Tuesday, November 30, 2004:

elsewhere, 2.0

Eh. Exhausted. I just finished the world's worst paper on XML. And, since I can barely get a sentence to say what I mean it to when I'm awake and I'm not much awake right now--or willing to be--I'll have to point elsewhere again.

Neil Gaiman on his blog notes that Nick Powell, who is writing the lyrics to the opera for Wolves in the Walls, is offering tracks for download. Gaiman describes them as "eclectic and strange and very cool," and I'm inclined to agree with him. I've had one of them on repeat for quite awhile; the movies are cool, and I'm a bit disappointed that the other mp3 is MIA.

And so that's my endorsement. And so to bed.

Later: 8 1/2 Souvenirs. Sort of like filming an eight-and-a-halfth film, but a bit more upbeat.
Sunday, November 28, 2004:

reap what you sow

Merrilee Rush & The Turnabouts -- Reap What You Sow
So an agnostic, a lapsed Catholic, a Hindu, and two Christians sit watching Dogville, and the two taking most glee at the end are the Christians. Statistically insignificant, I know, but not an uncommon attitude in the southeastern U.S.: I keep meeting people who seem to think that the Old Testament is absolutely right about homosexuality being a sin and that Jesus is absolutely wrong about acceptance, humility, and turning the other cheek. Right-o. At some point Christ's teachings have been removed from Christianity; it's really quite curious.

I don't know much at all about Merrilee Rush, aside from her "Angel in the Morning" song ("Just call me angel of the morning, angel" etc.) and "What the World Needs Now," but after a bit of poking around online I found that her album has been reissued with this track as a bonus. And a bonus it is: the singer was dumped and, bitter and gleeful, puts it to her ex: "One day you'll find that someone; she'll say her love is true / and when you start to fall for her, she'll pull her rug on you."

This is the flipside to the omnipresent "Angel in the Morning" and for my money it's a much better track. Though I'm not sure if people do always reap what they sow, or should. And "my money" in this case equals 10¢ plus tax, how much I found the 45 for at the library booksale.
Collector's Choice reissue, with bonus tracks

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Wednesday, November 24, 2004:

happymaking post

Chico Marx -- 2nd movement of the Beer Barrel Polka
Marx Brothers today, only because I watched At the Circus and A Night in Casablanca recently, and this track made me smile. It's from A Night in Casablanca, but the soundtrack isn't in print and I didn't see any tracks from it on the boxed set.

The Marx Brothers films are kind of uneven IMO but the musical numbers are always a treat.
Beer Barrel Polka lyrics (that would be for the, uh, first movement.)
Warners vs. the Marxes about the film title. Groucho shuts them out.
IMDb claims that Roeper claims that story is a legend, but I can't find anything about it from Roeper himself. And the IMDb also claims that someone said "Play It Again, Sam" in this film, but I think they've confused the Marx Brothers with Woody Allen.
Snopes.com on the story: untrue.

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two from Willie

Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash -- Funny How Time Slips Away
Willie Nelson -- Too Sick to Pray
Melancholy bit of country here with Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, two kings of country--experts at what they do, simultaneously modest and badass. Nelson starred in Honeysuckle Rose, but I've also seen him in bit parts in various indie movies, and always thought that was cool--not because he could act, but because he'd take bit parts that can't pay well.

Nelson's played with Cash before, in The Highwaymen (with Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings), in the mid-1980s before his IRS troubles. There's a lot to pick from over his career; his 1970s work is vital and awesome (but I grew up with it, so I would have that fondness for it anyway), but some of his more recent stuff is just as compelling, especially in the last decade.

"Too Sick to Pray" is a country waltz about spiritual alienation and reconciliation; the track comes from Spirit, a spare album that Nelson self-produced. His next album, Teatro, which Daniel Lanois produced and Emmylou Harris guested on, got a lot of well-deserved attention; but I think there's a simple beauty throughout Spirit that could do with some more attention as well. Most of the tracks on it are just Willie's beat up old nylon-stringed guitar, his voice, a piano, a steel-string guitar, and maybe a violin; the first half is mostly about loss; the second half is mostly about determination, love, and hope. Remarkable work, and it covers enough that the title could refer to either faith (the holy spirit) or the human spirit.
[Amazon.com]: Willie Nelson & Johnny Cash: VH1 Storytellers
[Amazon.com]: Willie Nelson: Spirit


Tuesday, November 23, 2004:


I haven't forgotten you, honest. Playing catch-up with school work and various other projects and family stuff. And time flies. Or slips away. Or runs away, like a horse over the hills.

So. Some pointers elsewhere: Said the Gramophone has two awesome tracks up at the moment; #1 Songs in Heaven is killing it with Barbara Randolph, Tofu Hut's Cats and the Fiddle track has had more than a few spins in the last half-hour, and I'm finding Jazz and Conversation's Uakti post very interesting. And that's from just the top of the sidebar, which I'm going through now. If you're not keeping up with them, you're missing out. Strong endorsements, those are.

And I'll be back later tonight with some tracks.
Sunday, November 21, 2004:

Milgram and Muddy Water

Muddy Waters -- I Can't Be Satisfied
You ever see that show You've Got a Friend? It's a show about someone who agrees to pretend an actor is his/her new best friend, and for 48 hours has to convince friends, family, and loved ones that that's the case; the prize is $15,000. The catch is that the victim (I almost wrote "contestant," but really "victim" is better) has to do whatever the actor says, and the actor is a complete jackass, doing things like coming on to all the person's friends in public, making up lies about orgiastic cheating, convincing the person to shoplift.... It passes itself off as a "prank show," but it was so cruel and asinine that I started trying to "figure it out"--as if there were anything about it to figure out. Maybe it made sense as a cautionary tale? Was it intended as a bit of reverse psychology? Layers and layers of irony that I got lost in? No, the producers thought it was a comedy, but it was just witless, petty, vicious, and despicable. Next season: snuff films.

And then, this morning, I figured out why I hated it so much. It's the kind of show you get from people who think the Milgram experiment could have been a hit if they'd just filmed it. No, sorry, not amused. (update: Alex informs me that the Milgram experiment was indeed filmed, a fact that someone's added to the wikipedia article since last I read it. I should have known better than to link without rereading it first--that's how wikipedia grows, typically: factoids at a time; and it's better to link to a specific version than to the current one, which might be vandalised.)

Anyway. I guess I'm hard to satisfy.

This track is from Muddy Waters' kicking 1977 comeback album Hard Again. Gritty electric blues, as if he's saying "listen up, Zep, here's how it's done, this whole wailing blues-rock business."

And I was about a hair's breadth from posting Vini and the Demons' cover of the song when I remembered a brief exchange I'd had with Vini just before recording them, in IIRC 2000: he'd let me record the show if I promised not to sell it or put it on the internet. At the time I'd assumed he meant Napster or whatever was certain to take its place; mp3 blogs were unheard of, maybe undreamed-of; weblogs were very new. So I agreed. Well, I don't consider mp3 blogs to be like p2p apps: you go to Limewire to find exactly what you're looking for; you go to mp3 blogs just trusting the author to play something you expect to be cool, and if the author doesn't meet your needs, you quit going. Much like a radio station, but with more stations, fewer commercials, and much less crap. Bloggers do it for love, not pay, so they post things they genuinely get a kick out of. Though sometimes they do still ramble a bit.

Right. If you're ever in Chicago, go check out Vini and the Demons; their concerts are well worth the dime.
[Amazon.com]: Muddy Waters -- Hard Again
Vini and the Demons' fairly unassuming home page.

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Friday, November 19, 2004:

Sly and the Family Stone

Sly and the Family Stone -- Life
Sly and the Family Stone -- Spaced Cowboy
Tough figuring out what to post today--I decided on Sly and the Family Stone and then spent way too long trying to decide which tracks.

"Life" is a peppy joyous number, the title track from their 1968 album; "Spaced Cowboy" is from 1971's release There's a Riot Going On, which IMO allmusic.com sums up fairly well as an intersection between angry disillusionment and drug abuse. "Spaced Cowboy" is a trippy bit of smoking funk/country with a drum machine and some yodeling, amusing and unusual but oddly compelling. This should have been in a Coen brothers film; it might have worked as well for the rolling tumbleweed at the start of The Big Lebowski. And "Life" just makes me want to dance.

There's no way to sum up Sly and the Family Stone's output in two tracks, so just take these as two I enjoy. And if you haven't yet, poke around in their catalogue; the discs are worth the attention, especially up to 1973's Fresh.
There's a Riot Going On


Thursday, November 18, 2004:


Double Dee and Steinski -- Lesson 1: The Payoff Mix
Double Dee and Steinski -- Lesson 2: The James Brown Mix
Double Dee and Steinski -- Lesson 3: History of Hip Hop Mix
So I promised not to talk about politics any more, then there's this bill in front of Congress that would remove "fair use" provisions from copyright law, prohibit skipping commercials on DVDs, and allow the DOJ to file civil suits against copyright infringers.

Wow. Apparently the U.S. is in better shape than I thought, and there haven't been any murders, rapes, muggings, or robberies in the last few years, and no terrorist plots either. And so copyright infringement is the biggest thing left to investigate and prosecute on a limited budget. Makes perfect sense.

Uh huh. What makes more sense is that art is not a loaf of bread.

And that three-note decision--honestly, now. Can you imagine if they had a three-word rule in text? That typing "across the field" would get you sued by Faulkner's estate? That "Because I could" would get you sued by Dickinson's? Who owns "and in the"? What about chord progressions? I wanted to use D-G-A in a song....

Anyway, if this bill passes, that will be the case: no "fair use"; you'd better clear every honking thing you can think of. Call your senator and give your opinion about it--for one thing, it will make scholarly writing a great deal more difficult, which is not exactly in the interests of "the progress of the arts and sciences." (But, for that matter, neither is current copyright law. I really do not see how protecting Faulkner's copyrights for his estate's benefit helps Faulkner write any more fiction. But maybe those ouija boards work better than I've heard.)

The world is a very strange place. Anyone remember when Dan Quayle took on Murphy Brown, and Brown kicked his ass? That's what happens when you're in a society with media at every turn: TVs in the Taco Bell, in the airport, in your bank, music piped in to every grocery store you go to--the media saturates your every waking moment, and, naturally, becomes as much a subject for art as "love" or "murder" or "a journey." Why are you supposed to listen constantly and not speak unless you can afford it? When did commerce trump free speech? That assigns the First Amendment to the wealthy and "the right to remain silent" to everyone else. (And what about those cases where a copyright holder does not allow derivative works at all, ever? What the hell is that? Why are you going to release something into the public and not expect the public to comment on it?)

Here's the illegal art I mentioned last post. Seminal bit of hip hop here, fascinating work, very fun, very influential, and very unauthorized. If you haven't heard it before, give it a shot; it's a real treat.

And now I really am done talking politics. If only because I'm nearly done with these posts--a few weeks left, maybe.

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Monday, November 15, 2004:

Wave Twisters

wave twisters
DJ QBert -- Redworm
DJ QBert -- Sneak Attack
DJ QBert, from Wave Twisters, the world's first "scratch concept album": 17 tracks about a society that talks to each other through scratching--whickas, bleeps, bloops, burps, mechanical noises--and a crew of heroes trying to spread the four elements of hip hop (breakdancing, rapping, graffiti, and scratching) through the universe. The plot's a bit more convoluted than all that, and very odd; most of it's explained in the cartoon they put together to go with the music. Redworm is one of their enemies and the Sneak Attack is, well, a sneak attack.

I'm plenty geek enough to dig the sci-fi and videogame samples scattered throughout the disc (including sound effects and vocals from Starcraft), and the sense of humor doesn't hurt. But the turntablism itself is amazing (unsurprisingly--he and the other Invisbl Skratch Piklz won the DMC World Championships three years in a row). Maybe it's the licensing keeping this in such limited print? ... It would be in good company there in the netherworld of illegal art, with Double Dee and Steinski's Lessons 1-3. You can find the CD on ebay sometimes; that's where I snagged it.
Official site and pick up Wave Twisters on DVD, $20 cheaper than amazon.com.

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Saturday, November 13, 2004:

Nancy Wilson

Nancy Wilson -- Lonely, Lonely
Nancy Wilson -- The Real Me
Nancy Wilson is a vocalist who started recording in the 1950s, mostly in jazz; she's cut a record with Cannonball Adderley and appeared in concert with Nat King Cole and other big names in jazz, but she's also released pop and soul albums. She has a strong voice and a nice range, and she's well known in jazz circles for both her recordings and her work with NPR on Jazz Profiles.

I found her record Now I'm a Woman in a highly disorganized collection, for $1; it's out of print and about 80% top notch. Here are a couple of rare tracks from it--numbers 2 and 4 from side two.

"Lonely, Lonely" is a bit of soft jazz about loneliness (but you guessed that already); the vocals are quite nice but I wonder why they settled on a mix that swallows the second L. It's a good song but for my money, "The Real Me" is the star of the record.

"The Real Me" is a breakup song, but it's not the kind of sad messy breakup that has you sleeping in and then getting up to sit staring into your coffee--Wilson is exuberant about her sudden freedom; it's her chance to find herself. She knows it'll take some work to put her heart back together but she's eager to start; and she sounds fiery enough to take a trip around the world while she's working on it. I know I shouldn't play the "sounds like" game on this one because there are so many possible answers--vocalists who I'm guessing influenced Wilson, and who Wilson influenced. (And if I listened to her show more often I wouldn't have to guess at all.) But she does sound eerily like Dinah Washington in a few places. And that's not a bad thing.

The sleeve tells me these tracks were arranged and conducted by Bobby Martin, but doesn't list all the musicians, assuring me instead that "they were pros to a man ... the creme de creme of Hollywood." Right then. Well, the album seemed a decent place to document the lineup, for people interested in such things.

I've seen mention of a Blue Note compilation of female jazz vocalists that has "The Real Me" on it, but I've been unable to track it down (the page mentioning it was a forum, and the poster didn't know the CD title either. No, allmusic.com isn't helping).
free Amazon.com download (Christmas music)
and another free Amazon.com download (Christmas music)
Nancy Wilson's NPR show

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Friday, November 12, 2004:

thoughts of you get in my eyes

George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic -- Erotic City
Here's a track off the PCU soundtrack. One of the reviews for the film says "not Animal House, not even close," which is true enough. But I'll take my gems where I can find them. As most of you probably know, this is a cover song originally by the purple one who shall not be named.

I love it when Parliament's in session.

edit: bloglines won't syndicate this post for some reason, so I guess this one is a bonus for people that come to the site.

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Thursday, November 11, 2004:

Souled Out

Tyrone Davis -- I Wish It Was Me
Bill Withers -- Heartbreak Road
So I finally got a belt on the turntable and after a bit too long trying various things I figured out how to record from it without the signal being always too hot (has to do mostly with not sending the amp's out into the microphone in, boosting the signal a second time).

Now: I need tips on how to get cleaner sound (aside from having a clean record and cartridge). I tool around with the audio file a bit in audacity, and quickly reach the point where any more work on it makes it sound underwater. So I need more sophisticated software, or a better sense of what to do.

But you come here for music, and it's music you shall have. Two tracks from a record I discovered in my roommate's crates: Souled Out, K-Tel, 1975. Out of print, yes. Track list here. That circled bit in the top left is proudly informing you "As advertised on T.V." Well, I missed the commercial, but the program is great. Not all of these are obscure--Tarantino picked up one for Pulp Fiction and a few others are in print on various compilations, but as far as I can tell these two aren't. And that's a sign that things aren't right in the music world, because these tracks are great, and they deserve more attention than some random music fan putzing around with them on his computer after digitizing them from a slightly warped 33. They need professional tender loving care.

But I think they're worth listening to anyway--the pluses come through loud and clear in spite of the format limitations.

Tyrone Davis is singing a song here of wistful jealousy--keeping maybe too close tabs on a woman he's in love with: he sees her kiss someone; he wishes it was him; she goes to someone's house and stays for an hour; he wishes it was his. Cousin to Ray Charles' "It Should Have Been Me"? Maybe, but it's its own song.

The Bill Withers track is about the lonely road you're on until you find the right person--"it's a road we all must travel," Withers says, positive that love isn't easily understood but that pain does not last forever. I wish this song were available on CD; I'd snatch it up in a heartbeat.

update: Rhineman tells me that the Tyrone Davis track is available on CD on the Dakar Hit Single A's & B's compilation (and the audio is undoubtedly in better shape there).


Tuesday, November 09, 2004:

Dead Can Dance

Dead Can Dance -- Nierika
Dead Can Dance -- Don't Fade Away
Dead Can Dance started in the early 1980s as a quartet--Brendan Perry, Lisa Gerard, Paul Erikson, and Simon Monroe; I first heard them about 10 years later. The album I'd heard first was their debut, and it didn't interest me much--too dark, too synthy--but I gave them another chance. I missed their next four albums, jumping to their (then-recent) Into the Labyrinth, which was much more my speed. Their next, Toward the Within, was a live album, somewhat uneven but with some standout tracks; but for my money Spiritchaser was the best out of the four I'd heard. They released that album and then they quit.

Along the way Erikson and Monroe had left, and Perry and Gerard brought in different collaborators on their albums; here they were making some jaw-droppingly beautiful tracks: typically mellow and haunting, with an other-wordly quality about them, piercing singing and a percussion that struck me as somehow organic and soothing.

Spiritchaser came out in 1996, shortly after my father died (or, as Stephen King might say, "reached the clearing at the end of his path"); those were hard times, and I spent most of my time casting about for some meaning or purpose, and spent most of the rest of it flirting with alcoholism and lying in bed listening to the CD, trying not to think. Yet that loss hasn't tarnished the music: the music has a sense of loss about it already, a bit of foreboding, but it also has abundant beauty and hints of optimism. I'm not a very poetic person and I'm not sure there is any clearing at the end of the path--it depends on a notion of self that lives on after the body--but if there is, and the clearing has music like this, then arriving there won't be as much of a blow as feared. (There might even be dancing--the group does have some uptempo numbers, though I haven't posted any here).

On a much less morbid note, I'd like to give a shoutout to Apple for Balkanizing my music collection. iTunes is a killer app, no doubt, and before the win2000 port came along I'd been ripping all my CDs to .ogg (smaller filesize, as good or better audio). iTunes doesn't play .oggs (except through a third-party plugin that makes the computer lock up briefly every time you start to play one or edit a tag), and so I'd forgotten about nearly half of my record collection; I've only begun to re-encode them.

None of which means I'll be blogging for longer than I'd thought--most of the music is by groups like Radiohead and The Beatles, who've had enough attention already. But there are the occasional semi-obscure gems like Dead Can Dance: an old friend I'd wrongly neglected, still faithful, still true. It's time to get reacquainted: there are four more albums by them I've never heard, and solo and side projects to boot.

update: Dead Can Dance are getting back together for a tour of Europe and North America. More info here.
[Toward the Within]


Monday, November 08, 2004:

Desmond Dekker

Desmond Dekker -- Israelites
Desmond Dekker -- Sabotage (now with working links!)
Thought I'd post some Desmond Dekker because I bought one of his discs recently and I've been listening to it all day. I heard Dekker first on Tried and True Attention-Getting Tactics, which the author has since abandoned to join the group blog at Weapon-Shaped.

The track I first heard was "Israelites" and, based on the strength of that one, I decided to get the disc; the disc I got is one of the (several) Trojan Desmond Dekker best-of comps. It's great work, though I wish it had been a bit longer. At 25 tracks, it still feels a bit short; I'm eager for more.

Dekker got his start in the mid-1960s and still tours, especially in Europe. Tracks on this disc range from ska to rocksteady to reggae; allmusic.com says he often remade tracks along the way. On all these tracks on the disc there's a strong sense of melody and harmony. He's a solid singer and his band is good too: the horns, the piano, the bass all know what to do and when to do it. It's not gaudy work, but it's solid.

"The Israelites" is about living hard and working for little return; the song is famous as the first Jamaican song to make it big internationally. It was a hit in both the U.K. and the U.S.

"Sabotage" is a mildly paranoid plea for an end to the attempts to sabotage the singer's life. I'm not sure why I like the song so much, except for maybe the tempo and the melody: it's so damned cheerful about it all. It sounds downright pleasant to beg people to quit trying to get one over.


Saturday, November 06, 2004:


Vince Martin with the Tarriers -- Cindy, Oh Cindy
The Tarriers -- The Banana Boat Song
Chillin' with some 1950s music today. I think it's wonderful but kind of deceptive--it's been used so often in films and TV shows to paint a sort of idyllic, clean-cut world (that's invariably white and well-mannered), but at the time in, say, L.A., heroin use was spreading into more residential areas and being picked up by teenagers, child molestation was a big issue (made public by the abduction, molestation, & murder of a young girl), and police and politicians were struggling to stem gang activity. I don't know how close Rebel without a Cause is to how things really were, but I'd bet it's a mite closer than Leave It to Beaver.

Here are a couple of gems from the 1950s folk/pop scene, from the trio The Tarriers (mostly because I needed to go to the grocer but instead sat checking email and being lazy).

The first is a story of a sailor's love; the sailor sees her face in the waves, feels her kisses on the breeze, paces the deck "caressed by memories." He waits for a letter, hoping for an excuse to come home. The vocals are top-notch, though the melody might seem a bit dated--not harsh enough, not hurt enough, pining but controlled--but it's a timeless theme and I think the song has aged well. And I wish I knew more about music theory because the guitar seems to fit into some sort of tradition that I can't place.

The second is The Tarriers' version of "The Banana Boat Song," a Jamaican folk song which dates back at least to the 1940s. The Tarriers released their take on it just before Harry Belafonte released his. Oh, cruel fate: a good version eclipsed by another good version, one forgotten, the other in the shrimp dinner scene of a Tim Burton film.
[Amazon.com] Good collection, sadly out of print. Scarce on ebay, too.
[Amazon.com] Another collection, in print, decent but not mind-blowing.

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Thursday, November 04, 2004:

Chase the Blues (away)

Terranova -- Chase the Blues (Cameron McVey mix)
Terranova is (are) a German trip-hop trio; their DJ Kicks release had remixes of "Tried by 12" and Junkyard Band's "The Word," pepping it up quite a bit, as well as tracks by Jungle Brothers and DJ Spooky and a number of others.

This track is off a Terranova single, or you can find it on a pricey import compilation. It's a remix of "Chase the Blues" that, along with a restaurant special on Foster's, is helping do just what it claims. (A stopgap measure, to be sure, and it will take a bit more to convince me that the U.S. public is more good than vengeful--but I expect that that will be the last I say about politics for awhile.)

In other news: looking at my CD and LP collection, I'd say I can carry this on for another two months or so, maybe less, before I run out of artists tracks I'm over the moon about. So the ride stops then. I'd rather not do an Emmylou Harris week and a Nina Simone week and a Cesaria Evora week--most people will either like them or not, and get the point about it rather soon.

And, in other news, I've been poking through the access logs and I can't figure youse out. Some tracks that I've posted have gotten almost no response; others get an overwhelming response. And it doesn't seem to go by name recognition. So: what makes you decide whether to listen to any certain song?
[Amazon.com] (single)
[Amazon.com] (import comp)


Wednesday, November 03, 2004:

I cut myself shaving

Cop Shoot Cop -- It Only Hurts When I Breathe
Right. An illegal unwinnable vastly expensive war under false pretenses, torture of POWs, massive tax cuts to people who least need it, bin Laden uncaptured and gleeful that we're bankrupting ourselves as he had planned, civil liberties being axed right and left while decrying "enemies of freedom," global warming on the march and our government officials ignoring it because they'd hoped for stronger third-quarter returns from Halliburton ... and what most needed correcting was all that talk about gay marriage.

"My goodness, what happened to your nose?"
"I cut myself shaving."
"You ought to be more careful. That must really smart."
"Only when I breathe."

Cop Shoot Cop, towards the end of their run: they've given in and added a guitar player. Their earlier albums were much heavier--two bassists, drums, singer--this one (Release) had a guitarist and even snatches of piano buried in the mix. Sneaky. Like that fundamentalist zealot who thinks he's on a mission from God. Which one? Take your pick.
Cop Shoot Cop fan page

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