Author Topic: a primer for the gradual understanding of PTA, CMBB and now the master!  (Read 6107 times)

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Pubrick

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in this thread i will review CMBB.

but first, the more interesting point to me is the joy i felt upon hearing news of his next project. CMBB was such a mystery to me, the way it worked and the ideas it dealt with felt like PTA was starting something from scratch. it was so stylistically sparse compared to his other movies and its absolutely disciplined formal restraint felt like he was laying out the groundwork for something big. the feeling of emptiness ppl feel  at the end of the film (or at least i felt, i mean to the extent that i was disappointed) is due in large part to the restraint that had been building up to that point, both in style and in the character we are made to follow, until of course the very last scene of gigantic release.

i want to return to the idea of restraint. restraint in the sense i tried to develop when speaking about Kubrick's oeuvre as 24hrs, that is a kind of restraint having to do with control of output with a purpose in mind. you might not agree that he is the next Kubrick but that is only an invalidating statement against you if and only if you don't think anyone is ever really great, that is if A KUBRICK has never existed or that it doesn't matter if one exists. even a dissenter like GT is now admitting that PTA could be the american Bresson, and since Bresson is the french kubrick, the point stands. HERE -- here is the point:

the way i thought i would feel when i heard the news of his next project is that suddenly what the fuck PTA is up to would become clear. everyone had NO idea where to place CMBB in the collection of PTA films. now we know that it is actually the first of the new phase of his creative output. every one of his films has been sort of a really strange promise centered around the idea that he hasn't actually started, that he is just getting started, or that he is not sure exactly where to start. let's look at the final scenes of some of his films to understand what i mean:

actually let's start at the beginning with Coffee and Cigarettes. the stupid idea of that film is that before anything happens, as PBH teaches the dumb mouf-gaping worst actor of all time, it is necessary to set the table -- to pour some coffee and to light a cig. this is embarrassing now to a mature PTA because it is so "naive" in the same way that GT characterizes magnolia, to wear your heart on your sleeve so openly. at this point he doesn't know where to start.

cut to Hard Eight. the same thing. we can ultimately forget this film in so far as it is his The Killing. even though it was a huge problem to get it made and he had all those fights with Rysher Entertainment it was still effectively him taking the path of least resistance. this is the term kubrick used when referring to why he chose to develop The Killing, and Killers Kiss and all that, he wanted to get experience and to get his foot in the door. Since PTA got the sundance screenplay development money that's why he did Sydney. it is an extension of that short film and in a really sincere way an open reaction to its naivety. the final image of the film, at the diner, is signficant to us still because we know the ritual of coffee and cigs, it is of course a new beginning for Sydney but it is also an awareness of growing maturity, the heart on the sleeve that was his previous embarrassment (which, like Sydney the character, PTA is trying to make amends for) is replaced with blood.

there is in this story the core themes of PTA's films which recur and expand upon subsequent meditations, for that is what his films have become, they can be characterized by the recurring event of a single voice basically speaking to itself in every last scene. sydney is no different, having granted the privilege of a new beginning to his adopted son (out of guilt and all that other well written character stuff, etc), Sydney waits for his coffee at the table meaning he is actually waiting to be ready to begin again. as he sits in the diner we can imagine that he is repeating the mantra of coffee and cigarettes as he undergoes the ritual. HERE with his first feature, he doesn't yet really know where to start, but he knows that something must be done, it must be started.

WHAT IS TO BE STARTED? WHAT IS ACTUALLY GOING TO BE STARTED? this i will try to answer a bit later.

so sydney was that, Boogie Nights was much the same. the concern of the last scene is interesting. but the film as a whole is at once a return, a new beginning, it is the reconstitution of childhood/teenage experience and his first FIRST short film. that's why Lupi says in That Moment that boogie nights still felt like an independent production, it came from somewhere safe, it had that element of security, it wasn't really REALLY all that dangerous. but the bit that interests me is the comment by pta as mark as eddie as dirk as brock, the concern with "filling he holes". where the fuck is ringo and all that, but first he's gonna fill the holes. he's gonna start soon. this is done once again as he prepares to begin, dirk is psyching himself up before a scene, his ritual takes place before someone actually yells action. the whole film is still playing before he has actually started.

what a strange thing to keep repeating. it reminds me of this joke observation i made once about how weird it is that eminem (remember him??) was always either reintroducing himself or saying he's back in every thing he ever did. it's like, imagine a person who always joins a group of ppl and just says "i'm back!" and then leaves and then comes back and says "hey guys i'm back!" but that's all he's ever done from the first time you knew him and then he just leaves again without saying goodbye or anything. i mean that is just strange.

so we see with magnolia the explosion of all the themes he has collected, and mainly the idea of never being through with the past. THAT is the reason he can't move forward. he's always always just saying hang on a second i've gotta take care of something first, i gotta do this first and then i'll start. do you see how this recurs literally as a major plot point in PDL? just one thing i gotta take care of first and then i'll come back and kiss you and take care of you. "just be with me!" that's the end of magnolia. that beautiful scene captures the trouble of his entire output up to that point, the push to actually start, to complete the ritual. what jim is doing in that amazing last scene is a repetition of the ritual he actually just enacted to himself in the car. the speech was not in the shooting script, as we see in That Moment on the day of shooting PTA came up with it and even says "i've written something for you to say that just sort of sums up the whole thing" or something like that. the speech that Jim Kurring whispers is a mantra that might as well exist only inside Claudia's head. this meant the original final speech of the film would be Jim's monologue about "how do we forgive", that is how do we fucking get going! he gives that entire monologue before he starts the car, only when he is done does it actually get moving. but the film is still a promise that now, seriously now, he will start, it might be completely messed up, fucked up and over the top, but you know what, it's that simple if you want to be with me you be with me, that's how we'll start.

PDL felt like a new start but like i already mentioned, contains the very same story that his others did, the concept of being affected by the past and not being able to start. to really TAKE OFF! follow your own intuitions here from what you know about lena being an alien. but allow me to draw your attention to two magical moments, maybe a few more, as well as a few hints we can gather from PTA's actual statements about the film. the first is the beginning of the film, the fucking out of nowhere flip of the car has been explained by PTA as just "a way to start", he said something about the need to just fucking GO! to get things moving. so once the film is moving we get the most beautiful scene (he's got so many of these, obv):

the scene which begins the main plot push of the film, which culminates in the mattress man, the mormons, and all that -- this main plot which actually threatens to derail the OTHER thrust of the film which is the love story -- it begins with the phone call. the scene where he calls the sex line for the first time is characterized by the long endless circulation of the camera and the strange build up of tension in the music which seems to magically coincide with the jarring BUMP in the frame itself. that is, recall the moment where barry is sitting down and the image sort of goes BZZP, i dunno, it doesn't make a sound but you know what i mean, it's the moment where the camera shakes. this is the direct pit of PTA's anxiety, tension, problem of restraint, whatever you want to call it. in this scene we also learn from Barry Egan that his business is going well, but he wants to diversify, and that he just can't get over this bump.. but he knows he will. again, he knows he has to start but dammit he also knows he just hasn't.

but let's stick to last scenes, like i said, to give this some kind of order. otherwise we would hav to talk about the lines about "give me 6 to 8 weeks to redeem the mileage", i hope you're starting to see what i mean. it's everywhere. the story of Lena is incredible, she is the thing that seems to finally break through. the story around barry before lena is something like a suit that has become permanently embedded on his skin, he walks backwards, breaks windows, smashes walls all of which are a clear image of his attempt to break out of the shell that has grown around him. but WHERE is it? where the fuck is ringo? the image of love that appears on his fists after he smashes the wall don't reveal that he needs to break everything, but it does reveal that he's close to something in that very moment, one of the most desperate rages in PTA's films, this moment occurs at a point where all he wants is to START, to redeem the mileage to goddamn get this fucking thing started, he is close. but the mark of LOVE on his fist, this is as beautiful to me as "but it did happen", it's blood, it's what lies beyond the shell. the point is he's close. this transgression of realism, like "but it did happen", seems to be superficially motivated as a stylistic touch but they both are a perfect product of those moments, they emerge with huge force, be it during a rain of frogs, or another kind of violent tirade, they GUSH out of the screen.

but the past, the superficial plot about the sisters and the brothers, all of that which barry wants to leave behind, is very much like the ensemble performances that PTA is trying to leave behind. and in PDL that aspect is present only to finally be done away with, almost as if it's fading away. barry egan's past is completely obliterated by this force, lena, which functions as a metamorphosing agent in much the same way that Jeremy Blake's artwork repeatedly washes the screen away and creates something beautiful from selected elements. every time Jeremy Blake's art appears on the screen it is like a fist to the wall. the colours run like blood. and after all these punches we get the last scene, finally, which i've been wanting to talk about for all this time. what i love most about the final shot of PDL is that it starts at one end of the warehouse and we follow lena until she kind of envelops barry at the other end. where did she come from in this scene? who cares the thing is that it is a formality, the introduction of her character in this shot and the movement to the right side of the warehouse, that is just a formality. lena embraces barry as if she is becoming his new suit, and in this new shell, the film makes its  announcement. like boogie nights, like sydney, like his short film, he announces that he's gonna start. in fact, here we go, we have lift off.

in this context the great mysteries of CMBB can begin to reveal themselves. starting (and ending) with the final scene, but what's happening in CMBB is not just about the final scene. in the sense that the final scene NEEDS to be explained, everything about CMBB is about the final scene, but i mean more specifically that it is more important to understand how it is that PTA could finally get to the point where he can say he's finished!

so i wanna talk about blood. i wanna talk about the final scene. i wanna talk about everything making sense now. but first i wanted to talk about every film he's ever made, because you can't review CMBB without reviewing every film he's made and going to make.

to be continued in part two: i promise there will be a part two in this very thread.
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Stefen

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Re: a primer for the gradual understanding of PTA, CMBB and now the master!
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2009, 12:30:32 PM »
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 :bravo: Epic.

You bring up interesting points about PTA's maturity as a filmmaker. I wonder how embarrassed he gets when watching some of his early stuff. You compare buts of TWBB to buts of Sydney and you couldn't tell it was from the same person. I don't think he has any reason to be embarrassed, but I'm sure he does. You could say the same thing about some of the best posters on the sites very first posts. 
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ᾦɐļᵲʊʂ

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Re: a primer for the gradual understanding of PTA, CMBB and now the master!
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2009, 12:56:44 PM »
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but the past, the superficial plot about the sisters and the brothers, all of that which barry wants to leave behind, is very much like the ensemble performances that PTA is trying to leave behind. and in PDL that aspect is present only to finally be done away with, almost as if it's fading away. barry egan's past is completely obliterated by this force, lena, which functions as a metamorphosing agent in much the same way that Jeremy Blake's artwork repeatedly washes the screen away and creates something beautiful from selected elements. every time Jeremy Blake's art appears on the screen it is like a fist to the wall. the colours run like blood.

...

so i wanna talk about blood. i wanna talk about the final scene. i wanna talk about everything making sense now. but first i wanted to talk about every film he's ever made, because you can't review CMBB without reviewing every film he's made and going to make.


I find the first selected part really fascinating because of how you suggest that PTA is trying to leave behind ensemble performances.  He clearly did in CMBB, and I think it's the reason I loved it so much.  It was a new film, not just the newest PTA film.  It was an
experience, and I'm glad he got to stretch out and try that. 

PDL in its own degree is very much a step in this direction.  It had Phillip Seymour Hoffman (who will be back in the new movie apparently) but it had Adam Sandler and fascinatingly enough didn't play to a style familiar to Sandler or PTA.  The scopitones themselves were very beautiful blurs of color that helped transition the dizzying speed of Barry Egan's life as a reaction to all the events occurring to him, and his decisions in the face of them.

This was an excellent read, and I clicked over to read your Kubrick article that you linked, which was also an excellent read.  This being a primer is incredibly appropriate and considering how longer posts can go ignored on Xixax, you've managed to find a way to present it in sizable chunks.
"As a matter of fact I only work with the feeling of something magical, something seemingly significant. And to keep it magical I don't want to know the story involved, I just want the hypnotic effect of it somehow seeming significant without knowing why." - Len Lye

modage

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Re: a primer for the gradual understanding of PTA, CMBB and now the master!
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2009, 01:03:53 PM »
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I loved this.  Hurry with Part II.
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Pozer

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Re: a primer for the gradual understanding of PTA, CMBB and now the master!
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2009, 02:39:43 PM »
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This being a primer is incredibly appropriate and considering how longer posts can go ignored on Xixax, you've managed to find a way to present it in sizable chunks.

agreed. chunks are much more attractive than



fantastic job, man! a twofer: two worthy threads in one day.

i'm XIXAX about threads again

Pas

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Re: a primer for the gradual understanding of PTA, CMBB and now the master!
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2009, 02:40:41 PM »
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You could say the same thing about some of the best posters on the sites very first posts. 

haha well I don't know if I'm one of the best posters but I sure am embarassed by my first 2-3 years here.

Good post P, the Eminem thing is indeed quite strange.

KJ

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Monsieur, to both you and your...sharp brain, I say: Bravo.  :bravo:

I loved this. Can't wait for the second part.


you might not agree that he is the next Kubrick

No, I actually don't. I don't think he is the new Kubrick. I think Kubrick is the old PTA.

^ I love this too. Fucking awesome statement, me.  :bravo:

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that was great! thank you for sharing this. nice way to end part one :bravo:
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Captain of Industry

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Anxiously await part two.

diggler

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i'm late to the party on this, but that was a great read. thanks P
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Kellen

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i'm late to the party on this, but that was a great read. thanks P

same here.  i can't wait to read part 2 man.

Alexandro

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what can I say? great stuff.

Pubrick

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Re: a primer for the gradual understanding of PTA, CMBB and now the master!
« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2013, 10:10:14 AM »
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you guys. i'm sorry.

i have abandoned my flock.

i come back and people are clutching at straws.

70mm screening of the master was bullshit. the venue was shit. the trip was not a waste of money cos melbourne is an awesome place to explore but the movie was the lowlight of my time there. the sound was shit, the projection was fuzzy.. only good thing about that place is that they have a resident CAT who likes to roam up and down the aisles during screenings.

onto the movie after three viewings..

let's not kid ourselves people. just accept that what you chose to love when you became a PTA disciple was an artist of the utmost and highest possible level. this is not really a good thing for his audience, we're talking about someone who has pledged to some unknown god with unwavering decisiveness that he will follow his inner desires and indulge his own personal interests at the expense of making anyone any money and just as possibly making something no one understands. he's making movies for himself about himself.. THIS IS WHAT ARTISTS DO.. they are EGOCENTRIC.

this is usually a bad thing, when an idiot is egocentric everyone who is unlucky enough to be around him has to suffer through inane monologues about the most uninteresting things. but we're fortunate to have an egocentric genius with a unique access to his psyche whom, instead of denying it and trying to please us by giving us things to relate to in his films, he has only delved deeper into his most persistent and profound contemplations in the hope that by illuminating his own ambiguous, contradictory, base, ambitious, oddly sexual, eccentric and ultimately GENIUS nature, he will illuminate the most pertinent truths about the universal human nature and culture that we all are a part of.

the entirety of his career has clearly followed this trajectory. at the start he had bravado but he is now truly brave. with the first few masterpieces he aped many styles to get our attention and appeal to something we may have been comfortable with. now since PDL and definitively with CMBB that is why the latter had almost NONE of the usual stylistic flourishes we had come to know, he's gone to a place that is so i daresay primitive that it predates and precedes the emergence of this insecure crutches he used to rely on. i guess you could call it maturity but it's something more akin to what happens to William Hurt in Altered States. he's wrestling with his darkests beasts.

who among us even knows what the hell i'm talking about? let me ask you this.. why does PTA keep ending all his films with dedications to his loved ones? does anyone else do it with as much consistency and affection? the list is ever growing, he's still listing his dad, his wife, and now his children. in CMBB he listed altman, his cinematic father. is this just an embellishment of the "special thanks" section in most credits?

it's a very obvious and sincere statement that he is making films for himself, his loves, his memories, his demons, his own salvation or something. look at the ending of all his films, and you see reasons to keep living and ways to add meaning to your life.. more accurately he is just reflecting the meaning he has found in his own. the master ends with the feeling that freddie has found a way to free himself from finding meaning externally, and within himself, through the absorption of things he loved (which gave him true love) ends the film yearning and searching for meaning that doesn't dissolve. quite literally! he loves a SAND woman for god's sake. and the line he says to the english broad, who looks like the master in a way, shows he has absorbed something from this one person who gave him love and he's now trying to combine the two.. this specter of Dora and this specter of Dodd. in the end PTA is in constant search for meaning that doesn't dissolve.

Sydney/hard eight ended with the idea of holding onto the regret that gives your life purpose. this signalled the beginning of the father issue in his films and it remains the most intense of all, who knows what he's trying to work out there. in boogie it's about holding onto the world that gives your life meaning. the film is about love of cinema.. his pledge to give himself to it for better or worse, as it's something that apparently has saved him, redeemed him, giving his life a purpose, much like the freaks in the end of that film. Maggie is where he gave everyone a last chance to jump on his wagon, if the film is about 9 characters or whatever, why not everyone else in the world? we're all in it together, it's everyone's movie, not just the characters but mine too, he REALLY wanted us to know how he felt then.. and that feeling is to hold onto love even if it explodes in your face, even if the lens suddenly changes mid shot, even if a frog falls from the sky, in the moment where the shit goes down all the people in the film find a way to go on by holding onto that love.. jim delays his, being a selfless saviour of sorts, he redeems the most loveless character through his kindness. god what a great movie.

and by PDL he's found it you see.. it's just like a distillation of the most important thing. he's found love. or it found him, whatever. duh didn't he do that in real life too? that's maya stalking him in the red dress in the background isn't it? but the love isn't just about finding someone to have kids. that's boring as fuck. what we're talking about here is he resolved to depart from ALL known landmarks in defining himself. most interestingly, he's going travelling! where?

back in time of course! PTA will be to california what woodsy allen is to new york and kubrick was to the whole universe. but i digress.. the point i was trying to make is that PTA is venturing into his own dark heart, kubrick went into the dark heart of man in general, it's like he had the capacity to look into every one of us and stare deep into our very soul and BEYOND it towards that which makes us animals. that must be what people talked about when they said he had the most intense stare. well PTA is not doing that, he's saving us from that in a way, he's doing that with just one person at a time, those few people he becomes best fucking friends forever with that star as the central character in the new era of his career.

Sandler was the first real guinea pig in this experiment, but the real impressive one was DDL. did you guys get this impression watching PTA and DDL in interviews that they were like really really intense lovers? at times i remember they even touched each other physically in a gentle "i know what you're thinking" kind of way that you only ever see with genuine couples. they would look into each other's eyes when they answered questions, they seemed almost sad to be doing publicity cos it was gonna be the last time they got to spend THAT much time together. am i crazy? this happened i swear.

Plainview was a beast. he was a vampire, he was demonic, he was anti-human, he was even anti-FUTURE.. he didn't want children, he didn't want progress, he was apocalyptic. plainview was the "small hump" that Barry Egan couldn't get over, that thing that kept him from expanding his empire. the thing was though, he didn't have to annihilate that part of himself, he had to EMBRACE it. he kicked the shit out of those brothers, he took this fantasy internal love that made him stronger than anything we could imagine and he showed up and faced the beast of his external world with it, that is he mattress man, he faced him down and WON, he did the same with his sister as he threatened her on the phone. that thing in him is violent, it's in lena too, we see it in that moment when they are telling their deepest wishes to each other, and they just want to KILL. they want time to stop moving forward. that thing is an aspect of love.

CMBB is a microscopic look into that side of love, blown up to epic proportions. plainview is the greatest artist who ever lived, of the sort that does things only to feed himself, he has love for himself only. he is a vampire in as much as the only thing that can sustain his unstoppable ambition is the consumption of other people's ambitions and dreams. he says this himself. what happens at the end of CMBB is nothing short of a real honest to god divine miracle. why does he have to kill Eli? well apart from being a charlatan much like his "brother" who he also killed, eli share's plainview's desire to devour people's ambitions and goals to feed himself. eli wants to be a saviour but his drive is just to save himself. he is as future-killing and apocalyptic as daniel because he steals the minds of children, he kills the dreams of humanity with his superstition so they have no chance of fulfilling their true nature.. whatever that is.

there is a reference to the Dawn of Man sequence which has been well established, the bowling pins being the bones used to kill the ape dude in 2001.. but this is not to denote a devolution for plainview but rather an evolution in the right direction much like the ape in that original moment. plainview has gone back in time in this scene, to this youthful looking eli, to remembering and bringing up stuff that happened SOOOOOO long ago in the film's chronology. if barry egan had to embrace his plainview in order to continue, then plainview has to embrace his Master to go on.. or his words to "finish" (cos he doesn't believe in progress). is this why the next film will be a detective story? that Freddie had to embrace his "downey jr endlessly searching for a figure that remains just out of reach" nature? we'll have to wait and see.

so following on from what i've said, the way the characters have followed their nature, it turns out that inside love resides this killing/beast thing, and then inside that is surprisingly a spiritual base. the recognition of another person's dream, the belief in that dream, and the will to absorb that dream and replace it with your own.. that is what plainview gained at the end. don't get me wrong he wasn't converted into a religious person, quite the opposite, HE converted the religious person to his own philosophy.. he fought an insatiable spiritual vampirism with his own. he was complete because he found, by going so deep into his nature, that inside the killing thing there lies a contradictory fantastic seed for what comes after. his "finished" is purposely ambiguous, is he satisfied or depleted? it's like even within the seemingly purely dark anti-human anti-future, there is a pervasive force that fights back. this endless war is where the master begins.
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Cloudy

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Re: a primer for the gradual understanding of PTA, CMBB and now the master!
« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2013, 10:52:20 AM »
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This was a fantastic read(both of them)! I loved the last line especially, hit home for me (especially since you have a knack for last's). I guess we won't be getting your detailed thoughts on The Master until Inherent Vice then. I hope that's not the case, I want it noowwwww.

KJ

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Re: a primer for the gradual understanding of PTA, CMBB and now the master!
« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2013, 12:10:43 PM »
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I love you, Pubrick.

 

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