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Christopher Tolkien speaks!
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Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Jul 12 2012, 1:50am

Post #1 of 117 (2863 views)
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Christopher Tolkien speaks! Can't Post

Christopher Tolkien has given an extraordinarily rare interview with the French paper Le Monde, which has now been translated into English. I can't vouch for the translation, not being a French speaker, but it certainly is much more coherent than the Google Translate that I attempted to read of the original French article. I don't have a lot of time to comment, but there are some remarkable statements in here.

One thing is clear, assuming that is an accurate translation and that Christopher is not misquoted: no longer can it be said that Christopher Tolkien has not publicly criticized Peter Jackson's films!

http://sedulia.blogs.com/.../was-first-felt.html

I'll be curious to hear other's reactions.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


QuackingTroll
Valinor

Jul 12 2012, 2:05am

Post #2 of 117 (1446 views)
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Makes one think, if Tolkien were alive today... // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Aragorn the Elfstone
Grey Havens


Jul 12 2012, 2:19am

Post #3 of 117 (1590 views)
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"...making it an action movie for young people 15 to 25." [In reply to] Can't Post

That statement seems completely out of touch, considering the wide appeal these films had. Though it's not like I'm entirely surprised. I admire Christopher a great deal for the work he's done regarding his father's writings, but it's really a shame he's so close minded regarding the films, adaptation, etc.



"All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to find that it was vanity; But the dreamers of day are dangerous men. That they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible."
- T.E. Lawrence


(This post was edited by Aragorn the Elfstone on Jul 12 2012, 2:23am)


Yngwulff
Gondor


Jul 12 2012, 2:31am

Post #4 of 117 (1456 views)
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If JRR were alive [In reply to] Can't Post

He'd be on set and the estate would get their fair share.
Merchandising wasn't around back when he sold the rights ... so they got screwed there.

I don't think Christopher Tolkien objects so much to the movies adaptaion, but the circus of it all in general and the changes made to appeal/cater to social groups (like Bain to suck in the Justin Beiber crowd).

Cheer up Chris ... there are plenty of us who love the books for what they are!!!
Don't let Hollywood and Studio execs ruin for you and enjoy the movies for what they are!


Take this Brother May it Serve you Well
Vote for Pedro!


Ataahua
Superuser / Moderator


Jul 12 2012, 2:56am

Post #5 of 117 (1457 views)
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I find irony here. [In reply to] Can't Post

After publication of The Lord of the Rings there was a sector of reviewers who dismissed it as being mere fantasy, and so could not be considered literature. Now Christopher is dismayed about the story’s overwhelming popularity in modern media and products, which he believes detract from the book’s philosophical impact.

PJ always said that his movies would not be the definitive LOTR and that he could only make his version of the story. Those movie-inspired millions of new readers of LOTR will see for themselves the breadth and depth of Tolkien’s creation – an idea that Christopher should take comfort from.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded b*****d with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Jul 12 2012, 3:02am

Post #6 of 117 (1377 views)
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Not just the film stuff [In reply to] Can't Post

I know the comments about the films are the most controversial things said in this article, but there are a lot of other really interesting things. For instance, this comment of Baille, Christopher's wife:


Quote

"When he left, he would put armfuls of papers into a suitcase which he always kept with him. When he arrived, he would sometimes pull out any sheet at random and start with that one!"


What a vivid illustration of Tolkien's random genius!

Perhaps the most interesting comment to me is this one of Christopher's:


Quote

First in England, then in France, he reassembled the parts of The Silmarillion, made the whole more coherent, added padding here and there, and published the book in 1977, with some remorse. "Right away I thought that the book was good, but a little false, in the sense that I had had to invent some passages," he explains. At the time, he even had a disagreeable dream. "I was in my father's office at Oxford. He came in and started looking for something in great anxiety. Then I realized in horror that it was The Silmarillion, and I was terrified at the thought that he would discover what I had done."



At the risk of contradicting Christopher (something I have been criticized for in the past, despite my great admiration for the man), I think his father would have been more upset had Christopher not published The Silmarillion than he would have been with what he did publish, faults and all (most of which are due to Tolkien's own failure to complete the work). If that makes sense.

The article does have some errors in it (due to the reporter, not to Christopher and the others interviewed). For instance, geordie will surely confirm that it is quite inaccurate to say that " Until then [when The Hobbit was published], Tolkien had published only a renowned essay on Beowulf ... ." Still, it is an interesting article, and a worthwhile glimpse into the world of the Tolkien family and it's current patriarch.

One other thing that it appears to put to rest. There has been much debate about whether the the films really increased sales of the books all that much, or whether their popularity remained fairly consistent. This quote from David Brawn, at HarperCollins seems to answer that pretty conclusively: " In the United Kingdom, sales went up by 1000% after the release of the first movie in the trilogy." Still, Christopher and the others interviewed make a compelling argument that the increased popularity of the books is overwhelmed by the overall effect of the films and the inundation into popular culture.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


Arandiel
Grey Havens

Jul 12 2012, 4:54am

Post #7 of 117 (1368 views)
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Quite a contrast to J.K. Rowling's handling of many similar issues, [In reply to] Can't Post

and there ends what I can say while remaining polite in the face of the elitism/popularism pie fight. sigh.


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Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jul 12 2012, 6:28am

Post #8 of 117 (1359 views)
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Christopher is in a tough position. [In reply to] Can't Post

He's the "guardian" of his father's work. This, even if his father's works were not so popular the world over, would be difficult. It's my observation that one who has inherited a duty to protect someone else's work , name, or reputation is often even more zealous than the person himself would have been. In fact, it's hard not to be, since one worries more over being too slack than too careful, a worry which is echoed in Christopher's guilt over his personal additions to the published Silmarillion. Would Tolkien himself have liked or approved of all the ways that his creation has been adopted and adapted by pop culture? Surely not, and we know that his fanbase was a trial to him. But in a way, it may be even harder on Christopher trying to speak for him than it would have been for him to speak for himself. In any case, trying to contain something that has made its way into popular culture is impossible. It really is best that he ignores it because there is really nothing he can do about it.

Also, Christopher is 87. I cannot imagine any of my grandparents at the age of 87 watching and enjoying LOTR. My grandmother, who was about that age, saw a brief bit of the Balrog confrontation on a cousin's new home theater setup, and she was aghast. This was not what her generation considered entertainment. We have a generational culture gap here along with all the other factors. I do not think a movie could be made which would appeal to general audiences at this time and Christopher Tolkien.

In a purely speculative vein, I would love to be a fly on the wall for a conversation between Christopher Tolkien and Christopher Lee about the films. Being two gentlemen of the same generation but in very different positions regarding the modern adaptation, that would surely be a conversation worth hearing.

Silverlode

"Of all faces those of our familiares are the ones both most difficult to play fantastic tricks with, and most difficult really to see with fresh attention. They have become like the things which once attracted us by their glitter, or their colour, or their shape, and we laid hands on them, and then locked them in our hoard, acquired them, and acquiring ceased to look at them.
Creative fantasy, because it is mainly trying to do something else [make something new], may open your hoard and let all the locked things fly away like cage-birds. The gems all turn into flowers or flames, and you will be warned that all you had (or knew) was dangerous and potent, not really effectively chained, free and wild; no more yours than they were you."
-On Fairy Stories

(This post was edited by Silverlode on Jul 12 2012, 6:30am)


Elizabeth
Valinor


Jul 12 2012, 7:29am

Post #9 of 117 (1440 views)
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What LotR the book set out to be... [In reply to] Can't Post

...as I understand it, was a "sequel to The Hobbit". TH was a children's book. LotR was pitched at a somewhat older audience. I believe one could reasonably make the argument that Tolkien intended it as an "action book for young people 15 to 25."

Of course, it is much more than that, as is TH. The "esthetic and philosophical impact" of the book is a blessing beyond his hopes, I think, although from his letters it is clear that he did (after the fact) begin to realize what he had achieved. In fact, it's possible that this realization is what paralyzed his efforts to whip the Sil into shape.






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geordie
Tol Eressea

Jul 12 2012, 7:32am

Post #10 of 117 (1343 views)
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On a slightly contentious note - [In reply to] Can't Post

- the article in Le Monde was published last Saturday; a couple of folk I know are working on a translation, but waiting to get the necessary permissions to reproduce them on the net.

This translation appeared soon after the original was published. I don't see any acknowledgements for the newspaper, nor the article's author; but I note Sedulia is quick to claim copyright of his own work, that is, his translation. Hmm.
.


geordie
Tol Eressea

Jul 12 2012, 7:50am

Post #11 of 117 (1380 views)
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I don't think Tolkien had an age range in mind - [In reply to] Can't Post

- What he says in the Foreword to the 2nd edition is

'The prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers...'

I certainly don't agree that Tolkien 'intended LotR as an 'action book', for any group of readers, whether defined by age or any other 'demographic'. (I wonder if that word was in common use back then?) He just dind't think along those lines, as far as I can see.

As it happens, I agree with young Christopher on this point - and, as Voronwe says, there is more in the article to look at and think about. For example; I and others, have seen another chair in which, we're told, Tolkien sat whilst composing TH and LotR. Which story is 'true'? Probably both of 'em - I expect the Tolkiens had more than one chair!

Wink


geordie
Tol Eressea

Jul 12 2012, 8:23am

Post #12 of 117 (1284 views)
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Yes, well - [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to -

"geordie will surely confirm that it is quite inaccurate to say that " Until then [when The Hobbit was published], Tolkien had published only a renowned essay on Beowulf ... ."

That's true - by the time of the first publication of TH on September 21st 1937, Tolkien had published some sixty-one items. Mostly poetry as it happens; but also some heavy-duty academic stuff, too, including an article on Ancrenne Wisse which Tom Shippey describes as 'the most perfect of Tolkien's academic writings'.

I think it's also a bit precious of the Le Monde article to say that

" Until then [when The Hobbit was published], Tolkien had published only a renowned essay on Beowulf ... ."

- because Tolkien's lecture 'Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics' was published just a month or two before TH, on 1st July 1937. See this page -

http://www.forodrim.org/arda/tbchron.html

Shippey thinks a lot of Ancrenne Wisse, and 'The Monsters and the Critics - and also Tolkien's foray into the Old English poem 'The Battle of Maldon'. (ie, tolkien's 'The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son', first published in 'Essays and Studies 1953'). Shippey says that these three 'Rocked the collective jaw of academe right back on its spine and would have done if (Tolkien) had never written a word of fiction'.

('Tolkien's Academic Reputation Now, in 'Roots and Branches: Selected Papers on Tolkien by Tom Shippey)

Mind you, Shippey adds that in his opinion, Tolkien was wrong in two out of three of those pieces, but that's academics for ya! Wink

Being the province of a biblionut, the geordie library has copies of all three of these writings by Tolkien, of course - in the original dustwrappers (except for 'Monsters' - the most usual way of finding that lecture is as an offprint of the Proceedings of the British Academy 1936, and therefore has soft covers).

There's also a rare item in the geordie library audio section - a recording of 'The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son', read by Tolkien himself. Contrary to a common belief that tolkien despised technology, the old chap was very fond of his tape-recorder (not to mention his typewriters - he had several, inc. one with an Anglo-Saxon typeface!) Tolkien recorded his poem in his sitting-room at his house in Sandfield Road, Oxford. You can hear the clock ticking in the background, and the sound of a car going by outside. Tolkien had a great sense of the dramatic, despite what he had to say about 'drama' in general.

The original article in Essays and Studies also had an Introduction, titled 'Beorhtnoth's Death', and an afterword called 'Ofermod'. Christopher Tolkien reads both of these on this recording; he reads as well as his father, which is to say, very well indeed. (but then Christopher was a teacher at Oxford too).

In an earlier post, I said I agree with what Christopher says in the le Monde article about his feelings about the movies. I hope anyone who's read this post will get some inkling as to why I should feel that in this, as in many other ways, I'm on Christopher's side.





(This post was edited by geordie on Jul 12 2012, 8:32am)


sador
Half-elven


Jul 12 2012, 8:31am

Post #13 of 117 (1325 views)
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Well, [In reply to] Can't Post

He has not criticised the films as films, but rather the idea of mass-marketing his father's writings. The article doesn't even indicate whether he had actually seen any of them.

I think Christopher is concerned with the cultural phenomenon as such - but unlike Led Zeppelin or even Bakshi, Jackson did offer an interpretation some fans see as authentic. Which is naturally different from the original. It's a case of damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

The most I can say is that I gave up annually reading The Lord of the Rings before the age of 25. Since Jackson's movies came out, I have given more thought to Tolkien's works than ever before, and bought quite a few books by JRRT, Christopher and several scholars - while not watching any other film Jackson himself directed.

It's up to you to decide on which side of the scales this case should weigh.

"I personally still think of The Hobbit as a brilliant story aimed specifically at older children, with its own theme about growing up, that has little to do with the epic of the Ring that followed it."
- squire.



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geordie
Tol Eressea

Jul 12 2012, 8:52am

Post #14 of 117 (1246 views)
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Oops - a correction [In reply to] Can't Post

I was going off my memory for parts of my earlier post - I wrote:

"Shippey says that these three 'Rocked the collective jaw of academe right back on its spine and would have done if (Tolkien) had never written a word of fiction'."

Whereas what Shippey actually wrote was:

"
...there is no doubt that three of Tolkien's articles rocked the collective jaw of academe right back on its spine, and would have done so if he had never published a line of fiction."

Sorry about that.

Smile



geordie
Tol Eressea

Jul 12 2012, 10:03am

Post #15 of 117 (1422 views)
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Christopher isn't the only one who feels they're 'action movies' [In reply to] Can't Post

- Verlyn Flieger says the same thing in her Q&A session with ToRn, in 'More People's Guide to JRR Tolkien'. Flieger says:

"...Jackson has turned an extremely sophisticated, complex and subtle - and very long - story into an action movie that I think satisfies the audience for whom he made it".
(More People's Guide, p.116)

Flieger goes on in this vein at some length. I wonder if she was ever asked to contribute to the dvd extras, like Tom Shippey?

Smile


sador
Half-elven


Jul 12 2012, 10:32am

Post #16 of 117 (1281 views)
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Such bad manner! [In reply to] Can't Post

I forgot to thank you for posting this!


In Reply To
I can't vouch for the translation, not being a French speaker, but it certainly is much more coherent than the Google Translate that I attempted to read of the original French article.


Now that's a real fan for you! It never occured to me to try that.
I also trusted someone would post a translation here. Smile

"I personally still think of The Hobbit as a brilliant story aimed specifically at older children, with its own theme about growing up, that has little to do with the epic of the Ring that followed it."
- squire.



The weekly discussion of The Hobbit is back. Join us in the Reading Room for An Unexpected Party!


imin
Valinor


Jul 12 2012, 2:27pm

Post #17 of 117 (1227 views)
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Very interesting [In reply to] Can't Post

From reading that i think Christopher is annoyed in that he feels PJ's interpretation of his fathers work is becoming the main focus or THE work and the book is less important. He also doesn't like how it has taken out the more somber/slow/reflective parts and as he sees it is just an action movie. It makes me think that to him it has narrowed what ME is and cheapened it.

He is very old now and i doubt he would like LOTR movies whether he was Tolkien's son or not, its just not a film i can imagine someone of that age appreciating as much as a younger person (anyone younger than him).

It will be interesting to see when he passes, what direction the Tolkien Estate will take with (is it Adam Tolkien) at the head. I would like to think he will carry on in the same way as Christopher as in continue to work hard and publicize the books Tolkien made but for me i don't want them to sell the rights to The Silmarillion for example. At this time i don't think they would but you never know what will happen in the future. I imagine copyright will come into it some day, but i think you can extend/renew copyright so who knows!


Otaku-sempai
Half-elven


Jul 12 2012, 2:55pm

Post #18 of 117 (1311 views)
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It is too bad that Christopher Tolkien can't be more positive [In reply to] Can't Post

It is as much thanks to the Peter Jackson films (perhaps more so) as to his own efforts to expand on his father's bibliography that JRR Tolkien is arguably more widely read now than ever before.

"Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man's part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house." - Aragorn


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Jul 12 2012, 3:21pm

Post #19 of 117 (1282 views)
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Yes and no [In reply to] Can't Post

What you say is undeniably true. There is for more discussion of and thought about Tolkien's work than there ever would have been without the films. However, there is an element of what Christopher is saying that is equally undeniably true. There is a commercialization of Middle-earth that antithetical to what Tolkien wrote and believed.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


geordie
Tol Eressea

Jul 12 2012, 3:36pm

Post #20 of 117 (1233 views)
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I agree with what you say about Christopher - [In reply to] Can't Post

- I've just had occassion to look again at an article on Tolkien by Bill Cater (He of 'The English speaking world is divided into those who have read TH and LotR, and those who are going to read them' fame). Cater wrote those words in 1972.

Here's a link to a much later article, where he muses on his past meetings with JRR, and with Christopher, and the possible effects of the movies on the family.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/4726863/We-talked-of-love-death-and-fairy-tales.html

.


(This post was edited by geordie on Jul 12 2012, 3:37pm)


dormouse
Half-elven


Jul 12 2012, 4:43pm

Post #21 of 117 (1238 views)
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That's an extraordinary article, Voronwe [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm so glad you posted the link.

You were curious about people's reactions. I had immense sympathy for him, reading that, and a sense of how deeply committed he has been to his father's work, and for how long. It seems analogous, in a way, to someone who gives up their own life, career or time, to caring for a disabled or elderly parent. It's a huge undertaking and responsibility and you're always driven by the sense that however much you give it can never be enough. His dream after bringing the Silmarillion to publication seems very sad to me. I didn't know his father and he did, but I'd like to think that JRRTolkien would be pleased and proud - perhaps even a little in awe of the fact that his son has devoted so much of himself to complete his work.

Of course anyone reading the article might point to the fact that the Estate has gained an awful lot financially from the films, both in terms of percentages of the takings and in increased book sales. Perhaps it would be satisfying if Christopher Tolkien could acknowledge that or derive some pleasure from it, but I can well understand why he doesn't. Reading the article I feel almost guilty for liking the films - but I still like them.


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Jul 12 2012, 6:35pm

Post #22 of 117 (1178 views)
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Wonderful comments // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


geordie
Tol Eressea

Jul 12 2012, 6:41pm

Post #23 of 117 (1193 views)
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Well, [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to -

"Of course anyone reading the article might point to the fact that the Estate has gained an awful lot financially from the films, both in terms of percentages of the takings and in increased book sales. Perhaps it would be satisfying if Christopher Tolkien could acknowledge that or derive some pleasure from it, but I can well understand why he doesn't."


- I could point to the final paragraphs of the article by Bill Cater which I pointed to above:

>Recalling our meeting in the Seventies, I wrote to Christopher recently, through those Oxford solicitors, asking him if he still found his father's works a source of scholarly as well as personal interest. Did he ever regret quitting Oxford? Was there anything more to be hewn from the quarry of manuscripts his father had left? And did he ever feel, rather like the inheritor of some great landed estate, that though his bequest was a source of pride and pleasure, it was also a wearying burden of responsibility?
His reply, through the solicitor, thanked me, said pleasant things about my contacts with his parents but refused to be interviewed.
"The forthcoming films and their attendant publicity have given rise to press interest in Mr Tolkien and members of his family on a scale and at a level of intrusion not previously known interest focuses almost exclusively on the success of Tolkien's writing in financial terms and the material benefits resulting to his family," said the letter.
Put briefly, there should be more interest in the work and less interest in the money.
I quite agree. It's a shame. But The Lord of the Rings is now a show. And that's show business.<
.


(This post was edited by geordie on Jul 12 2012, 6:42pm)


dormouse
Half-elven


Jul 12 2012, 6:53pm

Post #24 of 117 (1191 views)
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I agree, geordie... [In reply to] Can't Post

If there's one thing that shines through the article Voronwe posted it's that Christopher Tolkien is committed to the work and not the money. And as I said, I can understand why he feels as he does about the commercialisation - and trivialisation - of parts of that work. I wish it weren't so, because all those of use who love his father's writing owe him so much.

I followed your link too and found Bill Cater's article very interesting - why do I always feel as if you're telling me off! Wink


geordie
Tol Eressea

Jul 12 2012, 7:11pm

Post #25 of 117 (1159 views)
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Ah - [In reply to] Can't Post

- if I come across that way, I'm sorry. I don't mean to. (anyway; who am I to tell anybody off?) Smile

Rest assured, I appreciate your comments and respect your point of view - what's more, I agree with you as often as not.

.

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