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Rome Fodder

Rome: 2-9F Deus Impeditio Esuritori Nullus - Full Review

Rome: 2-9F “Deus Impeditio Esuritori Nullus”
(No God Can Stop a Hungry Man) - Full Review

Previously: The gold is stolen / Octavian chooses a new wife / Pullo shouts for a doctor / The world’s coldest supper / Octavia shamed / Antony banished / Octavia & Agrippa say goodbye / Antony & Atia say goodbye / Octavian informs his intended of his sexual proclivities / Vorenus confronts Vorena the elder / Vorenus resigns and requests to accompany Antony to Egypt / Pullo and the Aventine Collegium fight Memmio and his allies for control / Antony & Cleopatra reunite


Opening scene.

Vorenus’s bed, Egypt. Vorenus lies in bed next to a woman as a gentle breeze stirs the curtains. “Wake up, sleepyhead,” he says as Niobe turns to him and smiles. He kisses her, and suddenly she is cursing him in Egyptian. He awakens fully to find himself in bed with a freaky looking bald-headed Egyptian whore with a bad temper and worse wig. He gets up, disgusted, and splashes water in his face. Another hot Egyptian day.

The streets of Alexandria. In the marketplace, buyers and sellers finger plentiful sacks of grain, as Vorenus, dressed in full military gear, makes his way through the crowded streets, past the docks, and to the palace. Passersby bow to him. Signs of commerce are all around.

The palace in Alexandria. Vorenus enters and encounters a water-pipe smoking Posca, who asks if his “monthly debauch” is finished already. Posca is wearing Egypt eye makeup. (Vorenus isn’t.) “Where is he?” Vorenus asks. “A deep question”. Posca replies. His mortal flesh is in the throne room with Cleopatra and a delegation from Rome headed by Senator Bibulus. Posca has left because Cleopatra ‘growls at him’ and he fears for his life.

The Throne room. As the delegation from Rome waits and fumes, Antony is giving Cleopatra archery lessons. Antony is made up and dressed as an Egyptian. Their target is a man in a stag’s pelt, crawling about and simulating the prey. The lesson is punctuated with kisses. Antony shoots, and the arrow bounces of the target’s leather-armored midsection. Cleopatra takes a turn. The senators try to break in with an offer, and all they get is an angry “Shhh” from Cleopatra. Her first shot breaks an urn, angering her. “The beast moved!”

The delegation again try to continue negotiations, offering double the price for grain, if it can be delivered within the month. Cleopatra shoots again, and the arrow buries itself in a cabinet in front of the startled ‘prey’s face. “Triple” says Cleopatra, angry over missing another shot. The senators agree. “And Carthage, annexed to Antony’s control.” ‘Perhaps.’ Antony says Octavian must be really desperate. “People are starving, dieing. Octavian will do what he must to prevent further suffering” Bibulus says. “Because he loved the people so,” Cleopatra snits. “He does.” says the senator. Antony says the people love him more, not Octavian. “Isn’t that right, Vorenus?” “Right” says an obedient Vorenus.

The agreement apparently completed, the delegation bows to leave, while Antony nuzzles Cleopatra’s hip. Before they can leave, Antony adds “And Spain.” As the senator sputters, Cleopatra makes her final shot – right through the unarmored neck of her victim. Her audience applauds as the ‘stag’ expires, bleeding, on the floor of the throne room. ‘Too bad, no deal, pleasant voyage home, boys.’ And Antony and Cleopatra exit over the body of their target. Vorenus orders the body of the target removed and offers to show the delegation to their quarters. “Is he always like that?” “Like what?” Vorenus laconically replies.

Antony & Cleopatra’s private quarters. The lovers discuss the conversation. Cleopatra removes her heavy wig, which must be Hell in that climate. The rest of her royal costume, being mostly nothing, is quite adapted to the heat. Antony’s convinced that Octavian will not declare war. Cleopatra suggests Antony declare war first. Antony’s angling for political effect, however and wants the onus of declaring war to be on Octavian, so he can return to Rome as a savior. They are interrupted by their children, Helios and Selene. Cleopatra runs them off to allow Antony to sleep, as she watches over him, a calculating look on her face.

Aventine Collegium, Pullo’s quarters. Gaia and Pullo are in bed – the sound of an angry mob awakens them. Pullo dresses as Gaia pouts. They engage in a little lovers’ talk, but Pullo must be off. “Where you going?” “You can hear them.” “What are you going to do, bake them a cake?” “I forget sometimes what a cold-hearted bitch you are.” Pullo says he’d trade her for “a good horse with the leather’s thrown in.” They laugh and kiss, then Pullo is off – after a brief feel and a sigh.

Outside. Pullo makes his way through the angry mob, waving their bowls and howling “Grain. Grain!”. He’s protected by henchmen pushing and pulling. He climbs to speak on a balcony. Mascius hobbles into the crowd on crutches as Pullo speaks. Speaking plainly and simply Pullo explains the day’s ration is gone, and if he opened the granaries as the crowd wants, they’d be satisfied today, but starving tomorrow. The crowd apparently realizes he’s making sense and disperses. After the speech Mascius and Pullo exchange a few friendly words. Why is Mascius on crutches? He was walking at the fight for the Aventine Collegium, so his injuries are not from the gold robbery. He must have been injured in the gang fight, or in the several subsequent years.

The Vorenus children approach, and Pullo chides them for coming out in a dangerous situation. “They’re just hungry, they won’t hurt us” Vorena the elder says. “Hungry people do strange things.” Pullo responds. Vorena the elder says “Then blessed Urbona would protect us.” "Well run along and ask her to send a few grain ships," Pullo comes back. We see that little Lucius is now played by yet a third actor, and is more like young Lucius.

Inside the granary. Pullo asks how much grain is left. “Ten days at a quarter ration.” Mascius says the baker's guild man was around earlier. Offering “six hundred a sack”. “Six hundred and a few dead children for every sack that doesn’t get to the people that need them.” Pullo ‘pisses on the offer’. He drops a fragment of food onto a cage in the corner, and we discover that tongue-less Memmio, hairy as a Gaul, is being kept in a cage in the Aventine Collegium as an object lesson to anyone else who would think of revolting against Pullo. Memmio seem to be insane. Pullo calls for his best clothes and says he’s going to see “his honor”.

Octavian’s offices. Pullo explains the situation before Octavian, Maecenas, and Agrippa. Maecenas makes jokes, “I understand that dogs make good eating.” Pullo takes him seriously, “They do. Taste like pork if you cook ‘em right. All gone.” Agrippa comes up with a serious proposal – send three legions to Africa and let Lepidus feed them, which would extend the city’s grain supply by a month. “Have it done," Octavian commands. Pullo turns to leave, but Octavian stops him to ask what the people are saying. Pullo responds honestly but tactfully that the people blame Octavian, not Antony. Octavian thanks Pullo, who departs. After he leaves, the three discuss tactics. They agree that they cannot declare war on Antony unless the people are with them, which is not yet the case. Octavian sends for Atia and Octavia to come to dinner.

Atia’s villa. Granny Atia picks up her granddaughter Antonia, who Octavia is looking for. Octavia grouses that Antonia doesn’t listen to a word she says, as chief female slave Merula looks on, amused. Atia observed that that’s just like Octavia was as a child, whereas Octavian was ‘no trouble at all’. Atia is looking - as she does every day - for a letter from Antony, which never comes. Atia still expects Antony to send for her. “Even if he did,” Octavia asks, “do you think Octavian would let you go?” Casta informs them that Octavian has summonsed them to dinner. Attendance not optional. “What does he want, now?” Octavia wonders. “Nothing to our benefit,” Atia opines.

Octavian’s dining room. Another cold dinner as Octavian observes “Family and friends, eh? Nothing better.” Octavian requests Octavia go to Egypt and ask her husband to free up the grain shipments. Octavia says Atia should go instead, being Antony’s “real wife”. Octavian suggests they go together. Atia responds coolly to the suggestion and asks “what’s in it for us?” Octavian more or less invites them to name their price. Atia says she’s tired of Pompeii, perhaps a villa in Capri? And Octavia? A villa would be nice, and perhaps some gladiators as well? But finally they decide on plain cash. Octavian agrees and tells Maecenas to have the newsreader announce it as soon as possible.

Octavian’s bedroom. Octavian and Livia engage in some vigorous, and sadomasochistic sex. But unlike his prenuptial discussion, Octavian seems to be on the receiving end of the violence. Which apparently suits him just fine. A couple of roundhouse slaps, to either cheek, spur him to even greater exertion. In a second session, Livia is on top and applying a choking forearm to Octavian’s throat. Livia seems to have adapted to the new lifestyle quite well. As they lie gasping afterwards, Livia makes some irrelevant observations about birds and eggs, but then turns the conversation to Octavian’s motivation for sending Octavia and Atia to Egypt, and we see that Livia has a strategic mind to equal Octavian’s. Perhaps he married better than he thought. She reasons that Octavian wins either way – either Antony publicly turns away and humiliates his wife, leading to him losing face with the Roman public, or he acquiesces and Octavian gets his grain. “Clever boy!” she compliments him.

A ship in the Mediterranean. The ship rolls and tosses on what is really a rather calm sea. Atia paces as Octavia feels sick. Atia wonders if she’s changed since Antony saw her last. Octavia sarcastically says ‘no, you're the same as you always were, and Antony will fall into your arms in a delirium of love.’ “Do you mean that?” “No.” Atia says Octavia has changed, become “mean and bitter”. Octavia says Atia has become “girlish and sentimental.” A servant’s retching makes Octavia feel worse. “Land ho!” and we see the ship glide into the Alexandria harbor, past the magnificent lighthouse – one of the seven wonders of the world.

The palace in Alexandria. As Vorenus watches, Caesarion plays a game of ball. The game consists of throwing a hard ball at a cringing servitor. Caesarion changes the rules as suits him. Tiring of the game, he dismisses the servant and plays a bit of catch with Vorenus. Vorenus won’t condescend, and throws a low hard one right at the boy’s butt as he shies from the ball. The game continues in a more congenial fashion, and Caesarion asks Vorenus to “tell me more about my father”. Vorenus discusses “his father” in terms that seemingly could apply to either Caesar or Pullo. But finally when he comes to the topic of eating it seems he’s describing Pullo, not Caesar, and it puzzles Caesarion who’d heard Caesar was an “abstemious” eater. Vorenus basks off and says “There’s others knew him far better than I did.” Posca dashes into the room asking “where are they?”

The bedroom: Antony and Cleopatra are in bed, smoking a little opium as Posca tells them that Atia’s ship is in the harbor already, and they are on the way to the palace now and request an immediate audience. Antony and Cleopatra discuss the meaning of the unexpected visit. Antony seems to realize Octavian’s strategy of forcing Antony to choose between Atia/Octavia and Cleopatra, thus striking at Antony’s support among the people if he turns away Atia, which, he assures Cleopatra, he will do, and gaining Octavian his premise for war. Cleopatra wonders ‘Isn’t that what you wanted?’ “He is striking at my support amongst the people,” Antony declares.

Cleopatra proposes ‘throwing a lovely party’ and starts to send her chief slave Charmian to set it up, but Antony vetoes this. He thinks Cleopatra wants to enjoy “humiliating Atia, watching her squirm as you play the Queen.” “Play the Queen – I am the Queen,” Cleopatra retorts. The little marital spat is turning into foreplay. “An act of kindness,” Cleopatra suggests, “stop her pining for you.”

Antony says he no longer loves Atia, but doesn’t want to publicly humiliate her, which to Cleopatra is “the whole point – that is why they’re here, to be humiliated.” OK, Cleopatra modestly proposes, let’s kill them then, thus no humiliation and a message to Octavian. Or, alternatively, their ship can have a ‘little accident on the way home, happens all the time.’ But Antony does still have some feelings, and responds angrily to the proposal. “No!” Cleopatra begins to escalate the argument to crockery throwing and charges of cowardice or still having feelings for Atia. Antony easily dodges the crockery, but not the charges.

The harbor. A stately procession begins, as Atia and Octavia are carried in shaded sedan chairs toward the palace by slaves. The procession stops at the palace door, which is not open. “What a ghastly place,” Atia sniffs. “Big though, ” Octavia sounds intimidated. “Sign of vulgarity,” Atia says, then with typical look down the Roman noseism about the Greek origins of the Egyptian dynasty, “The Ptolemys were originally goatherds, don’t you know.” Still the doors remain closed.

Inside. The fight is on. Cleopatra slaps Antony(3). And again(4). (Seems to be becoming a theme.) Hair is pulled and ears bitten. Bodies hurled.

Outside. Atia and Octavia swelter in the hot sun and grouse about the impolite reception. Even Merula grouses. The door opens a crack, and a smiling Egyptian maiden slips out wearing a big black wig. She speaks – it’s Jocasta, in Egyptian style clothes and Egyptian eye makeup. “Her majesty doesn’t like the Roman style," she explains. She asks about the new fashions in Rome, and chatters on about other inconsequential topics. She asks them why they are here, and have they come for Crocodile Day? Atia wonders where their reception is, and asks Jocasta to go and fetch Antony, which Jocasta explains she can’t do, as no one is allowed to speak to Antony without Cleopatra’s approval, excepting only Posca and Lucius Vorenus.

Posca comes out of the palace and is horrified to find Jocasta there, makes stammered and incoherent noises at Atia without responding to anything she says, and hustles Jocasta back inside. “They’ve all gone insane!” Atia observes. They’re left staring at the twin cobras on the closed doors.

Inside. The fight has turned into steamy sex. In the middle of which, Cleopatra nods to Charmian, who departs. Antony, more interested in nibbling nipples, doesn’t notice.

Outside. Octavia and Atia steam as well, though not so pleasurably.

Inside. The sex is over and a cat clambers over the lovers. Cleopatra is telling Antony that “This palace life is no good for you. You need action. You’ll be much more happy when the war begins.” Vorenus enters. Antony tells Vorenus he has a “delicate mission” for him.

Outside. Vorenus comes out to the two travelers accompanied by seven Nubian guards with long bladed weapons. He tells them Antony has ordered him to escort them back to their ship and make sure they leave when the wind allows. If they won’t go peaceably, the men with him will force them. Atia attempts to call Antony out, recalling the scene where Antony called out Atia before leaving Rome. Atia’s calls are more vulgar and to no avail. Atia slaps (5) and strikes Vorenus in frustration, then collapses, crying, before being led off. Octavia tells Vorenus to “tell my husband he’s cowardly scum.” This time the party walks, led by a determinedly striding Atia.

Inside. Posca and Jocasta are hurriedly packing. Vorenus interrupts “Going somewhere?” Posca says they were merely taking a stroll to the harbor to look at the ships. Jocasta begs him to "please don’t tell, they’ll kill us.” Vorenus, knowing perfectly well what they are doing, says go quickly, “the wind is changing and the ships look best when their sails are set,” “Come with us," Posca says, but Vorenus declines, citing his duty. “If you happen to see Titus Pullo, ask him to kiss my children for me.”

The streets. Posca and Jocasta slip out and head for the harbor.

The ship. Atia lies disconsolate as Merula tries to comfort her. Octavia removes her wedding ring and throws it out a port hole into the harbor. Posca and Jocasta enter and request asylum.

The Palace. Vorenus and Caesarion are talking again, and Caesarion presses for more details about his father. “Look to yourself,” Vorenus says. “You are what remains of him.” Antony appears and asks how his mission went. “They’re gone.” “Good, good.” “Atia take it with her usual poise?” “No” “And where is Posca?” “I don’t know, sir, do you want me to go and look for him?” “No.” “Sir, your wife instructed me to tell you that you are cowardly scum.” “She did, did she? And what’s your opinion of that?” “It’s not my place to have an opinion, sir.” “Tell me anyway.” “Is that an order?” “Yes.” “You’re no coward. But you do have a strong disease in your soul. A disease that will eat away at you, until you die.” “Really?” (sighs) “And what is this disease?” “I don’t know, I’m not a doctor.” “No you’re not, so how can you be so sure of your diagnosis, then?” “I recognize your symptoms. I have the same sickness.” Antony, staring truth in the face, sighs heavily again and departs. Vorenus and Caesarion return to playing catch.

Long shot of the hills of Rome. In his offices, Octavian receives Atia and Posca. Atia opens the discussion with a rousing slap.(6) Fortunately, Octavian doesn’t take this as foreplay. “Hello, mother” he says calmly, “and Posca, what a pleasant surprise”. He says he wished for a better outcome. Atia says “Posca has something here that will help you destroy Antony.” Atia, a woman truly scorned, is now all fury, “Crush Antony and his Queen! And you can keep your damned villa.” The something Posca has is Antony and Cleopatra’s last will and testament, which Posca says is genuine. Maecenas snatches it from Posca and reads, chuckling. “This ones cooked himself for dinner.” The provisions are 1- Antony to be buried in Alexandria, 2 - Cleopatra is his wife and they are living gods, Isis and Osiris, 3 - to his children by Cleopatra he leaves all the eastern provinces, and 4 - Caesarion is to be given Rome and the west.

The forum square. The town crier dude reads the shocking terms of Antony’s will. “He worships dogs and reptiles. He blackens his eyes with soot like a prostitute. He dances and plays the cymbals in vile Nileotic rites.” Oh no, not the cymbals! This is too much! Ian McNiece is in fine form.

The Senate. Octavian details Antony’s excesses and maintains there is no course but “to fight and destroy him”, to the applause of the senators.

Later. Alone in the senate, Octavian receives Pullo accompanied by Posca. He asks Pullo to accompany him to Egypt, possibly to act as intermediary with Vorenus. He hopes to avoid fighting if possible, but Antony and Caesarion, he says, will have to die. Mention of Caesarion gives Pullo some pause, but Pullo agrees. Posca delivers Vorenus’s message to Pullo.

The Aventine Collegium, outside. Pullo is explaining his trip to the children. Lyde is present as well. "Can I come with you?” Lucius speaks! Which I believe are his first spoken words, perhaps even first sounds, in this long saga – 21 hours and three actors in. Pullo tells the children he may see their father. “He sent word that I should give you all a kiss from him.” Vorena the elder refuses, Vorena the younger and young Lucius reluctantly accept kisses on the head. “Can I give him a kiss from you in return?” he asks. “No!” says young Lucius “He killed our mother.” “It’s true isn’t it?” Vorena the elder asks. Instead of disputing, Pullo responds “You’re a hard one, you.” “My father made me so.” “I hear you.”

Egypt. Vorenus lies alone at night, eyes wide.

Aventine Collegium. Pullo gives instruction for his absence. “No trouble, no skimming from the grain ration, no stealing of women, nor any extortion, robbery or arson.” But aren’t most of these their normal activities? “Unless under direct license by Mascius.” Oh, OK, then. “Anybody steps out of line they’ll be sharing their dinner with Memmio." Who, named, grabs insanely at the bars of his cage.

Later, alone with Gaia. Pullo is packing. Gaia wants to go. “It’s a war, not a shopping trip” Pullo says. Pullo goes out to the tavern area for a late snack. Looking around idly, he notices Memmio’s cage is open, the lock picked with a bit of bone. Alert, he picks up a knife from the table and begins looking and calling Memmio’s name, in the shadowy tavern. A figure emerges from the dark behind him, and Memmio clubs Pullo unconscious. He takes the knife and kneels over Pullo's unconscious body and slaps his cheeks(7) (8) (9). He wants Pullo to see the knife coming. Before he can plunge the knife into Pullo’s heart, Gaia appears and struggles with him. In the struggle, Memmio knifes Gaia, twice, but she manages to beat his brains out with a metal bowl before collapsing, bleeding profusely.

The bedroom. Once again the same doctor and priestess are in attendance as Pullo frets over another lover bleeding to death. “Not again, what have I done? Why are you punishing me like this?” he wails. (Dashing an innocent slave's brains out on a column comes to mind.) “You selfish bastard,” Gaia says between gritted teeth, “It’s me dying not you. It’s me being punished.” She declines Pullo’s characterization of her as a “good woman”. That title, she says, belonged to Eirene, not her.

In her pain, Pullo holding her hand and sobbing, Gaia says she can’t go to the afterlife with lies in her heart. “Nemesis won’t let me pass.” “What lies?” Pullo asks, tearing up even more. She asks him to send the attendants away, then when they’re gone asks Pullo to “Remember, when I’m gone, what I did, I did out of love for you.” Finally she confesses to poisoning Eirene and Pullo’s child. The news takes a while to sink in on Pullo, but when it does his fingers close on her throat. “Goodbye, love” she says, with literally her last breath. Pullo’s fingers tighten and his eyes grow hard as he increases the pressure, shortening Gaia’s life by a few minutes. As she expires, he gasps and draws back, seeming, perhaps, to have second thoughts. But if so, it’s too late. He sits alone with her blood-soaked body, head bowed.

The streets outside. Pullo carries Gaia’s bloody body, unshrouded, though the early morning streets, a grim look on his face. He come to a stagnant body of water, and tosses the body unceremoniously in, turns, and without a backward glance, leaves the body floating there half submerged. Our point of view pulls back from her face as we fade to black and somber credit music plays.


Next Week: In, sadly, our final installment of Rome, we see quick fading glimpses of all our major characters. Antony and Cleopatra. Octavian. Atia/ Titus Pullo. Lucius Vorenus. “ROME” “THE SEASON FINALE” “Marc Antony has called the dog out” says Antony. “He will put himself and his woman in my hands without conditions” declares Octavian. “THE ROAD TO GLORY” Antony fights. “THE FIGHT FOR SUPREMACY” Ships. Court Scenes. Demands. Cleopatra crawling. “ALL OF ROME HANGS IN THE BALANCE” Antony and Cleopatra. Tears. “These years together have been the happiest of my life.” “Find the children.” “Octavian will kill him.” “No, he’s just a child.” “There can only be one son of Caesar.” A triumph. “THE DRAMATIC SERIES CONCLUSION.” “It’s been a long road we have traveled together.” Another triumph.

Final Score: Slaps - 9, Rough Sex - 3, Happy relationships - 1

- Cecil

Previous Episode: 2-8F “A Necessary Fiction” - Full Review

Next Episode: 2-10F “De Patre Vostro” (About Your Father)


Click here for complete "Rome" broadcast schedule, including reshow days, times, and HBO Channel

Posted by Cecil on March 16, 2007 8:02 PM
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Hi Cecil-

I just wanted to say I read your recaps and reviews every week, and still enjoy them, even though I watch and tape ROME! They've really helped me cover those episodes I couldn't see, and I couldn't be sadder that the last episode will be on Sunday.

As to a discussion that's been going on around the TWOP and HBO Community, what do you think is the disease that Vorenus and Antony have? To me, it seems like a combination of pride and a misguided sense of honor. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

-- Posted by: shera at March 23, 2007 8:45 PM

Salve, shera!

Thanks for your kind comments. I've really enjoyed sharing my thoughts and observations on "Rome" for the past 12 weeks, despite the lack of sleep on Sunday and Monday nights. Filmfodder has a policy of getting the reviews out fast, which plays hob with a working man's schedule - especially since Monday is Boy/Girl Scouts night with my grandchildren.

>As to a discussion that's been going on around the TWOP and HBO Community, what do you think is the disease that Vorenus and Antony have? To me, it seems like a combination of pride and a misguided sense of honor. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I've read the discussions on both the HBO and TWOP lists, but haven't commented because the earlier writers didn't seem to leave much to say.

James Purefoy's Antony seems to be pretty consistent with what we know of the historical Antony - a man of powerful appetites who let little stand in the way of satisfying those appetites, to the eventual destruction and both himself and those he loved.

Kevin McKidd's semi-fictional Lucius Vorenus is a more complicated case. His values are family, honor, and what, for want of a better word, I'll have to call a sense of 'propriety'. He's powerfully conflicted when he discovers that, however involuntarily, he has crossed the Rubicon under arms, thus making him a traitor to all he has sworn allegiance to. He is entirely a creature of his times, and internalizes the customs of the day as the right and proper way to act. Thus when he discovers that Niobe has been unfaithful to him, his instinct is to kill her, and his anger leads to her death even if he didn't wield the knife. His sense of violation leads him to curse his children, and indirectly leads to their vulnerability and enslavement by Erastes Fulmen. His word, given under duress, but his word nevertheless, leads him to life-long fealty to the flawed Antony, following him even into exile and revolt against what Vorenus sees as his proper patriotic duty to his country.

So we have two men, who for different reasons and following quite different values, are unable to compromise their beliefs, their honor, and in so doing, bring unhappiness to themselves and their loved ones. That seems to be the fundamental disease that Vorenus sees in himself and Antony.

It's a very complicated issue, and that complexity is part of the tapestry of storytelling that will, I hope, make "Rome" a pleasure to view for years to come.

-- Posted by: Cecil Rose at March 28, 2007 1:11 PM

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