Features

The Return of the Popcorn Circus: May 2008

In the first act of this four-part production, Tinsel Town decides to do some unbelievable front loading. Will there be room for independent offerings, or former HBO carnal comedy divas? Who knows? Without a doubt, it's an interesting way to start the season.

In the first act of this four-part production, Tinsel Town decides to do some unbelievable front loading. We'll see the start of a new franchise (hopefully) for Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr., as well as a Matrix-less Wachowskis, the fourth installment in another beloved blockbuster series, along with the second in a proposed seven film arc based on a popular set of children's novels -- and all of this happens in a mere three weeks. Will there be room for independent offerings, or former HBO carnal comedy divas? Who knows? Without a doubt, it's an interesting way to start the season.

Director: Jon Favreau Film: Iron Man Studio: Paramount Pictures Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, Faran Tahir, Leslie Bibb Website: http://ironmanmovie.marvel.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-05-02 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-05-02 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/i/iron-man-poster.jpg

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2 May

In the Center Ring

Iron Man

To say that director Jon Favreau has his work cut out for him is an understatement. Here he is, the maker of such marginal hits as Elf and Zathura taking on one of Marvel's mainstays -- and using the action picture canvas as his calling card into Summer season success. Iron Man has had one of the more troubled production paths of the celebrated superheroes. Luckily, the buzz is already big -- early screenings have the geeks going ape over the casting (including the incredible Robert Downey Jr. as the mighty metal Tony Stark) and the trueness of Favreau's vision. And the trailer has offered its own comic book fanboy freak out facets. How mainstream audiences will respond to the rather unfamiliar character (aside from Black Sabbath fans, he's not that well known) will remain to be seen. Favreau's effort could be the blockbuster to beat. It could also be the under-performing shape of cinematic things to come.

Iron Man

Director: Paul Weiland Film: Made of Honor Studio: Sony Cast: Michelle Monaghan, Patrick Dempsey, Kadeem Hardison, Kevin McKidd, Kelly Carlson, Busy Philipps Website: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/madeofhonor/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-05-02 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/m/made_of_honor.jpg

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2 May

The Outer Circles

Made of Honor

Given his previous career as subpar generic John Hughes teen knockoff -- Can't Buy Me Love ring a bell? -- the newfound ascension of Dempsey into the ranks of the romantic lead is slightly surreal. Of course, a four year stint as Dr. Derek Shepherd on the hit show Gray's Anatomy helps, as does a decent turn as Amy Adam's human love interest in the animated fairytale come to life, Enchanted. How he'll hold up in this otherwise anemic looking rom-com will all depend on his chemistry with co-star Michelle Monaghan. Advance word is not too promising.

Made of Honor

Director: Harmony Korine Film: Mister Lonely Studio: IFC Films Cast: Diego Luna, Samantha Morton, Werner Herzog, Anita Pallenberg, David Blaine, Joseph Morgan, Denis Lavant Website: http://www.misterlonely.co.uk/ MPAA rating: N/A First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-05-02 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/m/misterlonely.jpg

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2 May

Sneaking in Under the Tent

Mister Lonely

Harmony Korine, the mind behind the scripts for Kids and Ken Park offers up his third take behind the camera (after Gummo and

Julien Donkey-Boy) and the premise looks tempting. A Michael Jackson impersonator is invited by a Marilyn Monroe clone to join a celebrity lookalike commune in Scotland. Themes of identification and hiding from the world are obvious, and the symbolic struggles of fame are present as well. With a stellar cast including Samantha Morton and director Werner Herzog.

Mister Lonely

Director: Garth Jennings Film: Son of Rambow Studio: Paramount Vantage Cast: Bill Milner, Will Poulter, Jules Sitruk, Jessica Stevenson, Neil Dudgeon, Ed Westwick Website: http://www.sonoframbow.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2007 Distributor: Paramount US Release Date: 2008-05-02 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2008-04-04 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/s/sonoframbowposter.jpg

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2 May

Sneaking in Under the Tent

Son of Rambow

Will, a young boy living an isolated existence under his family's strict religious code, befriends Lee, the local renegade outsider. After exposing the entertainment exile to a bootleg copy of the Sylvester Stallone classic, the duo decide to make their own homemade celluloid celebration of the character. Of course, it all has to be kept secret from Will's faith-led clan. After his less than successful adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, this looks like director Garth Jennings big breakthrough.

Son of Rambow

Display Artist: Andy and Larry Wachowski Director: Andy Director: Larry Wachowski Film: Speed Racer Studio: Warner Brothers Cast: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, Matthew Fox, Roger Allam, Paulie Litt, Benno Fürmann, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rain, Scott Porter, Richard Roundtree, Kick Gurry Website: http://speedracerthemovie.warnerbros.com/ MPAA rating: PG First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-05-09 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-05-09 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/s/speedracerposter.jpg

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9 May

In the Center Ring

Speed Racer

Will the Wachowski's ever fully live down the last two acts of their Matrix trilogy? Seems that everything they do -- or did -- is now measured against those confounding psychobabble sequels. It’s not there fault that expectations failed to mesh with what was purposefully put onscreen. Or maybe it was. Anyway, with its pinball machine color scheme and retro-cartoon compunction, the boys seem poised to take back a bit of their revisionist reputation. One thing's for certain, this digitally enhanced movie looks amazing. The race sequences recall anime on acid, while the visual cues and directorial flourishes have a firm foundation in the old '60s series. Perfectly cast -- especially Emile Hirsch as the title character, Christina Ricci as his gal pal Trixie, and John Goodman as the jovial Pops Racer -- and overloaded with enticing imagery, this could wind up the film that wipes out the last vestiges of Neo, Morpheus, and Trinity forever.

Speed Racer

Director: Tom Vaughan Film: What Happens in Vegas Studio: 20th Century Fox Cast: Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher, Rob Corddry, Treat Williams, Lake Bell, Dennis Farina, Queen Latifah Website: http://www.whathappensinvegasmovie.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 Distributor: Fox US Release Date: 2008-05-09 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-05-09 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/w/what_happens_in_vegas.jpg

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9 May

The Outer Circles

What Happens in Vegas...

Here's an original idea (wink, wink). Take a pair of unlikely lovers, give them a drunken night in Sin City, pile on the inebriated nuptials (which no one remembers) and toss in a hefty jackpot. Sounds like a winner, right? Filed under Number 12432 in the standard cinematic formula department, there's very little hope for this so-called comedy. The casting of Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz as the leads aside, this take on the already tired tagline to the Nevada hotspot seems like an exhausted idea looking for a place to die. Let's get the eulogy ready, shall we?

What Happens in Vegas

Director: David Mamet Film: Redbelt Studio: Sony Classics Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tim Allen, Emily Mortimer, Alice Braga, Rodrigo Santoro, Joe Mantegna, Rebecca Pidgeon, Ricky Jay, John Machado Website: http://www.sonyclassics.com/redbelt/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-05-09 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/r/redbeltposter.jpg

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9 May

Sneaking in Under the Tent

Redbelt

How does the combination of David Mamet and Mixed Martial Arts happen? Better yet, what does the Tony winning playwright bring to this world that makes his insights any clearer? Of course, there's his way with character, and early reports have lead Chiwetel Ejiofor already lining up for his awards season run. But others have pointed to the lack of action, the convolution of the narrative and motivational issues as potential problems.

Redbelt

Director: Xavier Gens Film: Frontier(s) Studio: Lionsgate Cast: Karina Testa, Aurélien Wiik, Patrick Ligardes, David Saracino, Chems Dahmani, Maud Forget, Samuel Le Bihan, Estelle Lefébure, Jean-Pierre Jorris Website: http://www.frontiersunrated.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-05-09 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/f/frontiersposter.jpg

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9 May

Sneaking in Under the Tent

Frontier(s)

The French have had a fabulous string of luck with their genre efforts as of late. With Haute Tension, Ils, and Inside out-scarring their American competition, one has high hopes for this Xavier Gens helmed effort. While the story sounds like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre by way of a concentration camp (Parisian criminals end up in an inn run by vicious Neo-Nazis), there's the potential for some potent bloodletting here. Here's hoping this material is more solid than sordid.

Frontier(s)

Director: Bruce McDonald Film: The Tracey Fragments Studio: THINKFilm Cast: Ellen Page, Libby Adams, Ari Cohen, Julian Richings, Max McCabe-Lokos, Erin McMurtry, Slimtwig, Daniel Fathers, Todd Sandomirsky, Kate Todd, Ryan Cooley Website: http://www.thetraceyfragments.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-05-09 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/t/thetraceyfragments.jpg

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9 May

Sneaking in Under the Tent

The Tracey Fragments

Current young actress "IT" girl Ellen Page stars in this faithful translation of Maureen Medved's novel. Taking the book's monologue heavy foundation and forcing it into a mainstream movie may be tough. Even worse, the subject matter deals frankly with the typical teen angst/dysfunctional family issues. Director Bruce McDonald decides to forgo the normative and employ a vignette heavy, non-linear storytelling style. Many early reviews have pointed to this scattershot approach as the film's main stumbling block.

The Tracey Fragments

Director: Andrew Adamson Film: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Studio: Walt Disney Pictures Cast: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Ben Barnes, Peter Dinklage, Warwick Davis, Vincent Grass, Ken Stott, Pierfrancesco Favino, Sergio Castellitto, Liam Neeson, Eddie Izzard Website: http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/narnia/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-05-16 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-06-26 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/p/princecaspianposter.jpg

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16 May

In the Center Ring

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Disney seems destined to force all seven of the C. S. Lewis penned fantasy epics down film fans throats -- and as long as the movies make as much money as the first installment (2005's The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe -- $800 million worldwide and counting), the House of Mouse is full steam ahead. Caspian promises to be more action-oriented than its predecessor, with an expanded world and more battle scenes. But the Tolkien-ish nature of the storyline (evil king won't let rightful ruler reign) may give this sequel an unnecessary sense of déjà vu. It will be interesting to see if this installment draws in as many new fans as old. Those already familiar with the revisionist religious allegory, loaded with good vs. evil elements and numerous talking critters, are already lining up. Other studios clearly view the series as unstoppable. There is nothing else scheduled to open this weekend. Wow.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Director: Steven Spielberg Film: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Studio: Paramount Pictures Cast: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Ian McDiarmid Website: http://www.indianajones.com/site/index.html MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-05-22 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-05-22 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/k/kingdomofthecrystalskull.jpg

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22 May

In the Center Ring

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

This may sound cynical, but something just doesn't feel "right" about this fourth film in the ultimate '80s adventure series. Given George Lucas' knack for unnecessary undermining and the questionable content already revealed (a main character named Mutt? What, Short Round was too subtle?), one has to pray that a rock solid Spielberg can pull this one out of the approaching abyss. For many blinded by their love of the character and the three previous installments offered, anything featuring this archaeological superstar will suffice. But audiences are also far more sophisticated than they were in 1989, when Last Crusade bowed. Now, we expect more from our action films and heroes, and if there was one thing that was constant about this franchise, it's the over the top spectacle of the stunt work. Maybe this will work and work well. But don't be surprised when the negative reviews start pouring in -- reluctantly, of course.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Director: Uwe Boll Film: Postal Studio: Freestyle Releasing Cast: Zack Ward, Dave Foley, Chris Coppola, Jackie Tohn, Ralf Moeller, J.K. Simmons, Michela Mann, Michael Paré Website: http://www.movieset.com/postal MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-05-23 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/p/postalposter07.jpg

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22 May

Sneaking in Under the Tent

Postal

What better way to counterprogram the mega-media blitz that will surround the return of an American icon than by giving bad movie mavens something to celebrate in the form of Dr. Uwe Boll. In his long standing tradition of tapping video games for his films, this latest entry is a supposed political satire with the splattery shoot-em-up as its basis. The most shocking thing -- some critical responses have actually been good! Maybe there's hope for Boll after all.

Postal

Director: Michael Patrick King Film: Sex and the City Studio: New Line Cinema Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth, David Eigenberg, Evan Handler, Jason Lewis, Jennifer Hudson Website: http://www.sexandthecitymovie.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-05-30 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-05-30 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/s/sex-and-the-city-movie-poster.jpg

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30 May

In the Center Ring

Sex and the City: The Movie

Clearly, someone outside the creative process thinks this is a good idea. After all, the lax standards of cinema should allow the carnal cravings of these contemporary Manhattan minxes to flow in a way that HBO couldn't, right? Well, not really. Especially since the aforementioned pay cable channel was fairly open in its approach to the well-received series. Still, for those who've worn out their DVDs and demand more of Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte, here's your chance to celebrate onscreen what you enjoyed at home for years at a nominal fee. Potential plot points have been leaked all over the Internet -- Carrie marries! Someone special dies! -- as well as well-reported rumors of cast infighting and personal salary demands. Seems like much ado about nothing, when you really think about it. Still, after four weeks of freewheeling eye candy, there may just be an audience ready for some saucy big city snarkiness.

Sex and the City

Director: Bryan Bertino Film: The Strangers Studio: Rogue Pictures Cast: Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler, Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks, Laura Margolis, Glenn Howerton, Alex Fischer Website: http://www.thestrangers.net/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2007 US Release Date: 2008-05-30 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-09-12 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/s/strangers.jpg

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30 May

The Outer Circles

The Strangers

In a tradition as recent as the fine French film Ils (aka Them) and the '70s shocker Last House on the Left, the home invasion as horror show offers several cinematic pros and cons. On the plus side, everyone can relate to having their privacy and personal domain violated. On the negative… well, Funny Games was an ineffectual pile of pompous crap. The recent theatrical trailer tries for unconventional bumps in the night, but unless Bryuan Bertino has mastered the art of suspense, this shocker is set up to stink…and stink bad. Subtlety in scary movies may be making a comeback. The Strangers may hinder the genre redefinition more than help it.

The Strangers

Director: Jody Hill Film: The Foot Fist Way Studio: Paramount Vantage Cast: Danny R. McBride, Ben Best, Mary Jane Bostic Website: http://www.thefootfistway.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2006 US Release Date: 2008-05-30 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/f/foot_fist_way.jpg

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30 May

Sneaking in Under the Tent

The Foot Fist Way

Sitting on the cinematic shelf for any considerable length of time is never good news, but it looks like this low budget kung-fu comedy just might be the exception to the rule. After premiering in 2006 at the Los Angeles Film Festival, this starring vehicle for solid supporting player Danny McBride may have a tough time finding an audience, especially with the soiled memories of the miserable Kung Pow: Enter the Fist floating in their mind.

The Foot Fist Way














summer movie preview j.k. simmons shia labeouf cate blanchett dave foley scott porter patrick dempsey jim broadbent robert downey jr. susan sarandon eddie izzard cameron diaz christina ricci ray winstone richard roundtree terrence howard gwyneth paltrow werner herzog liam neeson samuel le bihan john goodman queen latifah emily mortimer kim cattrall kadeem hardison ashton kutcher jeff bridges dennis farina rodrigo santoro john hurt samantha morton tim allen georgie henley skandar keynes william moseley anna popplewell scott speedman kick gurry chiwetel ejiofor emile hirsch diego luna sarah jessica parker harrison ford chris noth busy philipps warwick davis rebecca pidgeon ricky jay treat williams liv tyler michelle monaghan joe mantegna hiroyuki sanada shaun toub sergio castellitto benno fürmann karen allen leslie bibb ian mcdiarmid peter dinklage kevin mckidd jennifer hudson matthew fox lake bell rob corddry kelly carlson cynthia nixon kristin davis sex and the city david eigenberg zack ward glenn howerton ellen page alice braga indiana jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull what happens in vegas iron man faran tahir bill milner will poulter jules sitruk jessica stevenson neil dudgeon ed westwick speed racer son of rambow the chronicles of narnia: prince caspian ben barnes vincent grass ken stott pierfrancesco favino evan handler jason lewis the strangers the foot fist way danny r. mcbride ben best mary jane bostic mister lonely rain denis lavant maud forget andy larry wachowski made of honor anita pallenberg david blaine joseph morgan roger allam paulie litt redbelt john machado frontier(s) karina testa aurélien wiik patrick ligardes david saracino chems dahmani estelle lefébure jean-pierre jorris the tracey fragments libby adams ari cohen julian richings max mccabe-lokos erin mcmurtry slimtwig daniel fathers todd sandomirsky kate todd ryan cooley postal chris coppola jackie tohn ralf moeller michela mann michael paré gemma ward kip weeks laura margolis alex fischer Summer 2008 Movie Preview

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

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Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

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Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

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