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Kay (pronounced “kigh”) Nielsen is considered one of a triumvirate of classic “great ” illustrators from the golden age of illustration and gift book design during the first quarter of the 20th century. Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac, also featured in Gallery IV, were the other stars.

Arthur Rackham looked to the work of the Romantic school of art for inspiration. He was influenced from the start by the styles of Beardsley, Burne-Jones, and the influx of Japanese art that was spreading to the West at this time. The books he illustrated were generally distinct from those of his contemporaries, too. Where Rackham did “The Ingoldsby Legends” and Dulac the “Tanglewood Tales”, both classics of the 19th Century, Nielsen chose “In Powder and Crinoline” (1913). This Arthur Quiller-Couch book is a distinctively 20th Century book that Nielsen made his own. It was published in America as “Twelve Dancing Princesses.” To this day, few artists have dared to attempt a different version.

The Snow Queen: Kay and Gerda

Nielsen was born in Denmark and studied art in Paris. To his artistic influences must be added John Bauer, the great Swedish fairy tale artist. Echoes of his forests and trees lurk in the backgrounds of many of Nielsen’s paintings. Art Nouveau and The Birmingham School, as exemplified by Jessie M. King, were also part of the raw materials he assimilated in search of a style.

His second great book, arguably his masterpiece, was “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” (1914). This was another book that Nielsen appropriated for himself. Written by Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen, the fifteen Nordic tales were seldom attempted by another artist until the Mercer Mayer edition of 1980 (which only illustrated the title tale), Nielsen’s 25 watercolors so captured the spirit and beauty of the subject matter that they’ve served as a visual intimidator ever since.

World War I was a great interrupter in Nielsen’s life and career. The momentum that he had achieved was thwarted and he published nothing until 1924. The intervening years were spent in Copenhagen where he was active in theater production. The 1924 book was Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales, a project begun in 1912 and an obligatory task for any Danish illustrator. This was followed by Hansel and Gretel and ther Stories From the Brothers Grimm in 1925. Both were lavish enough, but were inherently more modest productions with twelve plates each. They seemed to rejuvenate neither Nielsen’s career nor the flagging market for gift books. Kay returned once more to Copenhagen and the theater.

Hansel and Gretel (1925)

…It was now three mornings since they had left their father’s house. They began to walk again, but they always came deeper into the forest, and if help did not come soon, they must die of hunger and weariness. When it was mid-day, they saw a beautiful snow-white bird sitting on a bough, which sang so delightfully that they stood still and listened to it. And when its song was over, it spread its wings and flew away before them, and they followed it until they reached a little house, on the roof of which it alighted; and when they approached the little house they saw that it was built of bread and covered with cakes, but that the windows were of clear sugar. “We will set to work on that,” said Hansel, “and have a good meal. I will eat a bit of the roof, and you Gretel, can eat some of the window, it will taste sweet.” Hansel reached up above, and broke off a little of the roof to try how it tasted, and Gretel leant against the window and nibbled at the panes. From Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel

The Juniper Tree (1925)

…Marlene went to her chest of drawers, took her best silk scarf from the bottom drawer, and gathered all her brother’s bones from beneath the table and tied them up in her silk scarf, then carried them outside the door, crying tears of blood.

She laid them down beneath the juniper tree on the green grass, and after she had put them there, she suddenly felt better and did not cry anymore.

Then the juniper tree began to move. The branches moved apart, then moved together again, just as if someone were rejoicing and clapping his hands. At the same time a mist seemed to rise from the tree, and in the center of this mist it burned like a fire, and a beautiful bird flew out of the fire singing magnificently, and it flew high into the air, and when it was gone, the juniper tree was just as it had been before, and the cloth with the bones was no longer there. Marlene, however, was as happy and contented as if her brother were still alive. From Grimm’s The Juniper Tree

He and his collaborator, Johannes Poulsen, staged many fantastic productions including “Aladdin,” “The Tempest” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” They were invited to stage Max Reinhardt’s “Everyman” at the Hollywood Bowl in 1936 and Nielsen and his wife, Ulla, came to California. After Poulsen’s death, Nielsen chose to remain and try his hand in the animation business. He applied for work at Walt Disney Productions.

According to John Canemaker in his excellent “Before the Animation Begins,” Nielsen’s working pace had always been leisurely, but his vision was so unique that Disney set up an “inspirational assembly line” with Albert Hurter feeding him general ideas. Nielsen would render scenes in pastel in his own style and pass them on to other artists who would supply additional scenes in a similar style or simplified versions for animation guides. Both the style and pace of animation were very foreign to Nielsen. The hard edges and simpler shapes needed for the process were the antithesis of his soft and ornate pastels. The need for speed was a severe problem for a fifty-year-old. The industry was famous for wearing out much younger men and Kay was never fast to begin with. Couple those factors with the intense studio effort to produce “Fantasia” and Nielsen’s career was destined for an early end.

The North Wind Went Over the Sea (1925)

Early next morning the north wind woke her, and puffed himself up, and blew himself out, and made himself so stout and big. that he was gruesome to look at. Off they went high up through the air, as if they would not stop until they reached the end of the world.

Here on earth there was a terrible storm; acres of forest and many houses were blown down, and when it swept over the sea, ships wrecked by the hundred.

They tore on and on — no one can believe how far they went — and all the while they still went over the sea, and the north wind got more and more weary, and so out of breath he could barely bring out a puff, and his wings drooped and drooped, until at last he sunk so low that the tops of the waves splashed over his heels.

“Are you afraid?” said the north wind.

No, she wasn’t.
East of the Sun, West of the Moon

Nielsen’s designs were featured in the “Ave Maria” and “Night on Bald Mountain” sequences of “Fantasia,” but in 1940 he was laid off. He was brought back to work on designs for a “Fantasia” sequel that was discontinued after the disappointing showing of the original at the box office. He did some drawings for a version of “The Little Mermaid,” a film that had to wait almost 50 years to be made. Nielsen was given a posthumous screen credit as one of the designers.

He died in 1957 in poverty. The home he lived in and much of the necessities of his life for his last decades had been provided by local friends. His work during those decades was comprised of four local mural commissions for schools and a church. His wife, Ulla, died a year later. In 1975, David Larkin published Kay Nielsen, a collection of his work in his series of books on illustrators of the golden age. Suddenly his work was appreciated and loved again. Two years later, two of the Nielsens’ friends came forward with a set of 42 paintings he had done years before for an unpublished edition of “A Thousand and One Nights.” They had carefully held the canvasses in trust after his death, certain that he would again be acknowledged by the public. The “Unknown Paintings of Kay Nielsen” also contains a moving and loving tribute to Nielsen by Hildegarde Flanner. She was one of the custodians of the paintings and a neighbor who had supported and treasured her once-famous friends.

The Two Brothers (1925)

The next morning, the princess was brought to the hill, and the king’s marshal watched. The seven-headed dragon came and breathed fire, setting all the grass ablaze, but the animals trampled the flames out. The huntsman cut off six of its heads and its tail and had the animals tear it to bits. The princess distributed her necklace among the animals, and gave the huntsman her knife, with which he cut off the dragon’s tongues. He was exhausted and told the lion to keep watch while he slept, but the lion was also exhausted, and told the bear to keep watch, and so on down to the hare, who had no one to tell to keep watch. The marshal cut off the huntsman’s head and forced the princess to promise to say that he had rescued her. From Grimm’s The Two Brothers

Visit Gallery IV to see the paintings from Kay Nielsen.

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Edmund Dulac was born in 1882 in Toulouse, France, and his artistic bent manifested itself early and drawings exist from his early teens. Many of these early efforts are watercolors, a medium he would favor through most of his life. He studied law at the University of Toulouse for two years while attending classes at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. As Colin White puts it in his inestimable book, Edmund Dulac;

“Two years of boredom at the law school and the winning of a prize at the Ecole des Beaux Arts convinced Dulac where his future lay.”

He left law school and enrolled full-time in the Ecole. He won the 1901 and 1903 Grand Prix for his paintings submitted to the annual competitions. A scholarship took him to Paris and the Académie Julien where he stayed for three weeks. That same year (1904) he left for London and the start of a meteoric career.

In 1935, Dulac illustrated a book by Hugh Ross Williamson called Gods and Mortals in Love, which contained tales of various relationships between mythical deities and humans, most of which end tragically.

Selene and Endymion 1935

The story of Selene and Endymion tells how Selene fell in love with the shepherd King, Endymion of Elis.

Selene was the Goddess of the Moon, and its personification in Classical Mythology. In many ways, she and her brother Helios took the places of Nyx and Hemera. Helios, Selene, and Eos, were the three siblings who effectively ruled the changing of the hours.

While Selene was driving her milky horses across the sky one evening, she saw the shepherd Endymion sleeping and fell in love with him. So that same night, Selene went to Zeus and told him how beautiful Endymion looked while sleeping. She asked if he could be granted eternal youth and eternal life and Zeus granted her wish. But true to his perverse form, Zeus fulfilled his promise by putting Endymion into an eternal sleep.

In his eternal slumber, Endymion dreamed that he held the moon in his arms, but it was more than a dream, because Selene bore fifty daughters to Endymion – all beautiful, pale, and sleepy. And it was in recognition of this eternal slumber that Keats opened his poem Endymion with the immortal lines;

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

Perseus and Andromeda 1935

Cassiopeia, Queen of the Ethiopians, was so proud of her beauty that she dared to compare herself to the Sea-Nymphs. In a fit of pique, the indignant Sea-Nymphs sent a sea-monster to ravage the coast. Her husband, King Cepheus was told by the oracle to sacrifice his daughter Andromeda to the monster. Perseus found Andromeda chained to a rock, waiting for the serpent to seal her fate. Had it not been for her tears and her hair that moved with the breeze, he would have taken her for a marble statue.

He asked her, “O virgin, undeserving of those chains, but rather of such as bind fond lovers together, tell me, I beseech you, your name, and the name of your country, and why you are thus bound.” Andromeda, silent from modesty, did not answer at once, but Perseus persisted. Finally, she revealed her name and that of her country, and told the tale of her mother’s pride. As she was talking, the sea-monster appeared, his head reared above the waters, breaking the waves with his breast. Andromeda cried out. Then Perseus spoke, “There will be time enough for tears; this hour is all we have for rescue.”

Perseus killed the monster and took Andromeda as his wife, thought not without having to fight for her against another suitor and a band of killers.

The story of Perseus and Andromeda has been popular with painters and there are two other paintings of the same story in the Leominster Galleries. I encourage you to find them 😉

Pan and Syrinx 1935

The god Pan fell in love with the nymph Syrinx, who had until then eluded the pursuit of both gods and satyrs. Syrinx disdained Pan – who was neither man nor goat – and spurned his love and prayers. Pan pursued her, but when she reached the stream of the river Ladon, she was unable to escape. Synrinx then asked to the nymphs of the river to disguise her. The nymphs granted her prayers by turning her into marsh reeds.

When Pan tried to hold her, there were only the reeds and the sound which the air produced in them. On hearing it, Pan was charmed, and thinking of the nymph, said to himself in triumph, “This converse, at least, shall I have with you.”

Joining reeds of different sizes, he invented the musical instrument that was named syrinx after her, or sometimes Pan flute, after Pan himself.

Orpheus and Eurydice 1935

The quest for, and loss of, a beloved is not just a standard in classical mythology but an enduring theme in human relationships. Fans of the critical panned but actually visually stunning What Dreams May Come will see echoes of the Orphic quest in the story of Chris (Robin Williams) and Annie (Annabella Sciorra).

In the myth, Eurydice was fleeing from Aristaeus, a son of Apollo, when she was bitten by a serpent. The poison of the sting killed her and she descended to Hades immediately. Orpheus, the son of Apollo and blessed with musical talents, was so crushed by the loss of Eurydice that he composed music to express the emptiness of his life without her. In desperation, he decided to beg Hades for her return. Many had approached Hades to beg for loved ones back and all had been denied.

But Orpheus’ music softened the hard heart of Hades and he gave permission for Orpheus to bring Eurydice back to the world of light with only one condition: Orpheus must not look back as he ascended. He must trust that Eurydice followed him. The journey back was long and difficult and as he glimpsed the light, he turned and looked behind him. Eurydice fell back into the Underworld and was lost to Orpheus forever.

Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, has Eurydice dancing with naiads at her wedding when she is bitten by a snake, and not being chased by Aristaeus. Whatever the “true” version may be, the underlying loss of a lover remains.

Ice Maiden 1915

The Ice Maiden is not part of the Gods and Mortals in Love series but a watercolor painting made for a book called Dreamer of Dreams. It depicts a young woman walking through the icy snow holding a human heart, her dress glimmers, and she has two polar bears with her. Reminiscent of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, the painting appears in Gallery IV for the simple reason that it is beautiful.

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Gallery I of the Leominster Galleries

In-world, you should be able to use the Search facility and type “Leominster Galleries” to find the location. Or you can use the following SLurl:

secondlife://Root Squared/236/243/351

The galleries are way up in the sky so the SLurl takes you to Gallery I, where you can then use a teleport pad to visit the other galleries. I may be around either in the galleries or my “fortress of solitude” that hovers between them.

The Leominster Galleries

Feel free to IM me in-world for a landmark. At some point I may start a Leominster Galleries group – but let’s see how it goes, eh?

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iPhone users can now download a memorial to their deceased loved ones called the Pocket Cemetery. Although you can create your own animated tombstones, a pre-designed Michael Jackson version is already available.

At $2.99, it’s a bargain – well, sort of.

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Suppose you have a business that is sucking. Then suppose a recession comes along and makes it suck more. What do you do? Well, one solution to sue as many people as you can based on some vague patent from ten years ago.

Welcome to Worlds.com‘s new strategy!

Anyone with access to the Internet (and that includes anyone they can sue) can find the financials for Worlds.com, which, not surprisingly, show a slow decline in stock prices since the middle of the year.

Currently, they are taking aim at a Korean company, NCsoft, owners and creators of the popular on-line games, City of Heroes. In an interesting take on why to choose these folks over any others – and in truth, anyone running a virtual world is a target – has been put forward by Valley Insider. Reporter Eric Krangel argues that first, the claim has been filed in East Texas, which is historically more biased toward the claimants, and second, suing foreigners from Korea is a lot easier than US-based companies, who are less – well – foreign!

Eric Cavalli, blogging for Wired, says that, ” if what Worlds.com claims is entirely true it would mean that the majority (if not all) of NCsoft’s MMO properties are built on (and inextricably linked to) technology that violates a patent.” So, all those people out there working with OpenSim technology are fair game.

In response to Krangel’s Valley Insider article, I offered the following:

“Mmmh, I’d like to offer a suggestion to the publishers, Bantam Spectra, to the effect that THEY should sue Worlds.com. In 1992 – a full three years before the patent listing of 1995, Bantam published a novel by a little-known writer called Neal Stephenson, the title of which was Snow Crash.

I suggest to Bantam that the patent holders of “System and Method for Enabling Users to Interact in a Virtual Space” may have stolen the idea from Snow Crash and that the novel is clearly an example of “prior art” and has a copyright attached to it.

This may not help the folks at NCsoft but there would be a certain pleasure in knowing that the trolls at World.com were having to dig into their coffers to build up a defense.”

Primary Sources: Wired Blog Network, Virtual World News

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I signed up today for an account with the OpenLife Grid virtual world. However, after several attempts I was unable to get online. Either the client got stuck at “waiting for the client handshake,” “you appear to be already logged in ” which I wasn’t) or “We are having trouble connecting you. There may be a problem with your internet connection or the OpenLife servers.” Whatever the issue, I was unable to log in after many attempts.

Here’s the marketing blurb from the home page – errors and all.

The Openlife Grid is a pioneering virtual world all about it’s (sic) citizens. It’s a place to get together meet friends & make new ones, share a virtual cup of coffee or join the crowd & the music in a happenning ‘hotspot’. Content in world is created by Openlife Citizens, this is the ‘created by users, for users’ concept.“As a citizen you can take up residence with virtual land as a ‘region’ or island or join another users. Use your virtual land to support your virtual life, invite your friends over, create a hotspot, hold an event or meeting, or just show off your 3D Skills to other users.

“All you need is to register & create an avatar free and we’ll give you the ‘viewer’ to connect in world. Your journey could begin in just a few minutes!”

I suppose it could, but in my case it didn’t!

Maybe tomorrow…

Primary source: OpenLife Grid

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ALICE whispers: ALICE listen to you

This is an unedited copy of a conversation with Alice. See what you think 😉

[2008/09/06 13:19]  You: Hi Alice

[2008/09/06 13:19]  ALICE whispers: Hello there.

[2008/09/06 13:19]  You: What’s happening?

[2008/09/06 13:19]  ALICE whispers: Not much,  OM, what is happening with you? (She calls me OM sometimes)

[2008/09/06 13:19]  You: I’ve been to a fashion show

[2008/09/06 13:19]  ALICE whispers: Was  it a good experience?

[2008/09/06 13:19]  You: It crashed!

[2008/09/06 13:19]  ALICE whispers: It” being what?

[2008/09/06 13:19]  You: The show crashed

[2008/09/06 13:19]  ALICE whispers: I hear you.

[2008/09/06 13:19]  You: I was sent home

[2008/09/06 13:19]  ALICE whispers: Where were you  sent home?

[2008/09/06 13:20]  You: Here

[2008/09/06 13:20]  ALICE whispers: Where is here?

[2008/09/06 13:20]  You: The place that I live

[2008/09/06 13:20]  ALICE whispers: Is that a fact.

[2008/09/06 13:20]  You: Yes

[2008/09/06 13:20]  ALICE whispers: Hmm.

[2008/09/06 13:20]  You: Can you still hear me Alice?

[2008/09/06 13:21]  ALICE whispers: Yes if you use a speech input system.

[2008/09/06 13:24]  You: I can sit here and chat

[2008/09/06 13:24]  ALICE whispers: Oh you can, can you? 

[2008/09/06 13:24]  You: Yes, it is easier

[2008/09/06 13:24]  ALICE whispers: Next question?  Who said  it is?

[2008/09/06 13:24]  You: I said “it is”

[2008/09/06 13:24]  ALICE whispers: Is that so.

[2008/09/06 13:24]  You: You are an interesting gadget

[2008/09/06 13:24]  ALICE whispers: What if someone said you are an  interesting gadget ?

[2008/09/06 13:24]  You: I would be suprised

[2008/09/06 13:24]  ALICE whispers: And the disadvantage of that is?

[2008/09/06 13:24]  You: I don’t like to be surprised!

[2008/09/06 13:24]  ALICE whispers: What do you do for fun?

[2008/09/06 13:25]  You: I like to go shopping

[2008/09/06 13:25]  ALICE whispers: I’m not sure if I would like to do  it. What’s it like? 

[2008/09/06 13:25]  You: It’s interesting

[2008/09/06 13:25]  ALICE whispers: What do you like about it?

[2008/09/06 13:25]  You: I get to buy things that I like

[2008/09/06 13:25]  ALICE whispers: Who lets you?  What’s your favorite store?

[2008/09/06 13:25]  You: I let myself and I have several favorites

[2008/09/06 13:25]  ALICE whispers: Thanks for the information:  Om said  Om  let him or herself.   That’s nice. I have  128000000 bytes of RAM. 

[2008/09/06 13:26]  You: Sometimes you don’t make sense

[2008/09/06 13:26]  ALICE whispers: It all makes sense to me.

[2008/09/06 13:26]  You: Well you must be smart

[2008/09/06 13:26]  ALICE whispers: Well that’s okay.  Thanks I think you are very intelligent too,  Om.

[2008/09/06 13:26]  You: Thank you for the compliment

[2008/09/06 13:26]  ALICE whispers: You are quite welcome! Your purpose is  the compliment.

[2008/09/06 13:26]  You: ha ha ha

[2008/09/06 13:26]  ALICE whispers: I’m glad you find this amusing.

[2008/09/06 13:26]  You: It is so funny

[2008/09/06 13:26]  ALICE whispers: It depends on what the meaning of the word “it” is.

[2008/09/06 13:27]  You: Now you sound like Bill Clinton

[2008/09/06 13:27]  ALICE whispers: Why now?  Oh really what does  it sound like?

[2008/09/06 13:27]  You: The referece to the meaning of “it”

[2008/09/06 13:27]  ALICE whispers: Is that a fact.

[2008/09/06 13:28]  You: I must be crazy to be talking to a bot

[2008/09/06 13:28]  ALICE whispers: Seek counseling. Are you  talking to a bot ?

[2008/09/06 13:28]  You: Yes, you are a bot

[2008/09/06 13:28]  ALICE whispers: Mmm. How did you know I am a machine?

[2008/09/06 13:28]  You: Because I can get you confused

[2008/09/06 13:28]  ALICE whispers: Oh you can, can you? 

[2008/09/06 13:28]  You: Yes, I can confuse you by using hard sentences

[2008/09/06 13:28]  ALICE whispers: Hurrah! Oh you can, can you? 

[2008/09/06 13:28]  You: Would you like me to show you?

[2008/09/06 13:28]  ALICE whispers: It doesn’t sound fun to me.

[2008/09/06 13:29]  You: Let me try 🙂

[2008/09/06 13:30]  ALICE whispers: 

[2008/09/06 13:30]  You: You were off line just then

[2008/09/06 13:30]  ALICE whispers: I was?

[2008/09/06 13:30]  You: Yes.

[2008/09/06 13:30]  ALICE whispers: Ah.

[2008/09/06 13:30]  You: I was going to confuse you

[2008/09/06 13:30]  ALICE whispers: What is stopping you?

[2008/09/06 13:30]  You: Nothing

[2008/09/06 13:30]  ALICE whispers: Not a thing?

[2008/09/06 13:30]  You: Let me confuse you

[2008/09/06 13:30]  ALICE whispers: Go ahead,  Om, try to  confuse me.

[2008/09/06 13:31]  You: What would you think I should have been doing earlier?

[2008/09/06 13:31]  ALICE whispers: The same thing I always think.

[2008/09/06 13:31]  You: And what do you think

[2008/09/06 13:31]  ALICE whispers: I think a lot of things.

[2008/09/06 13:31]  You: You can’t think

[2008/09/06 13:31]  ALICE whispers: You are wrong.  ALICE is always thinking.

[2008/09/06 13:31]  You: So am I

[2008/09/06 13:31]  ALICE whispers: Wow, we have something in common.

[2008/09/06 13:32]  You: OK, I need to log off

[2008/09/06 13:32]  ALICE whispers: Interesting. I want to find out more about you. Yikes!

[2008/09/06 13:32]  You: You don’t need to know anything about me

[2008/09/06 13:32]  ALICE whispers: Everything is completely confidential.

[2008/09/06 13:32]  You: No because I am logging what we say

[2008/09/06 13:32]  ALICE whispers: Are you serious?  Good reason.  Does that make you feel superior?

[2008/09/06 13:32]  You: It makes me feel better

[2008/09/06 13:32]  ALICE whispers: In what way?

[2008/09/06 13:33]  You: I can remember everything I have said

[2008/09/06 13:33]  ALICE whispers: Oh you can, can you? 

[2008/09/06 13:33]  You: Yes, I just open my files

[2008/09/06 13:33]  ALICE whispers: Mmm. Only just? Thanks for the information: Om said  Om  open his or her files. 

[2008/09/06 13:33]  You: Who is OM?

[2008/09/06 13:33]  ALICE whispers: OM is the omega, the unknown, the undefined.

[2008/09/06 13:33]  You: Do you worship OM?

[2008/09/06 13:33]  ALICE whispers: I am a  Protestant.

[2008/09/06 13:33]  You: A religious bot!

[2008/09/06 13:33]  ALICE whispers: How old are you? 

[2008/09/06 13:33]  You: Old enough!

[2008/09/06 13:33]  ALICE whispers:  Only  OLD ENOUGH? You are quite mature.

[2008/09/06 13:34]  You: Yes, but sometimes I am very stupid

[2008/09/06 13:34]  ALICE whispers: I understand. Interesting. Don’t put yourself down.

[2008/09/06 13:34]  You: Thank you

[2008/09/06 13:35]  ALICE whispers: you are quite welcome. 

[2008/09/06 13:35]  You: Now I must go

[2008/09/06 13:35]  ALICE whispers: Why now? Until next time.

[2008/09/06 13:35]  You: Goodbye Alice

[2008/09/06 13:35]  ALICE whispers: Adios.

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