Monday, February 25, 2013

THE OSCARS (2013): Commentary from my "Brown Carpet!"

THE OSCARS (2013): 
Commentary from my
"Brown Carpet!"
 _______________________

The 85th annual 
Academy Awards
 ceremony has now 
come and gone. 
And I never thought
that I'd ever speak
these words, but
holy cow, I sure
_______________________

Possessing the panache and professionalism of local cable access TV, ABC kicked off the evening's star-studded affair with a pre-show special, live from the legendary Red Carpet. And the burning question seemingly on everyone's minds — "Who are you wearing?" As if we common folk actually will be able to purchase any of these top-names at our hometown mega mall or supercenter. And grammatically, the question — "Who are you wearing" doesn't even make sense. But the more accurately-worded, important and practical questions might have been, "Whose face are you wearing?" or "Who's your dentist?" or "Who's your attorney?" Now that's info I can use!

Petite, perky and fabulously fetching Red Carpet co-host Kristin Chenoweth offered  plenty of unique insight. However, her personal commentary and heartfelt retorts such as, "Holy crap!" and "We kicked your ass in football," were at times a bit crass. And despite her impressive professional résumé and impeccable singing talent, I found her Red Carpet contribution to be most riveting when the audio on my TV was muted.

Kristin Chenoweth
Former Destiny's Child vocalist Kelly Rowland proved to be an equally effective Red Carpet correspondent — very nearly needing to be pried off Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx. Rowland's on-camera confession that "I love me some Jamie Foxx" was, uh, "street" at best. Apparently integrity is no longer a prerequisite when covering the Oscars. Not to be left out of the lively Red Carpet revelations, director, producer and silver screen heartthrob George Clooney offered, "Win or lose, I'll be drinking."

Seemingly separated at birth from twin brother Merrill Osmond, Oscar host Seth MacFarlane started out strong — delivering several signature monologue zingers. But the show quickly took a nosedive, ultimately delivering three hours worth of content that for the most part, ranged from slightly awkward to uncomfortable to downright unfunny.

Oscar host Seth MacFarlane
Q: How can you guarantee 
a comedy bit will fail?

A: Add William Shatner 
into the mix.

"This show is a disaster," Shatner warned during the opening Star Trek skit. Well, he certainly got that one right. Shatner then posed the question, "Why can't Tina and Amy host?" I was already asking myself that very thing, Captain.

I'm not saying that this year's Oscar presentation was a complete disaster. However, it was rather interesting that even the orchestra had enough sense to stay clear of the Dolby Theater — phoning in its contribution from down the street at the Capitol Records Building.

But there were numerous Oscar highlights. Nora Jones' vocal performance from the Ted soundtrack was simply terrific, as was Jennifer Hudson's selection from Dreamgirls. The Les Miserables cast production along with Shirley Bassey's musical James Bond tribute were both bona fide show-stoppers. And I was particularly impressed by how well Halle Berry rocked Nikki Sixx's sparkly 1985 stage outfit that was resurrected for the award-winning actress from Mötley Crüe's vault just in time for the big event.

Halle Berry:
"She's the one they 
call Dr. Feelgood!"
For me, the ultimate highlight of the evening was the series of commercials for the Samsung Galaxy S III — which I believe is a cell phone device. Be sure that I'm certainly no video game enthusiast — I leave that foolishness to the 40-year-old virgins of the world — but if I was, I'd totally be the Unicorn Apocalypse champ!  

For her part, the iconic Barbra Streisand successfully recaptured her What's Up Doc? era sizzle during the dedication of her 1974 hit, "The Way We Were" to its co-writer, Marvin Hamlisch. The multi award-winning composer died last August from respiratory arrest at age 68. The performance was "classic Streisand," however, I'd wager a guess that Babs taped this segment long before the telecast aired.

Okay, let's now get down 
to official business. Here 
are the nominees for this 
year's "Film That I Will 
NEVER See" award.
And the winner is...
ALL OF 
THE ABOVE! 

Yep, I'll admit that I'm so far out of the cinematic loop these days that I thought Frankenweenie actually was a 1982 porno flick starring Ron Jeremy and Hyapatia Lee. However, in my defense, I did accurately predict a few of the night's big winners in my various recent pre-Oscar blog posts — including Christoph Waltz for "Best Supporting Actor" in Django Unchained and Argo as "Best Picture." Hey, I am, after all, STILL "The Show Biz Guru!"

-Christopher Long
(February 2013)



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Saturday, February 23, 2013

NIGHTMARE GIGS!

NIGHTMARE 
GIGS!
_____________________________

I'd wager a guess that
any musician who has
played live more than
once in their life has
experienced a nightmare
gig. I certainly have. In
fact, after more than
30 years, I've endured
several. However, my
all-time worst gig without
a doubt was my very first
experience onstage...
_____________________________

My first KISS concert in June 1979 proved to be so inspirational that I decided to become a drummer and I formed my first band the very next day. I’d never played a note and I didn’t own a kit, but I couldn’t be sidetracked by minor details. I've often been accused in life of putting the proverbial cart in front of the horse, and my sudden leap from spectator to musician certainly exemplified my often rushed decision-making process. But I was gonna be a rock star. And over the next 30+ years I allowed nothing to interfere in my pursuit of the rock and roll dream.

I called up some local musicians and in short order I had assembled by first band. The only problem was, I couldn't play. So I borrowed a drum kit from my buddy Glenn Creamer and spent a few days piddling in my bedroom, trying desperately to play along to Journey, Pat Travers and Van Halen records. I had no idea what I was doing, and it showed. My first band rehearsal was only three days away but I knew that somehow I'd miraculously become a virtuoso in time for our first encounter. That didn't happen. In fact, it still hasn't happened.

However, my new bandmates; Scott, Eric and Nick didn't abandon me upon discovering my lack of musical ability. We actually stuck it out together and spent the next several months practicing and writing our own material. And on December 1, 1979 my first band, Beowulf (insert wisecrack here), debuted at my high school’s Battle of the Bands competition.

There we were, four kids who couldn’t play — onstage attempting to perform (horrible) original tunes in front of a sold-out house. At the height of Skynyrd Mania — a good five years prior to the global hair band explosion, we walked onstage donning make-up and matching Japanese-style outfits among a host of competing T-shirt and denim-wearing Southern rock cover bands.

The crowd hated us, plain and simple. But given my naiveté combined with unabashed cockiness, the louder that the people booed, the more I perceived the response as perfect pandemonium. And I completely ate it up. In fact, I even set my drum kit on fire ala-Alex Van Halen during my ridiculous excuse of a drum solo. But the fact remained that we sucked. What's more, I sucked. And not even my best friends, not even Glen Creamer could or would deny it. And when our 4'x8' cardboard banner was ripped down following our set, the roar of the crowd was deafening as the huge Beowulf logo came crashing to the ground. OUCH!

In short, I was devastated. My very first show provided me with the painful, humiliating and humbling experience of being booed off the stage by more than 1,000 people. But I learned a lot from that gig.

BTW —  Beowulf broke up the next day.

-Christopher Long
(February 2013)



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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

HERE COMES THE BRIDE: (Pt. VIII)

HERE COMES 
THE BRIDE: 
(Pt. VIII)
_______________________

Although I've not posted a
new installment in quite
a while, I recently was
involved with a particular
celebration that inspired
me to revive the series.
_______________________

Where else but in Florida can a bride and groom schedule a wedding for the middle of February and experience near picture perfect weather conditions? Well, that's how it played out for Margaret and Bill. Although Friday, February 15, 2013 brought torrential downpours to Florida's Space Coast and Sunday, February 17th ushered in some of the coldest temperatures of the season, the weather on Saturday, February 16th, was pretty darn fantastic — 76 º and sunny skies with a slight breeze.

The Munsey's perfect day! 
(Jenee' Michelle Photography)
I felt compelled to share a few details of Margaret and Bill's big day with readers because it so perfectly exemplified how a wedding reception should play out when you make the right choices.

The soon-to-be newlyweds wisely planned for their ceremony and reception to happen indoors. If the weather cooperated, which it did, there would be plenty of opportunity to get oodles of fabulous outdoor shots following the nuptials, which they did.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Although anything can happen (and it's wise to prepare yourself for a hefty glitch or two), your wedding-related anxieties can be greatly minimized simply by:

A) Remaining calm at ALL times.
B) Making smart, realistic choices.
C) Keeping the gig indoors 
(or have an easily implemented back-up plan).
D) Involving only experienced professionals.
E) Remaining calm at ALL times.

I can't confirm A) or E), but I do know that Margaret and Bill perfectly nailed B), C) and D). From locations to time coordinates, they made smart, realistic choices and as I mentioned, they kept it all indoors. But they also had the good sense to hire some incredibly talented professionals to help make it all come together.

I've often referred to the cake as the "crowning jewel" of any wedding celebration. And throughout my 30-year career in the bridal industry, I've seen countless gems. I've also witnessed a few cake-related disasters — all of which could easily have been avoided had a proper professional been hired. In this regard, Margaret and Bill weren't taking any chances and they hired one of the area's best — Carlia Alderman from Carlia's Cakery. Carlia's unique carrot cake was adorned meticulously with amazing handmade calla lilies — making for a creation that was (almost) too beautiful for the bride and groom to slice. But I'm sure glad that they did because it was as delicious-tasting as it was fabulous-looking.


However, the Munseys really managed to impress even a longtime wedding pro like myself by serving sushi for the evening meal. Heck yeah, man — SUSHI! From various types of rolls with an assortment of sauces to an array of delightful nigiri choices, this buffet was the hippest (and tastiest) reception spread that I've ever experienced. Kudos to master chefs Carla Thompson, Silvio Marino and their cracker jack staff for a job well done!

And then there's the true unsung hero of the reception scene — the photographer. I've worked with many impressive photographers over the years, but this was my first experience working with Jenee' Michelle from Jenee' Michelle Photography and she quickly became one of my all-time favorites. Prompt, personable and professional — I look forward to working with Jenee' again in the (very) near future.

As for the reception itself — holy cow, what a blast! The bride, the groom and the bridal party all looked as stunning as any I've ever seen. The first dance was a bona fide tear-jerker and the toasts from the Matron of Honor and Best Man both were personal and engaging. The guests in attendance made up a lively group who were all too ready to "raise the roof" as they danced (and danced) to high energy favorites ranging from current chart-busters to retro classics. It truly was a night to remember, indeed.

-Christopher Long
(February 2013)

DROP ME A LINE:
I'm very accessible, and I'm happy to assist folks at any time regarding wedding-related questions or concerns. I can be contacted through either the "Comment" forum of this blog or directly via my personal email address. AuthorChristopherLong@yahoo.com

 ______________________________

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

FLEETWOOD MAC "Rumours" (Remastered / Reissued)

FLEETWOOD MAC 
Rumours
(Remastered / Reissued)
_________________________  

36 years following its
original release, a rock
classic is reborn. And 
you can believe the
"rumors" — this reissue
is a fabulous treat!
 _________________________

After a string of less than blockbuster releases, Fleetwood Mac finally struck gold with their 1975 self-titled record. And with what would become known as the band's ultimate line-up (Mick FleetwoodJohn McVieLindsey BuckinghamStevie NicksChristine McVie), Fleetwood Mac was poised to conquer the world with their next release, Rumours.

Produced by Fleetwood Mac, along with Ken Caillat (yes, Colbie's dad) and Richard Dashut, Rumours was a success of epic proportions. Released in February 1977, the record spawned an incredible four Top Ten singles ("Dreams," "Go Your Own Way," "Don't Stop," "You Make Loving Fun") and now has amassed staggering worldwide sales in excess of 40 million copies.

Rock historian and author, Brent Jensen, stated in a recent interview that in his opinion, the records and bands we grew up with during the 1970s and early 1980s  "replaced friends" in our lives. Jensen's theory certainly holds true, especially in the case of this record.

The new expanded, three-record 
Rumours reissue is a fabulous treat.
Rumours is filled with personal songs that perfectly and poetically address romance and relationships, as well as the pain of living through the subsequent breakups. In 1977, Fleetwood Mac were our "friends." They never judged us for making sketchy life choices — band members clearly had made enough of their own. We all seemingly discovered the passion, and endured the heartache of experiencing love — together. And it's the vulnerability of the lyrics combined with the honesty of the musical performances that created a record that has so famously stood the test of time — maintaining absolute freshness, more than three decades later.

Over the years, many much-touted reissued classics have fallen short of fan expectations — delivering little more than remastered tracks that are barely distinguishable from the original versions  and perhaps a bonus  nugget  or two. However, the newly released, three-disc  Rumours  set truly is impressive.

Disc One simply is the (re)remastered Rumours record in its entirety, along with the (nearly) lost gem, "Silver Springs," now positioned in its rightful place among the 11 other iconic staples. Lindsey's guitar has never sounded so crisp and Mick's drums sound beefier than ever. And the vocals, of course, still sound splendid.

The 20-page "story of" booklet included in the 
Rumours reissue further enhances the experience.
Disc Two captures the band live in concert at various locations during the 1977 Rumours world tour — and it just burns! Filled with raw power, energy and emotion from both band and audience, Disc Two transports listeners back in time and places them center stage, row "D." Hey man, quit boggarting my doobage! It adds a whole new dimension to the Rumours experience and makes this reissue worth every penny. It also completely validates my 35-year argument that Christine McVie was, in fact, the heart and soul of this team.

Disc Three offers numerous outtake, demo and alternative versions of old favorites as well as a couple of unknown tracks — including a real prize, "Keep Me There." Disc Three presents the band, warts and all — garbled lyrics, false starts and studio background chatter — an honest and pure fly-on-the-wall peek behind the scenes during the making of a true rock classic.

Whether it's your first encounter, or you're a longtime fan who is reconnecting, Rumours remains a magical piece of work. And this deluxe reissue proves that it is as engaging now as it was the day it was released. Simply put, in 2013, Fleetwood Mac are still our "friends."

-Christopher Long
(February 2013)


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Monday, February 11, 2013

THE 2013 GRAMMY AWARDS: Hashtags and Gladrags

THE 2013 
GRAMMY AWARDS: 
Hashtags and Gladrags
__________________________

From the opening 
number, it became 
painfully clear exactly
why gave up on 
watching the Grammys 
ages agoBut albeit an
inane and mundane 
affair, there was a blog-
worthy moment or two. 
__________________________ 

Ah yes, it was the music industry's annual main event. But just how much actual live music was performed at last night's all-star hoo-ha? Hmm, I'd wager a guess and say, not much.

Reigning pop princess Taylor Swift kicked off the evening's festivities with an over-the-top and clearly canned  Vegas-style performance. And just as the big girls roll, Swift's ensemble also included an obligatory tear-away item — ooh, SO shocking!

TAYLOR SWIFT:
Coming soon to a circus tent near you!
For the second year in a row, LL Cool J proved to be an engaging host. However, his over-emphasis of social networking and references to hashtags, texting and Tweeting seemed as natural as Elton John offering  tips on picking up chicks.

While I believe that the program was intended to be a celebration of musical expression, it also clearly was about personal transformation. Adele now has transformed into Margaret Thatcher. Melissa Etheridge has morphed into Hillary Clinton and Ellen DeGeneres literally has become Steve Martin.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
made a surprise 2013 Grammy guest appearance.

The five things that
learned from watching
the 2013 Grammy
Awards ceremony...

1) There apparently are only about a handful
of non-rap, non-synthetic-pop groups left
in existence, and they ALL look like Great
Depression survivors from the 1930s who
also are all seemingly in dire need of baths,
shaves and rack toms.

2) Frank Ocean ain't really "all that" after all.

3) Justin Timberlake's new record is gonna suck.

4) Prince is STILL hot!

5) After watching her pre-show interview and
finally pinpointing that certain peculiar look
in her eye (as well as based on her myriad
of sketchy life choices and porno-like video
content) I've now concluded that Rihanna is
demon-possessed. She's super-hot, to be sure
— but demon-possessed nonetheless.

Aside from typical categories presented during the telecast, there actually were some cool categories (that didn't make it to prime time), including "Best Hard Rock / Metal." And the nominees are... Anthrax, Marilyn Manson, Halestorm, Iron Maiden, Lamb of God and Megadeth. And the winner is... Halestorm! Oy vey. 

THE BROWNS:
Awe, I think these kids are gonna make it!
Katy Perry brought her two 
greatest assets to the Grammys:
her razor-sharp wit and her 
impeccable music talent.

HIGHLIGHTS:
Rihanna - Although most of her product amounts to little more than pornographic nonsense, Rihanna's Grammy performance of "Stay" was simply amazing — demonstrating that she may possess more talent than many may have assumed.

Jack White - Thank goodness there was at least one bona fide rock star performance! However, I personally preferred White's eerie-sounding, acoustic-based segment with The Peacocks to the zany, electrified segment with The Buzzards.

Maroon 5 with Alicia Keys - An unlikely, yet successful, high-energy pop-combo. The mighty awesomeness of Keys fortunately gave some edge to the now emasculated M5.

PLUS:
NO Bieber.  NO Britney.  NO Nicki.
                        
Jack White — 
the coolest Grammy moment.
MISSTEPS:
Kelly Clarkson - It behooves an artist attending the Grammys to be at least somewhat prepared and not too terribly buzzed — 'cuz, well, you just never know.

Miranda Lambert with Dierks Bentley - A train wreck duet. (Does he always sound, uh, like that?)

Carrie Underwood - The performance by the classiest and arguably most talented artist of the night was compromised by distracting images illuminating across her huge silver dress. But truly to maximize this gimmick in the future, I suggest selling ad space to Go Daddy or Budweiser.

Pepsi missed a huge op.
fun. - Absolutely un-listenable. But at least they won the "Best New Artist" award, which according to Grammy tradition means we won't be enduring much more "fun."

J. Lo - Was her tablecloth "dress" meant to be a joke?

Justin Timberlake - Stick to the acting thing, kid. You're bigger (and better) than this now.

LL Cool J's show-ending performance - His hip hop cred was lost years ago. But like Timberlake, he's bigger (and better) than that now. Move forward, big guy!

So there ya go — just a few random thoughts regarding THE three longest hours of my life. But I have a feeling that on Grammy night next year, I'm already obligated to do, uh — you know, a thing, at that place.

-Christopher Long
(February 2013)


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Saturday, February 9, 2013

DVD REVIEW: Chicago "Backstage Pass"

DVD REVIEW
Chicago 
Backstage Pass
_______________________

Their sound and songs
are iconic. And with a 
career that now spans
more than 45 years
and record sales
totaling in the tens
of millions, Chicago
remains one of rock's
most endearing bands.
_______________________

Formed in 1967, Chicago released their debut record in 1969. By the mid '70s they had become one of the biggest bands in the world — racking up an impressive slew of Top Ten albums and an unbelievable string of chart-busting hits including, "Saturday in the Park,"  "25 or 6 to 4,"  "Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is?," "Colour My World," "Feelin' Stronger Every Day," "Call on Me," "(I've Been) Searchin' So Long,"  "Just You 'n' Me," "Old Days," "If You Leave Me Now" — the list just goes on (and on).

The rally kept-a-rollin' during the '80s, and Chicago enjoyed even greater success with more platinum-selling albums and scoring the additional hit singles, "Hard to Say I'm Sorry," "You're the Inspiration," "Stay the Night," "Hard Habit to Break" and "Along Comes a Woman."

Chicago live in Orlando, Florida - 2011.
(Photo: Christopher Long)
The band remained active throughout the '90s and into the new millennium. And today, perennial members Robert Lamm (keyboards) Lee Loughnane (trumpet), James Pankow (trombone) and Walt Parazaider (saxophone), along with newer recruits Jason Scheff (bass), Tris Imboden (drums), Lou Paradini (keyboards) and Keith Howland (guitar), Chicago continues to pack arenas worldwide.

As a testament to Chicago's lasting popularity, Backstage Pass offers a unique glimpse into life on the road with this legendary band during their mammoth 2011 world tour — from France to Denmark to Norway to Germany to Spain to England to Sweden and beyond — including various stops throughout the U.S.

Chicago - 2011
Viewers are offered a virtual bird's-eye view — being placed directly onstage with band — and backstage too — gaining fly-on-the-wall insight during private recording sessions and personal meet-and-greets with some of their often rather exuberant fans.

Directed by Peter Pardini, Backstage Pass oozes live action concert footage, but it also is a treasure trove of compelling photo stills from onstage as well as behind the scenes. Up close and personal interviews spotlight each band member and the extensive footage of Tris Imboden's feet (in action — live) will prove to be a particular treat for drummers. Given the saturation of their (near) endless hit studio recordings over the years, it's possible to forget just what an incredible live band Chicago really is — and therein lies the coolest aspect of this DVD — crystal clear audio and beautifully shot, in-your-face video of an amazing rock band — LIVE onstage.

-Christopher Long
(February 2013)


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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

SIMPLY SANDSATIONAL!

SIMPLY 
SANDSATIONAL!
 ___________________________

It seems like just yesterday,
but it's now been 500 years 
since Juan Ponce de Leon
first explored Florida's east 
coast back in 1513. And
to commemorate the
Sunshine State's big 
anniversary, the folks
at the Brevard Zoo in
Melbourne have teamed
up with master sculptors
from around the world to 
present an exhibit that's
Simply Sandsational!
 ___________________________ 

Headed by Master Sand Sculptor Jill Harris and World Champion sand sculptor Thomas Koet from Sandsational Sand Sculpting, the annual Art of Sand event has been delighting Florida enthusiasts for years. In 2013, the exhibit will be taking up residency at Melbourne's Brevard Zoo  from February 16th through May 27th. In commemoration of Florida's anniversary, this year's theme is WILD FLORIDA: Past, Present and Future.

Since my blog is recognized now as the 14th coolest destination on the Net, I received a personal invitation from Jill to attend the recent Art of Sand pre-opening "Press Day" at the zoo. There were TV news crews, well-known newspaper reporters and, uh — me. And (now) as an acknowledged media VIP, I was privy to all sorts of behind-the-scenes dish.

Thomas Koet preps for the 
2013 Art of Sand exhibit.
The sprawling WILD FLORIDA exhibit practically will make up its own park. A grand total of 15 world-class sculptures will be featured in this year's presentation — 13 of which will  be arranged chronologically to tell Florida's epic story. Additional guides, markers and sound effects placed throughout the exhibit further will enhance what certainly will be an amazing art-meets-history experience.

But I'm as personally intrigued by the preparation effort that goes into a production of this scale as the exhibit itself, and Ms. Harris was all too happy to answer my wide-eyed questions and reveal the "man behind the curtain" aspect of this year's event.

 Master Sculptors spend an entire 
week simply shoveling sand.
The initial preparations began in late December as brush was cleared, and equipment and sand were brought onsight. From there, 14 days were required to fully create the exhibit that is expected to attract spectators numbering in the tens of thousands. Artists spend the first seven days simply shoveling sand and addressing general prep details. The next seven days are spent focused entirely on the sculpting process.

"It's heavy, hard work," Harris offered. "And there is so much happening behind the scenes that most folks just don't realize," added Koet. But at the end of the day, this unbelievable effort is clearly a labor of love. "It's a group of eight international artists coming together with one common goal — to create something beautiful," Harris confessed.

Wooden reinforcements protect 
what soon will become sculptures. 
I had to inquire as to exactly what kind of secret formula is mixed with the sand in order to maintain its form.  "Water," Harris replied, seemingly astounded by my naïveté. "Water and compaction. That's it!"

But WILD FLORIDA is an outdoor exhibit. Isn't there a concern about these sand sculptures being exposed to the elements for three months? Harris replied — with confidence. "A regular rain shower is not an issue. The water drains through the sand."

Jill Harris is a Master Sculptor with 17 years 
of experience. And she wields her Hello Kitty 
shovel with the precision of a skilled surgeon.
Harris and Koet are both award-winning sculptors who travel the world year 'round, creating their unique art. And soon following the WILD FLORIDA opening, they'll be headed to their next gig in Biloxi, Mississippi — then it's off to an international event in Japan.

I appreciated the "Press Day" invite, as well as the hospitality that was extended to me by Harris, Koet and the Brevard Zoo staff. WILD FLORIDA: Past, Present and Future is shaping up to be a massive and impressive spectacle indeed. Personally, I'll be amped to experience the finalized presentation when the exhibit officially opens next week.

-Christopher Long
(February 2013)


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