Looking for information on an effect involving 4 cups one on top of a nail.

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Postby Guest » 02/06/07 02:57 PM

I wanted to know if anyone can point me in the right direction I am looking for an effect that the magician is blindfolded and 4 blocks of wood is on a table and one has a rather long nail and they are covered with cups. and the magician crushes each one till one is left with the nail is there a book that I may find this effect in?
Thanks,
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Postby Guest » 02/06/07 04:37 PM

There are a number of versions of this trick, the latest being "Devil's Nail". You can find it on Hank Lee's site.
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Postby Guest » 02/06/07 04:41 PM

Please never use the hand of a spectator to accomplish this trick!!
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Postby Guest » 02/06/07 09:46 PM

Don't do it. That's my advice.
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Postby Guest » 02/06/07 10:28 PM

It first appeared in Bascom's Magick under Jim Rainho's byline. Since then it has been performed by many performers, many of whom have scars to tell that tail. I had a version I did for a long time in one of my books (I would have to look up which one). I stopped doing it because of the unpleasant effect on the audience. I grew up in the southeast, where people did stuff like this for real to see who paid the bar tab.

John R :p
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Postby Guest » 02/06/07 11:20 PM

Close in effect, and safe to perform, is Scott Alexander's effect "Shattered," which is on his "Midnight Show" DVD.

Alexander's version uses the jagged edges of a broken beer bottle hidden under a small paper bag, rather than a spike under a cup, as the object of danger. Again, his method is safe.

To reiterate what others have posted, if you decide on doing one of the spike versions, avoid using a spectator's hand so that you aren't sued, and avoid using your own dominant hand so that you are able to fill out your insurance forms.
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Postby Guest » 02/07/07 12:16 AM

There is a video floating around that has a series of performers shoving, smashing, or otherwise banging their hands down on to the wrong cup. One or two push a spectator's hand down on the wrong cup. They impale their hands (and the spectator's hands) on a variety of nails, spikes, and scapels.

Simply put, it's a stupid trick that, if you perform it enough, will go wrong eventually. If you don't believe me, find the video and watch it.

Maurice Fogel, a VERY smart man and a highly experienced performer, was shot twice with his own version of Russian Roulette. His daughter once told me that the family was suspicious that it was more than twice, but her father wouldn't admit it.
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Postby Guest » 02/07/07 09:04 AM

After much consideration I have decieded not to do this effect after all you guys have alot more time in this than me. So I will take your advise and not to this. Thanks for your opinions mean alot.
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Postby Brian Marks » 02/07/07 12:23 PM

good choice.

Gary Kurtz messed it up.
Marc Salem messed it up.
The guy with the spectator majorly messed it up.
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Postby Guest » 02/08/07 01:53 PM

A noted Bizarrist who shall remain nameless, once compared this bit with something you'd see in an episode of JACKASS and from what I've seen of most of the fools doing it, you must be a Jackass to use it. Especially when there are so many safer "roulette" type routines out there... Roni Shachnaey's bit with the spray paint cans is priceless (well, a bit over $1,000.00 retail, bit the effect is hilarious as well as impossible). Then we have the various versions of Acid & Poison Monte.

Just get creative and have fun, there is no reason to bring out material where potential harm can come into one's reality.
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Postby John LeBlanc » 02/08/07 04:25 PM

If you need just one more reason not to do this, view the video at this URL:
http://www.break.com/index/knife_in_cup ... ident.html

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Postby Guest » 02/08/07 05:30 PM

This is a lovely well thought out version...

http://www.outlaw-effects.com/outlaw/ar ... g=en&pg=85

interesting back story and much much safer.
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Postby Guest » 02/08/07 07:08 PM

The video that John linked to above is part of a longer program that has a succession of "entertainers" impaling their hands and those of hapless "volunteers."

Had that accident happned to a woman in the US, the lawsuit would have been massive. Apparently, the performer didn't even have the class to apologize to the woman he'd injured. What a fool.

With so many clever and entertaining effects available, why do something that has the potential of personal injury and making you look stupid?
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Postby Guest » 02/13/07 09:42 AM

Let's pretend that the effect were safe for a moment. Even if it never went wrong -- dramatically, why even APPEAR to be placing a guest in harm's way? This isn't viewed as a harmless magical illusion. It's mentalism: it's perceived as real.

Such behavior is, at best, disrespectful to an audience; at worst, it's totally irresponsible.

Even when it's not done with a spectator, I have another problem with this and other Russian Roulette-style effects (which I've raised before): what kind of performer risks maiming or death for the entertainment of their audience?

This is lowest-common-denominator, sensational circus stuff -- which is fine in some contexts. But with the number of performers buying and doing this effect outside of circus environments, I have to wonder if, by and large, it's lowering the perception of our art.

Best,
Neil Tobin
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Postby Guest » 02/13/07 11:27 AM

One has to ask themselves if the audience is really watching not to see the performer succeed but to screw up, be it impaled, shot or falls to their death? Is this really what has become of our world?

PSIncerely Yours,
Paul Alberstat
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Postby Guest » 02/19/07 08:35 PM

Paul, what you say has more truth in it than most of us would like to believe.

As to what Neil stated... about this being "Mentalism"... friend, I know that you know what mentalism is supposed to look like and what these clowns have been doing with what was once a beautiful piece of mentalism... well I wish I could sit in shows featuring this and pk hands over the blade day in and out it so disgusts me. What gets me more fried over it all is that NO ONE seems to give any credit to Gary Kurtz or Banachek for developing the idea, let alone the whole performance rights area of trespass that's happened.

Ethics in the magic world seems to exist only when it's "your material" being stolen.
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Postby Guest » 02/20/07 12:09 PM

Unfortunately most would ask "Ethics? What's that?" and of course others would say "Credits? It's all been invented before and I am far too busy to trace the roots of everything I am in such a hurray to get out in print so I never bother".

PSIncerely Yours,
Paul Alberstat
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Postby Guest » 02/24/07 09:37 AM

Yea... I've been getting laughed at because I'm actually asking people for permission to use something that's been around a while and somewhat known... but hey, I'm just silly that way.

Speaking of which, we need to chat Paul.
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Postby Jager » 08/26/09 08:06 PM

Just got around to reading this thread..
How about replacing the spike with a raw egg or something else disgusting but safe? Still has the apprehension factor without the danger.
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Postby Dick Christian » 08/27/09 04:20 PM

Replacing the spike with a raw egg or something else disgusting but safe (like dog poop I suppose) would certainly retain the apprehension factor sans the danger; however it would also lack the impact. IMO all such "danger" effects suffer from the same problem. Forgetting about the legal implications of using a spectator's hand, if the performer fails and stabs or otherwise hurts himself he is perceived as an inept idiot (who but a fool would really risk life and limb, no matter how much he was being paid, to "entertain" an audience). Therefor, if he succeeds, it must obviously have simply been "a trick." Either way it seems to me that the performer loses.

I know that some will disagree, but that's my $0.02.
Last edited by Dick Christian on 08/27/09 04:22 PM, edited 0 times in total.
Reason: correct misspelling
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 08/27/09 06:55 PM

I actually think the "ick" factor in dog poo would make it an acceptable substitute theatrically, but what about the smell? You'd clean out quite a bit of the room.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 08/27/09 08:12 PM

Theres an interesting opportunity for brainstorming here.

What are some viable options?

I foresee a comedy bit in the style of that show on Nickelodeon (?) where kids and parents were subjected to disgusting things. I see goggles and full-length plastic aprons: Maybe calling rice pudding maggot stew or something like that. While the dramatic aspect of danger is gone, fun, laughter, and a successful conclusion is just as good (if not better since there would be no age restriction on who could see it).

Just thinking out loud

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Postby Jeff Haas » 08/27/09 08:23 PM

I agree with Dick. This is a trick that falls into the category of, "I'm stupid and I'm going to prove it!"

Dustin's ideas about making it Nickelodeon-gooey are fun, but the whole point of those sketches is that people get slime dumped on them! (Especially adults.) Maybe it should be inverted...predict who's going to avoid the gooey stuff. But then everyone would still want the "winner" to get slimed anyway.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 08/27/09 09:05 PM

Im thinking that the spectators would all come out clean in the endeven after all the hubbub of putting on goggles, gloves, aprons, etc.and the performer would be the one slimed.

What else could be used (besides maggot stew)? My brother has always called tapioca pudding fisheye pudding.

I recall reading somewhere that the television show ER always used canned Dinty Moore beef stew for vomit on the set. (The problem there is that some people have a sympathetic reaction to just the notion of vomit and can lose it, if you catch my drift.)

The earlier idea of eggs is a good one, especially if the performer ends up with egg on his face.

Theres also the possibility of everyone thinking that the [whatever container] is filled with something disgusting, but confetti drops instead; so a laugh with a small mystery (if they saw the whatever being put into the container).

Again, Im just thinking out loud.

The point is; I think its a worthy and very ripe opportunity for some creative thinking.

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Postby Seuss » 08/27/09 09:37 PM

wow dustin stole my words out of my mouth.

I was immediately thinking of a series of suspended buckets with pull ropes...
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Postby Dave V » 08/28/09 12:37 AM

Jimmy Fingers has a perfectly safe and disgusting version he uses where there's something under each of about five cups, except for one that's empty. Now the odds are strongly against you not making a disgusting mess, yet you still succeed.
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Postby Jon Allen » 08/30/09 08:51 PM

I have long said that the versions that claim to be 100% safe are only safe in reference to the method and *not* the procedure. In other words, you will know where the nail is... but there is a still a chance you can slam your hand down on it. I do have a version on the market called 'The Pain Game' which is 100% safe in both method and procedure.

The other problem I have with Russian Roulette is that the performer makes the decisions. I reckon that people just assume the bags/cups/containers are marked somehow (doesn't matter how) so the performer knows where to avoid. By having someone else make the choices, as both 'Shattered' and 'The pain Game' allow, it opens up a much wider scope for presentations.
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Postby Seuss » 08/30/09 08:59 PM

Jon Allen wrote:...In other words, you will know where the nail is... but there is a still a chance you can slam your hand down on it. I do have a version on the market called 'The Pain Game' which is 100% safe in both method and procedure.


Does this mean for your effect even if the magician makes the mistake of slamming hand down where the nail is they will still be safe or does yours guarantee the nail will never be there?

Thanks in advance for clarifying.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 08/30/09 09:08 PM

Danny Orleans gives Jon Allen's version a very good review in the October issue of Genii. It is 100% safe according to Danny (and costs $500!).
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Postby Jon Allen » 08/31/09 05:56 AM

Hi Seuss. What I can tell you without giving too much of the method away is that once it is set up you cannot make a mistake.
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Postby Seuss » 08/31/09 07:22 AM

Very fair.

Thanks Jon.
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Postby Dale Shrimpton » 09/04/09 09:02 AM

im in the process of putting a small book together, which includes a version of this,(Candyman) that is child friendly.

:)
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Postby JanCulshaw » 10/07/09 08:53 PM

With respect, I think that this blanket ruling-out of this type of presentation is incorrect.

I use a version of the commercially available "Spike" in my cabaret and stage show. In my opinion, and judging by the reactions of my audiences in their opinion too, it neither lacks drama nor does it seem to them that the cups are marked or that I can in any way tell where the spike is.

This is what the audience sees:

I use 2 audience participants, always 2 ladies. They aren't stooges. I remove my jacket, roll up my shirtsleeves, remove my watch and rings (these are a normal wedding and engagement ring but I don't want them in the picture). The ladies examine my hands and forearms, checking for tape, plastic, sticky stuff or anything that isn't flesh. They also check for earpieces and any other electronic gadgets.

One of them chooses 3 cups from anywhere within a stack of 50. I turn my back along with lady no 2 while lady no 1 places the spike into any one of the 3 holders and then covers them all with her three chosen cups. She can switch them around if she likes.

I return to the table with lady No 2. I recap for the audience, including the standard "don't do this at home" ending with asking lady no 1 to confirm that the spike is indeed under one of the cups (during one show, I once had a spectator remove the spike completely, which made me look foolish and what's worse completely negated the effect of course!).

I cover my right hand with my left (so it looks like I am pushing down my left palm on the back of my right hand) and hold the hands over one of the cups. I ask lady no 2 "Is the spike under my hands?".

If she says "No" (she almost always says "No"), I smash the cup instantly. If she says "Yes", I lift my hands and say "That must mean that the other two are empty, yes?". I then smash one of the other cups.

I then hold my hands as before over another cup, and ask the same question. This time, she almost always says "Yes", in which case I point at the other remaining cup and say "So the other one must be empty, then?" and proceed to smash that cup.

If she says "No" at this point, I invent a hesitation on her part and say that I think she has abandoned her intuition, and that since it's my hand, I have to go with my own intuition. I smash the other cup. (it will be obvious to you, but it isn't to the audience, that at this point I do know where the spike is).

I've performed this over 400 times and never failed to get a huge response. If it goes the way I want, she says "No" then "Yes", then I've just followed her instructions. This happens nearly all the time. If she says "No" the second time, I've correctly divined that her intuition failed her. This has happened maybe 6 times in all the performances.

Obviously, I haven't revealed everything that's going on here, and it shouldn't be possible from what I've written to get to the exact methods (multiple) I'm using, but I promise it's a faithful representation of what the audience sees.

The point I'm making is that I believe that this routine works as a dramatic piece. When it's wasted, as it is by so many who just use it as a "Look I didn't spike myself, aren't I clever?" piece, it has no value, I agree.

I take the point about making a mistake, but actually this presentation is done in a calm, measured, slow manner. My hands are not waving about madly, I am not in a manic, excited attitude and I take plenty of time. Under these circumstances, I submit that there is no likelihood that I will do the wrong thing.
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Postby David Alexander » 10/07/09 11:35 PM

Jan,
It sounds like you have a clever routine and you should be proud of that, but I would point out that one of the greatest performers of the 20th Century, Maurice Fogel, did his own version of a danger effect: Russian Roulette with air rifles.

I saw him do it live in Los Angeles and it was stunning. The problem was that in the thousands of times he'd done it he would admit to be shot by his own rifles twice. His daughter once told me that the family believed he'd been shot more than that but that he wouldn't admit it.

The point is, that Fogel, for all his attention to detail and striving for perfection, a performer with an extremely high level of professionalism and decades of experience, someone at the pinnacle of his profession, even he had a lapse of attention at least twice and suffered the consequences.

I think that's something that should be considered.
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Postby Jon Allen » 10/09/09 05:14 AM

Hi Jan,

I agree with you that the effect should not be dismissed. There are so many performances where it is Magic Dude simply moving his hand over the cups/bags and missing the sharp object without any rhyme or reason. However, with the right presentation it can be a very dramatic piece.

For my presentation of the effect, I talk about how every day people rely on others for their own safety. Whether it's driving a car, eating in a restaurant, crossing the road, using electrical appliances etc. I will be putting my safety in the hands of the person choosing the bags.

Jan, I have seen this effect performed several times where the performer goes against the choice of the person making the decisions. To me, it always comes across as performer knows the person has chosen the wrong cup/bag so goes for the one not chosen. If something works for someone every time for their audiences then it can't be wrong but I am interested in knowing how you explain determining someone's intuition has deserted them.

If neither of you know where the spike is, you are not relying on her decision because you have overridden it. Are the audience to believe you are using your intuition as well? If so, why use someone else's if you are going to override it? Its not mindreading or the ability to read someone because they have no knowledge of the whereabouts fo the spike.

How do you stop it looking like you know where the safe bags are?

As for the safety aspect, you have obviously taken as many steps as possible to ensure your safety. However, never underestimate the ability of the human mind to screw things up for you. No matter how many precautions you take, their is always the possibility that around the corner you could inadvertently make a mistake.


Regards,
Jon
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Postby Pete McCabe » 10/09/09 01:48 PM

Here's some information on this trick. Luis De Matos gave a speech at Magic Live in which he discussed some things he had learned from an in-depth analysis of the ratings information for several television specials he had been on. Some were all-Luis de Matos magic specials, some were a variety of magicians, some were variety shows, etc.

The ratings information were calculated to the minute, so you can see the effects of different performers, tricks, etc. on the show's ratings. This information, by the way, is what the producers use to determine if they're going to hire you back for the next show.

One piece of information that stood out in my memory is that every time a performerany performerdid any variation of this trick, large numbers of viewers changed the channel to watch something else. Few of them came back.
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Postby Dick Christian » 10/09/09 02:13 PM

Pete,

A most interesting -- and telling -- piece of information and one that, regardless of the reason behind their switching channels, would seem to validate my opinion of such effects.
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Postby JanCulshaw » 10/10/09 10:19 AM

Pete, that is fascinating I have to say. I, of course, am not performing on TV (Oh, the dreams, the dreams!) so my audiences don't have the same opportunity - and, truthfully, I wouldn't do this on TV anyway as it would be impossible to create the drama I want.

There may also be a transatlantic difference. TV audiences in particular are vastly different in the USA from what they are here. I think that this is also true, perhaps to a lesser extent, with live audiences.

Jon, your point about concealing that you know where the safe cup is touches upon the biggest difficulty I found when scripting this effect. It relies greatly upon the set up when I explain to the audience at the beginning how I want my two volunteers to behave.

One of them, the one who will set the spike and the cups up for me, is asked to remember what it feels like to make informed decisions. To think about what she's going to do, which holder will be used, which position the spike will be in and so on.

This is all nonsense of course, none of it matters except as a contrast to what I say to the other woman. She is asked to use her intuition, not to think about things, but to just react with her first impulse.

There's more to it than this, of course, I'm just giving the bare bones of the spiel here.

Now, when it comes to her answering the question "Is the spike under my hands?", the first time it doesn't matter - I'll either smash that cup if she says "No", or the other empty one if she says yes.

At this point, I slip in a little "escape" clause. I say something like "Now, things have changed a little. Sharon, here, might have suspected what I was going to do, but she wasn't certain. Now that she does know, it changes her psychological reaction slightly. She'll be worried that she might cause me to impale myself and that might interfere with her ability to go with her first impulse. So my job now, is to make a judgement about whether she's really using her intuition or not, so this time when you answer, I want you to look straight into my eyes...."

This is all rubbish of course, but it sounds good and gives me an out. However, I do want her to be looking into my eyes because of what happens next.

When I ask the second time "Is the spike under my hands?", it is, and I want her to say "Yes". In over 400 performances, the lady has said "No" I think about 6 times, because of another technique, and this is why I've asked her to look into my eyes.

She's looking straight into my eyes. As I ask the question, I'm nodding, almost imperceptibly. She almost always says "Yes" because of this. Try it, it works. I've never had anyone say they saw me nod, not even the lady herself. In fact, they nearly always say "It was weird, I just knew the spike was there".

On the very rare occasion that she says no, I use the out. I'll stand back and say "Did anyone else notice that she hesitated? You couldn't see it, but she blinked as well. That's a sign that she isn't going with her intuition. Let's try that again.". I'll then give it another go to try and get a "Yes".

If she still says no, I'll say "No, I still think you aren't letting go of your apprehension. Maybe I should rely on my own intuition". I stare at the two remaining cups for a while, I don't wave my hands over the cups as I stare, I just look and then smash the empty one, making an appropriate comment as I thank the two ladies.

I've just read all this back, and I know it reads a bit lame, but this is what I do and I swear that nobody ever says "Oh, you just knew where the spike was". On the contrary, I often get people saying that it's the best demonstration of intuition/NLP/Telepathy/psychic power that the've ever seen. Any explanation but the real one, so the empirical evidence is that it works for my audiences.

Someone else made the point about the "ghoulish" element to the audience's fascination, and I defintely agree with that. So much so that I often make a reference to it in the introduction - I compare it to the thousands who watch Formula 1 in the hope of seeing a good crash. That generally gets a laugh.

I don't think these effects are for everybody, and I do think that most people who do this kind of thing waste it, in the way I said before. I can only speak for my own experience, and I've no wish to gainsay anyone else's.

I can only repeat that I've done this over 400 times (including last night). I get the desired "No" followed by "Yes" almost always. There is only an infinitesimal chance of injury (I accept that I could have a brainstorm some day) and since it's my risk (I agree, I would never use the spectator's hand - that's just asking for it), I think that the drama it generates for me, and the reactions I get (it closes my cabaret show) justify that small risk.

I think that an awful lot of illusions would have to be ruled out if we became a "not even the slightest risk must be taken" profession.

Sorry this has been such a long post, I'm very enthusiastic about this effect, it's stood me in very good stead over time.
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Postby David Alexander » 10/10/09 11:46 AM

Pete,

I echo Dick's opinion. What I've come to believe is that such effects cheapen the performer's standing in the eyes of the audience. He deliberately puts himself in the position of potentially injuring himself seriously for a small goal: the entertainment of a small group of people for a small fee. To my mind that doesn't make sense.

Further, with Luis' research it seems that the potential of injury turns a lot of people off.

Years ago I bought (for a very reasonable figure) one of the best Knife Routlette effects I'd ever seen. Nothing to ever go wrong and the method was undetectable by the audience. I had an indepth conversation with my friend Docc Hilford and concluded that it wasn't something I would ever perform.
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Postby Ruben Padilla » 10/16/09 02:45 AM

What's even more interesting is that as soon as I started to read Pete's account of the Luis De Matos speech, I switched to another thread to read something else and didn't come back...
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