Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Garage Band Experience

Do you know what a garage band is? Of course you do. It's a band playing in a garage, that is to say an amateur band practicing their skills in some remote basement with no audience at all (apart maybe from the lead singer's girlfriend lying on the coach and ready to clap her hands at every moment of silence).

The Bank is not a garage band. The Bank never played in a garage and The Bank never felt they had to practice their skills before recording anything, since The Bank believes in spontaneity and raw energy. The Bank is not really a real rock band either, since it is merely an algebraic equation consisting in:

(Pierre Alexander + Sebastian Stelzer)/(The Quakers + Kettering)² = England for sale

But The Bank did put a couple of their songs up for review on, just to see what people would say about their work.

Here is the Garage Band punch line:

"Are you a musician? Get your music heard! Enter the contest to get reviewed by new fans & compete for exposure from Feed Partners.

OPTION 1: Earn a contest entry by reviewing music. Review 15 pairs of songs by other artists (only 9 if you become a Gold member). "

And here is how it works: you review other people's music (songs go by pair and you rate them from 0 to 5 along with the writing of a short review) and then you earn the right to submit your songs for review. Which is exactly what we did for a couple of our beloved tracks.

And here are some of the results:

This is England

- "Drunken Germans pretending to be Brits", says xroomate from L.A. "The keyboard piano part reminds me of threescompany, cool. Nice grooviness to the tune", which is really an ugly piece of abuse to the Bishop Stopford School Music Department, considering the "keyboard piano" is actually a real hammer piano.

- "happy sounding pop song about Nazism in England, sung by a person with a German accent. I'm not really sure WHAT I think about it. I hope it's complex sarcasm or a joke", says door64 from Seattle. "Nothing major wrong with production, composition, or performance, all well done, nothing sticks out. Well, except the words, which SEEM to be a contemplation of right wing inspired mass murder justified in the name of a sense of personal comfort and security." Well seen, Mr door64, it IS a song about xenophobia in the UK and blind slaughtering is suggested in some part of the song.

- "Are you making fun of British lads or what (I'm not one of them)?" asks viceromania from Bucarest. Interestingly, the guy says "I'm not one of them", which is exactly what I thought during my whole time there.

- And now the opinion of mishapscott from Wisconsin: "I think I've heard the opening piano line in the intro song to an 80's sitcom or something. When the singing kicks in, it reminds me of Roger Waters doing his best character impressions on The Wall", while pyoor from Arizona says: "The tune itself would make a great TV ad song" and tries "to figure out if this was supposed to be funny or a joke or something". Slobrock from Norway shares this bewilderment: "This is a song that I can't figure out if it is serious or not. The production sounds decent, but is it some German dudes singing about UK?"

And in conclusion, the shock of the extremes:

- the blind and cheerful approval of Joe from Ohio: "Keep on keepin on this tune is awsome hope you guys go far in the near future"

- the ultimate declaration of disgust from xhead666, Lehi, Utah: "UUUGGHHHH......WOW - this has to be one of the worst songs I've ever heard. Lyrics are really dull. I don't even think this is singing, more like melodic talking."

Mother Belly

- Awful start from paulrocks in Florida: "this song sucks and you guys must be from europe for making weak shit like this", which made me think ot the worse. But this review was to be tempered a bit by the next one. "Interesting calm mood", says EduCesar from Brazil, "but I don't like the mixing. Lead vocals are ok, but I'd like to hear this with more emotion. I like the melody, sounds like New Order sometimes. As for the chord structure, I find it interesting."

- "Weird Lyrics" is what LovetheBand from New York seems to have retained from the song. "The piano/organ makes me think I'm in church. The lyrics are really weird. Who is this Mother Belly? Is it some woman who is taking advantage of a little boy and makes him a man? Why is she telling the little boy to drink a lot? Isn't that illegal? I had to listen to this song twice to make sure I heard it right. " You heard it right, comrade, but I guess you've never been to Kettering. Then you would understand for sure. "Where is the group from?, he eventually asks. "The singer (or shall I say talker) has a accent I haven't heard before." Well, we're from Kettering, Northants.

- Ilike20 from Midwest goes into details: "The intro with just the plain open chords drags on too long. It seems to take too long before anything happens in this song. The vocals were completely unexpected. A very unique sounding voice unlike any others I've listened to in a long time. The harmonies were good, but they didn't seem to mesh with the lead vocalist for me."

- Writing from Italy, vastospino really dug the song: "A Leonard Cohen-like voice develops a delicate poetry", he writes, "as organ chords draw a nice progression with some maj chords, am I wrong? It's not easy to understand it...This is an intimistic song focused on the lyrics,even distorted guitars remain in the background, not to disturb the correct expression of the vocal line. I like the arrangement: you've chosen a few instruments, making them work together in an interesting way."

- But it didn't quite meet the taste of Mr Fantasgreat from Portland, Oregon: "Your vocal reminds me of Urge Overkill's Girl, You'll be a Woman Soon. Your lazy delivery style and low range are very similar. This song puts me to sleep. It doesn't create much interest for me as a listener. The drums are static throughout the entire song and there is very little dynamic difference throughout the track. Combine that with your delivery style, and it's destined to be as effective as Sleepy-Time Tea"

- And at last the complete review of plingativator from Vancouver, Canada, which gives you but a taste of what to expect if you submit a track to a Garage Band listener and get lucky enough:

"The bass line just after 1:00 picks up the song nicely, it's slow to grow but at this point it does exactly what it needs to do. When the distorted guitar comes in around 1:44 it doesn't seem to fit very well. The rest of the music is organ, mellow base, and subdued drums. The guitar just kind of ruins that mood. The vocals in the chorus are probably my favorite part, but the guitar underneath ruins them a little bit. I'm not surewhat kind of accent that is exactly during the verses, sounds French, but the Union Jack reference throws me. Either way it is interesting to listen to. The song could have ended around 4:07, I don't think the last few piano chords add anything to the song, and they drag it out in an unsatisfying way. I think the song could be really relaxing to listen to, but that distorted guitar really wrecks that for me, I would definitely consider removing it or toning it down, it just doesn't fit for me. Everything else is great."

So this is it, my dear fellow musician garage reader: if you hold something in store and you're not oversensitive, consider entering the contest. The funny part is: what they can do to you, you can do it to them and hit back with spiteful reviews if you're in the mood for it. My first review as a listener was a real success and earned me an e-mail of abuse (in my garageband mailbox) from the artist I dared to criticize a bit. But it doesn't happen all the time, far from it, and it's an interesting experience to apply one's judgement on other stuff rather than Coldplay's last single, trusting only your ears without any kind of prejudice.

The Garage Band Experience now awaits you.

PS: on the right of your screen you should be able to listen to the two songs whose reviews have been quoted here. If you are to write a comment about these songs, feel free to it except if you're from one of these localities: Kettering, Corby, Peterborough, Luton, Market Harborough, Bedford.

Sincerely Yours,

Pierre Alexander

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Figures of today: the man-machine

Ever heard of Kraftwerk? Of course you have. It was this famous German electronic band of the mid-70's who set the sonic blueprint for the New Wave and techno music of the decades to come. Their 1978 album "The Man-Machine" was the peak of their career as composers and modern pop visionaries, their songs establishing science fictionesque links between humans and technology.

The interesting thing about science-fiction is that with the everchanging course of progress, one never knows whether science fictional artworks will still be considered that way 20 or 40 years later. Thanks to the worldly triumphant politically correct, George's Orwell Newspeak is no longer science-fiction, but a sociological truth. A welcome victory for some, a sad backward step for others, a reality for all.

So how is doing the man-machine concept in 2009's world? Well, pretty well indeed. That's if you consider that what qualifies a human being is his intelligence, his education, his instinct and his dealing with failure, while the machine is all about certainty and figures. The facts are that the man-machine of 2009 , thanks to the helping hand of science and technology, is really close to perfection.

The man-machine still needs a brain to learn and produce sounds with his mouth and penis/vagina to transmit/receive the seeds of love, but that's all that is required if he chooses to keep things neat and simple. The machine part does the rest.

Love: move your feet to the computer, turn it on, log-in on website, type in the correct boxes "female", "between 28 and 30", "love clubbing and evening with friends", "urban lifestyle", "non smoking" and you get it: another (wo)man-machine, aged 31, who loves clubbing and evening with friends, who lives in New-York and doesn't smoke. Date her on the fifth avenue, do your part of small talk, watch out for bad breath and you're in for a sitter.

Social life: do the same on but make sure to untick the "relationship/involvement" box, or the machine might get it wrong.

Job: pretty easy, really. Pay another man-machine to have your work profile sensibly computerized and get your new Identikit, process the relevant databases for the match and wake up on time for the interview. Mistrust your instinct? Afraid of the final step?
No need to panic. Just train your brain to memorize that first: The man-machines who wrote it are devoted to your success.

Amazing sense of well-being: go out and buy Guitar Hero on XBox360, follow the instructions, get up the scale step by step, and enjoy. The sounds that you produce with your fingers are really yours, and all the clapping from the people in the audience are all for you!

Conclusion: the man-machine is safe. Some gentle souls have cleared the road for him. No more mistakes, no more shyness, no more anxiety, no more anguish about lack of self-recognition. The man-machine doesn't need a soul, he barely needs a brain and he can draw a cross on his Cro-Magnonesque instincts. Better leave that to the stupid ideal-seeking human being, who'll see what it takes to pick-up a girl in a bar, learn to play the guitar, improvize during an interview and dream his life while reading Byron and Salinger.

(But please, Mr/Mrs Man-machine, pity the poor fellow. He doesn't have your strength, you know)

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Figures of today: the terrorist

The terrorist will be second on the "Figures of today" list. And why is that? Because he asked for it - quicker than the bank advisor, who will get the third spot.

The terrorist isn't really a new figure in our 21th century fucked-up world. But like the pop singer, he evolved from a shape to another in order to adapt to the new reality, proving once again Darwin right.

So what are the terrorist figures we used to have in mind a few decades back in time?

First, the Andreas Baader-type terrorist, that is the far-left anarchist angry with everything related to the concepts of capitalism, hierarchy, mass-consumption, money and authority, which basically is what our society is all about. Freedom is an illusion, we're all corrupted to the bare bone and so we must change or die. Die Rote Armee Fraktion murdered police officers and bank directors, bombed US military barracks, set department stores on fire etc...

Then, the IRA-like terrorist, fighting for a cause (leave Northern Ireland at once you bloody british pigs), against a well-identified ennemy (the british pigs) in the name of history (look at what they've done to us Irish), all of which resulted in pub-bombing and murders among other things.

Third, the free-lance terrorists, such as Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, who bombed an office complex in Oklahoma City for obscure motives. I would call this the serial killer profiled terrorist.

Post Scriptum 1: For all his sins, Andreas Baader must be relieved not to have made it to 2009, for he would have had to face this heartbreaking truth: the number of department stores, bank directors and US military barracks have tripled since he started erasing them. These things grow faster than grass and even global warming is powerless against it.

The modern terrorist is the islamist fundamentalist terrorist, whose international exporting brand name is Al Qaïda. What did he learn from the previous ones? Nothing, because he doesn't give a shit and probably hardly knows about Baader and co. Who can seriously blame him for that? Most young people in France must think that the "Bande à Baader" was or is a technopop band and older people have other more important things to do rather than bringing them contradiction.

Apart from that, there's nothing really new to say about the islamist terrorist. We all know he hates America, we all know he tracks down the infidels and we all know he considers himself as a martyred hero fighting a Holy War. What we don't know is why he doesn't get himself an ukrainian girl on, buy milk and cornflakes for his breakfast and watch Dexter on ITV. Everybody would love him on this part of the world, and it would definitely help the bridge-building process between our great civilizations.

Post-scriptum 2: it seems that department stores, US military barracks, bank advisors and islamist terrorists have at least two things in common: they don't appeal to me and they grow faster than grass.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Figures of today: the pop singer

The "Figures of today" series starts with the pop singer. Why is the pop singer an important element of today's world? Because I said it was.

The pop singer is in the middle of a triangle. An equilateral triangle, whose initial apexes were: art, money and fame. Being a pop star was about doing art, getting rich and famous. The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Jim Morisson, Bob Marley, Serge Gainsbourg, Kurt Cobain, the list is endless.

Let's have a look at what happened to the apexes nowadays:


Interestingly enough, all the people mentionned achieved the status of legend, which almost certainly is or will be denied to their contemporary followers, whoever they are and whatever they achieve.
Britney Spears won't become legend, neither will Eminem or Pete Doherty even if they decide to jump from the top of the Eiffel Tower on a sunday afternoon. The last who tried to turn into a legend that way was Michael Hutchence from INXS and nobody remembers him apart from those who do remember him.
So why is the right to become a legend denied to them? Not because of their (in)ability or their personnality (although I doubt Britney Spears has one), but because the world has ceased making legends.
A legend is a product of the times, and the post-war 20th century needed singing heroes to accompany the political, social and economical changes in western societies. Some artists were acknowledged to be different class, different material. Looking up on them was a normal thing to do.
Now these times are over. Not because there is nobody left to look up to, but because people no longer wish to see things that way. To keep it clear and simple, we don't want legends: we want the throne they used to sit on in order to obtain what Andy Warhol called your 15 minutes of glory. If the guy's dead, alright then. There's nothing we can do, he can remain legend (Elvis is safe, and so is John Lennon). But he is among the last of the Mohicans.


When Paul Rothchild, the future manager of the Doors, spotted the band on stage, he said: "what you do guys is above everything I've seen or heard. It's cabaret, it's rock n'roll, it's Berthold Brecht." Art, at the times, was a case of a few giving sight to the many.
Now that everyone can see or at least wears spectacles, it's a case of the many giving medals to the few. And how do you get a medal? By sharing the view of the many.


The successful pop singer still makes a fair amount of money, all right. But is he the only one around? To drive a limousine back in the sixties, you actually needed to be a corrupted polician or a rock star. Even in Kettering, Northamptonshire, floating thing called UK, you can see teenagers going to the night-club on saturday night in a limo.
Plus, the cake is thinner and the guests are more. As the famous rock singer Sebastian Stelzer from Wuppertal once said during an interview with the Daily Pornograph at the Peacock, "music isn't a good way to make money anymore."

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Monday, January 19, 2009

5 reasons why it sucks if you're 28 and still at university

reason one: you should have a job by then. The only reason you don't have a job is you don't seriously look for one. You prefer to read books, sit on your ass and listen to some teacher who has nothing left to teach you. Shame on you, you're extra-smart, useless and lazy.

reason two: there's nothing more depressing than the view of a young female student panicking before an exam, re-reading her notes till the last minute with a bottle of mineral water put on her exam table.

reason three: university is full of left-wing activists who have bad influence over the other students. Their poisonous preaching turns them away from the only noble goal in life: be smarter than the one next to you, earn more money, have a better job and screw better-looking chicks.

reason four: I don't have a reason four.

reason five: university overtime extends your youth. It delays the ageing process, which may cause the Stelzer syndrom: a permanent inability to fit to the English way of life (although it remains hard even for the scientists to find a proper explanation for this).

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Monday, January 12, 2009

The meaning of life, part 3: cemetery plots

When do you buy a cemetery plot? The best time to buy was probably yesterday. The cost of a burial plot is rising like everything in our world. How do you choose a resting place? Take time and think about where you want your final resting place to be. You may want to be buried in the same cemetery that your family has used for years. If you live far from your family you may be looking at being buried around the area that you consider as home.The immediate location of the burial site will be an important decision. If the cemetery is hard to get to then it will be hard for your family to visit, and there will be times when they will want to visit. Make it easy on them.

The cost of a cemetery plot shouldn't deplete your bank account. If the cost is too exorbitant look elsewhere. When you check into the cost of the plot find out what it includes. If you have already made prearrangements with a funeral home then find out if the grave opening and closing, vault, and headstone or monument is included with your prearrangement. If so you may only need to pay the price for the plot itself. In larger cities you may find a municipal cemetery which will possibly be less of an expense than a private cemetery. Research your options in larger cities.

Ask about the cemetery rules. Will you have to be cremated in order to be placed in the cemetery of your choosing? What types of vaults do they allow or use? Do they allow flowers to be placed on your grave? Can your family come at any time to visit your grave or are there certain restrictions they must abide by? A funeral director may be able to assist you with names and contacts of cemeteries that they work with. Just make certain that the cemetery of your choice doesn't have rules that will be hard for your family to abide by.

In small communities you may be able to purchase several grave spaces at one time for family members so that you will have the family in the same location for generations to come.

For more information: ask your grandma

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The meaning of life, part 2: how to take a penalty kick

Picture: The orange areas are good places to aim the penalty kick, although low or high shots are even better. There is some room for error in case the shot is wider or higher than the target.

A well directed, firmly struck penalty in football is almost impossible for the goalkeeper to save, and yet penalties are frequently missed. Many football or soccer competitions, including the World Cup, European Championships, and F.A. Cup include a penalty shoot-out when the game tied after extra-time. England have been knocked out of the World Cup on penalty kicks. Technique is important, but coaches also need to consider the psychology of taking a penalty kick.

There are two broad categories of penalty takers, namely "placers" and "blasters". The first technique is to kick the football hard with the instep, whereas the second technique is to use the side of the foot. The advantage of the side foot is accuracy, but it lacks the power of using the instep, and it's important that the ball is struck firmly using this method. The instep method provides plenty of power, but there is more risk of scooping the ball over the cross bar, or snatching at it and dragging it wide of the goal. Whichever technique is used is a matter of personal preference, and in the professional game there are excellent penalty takers using either method.

Pyschologically, it's important to keep calm, and not allow the goalkeeper to be a distraction when taking a penalty kick. Goalkeepers will try anything to put you off, including jumping up and now and trying to intimidate you. It's best to check the goalkeeper's position in case he is leaving one half of the goal completely open, but be sure to concentrate on the football as you take the tick. Some players find that taking a deep breath before taking a penalty helps.

From Soccer Academy v. 2, football coaching software

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The meaning of life, part 1: the female orgasm

Picture on the left: "Three representational variations of female sexual response. Pattern 1 shows multiple orgasm; pattern 2 shows arousal that reaches the plateau level without going on to orgasm (note the resolution occurs more slowly); and pattern 3 shows several brief drops in the excitement phase followed by an even more rapid resolution phase."

"Sexologists have broken the sexual response cycle into four phases, excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. These are arbitrary definitions and a person is not likely to be aware of their body experiencing each individual phase. The amount of time a person spends in each phase, and even the order in which they experience them may vary. A woman on a date may become sexually aroused several times, even without her knowing, without her ever reaching the plateau phase.
She may experience arousal and the plateau phase during an intense session of dancing, but return to her un-aroused state during the ride home. Once home she may quickly experience arousal and orgasm, as the result of direct genital stimulation without experiencing the plateau phase.
The manner in which a person experiences each phase is unique to them, and even this will change depending on their mood and who they are with."

"Arousal may be accompanied by these physical responses to mental and/or physical stimuli:
Vaginal lubrication begins first, within 10-30 seconds.
- The inner two thirds of the vagina expands.
- The uterus and cervix are pulled upwards.
- The labia majora flatten and spread apart.
- The labia minora increase in size.
- The clitoris increases in size.
- The nipples may become erect as the result of muscle contractions.
- When highly aroused the breasts may increase in size."

From the book Masters and Johnson on Sex and Human Loving Page 58 Copyright 1982, 1985, 1986 By William H. Masters, Virginia E Johnson, and Robert C. Kolodny.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Rebel Rebel

There was a time in history when being a rebel consisted in affirmative action. Now you ask me: what the bloody hell is affirmative action? And I answer you: affirmative action is when you say "Yes, I do" or "Yes, I have" or "Yes we can". Affirmative action is when you positively do something while other people don't.

So how come affirmative action was the way of the rebels back in time? Well, look at James Dean. He basically said: "Yes I'm young but I can drive a car and I can drive it fast." Look at the French students in 1968, demonstrating and fighting cops in the streets while their parents were watching the show on TV at home. Remember the first guy who came at school holding a mobile phone in his right hand, and we were all like "Waouh, that's cool, does this thing really work?"
And what about the guy who publicly admitted then that he couldn't deal with just one girlfriend because he needed at least three at a time, the same who preached against mariage and stuff since it was after all, according to him, nothing else but a heartbreaking farewell to women?

These people were true rebels, pure avant-garde leaders because they had, did or could do something that we couldn't afford or were afraid of. What about now?

Well, now, these people aren't rebels anymore. They're just people like you and me. Sad and boring human waste waiting for the old garbage truck to collect their bones and send them to heaven. And that's because affirmative action is dead and buried.

The modern rebel now stands for something else; he stands for negative retroaction. And what is negative retroaction? Well, plain and simple, really. Negative retroaction is to say "No, I don't", "No, I haven't" or "No, we can't". Just check this: a 21th century 20-year-old chap who doesn't have a mobile phone, can't drive a car, doesn't yeal against the government, doesn't long for anything but one girl for life and doesn't plan to cheat on her. There are two options: either he's a retarded moron, or he's just a rebel. A rebel just like James Dean. Except nobody likes him.

PS: some may use the term affirmative action to refer to policies that take gender, race, or ethnicity into account in an attempt to promote equal opportunity. Well, fuck them.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Women are wonderful (part 3)

Preamble: That's only part 3 and I'm already short of ideas. I guess I must be a pathetic misogynous scumbag, not being able to find one more argument to back womanhood. But I think this one could do the job.

Women are wonderful. Yes they are. Everybody knows that and those who don't should know better. And why are women wonderful? Because they have personal taste and we don't. Check this. We are the ones pigging out disgusting food in front of the TV. We are the ones buying cheap clothes and wearing them no matter what we look like. We are the ones wearing black pants and white socks without giving a shit. We are the ones spending half a minute in a furniture shop getting a wood table although it doesn't suit the rest.

A woman would never do that, because she has taste. She would yawn in front of a Wim Wenders movie, yes she would. She would spit on Serge Gainsbourg or cry her eyes out listening to Mariah Carey, but she would never buy a wood table if it didn't suit the rest.

Conclusion: It's time for you now to think about becoming a woman. Sex-change surgery is common and affordable nowadays. Just login there: and enjoy the trip

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Women are wonderful (part 2)

Women are wonderful. They really really are. And why is that? Because they have such powerful insight that they can see things through walls and barriers, whatever their thickness.

One example. Barry, 26 years old, pays a visit to his mother after 2 years of absence. He's got many things to say, he's got a lot of catch up to do. He fell in love, as a start. With a wonderful girl whose body and soul match his own body and soul. He got fired from his job but luckily found another one after months of starvation and bad cheques to cover the bills. He wrote a book, directed a film and played in a band that made it to television.
So he tells all that to his mum, and the first reply he gets is: "I see you wear a new scarf. When did you buy this one?"

Conclusion: "Lady day's got diamond eyes, she sees the truth behind the lies" (U2, Angel of Harlem). We may think women pay too much attention to detail but they don't. They just cut the crap and go for the real thing.

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Women are wonderful (part 1)

Women are wonderful. They're so eager to give that when they by accident refuse you something, they immediately give you something else as a compensation. One example: a girl you're chasing after won't sleep with you and she makes it clear. That's a refusal. But in most cases this won't be her final line. She will add something like "I want us to remain friends". If you already were her friend, you won't win a lot in the bargain.

But what happens sometimes is that you didn't even know the girl, you just caught her number from a friend or got a date on facebook and saw her like twice in your life. But she will still tell you after turning you down: "I want you to be my friend". As you were nothing at all before that, consider it as a promotion.

Conclusion: it's very easy to be friend with a girl. Just court her without success and get the prize of her remorse.

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