Fighting Back Against “Enema Domain”—or so it probably felt like
(plus something completely different this time in Short Takes)
Reviews by Ken Burke
Little Pink House (Courtney Balaker, 2017)
|Courtney Balaker, Susette Kelo, lawyer Dana Berliner|
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Based on fact (so nothing important I'd say about this film would actually be a spoiler if you know what happened in 1998-2005 or care to do a little easy historical research), this is about Susette Kelo’s attempt (joined by similarly distressed neighbors) to keep her working-class-neighborhood-home (but nicely located on the Thames River) in New London, CT when Pfizer Inc. wanted to buy it for their needs, supported by the governor and a local redevelopment agency who attempt to use the lucrative higher tax base as rationale for supposedly helping the poor in this economically-impacted-city (where miseries of various kinds have been brewing ever since Eugene O’Neill recounted his intra-familial-traumas, some based in their summer home called the Monte Christo Cottage which serves as the fictionalized setting for Long Day’s Journey into Night [written 1941-’42, first performed in 1956; I attempted to visit this National Historic Landmark a few years ago but it was closed that day, yet even looking in the windows easily evoked that tragic play, just as other tragedies would play out later in another part of New London as shown in Little Pink House]). The events of this film largely focus on conflicting forces with their differing interpretations of government-allowed “eminent domain” seizure of private land for public purposes, as to whether greater revenues from the revised locale justify such seizures (even with adequate compensation) rather than what the Constitution implies about such actions being normally for actual improvement structures such as lakes and libraries. Given the outcome’s the main drama here (plus depictions of rousing community support for the Kelo-led-fight) I’ll leave that to your Internet searches or simply reading my extended comments just below.
Here’s the trailer: (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or your “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)
(Sorry, but I couldn't find a trailer for this film that doesn't look underexposed. What's up with that?)
If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who want to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify any give-away sentences/sentence-clusters like this:
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.
|(You should know from the start I found a dearth of available photos to accompany this review.)|
What Happens: Unlike with a lot of releases toward late 2017 based in factual material I haven’t been reviewing much of that sort of thing lately, the last one being Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle—just kidding, besides I didn’t even review it, just made some fleeting comments in a posting soon after Easter. Actually, the closest film based in reality I’ve explored somewhat recently was The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci, 2017; review in our March 21, 2018 posting), but I get the sense that one took great liberties with actual historical accounts for purposes of absurdist humor. Now, with Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony and Joe Russo) on the near horizon, I don’t anticipate any other “based on true events” cinematic critiques by me in the near future meaning this one’s not only a bit unique for such content but also resolved in its main events in 2005 so there’s very little I could actually ruin your anticipation with in a spoiler; however, I'll steer clear of the payoff as it really would ruin your anticipation of what’s this story’s all about if I revealed it to you without the proper warning noted just above. With all of that as a wordy prelude, let me take you back to 1997.
Susette Kelo (Catherine Keener) is an EMT paramedic (Redundant? Could be; I just want to make sure I’m identifying her properly.) in New London, CT—a pleasant enough place but presented as economically-struggling during the time frame of this film so there was mutual concern from city authorities to find ways of increasing the revenue base along with worries from limited-income-citizens to find affordable housing. (I went briefly through that area once roughly when … Pink House’s narrative winds down—a colleague from Mills College where I taught prior to retirement had taken a job at the city’s Connecticut College, another had retired a few years earlier and was living nearby—but can’t say I saw enough to get any sense of local impoverishment at that time.) She’s in the process of leaving her alcoholic second husband (we don’t get any testimony about the first one, very little about #2), investing her meager resources into her first owned-home located in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, regarded as run-down by those of loftier means (not helped by its proximity to a sewage plant) but a comfortable locale for its inhabitants with a scenic advantage, being on the Thames River where it flows into the larger waters of Long Island Sound.*
*I don't know how accurately this film portrays Kelo’s private life (or that of her antagonists), but you want to get a fuller sense of the official record behind this presentation you can go here for a short (5:14) video of her speaking about her ordeal in 2009, or here for another video (6:05) from the Cato Institute about her situation; a slightly-longer-video (10:59) from the Institute for Justice provides a host of news clips from the time (along with many other options to explore this topic on the right side of the screen of this YouTube site—at least on my computer, but I also note links there to other videos I’ve recently used in postings so I’m not too sure what shows up on a more universal basis).
|(I've learned from experience: Be wary of what you might hear from college presidents—especially this one.)|
As Susette settles into her new house (refurbished solely by her, then painted pink [or so it looks; she claims it’s actually another hue, but I didn’t catch the name]), she makes friends with local deli owner Billy Von Winkle (Colin Cunningham)—who’s very glad to find any new customer for the meager merchandise on his somewhat empty shelves—and an antiques dealer (whose store is packed compared to Billy’s but not with the treasures dedicated antiques buyers hope to find), Tim LeBlanc (Callum Keith Rennie), with whom Susette soon begins a romantic relationship. Meanwhile New London’s mayor, Lloyd Beachy (Garry Chalk), desperately open for options to help his hardscrabble town, finds an attractive offer from the New London Development Corporation with local (fictional, but modeled on Connecticut College president of that time, Claire L. Gaudiani) Walthrop College president Charlotte Wells (Jeanne Tripplehorn), a good-looking-shark, newly installed as NLDC's head to essentially buy good PR with the community. She’s working in tandem with the Governor (Aaron Douglas)—also presented as a fictional construct but clearly referencing actual GOP officeholder John Rowland—and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals CEO Howard Munson (Michael Kopsa) (he's possibly another fictional construct but Mayor Beachy’s real; what else is real here is a nice comparison cut that would've made Soviet master filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein proud as we switch from Munson’s brain-trust happily eating lobster in an upscale restaurant to Susette and Tim munching on pizza in her modest home) looking for an ideal track of land for a huge new research facility to mass-produce the potentially (then actually) game-changing ED-solution, Viagra.
|Here's a photo from actual Fort Trumbull area during the time period in which this film is set.|
Everyone—except the residents of Fort Trumbull, some of whom are retirees who’ve lived there all their lives—thinks this riverside location would be ideal for the substantial employment/tax-infusion project (the Gov’s willing to invest $75 million for infrastructure improvements to help the project along, inspired by the promised publicity of how he helped these Democrat-leaning-citizens of his state would help his own Republican-Presidential-campaign-ambitions) so as the narrative shifts to 1999 we find the NLDC (represented by a young woman, Lynette Vargas [Donna Benedicto], with a big smile and a handy clipboard) offering Susette $68,000 for her home (an improvement over what she paid for it), although neither she nor most of her neighbors are interested in moving (as well as not able to then buy anything somewhere else nearby). Discussions of eminent domain arise (allowed under the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment) where governments may take possession of private land for public use (roads, bridges, hospitals, etc. after giving proper compensation to the private owners), which the New London honchos are eager to do (most of the Fort Trumbull residents aren’t selling) with Wells using the strategy of Pfizer’s local debut as an economic boon ($12 million) that could aid the city’s poor (sounds good until you see snarky Charlotte promoting it).
When local news reporters are stonewalled by NLDC for not responding to Freedom of Information Act requests, the story of threatened citizens vs. heartless bureaucrats starts drawing some national attention with Institute for Justice lawyer Scott Bullock (Giacomo Baessato)—as actual as Susette, in fact he’s now IJ’s president and general counsel—showing up to help, but the New London City Council goes ahead with the eminent domain plan (and accompanying eviction notices) at a meeting seeming to be over (to clear the few visitors attending) then quickly reconvened to slip approval through before the press is aware. By 2000, reluctant Susette’s become an outspoken community leader against this cruel land grab (as a counter to the public face of smug/glib Ms. Wells), but her resolve’s challenged when the house next door to hers is smashed apart by heavy machinery (reminding me of an equally-sad-scene in The Grapes of Wrath [John Ford, 1940] when Muley Graves’ [John Qualen] homestead farmhouse is demolished by a bank-approved-tractor as his family stands there, watching their entire existence ripped away, while Susette defiantly sits on her porch even as her neighboring home is destroyed). By 2001, the situation’s in the courts and the news, with a David vs. Goliath scenario easily gaining public favor; in 2002 there’s an offer for Kelo’s home to be saved but not those of most of her remaining Fort Trumbull stalwarts so she appeals it in court, continuing the fight with the Gov. dismissing Wells from NLDC in a nasty confrontational scene, but victories are matched by defeats as Tim’s badly injured in some accident, leaving him mentally and physically impaired so Susette’s now got to deal with his constant care as well, which she does including marrying him. Finally, the case winds its way to the CT Supreme Court which rules 4-3 in favor of Pfizer, accepting the argument its facility (along with upscale condos, a luxury hotel) will be an appropriate economic uplift for struggling New London.
|(Another Fort Trumbull actuality photo, a feral cat now living in the abandoned area after Pfizer moved on.)|
⇒In 2004 the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear the appeal, giving New London city attorney Tim Bratten (Jerry Wasserman) another chance to aggressively make his case against Susette and her vocal Fort Trumbull supporters; sadly, the Court's 2005 decision goes against her—5-4—so the remaining residents have 90 days to evacuate, although at least Kelo’s husband’s recovered by this time so he’s able to join with her in a final rousing crowd scene at the little pink house as her tireless efforts are celebrated by the many people locally (and nationwide) who stood with her in this fundamental Constitutional fight. Ending graphics, photos, and news footage show us the actual woman, along with noting many states have changed their laws to better protect homeowners and small commercial property owners from corporate business interests; ironically, when Pfizer’s tax break in New London ended in 2009 they moved out, leaving the Fort Trumbull area as a huge undeveloped vacant lot even today (a little extra research also reveals the pink house was moved to near downtown New London but Susette no longer lives there); another revelation is this film’s somewhat-fictionalized-Governor (and his real-life-model) went to prison for mail and tax fraud).⇐
|Once again, the real Susette Kelo, this time with her husband, Tim LeBlanc.|
So What? Given the events depicted (somewhat fictionalized as they may be) in Little Pink House are a matter of extensive public record (various search items such as Susette Kelo, New London Development Corporation, eminent domain, etc. could keep you busy for quite some time getting a full background on this event and its aftermath) I’ll just refer you to this IJ site for a summary of the situation, including a timeline of what happened along with copies of pertinent documents (including many amicus briefs filed in support of Kelo’s arguments), although you might also be interested in another site which includes details (scroll down quite a bit to get there) of how a dozen of 42 (some accounts say 44) states have since modified their eminent domain laws to give the better protection noted just above (along with President George W. Bush in 2006 instructing the U.S. government to also restrict use of eminent domain claims for such economic reasons as in the Kelo case). However, as a longtime-liberal (despite my family and environmental upbringing deep in the heart of Texas) I now better see at least some of the libertarian stances taken by those who oppose governmental meddling in private affairs (which in principle I support, notably in matters of personal choice such as interracial or same-sex marriage, a woman’s full command of her body regarding pregnancy vs. birth control/abortion, etc., but I’ve also found it often takes governmental action via courts and/or legislatures to insure such rights as well as more public protections regarding education, housing, employment given how entrenched the various hatreds, biases, and phobias are in so many global societies) because the normally (or at least often)-liberal-leaning-judges were the ones voting in favor of the City of New London in this case: John Paul Stevens (yes, the retired Justice now advocating repeal of the Second Amendment [I agree, although I might tolerate merely some modification of it, if only to get such an almost-impossible-concept to become law in our gun-happy U.S.A.]) wrote the majority opinion, agreed to by Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, and David Souter while the opposition (in favor of Kelo) was led by Sandra Day O’Conner, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas, so I can understand why some call this Supreme Court decision the most despised in U.S. history (I’d still give some consideration for that "honor" to the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission result, which sanctioned the flood of corporate cash flowing into election campaigns).
This flip of the usual liberal/conservative Supreme Court votes (at least in terms of how they’re purported to come out) among 2005's group of justices notwithstanding, the public—and resulting state-by-state—sympathy for the principles Kelo, her neighbors, her lawyers, and her groundswell of supporters advocated led to significant changes in how corporate greed (and its attending influence on local governments) can just run roughshod over the interests of private citizens so the film’s ultimately an uplifting history lesson that most of us could use as an active reminder, because I doubt this situation or its aftermath is an active awareness for most of us unless some megabucks entity suddenly wants our property just for a big-box-store, multi-story-hotel, sports stadium, or additional Amazon headquarters (I’m not anti-Jeff Bezos like petulant President Trump—in fact my wife, Nina, and I buy quite a bit from Amazon even as disturbed as it makes us when such purchases help undermine our local merchants, while Alexa [when she’s in sync with our requests] has become a very useful daily tool, but you can see again in the rabid race so many cities are in for final contender status for that new sprawling corporate addition the obscene offers in terms of tax breaks and other perks being promised, all echoing what’s presented in Little Pink House). Citizen complaints of the most vocal nature—with their resulting round-the-clock-news-coverage—will continue to be one of the most effective strategies we can collectively take to at least attempt to protect outgunned-victims of thinking inside the (big) box, along with continuing to elect leaders, from city councils on up to our national officeholders, who demonstrate genuine response to constituent concerns (even when those constituents live in districts that don’t support the same priorities I do), but along with ongoing private activism it certainly doesn’t hurt to have vehicles such as Little Pink House appear in our mass media to help remind us of the personal dedication (and pro-bono legal support) needed to keep fighting for fairness in all of our nationwide-communities.
Bottom Line Final Comments: Of course, the connected difficulty of using media forums to promote progressive (or at least humane) public policy is the expense of getting these messages made, then distributed in venues where they can get some attention. Unfortunately, I can’t yet make that argument for Little Pink House although it might catch on enough to gain a bit more exposure than it’s currently experiencing. Despite solid reviews at Rotten Tomatoes (85% positive) that result's based only on 13 critics (if they’d ever let me join them this percentage would be even better, but despite your ongoing, loyal, worldwide support I can promise you I’ll never meet RT’s intended-for-those-who-review-movies-for-a-living-criteria) while those who attend to the normally-more-stringent-Metacritic results won’t be much encouraged (55% average score) but that’s based on just 9 reviews so attention’s been slow in coming even from those whose careers are focused on film analysis. Likewise, even though … Pink House dates back to early 2017 it’s just now in domestic (U.S.-Canada) release in a mere 9 theaters (no info on international distribution but unlikely at this point, especially in countries where “eminent domain” means “move now or else”); that’s resulted in a very impressive per-theater-return of $7,612, yet the sum total’s only $68,507 so far, with my hopes you might keep an eye out for it in various video options as that’s your most likely access to this well-intentioned, thought-provoking sample of cinema. I'll admit it’s more of an illustrated history lesson than a tension-filled-drama (especially if you look anything up on the Internet before attending or are conditioned by fictional courtroom victories to assume justice will prevail in the end), but at least it shows pursuing due process can lead to after-the-fact-victories even if they may be slow in coming through the usual backroom-bargaining-legislative-processes.
I’ll conclude my comments on this film of modest proportions (especially compared to the Avengers … juggernaut set to hit thousands of theaters this coming weekend) with an obvious, equally-straightforward song—chosen for my usual wrap-up-device of a Musical Metaphor—John Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses” (from his 1983 Uh-Huh album) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOfkpu6749w (the official music video, that, in my mind, attempts to illustrate how patriotism can be displayed in contexts that aren’t always right-wing-based), which might could have served as an inspiration for Susette Kelo to choose the color she did for her precious domicile (but I have no idea if there’s any connection) given its lyrics about “Ain’t that America Home of the free Little pink houses For you and me [although Kelo’s initial exhilaration about her new home takes a turn she never expected] But just like everything else Those old crazy dreams Just kinda came and went.” Mellencamp reports he was inspired while driving through Indiana where he saw an old Black man sitting contentedly on his porch of a little pink house, but it’s clear the overall tone (despite the upbeat tempo) contains some sarcastic commentary about how “there’s winners and there’s losers But they ain’t no big deal ‘Cause the simple man, baby Pays for thrills, the bills, The pills that kill” (with that last line more poignant than ever due to our current opioid crisis in those same Middle America areas long touted—especially lately for political payoff—as the true “home of the free”). There’s joy (even if faked a bit) and heartache in this song, just like in the film. (A final political note on “Pink Houses”: lefty-Democrat Mellencamp questioned the John McCain 2008 Presidential campaign’s use of the song so they voluntarily stopped but in 2010 when the National Organization for Marriage [an anti-gay-matrimony-group] also tried to use it they were hit with a cease and desist order; however, Mellencamp performed it himself at the 2009 Barack Obama Inaugural Celebration.)
SHORT TAKES (spoilers also appear here)
29 to Life (Alex Magaña)
Barnaby, a young (but getting older) one-time-wannabe-chef living in L.A. is having a miserable blockade in his life as his girlfriend angrily breaks up with him, his parents kick him out, he has no prospects except to sleep in his car and shower at the beach until former high-school-friend Madison comes back into his life, at least offering encouragement to trust his talents.
Here’s the trailer:
Before reading any further, I’ll ask you to refer to the plot spoilers warning far above.
As I’ve noted periodically in past postings, Two Guys in the Dark are always open (as time permits) to consider reviewing cinematic products from independent filmmakers (no compensation to us) still establishing themselves in this competitive industry, so when someone makes us an offer to review a movie we’d likely not be aware of otherwise we try to respond, which is the case here with 29 to Life, described to me by the director (who’s truly an auteur, in the fullest sense of the word, being also the producer, scriptwriter, cinematographer, editor, chief lighting technician, and sound designer—in fact, he lists only 2 other crew members for this feature-length production) as “a mix between a coming of age drama and a romantic comedy” about a guy, Barnaby (Murphy Martin)—prefers "Arnie"—who at 29 is already about to give up on life because nothing’s really gone the way he’d hoped it would be by now nor does he have a job (he graduated from culinary school but ended up employed at a place where the food’s intended to be functional, not exceptional, while he considers himself a chef not just a cook), a girlfriend (Elaina [Hayley Amriz] has just angrily broken up with him citing all of his inadequacies), a place to live (his parents [Sherry Driggs, Rocky Hart]—well, mostly Dad—have grown tired of him still living at home so they’ve kicked him out, put all his stuff on the lawn, left him a few bucks in the mailbox), or much of anything else (he even gets hustled on a local basketball court by a mouthy little kid, losing $40 he can’t afford to part with as his resources are almost gone) so he’s now sleeping in his car, showering on the beach (naked, so he’s quite the morning vision for occasional passersby), hungry with not much hope for any improvement so, with nothing better to do, he wanders off to go to his 10-year-high-school-reunion.
There he gets some light back into his life via reconnecting with old friend Madison (Diana Solis), offering him the first nice conversation we’ve seen so far. Promising to stay in touch, Arnie goes about seeking jobs but the absurd lies on his résumé (including a claim he cured SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome]) leave his potential employers either incredulous or convinced he’s overqualified for their offerings. The only thing he finds is raking leaves in a park but he’s so bored he sleeps most of the day under a tree, leading to an immediate firing (and $1 for his "work"). Madison manages to get him a gig catering a party for her friend, Chloe (Lauren Waites), which goes well regarding his food preparation (so he makes $300) despite bickering with the hostess over his lame attempts at jokes. In an attempt to celebrate with Madison at a local club they run into Elaina and her new guy, Geppetto (Rhett Wellington), leading to a revelation she was cheating on Arnie long before they broke up (he's really hurt by this). In retaliation, Arnie orders an enormous bunch of junk food to be delivered to Elaina’s place, later he and Madison cover Elaina's car with Saran Wrap, but then Madison has to bail him out when a couple of cops finally arrest him for his nude beach showers. ⇒This doesn’t discourage her from continuing to help him, though, so she sends his honest résumé around, gets him an interview with a respected restaurant, leading to a job offer as a head chef—but only if he’ll move to Seattle, an option coming after their snuggly-night at a hotel where he assumed sex but she only wanted to give him a chance to fulfill a childhood dream of jumping on a commercial bed. Finally, as the result of an inside-joke about New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, he decides to skip the job, stay in L.A. with Madison, now self-confident enough (we hope) to find another opportunity, allowing their new romance to blossom.⇐
29 to Life’s an oddly charming movie, "oddly" because Arnie’s clumsy manner coupled with a hefty dose of self-loathing makes it hard to warm up to him (Martin’s portrayal only enhances this, intended as a sincere, not a backhanded compliment, really!)—although Madison’s always a pleasant presence whenever she’s on screen. Further, despite some useful humor in the exaggerated résumé routine and unexpected funny bits using a mysterious thief (Minchi Murakami) who robs Arnie of his attempted bag of recycling items, then tries to break into the car where Arnie’s sleeping followed by an attempt to hide in plain sight on the pavement, there are just too many scenes where the dialogue falls flat (sorry, Alex; I know you wrote it) or the situations just drag on too long (Arnie—misportrayed in the nightclub scene as “Barney,” as in the famous kids’ TV purple dinosaur—and Geppetto—with obvious reference to Disney’s Pinocchio [extensive directors, 1940]—trade insults about their names) so even though the 100 min. running time isn’t excessive at all for a feature, this one could easily have been cut back by 10 min. or so to have better pacing. Still, 29 to Life (clever title, indicating Arnie’s sense of being sentenced to a seeming-eternity of continuing to be himself) is a pleasant amusement (containing some great aerial cinematography of L.A. along with a very energetic soundtrack), available now on Amazon Prime, although you can also get a bit more information at IMDb (where you’ll find a few user/external reviews in addition to mine [a bit more embracing of this odd movie than I'm being] but there’s nothing yet at RT or MC).
I liked watching 29 to Life, appreciate Alex Magaña making it available to me, encourage you to see it on Amazon Prime if it sounds appealing to your tastes, and will leave you for now with a Musical Metaphor that speaks to me about Arnie’s generally-adolescent-attitude that’s left him in a state of arrested development long past when such feelings and behaviors were more appropriate for high school (admittedly, with Madison’s help he finally seems to be on the road to rising above such limitations but that’s how he functions for most all of the movie; thus, on with the song). It’s the Beach Boys’ “Girl Don’t Tell Me” (from the 1965 Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) album) which you can enjoy at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pS94YK3pscs presenting a brief story about a haughty girl (like Elaina), a now-cynical-guy who was devastated by her (like Arnie), and a set of adolescent feelings and actions on the level of the football that Arnie painstakingly forged famous player signatures on, all hopefully to be washed away by the new tide Madison’s ridden in on. (Just to help take us out this week in an equally-clumsy-manner, though, here’s one more video of that song with the only live performance I could find, not all of the Beach Boys but at least we get Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, and David Marks; the video imagery is often terrible here in an acknowledgement to Mr. Magaña that no matter how hard you work on polishing your presentation somebody [like me] will always come along to undermine it for you, even with their best intentions.)
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Here’s more information about Little Pink House:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvYQpSDbURs (3:52 interview with director Courtney
Balaker and actor Jeanne Tripplehorn) + https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94manpPJUjs
(2:57 completion of that interview)
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By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken
P.S. Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker. But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.
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I have no idea what causes the ebb and flow of our international readership so at this rate we may vanish completely, but I’ll hold out hope an upward trend might emerge again soon); below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:
I have no idea what causes the ebb and flow of our international readership so at this rate we may vanish completely, but I’ll hold out hope an upward trend might emerge again soon); below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week: