimi Hendrix, though I never dreamed I’d attain even a fraction of his skill. But what attracted me to him was his near-total lack of formality—he didn’t read music, wasn’t trained in any classical sense, played an upside-down right-handed guitar as a lefty, and fully engaged his head and heart in every note, never pausing for an instant (so it seemed) to second-guess whether it was the right one. I knew his raw emotive playing was firmly rooted in the Delta blues, but it wasn’t until later in my musical journey that I discovered his return to more traditional form after he disbanded The Experience and formed Band of Gypsys with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles. While most of the recordings he made with them didn’t see official release, they’ve appeared since his death in compilation after boxset after compilation, including one of the most beloved of Hendrix’s blues songs, “Hear My Train A Comin’.”

Originally titled “Get My Heart Back Together” when he played it at Woodstock in 1969, the song is pure roots, with lyrics that bespeak of both Hendrix’s loneliness and his playful dreams of greatness. (“I’m gonna buy this town / And put it all in my shoe.”) Several versions of the song float around on various posthumous releases—both live and as studio outtakes (including two different takes on the excellent 1994 Blues). But we have the rare treat, above, of seeing Hendrix play the song on a twelve-string acoustic guitar, Lead Belly’s instrument of choice. The footage comes from the 1973 documentary film Jimi Hendrix (which you can watch on Youtube for $1.99). Hendrix first plays the intro, seated alone in an all-white studio, playing folk-style with the fingers of his left hand. It is, of course, flawless, yet still he stops and asks the filmmakers for a redo. “I was scared to death,” he says, betraying the shyness and self-doubt that lurked beneath his mind-blowing ability and flamboyant persona. His playing is no less perfect when he picks up the tune again and plays it through.

Solo acoustic recordings of Hendrix—film and audio—are incredibly rare. In fact, the only other footage may be the short clip above of Hendrix at a party playing a partial blues rendition of “Hound Dog.” If like me you’re a fan of Hendrix, acoustic blues, or both, these videos will make you hunger for more Jimi unplugged. While Hendrix did more than anyone before him to turn guitar amps into instruments with his squalls of electric feedback and distorted wah-wah squeals, when you strip his playing down to basics, he’s still pretty much as good as it gets.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

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H.G. Wells Interviews Joseph Stalin in 1934; Declares “I Am More to The Left Than You, Mr. Stalin”

wells and stalin

From the 20/20 point of view of the present, Joseph Stalin was one of the 20th century’s great monsters. He terrified the Soviet Union with campaign after campaign of political purges, he moved whole populations into Siberia and he arguably killed more people than Hitler. But it took decades for the scope of his crimes to get out, mostly because, unlike Hitler, Stalin stuck to killing his own people.

In early 1930s, however, Stalin was considered by many to be the leader of the future. That period was, of course, the nadir of the Great Depression. Capitalism seemed to be coming apart at the seams. The USSR promised a new society ruled not by the oligarchs of Wall Street but by the people – a society where everyone was equal.

H.G. Wells interviewed Stalin in Moscow in 1934 for the magazine The New Statesman. Wells was an avowed socialist and one of the left’s most influential authors. His first novel, The Time Machine, is essentially an allegory for class struggle after all. The interview between the two is fascinating.

Wells opens the piece by stating that he speaks for the common people. While that point is debatable — Stalin calls him out on that assertion – Wells does speak in a manner that is readily understandable. Stalin, in contrast, speaks in fluent Politburo. The blandness of his speech, choked with Communist boilerplate, seems designed to make the listener tune out. But then he drops little bon mots into his monologues that hint at the violence he has unleashed on his country. Take this line for instance:

Revolution, the substitution of one social system for another, has always been a struggle, a painful and a cruel struggle, a life-and-death struggle.

It’s a chilling line. Especially when you consider that at the time of this interview, Stalin was just starting to launch his first wave of political purges and he was plotting to assassinate his main political rival Sergei Kirov.

As the interview unfolds, you can imagine Wells growing increasingly frustrated by Stalin’s narrow, dogmatic view of the world. The Soviet leader, as Wells later wrote in his autobiography, “has little of the quick uptake of President Roosevelt and none of the subtlety and tenacity of Lenin. … His was not a free impulsive brain nor a scientifically organized brain; it was a trained Leninist-Marxist brain.”

At several points in the interview Wells challenges Stalin: “I object to this simplified classification of mankind into poor and rich,” the author fumes.

And when Stalin doesn’t agree with Wells that the Capitalist system was on its last legs, the author actually chides him for not being revolutionary enough. “It seems to me that I am more to the Left than you, Mr. Stalin; I think the old system is nearer to its end than you think.” Now that’s chutzpah.

In the end, the interview presents a dueling version of the future of the left. Wells believed, in essence, that the Capitalist world only needed to be reformed, albeit drastically, to achieve economic justice. And Stalin argued that Capitalism had to be torn down completely before any other reform could take place.

In spite of their differences, Wells left the interview with a positive impression of the Soviet leader. “I have never met a man more fair, candid, and honest,” he wrote.

Wells died in 1946 before the worst of Stalin’s crimes became known to the outside world. Stalin died in 1953.  Following a stroke, his body remained on the floor in a pool of urine for hours before a doctor was called. His minions were terrified that he might wake up and order their execution.

You can read the entire interview between H.G. Wells and Stalin on The New Statesmen‘s website here.

via Kottke

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow.

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The Getty Adds Another 77,000 Images to its Open Content Archive


Last summer we told you that the J. Paul Getty Museum launched its Open Content Program by taking 4600 high-resolution images from the Getty collections, putting them into the public domain, and making them freely available in digital format. We also made it clear — there would be more to come.

Yesterday, the Getty made good on that promise, adding another 77,000 images to the Open Content archive. Of those images, 72,000 come from the Foto Arte Minore collection, a rich gallery of photographs of Italian art and architecture, taken by the photographer and scholar Max Hutzel (1911-1988).

getty tapestryThe Getty also dropped into the archive another 4,930 images of European and American tapestries dating from the late 15th through the late 18th centuries.

All images in the Getty Open Content program — now 87,000 in total — can be downloaded and used without charge or permission, regardless of whether you’re a scholar, artist, art lover or entrepreneur. The Getty only asks that you give them attribution.

You can start exploring the complete collection by visiting the Getty Search Gateway. Images can also be accessed via the Museum’s Collection webpages. Be sure to look for the “download” link near the images.

For more information on the Open Content program, please visit this page. For more open content from museums, see the links below.

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Sylvia Plath Annotates Her Copy of The Great Gatsby


The true fan of a writer desires not just that writer’s complete works, even if they all come signed and in first editions. No — the enthusiast most dedicated to their literary luminary of choice must have, in addition, the books written by that author, those owned by that author, preferably anointed with liberal quantities of revealing marginalia. In the case of such relatively recently deceased writers as David Markson, the whole of whose well-annotated personal library got donated to The Strand shortly after his passing, you can sometimes actually come to possess such treasures. In the case of poet Sylvia Plath, part of a page of whose copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby you see above, you might have a trickier time getting your hands on them. Justin Ray’s post at Complex, which quotes Plath as calling Fitzgerald “a word painter with a vivid palette” who chooses words with “jewel-cut precision,” has more on the book and its markings.

“Plath studied a crap-ton of literature in school,” Ray writes. “It isn’t immediately clear whether she was in high school or college when she annotated Gatsby,” but whenever she did it, she underlined “Daisy’s prediction of what her daughter will be like” with the word “L’Ennui,” a word she would use to name an early poem that reflects “a post romanticism and the death of idealism, two ideas also in Gatsby, according to an essay by Anna Journey.” Elsewhere, you can also read “Princess Daisy,” Park Bucker’s piece on Plath’s annotated Gatsby. “The volume represents a fascinating piece of evidence of Fitzgerald’s rising reputation and influence in the early 1950s, as well as the academic background and tastes of a major American poet,” writes Bucker. “Although Sylvia Plath and F. Scott Fitzgerald rarely inhabit the same sentence, their association should not appear strained. A young, intense poet would naturally be drawn to the lyric quality of Fitzgerald’s prose.” And just imagine its value to die-hard fans of both of those tragic pillars of American letters — a group in which, if you’ve read this post and everything to which it links, you should perhaps consider counting yourself.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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Stream Indie Cindy, the Pixies’ First Album in 23 Years

A quick fyi: Indie Cindy, the Pixies’ first album since 1991, will be released on April 29th. But thanks to NPR’s First Listen site, you can stream the entire LP online for free, for a limited time. Though the band might not sound the same without Kim Deal, Pixies fans will instantly recognize the “disarming beauty nestled against dissonant snarls.” Above, you can listen to the album’s title track. Here you can stream the entire album or the individual tracks – or pre-order it on iTunes or over at Amazon.

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Slavoj Žižek: What Fullfils You Creatively Isn’t What Makes You Happy

While theorist and provocateur Slavoj Žižek tends to get characterized—especially in a recent, testy exchange with Noam Chomsky—as obscurantist and muddle-headed, I’ve always found him quite readable, especially when compared to his mentor, psychoanalytic philosopher Jacques Lacan. As an interpreter of Lacan’s theories, Žižek always does his reader the courtesy of providing specific, concrete examples to anchor the theoretical jargon (where Lacan gives us pseudo-mathematical symbols). In the short Big Think clip above, Žižek’s examples range from the history of physics to the Declaration of Independence to the familiar “male chauvinist” scenario of a man, his wife, and his mistress. Žižek’s point, the point of psychoanalysis, he alleges, is that “people do not really want or desire happiness.”

This seems counterintuitive. Happiness—our own and others—is after all the goal of our loftiest endeavors, no? This seems to be the pop-psych rendition of, say, Maslow’s theory of self-actualization. But no, says Zizek, happiness is an integral part of fantasy. Like the philanderer’s mistress, the object of desire must be kept at a distance, he says. Once it is achieved, we no longer want it: “We don’t really want what we think we desire.” And in keeping with Žižek’s example of infidelity—which may or may not involve the chauvinist killing his wife—he tells us that for him, “happiness is an unethical category.” I find this statement intriguing, and persuasive, though Žižek doesn’t elaborate on it above.

He does in much of his writing however—explaining in Lacanian terms in his essay collection Interrogating the Real that our desire for something we think will bring us happiness can be construed as a kind of envy: “I desire an object only insofar as it is desired by the Other.” Furthermore, he writes, “what I desire is determined by the symbolic network within which I articulate my subjective position.” In other words, what we think we want is determined by ideology—by the cultural products we consume, the soup of mass media and advertising in which we are permanently immersed, and the political ideals we are taught to revere. What does authentic “self-actualization” look like for Slavoj Žižek? He tells us above—it means being “ready to suffer” for the creative realization of a goal: “Happiness doesn’t enter into it.”

Žižek cites the example of nuclear scientists who willingly exposed themselves to radiation poisoning in pursuit of discovery, but he could just as well have pointed to artists and writers who sacrifice comfort and pleasure for lives of profound uncertainty, religious figures who practice all kinds of austerities, or athletes who push their bodies past all ordinary limits. While there are several degrees of pleasure involved in these endeavors, it seems shallow at best to describe the goals of such people as happiness. It seems that many, if not most, of the people we admire and strive to emulate lead lives characterized by great risk—by the willingness to suffer; lives often containing little in the way of actual happiness.

Whatever stock one puts in psychoanalytic theory, it seems to me that Žižek raises some vital questions: Do we really want what we think we want, or is the “pursuit of happiness” an unethical ideological fantasy? What do you think, readers?

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.


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