Reductive Excess

I didn’t lose or misplace my iPod Touch half a decade ago. It was evaporated by God in an act of divine intervention while I wasn’t looking. It probably happened while I was preoccupied in some other life process barely less artificial than I otherwise might’ve been engaged in via the iPod Touch Myself. I distinctly remember its unrepentantly streamlined design. It had no edges, no “side panels” to be spoken of. I was constantly fumbling around with it as if I needed to evolve and develop a new grasping mechanism, perhaps grow a curved intermediary bone in the metacarpal structure of my groper to interface the device’s virtual “sides.” Maybe I just wasn’t intelligent enough, maybe I was cut off from breast-feeding prematurely, maybe I should’ve been on seven psych meds instead of five. Or perhaps Apple was just marketing to a crowd of fashion sheep with an addiction to useless affectation and delusions of platonic formality. Maybe it was just bad design. Maybe. 

On the Inside Looking Around

One of the best rumors circulating around the campus of West Torrance High in my two (not four) years there was that the people who were designing the prisons were also designing our schools. I started to look around and couldn’t help but notice the toupe-accented-with-grey color scheme, the plain thick structures of concrete slabs, the slits in the windows that would allow light in but no view out, the geometric layout of “quadrants,” the obvious chain link fence being patrolled by the “narcs,” all the makings of a youth detention facility. It would’ve been a complete package had we been mandated to wear our PE uniforms during all periods. Even our shoes started to resemble county-issued footwear. We always wore skateboarding shoes because they were easy to get on and off without tying and untying the laces, plus some of us actually were skaters. During the nineties skateboard shoe designs got more and more elaborate to the point where they became these obscenely inflamed contraptions of marketing concepts presented as technological improvements. Those of us who skated and had to use the things everyday started to realize that the more uniform designs were more structurally sound and durable. Of course the market also jumped on this and flooded itself with these increasingly simplistic designs, becoming oversimplified to the detriment of functionality, catering more and more to those who don’t skate. This resulted in a lot more cheap loafer-type shoes for those who loaf in front of the TV ogling at the spectacle of soulless arena skateboarding and thus relegating themselves to mere spectatorship. They will never know and appreciate a pair of shoes with just enough padding to alleviate some heel bruising when throwing oneself down a flight of stairs, repeatedly slamming their bodies against concrete, rupturing skin and dripping blood, to be not just an active participant, but a passionate one. They’ll never know what it’s like to keep getting back up for more because you only tolerate school all week so that you can leave and then go and carry out your real vision, even if it is, as I mentioned before, barely less artificial. At least its yours–or so you tell yourself.

Infinity Miles Per Gallon

Overt minimalism appeals to our fantasies of self-sufficiency. That which the Buddha was disillusioned by whilst he laid in utter depletion after meditating naked in the forest eating his own feces trying to attain enlightenment through the concept of asceticism. It’s this silly notion that one needs absolutely nothing, a romantic idea of otherworldly celestiallity and illusory self-subsistence like an ouroboros swallowing its own tail. Backpackers understand the necessity of necessity and is thus reflected in the design of their gear. Their backpacks are rarely feature-light. The descriptions of their intended functions are usually clearly stated. It can be a matter of life-and-death for them. Deaths of underprepared hikers in the woods who bring nothing but their receptionless “smart” phones are on the rise. We live in an age where our culture is beginning to be as complex as nature. These convenient touch-screen devices which provide buttons to push for virtual support at “any” moment temporally pacifies our anxiety of facing this complexity. A faith once reserved for our conceptions of some omnipresent Supreme Being is being relegated to technology. Intrinsic value is being replaced by market value. There is no more morality, there is only that which can be quantified by the monetary and capital. One’s value is set according to where they fit in the algorithm of a data-based economy.The market seeks to commodify all forms of reality, both physical and perceptual. In an economy that utilizes innovation and makes progress by realizing potentiality, intellectual property is property intellectualized. The distinction between existent and nonexistent slips into ambiguity. It carries an inverse effect to its rhetorical purpose. It is a process that assumes that something can not only come from nothing, but simultaneously be nothing, thus rendering reality irrelevant and giving way to a hallucinatory state of cognition.

Techno? Or Techyes!

Don’t get me wrong, I love internal cable routing, integrated this and integrated that. The sleek and the svelte. But when there is a need for articulation, it should be recognized. Take a minimal techno act such as The Ripped from Chile, it’s minimal not because the sound is deliberately lacking. It’s about the principle of quality over quantity. It’s about the texture, depth and the cohesion of the elements that make up the overall soundscape, nothing by any means idiosyncratic to its “genre.” It’s considered “minimal” because the norm is to cram constitutionally mediocre ideas together in attempts to intimidate uninformed and uneducated listeners into submission rather than appeal to any kind of intelligible sensibility. Minimal does not have to mean anemic. I quite like minimalism within certain forums. But as a vision for the whole world and a social architecture, living on a planet that resembles a giant ceramic ball bearing just doesn’t seem viable to me. At least not until we achieve immortality or adapt to eating our own shit.

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Safety First, Sensibility Last

Wear your helmet! Okay, sure. When a non-motorist’s head smacks the concrete because they were incompetently fluttering about like the dumb inexcusable idiots that they constantly and invariably are, a helmet will save their our life. No qualms with that. But the presumption that dangerous scenarios are always caused by non-car vehicles is one that needs some serious reconsideration.

A Nerf Gun to a Sniper Fight

Over a decade ago in the nearby town of El Segundo, CA, a young boy was struck and killed by a Chevy Suburban while he was luging down a hill on his skateboard. Immediately the air filled with rhetoric about “safety awareness.” There was a murmur in the atmosphere about helmets and staying on the sidewalk and whatnot. The automatic reaction seemed to be, “See, skateboarding is dangerous!” But how can that be? Most people don’t believe that Nerf guns pose any serious physical threat because the bullets are soft foam and resemble tampons, hardly bullets at all. They’re projected at a velocity so low and a force so light that any deer you’d try to hunt with it would laugh at you and make an insult about your mother. We consider sniper rifles, on the other hand, to be very dangerous because the physics involved are quite different. But when the situation involves a motorist and a non-motorist, suddenly the criterion changes. A young boy, perhaps ninety pounds, on a light piece of wood with a speed of 25mph at the most can maybe break someone’s ankle or kill an infirm who would probably die of a bee sting anyways. A suburban is an encased two-ton structure mostly comprised of hard metals which can travel at speeds over 100mph. It will obliterate a deer and anything else it might hit and will still somehow evade the consideration that perhaps cars are the malicious ones or at least shouldn’t take precedence over other forms or transportation. Where does this auto-archical dogmatism arise from?

Law, Shlaw

Motorists are perfect law-abiding citizens who never make errors on the road and are always considerate of others. All motorists have superior gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Motorists have never cut each other off, driven drunk, ran red lights, driven over traffic islands, plowed through Farmer’s Markets, had head-on collisions with other cars, been in high-speed car chases on the news, had litter and harmful emissions spewed out from them, steadily killed 30,000-50,000 people a year, ran over children on their way to school, killed old people crossing the street. Nope. Without drivers there would be no morality. We’d be committing heinous transgressions like walking to the grocery store. We might degenerate into people who suffer from depression less and cut risk of heart disease in half. Without motorists the world would literally fall apart.

Auto-erotic Ass-fixation

Cars are constantly being depicted in our media as being sexy and they are not. Bicycles are sexy. They’re sleek, they tone your muscles and tighten up your body, they lodge the saddle right into your crotch and if you’ve been riding it for a while it will probably be covered in sweat. They stand on vertical axes, gliding toward you like a beautiful slender woman in a form-fitting dress. Cars crawl on all fours and look like anklyosaurus. The fact that they travel as fast as they can and the idiotic, wily manner in which people drive them is comical. They’re like a hybrid of Charlie Chaplin’s movement and a tortoise’s constitution, they have the cartoonish tackniess of Roger Rabbit. The position they seat your body in makes you look like a fat slob drooling at the TV while getting an imaginary pedicure. The typical frontside of a car looks like the face of someone having a severe allergic reaction to a food. It is the function of our market to deceive the consumer and help them make irrational buying decisions. It’s beyond appealing to any sense of aesthetic, it’s defining the perception of it. There is a reason that there are separate and distinguishable terms in our lexicon such as “description” and “advertisement.” The root word “advert” is only subtly different from “divert.” To advert means that one can temporarily be diverted so long as at some point one can be put back on course. So that means advertisement can just talk around certain concepts, you know, like intelligibility, sensibility–facts. The reasoning then follows that if one cannot acquire an automobile, one cannot be sexy and therefore have sex, if one cannot have sex, then one cannot reproduce, and that is, after all, what we’re here to do, because you know–it’s what the Bible says. And we’d therefore be ignoring the true purpose of our lives.

Sports That Are Extremely Extreme

So what about these “alternative” modes of transport, “extreme sports” and arts that are supposedly so much more “dangerous” than these daily-accepted transportation processes and organized sports. They are a threat to the status quo of the infrastructural establishment. They are characterized by autonomous governance or sometimes a total lack thereof. They are not labelled dangerous because of any special threat of physical harm. They are labelled dangerous because they represent the idea that it might be possible to function without dependence on hierarchical systems. The logic is that if you have a coach ordering you around while you repeatedly bash your skull and that such processes are carried out with the oversight of a governing republic, it is “safe.”

Dude Got All Utilitarian On Me

It is plain that cars have their uses and might be necessary in logistical matters. But let’s use our brains and maybe even use simple calculative reasoning in the way we treat each other on the road. Negotiating around a slower-moving form of transportation usually doesn’t take that much time and effort. It’s never anyone else’s fault when one makes themselves late to work by getting stuck on the internet looking at porn or reading shit like this. Remember, “you own a car, not the road.” (Unless of course you’re one of those people who leased an escalade with spinners and defaulted on the payments–looks like you don’t really own that either, now do you?)

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People Just Aren’t Willing to Bleed For Music Anymore…

Lucas Abela aka Justice Yeldham. Most probably wouldn’t consider it music. It’s better than music. I once heard someone call him an “art school dropout.” You know who else was a dropout? Steve Jobs. You know who Steve Jobs was? The person who is partially responsible for the digitization of your whole worthless reality. Justice Yeldham plays a piece of glass through a contact mic through FX pedals. He’s kinda like an oboist that’s not a total fucking bore. They don’t make spit catchers for blood and shards of window.

 

Disreantiyouthhellchristbastardassmanx. An Escondido thrashpunk band, whose music was, quite frankly, terrible. Not even a good terrible. They made Anal Cunt sound like Aaron Copeland. You know who Aaron Copeland was? He’s the guy who’s partially responsible for the soundtrack to your whole worthless digitized reality. A friend told me that the vocalist once cut himself so badly during a performance that some of his innards were starting to come out. Good thing I’m a vegetarian!

The Mean Reds were from Arizona. They were one of those dancy punk bands with a synth. The first time I saw them play, the singer climbed up a rope that was dangling in the middle of the room about eight to ten feet high–and let go. He fell flat on his back. He climbed up on the guitar amp and exposed his nutsack. My friend proceeded to get naked and fell through the roof of the makeshift room of this guy’s art loft in San Pedro. He was completely sober, too. The second time I saw them play, which was their last show, the vocalist urinated in a bottle and their groupie friend took the bottle of piss and spit it back onto him all over his body, which had several lacerations on his abdominal section. He was wearing a skirt which kept drooping down exposing his penis. He then ignored every line of his usual lyrics and replaced them all with the simple phrase, “Fuck you!” We heard “Fuck you!” repeatedly for a whole thirty minutes or however long it was that they played that night.

Not so fucking punk now, are we?

I know, we’re all socially conscious, refined and politically correct. The revolution is hip right now, everyone was a thug ten years ago and now everyone’s got a newfound appreciation for art after they saw videos of Kanye West. One time when I was young, my mother held out her hands and said something like, “See, my hands are rough from working and washing dishes. Your brother’s hands are smooth because he’s never worked a day in his life.” It’s great that all you kids are intelligent, well-spoken, and articulate. But you’re boring as all hell. No one cares that you’re the right balance of urban and rustic, that you have the romantic, edgy-yet-nonchalant fashion formula down to a science. Oo, folk music, how “alternative.” You look like John Mayer. So fucking what? All this whittling of artistic sensibility is a huge damper. We’ve already got a culture of the lowest common denominator. It’s called being an American. Do you really want to live a life of grocery store music, freeway billboards and infomercials? No? Then make something offensive. Put the lotion away for just a second. Turn off the air conditioner. Lose some fakeass friends over it. Get banned from places that are only exploiting the talent for profit. Smash Jason Mraz’s guitar for him. Put the “sic” back in music.

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Guitar Zero

Chugging palm-mute riffs that shred? Fuck yeah. Big, pulverizing, anthematic rhythm tones? You betcha. Beautiful, cascading leads of fairy dust waterfalls? Oo, baby… lower. Different variations on that frilly guitar part, where everyone in the room spontaneously yells out, “Doodly-doodly-doo!” After the line, “Can you taaake meee hiiiighya” when mocking the singer of Creed’s dumb voice, for any number of measures in a row? Please, just harpoon me naked, standing at attention on the beach with my hands by my side, only wearing Mickey Mouse gloves, catching it all on film with a really high-FPS slo-mo camera. It would make better art.

No one likes a guitar soloist

…That’s why they’re always trying to play alone. In my last blog I briefly alluded to my inner disdain for the all-holy, epic moment of bullshit that is the guitar solo. There’s nothing that can ruin a good show more than watching a buncha jerks standing as far away from each other as possible with their heads down the whole time, filling the atmosphere with a tonality of low-calorie, premasticated mud and a cohesiveness that is as absent as the female opening on a flea. It makes me want to yell, “Boo! Go back to Guitar Center! You smell like inner thigh sweat and lubriderm! (Don’t ask me how I know what this smells like) Boooo!” It’s always a tragedy. And a total waste of five dollars that I spent thirty hard minutes trying to act like I’m not using my cellphone at work when my boss comes around to earn. It happens everywhere I go and makes finding diamonds in the rough evermore laborious. Why waste everyone in your band’s (not to mention everyone in the audience, the people who help promote and set the event up, your mother, your nieces and nephews, every school teacher that ever sat with you after class explaining things to you at a pace at which your dumbass could understand, etc.)’s time. Play with each other, not over each other! What’s the point in getting everyone together to perform as if they’re the only ones there? What makes us think that that’s okay? I blame the guitar solo.

The Sprint

In cycling, it’s typical for a team to support the “sprinter” all throughout a stage, breaking the wind for him, making sure his precious little legs stay fresh for that triumphant surge across the finish line in that last kilometer for the sweet, sweet nectar of victory. Well… Music isn’t cycling and there is no sprinter! And even in a bike race everyone has to work together to keep from crashing and getting their faces rasped off across the tarmac. Go to the back with everyone else! And stay there! You are not a champion. There is no first place in art, you fuckin’ imbecile! I don’t care that your Daddy never loved you. I don’t care that you’re trying to be all you can be, “carpe diem,” and all that crap. You’re not that interesting. We’re not all waiting for your messianic second coming, for you to take us all, your chaste and devoted followers with you up to heaven where we can all sit in rows of golden pews, listening to you play “One” by Metallica for the rest of eternity. You have it in your mind that when all your band mates’ powers are combined, they get you–Captain Fuckin’ Planet. Now there’s a mental image to pair with your cheesy musical expression a la guitar solo! I hope you see Captain Planet in your psyche every time you hear an arpeggio or any sequence of hammer-ons and pull-offs followed by a pinch harmonic above middle-C. Hopefully the thought of his over-the-calf boots, belted speedo and green mullet (which wouldn’t be that atypical of a depiction of an 80′s hair metal “axe” wielder) will help your glorified reverence for the guitard fauxlo wane a little more every time you hear one. Just watch. It will die. And you’ll sprout anew. You’ll thank me for it within the next decade or so. I can see you’re starting to feel better already.

Well, who the fuck am I?

Okay, maybe I am just a bit jealous and am saying all this because I feel I’ve been mediocre at every instrument I’ve picked up in my life and have been “more skilled in the compositional aspect.” But take our country, for example, and our imposing insistence that, “We’re number one!” Imagine a personification of this attitude. Would it be a stretch to say that it might resemble a soloing guitarist spewing the obscenity of his “licks” on everyone? A sort of braggart or exhibitionist? I think it’s safe to say that it wouldn’t surprise any of us should such an individual receive a rude, fistful awakening or at the very least an assertive pleading of, “Sir, would you please shut the fuck up?” Someone’s gotta say it. Probably better me than some crazy foreign guy with a modern high-tech micronuke shoved up his ass.

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Everything Is Gonna Be Just Awful…

Torch these hands dipped in gold lacquer / Torch the finger-prints painting a violence portrait on spinal wings / I buried my child of eight inch fingers neck deep in the hungry quicksand / I buried my bride of pineapple skin where the generic sunsets sparkle so bland / I split my grandmother like a rotten papaya… our fright to pollenate the flowers of fire / I vomited my skeleton and donated it to the war mausoleum / I cut my will and testament along the scar tissue seam / I packaged my heart and fed-ex’d it to the octopus queen / Burn Piano Island Burn!

I know what you’re thinking. Genius. Right? Ever listen to an album (even after ten years) that rocks so hard that it creates such a nucleation of tingling sensation up and down your spinal column that it erupts out of your mouth, making you yell when you’re in the car by yourself, “SO FUCKING GOOD! Why does most music have to SUCK so much!?” Yeah… no? Me neither.

Burn, Piano Island, Burn! by The Blood Brothers. It’s got jazz dissonance, poetic surrealism, hardcore ferocity and, “avant-garde” flare in every direction. The sound is by no means lacking and is “hard to ignore.” Truthfully, it would probably give most people a headache. I think it feels like getting a rubdown, or like one of those ASMR videos on youtube. Break out the massage oil! You’re gonna need it.

The Blood Brothers have two vocalists, Johnny Whitney, who is probably the hardest to ignore in the whole band. Whenever I expose a newcomer to The Blood Brothers, I always ask them, “Do you think that’s a girl or a guy singing?” This is always ensued by a long pause of apprehensive silence. He is that good. He’s got a blistering falsetto and can scream like a cougar. (note: The “reggae” breakdown in “Every Breath Is A Bomb) Then there’s BIllie Jordan, I had a friend who used to tell me how much he loved The Blood Brothers but hated Billie. Probably ’cause he sounds like a stereotypical sobbing emo kid. But I’m not afraid to admit it, I’m part emo kid, I secretly enjoy that shit. He’s perfect for the parts when he’s non-melodically reciting poetic verse, sometimes layered with Johnny’s singing. (note: “Burn Piano Island, Burn,” “USA Nails”)  I value an artist’s ability to make more than one mode of art mesh together. He’s also got a strong scream that’s just a tad more throaty than Johnny’s and really contributes to the head-bashing, hard-rockingness of this masterpiece of a record.

The instrumentation is punk, learned, well-composed and choreographed and unrefined. All at the same time. The guitar has that warm Gibson midtone that is just excellent for the rhythmic, solo-light style that is more typical of punk. The dissonant, jazzy phraseology lends an absoultely beautiful touch to all the chaotic splendor. He knows how to add garnishings that show how the guitar can do more than just “play the right notes.” (note: “Ambulance vs. Ambulance,” “USA Nails”) The bass also shows this same tactful sensibility, it’s chugging and snarling when the heat is on and it’s warm, soft and round when it needs to be. And there are a few times when it’s just completely out-of-place and off on its own tangent. What are you gonna do about it? A lot of bands suck because they have a weak drummer who doesn’t know how to tune their drums, articulate and fucking POUND when it’s time for battle. Blood Brother’s don’t have that problem. He stays on beat, he can keep up on the fast parts, he doesn’t miss the little odd beats that are sometimes thrown in or taken out of the time signature, or just changes altogether, and on top of that will accentuate it flawlessly and effortlessly, affirming that they know how to play their music well, in conjuction with being played “right.” The Blood Brother’s ability to function as one unit in this chaotic and complex sonic vortex, bringing out the best in each others performance (without one damn solo) is a trait which just makes my heart melt into a smooth, silky, dark fudge ready to be slurped up and manifested into your complexion as breakouts of acne.

This album is neither punk, rock, noise, hardcore, screamo, (a little bit of) jazz or soul–and all of them at the same time. The way it should be. As I once read somewhere, “There must be Dada without Dadaism.” Bands like The Blood Brother’s, especially in this album, are an excellent reflection of this. But you probably like Skrillex and that Sublime-wannabe band that sounds like a bunch of stoner rasta-wannabe white kids sitting around a campfire with an acoustic guitar making wannabe “flows” telling each other, “Ah, dude that shit was TIIIIIGHT!” So never mind. Forget everything I just said.

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Achsenmächte.

That’s right. Axis Powers. There were the Japanese, who take all cultural phenomena and make an exponential amount of improvements and innovations on them putting the originators to shame (e.g. skinhead crews and scat), the “Eye-talians,” and the Voldemort of the three whose name we will not mention due to the depth of their stigmatization. Hint: their leader’s name rhymed with HITLER. It’s the secondary offering in this dynamic trio that I would like to bring to your attention. They rock. Albeit, not as hard as the first Godzilla victims. Cases in point:

Bicycle parts manufacturer, Campagnolo. Like “This is Spinal Tap,” their drivetrains were the first to shift to eleven. Beautiful, elegant, electronically actuated and carbon fiber (although inferior to Shimano who are Japanese, incidentally.) They are amongst the top three big boys in the velo componentry industry and still manage to operate on artisan craftsmanship. That is to say, with workstations as opposed to assembly lines. Because we value conscious consumerism so highly and are always researching labor policies when making our purchasing decisions, we all care about this SO much. And we are willing to shell out the extra hundo’s to battle the evils of outsourcing and passionless, expedited and undercompensated workforces–right? Of course we are. We’re Americans! There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch! Right? We EARN our livings and we work HARD …to perpetuate an ever-fattening existence of value menus and easy-to-use-as-seen-on-TV commodities assembled overseas by abused workers in hazardous work conditions, which, if you look at it from a (global) distance, may not be a free lunch, but looks pretty darn close. Looks kinda like a burrito you punched a homeless guy in the stomach for and to be patronizing, flicked a penny in his face–if you just step back a little bit. No? Well, Monet was French, granted.

However, Michelangelo, he was Italian. He created works of art that emitted such an aura of grandeur that it was the only thing that people could see when they were trembling in the confession booth (after they finally worked up the guts) in the Sistine Chapel admitting to their pedophilic perversions which festered such a burning guilt inside that it destined them to an eternity of misery up until that point whence the Father would reply, “Don’t even trip, Bro! Nobody’s perfect!” If you didn’t gain any sort of spiritual insight from that, surely you at least intellectually orgasmed by just being in the midst of Michelangelo’s mastery. And not on your inner child.

Farinelli, short for Carlo Maria Michelangelo Nicola Broschi. He was a castrato singer. He was so good he literally spit in Handel’s face. And castrato is exactly what it sounds like. He and all who were castrati were, you guessed it–castrated. They would have the operation done before puberty as to conserve the range that a boy’s voice is capable of whilst developing the lung power of a man. There are no accurate recordings of these voices and are a sound which has been lost to history. Legend has it that their voices had a beauty and uniqueness that is impossible to recreate without castration as it is supposedly physically impossible. Nudge to all you parents out there! Yeah, sure Johnny can be an athlete or an astronaut, but you will probably be the only family on the block with a modern day castrato! You can put a sticker on your bumper that says, “My son is a nutless opera singer who will probably develop osteoporosis but might have a pretty sweet vocal range provided he gets rigorous training from a world-class maestro, sacrifices all other ambitions in his life and doesn’t turn out to be an inherently shitty singer, or in general, a total fuck up.” You would be so proud.

And look at all they’ve contributed to our purple mountainous majesty. Iconic culinary artist, Chef Boyardee. Artist, athlete, musician and social commentator, Danny Bonaduce. And the first widely-accepted youth role-models advocating for same-sex marriage, Super Mario “Bros.” (I think Luigi was the top. Whatta-you think?) I feel so privileged. The Italians have even seeped into our dialogue with idioms like “Fughettaboutit,” and “It’s the Ferrari of…” which implies superior speed, precision and pristine.

Then there’s my friend, Nathan Ritacco, a third-year physics student at UCLA’s school of science, whose advanced studies and esoteric understanding of mathematical dialect constitutes an unadulterated and undisputable hyperauthority on all matters concerning the entire (infinitely expanding) universe.

Gucci, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, do you even know of (much less care about) any high-end fashion designers with a name that’s not Italian? I don’t.

And neither last nor least, espresso. The REAL coffee.

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