It's that time of year again

kid ~anya1976, You'll shoot your eye out
Yessir, every year right around this time something very special happens, something that all good boys and girls look forward to with all their hearts. I refer, of course, to the debut of my annual holiday mix. This year marks the fifth such mix! How the years fly by...

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(Click on the pic to download the ZIP file; within you'll find the tracks along with TXT, M3U, and XML versions of the playlist, also duplicated below. The download is good for 7 days or 100 transfers--if you're having trouble getting the file, leave a comment and I'll fix it.)

Happy holidays!

1. Father Christmas - The Kinks
2. Santa Claus - The D4
3. Christmas Griping - REM
4. Fat Daddy - Fat Daddy
5. I'm Walking Backwards For Xmas - The Goons
6. For Christ's Sake '98 (Live) - IQ
7. Last Christmas Girl - Stratocruiser
8. Little Mary Christmas - Roger Christian
9. Sleigh Ride - Los Straitjackets
10. Space Christmas - Shonen Knife
11. Transylvanian Xmas - Mojo Nixon
12. Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant - Siouxsie & the Banshees
13. I Wish You A Merry Christmas - Big Dee Irwin & Little Eva
14. Another Lonely Christmas - Prince
15. The Christmas Song - The Raveonettes
16. Santa Claus Is A Black Man - Akim & The Teddy Vann Production Company
17. Merry Xmas Everybody - Slade
18. One Christmas Catalogue - Captain Sensible
19. Nine Inch Noels - Lore Sjoberg
20. Happy Birthday Jesus (A Child's Prayer) - Little Cindy
21. Holiday Road - The Aquabats
22. Everywhere It's Christmas! - The Beatles

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Cocaine's a Hell of a Drug

Undercover Totoro
An anecdote via Roger Ebert:

Alexander Salkind, his son Ilya and his wife Berta held a press dinner at the Majestic Hotel in Cannes to celebrate [the release of the movie] "Superman." Toasts were given, speeches were made, and then Berta rose majestically and shattered a glass on the floor. Silence fell. She was the great love of his life, a flamboyant Mexican woman.

"Alexander Salkind says he produced this film," she proclaimed. "He did not produce 'Superman.' My son Ilya produced 'Superman.' And I produced 'Ilya!'" She then started throwing plates, glasses, bottles, vases and pitchers around the room. The guests dove beneath their tables.

The headwaiter summoned aid. Berta was quieted and taken from the room. Waiters materialized and swept away the wreckage. New tablecloths and place settings were laid. Alexander, having attended his wife, now returned to the room.

"I think," he said, "we will skip the cheese."

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It came from the Blackberry (Part II)

Undercover Totoro
Continuing on from the previous entry, here is the Santa Fe portion of my Blackberry photos:

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One of the first things we did after getting to Santa Fe was to gorge ourselves at The Pantry, a city institution for the past 70 years. Of course, photos never do food justice, and that goes double for New Mexican cuisine. It looks like the typical sort of Mexican-American food you could get anywhere between L.A. and Austin, but the taste is totally different thanks to the unique combination of chile (yes, with an "e") and other spices that are employed only in New Mexico. Desiree has since become addicted to The Pantry's chile rellenos.

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I think we spotted these at an Albertson's grocery store.

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We've since started boycotting Target due to the corporation's ridiculous political funding practices, but we spotted this in the local Target parking lot during a trip a couple months ago. Classy!

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Speaking of classy... "Ronas and Ritas, amirite brah?"

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This picture's great for so many reasons. First: "Awesome" brand paper towels! Needless to say, we bought a pack. The graffiti on the shelf originally read "Dave McCunt" but someone (Dave maybe?) changed it to "Dave McCann". That's the sort of go get 'em attitude we like to see around here!

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Desiree insisted I get a shot of this product and her reaction to it...

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They grow their bugs big around here (don't worry, it was dead).

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This is a fantastic sculpture piece by an artist my Dad is currently showing with.

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Clearly Desiree has deep familial roots in Santa Fe...

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We were down on the Plaza for the Fiesta de Santa Fe celebrations yesterday. Looked downright medieval! Speaking of which, I had a burger on Navjo fry bread that totally went medieval on my intestines, but let's not dwell on that...

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Back in July I put in some hours for this rich recluse who has a massive collection of ancient books and tomes and was looking to organize and sell much of said collection. This was the view from his barn where he kept all his books (click for a bigger version). I also snapped some shots of some of the more interesting books I handled during my brief time out there:

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A 400-year old Koran produced in India for the Ottoman market. Every page had gilding on it; the thing weighed about 10 pounds!

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There were lots of books like this - ancient, moldering volumes. If I was more of a bibliophile, I would've been in seventh heaven. The publisher's disclaimer on this one is hilarious, though!

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There were also a lot of relatively valueless books that had come with auction lots my client had purchased. This one was so sad - obviously a gift to a teacher who turned around and dumped it off to some second-hand book dealer!

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Speaking of sad, who the hell dedicates a book to themselves on Christmas?? Lonely Edwardian women, I guess.

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It came from the Blackberry (Part I)

Undercover Totoro
I was snapping some pictures on my Blackberry the other day and was told that my memory card was full. Woops! Time to empty that sucka out! So I did, and behold - a wealth of visual input to cram into your already bloated eyeholes!

Part I consists of photos I took while working at the San Francisco Library. Sometimes I'd see a book title or cover that caught my eye, or else I'd see some graffiti that an impish patron had scribbled somewhere on the cover or inside the book. Other times...well, just file those particular pictures under "Miscellaneous, Etc."

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This was from a Meg Cabot (of Princess Diaries fame) book. In case you can't read the quote, it says "Once a man learns to see he finds himself alone in the world with nothing but folly," and the handwriting says "Pure Crap".

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Most disturbing book cover ever? I think we have a weiner.

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This was the author photo off the back of an "urban fiction" potboiler. Pro-tip: if you're going to have a photo taken of you to put on the back of your book, take the time to wipe the schmutz from the corners of your mouth first.

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I wish I'd had the guts to get a better shot of this guy. He looked like a post-apocalyptic wizard. He had these strange runic designs tattooed on the back of his hands, and the designs were repeated on that weird hat he was wearing. Plus he had a ZZ Top beard and was wearing sunglasses.

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I was hired at the library right when they were putting in this new-fangled automated book-sorting machine. It was something like only one of three in the nation of its kind. As any 50s sitcom writer could've told the powers that be, this was guaranteed to result in pure mayhem. This photo was taken of a pile of devastated book covers that the machine gobbled up over a period of a couple weeks.

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Is it bad that I can, off the top of my head, think of at least a half-dozen friends and loved ones who would kill to have this book on their shelves?

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Speaking of gay culture, thanks for that catty opinion on Ms. Davis, Mystery Patron!

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What an awesome dedication! Dated September 22, 1930: "May the stars smile a perpetual blessing upon you and your affairs."

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I spent a lot of my time shelving books and videos in the library's closed stacks, where we shelved items that didn't circulate that often. This was a video from, I believe, 1993. I love the title: "Everybody's Doing It--NOT!" Wow, so in my face! This video speaks the language of "the kids." The photo on the back looks like it could have come straight out of my sophomore yearbook. I cringe at the thought of the inevitable 90s revival...

Finally, a couple non-library, Bay Area-related shots:

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A sticker inside the 21 bus stop at Hayes and Divisadero: "Thanks for nothing Baby Boomers. <3"

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The view from the parking lot of our all-time favorite seafood restaurant, Nick's in Pacifica.

"Oi, Hawkwind!"

Greystache
Checking in.

Lots of real life silliness (read: drama) going on of late. I may write about it here, I may not. Because, really, as the inimitable dr_ninjapants so loquaciously put it the other day: "You know what LJ is now? It's like for the lost rantings of crazy genius mad scientist doctor types."

Accordingly my lost rant for today is going to be about pleasant things, namely my latest auditory media obsessions.

Since April I've been slowly making my way through the seven Harry Potter books in audio form, as read by Stephen Fry. Last time I did this was during the run-up to the release of Deathly Hallows, so it's been about, uh, three years? Yeah, that sounds right.

I'm two-thirds of the way through Deathly Hallows. I have to say that I think it's my favorite book in the series. And as much as I tip my hat to Jim Dale, Stephen Fry just blows the lid off the readings. His reading of Ron under the influence of love potion in Half-Blood Prince was especially brilliant, as is his reading of Bellatrix, who he manages to make sound completely unhinged and irritating as all hell. I can't wait til she goes down in the final battle, and that's the mark of any good villain.

After I finish the HP books, I'll probably cleanse my palette by listening to the 1974 recording of Nicol "Merlin" Williamson reading The Hobbit. I discovered the existence of this reading earlier this year and have already listened to it three times. It's just that good. After that, I don't know...the insane part of me is contemplating re-listening to recordings of British people playing an RPG called Call of Cthulhu, but those recordings piss me off as much as they entertain me, so I may decide against it.

In the meantime, my deepening obsession with 70s rock continues unabated, expressed most recently through monstrous live albums.

Nudie pics and lizard costumes follow this cut - fairly warned be ye, says I.Collapse )

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Like a Lightning Flash

Metal!!
Looks like it's about time for another one of my monthly LJ updates, eh? This place is such a ghost town now. Not that I was around for LJ at its height, mind. Des and I were looking at an old entry of hers from 2003, and that entry alone generated 45 comments. Forty-five! Granted, half the comments were just Des and nefret commenting back and forth to each other, but still. Sheesh!

At any rate, another reason I haven't been posting (or commenting) here as much as I'd like is that I've been rather busy tippa-tapping away for pay. I'm quite pleased with this turn of events, and it's successfully done away with the sort of heavy ennui I wrote about in my entry last month. It's been really nice to prove to myself that I can drum up plenty of freelance writing work if I'm pursuing it full-time.

Then again, I've also been reminded of some of my less favorite aspects of freelance writing. Namely, it's all on me. I can't coast. Ever. That kind of sucks. And the work may be flowing right now, but there's no guarantee that after mid-summer it'll keep flowing as much. That lack of paycheck security is no fun. So I'm keeping an eye out for a nice staff-type position. There was an opportunity to work as an assistant archivist for the Feds out at Pecos National Park, but apparently I wasn't "qualified" for the job. Technicalities!

In the meantime, Des and I are getting ready to get into our own place. My library retirement money should be arriving any day now (I said, "ANY DAY NOW!!!") and Des is actually getting money back from taxes (after actually owing for 2008 despite bringing in a mere $6,000 in income; how's that for life in Obama's America, you Tea Bagging asswipes?), so by May we'll have a nice little nest egg going and will still be on track to move into our own place by June at the latest. Hooray!

In the meantime, we've been rediscovering the joys of living somewhere in which it's actually (a) easy and (b) affordable to go out and have fun. We managed to go see a movie in an honest-to-god movie theater last week. I swear, I think the last first-run movie we saw in a theater was Indiana Jones and the Crystal Squash. We saw The Runaways, and although the movie was maybe a B+ at best it's gotten me into the actual band and related acts in a big way. I think I'd always thought of The Runaways as "also rans" who produced one good song, broke up, and gave birth to the careers of Joan Jett and Lita Ford. How wrong I was. Turns out they made lots of good music, and my iPod's been getting a real workout playing their stuff this past week.

This has in turn gotten me into a whole 70s-girl-rocker phase. I downloaded Heart's first two albums yesterday, for Jeebus's sake. And I've reacquainted myself with Suzi Quatro, the original 70s hard rockin' chick and a major influence on Joan Jett. Check this video:



Yikes, my new rock star crush! I suddenly appreciate what the ladies see when they watch Robert Plant or Bowie do their things. ;)

Des and I have also been taking advantage of my parents' subscription to DirecTV and have been immersing ourselves in tons of trashy cable TV programming. We've watched an inordinate amount of house hunters on HGTV (which is pretty much all house-hunting, all the time, it seems), and have learned a bit from doing so in terms of what to look for and what we want and don't want when it comes time to look at our own places (for rent, alas); caught up on Deadliest Catch and Degrassi; and last night we watched the premiere of the new Dr. Who.

Talking it over, it seems Des and I had similar reactions to Dr. Who growing up. It was too weird and too British for our kiddie tastes, and the theme song freaked us both out. Plus I couldn't stand Tom Baker's early 80s Jewfro even then. But we were willing to get in on the ground floor with a new series, and we really enjoyed what we saw. It was nice to watch television that wasn't merely diversionary but actually creatively inspirational.

At any rate, don't let my B+ rating of The Runaways put you off of seeing it. The actors all do superb jobs, and the set-dressing and costuming is fantastic if you've got any appreciation of 70s trash culture whatsoever. So in honor of all that, let's leave things off with another video, The Runaways in Japan:



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Authentic Frontier Gibberish

Undercover Totoro


"I wash born here, an I wash raished here, and dad gum it, I am gonna die here, an no sidewindin bushwackin, hornswaglin, cracker croaker is gonna rouin me bishen cutter."

"Now who can argue with that? I think we're all in debt to Gabby Johnson for stating what needed to be said. I am particularly glad that these lovely children are here today to hear that speech. Not only was it authentic frontier gibberish, it expressed the courage little seen in this day and age."


I've been feeling kind of run-down lately. Which is funny, because I couldn't be happier with my own personal prospects for the future. The Great Relocation has come and gone and I love being back in Santa Fe. Des and I are really working our money-generating mojo, and I'm anticipating a time in the very near future that we'll be able to get our own place and really start building a new life together. Life is good, albeit hectic. So what's to feel bummed about?

It's the stuff in the greater sphere, I suppose. I know, I know, the stuff that really doesn't matter. But it's depressing. It's one of those phases where I just feel this quicksand-like sinking of my faith in human nature.

The quote at the head of this post basically sums up how I feel about our current political discourse. On both sides of the spectrum, really. But especially with the tea-bagger/Palin camp. The fact that politicians are getting death threats (and even tragi-comically misguided attempts at causing actual mayhem) over health care. Health care! How are historians going to explain this one to people in a generation or two?

"Yes, I know you'd think that the most violent protests of the early 21st century would have revolved around the unprecedented assaults on liberty and privacy of the Bush administration, but things like the PATRIOT Act, federal wire-tapping, extraditions, and illegal wars were actually rubber-stamped by the vast majority of the populace, at least initially. The guy even managed to get re-elected before people started going, 'Wait a minute...'. No, in fact the angriest, most violent protests came from people who somehow though providing health care to those who couldn't afford it represented an assault on American democracy."

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not happy with the compromise health care system we've somehow produced. But the people protesting health care aren't protesting the details--they're protesting the whole thing. They're so enamored of their white-bred, Disney-fied image of the bold American frontiersman, casting a ballot with one hand while fighting off a grizzly bear with the other, that they've somehow allowed themselves to think this is an issue of the very soul of America.

Of course, the real target for violent outbursts shouldn't be the politicians, but the lobbyists and corporate interests who lurk behind the politicians' votes. The fact that no one is talking about who wields the real power in America leads me to believe that we really are the Corporate States of America. People never target the real seat of power in a revolt. Take the Hundred Years War, for example.

In both England and France, at different times, things got so bad that the peasantry spontaneously rose up in revolt. Yet in both cases, the peasants refused to turn their ire against the royalty of their respective countries. Quite the opposite, in fact. The attitude was more along the lines of, "Oh, you poor king, you totally got sold out by the nobility, grr!" This despite the fact that the war was quite demonstrably being waged by the Kings of England and France.

I say all this to say, look at the corporate interests. No one is talking about them. Michael Moore's latest movie, Capitalism: A Love Story was barely a blip on the radar. It didn't even raise so much as a discussion, much less an impassioned debate. We all know that corporations fund tons of lobbyists, receive government welfare; that banks engaged in reckless practices (and knew what they were doing, despite what they might try to argue now) only to turn around and ask for more handouts when they were in danger of collapse (then proceeded to foreclose on thousands of homeowners who were in the exact same position); that creditors charge interest rates that would make Renaissance Italian moneylenders blush... Yet no one wants to do anything about it, much less discuss it.

If anything, there's an attitude that capitalism needs to be sheltered and protected. Just look at the latest tomfoolery in Texas, where they changed references to capitalism to "the free enterprise system" instead. God forbid anyone have any negative connotations with capitalism!

Why is this? The fact that people rant and rave about how broken the political system is (both on the left and right) tells me that no one truly believes that's the actual system. Otherwise, we'd be too terrified to even discuss such a thing. Just like capitalism, right?

...

These were the thoughts that were swirling through my head last night as I tried to fall asleep. Heady stuff. Meanwhile, on a slightly more personal level, my faith in my fellow Americans has been further shaken by Internet drama. God, how I hate Internet drama.

See, one of the reasons I haven't been posting here as regularly is because I've been focusing my blogging time on my other blog, in which I write about my role-playing game hobby. Blogger has a more open, public structure than LiveJournal, but small communities tend to form nonetheless. So in this little circle of, say, three dozen blogs and several hundred readers, periodic "tempests in teacups" blow through. Usually that just means I skip reading half the blogs on my blogroll because I really don't care what, say, The Dungeonpants Chronicles has to say about the latest "controversy." Booor-ing.

Last weekend, though. Oh man. Blogpocalypse 2010, folks. See, there's this guy who is a porn star and he plays D&D with all his female porn star friends, plus a stripper and a hair-stylist. His blog is called, aptly enough, Playing D&D With Porn Stars. Since these are people involved in the media, when they were approached by a website called The Escapist to do a project, they came up with the idea of doing a web series. Basically weekly installments of this group of porn-star-gamers playing D&D. Wow, big whoop, eh?

The first episode debuted last week. It's a six minute segment and is merely okay, as most first installments tend to be. Zak, the guy who runs the game/blog/series, promises they get better and I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I watched the segment, then went on my merry way for the weekend, doing things of interest to me and not really keeping up with the blogs for a day or two. Imagine my surprise when I check back in and see that shit just got real.

Basically, it was across multiple fronts. Some bloggers decided to use their platform to run their mouths, objecting to the "gimmick" of using porn stars to sell "corporate" D&D" while simultaneously accusing Zak of being an anarchist-terrorist because he donates to Food Not Bombs (and as one commenter put it, "Your point being? I'd much rather D&D be associated with anarchist porn stars rather than sweaty, basement-dwelling, anti-social nerds."). Oh, and he also attacked the guy who runs The Escapist because he has a Harvard law degree and worked for Lehmann Brothers at one point. (Both Zak and The Escapist guy soundly refuted these accusations; as The Escapist guy said, "I didn't quit the law to run a gaming website for the money, I can assure you." Zing!) At any rate, this stirred the pot, and meanwhile another firestorm broke out because there was a link to the web series posted on a gaming community website and someone went off with a Straw Man #519, a.k.a. "Won't SOMEBODY Think of the CHILDREN!?"

When the dust cleared (and it's still not totally died down), no less than four blogs had gone down either directly or indirectly due to all this argle bargle and fooferall. With the exception of one blog (the one who started the flames initially and now feels so terrible about it he's taking his blog down), these losses constitute some of the all-star blogs on my list. It's like finding out they're canceling one of your favorite magazines. "What am I going to read now?" All over some stupid self-appointed moral crusading from people who thought just because they have a blog they can run their mouths off. Don't they know that's what LiveJournal's for? C'mon people!

One blogger summed it up best in a post today:

Geeze people, this wasn't even a quality flamewar by Netgoth standards. You're all...pathetic at fighting on the Internet. That's probably a good thing but if you're going to do something do it well.

I'd like to sentence [two of the main bloggers involved in the ruckus] to a year on Usenet.


Amen!

***

Ah, that feels a little better. Ultimately, these are all things that don't directly affect me. I mean, things like the deterioration of the country will affect me in time, but for now on an absolute level I couldn't be happier with how things stand. It's that whole "being in the moment" thing that's so tricky, you know?

Raising funds for a friend

Get your damn hands off her!
I'd like to start posting here more frequently. I've got some stuff I'd like to write about once we've relocated.

In the meantime, I'd like to point y'all to a post I put up on my gaming blog a couple days ago. Here's what I wrote, in part:

I just want to take a moment here to address something that's come up in the life of a dear friend and fellow gamer.

A., who plays the inimitable Otterkin ranger Rumple Wumpkin in my D&D Wilderlands campaign, was recently diagnosed with malignant breast cancer. A terrible blow under any circumstance, but one that was especially unexpected and devastating for someone like A., who is in her 30s and was, prior to her diagnosis, focused on building her own business.

As a self-employed entrepreneur, A. has now been thrust into the jaws of the American healthcare system with very little money to fall back on. Today, as I was thinking of ways to help her out in her hour of need, I thought of putting a PayPal donation button up on my blog....A. asked if I could handle things, so donations will be going to my PayPal account, then disbursed to her via a check.


Head over to the blog and click on the "Donate" button in the sidebar if you're able.

http://shirosrpg.blogspot.com/2010/02/donations-for-friend-in-need.html

Thanks!

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Dispatches from a Nerd Couple

Undercover Totoro
Des: What does "illin" mean anyway? Does it mean he's high?

Me: I was never too clear on "illin".

::slight pause::

Des: I'll look it up online.

Puritan Views on Traditional Marriage

Undercover Totoro
The Puritans--those irascible spiritual forefathers of today's American religious bigot--had a rather surprising view on "traditional marriage" it seems.

Paging through my favorite collection of American historical trivia, 1980's One Night Stands with American History by Richard Shenkman and Kurt Reiger, I ran across this little tidbit (emphasis added):

"In 1647 the New England Puritans did something which might seem odd in view of their professed and very real piety: they outlawed the preaching of wedding sermons. Even before that year they had mandated that all marriage ceremonies be conducted by a civil magistrate.

"Why? The Puritans believed that marriage was a fundamentally secular institution, of no direct concern to the church. It was, as Martin Luther wrote, not a sacrament, but 'a secular and outward thing, having to do with...matters that belong to the realm of government, all of which have been completely subjected to reason.'"

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