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Welcome To Act 1 Of An Atompunk Opera

It is wisest to promote the new release of the 1st Act of An Atompunk Opera another day, so i am doing so, but after the link we’ll talk a hair.

If you haven’t heard, the 1st Act of An Atompunk Opera, The New Albion Guide To Analogue Consciousness is here! Listen to it! Buy it! Keep me and the singers alive! Every Tuesday another act will be released.

Okay. Now that that’s out of the way, i hope you are enjoying the first act.  There are a few things i was very specifically attempting to do with it.

First of all, since this is the final piece of a trilogy, the 1st act is designed as a play on numerous parallels and inversions of parallels to A Steampunk Opera. Should you be noticing any of them (and there’s a list of parallels and inversions) i assure you, they’re all quite intentional. I do not do this with the other acts, only this one, but i really wanted to begin the Trilogy closing by riffing and inverting the Trilogy opener.

This opera differs from the first two in that the entire opera carries a much, much greater emphasis on an unfolding plot. I’m not saying there’s no plot unfolding in the other two, i’m just saying that was really a major, prime even, consideration in the AO from the get go. Thus the 1st Act only goes so far and likes to dangle a lot of threads. Oh, it’ll pay off, don’t you worry.

So welcome to the ride. We’ve got a LONG way to go and the next installment is lots of high energy, so thanks for trying out my ride, i promise, i spent a year making my entire life’s mission that by the time this opera is all over, you will have said “Holy fuck” a number of times. Well, the holy fucking is coming, so stay tuned and thank you all for caring and supporting this trilogy. I love you all. We will discuss the future a little later, but rest assured, it’s on its way.

The New Albion Guide To Analogue Consciousness, An Atompunk Opera Paul Shapera

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Posted by on July 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Character Background: Rachael (Atompunk Opera)

We shall attempt to write as much about our female lead, Rachael as we possibly can at this early juncture.

We can either begin with where she is at the beginning of the opera, 18 and just being released from the asylum, or at her birth.

There’s not much i can say about her birth in the interests of not revealing too much. Her birth was not without noteworthy incident, but since she herself does not know the actual details, we can be forgiven for skipping over them.

Rachael is an orphan and was raised in a private home by Mrs Hanson, along with 6 other girls. Rachael is unaware that she has a trust fund established for her by the now defunct Avalon Corporation. All the children in Mrs. Hanson’s small boarding house do, and there are a several other homes besides this one.

Mrs. Hanson’s house has a rather tight, almost religious air, although it is impossible to say what religion. Mrs. Hanson is careful to keep her Voodoopunk faith quiet. There is not a stigma regarding the Voodoopunks like there was a few generations previously, but given that some years before, about a generation after the civil war ended, the Voodoopunks reached their peak in New Albion, were a major cultural player and then almost overnight just died out or faded into obscurity (though why no one can quite say), the remaining Voodopunks are strangely quiet and reserved about their faith.

Mrs Hanson is indeed devout and very loyal to both her faith and the responsibilities trusted upon her by the now defunct Avalon Corporation.

Thus Rachael grew up in a house with a warm enough atmosphere, although one would not quite use the word loving. She missed the basic love of a father or mother, and the other girls sometimes came and went, depriving her of the ability to truly have life long sibling bonds. Although this effected her and how she grew up deeply, she didn’t care as much as some of the other children. She knew she was loved. The radio told her so.

Rachael believes the radio has sung her songs throughout her young life, specifically to her in an attempt to tell her it loved her. The other girls in the home have reacted in various ways to this, from shrugging their shoulders over the eccentricity which was in comparison no more weird than a number of quirks girls in the system possessed, to some teasing and mocking. Rachael learned to keep a little bit of a lid on it, although the teasing never really bothered her too much. This was however before the… the Trouble.

Rachael is immensely curious. She devours mystery books with a passion. She began exploring the entirety of Mrs. Hanson’s house at a very early age, and quickly found the underground tunnels beneath it which go beneath not only the entire block, but the neighborhood and beyond. She has seen some quite strange things in these tunnels during her explorations.

There are other girls who enjoyed coming with her on her mystery excursions, but often the others would have a desire to ultimately perform some sort of mischief or crime, such as thievery. Rachael has no such motive, she enjoys the pursuit and intrigue for it’s own sake. She loves puzzles, learning secrets or piecing together peoples’ hidden motives.

Is it not simply the aquirement of some unknown, hidden piece of information that most delights her, it is the pursuit,the act of doing the puzzle itself. Make the aquirement of a hidden secret enormously complicated, with as many hoops to jump through as possible and she will be enthralled and in heaven.

She knows of course one day she will tackle and find the answer to the mysterious signal that sings to her at night from the radio.

Growing up in the system with a revolving group of girls as housemates affects everyone. No parents, no deep, intimate connection with a mother and father, only a warm authroity figure and sibling type peers who can stay anywhere from a few years to a few weeks leaves its mark on different girls and boys in different ways.

Rachael has a great deal of social anxiety, especially in group situations, which is ironic considering her talent for reading people and social cues. She is enormously perceptive at putting together peoples’ internal mental states, and on some level assumes others can read her just as easily, which is far from the case. She assumes they can easily read her, will judge her and find her laughably lacking which makes her uncomfortable and awkwardly self conscious. Add to this the fact that she picks up an incredbile amount of information even in the minutae of peoples’ behavior to being with and this information overload along with her deep, deep insecurity makes her very anxious and uncomfortable in group situations, resulting in anxiety attacks on occasion.

Rachael can be shy and stressed out, keeping a tight lid on her anger and expression. Thus sometimes her anger and frustration can just come pouring out. When it does she can lose a bit of self control and often can be a bit destructive, even self destructive in these moments.

Rachael is a cutter. When upset she will sometimes hole herself up and trace the letters RFE into her thigh with a razor. The other girls know about this (they have their idiosyncricies too) and assume it to be Rachael’s initials.

They’re not.

Despite all this, Rachael is not that suseptable to teasing. It doesn’t work on her very well, making it often times useless as her adolescent housemates obsessively practice it, as teenagers do, to establish pecking order and dominance. She is obsessed with puzzles, secrets and motives. Thus, she often knows her housemates’ dirty little secrets, the ones they think no one else does. It is to Rachael’s credit that she rarely ever uses them against anyone, or even ever lets the person onto the fact that she knows.  What it does do is give her inner emotional leverage. When you know someone’s deep dark secret which could potentially devastate them and all they can do is tease you over the most petty, insignificant thing, it puts a certain perspective on things that allows Rachael to rarely care about the idiotic things her housemates focus on to tease her about. The girls rarely tease her about the things she is actually anxious about and for those few times some power hungry girl is bent on breaking Rachael, a few well dropped allusions to her deepest and darkest of secrets will usually shut them up quite handily.

It is important to point out that we are thus far talking about a 15 to 16 year old girl. It is about this time that the events occur which will take us to Rachael’s 18th birthday when the Atompunk Opera begins.

The Home has its benefactors, including a politician or two. We are not at liberty to name names, but there is a New Albion politician, a member of City Parliament who donates money and time to the cause of lost, wayward youth. He tours some of the homes. Sometimes he finds a special girl with whom he makes a… special bond.

He made just such a bond with Rachael.

He showed her a great deal of carefully practiced attention and gifts, taking her out to see parts of the city of New Albion she never had a chance to see or experience before. She had never had a father or even a father figure and her experience with boys was limited at best. She was 15, shy and at her most romantically vulnerable.

He and his strange world did make her uncomfortable, and to her he was kind of old, old not is a 60 something way, but in the way late 30s is old to a 15 year old. Still, he was fit, charming and the doorway to a great, grand, larger world. It was impossible to resist when he finally got to the straight out seduction part of his carefully rehearsed routine.

Didn’t she see his motive coming a mile away? Of course. But attention, romance, excitement and sex too? What was there not to like? She was too inexperienced to see what a carefully rehearsed, by the numbers routine his attention was, or that the thrill he clearly exhibited was only the pure pursuit of the forbidden fruit, and at its heart utterly selfish.

They had several sexual liasons. The unnanmed politician was not as cautious as he should have been and Rachael became pregnant at 16.

Such matters made public would be obviously disasterous for his career, but fortunately the solution was quite simple. He arranged for a car to pick her up and drive her to the special doctor who would “take care” of the situation.

Rachael refused. She decided, sensible or not, that she wanted to have the baby. She would not ask him for anything regarding it, but she wanted to keep it and would.

A baby the politician had sired, born out of wedlock to an underage orphan girl at one of the very homes he helped raise funds for… one need have only the most passing familiarity with politics to see the glaring problem with this situation. It was out of the question.

Rachael’s refusal to abort was interpretted as an act of war and met accordingly.

Everything about her was a matter of record, from her cutting to her claims about the radio singing love songs to her. One day men from the New Albion Psychiatric Asylum showed up with official documents for her to be committed. She was put in the asylum involuntarily at age 16 where, early in her stay, she was given strong drugs, knocked out for a few days and the matter of the baby done away with once and for all. Claims she made that she ever was pregnant to begin with were put on her papers as part of her delusions, just like the radio.

She spent two years there. On her 18th birthday she is released, since as a legal adult, she cannot be held involuntarily anymore.

Rachael is still not aware that a trust has been set aside for her by the long defunct and forgotten Avalon Corp or that although the corporation closed its doors and disappeared almost overnight 2 decades ago, certain aspects of it do in fact remain functioning and continue to pay close attention to her as well as other children. All she knows is she is now 18, and for the first time in 2 years able to finally leave the asylum where she has been sadly locked away. It is here our opera begins.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Steampunk Voodoo

And then, on a little island in the middle of the Danube, it hit me: a Steampunk Voodoo song.

This subculture song is not the only song i’ve have to put thought into, but it’s the one i’m documenting here on the blog, and it’s proven to be the one with the longest journey to fruition.

If we recall, i was in a quandary. The last version of this song, a dirge-y, Portisheady-but-heavy and more mechanical track which showcases a youth subculture in the opera who are enamored with the mechanical mannequins in whom reside dead people…. didn’t work. It had two main flaws. One, the song was decent but not exceptional, and two, more importantly, its dirge-y nature, which fit my idea for the subculture, was a bad tempo at bad time in the larger piece. The larger piece wanted a track with a much faster tempo in that spot.

So back to the drawing board. So i thought and came up with a good idea, but there was one piece missing… i was trying to explain my issue to my wife and was telling her how my brain kept throwing the band Rusted Root up whenever i would consider this, which was just plain ridiculous, because something like Rusted Root doesn’t fit this at ALL and what the hell is my brain doing, trying to fuck up the entire show i’ve been working so hard on? (wouldn’t be the first time…)

I don’t even remember what she said, i don’t recall anything other than at some point she facetiously said the word Voodoo and BOOM. House moment. You know, where House just gets up and walks away in the middle of the person’s sentence. I didn’t walk away but it all suddenly fell into place.

The subculture… these kids raised in households all of which have mannequins; mannequins who supposedly contain the soul of some dead relative or another. Who barely move, maybe slowly turn their heads towards you when you speak, never talk themselves, but who are normal fixtures to this new generation. And this generation goes on to form a new subculture, one enamored with the dead, one alien to their parents and scary to the older generation, one featuring its own music yet still within the context of the music for the rest of the show….

Why… Steampunk Voodoo! THAT is an interesting subculture. THAT is a fucking awesome idea for a style of music i can invent. THAT can make a track that will exceptional, add a REALLY interesting element to the 3rd act.

I will use Haitian drum rhythms, the kind used for Vodoun rituals, but instead of organic drums, play them rhythms using the metallic, clanging, industrial percussion i’ve use throughout the entire opera and use a chanting theme throughout the song, backing the lead female’s lead vocal line. The instrumentation on top of the metallic, industrial Hiatian drumming will be cabaret instruments: Piano, accordian, tuba, and grinder-like organ, as well as a drum kit.

The marriage of these will create a vigorous, intense, driving track which will be in a style only describable as Steampunk Voodoo. (I do like the Haitian spelling of Vodou)  It will be the kind of music these kids make when they get together in their clubs, and the staging potential for it is through the roof.

Fits the plot needs and even suggests better ideas for Byron’s motivations. (okay, technically it would be Dieselpunk Voodoo, but we’ll get into the various Dieselpunk, Atompunk, Steampunk derivatives later, not to mention, steampunk is the better all inclusive term)

So there you go. I am going to make a song in the style of steampunk voodoo. This won’t even begin to happen for another week due to prior commitments, but stay tuned. I will post it when finished.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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The Subculture Song

I’m actually done musically with Act 3 and now working on vocal melodies and lyrics. I, of course, am not actually signing any of the material, but i sing all the lines on the scratch tracks so the vocalists will know what to sing (they also have the option of sheet music).

So i thought since i discussed it earlier i’d post that subculture song i was talking about last week so you can see how it came out.  It’s mean to be sung by a female (who likes to dress up like a dead, mechanical doll), so keep that in mind.

I must mention that there are scratch vocals on it, BUT there are no lyrics. I am literally improvising complete nonsense syllables. Until the lyrics are written they’re there to demonstrate the melody. You must picture it NOT being my voice, and instead a girl’s, with, you know, ideally really cool lyrics.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Brecht: He Doesn’t Want You To Like Him. No Hugs.

He wants the two of you to be able to do it, but not get too close. Is he me in my 20s?

No. Bertolt Brecht, for the non thesbian among you,  is a reknowned German theater director from the early 20th century, who reached his zenith during the Weimar years (thought we left that behind, did you? Nah, we got a little bit of mileage left). Far and wide his most famous work is The Threepenny Opera, written with composer Kurt Weill and a “collective of writers” (think big Marxist fanboy), from which comes the song Mac The Knife. (Interestingly, it was not originally in the opera. It was added at the last minute only after one of the stars threw a tizzy and demanded to have an opening song.)

So why is he a big deal?

He wanted to drastically change theater and drama. He wanted to do away with most accepted ideas about entertainment and create a new from of theater that exists primarily as an agent of social and political change. He called this new form Epic Theater.

Sound good so far?

So, the problem is that entertainment sets out to entertain first and foremost. It draws you in and touches your heart. He wanted none of this. Plays should speak first and foremost to the the intellect. Anything which precludes thought, excites emotion and reinforces capitalistic values (did i mention he was a pretty hard core Marxist?) should be done away with.

Still with me? Now, here’s where it gets really interesting. The audience should not be emotionally engaged, as this interferes with the intellect the play should be speaking to. Thus, the audience is to be discouraged from feeling sympathy or identifying with the characters. The audience should not be allowed to be too comfortable in any respect. Dramatic devices should continuously be employed that keep the audience from losing themselves in the play, and in fact they should always feel detached and distant, alienated from the drama in front of  them.

Lighting should be bright and plain. No mood should be created.

Not only should the audience feel distant from the play, but the performers themselves should. They are not to identify with their characters either, as this would only serve to draw the audience in. Often they would speak in 3rd person and read the staging directions. Here’s an example:

“Has your excellency seen the new dancing master?”

becomes:

“He asked whether Madame had seen the new dancing-master. ”

I would pay money to see someone pitch this entire approach to a TV network as the basis for a show. I believe the closest TV ever came to this is Twin Peaks. Come to think of it, Twin Peaks is a rather decent example to show what a modern day version of this type of approach might look like. Hmm… or almost any David Lynch film after Blue Velvet now that i think about this.  I think there’s something here, but perhaps i’ll get to it some other day.

Okay. So as you can see, it’s a pretty radical approach. Brecht doesn’t want you to like his work. He wants it to be a cold, highly political, unempathic anti-experience in detached social commentary. This goes against every artistic virtue i subscribe to as an artist. Every one.

So why don’t i hate him?

First, despite his declared intention, his works were rarely so purely hard core. He would end up making decisions that favored his artistic instinct over his declared manifesto of technique.

More importantly, in seeking to break free of all the conventions of drama, he did, in fact create incredibly creative new ideas in storytelling and pioneered all types of non-linear storytelling ideas. Multiple veiwpoints of an event? Done. Breaking of the 4th wall? Jesus, he did that before eating breakfast. He built an entire career around it.

He suggested an absolutely ridiculous notion in how to create drama,, one that admit it, while reading this you’re saying to yourself is either not possible or flat out insane, and then bloody well did it, putting on performance after performance, work after work in which he innovated absolutely unseen methods of storytelling. And yeah. They’re kind of batshit insane sometimes.

In order to tell more interesting stories, someones’ gotta push the envelope and occasionally someone gotta have the balls to burn the envelope outright.

The following clip is from the opera Rise And Fall OF The City Of Mahagonny. It’s an opera, written once again with Kurt Weill. It’s not as extreme as Brecht’s later plays, but the only examples of the later stuff i could find online are all in German. Mahagonny is… an opera that satirizes operas and gives a stern lesson about the pitfalls of capitalism, but since this is Brecht we can pretty much assume this theme will be readily present at some point.

“It tells the story of Mahagonny (pronounced “Mah-ha-GO-knee”), an imaginary American city founded by three criminals on the run, where everything has been commodified, the only real crime is to be poor, and a lifestyle of over-consumption and never-ending vice is unhindered by ethics or morality. Sound familiar? Two of the city’s denizens, a prostitute named Jenny Smith, and a lumberjack named Jim Macintyre, fall in love; but when Jim runs out of cash and can’t pay his bar bill, the boss and co-founder of the corrupt city, Leocadia Begbick, has him arrested. Tried in a kangaroo court organized by the shady and the crooked, Jim is found guilty of having no money – and then summarily executed.”

Here’s an excerpt:

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Character Background 3: Jasper, The Dead Guy

As we prepare to begin composition of the 3rd Act (in about 2 weeks) it’s becoming time to address the one character in the entire Opera who is in all 4 Acts, present in all 4 generations the show encompasses. Jasper. Who, ironically, died before the opera even begins.

At the moment i’m leaning towards 3 of the 4 generations being in love with him (Annabel, Byron and Priscilla). In any case, who is he?

Jasper comes from a family with a very respected name who was once extremely well off, but who has, within the past few generations, watched their fortune ebb away. The family name is still worth something, but there is not much behind it anymore.

Because of this, Jasper has been raised with a great deal of pressure to rescue the family name and fortune and restore the once proud line to the status they deserve. Unfortunately, Jasper really doesn’t care about all of this. He is quite content to settle down on the family’s country estate far outside of New Camden and pursue his passion for horticulture. He is interested in creating small scale food forests on limited land which can produce massive amounts and varieties of food which a family or individual can live off of indefinitely.

This is all well and good, but his family still wants their fortune back, while he argues that he can feed them and future generations and  money need not be so great of an issue. These discussions never go well, and despite his convictions, he has been raised from birth to shoulder the family expectations, and so cannot just walk away. His mother uses a potent blend of guilt and pity which Jasper, although aware of and despises, is unable to emotionally resist.

His marriage was carefully arranged while he was still in his early teens, something that he resents.  He met Annabell shortly before the wedding and was quite taken with her, although he only saw her one night. He forgot her soon afterwards.

The marriage is an unhappy one. He sees his wife as vain and shallow. She is actually quite industrious and focused, however she too is from a family with good name but waining fortune and has fully bought into the need to make as much money as possible over the course of her life in order to restore the two families’ greatness. She has less than no interest in Jasper’s interests and is disgusted with him for his reluctuance to go out and make his fortune.

He finds himself able to spend less and less time on his life’s passion, and is pushed into being a stockbroker. Interestingly enough, he has a sharp mind for it, the same logic that makes him a brilliant horticulturalist also makes him capable for being a successful stockbroker, but instead, he is complete failure at it. This is because he subconsciously sabotages himself. His resentment for his mother and wife comes out in his deliberate attempts to fail at the money making business.

The only good aspect of his otherwise miserable life is the birth of his daughter, Fay, who he loves deeply. Alas, while she is still a young child he is involved in the accident that kills him.

He is naturally somewhat surprised and not particularly pleased when he finds himself brought back from the dead by Annabel, and far less so when he is brought back later by Edgar, but the notion of seeing his daughter again calms him somewhat. Thus he remains trapped once again in the mortal coil.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Character Background 2: Edgar McAlistair

As we move into the 2nd Act, we arrive at the 2nd generation of McAlistairs, Annabel’s son, Edgar.

Who is he?

At the outset of the 2nd Act he is young, early to mid 20 something, no older than 25.

He is Annabel’s son. After the events of Act 1 she eventually married. Her husband was an intelligent and caring man, not very interesting or charismatic, but he could keep up generally with most of her conversation, was kind in all the small ways that make home life pleasant, and was meak enough and able to get lost in his own bookish interests that he didn’t mind Annabel’s absences when she would lock herself in her lab for days on end.

Edgar loved his father, but his father’s meakishness and boring demeanor prohibited him from being a notable role model for the boy. Edgar was always  much more enamored with his mother, who was loving and doting when it occured to her to be, and so unusual, unpredictable and interesting that he all but worshipped her.

The additional quality that cemented his adoration was the fact that while she was a loving mother, she was distractable, moody, and capable of wandering off to work out a theory or locking herself in her lab for days on end. She was not always available, either mentally or physically. This made her almost like a drug to Edgar, for he never knew when she would disconnect again.

This might have had consequences in Edgar’s teenage years, but sadly, Annabel did not make it that far. She died when he was 11 and he was raised from there on solely by his father. The loss was unbearable to Edgar. His sadness and longing and rage were almost impossible for a 12 year old to deal with.

He hit adolescence immediately afterwards.  While young men typically like to “play the field” and wrack up romantic and sexual experience, Edgar was instead very focused, loyal, and rigidly monogamous. He has abandonment issues with women, and becomes very attached to a woman,  or in his young life, girls. Girls of adolescence naturally are not so focused and like to play the field themselves, and Edgar could be very attractive at first since he has a certain intensity, but his over attachment quickly turned them off.

However, once into his early 20s, this ceased to be an issue with the right woman, and Edgar found her. Fay is an exceptionally bright young woman, well schooled, looking for a professorship in the liberal arts, and interested in security and settling down. Edgar’s attractiveness, intelligence and unswerving loyalty were the right combination for her and they fell in love and remained together for several years, with eventual marriage being a given assumption.

Unfortunately… Edgar is bright and has a little bit of family money, nothing lavish but a modest amount to get by with, but he is absolutely unfocused, with no idea what do with himself. He has an ability for practical and tactical brilliance, but he cannot become interested in a task or career for any length of time. Since he has enough money to get by he can afford to quit whichever career he has recently lost interest in and go back to moping around the house.

This eventually drives Fay crazy. It is a major contention in their relationship.

Edgar is capable of moping around the house for weeks at a time before finally going back out to try his hand at some other pursuit, which he always eventually gives up on, only to plant himself back home and begin the moping process again. As much as Fay loves him, over time this becomes a cancer in her heart towards him.

When Fay eventually meets Sillof (note: see, i told you i’d use his name!), a young, dapper, bright and incredibly industrious man of business, who is building his own series of stores successfully from the ground up with his own vigor and positive focus, he is irresistible to Fay. Fay is the perfect compliment to Sillof, artistic where he is practical, soothing, clever and of course poetic, for Sillof  is not poetic at all, and finds it to be the most wonderful quality he can imagine, one he himself cannot possess. They are drawn together, and despite her love for Edgar, she cannot resist Sillof and leaves Edgar heartbroken and abandoned again.

And thus we begin the 2nd song of Act 2 (the first song of each Act is always a Narrator song, a tango, which brings us up to speed on how the city of New Camden has changed in the passing generation).

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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