Reflection on being a martial artist

The other day,somebody asked me  “how are you still a martial artist , if you dont train currently?” This ticked me off and my immediate response was ” yes , because I eventually plan on  training again”. It also got me thinking, ” am i really a martial artist still ?”  So these are some reasons why I believe I am still a martial artist.

First , let me give you a little background . I started training in the Korean martial art of Taekwondo at age 4 and a half  in a little dojang called ” Ju-jitsu Concepts”  on Mosholu Avenue in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, New York.  I loved my sabumnim , Tom McGuyver , because he was great with kids. Tom would set up “games” for us to play but teach us valuable skills at the same time , such as ” dont get hit by the lobster claw”  that taught how to block and ” jump rope” which taught us how to roll and land from a standup position.  I trained at ” Ju-Jitsu Concepts” and eventually Tom’s new school  from age 4 until around age 8, or from white belt to blue belt .  After Tom’s , I switched to a more local school , Tony’s Taekwondo on 231st  street.  Before and after each class at Tony’s,  the students would recite a pledge to always keep a good atittude, to never use what you’ve learned in class to hurt someone, etc.  It was a basic pledge, but it ended with the Five Tenets of Taekwondo : Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance,  Self- Control, and Indomitable Spirit.  I have come to live by these tenets.  After I got my black belt at Tony’s at age 10,  I trained off and on throughout my teen years at various schools in the New York City area.

Although I have taken a break during my teen years to pursue other hobbies, I am still deeply in love with the martial arts and constantly seek knowledge through them. Like I said above, I try to live by the Five Tenets of Taekwondo and try to apply them in everyday life. There is not a day that goes my that I dont try to be courteous to others or persevere with a given task. I try to have self-control and live life with integrity.  I know that if I have Spirit , I can achieve anything.

I have been reading and collecting “Black Belt” , “Taekwondo Times”, and “Martial Arts and Combat Sports” (before it went out of print) magazines since age 8 or 9.   The magazines teach me new techniques , learn about other styles and masters, and unfortunately the tell the readers who the martial arts community has lost. Reading martial arts magazines has been my way of keeping up with the martial arts community for the a very long time, especially since I am really the only martial artist I know. So even when I am not physically training, I am always learning and thinking about the martial arts.

So yeah, I might not be doing the martial arts physically but I am always thinking about them. Taekwondo is really the only thing I know for sure that I am good at and I even process thoughts and situations in terms of what I would do in the dojang. The martial arts are my passion and I will never be able to repay them for what they have taught me,  on and off the mat.

-Chris

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The Wonder Years…. and why I’m not sad anymore

It has been a year since the album that basically shaped me into the person I am today came out. Can’t guess the album? It’s “The Upsides” by the Philadelphia pop-punk band ,The Wonder Years. The album is filled with stories of hardship and personal struggle , yet Dan “Soupy” Campbell  always finds a way to come out intact.

Throughout 2010, I had periods of depression and a lack of  self-worth/self-esteem.  I had lost a good amount of weight since entering college ( due to a 4 day regime of martial arts training) , yet I still felt that I was unattractive and worthless.   I had my first date, kinda sorta , with a girl i really liked but I didnt know what I was doing and i think she saw right through me .  Eventually, things sorta fell apart and we stopped hanging out. I dont even know how or when to kiss . I got my first tattoo and my dad stopped speaking to me for a week. I played it off like i didnt care, but i was completely lost and deeply hurt. I was making tons of new friends , but I still felt completely alone because I felt like I couldnt let anyone know how I was truly feeling ( I still do)   Finally, I hated my college experience and didnt know what to do . Now , I guess I’ll explain what songs helped me get through those hard times.

The song ” Melrose Diner ” , basically summed up everything that I was feeling for that particular girl . We had been texting non-stop for the last couple of months and I thought everything was going pretty well but she slowly stopped texting after the “dates” and I had no idea why.  The lyrics ” I guess I’m just down, I guess I’ll be honest, I could use you around ” , were the exact words I was saying in my head.  I was angry and confused, I missed talking to someone constantly ( not to mention it was someone of the opposite sex , so i thought I was pretty cool haha) . I’ve never got a chance to talk to her about what I did wrong . Hopefully, she will read this and maybe we could talk about it . idk

The song, ” Hostels and Brothels” , helped me get through the difficult time when my dad wasnt speaking to me because I had gotten a tattoo.This was during the height of  one periods of depression and I felt like Soupy knew exactly what I was feeling   The song is about feeling alone and confused in a new land ,with new people.  Sure I was still at home, but I was new in the tattoo world and wanted to embrace it. That was quickly shot to hell by my dad’s hostility , but I fought through it. Ironically , Soupy called his dad for help. Instead of my dad telling me this , The Wonder Years said “It’s gonna get lighter,son, just wait there and see”. I did and things got better.

The song , ” All my friends are in bar bands “,  is about seeing all of your friends move on with their lives and feeling left out and alone.  Some of my closest friends were just starting relationships and although I knew I could still talk to them about anything , I felt left out. I didnt have that “special” connection with anyone and I wanted it more than anything. Also, friends were going away to college and I knew I wouldnt be seeing them as often anymore.

I hated college and missed high school a lot , my first year at St. John’s .  I had come from a small, tight-knit, all boys catholic high school and was lost at college. I didnt have any friends ( still dont) and I hated the fact that everything revolved around partying. I couldnt stand the 83729837383 frats and the hyper-masculine personas they called for. “My Last Semester ” and ” This Party Sucks “,were  fricking god-sends .  Soupy also hated the asshole frat guys and the “omg im hot ” girls .

Finally, I hit a breaking point in my life.  I realized that there was no use dwelling on the things that I hated and that i needed to do something to change them. ” Logan Circle” and ” Washington Square Park ” made me realize that.

So, do I still hate the way that I look? Yeah, but I’m working on that. Do I still have no idea what to do when it comes to romantics? Yep, sure do.  Do I still hate St. John’s ? You bet ya arse,  but hopefully my study abroad semester in Tokyo and my NYU transfer goes well. Will I continue working on my personal issues in 2011, YOU BETTER F**KING BELIEVE IT.

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I USUALLY DON’T SAY THIS BUT ….

BE THANKFUL FOR EVERYTHING YOU HAVE!

Background for this post:

I woke up early this morning and found out that my mom called in “sick” for work. I walked into the living room and found her going through old pictures of me. She found a picture of me and my original karate class , i guess i was about 5 yrs. old in the picture , and she started to name all the students. I did not remember any of their names but I did remember my teachers’ names. Then she said,”Do you remember the little Mexican boy from Tony’s Taekwondo? I think he died in a fire”. I was shocked and said that I didn’t.  She told me that after I stopped going to Tony’s ( I left shortly after earning my black belt, so i guess i was 11 or 12)  ,she read that the boy, his sister, and his mother all died in an electrical fire in their apartment. The father was the only one left and won the lawsuit against the electrical company.   My mom told me that the kid used to run around the dojang ( taekwondo school) and pretend to be a monkey ( i sorta remember this happening) and that the dad was very friendly.  She didnt tell because she knew it would upset me . SHE WAS RIGHT! It has been bothering me all day! I am usually the type of person to be openly thankful for something , encourage the feeling of being thankful, or openly mourn the death of a person because i think it’s normally a forced feeling. But , the fact that I am sitting here typing this blog post in a nice warm college library is amazing.   I got to grow up and make awesome friends ,while that kid died in a horrible fire.  I dont know what else to write so I am going to stop.

 

Summary: Just be thankful for your life and the things around you this holiday season.

 

Thanks for reading,

Chris

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This was pretty funny too ( we had to write a handbook entry for our final in writing class last semester)

Writing for Yourself: Self-Reflection-

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.  All Rights Reserved by Gainax and Bandai Entertainment.

            So, your professor has asked you to write a personal essay that involves reflecting on yourself. Yeah, you! Sounds hard doesn’t it?  You are probably thinking “Where the heck do I begin?” Well I have the surefire way of getting you started! Remember be yourself, but also follow my method. If you knew it all, you wouldn’t need this handbook now would you?

Activity A:  Who Are You?

Please list everything you are on the lines provided.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

Activity B: What Do You Want To Do In Your Life?

Please list all of your hopes and dreams here. Remember to stay within the lines provided, if you go over your professor will probably have difficulty reading your writing and he/she will fail you. If you fail, then you just wasted your time reading this guide and you obviously didn’t follow my directions.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

You need to write for yourself before you write for anyone else. Writing about yourself should be relaxing and you should learn more about yourself through doing it. Do not write what your professor or anyone else might want to read (if you do, it will probably be very obvious). SO JUST BE TRUE TO YOURSELF. 

NOW WRITE: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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Straight Edge : My Story. ( Copy and Pasted from an english paper I did last semester)

Straight Edge: This Bond We Share

I’m a person just like you

But I’ve got better things to do
Than sit around and fuck my head
Hang out with the living dead
Snort white shit up my nose
Pass out at the shows
I don’t even think about speed
That’s something I just don’t need

I’ve got the straight edge

I’m a person just like you
But I’ve got better things to do
Than sit around and smoke dope
‘Cause I know I can cope
Laugh at the thought of eating ludes
Laugh at the thought of sniffing glue
Always gonna keep in touch
Never want to use a crutch

I’ve got the straight edge

–          “Straight Edge” by Minor Threat

When Ian MacKaye, the lead singer for the Washington, D.C. hardcore- punk band Minor Threat wrote these lyrics in 1981 he had no idea it would change the hardcore scene forever. The song was written after the band’s drummer compared their ideals to a straight edge ruler (They didn’t drink, smoke, or do drugs. They also abstained from promiscuous sex). The 42 second song “Straight Edge” was MacKaye’s reaction to the actions of punks he had seen at D.C shows. He didn’t care about starting a movement or a rebellion, but MacKaye wanted to share his ideals with his fans.  This lifestyle appealed to punks looking for a different way to live. Soon, “The Movement” was born. After listening to Minor Threat, hardcore fans wanted to spread this substance free, sexually responsible lifestyle by forming their own bands (Haenfler 7). Some of the early “Straight Edge” bands include: Chain of Strength (California), Teen Idols (D.C.), Department of Youth Services (Boston), 7Seconds( Las Vegas), Judge ( New York City), Youth of Today ( D.C.) , and Uniform Choice ( California). They would draw black X’s on their hands, a symbol used by D.C. club owners to mark underage concert goers, even if they were over the drinking age as a sign of unity against drugs.  (Haenfler)

            I was in the St. Gabriel School’s gym at my youth group’s weekly open court basketball night. I was never a good basketball player and me being the youngest member of the group (I was the only 6th grader) I hung out in the coach’s room with 8th graders I had become friendly with, Brendan and James. Brendan was telling us about a party he went to the week before and what it felt like to be drunk for the first time. “Yeah it was really fun, I felt like I was on top of the world and I think I kissed a girl. I’m not sure though, I can’t remember. The next morning sucked though.” I was in complete shock that and 8th grader could go out and get drunk. I was in 6th grade and still thought people waited until they were 21 to drink. What happened next changed my life forever. After Brendan finished his story, he asked James if he had ever gotten drunk. “No man, I’m Straight Edge. I don’t drink.” Brendan looked confused an inquired about Straight Edge. James responded, “I draw black X’s on my hand and don’t drink or do drugs. It’s for life, dude”. This was the first time I had heard of Straight Edge and was intrigued. As my time in St. Gabriel’s School progressed, I eventually forgot about Straight Edge but still continued to live a “poison-free” life. Although I did try vodka in eighth grade, I do not count that experience as “drinking” because I only had a sip and once I realized the glass of coke had alcohol in it, I quickly put it down.  

            I started Xavier High School in the fall of 2005. I was thoroughly excited to start my high school career and I found myself in a group of friends who happened not to drink. I was in my “safe zone”.  But as my high school years progressed, I became one of the few students who didn’t drink. I got angrier and angrier when I heard my friends talking about their experiments with alcohol. It was only recently that I realized that I wasn’t angry because they were “drinking”, I was really worried that they would hurt themselves or make “stupid decisions” while intoxicated. I needed something more and remembered my talk with Brendan and James. I began researching Straight Edge on the internet and officially claimed my “Edge” on New Year’s Eve 2008. It was my junior year in high school.

I also come from a family of addicts. My grandfather was an alcoholic and a smoker of two cigarette packs a day for most of his life. I saw how much the alcohol and smoking hurt him and my family. He developed emphysema and asthma but he still kept smoking and he would sneak drops of vodka in his coffee while he watched me when I was younger. This life of addiction eventually caught up to “Poppy” and he died of liver disease and lung cancer in April 2005. He was my best friend and I spent almost every day with him from age 5 to the day he died. My Uncle Mike is also an addict .He had the perfect life: a wife, two children, a house in New Jersey, but that all came to an end when he became addicted to painkillers. I am not too sure of what happened exactly but I just know he lost everything. From these experiences, I promised myself that I would never be like my family.

            Heavy Metal had always been my favorite music genre and I was always the kid in the “Slipknot” or “Korn” t-shirts. Those bands had helped me deal with my problems when I was younger, but in my search for something more in life they had sort of become obsolete. I started listening to more punk-inspired hardcore music, specifically Straight Edge bands. These bands such as Armed for Battle, a.k.a. xAFBx, and xTyrantx were more militant in their Straight Edge beliefs and advocated violence against drug dealers/users. I began “X-ing up” (drawing black X’s on the back of my hands) everyday, even though I wasn’t going to a concert, and wearing shirts with sayings such as “Kill Your Local Drug Dealer”. I was shoving my beliefs down people’s throats and my goal of showing people that there was “another way to live” wasn’t working. I still needed something more.

While continuing my search for something more in my life, I found four bands that changed my life forever: Have Heart, Good Clean Fun, Casey Jones, and Stick to Your Guns.  These four bands introduced me to a whole different side of hardcore and Straight Edge, the positive side.

            Have Heart was a Straight Edge melodic hardcore band from Boston, Massachusetts that paved the way for many of today’s “Edge” bands. I started listening to Have Heart in my senior year of high school and they quickly became part of my daily playlist. To my knowledge Have Heart’s front man, Pat Flynn has never used the words “Straight Edge” in any of his songs but the message is still strongly felt in every one of their songs. For example in my favorite song, “Armed with a Mind”, one verse specifically makes me think, “It’s the absent minded fool who’s afraid to think, to extend an open hand, to dare to earn a thing. It’s the gift inside our heads not to take for granted…Because an unexamined life is a seed unplanted.” (Armed with a Mind, Have Heart) Flynn speaks about following your heart and examining one’s own mind in order to gain strength and knowledge.

Another Positive Straight Edge band is Good Clean Fun from Washington, DC.  They are a vegan youth crew revival band, which means they are heavily influenced by the youth crew bands of the late 1980’s, and often make fun of current trends within the hardcore community.  For example in the song “A Song For The Ladies”, the lead singer Issa speaks out against the hyper-masculine persona that seems to have taken over the scene. The bassist, Erin, even joins in on the last verse of the song.

“…hardcore still needs another song for the ladies. Girlfriends are great, please don’t get me wrong. But it’s time to put down that coat and come sing along. Because I can’t hear your voice from the back of the crowd. Move to the front, and shout it out loud. Keep your eyes on the prize, you know what I mean. If we can’t change the world, then let’s change the scene.”(A Song For The Ladies, Good Clean Fun)

The third band that caught my attention was a band called Casey Jones. Casey Jones is the side project of the metalcore band Evergreen Terrace. They are heavier than Have Heart and Good Clean Fun and  are more heavily influenced by metal than punk. Casey Jones may fit into the “Militant Straight Edge” genre because they do not take their commitment to the movement lightly but they are certainly not advocating violence against drug dealers. They sing about what they love and are proud of what they represent. The band’s lyrics often speak about their friends “breaking edge” or selling out then making fun of them for still being Straight Edge. I can relate a lot to the lyrics because I am the only Straight Edger I know and have taken a lot of slack because of my commitment to living a positive lifestyle. My favorite song is “No Donnie, These Men Are Straight Edge” because the lead singer is telling the world that he is proud to be different and doesn’t care what other people think about it.

Without shame I’ll put this black X on my hand. Without shame I’ll speak up and make my stand. In the end will use this use this for my voice… I am still edge. Carry these words high, straight edge. I am still edge” (No Donnie, These Men Are Straight Edge, Casey Jones)

My favorite band out of those I’ve mentioned is a metalcore band from Orange County, California called Stick to Your Guns. Although they are not an “Edge” band, all of the band members are either Straight Edge or Drug-Free. Their lyrics are what make them my favorite band. They are positive, uplifting, and motivational. In my favorite song, “Impact”, the lead singer Jesse speaks about making an impact in society and proving everyone that ever doubted him wrong. The line “WE’LL BLOW THEM AWAY WITH THE IMPACT WE’LL MAKE!” (Impact, Stick to Your Guns), motivates me to make an impact on the world. After listening to this song on a high school retreat in senior year, I set a goal for myself in life: To make an impact in at  least one person’s life. Hopefully if I can change their life, they will do the same for another and the cycle will continue.

In conclusion, music has always helped me get through tough times in my life and Straight Edge can and will only help me overcome obstacles and achieve my goals. I do not judge those who choose a different path, but I will question their actions just as people question mine. But in the end I do believe Straight Edge is the best lifestyle for me and although I may not have other Straight Edge friends I know that there are other people like me out there and we share a special bond.

This is mine
this is what I stand for
straight edge

I’m so Lucky, Down To Nothing

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MangaNext: Friends, Panels,Deathcore, Black Metal, And Hecklers

I attended my very first MangaNext this Halloween weekend. MangaNext is run by the same group that does the AnimeNext convention.  It focuses more  on the manga side of the fandom, something I enjoyed because I am more of a manga fan than I am an anime fan. 

General Overview of all 4 days-

Thursday: I arrived at the Hilton at approx. 8:30 pm after a long day at school. I had just picked up Roger and CJ from Penn Station and was looking forward to an awesome  weekend.  I was a little worried that it was gonna be boring because a lot of my friends weren’t attending. I had an amazing time at AnimeNext and didn’t want to ruin that streak. We just hung out in the hotel room the rest of the night and were planning the following days events.

Friday: We woke up to find that nothing was really happening until 3pm so we fell back asleep and took our time getting dressed. My friend Cimi had a panel at 3pm and all of my room attended ( more in the panels section ).  After that I just hung out with my friends and got angry while driving  around the neighborhood ( damn you NJ, please make roads where left turns are allowed). I finished up the night by singing karaoke. The thing is, I sang “Silence The Oppressors” by Impending Doom. Another con-goer asked if anyone knew the band, I raised my hand, and rocked the house. LOL

Saturday- Nothing really happened until Saturday night. I went to the Chinese market on the main road with Cimi, CJ, and Villi to kill time during the day. Then , THAT night happened . So while preparing to go to the rave, I asked Sam to put Halloween make-up on me . I wanted to look like a Norwegian Black Metaller with corpse paint. IT CAME OUT BRILLIANT. I met another hardcore kid outside of the rave,named Kurt, and spent an hour or so talking with him. The rave was boring, so I chilled in the lobby with friends until 5am Sunday morning

Sunday- Sunday was just a giant “chill sesh” by my friends’ artist alley booth.

Panels ( OHHHHHHHH YEAHHHHHH)-

Friday- The first panel I went to on Friday was run by my good friend, Chris Cimi. The panel ,called” 80’s Manga for the Current Manga Reader” ,  talked about manga that came out in the 80’s that many people my age overlook because they are “old”.  It was very well done and it taught me a lot about the history of manga. Cimi is  very passionate about the subject and is always willing to share his knowledge of manga with an audience.  Mari Morimoto , a manga translator, was in attendance. She shared her knowledge of manga that Cimi did not mention/ didnt not read. I know Cimi was humbled to have her come to the panel , as was I, because she is a prominent figure in the world of English manga. There was also a heckler in the crowd, I do not know if he was “slow” or just trolling.  Here’s a list of quotes from his heckling:

” Is it pronounced MAGNA or MANGA?”

” Was body-building a major part of this comic because those chicks are buff”

” I don’t know much about dragonball  but I do know about street handball. I like handball”

” Hip-hop culture played a major part in manga, right?”

 On Friday night, I attended Mari Morimoto’s panel  “History of Manga in the U.S.” .  She explained how the manga industry got started , as well as how she got started in the manga industry. The best part of the night was after this panel “ended”. There wasnt another panel in that room for 2 hours, so we sat there and asked questions. We spoke about old manga, I asked about how to get into translating,  we spent about an hour on Naruto. It was truly an amazing experience that I can’t put into words. As someone who wants to get into the manga business , specifically translating , this was a dream come true.

Saturday- I only went to one panel on Saturday. Erin Finnegan , author of the Shelf Life column on Anime News Network, gave 50 manga recommendations in 45 minutes ( that was also the name of the panel). We had some time left at the end of the panel and the audience was given the chance to recommend manga to their peers. I recommended  Iron Wok Jan , a cooking manga about making chinese food in Japan.

Sunday- I attended Mari Morimoto’s ” Manga Guide to Japan”. She gave a brief “tour” of some of the manga”hotspots” in Japan and where all the major bookshops were.  My last panel of the con was given by Vertical’s Ed Chavez. It was called ” Introduction to Japanese Publishers” and taught the audience about some of the major publishers in Japan. This was especially interesting because Mr. Chavez not only spoke about manga publishers but also some of Japan’s major book publishers ( who may or may not have published manga at one time).

Overall, the con was good. It was small and relaxed and I was in dire need of a “chill sesh”. I learned a lot about the industry and I’m looking forward to the future ! 🙂

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10/17 : International Straight Edge Day. A Reflection on Straight Edge

Today, October 17th, is International Straight Edge Day. Edge Day is traditionally a day where kids went to shows  or got together to celebrate who they are.  In 2009 , Have Heart ( one of my favorite edge bands) played their last show at an Edge Day celebration just outside of Boston, MA.   I did not attend  but I have watched videos of the show and let me tell you it looked like an edger’s heaven.  Edge Day always makes me reflect on my own reasons for being straight edge. 

I was in 6th grade , when an 8th grader first told me about straight edge. He told me that he wanted to be straight edge and draw black X’s on his hands. He didnt drink, smoke, or do drugs.  I thought this was cool but to be honest, I kind of forgot about it until sophmore year of high school or so.  I stayed drug and alcohol -free ( i had a sip of vodka and coke in 8th grade) through the rest of grammar school and the beginning of high school but never thought too much of it.  I come from a family of addicts ( alcohol, tobaco, prescription drug abusers) so substance abuse just didnt appeal to me.  

During my sophmore year of high school, i witnessed most of my friends fall victim to peer pressure and this crushed me.  I was naive and thought they really would wait till 21  to drink.   As a result , I started to claim straight edge and became very militant. I wanted all drug dealers given the death penalty, prohibition to come back, tobacco to be banned. That phase didnt last long and i felt like i needed something more. I had just started going to various hardcore and metalcore shows in New York City and realized that if I wanted anthing good to come out of straight edge , i needed to have a positive mental attitude ( didnt find H2O till senior year but PMA is the best phrase I could think of). 

My views on straight edge have changed throughout the years , but now that I am 19 I see it as the base of my life. If I want to accomplish anything productive, I need to have a clear mind and body first.  Instead of wasting my money on booze, I spend it on things that i am interested in : anime, manga, shows, band merch.  I am hopefully going to study in Japan next semester and I need to have good grades to be accepted. If I was out partying , I dont think my grades would be where they are now.  I love my life and I love being straight edge. 

If you have any questions about straight edge or anything else feel free to ask, i’d be happy to answer them.

Happy Edge Day!!

PMA ( Positive Mental Attitude ) All Day!  Straight Edge XXX

-chris

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