Sister Novena's PortaPulpit
freedom, liberalism, movies, and truth

Saturday, June 12, 2004
The New American Values

The General has a list.
2:47 PM ::
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Conservative Family Values

So, Rush Limbaugh's getting divorced again. (For those of you living abroad and thus not familiar with ol' Rusty, he's the radio mouthpiece of the Republican party, a low-level racist, and a recovering drug addict... so, basically, the entire gamut of conservative hypocrisy rolled up into one big, offensive mass of bullshit. But I digress.)

I am not unfamiliar with divorce. Never had one myself, probably in large part because I've never been married. (In fact, my familiarity with divorce is a big part of why I've never been married.) And I don't hold divorce against anyone, absolutely not ever. It happens, y'know? I wouldn't presume to judge.

But my not presuming to judge is largely what separates me from a great many divorced conservatives. People blow through three or four marriages -- and that's okay, again, no judgement implied -- but then, inexplicably, decide that somehow they still retain the moral and ethical right to tell other people that they don't deserve the same opportunities they've had, even if it does only turn out to be an opportunity to screw things up, too.

I'm talking about gay marriage, of course. I just can't understand how people like Limbaugh -- divorced multiple times, childless, contributing nothing to the greater good by way of "the backbone of American society," even by his own standards -- can look at 10% of the population and say, "My shitty, broken marriages? Each and every one was a sacrament. But your loving, lifelong commitment is a defilement of all that's good and holy."

If only "traditional marriages" are going to be recognized as valid and beneficial to society, than any married couple who declines to reproduce (and only direct offspring qualify, step-kids don't count) is hereby declared an abomination against God.

Just so you know what it feels like, eh?

(Atrios has some amusing/repellant quotes from Limbaugh on the subject of marriage here.)

In a further example of why you just can't trust the Jesus Crispies, a former official of Donald Wildmon's American Family Association has just been caught with a fistful of child pornography. If I've said it once... whenever you run across someone who's just too out-front with their Christian Goodness, the only wise course of action is to get as far away from them as possible. These folks, well-intentioned as they may be, are more often than not using their enviable piety to distract your attention from something they find shameful. It may be something small, but it may be something big and ugly.

Kiddie fiddling: it's not just for Catholic priests and washed-up rock stars anymore.



1:54 PM ::
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Friday, June 11, 2004
One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

While the Bush administration spins frantically, trying to get even a tiny bit of that Reagan magic to rub off on a flailing president, it might be worth a moment to ponder what those closest to Ronald Reagan thought of George W. Bush:
"The Bush people have no right to speak for my father, particularly because of the position he's in now... Yes, some of the current policies are an extension of the '80s. But the overall thrust of this administration is not my father's -- these people are overly reaching, overly aggressive, overly secretive, and just plain corrupt. I don't trust these people."

"To paraphrase Jack Palance, my father crapped bigger ones than George Bush."

Ron Reagan, Jr.
I'm no fan of Ronald Reagan, obviously. But even I can see that the attempts to compare Bush the Lesser to Reagan can only highlight Bush's gross failures on almost every level.

By the way, any republican/conservative who truly wants to honor Reagan's memory should do their part to assist Nancy Reagan's activism in favor of stem cell research. Putting pressure on the Bush administration on the issue would be a good place to start.
10:23 PM ::
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Day Six

Another easy one. Up and at it early, but the shoot was very close to the Co-op, at Morgan's apartment, and not too intensive. We had a short day, and then went to Otherlands for coffee and bagels.

Morgan's off to NYC for the weekend for a festival screening of Blue Citrus Hearts. Apparently it's already sold out. I wish I could go, too. Happily, Morgan says we're all going to the premiere of the new film in Chicago in November. Not the best time of year to go to Chicago, certainly, but it'll be great to get out of Memphis for a couple of days.

On my way home, I saw something that pleased me immensely. I have few compulsive little habits, but one thing I can't help doing is rescuing tortoises. This time of year they wander out onto the blacktop roads in Mississippi to sun themselves, and invariably get crushed under the tires of the big fuck-off 3/4 ton trucks that the rednecks drive. I hate that. So, whenever I see one in a dangerous spot, I've gotta turn around, pick the little fella up, and remove him to a safe spot.

So this morning, I saw a very young loggerhead in the road, about as big as my hand. It was a good quarter mile before I could find a place to turn around; by the time I got back to the spot, a big water tanker had stopped, and I actually saw the driver get out, walk around to the tortoise, pick him up, and take him off into the drainage ditch where he'd be safe. I was thrilled! I'm not the only person who cares! Maybe the world's not so bad after all, eh?

Anyway, I have tomorrow off, so it'll be a day for laundry and, with luck, for catching up on my sleep. Next week may prove to be rather crazy, so I think I'd better get while the getting's good.
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Thursday, June 10, 2004
In ya face

Big news of the day is that Peter Garrett, lead singer of the band Midnight Oil, will be running for the opposition Labor Party, in a safe seat in this year's federal election.

Those of you with long memories may remember the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympics, when Midnight Oil performed. This was one of the more audacious political statements of our time - although the point may have been lost on non-Australians.

Here's why: During the 90s there was a large push in Australia for the Federal Government to apologise formally to the aboriginals for what was basically the theft of their land back in the 18th and 19th centuries. Prime Minister John Howard would have none of it. There would be no apology. The very word "Sorry" took on major significance as the issue was debated.

So, at the closing ceremony of the Olympics, about the most public forum possible - with John Howard sitting in the front row, basking in the reflected glory of Australia's stellar Olympics - Midnight Oil performed their song "Beds are Burning". What's that song about? Why, it's all about aboriginal land rights! And to ram home the point even more, what did the Oils choose to wear?

A picture tells a thousand words.

Whether you agree with their point or not, you gotta admire their balls! And this attitude of sheer irreverance (which is not uncommon here) is an example of why I like Australia so much.
9:02 PM ::
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Did you hear about the blond and the president...?
Why supermodels and politics don't mix.
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Day Five

An easy, easy day, quick and painless. I sat in the lounge at Memphis College of Art, going over my notes and doing some routine planning while the the rest of the crew shot the scene. In between, Doris came down and taught me much about life. Always listen to the black grandmothers; they know what's what.
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Day Four

Noon:

I'm so tired it physically hurts. And I've still got five hours to go.

A pretty typical day so far... mostly good, some problems. Only two extras (of fifteen called in) turned up for the second scene of the day; we had to fill in the gaps with crewies (although I was not among their number.) We managed without them... no-show extras are an inevitable risk in a production of this kind.

The actor who was missing on day three (the same one who chewed me out by telephone at five in the morning) sent us a note apologizing profusely, saying that he had realized the error was entirely his. He'd somehow corrupted the address we gave him for the meeting point while mapping it online. I admit I didn't care for the phone call -- although I've endured far, far worse -- so the apology made me feel better about things. I suppose stuff like this just happens from time to time.

Morgan ponied up for a catered lunch for everyone this afternoon... vegan Mexican food. It was okay, although I can't imagine how excluding any and all salt from the beans was necessary.

2:00

People are dropping like flies... most of the core crew has been going for 24 hours now, and that following another 20-hour day. Even those of us who are still ambulatory are getting punchy, people are getting silly, Tim's been singing these odd little songs for hours. Things that normally would not be that funny seem fucking hilarious right now... I've been giving poor Derrick endless shit about his t-shirt ("I Love My Weiner" with a silhouette of a dachshund) all day long; it's the day's running joke. Morgan, amazingly, is still going... that guy can stay awake like nobody I've ever seen.

This is all, as it happens, highly apropos for this film... it's about people staying up for days on end, each for his or her own reasons. However, in the film, these people only stay up for three days or so; at the moment it feels a bit like we're going to have to stay up for the entire month of June. I'm beginning to suspect the whole month is going to feel like one ridiculously long day with naps.

3:30

Morgan is crashing hard. We only have one more easy shot scheduled today -- something we can do another time -- so we're quitting early.

Amber, who's also on active duty in the Navy, is working on the base until Friday, so she's missing all of this. She called me earlier to check in, said she loves us and misses us.

3:20 AM, Thursday

I've finally managed to get some sleep, some decent food in me, and a long, hot bath, so I'm feeling much better now. Looking over the schedule, I think yesterday was the hardest day by far... we still have some shoots at strange hours, but nothing I think will require that we all be up for more than 16 hours straight (which I can manage, no problem). Today, apparently, was trial by acute exhaustion; I feel fairly confident that I passed. But I'm still glad it's over.
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Wednesday, June 09, 2004
Banging on

Sorry to bang on about this ... but I've just got back from lunch, where I was reading the paper and saw an interesting analysis of Bush's comments regarding Mark Latham and the Australian Labor Party's policy on withdrawing troops from Iraq. Just thought I would share. Here it is.
10:42 PM ::
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How To Have Fun At My Expense

Step 1: go to the Snoop Dog Shizzolator

Step 2: in the space provided, enter "http://www.portapulpit.com"

Step 3: read Sister Novena ghetto-style.
6:07 AM ::
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Interfering!

Well, you Americans out there must surely feel privileged to have had our very own Little Johnny visiting your fair shores over the last week. After dropping in on Arnie for a round of mutual back-slapping, the Man of Steel went on to see his good mate Dubya. And it's all been just a little bit controversial!

First: a bit of background. Under Prime Minister Howard, Australia has been one of the most enthusiastic supporters (if not the most enthusiastic supporter) of Bush's adventures in Iraq. It's a stance that caused major division in the Australian parliament, which is a serious matter in itself. I mean, deploying troops overseas and putting people's sons and daughters into harm's way is just a bit more serious than some arcane tax matter - so it's not a good sign if the parliament is divided on the matter. Bush was made well aware of the divisions when he visited here last year. (Here is CNN's report of the incident.)

Fast forward to early this year, and we see the newly-appointed leader of the opposition Labor Party, Mark Latham, make a pledge that, if elected, the Aussie troops in Iraq would be home by Christmas. I'm not convinced that putting such a deadline on a troop withdrawal is such a good idea ... it seems to me that having gone barging into Iraq, the onus is on the invading powers to not just pull out willy-nilly because of domestic political considerations. And an arbitrary deadline means that (barring a big fluke) the troops will not be withdrawn at the optimal time for the Iraqi people (whose country it is, after all.) But I digress...

As you might imagine, Latham's pledge has gone down like a cup of cold sick in Washington. And - surprise, surprise - the subject was raised when Howard met Bush last week. A journalist asked Bush what he thought of Latham's policy, and Bush was completely blunt and undiplomatic. (Well, did you really expect anything else?) According to the President,"It would be a disastrous decision for the leader of a great country like Australia to say that 'we're pulling out,'"

This statement has caused a fair bit of outrage here in Australia. Not because anyone is in the least bit surprised that the president thinks this way - I mean, I don't think anyone really expected Bush to say "Oh that's fine, you guys just pack your bags and go, sorry to have inconvenienced you..." - but because this remark represents a quite significant foray into Australian domestic politics.

Now, to dispel any notion that the Bush Administration is not sensitive to critical public comments made by leaders of other countries, we just need to go back to the experience of Helen Clark, prime minister of New Zealand, in the middle of last year. (Click here for a highly processed image of Helen Clark. Remember where "Lord of the Rings" comes from ... after making Helen Clark look good, the creation of Gollum must have been a doozy for the special effect geniuses of New Zealand. I've digressed again.)

Unlike Australia, NZ did not head off to war in Iraq. Quite the opposite in fact. New Zealand was firmly lined up on the side of France and Germany, and resolutely said "No" when asked to be part of the Coalition. Helen Clark (of whom I must admit I am no fan either ... is there any politician I like, I wonder?) even went further, and in a moment of stunning frankness, said (out loud, to a journalist) that she didn't think the USA would have gone to war with Iraq if Al Gore had become president after the 2000 election.

Whether or not you agree with the views expressed by either Bush or by Clark, I see little difference in the principles here. The leader of one country was commenting on the domestic politics of another country, with specific reference to the policies of the opposing party in that country, right? Now, I while I suspect it's unlikely that the Washington political establishment was shaken completely, to its very core, by our Helen's comments, I do think it is just a mite unfair that she was essentially forced a few days later into sending a grovelly apology to Mr. Bush.
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George W. Bush Hates America

It's 1:30 in the morning, and I'm here at the Co-op, killing time until the production meeting at 3:30. So while I have a few minutes, I want to touch briefly on a subject that I've been really wanting to mention here.

The torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was, it now appears, not merely the work of a few bad apples, but was in fact official U.S. policy. Enough so that the Bush administration had already prepared its legal rationale for using "interrogation" methods that were in clear, direct violation of the Geneva Convention and international law.

The main sticking point -- torture aside -- is that the memo states:
To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president."

The upshot of the argument? George W. Bush is above the law. ALL law. Don't like it? Fuck you.

I say, fuck him. We've got to get this guy out of office; this is exactly the line we must never, ever cross. Josh Marshall states it well:
So the right to set aside law is "inherent in the president". That claim alone should stop everyone in their tracks and prompt a serious consideration of the safety of the American republic under this president. It is the very definition of a constitutional monarchy, let alone a constitutional republic, that the law is superior to the executive, not the other way around. This is the essence of what the rule of law means -- a government of laws, not men, and all that.

PS: If you want to read the memo for yourself, the Wall Street Journal has posted it online, available for free. (pdf file)
1:26 AM ::
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Tuesday, June 08, 2004
Good morning!

Every now and then, I get to read some good news ... which brightens up this otherwise fucked-up world.

(Remember what I said about New Zealand being one of the least offensive nations on earth?)
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Day Three

I am so tired.

It's been nearly 24 hours since I last slept, and I started really feeling it a couple of hours ago. The shoot today was not so smooth... one of our main actors was apparently MIA for most of the morning, leaving the other nine of us dodging panhandlers in a downtown park at 4 AM, unable to shoot anything. We're still not really sure what happened -- he called us two hours after call time, very angry, saying that he'd waited at the appointed meeting place for 90 minutes but that nobody was there. This can't have been correct; there was at least one person there, specifically waiting for him, from 3:45 AM on. At one point there were four people waiting. We're still not really sure where the disconnect occured; all I know is he was swearing down the phone at me. But that's okay... y'know, whatever.

In any case, this guy was in every shot we had planned for the morning, so we couldn't shoot any of what was scheduled. We kept one of the other actresses and had her just improvise some hopefully-useful material with Tim, but we still have to re-schedule the entire day's shoot.

I've got to do the Co-op workshop tonight, and then it's back out at 4 AM again tomorrow morning; hopefully it'll go more smoothly next time. (I knew it couldn't go that smoothly forever.)
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Monday, June 07, 2004
Not a conservative!

I can't stay long - theoretically I am working at the moment. But I will drop in for long enough to strenuously deny being a conservative. Oh yeah! If that Texas Republican platform is what being a conservative is all about, then, I ain't one.

"Libertarian" is a label that sits more comfortably with me. Not 100% comfortably, but more so than being either "liberal" vs "conservative" as per American politics. I've found this test to be very handy: whenever I've done it, I've ended up well down in the lower right quadrant. And I mean well down.

Attaching liberal/conservative labels in Australia is a fraught process. You see, the government of the day here is presently the Liberal Party, led by prime minister John Howard. But, despite the name, the Liberal Party is actually a conservative party, and Howard is the most conservative prime minister this county has had in decades. In Australia you need to be very careful whether you capitalise the word: a "liberal" is generally quite a different beast from a "Liberal".

Howard's awful. Yeah, he's made some grudging efforts to reduce the tax burden, and he's challenged some of the worst excesses of the militant trade unions that have been Australia's handbrake for too long - but other than that he is just a craven, duplicitious slimeball of a man.

You should know: right now, our Little Johnny Howard is George Bush's bestest buddy in the whole wide world.

This op-ed piece appeared in the paper today. The author, Phillip Adams, is basically an unreconstructed socialist so I have huge problems with most of what he says - but today he is spot on. Howard's grovelling to George W Bush, his obsequious eagerness to be Bush's deputy sheriff in this part of the world is a national embarrasment.

Both Howard and Bush are up for re-election this year. Unlike in the USA, the election date here is not fixed. In fact, provided it's called before about March next year, the prime minister can choose any day he likes. If it looks like Bush is going down, Howard will probably call the election early, to limit the damage caused by a Bush defeat. So, Bush and Howard's fates are tied together.

Interesting times.

I gotta go. Work calls.

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This Should Make For An Interesting Conversation

I think my (very Republican) mother just found my blog.

Hi, Mom!

4:27 PM ::
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No Republican, I

Does anybody still not understand why I don't want to live in a Republican America?

You can find the answer you seek in this post from Political Animal. Yes, this is just the Texas GOP platform, but it's unnervingly close to the National party's working platform, if not their formal, codified platform. And do remember that our current (p)resident is a dyed-in-the-wool Texas Republican.

These people literally scare me. This isn't just about fiscal conservatism or a reasonable respect for "tradition" (whatever that is)... this is about demolishing everything that, in my opinion, makes the United States a great country. If these people ever manage to reproduce this platform in our nation's laws, then as far as I'm concerned, the United States of America ceases to exist, replaced by a fundamentalist Christian theocracy, an American Taliban.

Having said that...

I want to welcome Mr. Smithers to the blog... he has been gracious enough to come aboard to help keep things rolling along while I'm indisposed (although admittedly I haven't been as indisposed as I'd expected so far), and if he decides he likes the places, who knows what'll happen?

Anyway, this guy is one of my closest friends (although geographically among the most distant), and I'm well aware of his shameful conservative leanings; I accept him in spite of it. In reality, the greatest risk I'm taking in inviting him in is that he might prove to be better at this whole blogging thing than me. In any case, we agree on the most important point: George W. Bush is a miserable failure. For me, that's about all that matters.

What does it say about America that, in order to find a conservative with whom I could amiably, respectfully discuss politics, I had to go to the other side of the world?

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Meet Mr. Smithers

Well, umm, hello folks.

Here I am, and you are reading my first ever blog post. I'm here at the very kind invitation of the owner of this blog, my good friend Sister Novena. This is all a bit of a surprise for me ... I rocked up to work this morning, feeling typically demotivated, and then I switched on my computer and discovered her e-mail giving me the opportunity to guest star here.

Well, why ever not, I thought to myself? I have warned my good host that she will only like - at most - about half of what I write here. The other half ... well ... I'm tipping ya that she's gonna hate it. But, with that disclaimer and warning out of the way, she still seems to want me to continue. I guess Sr. Novena always has the option of changing her permissions and chucking this house guest out if he turns out to be the kind of house guest who clips his rhetorical toe nails in the lounge room. But here I am!

So. First things first. Who the hell am I? Some basic biographical details.

I am what you might call a trans-Tasmanite.

I was born in New Zealand late in the sixties, and lived there for most of my life. That's New Zealand, home of Lord of the Rings, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, the All Blacks and Shortland Street. I love NZ very much - it truly is beautiful and is probably a contender for "Least offensive nation on earth". But - a few years ago, it all started to feel ever so small. It really is a village. In NZ, even if you go to the other end of the country, and find yourself in a group of strangers, there is a better than even chance that even amongst those total strangers, you will find someone with whom you have a mutual acquaintance - if not a mutual friend. It's cute, but the never-ending exclamations of "Oh, isn't it a small world" gets rather annoying. NZ is a bad place to make enemies, because you're unlikely ever to be able to get away from them. If you ever quit your job there, it's imperative you resist the temptation to tell your boss what you really think, because you're very likely to meet that person again.

So, in January 2001, I packed my bags and took a one-way trip to Melbourne, Australia. That's Australia, home of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; Hermitage Grange, the greatest cricket team on earth and Neighbours. I also love Australia very much. It too is beautiful (although not as beautiful as NZ), but it's too big really to be in the running for the inoffensiveness award. So what's Australia got that NZ doesn't? From my point of view, I guess it's Aussie's size. (Yes, it really does matter!) In Australia the cities are bigger ... you can drive across town and feel like you're in a completely different city. You can lose yourself easier here, the cities are more interesting, and there's a greater variety of cultures. I guess all this may seem ever so provincial... After all, the population of Aussie is only 20 million - less than one-fourteenth that of the USA - but to this kiwi boy, that's plenty big enough for the time being.

Anyway, last year I decided that I like Australia enough to take out citizenship. Which means that I am now a citizen of both Australia and New Zealand. I would never want to surrender my NZ citizenship - and fortunately I didn't have to - but I also felt like I want to be a proper participant in Australian society.

For example - I want to vote. One of the things I told Sr Novena was that I would be commenting on this year's synchrony between the US and the Australian electoral cycles. This year there are some very close parallels, so I'm going to share with what I guess is my largely American audience some of the insights that come from being able to observe both elections. Interestingly, there are also some marked contrasts between the NZ political situation on the one hand, and the US and Australian situtions on the other hand.

Amd that's what I'm going to talk about. You'll be hearing more from me!

Till next time.

Mr Smithers.
7:46 AM ::
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Day Two

We had a pretty uneventful day; Paul turned up safe and sound, ready to work. He's playing a guy who's badly strung out on methamphetamines, and he went so far as to wear clothes that he actually got from a heavy meth user. He looked like a nasty piece of work... the kind of really mean guy who wouldn't look for trouble, maybe, but would run over your dog out of spite if the opportunity presented itself.

We wrangled a couple of skater boys around the park where we were shooting in the afternoon to accost and harrass Paul's character; a third hung back and we chatted while they shot the scene. (I didn't mention my own days hanging out with the skater boys, or the skater boy I took home and lived with for six years. I imagined what I would sound like -- old and completely out-of-it, a bad attempt at being "hip with the kids" -- and I just couldn't bear the thought.) I fed ginger cookies to the squirrels... they were tame enough to come up and take them from my hand.

I've been giving Derrick, a 19-year-old friend from the workshops, a hard time of it; he's working as a PA, so he's certainly under my jurisdiction, but he still acts like a buddy during the shoot. He knows we tease because we love... even so, he's possibly going to be working on Craig Brewer's shoot in July, and if he messes around there like we let him do on ours (and which I wouldn't let him do if the shoot were more intense), he won't last long. I'm not sure when to start pulling the reins in on him... but it might not matter, since he's going to become the executive producer's private PA in a couple of days.

In the evening we went to the Two-Way Inn (a seedy-looking little box of a bar up the street from the Co-op) to shoot a scene. It was slightly iffy at first, since while the owner of the bar knew about the shoot and had agreed to it, it seems he never told the staff, so they were somewhat surprised. In the end, though, they just hung back and let us get on with it... it didn't take long.
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Sunday, June 06, 2004
Guest Blogger

This is Amber... she wants to talk to y'all.

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sean just called me a slut? the question is what is a slut? is it a good thing, is it even real? is it? i think that i am anything that is. sex is a joke, it is silly and nothing. it is the emoutions that i want. it is the passion that i dream about. it is the longing of ones smile, of ones smile. it is the knowing that when someone has a bad day that is even the most amazing thing. Love and sex they are nothing without truth. slut? i am not sure, perhaps i am a slut to the emoution, to the fact that i fall in love with life each and every day, i am the slut to life, the truest of all. i am not sure what i am saying. perhaps i am asking for something.
amber
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