Movie review: Eurovision Song Contest – The Story of Fire Saga

Thanks Andrew for this review. Eurovision is my musical passion and what better way to celebrate my very special birthday than to post this review

Source: Movie review: Eurovision Song Contest – The Story of Fire Saga

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

The Eurovision Song Contest, whether you love it, hate it or are blissfully indifferent to it, is almost impossible to ignore.

Taking place usually in May in the nominated city of whichever country won the event the year before (COVID-19 plagued years like 2020 aside), and established in the wake of World War Two as a way of bringing the fractured continent of Europe together, Eurovision is a singing contest unlike any other.

It is bright, brash and gleefully over the top, a singing contest that might appear comical in certain respects – even fans of the event such as this reviewer will acknowledge that the cheese factor is strong with this event, which is as well known for its over-the-top theatrics as it is for its (mostly) catchy songs – but which also exhibits a tremendous amount of heart and soul and an inspirational quality which even the most cynical among us find hard to dismiss.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, the Will Ferrell-helmed film that was originally supposed to receive a theatrical release until a certain virus intervened, celebrates both the cheesiness and the humanity of a contest in ways that will defy any expectations you may have of such an undertaking, leaving a smile on your face and a song in your heart much like the event itself.

The reason why the film succeeds so abundantly well is that it eschews any attempt to parody the event.

Certainly, you could have gone down that route and had a ton of fun doing so; even the organisers of the contest will admit that the event is ripe for a well-execute satire.

But you suspect that the end result, once the “haha, it’s bit cheesy” angle had been exploited in what would have felt like an overdone one-joke effort, would have come across as mean-spirited and patronising, the kind of attitude that has plague Eurovision for much of its recent, more colourfully exhuberant history.

(image via YouTube (c) Netflix)

For all of its more gloriously offbeat attributes and its propensity for going to excess in just about every facet of its execution (an excess, by the way, that its ardent fans, and they are legion, love every step of the way), Eurovision is at heart all about people achieving their dreams.

While it may not necessarily have been solely responsible for uniting Europe, and you could well argue, especially when the votes are rolling in that a contest may not be the best to encourage selfless international bonhomie, what Eurovision delivers in spades is the sense that here are a select group of performers realising their dreams which, unless your heart is made of concrete, is a pretty inspiring thing.

Just how inspirational becomes apparent in Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga which Ferrell co-wrote, produced and stars in, when we meet Lars Ericksonssong (Will Ferrell) as a young boy in 1974 who has just lost his mother and is finding too much about life to love.

That is until ABBA, who famously won Eurovision in that year, come on stage belting out the wondrously uplifting and defiantly melodic strains of “Waterloo” and Lars is transformed into an ambitious dynamo who is determined to win the contest and bring glory to his home country of Iceland (which has never won the event) and to his small northern town of Húsavík.

Doggedly hanging onto his dream in the face of scornful dismissal by his father Erick (Pierced Brosnan) and the mocking laughter of almost every one of his fellow townsfolk, Lars sole source of support is his childhood friend Sigrit Ericksdóttir who, apart from supporting him every step of the way on his seemingly quixotic dream, also holds a candle for him so large it would make an effective Eurovision pyrotechnic prop for any act.

Together, they are Fire Saga, a middling band in a town of two thousand or so people on the far northern coast of Iceland who have next to no chance of ever representing their country, despite some gorgeously cheesy songs like “Volcano Man” and “Double Trouble”, until a brilliantly over-the-top twist of explosive fate sends them to Edinburgh, Scotland for the 2020 contest (which in real life was going to be staged in Rotterdam, The Netherlands until COVID-19 forced its cancellation).

Scrupulously observing the rules that govern the contest, such as no song being longer than three minutes and each act only being allowed to have a maximum of six people on stage, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga gently and affectionately parodies its namesake without once veering into condescension or cruel ridicule, held aloft by a tremendous amount of heart and soul which Ferrell et al prosecute without a (welcome) trace of irony.

(image via YouTube (c) Netflix)

It helps that the film, which features cameos from a who’s who of past Eurovision contestants, including past winners Norway’s Alexander Rybak (2009), Sweden’s Loreen (2012), Ukraine’s Jamala (2016), Austria’s Conchita Wurst (2017) and Israel’s Netta (2018), has been produced by someone who is an ardent fan of the event.

That’s right – Will Ferrell, thanks to his Swedish wife Viveca Paulin, has been watching the contest for a great many years, counting himself among those who love the event and who, while they can find plenty to affectionately mock should they be so inclined, see far more good in the contest than ridiculous bad.

His ardent appreciation of the event in reflected in every scene of Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga which while it has more than its share of silly, offbeat fun, with elves, overwrought song productions and visual slapstick all making an hilarious appearance, never once veers into cruel, overblown parody.

This restraint is matched by a commitment to honouring the dream of its protagonist and the woman who loves him; everyone else in his hometown and in the Iceland committee which oversees selection of the country’s Eurovision contestant may be laughing at him, but the film never does, and while there is a great deal that is amusing about Lars’s singleminded devotion to his lifelong goal and his oblivious disregard of Sigrit’s affection for him, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga holds back from turning every last element of the film into a rip-roaring, larger-than-life joke.

It’s this nuance and humanity that gives the film a solid, emotional core, the kind which is affecting in all the right ways without once being treacly or twee and which is calibrated at just the right level that it sits easily alongside the more adroitly-executed absurdist elements (which include Dan Stevens as flamboyant Russian representative Alexander Lemtov who comes close to stealing the film).

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is an unexpected gift – a film that is quite at home happily parodying the event around which it is centred but not in a cruelly derisive way that would have leached any sense of fun to be had with the premise.

For more clips and review head over to Andrew’s post

Movie review: Eurovision Song Contest – The Story of Fire Saga

Book Review: The Last Pilgrim by Noelle Granger

This book is a rich resource of well researched historical facts and a concise re-telling of the story of one of many Mayflower pilgrims.

Noelle describes the characters in a series of narratives that depict the crossing with its difficulties, the landing, the search for a suitable location, the troubles establishing themselves as a village, as neighbours to natives and as a community.

Through a variety of characters different perspectives illustrate the hardships, the obstacles, dangers, tragedies and the fight for survival.

Exploitation by the land owners, religious differences and politics also come into play but all is wrapped around the central character Mary Allerton.

As European I feel I learned an enormous amount about those early days of settlement, how natives and settlers interacted and how many people didn’t make it.
Knowing Noelle as an academic writer I felt safe in her hands to trust the historical accurateness, everything felt plausible and informative.

Last but not least, Mary is a strong character and her spirit is admirable.

It was difficult to let her go

******

The Last Pilgrim: The Life of Mary Allerton Cushman captures and celebrates the grit and struggle of the Pilgrim women, who stepped off the Mayflower in the winter of 1620 to an unknown world – one filled with hardship, danger and death.  The Plymouth Colony would not have survived without them.

Mary Allerton Cushman was the last surviving passenger of the Mayflower, dying at age 88 in 1699. Her unusually long life and her relationships with important men – her father, Isaac Allerton and her husband, Thomas Cushman – gave her a front row seat to the history of the Plymouth Colony from its beginnings as the first permanent settlement in New England to when it became part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691.

Mary’s life is set against the real background of that time. The Last Pilgrim begins from her father’s point of view – she was, after all, only four when she descended into the cramped and dank living space below deck on the Mayflower – but gradually assumes Mary’s voice, as the colony achieves a foothold in the New England’s rocky soil. Hers is a story of survival – the daily, back-breaking work to ensure food on the table, the unsettled interactions with local native tribes, the dangers of wild animals, and the endless challenges of injury, disease and death.

What was a woman’s life like in the Plymouth Colony? The Last Pilgrim will tell you.

You may also want to check out her blog https://saylingaway.wordpress.com/2020/06/11/things-i-discovered-while-researching-for-the-last-pilgrim/

******

This book was a labor of love for several years, and I am in awe of what the Separists – now called the Pilgrims – endured to follow their conscience and their dream. That strength and belief in God is the bedrock of this country. And they were among our first immigrants.

Mary lived to the end of the 17th century and much went on during those years. My learning curve was steep and there was much to tell.

I hope you enjoy Mary’s and my journey.

Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B089G9J83K/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=The+Last+Pilgrim&qid=1591018556&s=books&sr=1-5

BOOK REVIEW: AWAY WITH THE PENGUINS BY HAZEL PRIOR

I heard first about this book through the ever so fabulous Andrew Gillman and his splendid blog http://www.sparklyprettybriiiight.com/book-review-away-with-the-penguins-by-hazel-prior

His recommendations are always ones to take seriously. He warned me the main character would not be very likeable and he was right. It took a while to warm to Veronica, 86 year old woman who hates almost everyone and everything.

By chance she discovers a penguin research project in the Antarctica that all of a sudden gives her the sense of purpose.

Her recently discovered long lost grand son Patrick was a disappointment when she met him so she decides to check out said research station to see if they are more worthy to inherit her millions.

Once in the Antarctica she is challenged in many ways, physically and emotionally and more than the outside ice gets a crack and starts to melt.

As we discover more about Veronica’s past and background we see a different side to her. Old diaries and changing narrators cast extra light on to the story, then and now.

The book is quirky, well written and has a variety of odd and memorable characters. While some parts of the story are predictable, others aren’t, and they all are moving, heart warming and delightful.

I listened to this on audio book and enjoyed it much more than I had hoped for.

Here is more from Andrew’s post, who has such a great way with words: 

“Is it ever too late to change your life?

If you were to ask Veronica McCreedy at the start of Hazel Prior’s (Ellie and the Harp Maker) charmingly redemptive novel Away With the Penguins, you would likely receive a snappy, tart reply that “Of course it is! How could you think otherwise?”

The abrasive 86-year-old millionaire occupant of stately seaside mansion the Ballahays, Aryshire, Scotland, is a woman of stentorianly articulated firm opinions who knows her own mind and isn’t afraid to say what she thinks.

Alone in the world after the death of her husband many years earlier and with no family to speak of and with only her assistant Eileen for company, Veronica is a woman who has fallen into some rather pronounced life habits than she is loathe to break.

Fastidious about her appearance to the point where she instructs Eileen to take down all the mirrors in the house, an instruction she revokes the next day when she forgets her orders from the day before – she is nimble and with it but her mind doesn’t always keep pace with her active body – Veronica is happiest munching on ginger thins and watching documentaries such as those on penguins with which she becomes obsessed (once she gets over the fact that they have supplanted her usual TV program of choice).

Her life is a very well-worn one that brooks no change and which seems destined to keep shuffling along without much to distinguish it until the day Veronica shuffles off this mortal coil.”

“The clock strikes seven. Eileen has gone and I am alone in the house. Being alone is supposed to be an issue for people such as me, but I have to say I find it deeply satisfying. Human company is necessary at times, I admit, but it is almost always irksome one way or another.” (P. 5)

Hazel Prior (image courtesy Penguin Books Australia)

If you are a fan of books that challenge the notion that life is immutable once settled on a particular course and which sing the praises of re-invention and renewal then you will adore the beguiling wonder of Away With the Penguins.

To be fair, the book is a little tough going at first because Veronica McCreedy is not a pleasant person to be around and there are times when you wonder if it is worth persevering with a person who responds to the normal social niceties with a tone so acidly brusque and razor-sharp rude that you begin to wonder how someone like Eileen has stayed in her employ as long as she has.

But as Prior begins to pull back the layers of Veronica’s life and we are given insight via old diary entries, penned by a 15-year-old Very (her dad’s nickname for her) during the early years of World War Two, into her achingly painful past, and as the penguins work their considerable charm on her (including one in particular), we begin to see a very different side of a woman who simply wants to feel loved and wanted.

Thankfully, Prior never allows the book to descend into treacle-y, twee inspirationalism, and while there are copious moments of human warmth and wonder that make reading Away With the Penguins a total joy, Veronica McCreedy is allowed to retain enough rough edges to make her feel like a real, authentic human being.

The genius of this approach is that for all the redemptive elements to the story, Away With the Penguins never feels like some confected tale of change and growth that sounds like it could never happen in the real world.

“… Two days later I am still sitting here. We haven’t been able to venture outside at all. It is mind-numbingly tedious and suffocatingly claustrophobic. I miss the earth, the air, the sky. I miss the penguins. I can’t stand Mike any more, can’t stand Dietrich and at times I even can’t stand Terry.

The Worst Journey in the World does little to make me feel better about it.” (P. 167)

Granted, it’s highly unlikely that scientists would take an 86-year-old into their base nor let her roam around the penguin rookery with them, and you’d have to wonder if there would be anyone left in Veronica’s life after a lifetime of virulently acerbic treatment of others, but these narratively convenient elements are tempered by the fact that Veronica never once comes across as a saint.

And thank goodness for that because for all her rough edges, Veronica is actually a lot of fun to hang around with, especially as her cranky old lady persona begins to be ameliorated by an awakening of long-repressed memories and the consequential emotional flood they unleash, and she becomes far more rounded and relatable as a human being.

Away With the Penguins is a gem – it offers up the kind of story that reassures us that while life might seem irredeemably bitter, broken and twisted, that it can be turned around no matter how old you are or entrenched in your ways you are.

It does with a protagonist who is deliberately positioned as a lot to handle at first but who becomes softer and far more in touch with the very essence of who she is without relinquishing all those parts of her, the good and the bad, that have accumulated over nearly nine decades of life.

This inspired strategy by Prior means that in Away With the Penguins we get to watch a real person change in a host of believable ways while still offering some cosy and charming reading that dares cynicism and disillusionment to be gone, the perfect mix of the grimly real with the charmingly, joyfully fantastical which places this beautiful book as one of the most accomplished recent entries in a very crowded, and often far less faithful to the vagaries of life, genre.

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Book Review: You’re Never Too Old to be A Prom Queen by Olga Nunez Miret

You’re Never Too Old to be A Prom Queen by Olga Nunez Miret

I really enjoyed this beautiful book.
Told in parts in interviews with Mildred , her family, friends and new acquaintances of hers, this is a charming book about a woman making a life long dream come true.

Mildred is an instantly likeable character, a psychiatric nurse with a drive to help others. In her quest she meets a lot of other great characters with similar passions and resolves a few issues and problems on the way to her very own prom.

There is a wonderful air of diversity around the cast, people coming together and enriching each other’s lives.  While the narrative documents the events and preparations taking place, the interviews cast additional light onto the characters, their past and likes and disliked.
Once again, Olga’s background as psychologist adds credibility and deeper insights.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a lovely story, engaging and warm characters and a feel good story through and through. A definite winner.


About the book

Have you ever found yourself in the unenviable position of being told that you are too … (fill in the gap with whichever word fits: young, pretty, thin, fat, short, tall, clever, silly, old…) to do something? Mildred, one of the protagonists of the story, had always dreamed of having a prom. But when she finished her studies, in the UK, that was not the done thing. Now, many years later and with time in her hands after having retired from her full-time job as a nurse, she is still thinking about it. She tells her husband, who is less-than-enthusiastic about her idea. After years of being told what to do, she decides it’s time to take things in her own hands. With more than a little help from her friends, her project starts to take shape.

What started as a challenge becomes a mission that engages the imagination and the hearts of all the people involved.

A heart-warming story for all ages about friendship, creativity, determination, and the power of a tight-knit community and of dreams.

Head over to buy the book: Amazon US

And: Amazon UK

A selection of books in Spanish or English by Olga Nunez Miret

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Read the reviews and buy the books including audio: Amazon UK 

and: Amazon US 

Follow: Olga on Goodreads

About Olga Nunez Miret

My name is Olga Núñez Miret and I’m a writer. I also do translations of other author’s work. What else? I was born in Barcelona, Spain,lived in the UK for many years and went back home again in the Spring 2018. Over the years I’ve done many things and had other lives but however far I wander I keep coming back to books and stories, my two earliest loves. When reading was no longer enough, I started writing. My first book was published in 2012 and my publications span different genres, from literary fiction to romance, Young Adult and psychological thrillers. I plan on writing more novels in the same genres and if my imagination so dictates, I will explore others. I love to connect with readers, so don’t hesitate to get in touch..

Olga has translated her own books into Spanish of course and she has also translated some excellent Spanish books into English and you can find out more here. Olga Nunez Miret – Translations

Follow Olga onSocial Media

Website –OlgaNM
Blog- AuthorTranslator Olga
Facebook –Olga Nunez Miret
Twitter- @OlgaNM7

My Review of Marriage Unarranged by Ritu Bhathal

Marriage Unarranged Kindle Edition

The title “Marriage Unarranged” is well chosen, immediately letting us know we’re in Indian – Culture – inspired chick lit territory.
And so it begins: engaged to be married to someone she has chosen herself Aashi finds out her husband to be was not saving himself for her as she had done.
Rudely brought to reality of being cheated on she now needs to untangle the family connections that have grown since their engagement.
Feelings of family members, reputation and many factors come into play.
But needless to say, the journey doesn’t stop here but takes delightful twists and turns as happiness comes from the forced changes, travel with her best friend to another country.
This is a lovely feel good book with fun, some insights into the Indian marriage culture, personal growth , comeuppance, joy and warmth.
I’m not usually a fan of chick lit but this was a pleasant escape into said genre. Highly recommended to all fans of the genre.

Purchase Marriage Unarranged

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ritu-Bhathal/e/B01H5F3KE0

About me…

I am a working mum of 2, loving wife, daughter, sister, friend to many… I started this blog to just air views, and reminisce… feel the flava of the old school, if you know what I mean!

It has evolved, over the last few years into a space which I try to fill with positivity, humour, and heartfelt thoughts.

A little bit of creativity, stories about my family, recipes, Spidey, and my cat, Sonu Singh, all feature regularly! Throw in some weekly challenges which I take part in, and there you have it!

I have, since starting this blog, compiled and published my first book, an anthology of verse, Poetic RITUals, which is available to purchase on Amazon by clicking this link: myBook.to/PoeticRITUals

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As well as my debut novel, Marriage Unarranged, which took nearly twenty years to complete! Another one you can get on Amazon, and it is in Kindle Unlimited too! getbook.at/MarriageUnarranged

So if you fancy reading the sometimes crazy, off the wall thoughts of a loony working mum, WELCOME!

Hope you enjoy my thoughts!

Blog Website: http://www.butismileanyway.com

Author Website: http://www.ritubhathal.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RituBhathal
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ritubhathalwrites/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/butismileanyway/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RituBhathal/
Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/bhathalpadhaal/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/56854412-ritu-bhathal
Mix: https://mix.com/butismileanyway
Tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/ritusmiles

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ritu-bhathal/
Bloglovin: https://www.bloglovin.com/@ritubhathalpadhaal

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/author/ritubhathal

#Bookreview – Marriage Unarranged by Ritu Bhathal

Another book recommendation I would like to pass on. This is on my list, too.

Robbie's inspiration

What Amazon says

‘Chickpea Curry’Lit — Chick Lit with an Indian twist!

It allstartedended with that box…

Aashi’s life was all set.

Or so she thought.

Like in the Bollywood films, Ravi would woo her, charm her family and they’d get married and live happily ever after.

But then Aashi found the empty condom box…

Putting her ex-fiancé and her innocence behind her, Aashi embarks upon an enlightening journey, to another country, where vibrant memories are created, and unforgettable friendships forged.

Old images erased, new beginnings to explore.

And how can she forget the handsome stranger she meets? A stranger who’s hiding something…

My review

Marriage Unarranged is a delightful and feel good romance with the additional interest factor that the main characters are all people whose parents or grandparents originated from India and are of the Sekh faith, but who have grown up in Britain. The young…

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Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – New Book on the Shelves – #Contemporary -You’re Never Too Old to be A Prom Queen by Olga Nunez Miret

New book by my valued friend and amazing writing colleague Olga

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Delighted to share the news of the latest release from Olga Nunez Miret – A contemporary novel – You’re Never Too Old to be A Prom Queen

About the book

Have you ever found yourself in the unenviable position of being told that you are too … (fill in the gap with whichever word fits: young, pretty, thin, fat, short, tall, clever, silly, old…) to do something? Mildred, one of the protagonists of the story, had always dreamed of having a prom. But when she finished her studies, in the UK, that was not the done thing. Now, many years later and with time in her hands after having retired from her full-time job as a nurse, she is still thinking about it. She tells her husband, who is less-than-enthusiastic about her idea. After years of being told what to do, she decides it’s time to take things in…

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Georgia Rose reviews “The Memory” by Judith Barrow @judithbarrow77

 

I have been a fan of Judith Barrow’s work for a long time so bought, The Memory, her new release the moment it was available. I also chose it as the book of the month for my reading group because by doing so it would ensure I read it in a timely fashion.

I have struggled to read much at this time and I was concerned how I’d manage with what I anticipated would be a difficult subject matter but I need not have worried. I found the way this was written, with short chapters broken up consistently into two time periods, was ideal. The length of chapter meant I wasn’t put off starting another one and in fact I found I read far more as I was keen to know what would come next in this compelling story.

The first part of each chapter was the story told over a day or so in 2002 and consisted of the intensely grim life that Irene was living with her mother. The second part started in 1963 and was the story of Irene’s life from when she was eight when Rose, her sister, arrived in it. Her love for Rose was absolute and moulded the rest of her life. This second storyline was also very much a love story as Irene meets a terribly patient Sam.

Barrow’s writing is, as always, superb. Her attention to detail transports you so far into the story you could be in the room with Irene and her mother, even if you’d rather not be present at times. Her characters are terrific and descriptions vivid.

This book was thoroughly discussed at my reading group (held via Zoom) and the views of all were broadly along the same lines although many wished Irene had not given up on so many of her own dreams because of the responsibility she felt towards others. But of course these were different times.

Highly recommended, this is an excellent, thoughtfully written read I’d recommend to all who enjoy realistic, well told tales of family life.

 

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Judith Barrow

The Last Pilgrim Sets Sail

New release alert by the great Noelle – can’t wait to read it

SaylingAway

The day has arrived!

Launch day for The Last Pilgrim!

I’ve just been notified that it IS finally up as an e-book on Kindle!

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The Last Pilgrim: The Life of Mary Allerton Cushman captures and celebrates the grit and struggle of the Pilgrim women, who stepped off the Mayflower in the winter of 1620 to an unknown world – one filled with hardship, danger and death.  The Plymouth Colony would not have survived without them.

 Mary Allerton Cushman was the last surviving passenger of the Mayflower, dying at age 88 in 1699. Her unusually long life and her relationships with important men – her father, Isaac Allerton and her husband, Thomas Cushman – gave her a front row seat to the history of the Plymouth Colony from its beginnings as the first permanent settlement in New England to when it became part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony…

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The Delta Pearl 36 — Research

Teagan's Books

Saturday, June 6, 2020 

PixabayPixabay

Welcome my chuckaboos.  That’s a Victorian Era slang word for dear friend. Some of you have been following since very early in my blogging career — my long-time chuckaboos! One of the earliest of those is author and blogger, Christoph Fischer.

Last weekend’s chapter prompted Christoph to mentioned something I never knew about him.  If you’ll recall, at the end of the past episode, Eliza and Émeraude went to the library in Cairo, Illinois — and they encountered the librarian.  Well, for a time Christoph was a librarian.  So I asked if I could name our librarian after him.

Today I used two “random reader things.”  First I used fountain pen from GP Cox.  When I decided to give Christoph’s librarian a gemstone name, I thought of the fascinating gem, Jet.  Then I remembered that Resa McConaghy had suggested it…

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