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Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by MattThr » Thu Feb 04, 2010 9:27 am

Hi,

Quite an interesting article, this:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/ ... enged-bunk

In truth it seems obvious to me that the reality of the situation is that there is a balance to be struck between listening to the advice of critics and "going with the flow" as it were. After all, I don't doubt that if you took some wines on a blind "pepsi challenge" style tasting in front of the general public some wines would come out better than others, and it's hard to argue with the point given in the article that no-one would listen if a professional chef told people to chuck anything they liked in a pot and eat it. Nevertheless, it does seem that the matter of personal taste is too often overlooked when choosing wines, and perhaps advocating such an extreme view is the best way to go some distance toward rectifying the balance.

Thoughts?
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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by David Creighton » Thu Feb 04, 2010 11:58 am

some stuff and lots of nonsense. one or two trivially true ideas, plus a host of bad ones. start at the beginning. Hanni has been claiming for years that the wine industry is losing billions in sales because consumers feel intimidated. reasonable? so what do these intimidated consumers buy instead? beer? there are plenty of beer critics who write with the same passion as wine writers who will be happy to tell them that their 'light' beer is bathwater with alcohol. spirits? same here. the truth is that most people don't care what the critis think - about anything. they drink the same brand of soda, beer and wine they always have and don't give it a thought.

but some people DO want to expand their horizons - try new things - have some variety. so, do we tell them to 'drink what you like? that sounds like advice (the same form of words as 'drink ch. x) but it isn't. their reply might be 'what, the same thing? over and over?' experts CAN tell people, based on their current likes and dislikes, OTHER things they will be likely to like or dislike. and this is just what many people want. and anyway, does he really think that people DO, NOW, drink things they don't like? Critics certainly don't. i certainly don't. (maybe neither does Hanni - just that they drink nothing because they are confused and intimidated)

For Hanni, 'everyone's patate is different'. now this is so clearly not possible that one wonders how it gets into print. palates are not like finger prints - and even finger prints have similarities. if palates were that different, then there couldn't even be a common language of taste. and even Hanni then goes on to categorize palates. "taking advice from someone......." and we don't actually do that - at least not more than once or twice. but we DO take advice over and over if we need to from people who enjoy many of the same things we do - people whose palates are markedly SIMILAR. but, the only honest answer Hanni should give to someone asking for advice about selection or matching is: ' i can't give you any advice and neither can anyone else. your only choice is to work out for yourself what you like and what other things you like it with."

now, a pleasant amount of give and take about wine is not only acceptable, but even fun. However, it doesn't have to lead to this sort of vinous anarchy.
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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Richard Fadeley OLD » Thu Feb 04, 2010 12:14 pm

Overly simplistic bunk!
Even I'm overwhelmed when I walk into a wine store until I get to the French or Italian sections. People need some prodding and direction to try new and different wines and pairings. I teach wine classes and after one class a gentleman came up to me and said "I've got to tell you, until tonight I didn't like white wine or cheese"! That just goes to show what a little encouragement can do. The wines do all the work. How many people are not going to like a white Burgundy? How many people don't even know what one is? Most think it's an oxymoron. Students are amazed when they discover that alcohol % varies in wine, and that aging and decanting can make a big difference in your wine experience.
As for critics, they have their place but you need to understand that Robert Parker is telling you what he likes, not what you should like. I am dismissive of his high alcohol fruit driven wines and tend to agree with J. Robinson and like reading Decanter, but to each his own. A critic is not an "expert", but a vinous "guide" that happens to taste a lot of wines and can make recomendations that will save you time and money, if you happen to agree with his tastes.
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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Carl Eppig » Thu Feb 04, 2010 2:04 pm

Richard Fadeley wrote:I teach wine classes and after one class a gentleman came up to me and said "I've got to tell you, until tonight I didn't like white wine or cheese"! That just goes to show what a little encouragement can do. The wines do all the work. How many people are not going to like a white Burgundy? How many people don't even know what one is? Most think it's an oxymoron. Students are amazed when they discover that alcohol % varies in wine, and that aging and decanting can make a big difference in your wine experience.


Keep up the good work Richard.
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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Daniel Rogov » Thu Feb 04, 2010 4:20 pm

Agreed with "oversimplified bunk" but will go even further "anti-intellectual nonsense". Critics, whether of wine or the social scene, of the performing or plastic arts, or of literature, have their distinct role and that role,when carried out correctly, is presenting a unique point of view that readers can either "buy" or reject, obviously depending on their own knowledge, tastes and other inclinations.

Let us never forget that criticism is nothing more than the acts of comparison and contrast and presenting of a point of view. In that, criticism is one of the few things that sets us aside as being truly human. All people are critics, each of us measuring (contrasting and comparing) and coming to conclusions about everything we meet and ever act we encounter. Hopefully the professional critic in any field is well educated, has vast exposure and the astute ability to present his/her conclusions. Period, end quote or, if you prefer, "over and out"

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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Steve Slatcher » Thu Feb 04, 2010 5:04 pm

It's difficult to judge someone's opinions when they are reported, and argued against, by third parties, but I must say that I am in broad agreement with Hanni as far as I can tell. I would not call him anti-intellectual without seeing his detailed arguments - the guy has an MW so I think we should give him some credit in that direction.

Even his assertion that everybody has a different palate might be closer to the truth than you might think. How many distinct aromas are there? And how many different sensitivity levels to each one? Add to that cultural background and personal preferences and you get a lot of combinations. Some combos might group together if the sensitivities are caused by specific genes, but even so....
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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Hoke » Thu Feb 04, 2010 5:36 pm

Steve (and others):

I know Tim pretty well, and have for years. Was competitive with him and worked with him, and always respected him.

Tim is not, and never has been even remotely 'anti-intellectual'. Those who know him get a hearty laugh at that, I can assure you.

Tim is incredibly smart, with a blazing fast mind, and sometimes he may think too much. Often he talks too much (for his own good, I mean). :lol:

Spend a few minutes with him, and you'll see that quick mind dart of in any number of directions at lightspeed, then circle back to the topic at hand. He has a restless mind that way. It's hilarious to see him do a presentation to the 'suits' and try to stay on track, and watch the suits trying to keep up, and failing.

Tim is also painfully earnest, and especially so when he considers that there are or may be people that have been somehow intimidated or put off by those who take a superior attitude about wine. He truly wants everyone to be able to enjoy wine; it's like a religious calling with him. And for so long he has seen people suppress and repress others, making them feel inferior somehow, for not knowing what they know (and, ironically enough, often not knowing what they think they know in the first place :wink: ).

Nowhere does Tim say that education, self or otherwise, isn't a wonderful thing. Nowhere does Tim say that anyone shouldn't learn everything he or she can about this wonderful beverage. He simply doesn't want people dictating to others what they are supposed to like or dislike, or to effectively be gatekeepers to the general public and deny them the ability to explore (Ask ITBers how they feel about many sommeliers, critics, buyers who act as self-appointed gatekeepers, deciding who can be allowed to taste what. Such people are endemic in the industry.)

No, Tim likes and champions knowledge and learning. He just doesn't believe that such should be a prerequisite for enjoying wine. As in, "You have to know that blah blah blah blah is so before you can come to a proper appreciation of this single-vineyard Chablis from a special clone..." And he absolutely hates it when someone dictates what another should like, as in when a sommelier is horrified when someone orders a white zinfandel, or matches a red wine with fish, or whatever. Nope, he believes in knowledge; but he doesn't believe in imposing your views on others.

Tim is not opposed to people expressing their opinions, or offering guidance. Quite the contrary. He does not, however, appreciate people who are supercilious and act as judges and arbiters of taste. And that's what he rails against.
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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Oliver McCrum » Thu Feb 04, 2010 9:36 pm

One of the things that Hanni has made me aware of is the idea that there are important differences in our reactions to the structural elements of wine, eg Tannin or acidity. I have been paying attention to this lately, and I think it's important; I have customers who are bitter-sensitive, and my wife is bitter-sensitive (and a great taster generally). Ten years ago I would have assumed someone who thought a given Nebbiolo was more tannic than I did was a Pepsi-drinking weenie.
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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by David Creighton » Thu Feb 04, 2010 11:14 pm

well, hoke presents a very 'affable' version of Hanni's own views. there is usually the part where you say something (perhaps in the heat of the moment) and then the part where you or someone takes it back - at least partly. third party reporters of tim's views may have exagerated them one may say; but on the other hand, they do so so consistently that one really must wonder if they are exagerations. in any event, i propose that Hanni is setting up a straw man - that in fact few if any wine experts or critics try to 'repress or supress' or 'take a superior attitude', or 'mak(e) them feel inferior' or are into 'dictating' or 'imposing'; or come off as 'supercilious....arbiters of taste'. IMO wine people are the kindest, most helpful group of people i know - putting people down or lording it over them is the last thing they would do. now amongst ourselves of course, that is another thing. do we occassionally try to one up each other? well........
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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Lou Kessler » Fri Feb 05, 2010 3:25 pm

Hoke is correct when describing Tim Hanni, at least from what I've observed in person. In fact Tim and his wife Kate live a few doors away from our home.
Kate his wife is the person who led the fight to force the airlines to change their ways when it came to treating their passengers on a plane unable to move on an airport tarmac. Tim had a surprise party for Kate at their home a few weeks ago to celebrate the new regs forced on the airlines. It was an open house affair that lasted for hours as people came from all over the area to toast Kate. She spent many months, actually years getting the regs changed by the FAA. She was the victim of one of those fiascos we've all read about concerning planes sitting on a tarmac for hours & hours without proper care of the passengers. Hell hath no fury like a woman forced to be late for an important appointment. :wink: A lesson the airline industry learned the hard way.
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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Daniel Rogov » Fri Feb 05, 2010 4:51 pm

To clarify, I was not accusing the author of the article of being anti-intellectual but of the argument put forward in this particular piece, for after all, if one should be opposed to wine critics on the basis that they may drive us in directions not wanted the same should be true of all critics (social, literary, theater, cinema, restaurant, etc...) and all criticism.

Criticism at its best is an intellectual endeavor, and at its best even worth of its own books and yes, even of its own critics. Rejecting formal criticism is rejecting one of the most important of all human intellectual endeavors.

As to rejecting specific critics....absolutely. But that based of course on our personal criticism of those critics and with an accompanying set of thoughts as to why the rejection.

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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Steve Slatcher » Sat Feb 06, 2010 4:55 am

See here for more.
http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2 ... ment-30771
Be sure to scroll down and read the discussion, including Tim Hanni's comments.
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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Sat Feb 06, 2010 5:33 am

I see that Thomas Pellechia who used to post here frequently has chipped in!
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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Sam Platt » Sat Feb 06, 2010 11:07 am

Tim is also painfully earnest, and especially so when he considers that there are or may be people that have been somehow intimidated or put off by those who take a superior attitude about wine. He truly wants everyone to be able to enjoy wine; it's like a religious calling with him.

Wine seems to be somewhat unique in that way. People involved in other activities that interest me are more than willing to share what they know in a non-competitive manner - tell a mountain climber, or or civil war history buff that you share their interest and you won't be able to shut them up. Sometimes, with wine, I feel that people are guarded, and unwilling to share their knowledge with someone they believe to be less knowledgable than they are. That can be a real turn-off to those who are new to the hobby. I admire Tim for standing up for the common taster.

When I first became a more serious hobbyist I joined another large discussion board. I bascially got chewed up and spit out, and not because I brought any sort of attitude to the discussions. I was simply trying to learn. Fortunately I ended up here at the WLDG.
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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Redwinger » Sat Feb 06, 2010 11:30 am

Sam Platt wrote:When I first became a more serious hobbyist I joined another large discussion board. I bascially got chewed up and spit out, and not because I brought any sort of attitude to the discussions. I was simply trying to learn. Fortunately I ended up here at the WLDG.

Hey Del Monte Boy-
Don't you have a driveway to shovel or sumthin'?
Smile, it gives your face something to do!
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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Daniel Rogov » Sat Feb 06, 2010 12:12 pm

Sam, Hi...

I do not see him as "standing up" for the less experienced drinker but as dismissing any attempt at intellectualizing wine as frivolous at best and phoney at worst.

As to those who don't like to discuss wine with those they perceive as less knowledgeable than themselves ... those are simply snobs and they would be snobs in any other endeavor a true understanding of which involves language and knowledge.
Believe me, when you meet someone who says "I know what I mean but I don't have the words to express it", that person really does not know what he/she wants to say.

I am not saying that all people have to read wine critics. Nor am I saying that all people need to learn the extensive vocabulary and language of wine. I am saying that certain minimal requirements must be met to understand any human endeavor, and that whether we are talking about mathematics, physics, economics, the arts, wine.... I am also saying that honest critics indeed have a valuable role to play in any of those endeavors.

If that makes me a dinosaur, I am pleased to be among such good company.

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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Sam Platt » Sat Feb 06, 2010 12:25 pm

Hey Del Monte Boy-
Don't you have a driveway to shovel or sumthin'?

Bill,

Fortunately, way up here in the land of foot wear and dentistry, we have contraptions known as "snow blowers". My drive was clean as a whistle in about 5 minutes. :wink:
Sam

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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by David M. Bueker » Sat Feb 06, 2010 12:27 pm

Looks like Tim Hanni has joined the forum. I really look forward to his input on this.
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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Sam Platt » Sat Feb 06, 2010 12:41 pm

Sam, Hi...

I do not see him as "standing up" for the less experienced drinker but as dismissing any attempt at intellectualizing wine as frivolous at best and phoney at worst.

Daniel,

I was responding to Hoke's comment about Tim being put off by those who take a "superior attitude" toward wine. In my experience that attitude has come from hobbyists with self-esteem issues more than critics. I have no problem with wine criticism in general. In fact, I have learned a great deal from it over the years. I read and enjoy critique by everyone from Jancis Robinson to Florida Jim. Heck, I read nearly everything written by one critic who abhors decanting of white Burgundy. That's how open-minded I am. :)
Sam

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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Daniel Rogov » Sat Feb 06, 2010 4:31 pm

Sam Platt wrote:[...Heck, I read nearly everything written by one critic who abhors decanting of white Burgundy. That's how open-minded I am. :)



Bless you my son. 8)

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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Tim Hanni » Sat Feb 06, 2010 5:05 pm

Hoke - thanks for jumping in to save me! I am so hopelessly stupid I could not decode the scrambled letters to join! I had James Caudill jumping in to save me on another thread!

And what the hell is this..."Often he talks too much (for his own good, I mean)." Oh yeah, I have been working on that. :wink: No argument.

Just to cross reference everything I posted scientific and research background over at Steve Heimoff's blog. He is really pissed off at me as are a lot of people. Looks like he MAY take me up on my offer to come for lunch. I am having a dinner at my house in Napa on Monday, February 15th for anyone in the area. Everyone is invited, let me know. I am also trying to arrange a Web cast for March at the Culinary Center at Whole Foods in Napa and I will let you know the date when it is set. Please let me know if anyone out there can help me figure out how to pull off the Webcast let me know! We are going to send out a list of wines and set of foods and anyone interested can join in.

A lot of background is also posted on the very lively blog/comments to the original Guardian article. The basic thing to know is Oliver, the author, attended a dinner and got really, really excited about what he experienced. That is why I love doing what I do. The 20 years of research, critical thinking and exploration of what to do with all of the stuff I have come across is really hard to get and certainly not going to get fully explained in a single article.

What I actually said about wine critics needs to be taken in the context of what I explore - the physiology and neuroscience of personal preferences, opinions and communication especially, but not only, in the areas of wine and food. My position is that once we become trained as wine experts we become further and further removed from any reality of every day consumers and indeed less relevant and virtually disqualified to help them. For people who love the language, complexity and are highly aspirational about wine critics are great AND there is much too be learned about how to find the critic 'custom-fit' for you! If you already have it figured out then there is no problemo.

Physiologically there are potentially vast differences between any two people. Some of us have less than 500 taste buds, other over 10,000. This is just ONE dimension of many I, and reserachers I work with, am looking at. With the support and mentorship of many experts, it is clear that physiological differences greatly influence WHAT we experience in terms of range, detecdtion thresholds and amplituted. Additionally the number of taste receptors per taste bud, the amplitute of tranmission of sensation, the sensitivity of neural cells, etc. all come into play. This is a really fun and hugely complicated field but we have found many simple and important applications form this realm of study. Fact is we can be expereincing completely different things, no one really doubts this and the findings we are coming up with are amazing and often completely counter to any conventional wisdom you can imagine!

On the neurology front I am looking at faxcinating research and putting it into a context that can be best explained as Neural-gastronomic programming. Over time we all become neurologically wired in a certain, completely unique way. It is changeable over time. All sorts of experiences and memories dictate how we respond to sensations. We create metaphors, language, associations and points of view. This is basic to being human. It is a BLAST to see how this works inside of all of the passions and arguments about wine!

Here is what I say about wine critics: they are great. Each have a personal Sensativity Quotient and Neural-gastronomic programming. If you find your sensitivity, values and sense of aesthetics align - you are in! Whether it is Parker, Jancis R., Gary V., Dan Berger or Steve Heimoff, you found what you need. Sensative tasters have a lot of flexibility and wider range of tolerances- they often play the field of many critics.

A HUGE segment of wine consumers continue to be held at bay. They are very often Sweet Tasters. They seem to have the most taste buds and we will have emperical data by end of March. They want sweet wine and we make fun of them and try to get them to drink wine they are physiologically unprepared to like. It is like trying to sell a shoe to someone and when they say, "ouch - that hurts" they are told their foot is immature. If they were 'educated' they would appreciate 'good' shoes. Our palates don't 'mature.' Our brains get rewired. There are so many wrong assumptions it is impossible to even know where to begin!

My intention is to create a new peer-to-peer and consumer-to-consumer system to match people to other people, critics and non-critics alike, that can make wine recommendations that make sense. I want to find out (and actually I already know) WHY in one week Dan Berger (a hypersensative taster I have tested personally) can say Cabernet from California has never been worse and Steve Heimoff (my guess a sensative, possibly at the more tolerant end) declares they have never been better - and indded can they even get any better given they are so good right now?

Here is the link to the free-for-all at Steve's blog:
http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2 ... ment-30866

His is the original article:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/ ... enged-bunk

Plus his blog and the wild party that follows there:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/ ... r-matching

Anyone remember what the reaction was when I talked about umami 20 years ago? Lit this board op in a similar way, huh? Who says I talk to much?? :roll: Keep the hate mail coming!
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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by David M. Bueker » Sat Feb 06, 2010 5:10 pm

Welcome to the conversation Tim. Please stick around as your scientific perspective is very welcome. Stirring up a hornet's nest seems to the the life blood of the internet, so thanks for keeping things lively.
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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Tim Hanni » Sat Feb 06, 2010 5:49 pm

Thanks David - I am having a blast. Sam Platt - I hope to create a wine community where that crap never happens to you again! Even if you are well intentioned, kinda expert, really curious and look at things a little differently some people try to 'chew you up and spit you out.' I do talk to much. and too loud. ask my wife. And Hoke. :lol:

And jeez, David Creighton - what's the bug up your butt? Do I know you? I know you don't know my work! When we get a chance I will go over the research and consumer studies on virtually everything you refer to below. Ate you replacing Thomas Pellechia who seems to have abandoned this board and now wreaking havoc over at Steve Heimoff's? :D COME HAVE LUNCH WITH ME - where do you live? I am serious! If you are basing your comments on the Guardian article then hod on dude - one article, narrow in scope and written by a really excited guy who had dinner, not lunch, with me.
"some stuff and lots of nonsense. one or two trivially true ideas, plus a host of bad ones. start at the beginning. Hanni has been claiming for years that the wine industry is losing billions in sales because consumers feel intimidated. reasonable? so what do these intimidated consumers buy instead? beer? there are plenty of beer critics who write with the same passion as wine writers who will be happy to tell them that their 'light' beer is bathwater with alcohol. spirits? same here. the truth is that most people don't care what the critis think - about anything. they drink the same brand of soda, beer and wine they always have and don't give it a thought. "

"For Hanni, 'everyone's patate (sic) is different'. now this is so clearly not possible that one wonders how it gets into print. palates are not like finger prints - and even finger prints have similarities. if palates were that different, then there couldn't even be a common language of taste." Au contraire and the differences in our palates are far more distinguishable and unique than fingerprints. Just harder to lift off of the scene of a wine and food crime!! Range seems to be from less than 500 to over 10,000 taste buds in one mouth. Size, distribution, type all vaiables. There IS NO COMMON LANGUAGE FOR WINE, just more or less agreement on certain aspects.; That is a big part of my point!!! My patates are different too and being a dyslexic, ADHD bi-poler personality doesn't help my spelling or staying on subject. Ask Hoke!
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Re: Tim Hanni "dismisses" wine critique

by Hoke » Sat Feb 06, 2010 6:30 pm

Tim: My pleasure. Anytime.

And I'm amazed: how did you ever get your fingers to work fast enough to keep up with your mind? You're actually able to sustain written coherency much longer than you used to. 8)

I have such fond memories of that one presentation (was it that long ago?) to the B-F suits in Marin. They were expecting a nice corporate powerpoint presentation with neatly summated bullet points---and they got you on a manic day! I think one guy actually went crosseyed trying to keep up with you. 8)

And you got Big Jim fronting for you? Hey, doesn't get any better than that!

Keep up the good fight.
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