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So Caganerwatch 2014 has officially begun, with this shameless plug for a magazine article which first emerged in the wild on 2014 10 17.

The Poke - Odd Inflatable Christmas Tree

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So I saw the rebooted Battlestar Galactica last night, and finally got a taste of the First Decade's "siege mentality sci fi" fashion for the first time. What worked well for the likes of Lost was clearly being done for BSG (not to mention Heroes).

All the cautious optimism of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. the cheerful - now considered naive - optimism of the first four Star Trek series and the animated series, and the joy and chills of Babylon 5, had been swept away by executives who wanted Bush-era paranoia, fear and arbitrary, random death, with protagonists happily violating the very laws and principles that formed the foundation of their civilisation, just to survive.

The sheer joie de vivre of the first six Star Trek movies and Gerry Anderson's shows ... unfashionable. This is the fashion we want for you now. Random, spiteful, dangerously corrosive stuff. Yes, it's okay to have an ethical dilemma about shooting down a civilian vessel - as long as you do it anyway. Better shoot them down while it's out there than have to shoot at them when it's in here. Ethics? Let's put them in the dustbin here, because if we keep believing in such outmoded things as liberty and rights, the terrorists will win, so let's give up some of them to preserve our freedom and won't George Orwell be proud of how we've eviscerated our culture with words?

I can see what they were aiming for with Stargate Universe, now. I wondered why SGU's first season sucked so, so hard. I don't think they could have brought it back if they'd guaranteed at least one full-frontal nude scene with Ming-Na Wen in every episode.

Rush should have revealed Destiny's mission right at the start: the script could have called for Rush, or Daniel Jackson, to explain that they'd stumbled across a record in the Ori galaxy that they'd unearthed whilst digging for the Ark of Truth, in which the Ancients had discovered the Structure and launched Destiny off on its mission long before the Ori had arisen, and so on. That way, the teams arriving on Destiny would have understood what was at stake, and they would have worked together as they did when the Atlantis Expedition first arrived in the Pegasus Galaxy.

But no, the execs wanted strife. They wanted fractiousness. They wanted mistrust and deceit. They wanted internal civil war.

Because it was the fashion. Not so much "Lord of the Rings in Space" as "Lord of the Flies in Space."

They tried something different (but just as tacky) with Star Trek: Enterprise; the very thing that they tried to do with Babylon 5 Crusade - a kind of sanitised T&A, with frequent scenes featuring Hoshi Sato and/or T'Pol in their skivvies in Decon or in the shower or, in one memorable case, dropping her lingerie and letting it all hang out in front of Trip - and look what happened there.

I can also see what they were trying to aim for when they rebooted Star Trek with Lost's (and Armageddon's) JJ Abrams, to try and bring it back to the young kids of today, Gettin' Down Wit' Da Kidzzzzz, Goin' For Da Yoof Vote.

LMAOOO

I'd like to point out here that, in 2009 when Abrams rebooted Star Trek, we should have been warned when he blew up Vulcan in the movie, because if that was not a symbolic gesture - "I just made logic an endangered species" - what was?

This first decade, going on for a decade and a half, has produced some of the worst science fiction and fantasy for a generation. The worst part about this decade is that, unlike the Seventies - the last crisis era for science fiction, when it was dying on its feet - the genre was lucky enough to have a George Lucas come along and kickstart the genre with the original Star Wars, even as 2000 AD was rebooting the genre over in the UK. And we're lucky enough to have the rebooted Doctor Who, because otherwise we wouldn't be having any current space-based science fiction series at all.

You have to ask: what do you want now, in your science fiction / fantasy / horror? Do you want the fashion of the day / year / decade, whatever the studio executives put in front of you and tell you that This Is How It Is? Do you want something that will be timeless, however naive it might seem down the line, like Star Trek or Firefly?

X-posted to To Scape The Serpent's Tongue, Perchance To Dream, The Plainclothes Clown and The Stainless Steel Blog.
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A reminder that my friend Rika Ohara is pitching her movie, Carmilla, through the crowdfunding site USAProjects.


Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1872) preceded Bram Stoker’s Dracula by 25 years and inspired the latter. My new film,Carmilla, places Le Fanu’s female vampire against the backdrop of historical conflict between the East and the West, and finds the origin of the popular myth in racial and cultural fears that shaped our culture.






The above is the first pitch video for Carmilla.Below is the follow-up, which reveals a bit more about what the movie is about:-






The funding event closes on April 1, 2013. If you're interested in contributing, please do so before that time. Any contribution would be welcomed.



Here is that link to the crowdfunding site again.
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Today is 3.14 - Half-Tau Day.

Most people call this day "Pi Day," it being 3.14 and all; but Tauists - including myself - hold to a different philosophy.

The Tau Manifesto - No, Really, Pi Is Wrong!

The Tau Manifesto PDF


And here are the first 10,000 digits of tau.
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The Government today executed a partial climbdown on the hated bedroom tax.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith bowed to pressure and announced that families with severely disabled children would be exempt from the plans.

But there will be no more money to help the hundreds of thousands of other households who stand to lose an average of £14 a week when the bedroom tax comes into force next month.

The move came as the bishops stepped up their battle over the government’s welfare reforms.

The bedroom tax will see people living in social housing have their housing benefit docked by 14% if they one spare room and by 25% if they have two or more spare rooms.

The policy has sparked outrage as it will leave 660,000 having to move home or badly out of pocket.

Mr Duncan Smith came under pressure from Tory, Lib Dem and Labour MPs in the Commons today to look again at the plans.

He announced that new guidance would be published tomorrow so that families with a severely disabled child unable to share a room would be exempt.

“As the law stands right now where a local authority agrees that a family needs an extra bedroom because their child’s disability means they are unable to share, the family can be entitled to the spare room subsidy in respect of that extra bedroom.

“As with the housing benefit claim, the determination as to whether their disability requires them to have an extra bedroom is a matter for the local authority to decide with the help of Department for Work and Pension guidance and medical evidence.

“We will be issuing final guidance to local authorities on a number of areas this one also this week,” he told MPs.

He also hinted there could be further help, saying he would “keep everything under review.”

The Daily Mirror revealed last week that David Cameron is even coming under pressure from Tory MPs to change the policy.

One Conservative said the plans were “deeply flawed.”

In another blow to Mr Duncan Smith the bishops, backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, are planning to table an amendment to the controversial legislation when it is debated next week.

Mr Duncan Smith said there was “nothing moral” about their opposition to the decision to cap welfare payments at 1% for the next three years - a real terms cut for millions of households.

But the bishops are determined to keep up the fight when the Uprating Bill passes to the Lords a week tomorrow.

Some of the 25 Anglican Bishops in the upper house are looking to back an amendment calling for benefit payments that support children to be exempted from the cap.

The Children’s Society claims a further 200,000 children could be pushed into poverty by the reforms.

It has calculated that a couple with two children, where one parent earns £600 a week, would lose £424 a year by 2015 under the changes.

The new Archbishop, the most Rev Justin Welby, has said the poor were “paying the price” for the Government’s welfare plans and a “civilised society” had a duty to support the “vulnerable and those in need.”

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

There is nothing moral about IDS. He has no authority to speak on morals whatsoever.

Catching Up

Mar. 4th, 2013 03:45 pm
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I've been catching up with ancient blog entries in my other blogs. Time I updated and archived things here, as well.
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- Got myself a 64 Gb flash drive. Now retiring my old 4Gb flash drive that I've had for years.

- Watched episode of Rome from DVD. I really need to re-read the Requiem for Rome books.

- Reacquainted myself with a certain online site, which I shall not name. Uploaded some files to that site, to keep them safe for my personal use.

- Reacquainting myself with certain books I have not read for a time. Most enjoyable to read them again.

- I will try and get in some quality dreaming tonight. See if I can dream up something new for Mongoose Legend.
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And now, the third episode of the animated series Fantastic Voyage, Magic Crystal of Kabala (it's probably meth):-



If any further episodes turn up, I'll let you know.
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The second episode of the TV animated series Fantastic Voyage, Menace From Space:-

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This morning, I woke up wondering about the Seventies animated series produced by Filmation. I did some research ... and I found episodes online.

So here begins the series, shared from YouTube.

Episode One: Gathering! Of! The! Team!

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Namaqua rain frog - Breviceps namaquensis:-

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The following is an extract from the Preface of Robert Greene's The Art of Seduction, posted here for Valentine's Day.

Thousands of years ago, power was mostly gained through physical violence and maintained with brute strength. There was little need for subtlety—a king or emperor had to be merciless. Only a select few had power, but no one suffered under this scheme of things more than women. They had no way to compete, no weapon at their disposal that could make a man do what they wanted—politically, socially, or even in the home.

Of course men had one weakness: their insatiable desire for sex. A woman could always toy with this desire, but once she gave in to sex the man was back in control; and if she withheld sex, he could simply look elsewhere—or exert force. What good was a power that was so temporary and frail? Yet women had no choice but to submit to this condition. There were some, though, whose hunger for power was too great, and who, over the years, through much cleverness and creativity, invented a way of turning the dynamic around, creating a more lasting and effective form of power.

These women—among them Bathsheba, from the Old Testament; Helen of Troy; the Chinese siren Hsi Shi; and the greatest of them all, Cleopatra—invented seduction. First they would draw a man in with an alluring appearance, designing their makeup and adornment to fashion the image of a goddess come to life. By showing only glimpses of flesh, they would tease a man's imagination, stimulating the desire not just for sex but for something greater: the chance to possess a fantasy figure. Once they had their victims' interest, these women would lure them away from the masculine world of war and politics and get them to spend time in the feminine world—a world of luxury, spectacle, and pleasure. They might also lead them astray literally, taking them on a journey, as Cleopatra lured Julius Caesar on a trip down the Nile. Men would grow hooked on these refined, sensual pleasures—they would fall in love. But then, invariably, the women would turn cold and indifferent, confusing their victims. Just when the men wanted more, they found their pleasures withdrawn. They would be forced into pursuit, trying anything to win back the favors they once had tasted and growing weak and emotional in the process. Men who had physical force and all the social power—men like King David, the Trojan Paris, Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, King Fu Chai—would find themselves becoming the slave of a woman.

In the face of violence and brutality, these women made seduction a sophisticated art, the ultimate form of power and persuasion. They learned to work on the mind first, stimulating fantasies, keeping a man wanting more, creating patterns of hope and despair—the essence of seduction. Their power was not physical but psychological, not forceful but indirect and cunning. These first great seductresses were like military generals planning the destruction of an enemy, and indeed early accounts of seduction often compare it to battle, the feminine version of warfare. For Cleopatra, it was a means of consolidating an empire. In seduction, the woman was no longer a passive sex object; she had become an active agent, a figure of power.

With a few exceptions—the Latin poet Ovid, the medieval troubadours—men did not much concern themselves with such a frivolous art as seduction. Then, in the seventeenth century came a great change: men grew interested in seduction as a way to overcome a young woman's resistance to sex. History's first great male seducers—the Duke de Lauzun, the different Spaniards who inspired the Don Juan legend—began to adopt the methods traditionally employed by women. They learned to dazzle with their appearance (often androgynous in nature), to stimulate the imagination, to play the coquette. They also added a new, masculine element to the game: seductive language, for they had discovered a woman's weakness for soft words. These two forms of seduction—the feminine use of appearances and the masculine use of language—would often cross gender lines: Casanova would dazzle a woman with his clothes; Ninon de l'Enclos would charm a man with her words.

At the same time that men were developing their version of seduction, others began to adapt the art for social purposes. As Europe's feudal system of government faded into the past, courtiers needed to get their way in court without the use of force. They learned the power to be gained by seducing their superiors and competitors through psychological games, soft words, a little coquetry. As culture became democratized, actors, dandies, and artists came to use the tactics of seduction as a way to charm and win over their audience and social milieu. In the nineteenth century another great change occurred: politicians like Napoleon consciously saw themselves as seducers, on a grand scale. These men depended on the art of seductive oratory, but they also mastered what had once been feminine strategies: staging vast spectacles, using theatrical devices, creating a charged physical presence. All this, they learned, was the essence of charisma—and remains so today. By seducing the masses they could accumulate immense power without the use of force.

Today we have reached the ultimate point in the evolution of seduction. Now more than ever, force or brutality of any kind is discouraged. All areas of social life require the ability to persuade people in a way that does not offend or impose itself. Forms of seduction can be found everywhere, blending male and female strategies. Advertisements insinuate, the soft sell dominates. If we are to change people's opinions—and affecting opinion is basic to seduction—we must act in subtle, subliminal ways.

-- Robert Greene, The Art of Seduction, a Joost Elffers book
Copyright © Robert Greene and Joost Elffers, 2001
All rights reserved
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I was pretty much a young adult when I first stumbled across tabletop roleplaying games. If you know what I'm on about, skip the next two paragraphs.

Tabletop roleplaying games (RPGs for short) are products such as Traveller, Legend, Vampire: the Requiem, Mage: the Awakening, Call of Cthulhu or Dungeons & Dragons.

These games are played in groups of between two and nine people, involving pen & paper, dice, optional miniatures and settings, where one member of the group - called the Games Master, referee, Dungeon Master, Storyteller, Keeper or whatever - sets up a scenario, a kind of fictional adventure, and lets the players generate characters, kind of like characters in a play or movie, and pit the characters against GM-created antagonists, monsters and hazards.

For those of you who already are familiar with RPGs, you can rejoin the conversation here. Sorry about that; always have to think of the newbies, don't you know.

Most people who follow my blogs and forum appearances on the Mongoose site and Shadownessence are likely aware that I have been into RPGs for a very long time - since my first exposure to RPGs with Marc Miller's Traveller back in 1981, to be specific. What few people may have stopped to wonder is why I've been into RPGs for so long - why I allowed these games to fill my life to the extent that it has.

Truth to tell, until lately I've never been able to work it out myself. And here, for the first time, is what I think.

When I started getting involved with roleplaying games, I began to write.

That was it. The first few games I tried out, namely Traveller, RuneQuest (I didn't get into D&D until much later - RQ3 was my first exposure to fantasy roleplaying games), Call of Cthulhu and, later, Harnmaster, Ars Magica and ultimately White Wolf's games, all had the same effect on me. After the first few games of each setting (the 3I, RQ3, Ringworld, Harnworld) I'd usually fall in love with the place and begin writing fiction pieces - mostly short stories - exploring aspects of the places my mind was visiting.

I'd write bluebook logs of a Traveller explorer investigating a system in the Spinward Marches and discovering a temple lost in an alien jungle; I'd write a short story about an apothecary's son in the mythical kingdom of Brognia growing up to discover sorcery; or an account of the discovery of an abandoned Protector's lair with a Slaver stasis box, just inside the hyperspace limit of the Plateau system.

My Shek-Pvar Fyvrian Order Journeyman discovered grey magic and fought a Nolah (a species of Harnic troll) in one story, while a House Ex Miscellanea witch fought Hermetics in another tale, and another setting. My redneck Ranger from the village of Reaming, Toldar Toi, vastly amused the rest of the group by confessing that he'd begun his Ranger career as a scout with the troop called the Reaming Beavers.

My story writing took off from around 2000 or so, when Hunter: the Reckoning really caught my attention, shook it and set it on fire. This was the first time one of my stories could be set in the contemporary world, which meant that the stories could address contemporary issues, or involve contemporary imagery and phenomena. My Reckoning stories also gave my characters such incredibly human motives and motivations - one of the imbued, a straight alpha male, had been married before, but the loss of his son cost him his marriage. Another time, he was rejected by the woman he'd grown to love because he'd gone a bit insane; nonetheless he did find love again, at the end of all things.

Nowadays, I have completed a number of projects for both my favourite RPGs and fiction; articles for Mongoose Legend (a spinoff from RuneQuest using RuneQuest's d100 engine) and Mongoose Traveller (two Ro Focale stories and a psion article currently being looked at by Freelance Traveller), and loads of stories with my own settings - the short stories of Sullup Lurth, my neuro stories, my two novels The Silver Touch and The Gilded Saidara, with a third one in progress.

And that's not counting what's already published and out there - the Traveller articles I wrote for Signs & Portents magazine, the articles published in Dogs of War and two books for Hunter: the Vigil and the self-published articles on the Basic Roleplaying Central website.

I think that, through thick and thin, whether I've had a group to run games with or not, whether or not I've been able to game or run a game, whether I've been a player or a Games Master, the reason why I have stuck with roleplaying games all this time is because without RPGs, I'd never have had imagination enough to become the writer I am today; and even now, I still use roleplaying games to inspire new ways of thinking and new paths of the imagination.

Without RPGs, my career, and I, would have been so incredibly dull. Clearly I owe my career, my mind and my personality to them.
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The following quotes from ancient Roman scholars should embolden those fighting against the injustice of this government, as well as strike apprehension and irritation into the hearts of those same corrupt government officials.

“The man who is tenacious of purpose in a rightful cause is not shaken from his firm resolve by the frenzy of his fellow citizens clamoring for what is wrong, or by the tyrant's threatening countenance.”
― Horace

“It is not the rich man you should properly call happy,
but him who knows how to use with wisdom the blessings of the gods,
to endure hard poverty, and who fears dishonor worse than death,
and is not afraid to die for cherished friends or fatherland.”
― Horace

“Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant.”
― Horace

“Six mistakes mankind keeps making century after century:
Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others;
Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected;
Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it;
Refusing to set aside trivial preferences;
Neglecting development and refinement of the mind;
Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

“Politicians are not born; they are excreted.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

“What is morally wrong can never be advantageous, even when it enables you to make some gain that you believe to be to your advantage. The mere act of believing that some wrongful course of action constitutes an advantage is pernicious.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

"Advice is judged by results, not by intentions."
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

"He only employs his passion who can make no use of his reason."
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

"Men decide far more problems by hate, love, lust, rage, sorrow, joy, hope, fear, illusion, or some other inward emotion, than by reality, authority, any legal standard, judicial precedent, or statute."
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful."
- Lucius Annaeus Seneca

"No man was ever wise by chance."
- Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“All cruelty springs from weakness.”
- Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor."
- Lucius Annaeus Seneca
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The past few weeks have behooven me to begin the arduous task of learning a language I haven't learned before. In this case, Italian.

When I began learning languages, the only tongues I knew were English and Welsh. Here and there, I learned of other languages - but only a word here and there. The French word for thirteen, treize; the Russian for goodbye, До свидания. Dad being Irish, I even heard póg mo thóin (kiss my arse) once in a while, usually while he was driving and some dyn twp anghymwys cut him up in the road.

Unfortunately, it took years for me to get to a school where they would actually begin teaching languages - and the first languages I began learning, painfully and slowly, were French and Latin.

And I never learned that much either - language classes were a lot of excruciatingly slow dictation, the teachers droning on and on and expecting us to just copy the words down. Those of you who had to go through a British language class will know the torment well - language labs, sitting there in a booth while some monotone voice droned at us, having to memorise endless tables of nouns and verbs without context, crap like that.

And then the exams - the oral, aural and written exams, where you would be dropped in at the deep end with no rehearsals or practice.

At no time did anyone actually hint that this knowledge would be profitable, or even useful, to you; that one might, perhaps, develop deep friendships or enhance one's chances of landing work in adult life or - through learning of the geography and history of the nations whose languages one was learning - perhaps broaden one's mind beyond the usual level of narrow-minded parochial ignorance of the average Brit.

Fast forward, now, to the present day. And here am I, tolling away, using Google Translate if I haven't got a dictionary to hand, slowly and steadily picking up what bits and pieces of languages I can, and wondering what I could have done had I been given resources to learn the languages of my choice from a single-digit age; to learn French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Greek, Latin, Welsh, Russian, Japanese and whatever else I could lay my hands on, from the earliest possible age - the age at which I'd just learned what speaking was about.

You can tell, by the quality of my posts, that I am most familiar with English, and my vocabulary in English is vast - but if I could spend the rest of my days learning all the above languages, doing nothing else, I would. I really would.

And so to Italian.

Every time I look at Italian, I am reminded that this is actually Latin; the language of the Roman Empire, allowed to mature for 1600 years. The only place where you see Latin, nowadays, is in the technical fields of science, medicine and law, and of course this blog uses the evolved standard Roman alphabet; but Italian is the language which is now spoken on the streets and in the fields of the same Italy on which Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Cicero and Catullus once trod in their sandalled feet; the same country where Roman centurions, legionaries, equestrians, senators and consuls once lived and breathed, fucked and murdered and died.

Italian is their language, fermented for more than a millennium and a half and turned into this. The other Romance languages, and the loan words of English which came across here from France with the Norman invaders, are the nephews and nieces, and you can see the family resemblance; but Italian is the clear and undisputed son and heir.

And I really, really wish I'd been given the chance to learn this first.
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Dramatisation of the death of Cicero.




And the actual moment itself:-



 
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Titus Pullo is forced into the gladiatorial arena, with hilarious results. And by "hilarious," I mean in the sense of "copious amounts of bloodletting and amputations."



 
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After a heartbreaking tragedy for Pullo (Ray Stevenson) where he lost his wife Eirene (Chiara Mastalli) and unborn child, he ends up in a relationship with Gaia (Zuleikha Robinson), mercenary and meretrix. After she fends off an attack from a former rival Of Vorenus' turned feral beast, Gaia saves Pullo's life but receives a major wound in the battle.

And then she lets slip that it was she who murdered Pullo's wife and baby just so she could worm her way into Pullo's bed. Pullo's reply is immediate.



 

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I had no idea that "THIRTEEN!" in Latin was pronounced "Roll Initiative!"

 
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"Now that ... is an exit."

Exquisitely funny one liner from Mark Antony (James Purefoy).

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