Catskill Mountain Overview of the Chungnan Mountains

“Among the genteel recluses living in the Chungnan Mountains, one person who wasn’t looking for a shortcut to the capital was Wang Wei.  Wang Wei chose the Chungnan Mountains as a shortcut out of town.  It was here, in the relative seclusion of his Wang River hermitage, that he blended life and art in such an overpowering manner that he created a standard to which educated Chinese have been attracted ever since.  Wang Wei was the genteel recluse without peer.  He took seclusion seriously, turning
seclusion into art and art into seclusion.”

–  Bill Porter (Red Pine), ROAD TO HEAVEN, Encounters with Chinese Hermits

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Red Pine’s book must have still been resonating somewhere deep within me as I racked out the lens to assume my bird’s eye position over a distant mountain range in a faraway land.  The Chungnan Mountains wave across central China.  What a fantastic gift to be transported there, albeit imaginatively, via the transportive morphing countenance
of an early July sunset.

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Our high altitude flight banks right  . . .
A caldera aglow beneath the cloud cover  . . .

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The Chungnan range begins to reveal itself as we approach
the threshold of a cloud portal  . . .

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Clouds clearing, it looks like we’ll be landing soon in central China  . . .

. . .  And beginning our long journey on foot up the slopes of the beckoning
Chungnan Mountains to the heavenly hermitage of Wang Wei.

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Let your imagination roam and finish the journey.

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What’s been demonstrated above is the magical power of the camera to “frame” and “amplify” a memory (in this case reading Red Pine’s book) and still deeply resonating feelings (the after effects of imbibing his words over six months ago).

Couple that with the fractal ability of clouds to illustrate just about any figurative subject imaginable – in this case mountains – and one sees why children find such glee in cloud-watching and how we aging youngsters might do our weary souls some immeasurable good by looking up more often.

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Okay.  Here’s the actual Catskill Mountain context for this journey.
I’m going to reel-in the lens to a wide angle view.

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Amazing, isn’t it?
How a picture-perfect mountain range has been “rendered” by clouds.

Although photographed in the Catskill mountains, that “mountain-scape”
we see above the tree line is what I term Cloudform-Ephemera.

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Our point of view has been my home’s front deck.
Time to return back inside.  The cat is calling for his food.

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One last view of the fast dissolving Chungnan Mountains.
The “mouth” of night is about to swallow the entire scene.

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Thanks to my friend Kathy for her gift of  ROAD TO HEAVEN, Encounters with Chinese Hermits, by Bill Porter (Red Pine).

Images captured:   07.09.2010   |   Woodstock, NY

©  2010  George J Nicholson  All Rights Reserved   |  Logo Concept   |   Images   |   Commentary

The photographic imagery appearing within this blog is protected by copyright law. Downloading images, distribution and reproduction of any nature with “commercial intent” without prior written permission of the copyright holder are strictly prohibited. Exceptions will be made in instances of inclusion within excerpts and reviews
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Thank You, Sheriff, for Those Precious Five Minutes …

The Hudson Valley had just hosted a welcome rainstorm after many days of sweltering heat.  It had been thickly overcast most of the day, a refreshing break from the recent blazing sun.  At about 8:30 PM on July 11th, I had to make a choice of where to exit on the NY State Thruway as I headed south to my home after visiting friends in Albany.
I was approaching Exit 20, the Saugerties/Woodstock exit.  Although closer to my final destination, there were errands I could run and get out of the way for the coming work week if I drove the 12 additional miles and exited at Kingston, locus of malls and the establishments on my list.

I scrapped the errands in favor of what I saw developing in the Western skies.
A late-in-the-day break in the cloud cover looked like it might usher in a high drama sunset.  I paid the toll and pulled the car off onto the apron just beyond the toll booth generally reserved for making emergency phone calls at the nearby kiosk.

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Facing West, Exit 19, NYS Thruway, 8:32 PM . . .

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I knew that I was technically in violation of the law to be parked there for recreational purposes – especially as I noticed a Sheriff’s SUV parked and facing me directly across the access road, lying in wait to nab unsuspecting travelers who might be a bit pedal heavy tonight.  It’s common knowledge that the cops up here are on a rampage attempting to meet and beat ever rising quotas in order to attract matching State funds directly proportional to revenues collected from traffic violations.

I had exposed myself as a “sitting duck” once I demonstrated no emergency was at hand, but a pressing curiosity to photographically track the sunset drama unfolding in the rear view mirror of this constable on patrol, had he bothered to look.

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It didn’t take long for the “plot” to thicken  . . .

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I feigned ignorance of breaking any highway law.  Fired up the Leica and began probing the great light show in the West with my camera.  I could feel the suspicious weight of the man’s eyes upon me, but assumed the stance of a professional and had already concocted a tall tale that I would expound should I be pressed:  I was on “freelance assignment” and hoping to gather worthy images that I could send to various Hudson Valley magazines for potential publication and to help “promote” tourism in the Valley.

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The post-storm atmosphere hosted a battle between
the forces of Light and Darkness  . . .

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I bore witness to a fiery battle between the gods
for control of the evening sky . . .

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The Sheriff’s car began flashing its high-beams my way at the four minute mark.  I waved a wide “hello” from two hundred feet away, and then raised my right hand and signaled with my extended index finger (careful to keep “the bird” – middle finger – tucked tight against my palm) as if to say:  “Just give me ONE more minute.”

I swear the guy timed it, for sixty seconds later the siren yelped and lights began flashing. Had I not visibly demonstrated capping the lens immediately, he would have been all over me in a New York Microsecond, as I could hear the engine being revved-up as a final warning – growling like an attack dog just dying to snap its leash.

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At 8:37 PM, the Sheriff fired on his siren and roof lights  . . .
My Sheriff-allotted 5 minutes were up at Exit 20 on the NYS Thruway,
just as the black cloud cover swallowed the forge of Hephaestus . . .

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It had taken five whole minutes to fire off 27 shots, recording the quickly shapeshifting Western skies that seemed to be hosting a battle between the forces of Light and Darkness.

I waved “Thank You” above the roof, as I ever so carefully signaled, gave others their precious rights of way and made a picture perfect left turn before him like the good law-abiding citizen that I normally am.

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n    o    t    e  :

Hephaestus is one of the twelve Greek Olympian gods.  An ugly god by all accounts, due to a complicated genealogy.  He was designated god of Fire, Metallurgy, Sculpture and the Forge.  Yet even despite his ugliness and deformities, he was married to Aphrodite, goddess of Love.

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Images captured:   07.11.2010   |   Saugerties, NY

©  2010  George J Nicholson  All Rights Reserved   |  Logo Concept   |   Images   |   Commentary

The photographic imagery appearing within this blog is protected by copyright law. Downloading images, distribution and reproduction of any nature with “commercial intent” without prior written permission of the copyright holder are strictly prohibited. Exceptions will be made in instances of inclusion within excerpts and reviews
of this blog and its author’s work.


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The Unintended “Solar Eclipse”

<  Original post on synchrophoto.wordpress.com 07.10.10  >

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The Unintended “Solar Eclipse”

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It was July 4th.   A day of respite.   A day for visiting.  For me:  Summer had “officially” begun because I was on my way over to my friend Phil’s for Independence Day celebration.  For the last decade or so, I have been honored to be invited to his annual barbeque and pool party over near Stoneridge, New York on a hill that overviews the lower Hudson Valley.

It’s a simple ride from my home:  Route 28 east and then a right on Ulster County 5.  The nine miles or so are slow going at around 25 mph and a sinuous delicious idyllic delight. A seemingly unending ridge of mountains on the right, seemingly infinite cornfields and farm pastures on the left.   Always a painterly expanse of lower Hudson Valley visible to the south.

The feeling one derives from this rural drive through this Hudson Valley “Heaven” defies words.  My photographer’s eye pointed to the clouds of late, I simply had to stop the car. A what-do-you-call-this-type-of-magnificence-? upper atmosphere cirrus cloud form rose monolithically above the distant horizon and seemed to be scraping the Heavenly Gates.

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I had to “reel-in” the lens to widest angle to frame the image’s entirety.  I was annoyed by the specular reflections that seemed to be ruining the shot.  I fiddled and I fussed with exposures.  Even the Leica lens shade could not mitigate the optical aberrations apparent. I finally attempted to shade the lens with my left hand.

Only one problem: The camera records more than I can preview in the viewfinder.  Just a few percentage points more image-real-estate, but enough to reveal upon capture that I had unwittingly included a portion of my hand.  I persisted though in my shading attempts.  As borne out later, I mostly succeeded.

But one errant capture has especially startled me:  it includes the silhouetted disk of one of my fingertips that perfectly renders the effect of a Solar Eclipse!

This is a perfect example of what I term a  synchro-photo:  An image whose compelling energies and imaginal allure have been derived from Synchronicity, with the Unconscious orchestrating the intersection of Consciousness, Photographer, Place and Time.

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Image captured:   07.04.2010   |   Kingston, NY

©  2010  George J Nicholson  All Rights Reserved   |  Logo Concept   |   Images   |   Commentary

The photographic imagery appearing within this blog is protected by copyright law. Downloading images, distribution and reproduction of any nature with “commercial intent” without prior written permission of the copyright holder are strictly prohibited. Exceptions will be made in instances of inclusion within excerpts and reviews
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4th-of-July Photo Essay : “Everyday ‘Fire’ Works”

<  Original Post:  07.04.10  >

Friends have asked me if I plan to attend any of the many Fourth of July fireworks being offered.  My answer:  “No … I attend the most amazing ‘fire’ works displays every day. All I have to do is look up.”

Here is a sampling of recent “fire” works from my running Cycles-of-the-Seasons photo journal.  Happy Holiday.

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Two weeks before the 4th of July, the sun set to a Roman Candle-like form.

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July 2nd, late afternoon   :   The eastern sky, a prelude of things to come?

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How’s this for a “fire” works display?
Compliments of clouds and our beneficent sun.

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You say you prefer more vibrant color?  . . .

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. . .   Just wait around ’til sunset!

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In reviewing some recent imagery I had captured, the following image magnetized my imagination as having a “fireworks” overtone.

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Experimenting with purposeful out-of-focus backlit trees at sunset  . . .
I see fireworks exploding in a night sky.

Or are we peering through a telescope?  . . .
Locating the “Heart Galaxy.”  (right of center)

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As this Lens Upon the Clouds blog unfolds, there will be numerous image serials shared. More likely than not, I will conclude each photographic sojourn in the Heavens with an image tied to the Earth.  I find it of salutary importance to honor our Great Mother Earth and the “foothold” that she provides for our life journeys.

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Back to Earth:
Behold the fire-light-from-within majesty of common weeds.

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Images captured:  #1)  06.18.10;  #2-5)  07.02.10;  #6)  06.25.10;  #7)  07.03.10   |   Woodstock, NY |   Leica V-Lux 1, ordinary processing, no special effects.

©  2010  George J Nicholson  All Rights Reserved   |  Logo Concept   |   Images   |   Commentary

The photographic imagery appearing within this blog is protected by copyright law. Downloading images, distribution and reproduction of any nature with “commercial intent” without prior written permission of the copyright holder are strictly prohibited. Exceptions will be made in instances of inclusion within excerpts and reviews
of this blog and its author’s work.

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A Quintessence of Clouds

<  original post, 06.30.10  >

The morning started off with a “bang” in the Hudson Valley of New York – cloud-wise, that is.  At 5:00 AM it looked as if the opening of the day would prove cloud-less, except for a wisp or two.  Six minutes later, it appeared as if the Great-Water-Color-Artist-in-the-Sky had set to work.  Minutes later this breathtaking masterpiece had completely “washed away.”  Then suddenly, a wispy Genie appeared to officially sanction the summer day with a following clear sky.

During lunch I noticed a terrific cumulus cloud explosion rising above the tree line.

Throughout the afternoon, I noticed strident regiments of cloud forms marching across the Catskill Mountains and wondered what the setting sun would bring at close of day. Another amazing spectacle?

Not at all!  The hyperactive atmospheric energies had retired early for the day.  Barely a wisp over the Western horizon and one lumbering glowing cloud in the north.  Heavens at rest for the time being.  Fresh pigments being mixed for the morrow.

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The Great-Water-Color-Artist-in-the-Sky sets to work.

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The Daybreak Genie has been let out of last night’s bottle.

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A mid-day cumulous explosion.

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At sunset, barely a wisp – evaporating with the daylight.

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Northward, one lumbering cloud aglow,
splitting in two,
soon to be swallowed by the night.

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Images captured:   06.29.2010   |   Woodstock, NY  +  Boiceville, NY

©  2010  George J Nicholson  All Rights Reserved   |  Logo Concept   |   Images   |   Commentary

The photographic imagery appearing within this blog is protected by copyright law. Downloading images, distribution and reproduction of any nature with “commercial intent” without prior written permission of the copyright holder are strictly prohibited. Exceptions will be made in instances of inclusion within excerpts and reviews
of this blog and its author’s work.

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The “Golden World” of Heaven Over Walmart

People travel wide and far over seas and to tops of mountains to glean a glimpse of Heaven.  I have a suggestion:

  • Travel no farther than your local Walmart.
  • Just be sure to take your camera.
  • Stay alert.
  • From time to time look up.
  • Enjoy a moment’s solitude alone and dream.

This is “Shangri-La.”  Ever close at hand.  Everywhere.  Every moment.  Every Season.

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“Attention Walmart Shoppers!  The ‘Golden World’ of Heaven
is now being featured above our parking lot.”

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An especially active cloud set over Walmart  . . .

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Shapeshifting two (if even that) seconds later to this  . . .

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. . .  and then to this  . . .  Gone!

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Aiming the camera toward the Western sky  .  .  .

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Panning the camera East  . . .

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Then pulling back:
Is that a ‘word’ forming on the tongue of a Heaven god?

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Returning to Earth  . . .

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A cloud-like heavenly Milkweed.

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n    o    t    e  :

Golden World :    A term coined by Mircea Eliade (1907 – 1986), one of the most renowned expositors of the psychology of religion, mythology and magic to designate transcendental states of consciousness “available” to everyone everywhere at all times.  The only requirements:  acute awareness, a cleared mind, an absent or worn-down ego, an open Heart, and Grace.

Images of natural beauty such as those above are not necessarily artifacts of a transcendental state consciousness, but they do point in that direction.  A simple awareness of the beauties inherent in the “commonplace” objects, atmospheres and environments that surround us provides a healing balm for the Soul.

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Images captured:   06.08.2010   |   Kingston, NY  +  Woodstock, NY

©  2010  George J Nicholson  All Rights Reserved   |  Logo Concept   |   Images   |   Commentary

The photographic imagery appearing within this blog is protected by copyright law. Downloading images, distribution and reproduction of any nature with “commercial intent” without prior written permission of the copyright holder are strictly prohibited. Exceptions will be made in instances of inclusion within excerpts and reviews
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Welcome to Lens Upon the Clouds!

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It is with immense joy, exuberance and barely containable enthusiasm that I launch
Lens Upon the Clouds.  Thank you for visiting!

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My interest in photographing clouds has arisen out of another photographic project that will eventually be presented as a blog:  Voices of Winter.  That project focused on the symbols, patterns and artifacts of the Winter season as it unfolded around my home in Woodstock, NY in the majestic Hudson Valley.  My camera was tuned to the landscape and especially the graphics of ice and snow which were my main focus.  But it soon became necessary to open up the field of view to frame broader imagery of the landscape: trees, meadow grasses, frozen expanses of Earth, distant mountains and sky.

Clouds, of course, became notable players in the landscape compositions.  I began to contemplate more carefully their shape-shifting character when I asked myself the question:  “Are there specific cloud forms endemic to Winter?” It didn’t seem so, as my memory held instances of all cloud forms appearing throughout all seasons.  That being the apparent case, I decided not to include compositions in my Voices of Winter exposition that did not in some small manner reference the clouds to trees or other objects in the landscape, as I wished to be sure each image was “tagged” Winter.

The awareness of the vast array of “fractal” forms and relationships evident in the
Winter landscape further accentuated the fact that clouds are perhaps the most readily recognizable of Mother Nature’s fractal forms, as they shape-shift constantly revealing their self-similarities that no sooner are recognized that they disappear.  This musing about clouds during my Winter photographic project led to further inquiry as Spring unfolded, and now Summer is on display.

Recently, I decided to begin a separate, deeper photographic inquiry into clouds as
my other Cycles-of-the-Seasons photographic projects unfold.

Lens Upon the Clouds will present the most noteworthy photographic imagery
of Clouds that flows through my lens along with journal entries and various and sundry musings related to the continuous celebration of beauty going on above our heads.
All we need to do is look up.

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n   o   t   e   s

A sister-blog, Synchro-Photo is unfolding in tandem with Lens Upon the Clouds,
and may in certain instances share images and commentary.

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My personal take on “Equivalence” and Clouds:

I make it clear elsewhere that I owe a great debt to Minor White for the inspiration
that I have derived from his work and the influence his being had upon me as a student
at MIT during my matriculation there, 1967-1971.  Aficionados of White know that he expounded a variation of the “Equivalence” approach initially propounded by the Alfred Steiglitz during the 1920s.

Steiglitz broke with the pictorial / literalist traditions creating something of a stir
in the art world with a series of Cloudscapes that he captured and exhibited as “Equivalents.”  Steiglitz claimed those cloud photographs were something like “journal markers” of his current psychological state at the point of their capture, thus the term “Equivalent.”

Minor White came along in the 1950s and further expanded on Steiglitz’s theory in an effort to share his personal approach to the photographic process with others – one that was intensely meditation-based and pointedly elucidated a conscious relationship with the mystical dimensions of human consciousness.

I share these comments as I openly espouse using the camera to probe regions of my personal Unconscious and, dare I say?, regions of my Soul.  That said, my photography
of Clouds claims no relationship to Steiglitz’s claims or his theories.

I find his claims somewhat amusing at best, as “any” passionate photographic focus
on “any”subject theme will reveal something about the character of the photographer.
I believe Steiglitz’s greatest contribution with his Cloud Equivalents was to prefigure the yet to unfold field of Depth Psychology as ushered in later by Dr. Carl Jung and his followers.  What Steiglitz did accomplish, however, was to demonstrate that the then fledgling art-medium of photography had ties to the field of Human Psychology.

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When I aim my camera toward the sky, I aim to record the wonders and beauty of that fractal shapeshifting playground of the Imagination and little more.

Elsewhere, as in Synchro-Photo and other web-based offerings to come, I shall unabashedly reveal my conscious application of aspects of the Equivalence concepts of Minor White that I have made my own and explain an approach to utilizing the camera as Inner Work and Myth-Making tool.

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©  2010  George J Nicholson  All Rights Reserved   |  Logo Concept   |   Images   |   Commentary

The photographic imagery appearing within this blog is protected by copyright law. Downloading images, distribution and reproduction of any nature with “commercial intent” without prior written permission of the copyright holder are strictly prohibited. Exceptions will be made in instances of inclusion within excerpts and reviews
of this blog and its author’s work.

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