Pixel Scroll 10/18/16 Talkin ‘Bout My Pixelation

(1) BEVERAGE APPERTAINED. John King Tarpinian is insanely tickled by this visual reference from the latest Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror episode, since Logan’s Run was co-authored by his late buddy George Clayton Johnson.


(2) SOUND OFF. David Steffen’s Long List Anthology Volume 2 Kickstarter successfully funded all the fiction but did not reach audiobook stretch goal. Steffen announced the stories will appear in this order:

Table of Contents

  • “Damage” by David D. Levine
  • “Pockets” by Amal El-Mohtar
  • “Today I Am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker
  • “The Women You Didn’t See” by Nicola Griffith (a letter from Letters to Tiptree)
  • “Tuesdays With Molakesh the Destroyer” by Megan Grey
  • “Wooden Feathers” by Ursula Vernon
  • “Three Cups of Grief, By Starlight” by Aliette de Bodard
  • “Madeleine” by Amal El-Mohtar
  • “Neat Things” by Seanan McGuire (a letter from Letters To Tiptree)
  • “Pocosin” by Ursula Vernon
  • “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong
  • “So Much Cooking” by Naomi Kritzer
  • “The Deepwater Bride” by Tamsyn Muir
  • “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” by Elizabeth Bear
  • “Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds” by Rose Lemberg
  • “Another Word For World” by Ann Leckie
  • “The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild” by Catherynne M. Valente
  • “Our Lady of the Open Road” by Sarah Pinsker
  • “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn” by Usman T. Malik
  • “The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps” by Kai Ashante Wilson

(3) THE MCFLY FAMILY CHRONICLE In “Computer Solves a Major Time Travel Problem” by Cathal O’Connell at Cosmos Magazine, the “grandfather paradox” has allegedly been solved by a supercomputer and the research of Israeli physicist Doron Friedman (i.e. you can go back in time, kill your father, and sire another father).

The computer’s second solution is more interesting. The snag is it only works if the father also has the ability to travel in time.

The story goes like this.

In 1954 Marty’s father George travels forward in time one year to 1955, when he impregnates Marty’s mother Lorraine before immediately returning back to 1954 – just as his future son, Marty, arrives and kills him.

Because George’s quick foray into the future allowed him to already conceive his son, the paradox disappears.

(4) TROPE TURNOVERS. Apex Publications’ Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling Anthology, funded by a Kickstarter reported here, is receiving critical praise. They sent backers this update:

I wanted to mention that you may recall we sent out a few ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) in anticipation that we would be releasing this anthology in December. We are pleased to share that Publisher’s Weekly has given our anthology a starred review! Thank you SO much for making this anthology happen, and we hope you enjoy the stories. Huzzah!

(5) ROBBER BARONS. Amanda S. Green has criticized publishers for the past decade for overpricing ebooks, and tells her Mad Genius Club readers there’s no sign it’s going to change. In fact, if they can think of a way, publishers will make the arrangement even more exploitative….

As readers, it means we will have to continue to choose between buying one traditionally published e-book from publishers like Randy Penguin (at $12.99 or more) or buying two or three — or more — indie or small press published e-books. It means choosing to buy e-books from indies or publishers like Baen, sources that don’t add DRM, or buying fro publishers who aren’t afraid to say they think their customers are thieves and that is why they add the DRM. After all, they don’t trust us not to pirate their books or — gasp — resell them after we’re done with them. As readers, it also means we need to be smart and start backing up our e-books to places not connected with our e-readers, etc. Because, as sure as I’m sitting here typing this this morning, I guaran-damn-tee you there is some bean counter sitting in an ivory tower in the publishing industry who is trying to figure out a way to limit the number of times we can read an e-book before we have to buy a new license or something equally as silly. Don’t believe me? Remember, these are the same publishers that put a limit on how many times an e-book can be checked out at a library before the library has to buy — at an inflated rate — the e-book again.

(6) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. Bladerunner film score composer Vangelis has released a new space-themed opera — “From Composer Vangelis, A True Story Set In outer Space”. You can listen on YouTube.

Rosetta is a concept album, inspired by the European Space Agency mission of the same name. It successfully landed a probe on a comet in 2014 and completed its mission — by total coincidence — within a week of the album’s release.

“I imagine myself being in the position of Rosetta, and going there,” Vangelis says. “It’s something amazing.” Amazing — and disorienting. “You have to go through, sometimes, total dark,” Vangelis says. “You can imagine like a child sometimes.”


(7) TAKE ONE DOWN AND PASS IT AROUND. Motherboard says “This Guy Is Replicating ‘Blade Runner’ Shot-for-Shot in MS Paint”. And I say, keep appertaining beverages for yourself until you’re drunk enough to know why this needs to be reported by File 770.

So when we discovered David MacGowan’s tumblr MSP Blade Runner, our response was one of collective awe and fascination. MacGowan is quite literally going through Blade Runner shot-by-shot and illustrating each in MS Paint. The drawings aren’t perfect in terms of artistry—it is MS Paint, after all—and they’re not 100 percent complete in detail. But each moment is instantly recognizable even to someone with only a passing familiarity with the film. And MacGowan has nailed that elusive, pitch-perfect Internet Ugly aesthetic so many of us try and fail to, well, replicate.

(8) SKIPPING THE AUTHENTICITY. Dwayne A. Day lays waste to a TV show in “O, full of scorpions is my mind” at Space Review.

Every few years a major entertainment program has focused on a human spaceflight theme, and usually the results have been pretty bad. In 2007, Law & Order: Criminal Intent did an episode that was based upon astronaut Lisa Nowak’s arrest for attempted murder (another one of their “ripped from the headlines” stories.) Because it was set in New York City, they portrayed the “National Space Agency” as based in New York. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit did another astronaut-based episode in 2008. In 2011, the cable spy drama Covert Affairs aired an episode about a terrorist spy working at NASA headquarters in Washington, DC (see “Tinker, Tailor, NASA, Spy,” The Space Review, July 11, 2011) In 2010, CSI: Miami had an episode dealing with a murder aboard a commercial orbiting spaceplane that operated out of Miami. (See “Space cops,” The Space Review, March 1, 2010)

Normally this is the point in this article where I would make some kind of semi-clever quip about how bad all these shows were. But they were at least watchable. The CSI: Miami episode was probably the best of the bunch, demonstrating at least a passable knowledge of commercial spaceflight. But in retrospect, all of them now look like 2001: A Space Odyssey compared to last week’s episode of the CBS drama Scorpion which featured a character being accidentally blasted into space. It was bad.

There are few words to describe how amazingly bad it was, so here are a lot of them….

Scorpion’s producers don’t really seem to care about accuracy or believability or logic or continuity or consistency. Despite spending what must be huge gobs of money on the episodes, it is amazing how slipshod some of it is—not just the writing, but the production values seemed to demonstrate that nobody had any real interest in making any of it look good.

(9) RED PLANET CRITIQUE. Mars chronicler Kim Stanley Robinson declines to take Musk’s plan at face value in “Why Elon Musk’s Mars Vision Needs ‘Some Real Imagination’” on Bloomberg.

It’s 2024. Musk figures everything out and gets funding. He builds his rocket, and 100 people take off. Several months later, they land (somehow) and have to get to work remaking a planet.

I have to note, first, that this scenario is not believable, which makes it a hard exercise to think about further. Mars will never be a single-person or single-company effort. It will be multi-national and take lots of money and lots of years.

Musk’s plan is sort of the 1920s science-fiction cliché of the boy who builds a rocket to the moon in his backyard, combined with the Wernher von Braun plan, as described in the Disney TV programs of the 1950s. A fun, new story.

(10) BEHIND BARS. In the latest installment of “The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters in Prison”, Barrett Brown, jailed for decades because of his hacking, answers questions Filers will hopefully never need to ask:  if you’re in prison, how do you teach other prisoners how to play role-playing games?  And how do you make the dice?

We began the campaign with our party having just entered a mysterious cavern that appeared to be inhabited. The gamemaster drew out a map for us as our crude little character tokens advanced down the dark, cliché-ridden passages. Coming upon a fountain in which jewels could be seen lying under the surface of the water, our Hispanic gangster/minotaur barbarian proposed to grab some. The team veteran and meth dealer/elven ranger stopped him, dipped in his flask, and, as our gamemaster informed us, watched as it sizzled and melted, the “water” having been acid.

“Whoa,” said the gangster/minotaur, awed at how close he’d just come to losing his forearm. He was beginning to understand that this wasn’t the relatively straightforward world of street-level dope dealing anymore; this was Dungeons and Dragons. Presumably the feds had never attempted to trick him into incinerating his own arm. But then some of these guys had been targeted by the ATF, so you never know.

(11) MAMATAS. At Locus Online, “Tim Pratt Reviews Nick Mamatas”.

His latest novel, I Am Providence, should be of particular interest to our readers for at least a couple of reasons. For one, it’s a murder mystery set at a genre convention: the Summer Tentacular, devoted to H.P, Lovecraft and his Mythos, held appropriately enough in Lovecraft’s hometown of Providence RI. (The book’s title is taken from Lovecraft’s famous epitaph.) Given how prevalent discussions of Lovecraft’s influence and his problematic qualities have been in our field lately, it’s an astonishingly timely book. If the convention angle doesn’t make it SFnal enough for you, there’s a bona fide speculative element: half the novel is narrated in first person by the murder victim as he lies cooling on a morgue slab.

The murder-mystery-at-a-convention is a venerable subgenre (think Isaac Asimov’s Murder at the ABA or Sharyn McCrumb’s Bimbos of the Death Sun). The best of them combine solid mystery stories anyone can enjoy with a dash of in-jokes, cameos, and thinly veiled versions of figures in the field to amuse those in the know. I Am Providence is among those best.

(12) THE HORSE, OF COURSE. Rosalind Moran reminds SFWAns, “Horses Are Not Machines: On Writing the Steeds of Fantasy Fiction”.

  1. Nobody Learns In A Day

No amount of natural talent can make a horseman in a day. If one’s horse is tolerant, one may be able to hold on over flat terrain after a few hours in the saddle. Nevertheless, there’s a big difference between not sliding off immediately, and being able to ride competently. It can take months – even years – before one is truly balanced enough to cope with a horse moving at various gaits, and occasionally acting up. Yet it’s not uncommon in fantasy novels for characters to pick up the handy skill of horse-riding in one day.

Furthermore, handling horses on the ground is also a skill requiring time. When one first begins working with horses, one can’t read their body language; flicking ears, shifting legs, squeals and snorts. The initial reaction when faced with a horse also tends to be one of intimidation – they’re big animals. So for your protagonist to be confident catching horses, feeding them, tacking them up… that all takes time and experience. You don’t need to devote pages to your character learning relatively mundane skills, but you should acknowledge that these are skills which they are learning, or which they have somehow acquired at another point in time.

Additional note: horses aren’t domesticated in a day either. Worth remembering next time you chance upon a handy herd in the wilderness – sorry.

[Thanks to StephenfromOttawa, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

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88 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/18/16 Talkin ‘Bout My Pixelation

  1. Not first, but still godstalk

    ETA: (8) SKIPPING THE AUTHENTICITY. – Watched the pilot of Scorpion when it aired. Dumped it immediately. There’s a perception that Big Bang Theory is nerd-minstrel humour – ie that it potrays mostly offensive and tired stereotypes.

    Scorpion struck me as the action-adventure version of that.

  2. @snowcrash
    I think I lasted a season of Scorpion, then I gave up, when the going-ons became too ridiculous. And the science was always ridiculously bad.

  3. I think I watched two, maybe three, episodes of </Scorpion>. Just for starters, the close-tag faux-html irritated the heck out of me. If they’d started each episode with <Scorpion> and ended it with </Scorpion> that would have been fine….

    But, yeah, the science was horrible and implausible. Not to mention the real life. I seem to recall a control tower for a major airport being so close to a runway that an airplane wing would go through the window. On a touch-and-go, which is a fairly routine exercise. Yeah. Right. Life’s too short to watch really bad TV.

    (Anyone seen Stranger Things? We have Netflix. Should I be watching it?)

  4. (1) I also sent the image off to William F. Nolan, the other writer fella friend who had a hand in writing Logan’s Run. Bill got a kick out of it.

  5. Petréa Mitchell: (8) Do the Hogus have a Dramatic Presentation category?

    Not when last given in 2015. And even in their prime — consider the 1982 Hogu ballot — the “Best Traumatic Presentation” category wasn’t necessarily about media. There were plenty of other categories back then with media references, however, not a dedicated category for them.

  6. @11: people with an elastic definition of “convention” will add Murder at the War (republished as Knight Fall), in which somebody is murdered in the middle of the SCA’s biggest gathering. (I haven’t been to Pennsic in >30 years, but the ones I was at had a lot in common with SF conventions, especially after dark.)

  7. @Cassy B

    (Anyone seen Stranger Things? We have Netflix. Should I be watching it?)

    Yes. The pilot is slow, but ratchets up like mad after the 2nd ep.

    The science is handwavium, but the acting is spectacular.

    Anyone watching Frequency and/or Timeless, and willing to provide a provisional hot take?

  8. @Cassy B. — Yes, yes you should be watching Stranger Things. Assuming you’re going to enjoy the very distinctly 1983 Spielberg/Stephen King vibe.

  9. ‘Twas Brillig, and the Pixel Scrolls
    Did File the Tickys all the Day

    Filers and Pixels and Scrolls, Oh My!

  10. Reading update: Everything Belongs to the Future by Laurie Penny
    This landed on my Kindle yesterday and I had a gap in my schedule so into the brain it went. Set just before the turn of the 22nd century, in a world where a drug has been invented which prevents ageing, but which is patented in such a way which makes it inaccessible to all but wealthy elites and a few artists and others who are specially selected for scholarships. An interesting read, strongly rooted in social and political issues about class privilege and inequality, as well as the grind of hopeless activism in the face of aligned state and corporate interests, that were immediately obvious to me from a UK perspective but might not be quite as salient if you’re from elsewhere. Its also set in an Oxford that will be very recognisable to anybody who has lived there (I know that kebab van! And also that absurd town/gown division). Plot is very serviceable, characters are interesting and realistically diverse, and its a well paced – though not particularly packed – novella. Does suffer from a tiny bit of “the characters just want to sit around and chat to each other” disease but as its more about exploring social and political implications of the technology than driving a plot forward, that’s just about forgivable.

    Recommended for fans of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror series (which is coming back on Friday I think?) and anyone who wants to indulge in some UK-specific political malaise in these Tory-dominated times.

    Content advice: Transphobia. Also talks about rape in a very specific non-coercive but non-consensual situation: Bar punenpgre vf na haqrepbire ntrag va n frkhny eryngvbafuvc jvgu na npgvivfg – ur trahvaryl ybirf ure ohg vf ylvat gb ure nobhg uvf vqragvgl naq zbgvirf va beqre gb znvagnva gurve eryngvbafuvc naq uvf cbfvgvba.

  11. (5) ROBBER BARONS. All over the map there; it kinda feels like just another indie-rails-against-The-Man post combined with an ad for her book. Anyway, she should check out sites that monitor for sales, like eReaderIQ (not the only site like this). Very helpful – as are Filers, of course. 😉 But it sounds like she sees books as interchangeable, so maybe the prices are secondary anyway.

    She lumps the big publishers together regarding DRM, but surely she knows Tor doesn’t use DRM. 😉

    The books on my “list” average $10, not $13. My list includes books I know I want, books I think I might like, and books that just sounded interesting but I haven’t really looked into. Maybe I don’t have enough bestsellers or only-in-hardback books on my list, though. 😉

    A few have very weird pricing, but those tend to be from one or two specific smallish SF publishers who price horribly, so I usually buy from in print. Half the time I see a crazy price, it’s Night Shade. I actually stopped counting those in checking average prices of ebooks on my list, because it just didn’t make sense to include a $24.99 ebook that a small publisher clearly wants me to buy in print. 😉

    Aaaaand now I’ve rambled too much.

  12. @snowcrash: My better half and I are enjoying “Timeless” so far (two episodes). It does have a couple of typical time travel story flaws, but also does some things right that a lot of time travel stories do poorly, so on balance, I think it works well. There’s some intriguing background mystery about the protagonist, the antagonist, the government people running the show, etc. It’s getting a nice slow reveal. I know what I hope one of the big unrevealed things is, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t, so I’ll have to write a time travel story, I guess. 😉

    Anyway, I’m no good at hot takes. I recommend at least trying it out, though.

  13. I have a great idea for a murder-at-a-convention story, but unfortunately it could only be done for an officially sanctioned Stephen King tribute anthology. — the University of Maine throws a symposium on the Maine Renaissance, the amazing flowering of literature in the state over the last half century. Bill Denbrough’s there. Gordie Lachance. Thad Beaumont. There are lectures on deceased writers like Roberta Anderson and Mort Rainey. But pride of place goes to Stephen King, who’ll be delivering a keynote address. He of course gets killed right before he goes on stage, and it’s up to mystery author Bob Jenkins to figure out whodunnit …


    AG’s insistence that a product should be cheaper because she wants it to be continues, I see. As she also believes she couldn’t buy ebooks from major publishers in 2006 then I’m not really convinced by her as a market-watching guru.

    The article she is (sort-of) responding to is about a publisher deciding they’d spent too much energy trying to to add features to ebooks (apps and the like) that the adult book market hadn’t responded to, so they’re dropping that direction.

    Her advice “As readers, it also means we need to be smart and start backing up our e-books to places not connected with our e-readers, etc” is solid though – use Calibre or similar to keep your library backed up.

  15. From Mothership Zeta

    Staff Announcement by Mur Lafferty

    Sunil Patel has resigned as Fiction Assistant Editor at Mothership Zeta, effective immediately. We thank him for all his hard work on the magazine’s first six issues.

    Probably inevitable.

  16. Re: Stranger Things – very much enjoyed. Came to realize it could arguably be classified as historical SF; it absolutely needs to be set during the time period it’s set in for all the plot points to work. At least, *I* think so.

    The local monthly roller disco this Friday (Denver ROLL, if anyone’s playing along at home) is going with a “Stranger Things” theme, or, more generally, 80s horror movies and horror set in the 80s. Me and a buncha my roller derby peeps are going. I’m trying to figure out if I want to costume or just fish something out of my surviving 80s wardrobe. (Astonishingly, most of the shirts and jackety type things still fit, once I hack off the sleeves.)

    In other news, my husband and I went to see the Miss Perigrine’s Home for Peculiar Children movie adaptation as part of dinner-anna-movie on Monday. We went with low expectations and were surprised at how insufficiently low those expectations were. It was painful, y’all. The after-movie mutual rant was enjoyable, though.

  17. Re Calibre:
    My recent computer woes confirm backing up your stuff is not just a good idea, its stupidity not to.


    I agree that some ebook prices are steep but I just figure that they are aimed at a part of the market that is less value conscious than I am. I have an upper limit of about £5 on ebook purchases and I still manage to buy more than I can actually read and I keep reasonably up-to-date with recent releases. That includes stuff published by the Big Bad 5, as they quite often have promotions.

    Interesting that in the comments at MGC, Baen selling eARCs at $15 a piece is super-smart and forward-thinking business but other publishers selling ebooks at $15 during the hardback phase of the release is objectionable robbery…


    The author has little or no grasp of the library ebook reality. Most libraries don’t buy any ebooks as they use a service, Hoopla and Overlook are two that my local library uses, that provides ebooks to the Library users. Hoopla (which also provides audiobooks, graphic novels and movies) charges so much per download that the the library pays; Overlook’s a fixed fee service.

    The library sets the number of items that a user can have out for Hoopla; not a user of Overlook so I can’t say how many items you can out at a time. I know my local may well drop Hoopla as it’s rather costly.

    So publishers aren’t squeezing libraries on ebooks as libraries don’t as a rule actually have ebook collections anymore than they have digital collections of music or films.

  20. 8) Scorpion sounds like so many things in this imperfect world: Fun, if only it were done on purpose.

    I will note that the always-forward-looking Hogu awards nominated Bob Dylan in 1982. I don’t think he won. The competition was stiff.

  21. 5) pure guess on my part, but I’ll bet, oh, dollars to tribbles, that DRM ebooks find their way into pirated editions faster than non-DRM ebooks (though of course just about any ebook from a “publisher” finds its way to the pirates lair)

  22. Anyone seen Stranger Things? We have Netflix. Should I be watching it?

    Ever seen Super 8? If you like that, you’ll like Stranger Things. (Both are a fairly routine story filled in with lots and lots of 80s nostalgia, homages to classic Spilbergian techniques, and call-backs to scenes from other movies.)

  23. My how time flies when “day job” intrudes on ones otherwise transcendant existence.

    I saw Westworld 1 and 2 while in USA last week. Interesting, but appallingly violent. I am pretty good at closing my mind to such, so still interested in seeing how it comes out, but no opportunity to see more for quite some time though. Apart from apparently convoluted pulot whole series could maybe been normal film length, but I guess TV season length is more commercial sense.

    (Recent trips unusual to watch USA TV but this time I tried it again… too many CM on most channels though!)

    I wonder how others think? Production seems well done but problematic issues re violence as noted. Amazing theme park is amazing, but outside society not yet described much, is similar to today or… not? Maybe something horrible in outside society explains horror theme park attraction…

  24. Tree House of Horror was on early in part because Fox will be carrying the World Series this year. Just a reminder, the Cubs winning the World Series is another sign of the end times, just in case this year’s Presidential election wasn’t enough of an omen.

    Scorpion mainly annoys me whenever I watch it. I like most of the characters and in the right hands it could work. (I’ve thought a good detective series would involve a smart person with a circle of underemployed friends who served as experts on various cases, but that’s a bit close to Elementary.) The one thing that really gets me is that the smart people on Scorpion keep telling everyone they’re really smart people. While I’ve met some pompous geniuses, most of the really smart people I’ve known have underplayed their IQs and focused more on what they were working on.

  25. Missed Timeless. Saw the first episode of Frequency, and liked it much more when it was called Il Mare

    Or when it was called…well…Frequency, since the movie that the TV series is based on came out in the exact same year, five months before Il Mare. (2000)

  26. @Cat Eldridge: I’m curious about your claim that most libraries use a service instead of buying ebooks. I’ve gotten a number of ebooks from the Boston (MA USA) library, and been referred to Hoopla maybe 10% of the time (at most). Possibly smaller libraries use it more? I could believe that more total libraries have no ebooks given that there are many more small libraries than large ones, but I wonder how many total checkouts are Hoopla vs library-owned.

  27. @Cassy B.

    Here’s another vote for Stranger Things. I just finished it and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s been picked up for a second season.

    (5) I’m not terribly bothered by generic e-book pricing. I’ve got my limits, but we all do.

    What bothers me is when an e-book exists and either it isn’t available in my country due to distribution timing issues, or the e-book costs almost as much as (in one case more than) the physical book. I don’t expect a $25 new physical book to sell for $2 as an e-book, but I don’t expect to pay $24 for the e-book either.

    (9) Leave it to KSR to envision a successful outerspace project only in instances where government(s) is/are involved. The 20th century model of science and exploration as the primary province of government is fairly unique in human history.


  28. @Dann: I seem to remember something about Columbus getting government funding for his voyage.

    It’s actually capital markets that are recent. Governments have been around much longer.

  29. Dann wrote: What bothers me is when an e-book exists and either it isn’t available in my country due to distribution timing issues, or the e-book costs almost as much as (in one case more than) the physical book. I don’t expect a $25 new physical book to sell for $2 as an e-book, but I don’t expect to pay $24 for the e-book either.

    An unfavourite example here is Liverpool University Press and its handling of Mike Ashley’s multi-volume magnum opus The Story of the Science Fiction Magazines. Volume 3 is £75 in hardback and £19.99 in paperback, with the ebook excitingly priced at £19.99. There’s no paperback as yet of Volume 4, so the choice is between the hardback at £75 or the ebook at … £75.

  30. @Tom

    The phrase “primary province” should not be read as “sole province”. My point is that there has always been a very strong private/individual interest in such things. That private interest was frequently rewarded with success.

    Elon Musk’s objective is not without precedent. Nor would it be unusual if he were successful. It also wouldn’t be unusual if he failed either, FWIW.


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