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I have always loved and admired the spirit of Vivien Leigh. These days I find too many articles on her mental illness and her private life – than on her acting abilities, her presence on stage, her cats or her hobbies like knitting.

So it was such a pleasure to come across Kendra Bean’s article “Vivien Leigh: A Star in Wartime.

She says, “One of my favourite items on display in Starring Vivien Leigh: A Centenary Celebration is the eye-catching issue of LOOK magazine from 17 December 1940. Earl Theisen’s striking cover photograph of Leigh posing stoically against a loud red, white, and blue background whilst knitting for Bundles for Britain highlights one of several interesting ways the actress used her fame to contribute to the British war effort.”

Vivien1

Another tantalizing glimpse is provided when Ms Bean says,

“She also appeared at Red Cross charity events in New York where she and Olivier ended an unsuccessful production of Romeo and Juliet, and knitted clothing for British soldiers as part of the Bundles for Britain initiative headed by Natalie Wales Latham.”

Olivier Leigh

Vivien3“Leigh’s first unofficial wartime assignment was the 1940 tearjerker Waterloo Bridge, for which she was loaned to Hollywood’s most powerful studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.”

And Vivien Leigh doesn’t seem to have stopped knitting for her men in war even while on the sets of Waterloo Bridge. In these pictures, you can see how her needles clicked non-stop in between takes.

Vivien2

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bloggingThe hot word now is blogging, so celebrities have also latched onto it.

Do check out a few of these links:

Adam Curry – The former MTV veejay has a blog that is updated daily.

Aamir Khan – Can’t accuse this guy of blog neglect, but he has a tendency to go on and on about his films. Still interesting reading!

Anna Kournikova The only tennis player more photographed outside the court that on it.

Another new-age sports celeb Abhinav Bindra has a nice, modest blog with refreshing insights.

Ajay Devegan, techinically does not blog. On his official diary, he makes entries, he doesn’t let anyone else comment.

Amitabh Batchan – The Big Bee’s blog…which is well-written, but he never touches on anything controversial…Its as clean and nice as Ash’s plastic smile.

Mallika Chopra, Gotham Chopra, Deepak Chopra and Shekhar Kapur blog at Intentblog

Bipasha Basu has two blogs  – one a website & another an old blog. I wonder if journalists are allowed to use the comments on her blog..instead of taking the trouble of begging her for an interview…would make the job so much easier.

Highly recommended blog: Cyrus Broacha’s blog at IBN Live is awesome. Lots of fun!

Dev Benegal’s blog is another cool blog to check out. Great insights and candid honesty!

Remember Gul Panag? Small time actress and one-time Miss India, well she’s here at at Gulpanag.com

I can’t stand this guy and I don’t know why he’s touted as the sexiest guy in India; maybe he pays his PR agents a lot and they in turn pay the cine hacks a lot. So, Ugh! John Abraham

Aka to Koffee with Karan, we now have My Name is Karan

Kiran Bedi, has a blog, styled “Crane Bedi.” I wonder how many of us know the story behind the nickname…seems so old, makes me feel ancient.

I’m really not keen on sports..but what the heck? Here’s Krishnamachari Srikanth’s blog at IBN Live..I wonder if promo blogs can qualify as true blogs? And here’s Ravi Shastri’s

This is another super-duper blog! Check out Laloo Prasad Yadav’s take on things from the Left to nuke politics.

One of the nicer, more elegant, refined but intelligent blogs, check out Nandita’s blog, which embodies her persona. Of course, I am a big fan of Nandita Das so anything she says will have this effect on me.

Actor Madhavan writes in the most immature way possible; reminds me of a child’s scribbles on a slate. Or maybe he SMSes comments to the guys at Galatta.com and they just upload it on to his blog.

Mamooty blogs with love in Malayalam, so I’m yet to find out if this is his real blog or some ardent fan’s.

New-comer in the political ring, Milind Deora, does his PR exercises well at IntentBlog. And the intelligent woman’s man or so they say in the media, Rahul bose is also there at Intent blog.

blogging2Jackie Chan – I remember he was quite famous in India even in the early 1990s, prior to his entry to Hollywood. Anyway most of my cousins love this guy and swear by him. I for my part am always suprised that despite so many physical injuries he  still continues to do his own gravity-defying stunts for the movies.

Micheal Moore – I just love this guy, his documentary, his views – just everything about him!

For some politically-correct political insights, cleverly worded for the benefit of the press and common citizens, we give you Nancy Pelosi

These two girls have been well “covered” or should we say un-covered by the press  – Paris Hilton & Pamela Anderson – both blogs lack the personal touch, because they were started for promotional reasons.

This is another promo blog by our very British, ultra hep Posh girl

For fun and rip-roaring laughter, check out comedian TomGreen’s blog

Ram Gopal Verma’s blog….made all the more popular when Aishwarya Rai commented on it. The whole episode started when a blogger commented: “Shankar i.e Abhishek Bachan in Sarkar Raj looks like an emotional fool when he opens his heart to a girl from America whom he met yesterday!”

Then Ram Gopal Verma had cheekily replied: “‘May be, he has a weakness for worldly beauties.” And Ash, as usual hyper-sensitive to criticisms about her hubby, had to post a comeback.

Hey! Half-way through the post, I suddenly hit on this great blog and find that someone has a better list than me. So I think I’ll end the post, by giving you the link to Cutting the Chai for 60 links to Indian celeb blogs.

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girl_interrupted1I watched the movie Girl Interrupted. I found it highly disturbing! For those of you, who haven’t seen the movie or know the storyline, click here.

Susanna Kaysen, questions the idea of being sane and insane. What is perceived as sane? Is being sane really about hiding the insane parts of you so that they will let you out of a mental institution? Maybe “Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy.”

When Lisa and Susanna break out of Claymoore with the intention of going to work in Walt Disney resort, they meet a gang of hippies. The conversation with one of the hippies goes:

Susanna Kaysen: You don’t want me, Tony.
Tony: Yes I do, baby.
Susanna Kaysen: No, you don’t, I’m a crazy girl.
Tony: You’re crazy so we can’t one night of bliss?
Susanna Kaysen: I am a crazy girl, seriously.
Tony: You’ve been in a hospital.
Susanna Kaysen: Yes.
Tony: Do you see purple people? My friend, he saw purple people. And so the state came and took him away. He didn’t like that. Some time went by and, and he told ’em he didn’t see pueple people no more.
Susanna Kaysen: He got better.
Tony: Nah, he still sees ’em.

So here we see that the purple-visions friend has really not been cured of his purple visions. He lets people think he has been cured of them, so girl_interrupted2that they would let him go. So is he sane because he was smart enough to know which part of himself he had to suppress or was he insane because he was still having the purple visions? When he stopped telling people about his purple visions, people stopped thinking he was crazy. Is being sane or normal the equivalent of trying to fit in and be part of the crowd? What about Joan of Arc, she had visions and heard voices? The church called insane, heretical and burnt her at the stake and a few centuries later hailed her as a saint. So is sanity really about acting smart and survival?

Another character in the movie, Daisy Rathbone, a sex abuse victim in an incestuous relationship with her dad is also let out of the mental institution. She goes back to live with her dad, though everyone including her therapist knows that her relationship with her dad is skewered. Also her stay at the institution had not in anyway dampened her enthusiasm for her father. She has a love and hate relationship with him. Love or strong feelings; some thing keeps her coming back to him. She is also shown to have strong hatred for him, because she’s girl_interrupted3constantly trying to kill herself because of the incest. She also has an eating disorder.

But she’s let out of the mental institution. Other inmates deem “it unfair.”  She commits suicide within a few weeks of her release. So is being sane, really about proving to society that you are sane and not real sanity?

Georgina Tuskin: Lisa, is Daisy really getting out?
Lisa Rowe: Yeah, she coughed up a big one.
Susanna Kaysen: But how could – I mean she’s… insane.
Lisa Rowe: Yeah, well that’s what ther-rape-me’s all about. That’s why fuckin’ Freud’s pictures on every shrink’s wall. He created a fuckin’ industry. You lie down, you confess your secrets and you’re saved. Ca-ching! The more you confess, the more they think about settin’ you free.
Susanna Kaysen: But what if you don’t have a secret?
Lisa Rowe: Then you’re a lifer, like me.

Daisy’s father was obviously a mean, bad guy. When the insane people  – Susanna and Lisa – could guess there was something wrong in the relationship, how come the guys with the Ph.Ds in psychology didn’t guess there was something terribly wrong? Why is Daisy allowed to go to this man’s apartment in the first place? And obviously society considered Mr Rathbone, a sane guy or they would have him put in a padded cell along with his daughter. So is being sane really all about showing your best face in society and doing all the horrible, insane things in private? All these questions and more Susanna brings up to break our own comfort zones.girl-interrupted4

When Angelina confronts Daisy, she tells the truth, unsparingly:

Daisy Rathbone:My father loves me.
Lisa Rowe: I bet. With every inch of his manhood.

Daisy Rathbone: You’re just jealous, Lisa… because I got better… because I was released… because I have a chance… at a life.
Lisa Rowe: They didn’t release you ’cause you’re better, Daisy, they just gave up. You call this a life, hmm? Taking Daddy’s money, buying your dollies and your knickknacks. And eating his fuckin’ chicken, fattening up like a prize fuckin’ heifer. You changed the scenery, but not the fuckin’ situation, and the warden makes housecalls. And everybody knows, everbody knows that he fucks you. What they don’t know is that you like it, hmm? You like it.
Susanna Kaysen: [to Lisa] Shut the fuck up!
Lisa Rowe: Hey, man, it’s cool, it’s okay. It’s fine, it’s fucking fine! A man is a dick is a man is a dick is a chicken… is a dad… a Valium, a speculum, whatever, whatever. [to Daisy] You like being Mrs. Rathbone. Probably all you’ve ever known.
Daisy Rathbone: Have fun in Florida. [goes upstairs to her room]

girl_interrupted5Angelina or Lisa Rowe is diagnosed or in the girls own words “diag”-nonsense d ” as a sociopath. In a way, Susanna seems to blame Daisy’s death on Lisa, because she commits suicide the morning after the showdown with Lisa. But Lisa was just a trigger, Daisy would have any committed suicide or died within; pretty tough to try liking and living with abuse.

At some point, Susanna gets enchanted with Lisa and is almost shown in love with her (witness the kissing scene in the car during the break out). But then, Susanna gets to know who Lisa really is at Daisy’s apartment. Not only does Lisa show no remorse for her earlier comments or for the dead body hanging in front of her, she goes on to steal cash from the dead Daisy.

Susanna Kaysen: What the fuck are you doing, Lisa?
Lisa Rowe: I’m playing the villain, baby, just like you want. I try to give you everything you want.
Susanna Kaysen: No you don’t.
Lisa Rowe: You wanted your file, I found you your file. You wanted out, I got you out. You needed money, I found you some. I’m fucking consistent. I told you the truth. I didn’t write it down in a fucking book! I told you to your face. And I told Daisy to her face – what everybody knew and wouldn’t say, and she killed herself. And I played the fucking villain, just like you wanted.
Susanna Kaysen: Why would I want that?girl-interrupted6
Lisa Rowe: Because it makes you the good guy, sweet pea. You come back here, all sweetness and light, and sad and contrite, and everybody congratulating you on your bravery. And meanwhile, I’m blowing the guys at the bus station for the money that was in her fucking robe!

I suddenly realised this is the first time I’m posting adult content and I still haven’t even started out saying everything that I wanted to say…But that will have to wait…as its 2 am and I have work tomorrow….Its fascinating the movie and I have lots of insights to share!

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scarlett2Gone with the Wind, both the novel and the book have won wide-spread appreciation and acclaim. But the danger lies, because of its popularity. Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean its right. Birth of a Nation was popular. Does that mean it was morally right?

Margaret Mitchell might be the best story-teller ever and Scarlett O’ Hara the most adorable heroine of all times, but that doesn’t in any way justify the book’s racist and sexist attitudes.

Malcolm X once said, “The white Southerner, you can say one thing – he is honest. He bares his teeth to the black man; he tells the black man, to his face, that Southern whites never will accept phony ‘integration.’ The Southern white goes further, to tell the black man that he means to fight him every inch of the way – against even the so-called ‘tokenism.’ The advantage of this is the Southern gonewiththewindblack man never has been under any illusions about the opposition he is dealing with.

Gone with the Wind is racist, but since its language is more subtle, we tend to gloss over it. We love pretty women in luxuriant ball gowns, huge mansions, the fight for a so-called “noble cause,” dancing and music. Its unrealistic portrayal of the South and its many historical inaccuracies has not affected its popularity; or maybe it’s popular because it has successfully glamorized the slave era.

Everyone is familiar with the great success of the movie and the film. What was surprising is that most reviewers praised Gone with the Wind and lamented the passing away of the “glorious South.” A South, which never existed except in the white man’s mind.

Black Loyalty:

Why should Afro-Americans be loyal to the whites who have enslaved them? Beats all logic! But this is the premise on which Gone with the Wind and Uncle Tom’s Cabin operate. In both salenovels, you have Afro-Americans – Uncle Tom and Mammy – being extremely loyal to the whites, who repay them for their loyalty by selling their kids and spouses, branding them as property, and chaining them to unremitting labour.

Uncle Tom and Mammy are also the “happy slaves.” What are they trying to do? Condone slavery? Were they trying to establish that the Afro-American was happy under the white man’s rule?

Malcolm X is dead against these “Uncle Tom characters or integration black fools.” I can so empathize with his views.

None of the white people in the book, including Rhett and Ahsley (the only two men who don’t follow the common herd), give Afro-Americans any credit for intelligence.

Scarlett own words are: “How stupid negroes were! They never thought of anything unless they were told.” “How dared they laugh, the black apes! She’d like to have them all whipped until the blood ran down. What devils the Yankees were to set them free!”

The author herself, in a narrative portion says, “The blacks were like monkeys. Destroying everything they black-slaves-1500could lay their hands on….A menace to white women.” What a horrible insinuation! That the Afro-American cannot appreciate his freedom? “Blacks are like monkeys?”

Mitchell even compares their mentality to that of little children, “who must be fed, clothed and protected.” So many characters in the book, say what Mitchell feels, that Afro-Americans don’t and can’t do anything unless they are ordered to do so.

Characters like Pork and Uncle Peter embody the silent loyalty and faithfulness expected of the white man, after denying the Afro-American his freedom, his dignity and life.

Slaves can only have minor roles and must be happy with their lot. Selznick’s Gone with the Wind is in many gonemammy1ways worse than the book. Prissy, who is shown as a lazy girl in the book, is turned into a really stupid person in the film.

Gone with the Wind also sends out the message: “Nice blacks stay with their masters. Nice blacks don’t want freedom. Nice blacks hate Abraham Lincoln. Wicked blacks run riot, desert their masters and desire white women.”

Even in Uncle Tom’s cabin, the nice Afro-Americans are the ones who chose loyalty to their masters over freedom.

Strong Female White characters

One of the positive aspects is the strong female white characters it portrays. Scarlett is in a way legendary. vivien-leigh-postersHer survival instincts are high. Where men have failed, she not only succeeds but triumphs. She cares a naught for social approval, whether it comes to marrying three men in a row or sharp, cut-throat business dealings.

Though the book tries to portray Ellen and Melanie as noble women with the “right” values, I don’t find them half as appealing as Scarlett. Scarlett thinks for herself. Her desires are independent of her husband’s desires. She doesn’t act like a goody, goody. If Ellen and Melanie were really all that good, they would have opposed slavery, not turned a blind eye to the sufferings of black people (I know I’m beginning to sound like a Methodist preacher, but I can’t help the vehemence).

In one of the lines, Scarlett says that Uncle Tom’s cabin is nonsense. She claims Southerners always treated their “darkies well.” She denies the existence of bloodhounds or arms to keep slaves from escaping. Lines like these are absolute rubbish! What person, in his right mind, would prefer slavery to freedom? And vivien-leigh-and-clark-gable1Margaret Mitchell is also asking us to believe that the whites did not use force to keep the blacks from revolting. Too much, I say! So lynchings never happened?

Even Rhett Butler, who has not inherited many of the prejudices of the white Southern (ironically) “gentleman,” feels justified in killing a black man, all because he has the termity to get “uppity with a white woman.”

Gerald O Hara, who is generally portrayed as a kind-hearted shrewd Irish Southerner, also feels “blacks are inferiors.” Scarlett’s mom exhorts her to treat “inferiors kindly, but firmly.”

Problems with the film

The film, glosses over war, death, disease, racist slurs, brothels, adultery and miscarriages. The film also rhettgreatly alters the original script. Scarlett O Hara obviously cannot be portrayed a virgin waiting to be ravished by Rhett Butler, so they do the next best thing. She doesn’t have any children till Rhett comes along. Since a mother of two on her third attempt at marriage might not sound glamorous, the film tried to make her first two marriages almost non-existent in the minds of the viewer and highlight only the glorious romance with Rhett.

But even here, the night of the showdown, when Rhett forcibly takes her to his bed…there is something too distasteful and insidious, because Scarlett is shown to have enjoyed the semi-rape; dangerous conclusions can be drawn. And both in the movie and book, there is the autant en emporte le ventconstant refrain that Scarlett needs someone to boss over her or she would bully them.

There is also the suggestion that a marriage can be happy only if the wife submits to her husband or at least pretends to submit to him.

Hattie McDaniel became the first Afro-American to win an Academy Award for her role in Gone with the Wind. But then again, this cannot be taken as a real step forward. The very same Hattie Mc Daniel was unable to attend the Georgia premier of the movie, because Georgia was a segregated state. Clark Gable, to his credit, protested, but in the end McDaniel solved the problem for the racists by not appearing for the show.

The Ku Klux Klan

It is a shame that racist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan are still allowed to function in the US. Both theku_klux_klan film and the book justify the actions of this despicable organization. According to Mitchell, respectable white men join this organization to protect the honour of their white women. The Ku Klux Klan has used violence to suppress Afro-Americans, Jews, Roman Catholics and labour unions.

There is also strong evidence to suggest that Margaret Mitchell was influenced by D W Griffith’s Birth of a Nation. Birth of a Nation, is the archetypical white supremacy film, which justifies lynchings of black men. I can only end by quoting Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird: “you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption, the evil assumption, that all negroes lie; all negroes are basically immoral beings; all negro men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption that one associates with minds of their caliber, and which is in itself, gentlemen, a lie.”

(Justification for this long diatribe: I read Gone with the Wind when I was 10 and loved it. The references to Afro-Americans made me uncomfortable. But it was only after I became 14 did I come to fully realise the depth of racism in the book. I have for long wanted to write this, and I still haven’t written everything I want to say…but that will have to wait)

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The most irritating thing about Dasavatharam was seeing Kamal Hassan in every frame. It being his magnum opus film in no way justifies the fact that the whole film is Kamal, Kamal and nothing but Kamal.

The irritating things about the movie:

Kamal‘s ego. The scene in which social activist Vincent Poovaraghan replies, “Yes. I am a world-class actor” to the villain’s “Who do you think you are? Are you a world actor?” is too irritating for words. K S Ravikumar films have the trademark of K S Ravikumar appearing in at least one shot. But K S Ravikumar crooning about Kamal in the last song Ulaga Nayagane….”You have to be a UN member…You have to get an Oscar award…You have acted in thousands of roles….You are a world actor, world actor, ” Shucks! And K S Ravikumar trying to dance with scantily-clad girls! Too ignominious!
Missing links. Where did Kamal get his cellphone? How did the villains get the number and call Kamal in that scene when Kamal is standing in front of the police station? And containing a bio-weapon with plain NaCl or common salt is plain stupid for a movie that’s trying to be scientific (but fails nevertheless)? And how does a scientist (Govind), who spent most of his adult years creating a bio-weapon for the US so that it can kill millions of Innocent civilians, suddenly develop a conscience and want to save people in India (which he left for a well-paying job in the US)? And many people feel the US itself is a terrorist nation, so why protest the sale of the bio-weapon to a terrorist nation? As if the US is spending billions of dollars on bio-weapons for peaceful purposes.
Pathetic make-up. Kamal is a great actor and without any make-up in Michael Madana KamaRajan we were able to differentiate between the four Kamals. Here the make-up artist didn’t too a good job (Try watching Nutty Professor, you can’t recognise Eddie Murphy in any of the five characters). The faces looked artificial and kind of mummified.
Manmohan Singh, George Bush & Karunanidhi on the same stage? I don’t think so! Donning the role of George Bush and trying to outdo Sivaji Ganesan’s Navarathiri was such an immature attempt at the Oscars. I think Kamal would be better off, if he followed Aamir Khan’s non-special effects style.
Ten roles & a haywire script. Kamal had decided he’d do 10 roles. He decided he’d play a Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Muslim & atheist. He also decided he’d be a tall guy and a short, old lady. So the script is just plain confusion, with the director and script writer trying to fit in all of Kamal egomanical demands.
Too many issues. Kamal Hassan tried to talk about bio-warfare, globalisation, imperialism, terrorism, Shivites vs Vaishnavites, religion, the butterfly effect, chaos theory, discrimination against Dalits, caste feelings, lethargic functioning of the bureaucracy, sycophant government officials, corruption in the govt ranks, the tsunami, ….its just too much packed in three hours.
The Indian anthem being played when Govind lands in India with the bio-weapon. Why the national anthem? When nothing in the film has anything remotely to do with patriotism.
Hiroshima, Nagasaki vs Pearl Harbour. Its so stupid when Christian Fletcher tells Shingen Narahashi “Remember Hiroshima, Nagasaki?” and he retorts with “Remember Pearl Harbour?”. Its so stupid and doesn’t make sense.

What I did like about the movie despite all this, was the subtle criticism he dared make about the present system:

  • He says that both God and science betrayed human beings during the tsunami. In his own words in the last scene, “I didn’t say I don’t believe in God. I only said it will be nice if there was one” (Meaning that God is not there. Why quibble about it?). And that the stone (Vishnu statue) is just powerless. As it didn’t save Vishnu followers (including, the skeletal Ranagaraja Nambi) and got cast up on the beach due to the tsunami not its own powers.
  • He says that people have always killed and got killed in the name of the God in India. Even before Christianity or Islam made its entry to India, people were killing each over communal riots.in this case Shivites vs Vaishnavites.
  • When he’s protesting the sale of “bio-weapons to venture capitalists,” his boss tells him not act like a unionist. I liked how he showed that industrialists try to buy off people with unionist tendencies; when his boss tells Govind he will be paid hundred thousand dollars to go with the tide; and when Vincent’s men are bought off by the sand-mining industrialists here.
  • When he hugs the sanitary workers (most probably Dalits with no offense, but only empathy for that community) and the sanitary workers are surprised that he’s touching a person, who works in the drains.
  • When the old, mad woman hugs the dead Vincent and they tell her not to touch him because he’s from another caste. But the old woman rejects what he says, leaving us with the question who is really mad? The old woman who embraces a stranger as her son or the Hindu fundamentalist, who thinks touching someone from another caste is sinful?
  • when he shows the rampant sand mining taking place on the Palar river bed. He has imitated real-life activists in portraying the anti-sand mining group
  • when he shows the blind faith and prejudices people have due to religion
  • when he makes a hit at Vaiko and Vijaykanth. In the interrogation scene, Balram Naidu questions Govind’s loyalty towards promoting the Tamil language, to which Kamal replies “Telegu people (Vaiko/Vijaykanath) like you will promote the language for their own benefit.”
  • when he criticises Jayendra Saraswathi. When Balram Naidu wants to interrogate people in the Hindu religious mutt, he asks “Are there not criminals in mutt?” (A hit at the recent murder case in which the acharya was arrested and many brahmins protested the move)
  • when Kalif’s dad tells the govt officers not to think “every Muslim is a terrorist”. Kamal of course phrases it in his roundabout way as “don’t think everyone who prays to Mecca is a terrorist.” I feel there’s too much of branding going on. Just because the US govt, UK and other European countries didn’t like Communists; Communists were bad and terrorists. Now the new villains are Muslims. Because the US would love to occupy the oil-rich lands of the Middle-East, the natives or Muslims become evil and terrorists. Even the BJP and RSS get votes using the same platform that “Hindu Rajaya must be born, after killing all the Muslim terrorists in India.” In Gujarat, I guess the Modi govt was partially successful, but it was interesting to note the subtle criticism the film makes of the Gujarat riots and the more than 2,000 Muslims killed in the riots.

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