Category Archives: Arts and Culture

The Blarg Nos. 101 – 109: L. S. Larson

Hey Folks,

It’s been a while. A lot has happened since the last edition of The Blarg, way too much to catch up on. If you’ve been listening to the show (and really, I have no idea why you’d read this and NOT listen to the show), then you know that, while Hoot n Waddle continues unabated, Janell and I have decided to split up. More accurately, Janell decided we should split up. I’ve had a couple of months to come to grips with this, and while I’m not there yet, I’m not going to get into all of that here. I’ve got a new place, I’m starting to look forward to being on my own for the first time in a while, and I’ve got SuSu, so there’s that (see the Ltd Instagram account for a lot of SuSu). There’s a lot going on, so I don’t have time to dwell, and that’s probably for the best.

San Francisco and Portland were great. It was nice to get out of Phoenix for a little bit and put HnW out in front of new audiences. The event for Ron Riekki’s Posttraumatic at Bird and Beckett went really well; I got to catch up with my friend, the poet and lyricist Kurt Lipschutz; and I’ve got the bonus of being able to say that HnW has books available in San Francisco. Portland was a blast—I loved being there, and can’t wait to go back. We made a lot of good connections at AWP, met several of our authors for the first time, and left feeling like we’re making good choices and moving in the right direction. Next year, San Antonio!

Things continue to be extraordinarily busy, and they’re only going to continue to ramp up which is why I haven’t done The Blarg in a while, so why, you may be asking, am I doing this one?

The answer to that is this week’s guest, L. S. Larson and the launch of the new immersive science fiction adventure novel for young readers, IGIST. L. S. is the pen name of Luke Larson, the president of a little company called Axon. While the novel is the central, driving force behind everything else surrounding it, there’s such an integral visual component that I decided to use The Blarg to give people a little glimpse into that aspect of things (see below). What I’m saying is, this shit’s pretty cool.

I get emails fairly regularly these days from people asking if I’d be interested in talking to them about their latest project, which is fantastic—it takes care of the worst part of booking guests: outreach. So when I got this email from L. S. Larson describing IGIST, asking if I’d want to talk about it on the podcast, I checked it out, thought it was a cool concept, and replied, Sure, let’s do it. The thing was that they wanted to do it in time to post prior to a launch event at the Arizona Science Center on 4/20, which meant that we had to do it that week, and I only had a couple of dates available. One of these dates was the same night as Axon HQ’s open house. As you know, I’m not one to research a guest outside of their project, because I prefer to learn about them in person—too much research makes the conversation stiff, and I’m really interested in the work and the creative process, so I had assumed that Axon was just IGIST’s parent company and they were welcoming people to check out their stuff. It certainly seemed like a company that would have that sort of thing, so imagine my surprise when I arrived at the address and saw the name on the building and connected the dots. (It’s a really cool building with interior components inspired by scenes out of classic sci-fi films.)

Now, if you’re not familiar with the name Axon, you’re probably familiar with Taser, which is the company’s flagship product, and what they used to be called just a few years ago. I’m a skeptic at heart, so when I walked in and met L. S./Luke and learned that he was the president of the company some alarm bells went off and I wished for the first time in four years that I’d done more research. Whenever a corporation is involved, I immediately start looking for what the angle is and get concerned that I’m being played, but I took the tour and I listened to the presentation, and I started to relax.

Yes, Axon is a publicly traded corporation, but their mission is one that I wholeheartedly support: to, in their words, “obsolete the bullet,” to provide the means of accountability and transparency in law enforcement, and non-lethal alternatives to deescalate a situation. As a pacifist and staunch anti-gun proponent, I’m on board.

After the open house, Luke and I went into one of the conference rooms and did the recording, and that’s when whatever reservations and skepticism I had vanished. IGIST is a passion project, a labor of love—a love of science fiction, a passion for writing, but more importantly, love for his three daughters and a desire to contribute positively to the anti-patriarchal movement. It’s all there in the conversation, and you can hear it for yourself. It doesn’t hurt that I’m also an unabashed sci-fi geek and Luke seems like the kind of guy I could just hang out with and shoot the shit.

So listen to the episode (available wherever you get your pods—please rate/review while you’re at it) and check out IGIST (see the book trailer and some examples of the artwork below). As I mentioned, there’s a launch event coming up at the Arizona Science Center on 4/20, it’s free to attend, and it’s a fun thing to do with the kids on a Saturday afternoon.

Best,

Jared Duran

Listen to LE 109 – L.S. Larson

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The Blarg No. 100: Nels Cline

Limited Engagement started in May of 2015 with an interview and reading with Bill Campana in Cynthia Black’s store, C-Mod (an episode that, along with the rest of the Ltd archive, you will soon be able to hear as a Patreon exclusive). In the nearly 4 years since that first show, Ltd has evolved from a monthly live show where I had no idea what I was doing into a nearly weekly show where I have a much better idea of what I’m doing (though, as far as the conversations go, I’m still winging it), I have a whole professional-ish setup, and I get to talk to people like today’s guest, Nels Cline.

Why am I doing some stock taking and reflection? Because it’s the 100th episode! 100!

When I started this show, I never thought it would have the legs it does. I always assumed that nobody would be interested, that no one would attend the live shows, that the whole thing would be over in a few months. I certainly didn’t think that I’d still be doing this show nearly four years later, having done 100 episodes, having once been named best podcast by PHOENIX Magazine and twice named Best Cultural Podcast by The New Times, and I really never thought I would sit for an hour and a half and record a conversation with one of my favorite guitarists from one of my favorite bands of all time.

Doing Limited Engagement has been one of the wildest things I’ve ever done, and it’s taken me on a journey down a road I never thought I’d travel (apologies for the cliche, but it works here). I am well beyond grateful to everyone who has ever listened to the show, recommended it to a friend, or reached out to me through social media because of an episode they heard or, and this was the real shocker, they connected with something I said in one of my rambling intros, where I’m way more candid than anywhere else in my life. I don’t take any of it for granted.

There’s a lot on tap this year for Limited Engagement that I’m really excited about, so stick around, subscribe if you haven’t, keep recommending the show to friends, family, acquaintances…if your pets listen to podcasts, recommend it to them (Gizmo and SuSu make frequent appearances).

As I mentioned up at the top, my guest for this week’s episode is the absolutely brilliant and incomparable Nels Cline. Nels is perhaps best known as a member of Wilco for the past 15 years but beyond that, he’s a legendary guitarist who flows effortlessly between rock and jazz and every degree across the spectrum. He’s played with Mike Watt, The Geraldine Fibbers, Thurston Moore, Yuka Honda, Julian Lage, and so many more. His latest album, released on Blue Note under The Nels Cline 4, is Currents, Constellations, and it’s freaking amazing. The Nels Cline 4 are currently on a western U.S. tour, and if you have the opportunity to see them, you absolutely should.

Listen to LE 100 – Nels Cline

Best,
Jared

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The Blarg No. 99: Allyson Bills

Something that I’ve talked a lot about on various podcasts lately, is social consciousness. How can that not be at the forefront of anyone who is maintaining even a cursory awareness of the news? My concern, though, comes less with the public social consciousness than my own. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that, as an empathetic species, humans are broken and failed as a whole. There are pockets and exceptions, but generally speaking, people are pretty awful to each other. The notion of making strides to improve inclusivity in society as a whole is far too daunting, and seems impossible if we don’t first look at ourselves and resolve our own personal issues, biases, and subconscious (or conscious) prejudices. The point has been painfully driven home for me lately that I have to fix myself before I can even begin to look at anyone else.

With that in mind, I braved the First Friday crowd on Roosevelt row and went to check out the iNDIEFILMFEST. Specifically, I went over to FilmBar to see Pita Juarez and Matty Steinkamp’s documentary, You Racist, Sexist, Bigot. A film to raise consciousness, it says, and I think it does that successfully. It doesn’t seek to provide any answers, but rather allow people to share their stories, their experiences, to serve as a conversation starter, and cause the viewer to reflect inwardly—at least that’s my impression. Anyway, I thought the film was great, and you should check it out. Google “You Racist, Sexist, Bigot.” It’s the first thing that comes up. It’s making the festival circuit and playing in colleges around the country, so if you’re listening outside of Phoenix, it might be headed your way.

My guest on the show this week is Allyson Bills. Allyson is a writer for YabYum Music + Arts, where you can read her column, Social Savvy, which is all about how creatives in the arts community navigate the mess that is social media in order to promote their work. Allyson is also the co-creator of the Scooter Litter Instagram account documenting the scooters left around all over the place by various jerks.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 99 – Allyson Bills

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The Blarg No. 98: iNDIEFILMFEST

We’re back! After a sorely needed hiatus, all the rambling intros and tangential, unplanned conversations are once again in the offing for your listening pleasure. As of writing this Blarg, I’m scheduling things in a somewhat manageable way, I haven’t had a drink in a month, and I’m in therapy. I’m finally making choices to take better care of myself, and not beat myself up so much. It only took 36 years. Better late than never? Sometimes I don’t know.

It would be a lie, though, if I said that it were easy getting back into this. This, The Blarg specifically. In all the effort to make the workload more manageable, my head is still not clear enough to write productively. Hell, other than The Blarg and the weekly Hoot n Waddle newsletter, which if you’re not subscribed to, please subscribe, I’ve hardly written anything at all in the last year. For a writer, that’s absolutely devastating. Podcasting is great, I love it. I love working in editing and publishing. I love writing music for the podcasts and exercising that muscle. What I am, though, first and foremost, is a writer. A writer who isn’t writing. I hope all this work unblocks something soon.

I am optimistic, though. We have five unique podcast titles with more on the way (and more that I will not be hosting, which is awesome). We have some really wonderful books coming out this year. We’ll be at ASU’s Desert Nights, Rising Stars conference and AWP in Portland. This show is planned for 40 new episodes (the most I’ve done of any one show in a year), and we’ve got a brand new sponsor (Chris Ayers Creative). Our Patreon is up and running, and sure we could use more patrons, but that will happen. I’m clinging to optimism like that round thing that keeps you afloat out on the ocean where it seems incredibly unlikely that anyone will ever find or rescue you. Sigh.

Anyway, I’m happy to be back, and I’m happy to be starting the year off with this particular conversation. The iNDIEFILMFEST takes place in Downtown Phoenix at three locations (Paz Cantina, FilmBar, and The Crescent Ballroom) on February 1st and 2nd.

Sitting down to talk with me about the inaugural iNDIEFILMFEST is one of the event’s co-directors, Lord Kash, who is also a member of local hip-hop outfit, The Stakes. We had a really great conversation, and he will be back later in the year to discuss his music.

Happy New Year Everyone!
Jared

Listen to LE 98: iNDIEFILMFEST

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The Blarg No. 96: Annual Check-In with RD

You may notice that there was no Blarg 95. I’d started writing one. I don’t even remember what I was writing. It couldn’t have been that important. I was either recording or editing podcasts up until midnight, and I was just done. And that sort of continues to be the case.

I’m sure I’ve brought this up on multiple occasions, but I’m going to do it again, because it’s my Blarg, and I can complain if I want to. I am one half of the team that runs Hoot n Waddle. HnW, as our snazzy new banner says, is “An Independent Publishing and Digital Media Company,” and under that, I currently produce, record, and edit 6 podcasts (2 are in I guess what you would call pre-production), plus host or co-host 4 of them, and then I have to book guests on two of those; on the publishing side, there’s reading submissions, agonizing over selecting work to send acceptance letters, the demoralizing task of sending rejection letters, then there’s the editing, working with the writers…there’s a lot of stuff.

All of the above, plus the stress of the M-F, 9 to 5 (or 6-3 in my case), has led to a retreat to an unhealthy vice as a coping mechanism. Drinking is pretty much the only vice I have left—that and binge eating—and it’s getting to an unhealthy level. I was looking at the podcasts I’ve recorded over the past couple of weeks, and it occurred to me that I was drunk during the recording of every single one of them. If I didn’t say anything, you might not even notice (except for one of them, but I’ll let you figure out which one), but I know it, and it’s not something I’m proud of.

Consequently, I’m taking a little break. You’ve got this episode, the annual check-in with Rosemarie Dombrowski, then there’ll be next week’s episode, the annual music best of, which will be with Ashley Naftule this year (the RD and the music episodes are pretty much the only annual traditions we have), and that’ll be it for a little while. As I typed that I just realized that I may have one more time-sensitive one on the horizon… Other than that, though, I need to recharge, figure some things out, bank some interviews, and most importantly, find some new coping mechanisms that won’t kill my liver.

And having said all that, it’s not like you won’t hear a lot from me anyway—Jason and I are taking a short break between seasons of What the Fork?, but we’re going to do two special episodes in January; Jenna and I will still do a Hoot n Review every other week (though there may be a short break there as well); and then there’s the new podcast, Album Infinitum, which I’ll be prepping over the holidays for launch at the start of 2019. Trust me, there will be plenty of me out there for you to fill your head with. Probably too much.

Rosemarie Dombrowski is a professor at ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus, the inaugural Phoenix Poet Laureate, the founder of Rinky Dink Press, the author of three collections of poetry, and she would not be terribly happy if I continued to go on and on about all her awards, etc., it’s one of the things she talks about on this episode—along with so much more. So. Much. More. And that’s after I cut a chunk out.

It’s a lovely, fun conversation, and I’m so happy it’s on record.

Listen to LE 96 – Annual Check-In with Rosemarie Dombrowski:
(Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | Website)

Best,

Jared

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The Blarg No. 94: Ed Masley

There are honestly few things I enjoy more than talking about music—which is more than likely the reason I’m starting yet another podcast, Album Infinitum, which is all about music. It’s close, but I think I may almost enjoy discussing music more than listening to music. It’s not quite there, but it’s close. The reason is that I get to share all of that excitement about something I love that is internalized when listening in solitude. Also, there’s something about having a conversation with another music lover about an artist or album or particular song that you’re both excited about— something that you don’t get from anything else. Casual music listeners don’t understand; they don’t share the passion.

I suppose there’s a similar correlation to any kind of media—film, television, but I feel like there’s a special bond between music appreciators. Especially if there’s a shared experience—a particular concert, for example. This happens to me more and more the longer I do Limited Engagement. Maybe that’s a combination of the kind of music I listen to and the people I interview. On two separate occasions over the last few weeks, I’ve brought up an Elvis Costello concert I went to back in 2010, and had the person across the desk from me say they were at the same show. The first occasion was while talking to Marc Oxborrow (The Haymarket Squares, The Blood Feud Family Singers) about Fountains of Wayne. The other occasion was while talking to this week’s guest, Ed Masley. PLUS, as it happens, when I was Googling to see what the date was for that show, I found that a previous LE guest, Jason Woodbury, was also at that show, because I stumbled on his review in The New Times.

It’s a small world.

Speaking of Elvis Costello, which happens a lot on LE—probably on account of the big Brutal Youth poster hanging on the wall behind me in the office where I record everything (if you’re curious, the other things on that wall in the corner are a signed Glenn Tilbrook poster from The Incomplete Glenn Tilbrook Tour, and a framed ticket and liner notes for Folker signed by Paul Westerberg)—I’ve been wanting to talk to Ed Masley ever since being involved in a Twitter thread started by friend, prior LE guest, and What the Fork? co-host, Jason Keil, about EC’s music. I had read articles by Ed here and there and enjoyed his writing (it’s hard to be a music connoisseur in Phoenix without reading Ed’s work), but it was his Costello knowledge that put things over the top. I’m glad he was willing to be on the show, it was a blast talking to him.

Ed Masley is the Pop Music Critic for The Arizona Republic, as well as a musician and songwriter who’s bands include The Frampton Brothers and The Breakup Society. With so much love for music, the conversation rarely stays on track, but it’s a lot of fun for any musicphile.

Best,

Jared

Listen to LE 94: Ed Masley (Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | Website)

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The Blarg No. 92: J. Gonzo

I’m waiting to be seated so that I can order some pancakes and more coffee. The reason for this is that I’m having my windshield replaced, and it’s in Scottsdale, and it made more sense to walk and get pancakes than it did to have Janell drive us the 20 minutes home, wait for an hour, and then drive the 20 minutes back. It’s irritating, I haven’t even had this car for a month, and already it’s costing me more money. This is when I wish I lived in a city that has a great public transit system, or where I could walk to everything, or that I worked from home. On the one hand, I love the freedom of being able to just hop in the car and go wherever; on the other, I would give up owning a car in a second. It’s such a headache! And if I really want to go somewhere, I can rent a car.

Anyway, pancakes sounded like a good idea, so here we are.

When last I blarged (how pretentious does that sound?), the Arizona senate race was still undecided. I’m happy to say that the state I call home, for lack of a better word, finally has a Democratic representative. I’m not so happy that it’s the problematically centrist Sinema, but what are you gonna do? It’s still Arizona.

Not too long ago, I had the immense pleasure or seeing Marc Maron at StandUp Live in Phoenix, and leading up to that, there was a Tweet posted by a local artist who’d created a poster to commemorate the occasion, which Maron re-tweeted saying something along the lines of, Let’s make this happen, which I was excited about, because it seems like everywhere else Maron performs gets a cool poster, but last time he played Phoenix, nothin’. I loved the poster, and purchased one the night one the night of the show, and was like, it’s been a while since I’ve had an artist on the show, I should check this guy out.

It turns out it’s a super small world, and even though J. and I had never met prior to recording the podcast, we have a ton of people in common—my buddy Ernie is friends with John Derrick West who’s friends with J.; J. is friends with and has worked with Alex Empty who’s the husband of my friend (and previous LE guest) Leah Newsom; and just the day before, I got my copy of Tapestry Comics’ A Flower in a Field of Lions with the limited edition alternate cover, and I noticed that it was done by…J. Gonzo. Like I said, small world.

A lot of you who listen to this show are artists, writers, musicians, creative types, and you, like me, are trying to figure out how to make a living with your art, and this conversation with J. is a great resource. He’s someone who has worked hard to make a sustainable living doing what he loves, and he’s done it. He’s worked for big design firms and Todd McFarlane’s company, and most people would be satisfied with that, but he’s gone on to create his own graphic design business and made a name for himself as an independent comic book creator with his series, La Mano del Destino. Along the way, he’s done work as a tattoo artist, done freelance work, worked the convention circuit, and at the end of the day, even though it’s a shit ton of hard work, he gets to say that he makes a living doing what he loves.

It’s Thanksgiving week, and I know that’s a tough time for a lot of us. I hope you enjoy the time off, if not the holiday itself. If you’re unfortunate enough to work in retail, I feel for you. I did that for a long time. It was miserable.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 92 – J. Gonzo

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The Blarg No. 91: Todd Hoover

Meanwhile, in Arizona, we still have no fucking idea who our next senator is. In case it wasn’t abundantly clear, I’m pulling for Kyrsten Sinema. I have my problems with her record, but I believe the alternative to be far worse. As of this writing, Sinema currently holds the lead with nearly 50 percent of the vote. Let’s hope things stay that way.

We also managed to flip The House, so at the very least, there’s at least a check if not necessarily a balance. We’ll have to wait and see what happens at this point. I’m cautious. Note that I’m not cautiously optimistic. I don’t think we’re anywhere near optimism yet, but I am a pessimist and a cynic, so you know, take that for what it’s worth.

If you’re a writer in Arizona, and you’re reading this on Monday, you might be interested in this contest Hoot n Waddle has going on in partnership with the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. Our friends at Piper have given HnW two spots at Andrea Scarpino’s Poetry of the Body workshop, which takes place on Saturday, 11/17 at 10 am, and the reason they’ve done this is because the workshop takes place right before our event to re-launch Andrea’s book Once Upon Wing Lake as a Hoot n Waddle title (it was originally published last year by Four Chambers Press). The event is a live Limited Engagement—the first live show I’ve done in over 18 months—and the guests will be Andrea and writer Matt Bell. All you have to do for a chance to win one of the workshop spots is share our Facebook event and tag Hoot n Waddle in your post. We’ll pick two names at random and message the winners privately.

I had a really interesting conversation with Todd Hoover (who records and releases music under the name The Invisible Teal). He was once a very religious person who went so far as to attend seminary school, but has since denounced religion in the wake of some personal events and self-realizations. His story is fascinating, and his music is a complex, eclectic delight. Todd’s latest album is called Debt and Quandaries, and he plays two tracks from it at the end of the show (“Line of Dots” and “Willey Siegel”). You can check out The Invisible Teal on Bandcamp.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 91 – Todd Hoover

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The Blarg No. 90: The Blood Feud Family Singers

It’s in the mail, that green envelope that holds all my hope for knocking the juggernaut of horror off of its current path of destruction—sidelining it for just a little while so I can catch my breath. Who knows what kind of impact my singular vote will have? All I can do is fervently hope that enough people have a similar dissatisfaction with the current direction of things—whether that’s the recent additions to the Supreme Court, the withdrawal from the Paris agreement, the ban on transgender military service, or any number of other politically, socially, and scientifically regressive policy decisions—that they vote accordingly.

I love the convenience of early voting, but I feel a little bit robbed of the voting experience this time. This is probably the most important election of my roughly twenty years of voting eligibility, or at least it feels that way, and a part of me wishes that I had the experience of waiting in line, standing in a booth, and turning in my ballot in-person.

I’m also a little bit paranoid. With all of the reporting on election tampering of late, I have a desire to follow my envelope on its journey from mailbox to tabulation—just to make sure everything gets counted correctly. It’s all out of my hands, though, and all I can do now is wait and watch the returns.

Anyway, on to this week’s show:

The Blood Feud Family Singers started out when The Haymarket Squares would sit in on Darryl Scherrer’s songs, not entirely unlike Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles. From there, Scherrer and the Square’s Marc Oxborrow thought it would be a great idea to put a band together (they explain it much better in the interview). The band has one album out, No Moon, and they will release their new album, Adversary, on Sunday, November 11th, with an album release show at Last Exit Live at 7:30 pm.

On this, the 90th Limited Engagement, Marc Oxborrow and Darryl Scherrer discuss everything from the formation of The Blood Feud Family Singers, to songwriting, to Darryl taking a pizza order from Tom Waits. Be sure to check out their new album, Adversary, and stick around until the end of the show to hear a track from the album.

Best.

Jared Duran

Listen to LE 90 – The Blood Feud Family Singers

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LE 89: Tyler Button

Oy, okay, what do I want to talk about this time?

Well, first of all, make sure you vote. At least in Arizona, you only have a couple more days to get your early ballot in the mail, so if you’re going to do that, get it done. Otherwise, go to the polls. Vote, and vote informed. Research the propositions. Research the judges. Look at who is running for the school board positions. These local things matter, and they matter a whole fucking lot.

Other than that, it’s just been really crazy busy. We had a really good turnout for the launch of David Chorlton’s Reading T. S. Eliot to a Bird (which you can get here). I’m about to go into editing a new podcast called Album Infinitum, which is a music podcast focusing on one artist, one album at a time. The first artist is Aimee Mann, and the guests I had on to discuss the albums are fantastic, so look forward to that in early November.

Oh, also, I had a mild panic attack the other day. They’re happening more frequently. And my anxiety ebbs and flows, but never seems to truly subside. I can’t relax. It’s a real problem.

I’ve just got too much stuff running around my head all the time, and I’m not sleeping well. I started taking melatonin to see if that helps.

Tyler Button founded Tapestry Comics in 2015 with the aim of “creat[ing] the most exciting and interesting books retelling the greatest tales from our past.” On this edition of Limited Engagement, Button discusses turning one of his passions into a business, working with comic book artists, being a full time dad, and we have a deep philosophical discussion about what it takes to be a successful creative in the social media age as well as what it takes to keep that alive and viable in Phoenix.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 89 – Tyler Button

Ooh—one other thing. We’ll be back next week, because I have a conversation with The Blood Feud Family Singers that needs to go up, which means we may be going weekly. Stay tuned.

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