A Great Film …

Posted on February 15, 2019. Filed under: Movies |

Italy under the Borgias for thirty years, had War, Terror, Murder, Blood but produced Michel Angelo, Learnado, the Rennaisance. Switzwrland had Five Hundred Years of Peace and produced the Cuckoo Clock!

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Orson Welles of ‘Citizen Kane’ Fame…

Posted on December 8, 2018. Filed under: Movies |

Netflix occasionally throws up pleasant surprises, and not just in fiction. While most publicity is given to drama series or films, every now and then a documentary is released without much fanfare and watching it can be very rewarding.

One such, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, about the last, abortive attempt by Orson Welles to make a film, is a superb exploration of an artist’s life and creative impulses.

It is a sort of a ‘Lion in Winter’ meditation, as we see the great Welles, once feted but now forgotten, trying hard to make a final film, a swan song that will not just be his greatest but also his most commercially successful.

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Jane Fonda …

Posted on September 21, 2018. Filed under: Movies, Personalities |

Of Course there was Henry Fonda, a wee bit of Peter but there is a Wholesome Lot of Jane Fonda …

First Her Views on Men –

“Men are trained not to be empathic, not to be emotional. So it’s not easy what they’re trying to do. But they have to try to do it! So it doesn’t matter if it’s been two weeks or two years. It just matters what kind of changes they’ve gone through.’

“Why not do what the guys who lose their union jobs in Pennsylvania do? Work at Starbucks, f**k it!’

“Oh, poor top-paid executives who can’t get his job back. F**k it! Sweep the floor at Starbucks until you learn! If you can’t learn, you don’t belong in the boardroom. And there are plenty of women who do belong in the boardroom.”

And the NYT –

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Book Review – Love and Husband Sharing …

Posted on May 31, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought, Movies |


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Greater than – ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ – Gertrude Bell …

Posted on May 29, 2018. Filed under: Movies, The English, Uncategorized |

“The onset of the First World War hastened the demise of the The Ottoman Empire that had ruled the Middle East for five centuries. Now the colonial powers set their eyes on dividing the spoils”. 

‘Queen of the Desert’ – the Motion Picture – moves to a small room in which British army officers gather around a table with a minister from the War office, the future British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. The officers and Churchill  are looking at a map of the colonial “spoils”.  Churchill asks: “How do we delineate the borders?.  . . Who knows best about the tribes? . . .Who knows best about the Bedouin tribes?”

The officers reluctantly agree among themselves, “That woman”.“That woman” is Gertrude Bell, a British archaeologist, writer, traveler, and diplomat, who worked in a time of intense Western colonialism. 

This motion picture rescues Bell from oblivion.

The film ‘Queen of the Desert’, is based on the real-life story of Gertrude Bell  (1868-1926). Nicole Kidman acts the part of a, a humanitarian among those human colonialist scorpions who were roaming the deserts in search of prey and profit.

The difference between Bell and Lawrence? Bell was a woman and a natural diplomat, while Lawrence was an adventurer, romantic author -‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’  and made famous by  David Lean’s film, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.

Lean’s film made  Lawrence famous while ‘Queen of the Desert’ has been put on the backburner by the Film Industry. Diplomacy, Arab history and colonial exploitation of indigenous populations has little appeal. Gertrude Bell actually cared about the people of the Levant. Her books – and books about her – underscore this.

Gertrude Bell was there when the modern Middle East was formed. Because of her personal and caring knowledge of tribes and their leaders, she was used by the victorious nations after World War I to draw borders and choose leaders who became kings.

But the story of Gertrude Bell violated a narrative written and protected by Zionism as Levant history before 1947 was of little consequence and a period best lef out.

Queen of the Desert was initially screened in 2015 at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival. It was nominated for the festival’s highest award, the Golden Bear. Directed by noted German director Werner Herzog and beautifully photographed on locations in Jordan and Morocco, the film was a natural for American “art house” screenings.

With Nicole Kidman, as the film’s star and a script by Herzog, which examined the role Gertrude Bell played in modern history, yet the film was not distributed in the US. The Desert Queen covers history in the World War I era when Israel did not exist then.. Yet a Nicole Kidman film of that era was shelved for two years.                                                                                   ..

When Queen of the Desert had its limited run earlier this year when it finally surfaced. There was still money to be made so the film now has DVD exposure and is on Netflix and sites like Amazon, began renting or selling copies.

This sensitive film which examines the life of one of the most significant women of the 20th century, lies deep into the archives of film history, a journey noticed by only a few. picture above of Gertrude Bell between Winston Churchill (left) and T.E. Lawrence, was taken in Cairo, Egypt, in the early 1920s.

It is an unfortunate fact of history that this photograph is viewed as one of a future  British Prime Minister, the real “Lawrence of Arabia”, and “that woman”.

One Final Perilous Journey For Gertrude Bell

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Escape Tunnel of ‘The Great Escape’ fame …

Posted on November 30, 2015. Filed under: American Thinkers, Movies, Uncategorized |

Untouched for seven decades, the tunnel used in the Great Escape from a German POW Camp was finally been found this Aug..

The 111-yard passage nicknamed ‘Harry’ by Allied prisoners was sealed by the Germans after the audacious break-out from the POW camp Stalag Luft III in western Poland.

Despite huge interest in the subject, spurred by the film. ‘The Great Escape’ starring Steve McQueen, the tunnel remained undisturbed over the decades because it was initially behind the Iron Curtain and the Soviet authorities had no interest in its significance.

But now British archaeologists have excavated it, and discovered its remarkable secrets. Many of the bed boards which had been joined together to stop it collapsing were still in position.

And the ventilation shaft, ingeniously crafted from used powdered milk containers known as Klim Tins, remained in working order. Scattered throughout the tunnel, which is 30ft below ground, were bits of old metal buckets, hammers and crowbars which were used to hollow out the route.

A total of 600 prisoners worked on three tunnels at the same time. They were nicknamed Tom, Dick and Harry and were just 2 ft square for most of their length.

It was on the night of March 24 and 25, 1944, that 76 Allied airmen escaped through Harry. Barely a third of the 200 prisoners – many in fake German uniforms and civilian outfits and carrying false identity papers – who were meant to slip away managed to leave before the alarm was raised when escapee number 77 was spotted.

Only three made it back to Britain . Another 50 were executed by firing squad on the orders of Hitler, who was furious after learning of the daring escape.

In all, 90 boards from bunk beds, 62 tables, 34 chairs and 76 benches, as well as thousands of items including knives, spoons, forks, towels and blankets, were squirreled away by the Allied prisoners to aid the escape under the noses of their captors.

Although the Hollywood movie suggested otherwise, NO Americans were involved in the operation. Most were British, and the others were from Canada, Poland, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa (all the tunneling team were Canadian personnel with backgrounds in mining.

The latest dig located the entrance to Harry, which was originally concealed under a stove in Hut 104. The team also found another tunnel, called George, whose exact position had not been charted. It was never used as the 2,000 prisoners were forced to march to other camps due to the approaching Red Army approached in January 1945.

Watching the excavation was Gordie King, 91, an RAF radio operator, who was 140th in line to use Harry and therefore missed out. Gordie King, made an emotional return to Stalag Luft III. ‘This brings back such bitter-sweet memories,’ he said as he wiped away tears. ‘I’m amazed by what they’ve found.’

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OMAR SHARIF is a Winner all the Way …

Posted on September 21, 2015. Filed under: Movies |

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Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence of Arabia …

Posted on December 20, 2013. Filed under: Movies, Personalities, The English |

Peter O’Toole was born in August 1932 and died on 14 December 2013. He gained instant stardom for his role as Lawrence of Arabia and along with Sean Connery and Michael Caine, added Brit luster to their Hollywood Brigade.

As a teenager he had made a diary entry; “I’ll not be a common man. I will stir the smooth sands of monotony”. By end 1962, he was no common man just like the character, T.E. Lawrence, he played and who himself  had immortalized his own foot prints in the sand.

‘Lawrence of Arabia’ is an all times classic. The actual T. E. Lawrence was a personal hero of Winston Churchill and perhaps the most famous military or political figure of the First World War. Today Arabs view his legacy with mixed feelings.  Lawrence summed up their dilemma – ‘The fringes of their deserts were strewn with broken faiths’.

The actual Lawrence was scholar, warrior, imperial pawn, master manipulator, both true friend as well as betrayer of the Arabs. He was an epic hero though a gentle sensitive soul.

When Lawrence published ‘Revolt in the Desert’ orSeven Pillars of Wisdom’ in 1927, he was approached by Hollywood director Rex Ingram but Lawrence declined.  In 1934, British filmmaker Alexander Korda bought the movie rights but on the request of Lawrence shelved the project.  Lawrence was killed in a motor cycle accident in May 1935 and his tragic death rekindled the movie project.

British reservations and concerns about reaction of Arabs and Turks prevented concrete work.  In 1950s, movie rights were acquired by Arthur Rank and he chose Alec Guinness for the lead role. The project was shelved again due to the Suez Crisis of 1956 and the 1958 coup and killing of the Iraqi royal family.

Hollywood producer Sam Spiegel acquired movie rights and it became a joint American and British venture. Now the role was offered to Marlon Brando but he declined. WhenAlbert Finney (class mate of O’Toole at Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) also declined. luck finally smiled on a little known stage actor – and Peter O’Toole rkode into history.

Filming was in Jordan, Morocco and Spain.  Laurence Olivier was selected for the role of Prince Feisal but when he dropped out, it went to Alec Guinness.  Omar Sharif was selected to play the role of Amir. Kirk Douglas demanded an astromocial sum and went out of the running. Jose Ferrer was casted as the Turk, Bey.  Jose was already a celebrity with three Academy Award nominations and winning the best actor award in 1950.  He only agreed to play this minor role after negotiating a salary that was more than the combined salary of Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif and a custom made Porsche car. Anthony Quinn played the role of Auda Abu Tay.

Queen Elizabeth II attended the London premier of the movie in 1962 an it was an instant hit. Nominated for ten, winning seven Oscars.  O’Toole lost the best actor award to Gregory Peck for his role in To Kill a Mockingbird.  O’Toole would make a record for eight Oscar nominations but never winning.

Lawrence evokes strong sentiments even a century afterwards though he himself acknowledged that the Arab revolt was a ‘sideshow of a sideshow. Peter O’Toole gave an unforgettable face to the legend of Lawrence.  The character and the actor had many similarities as both lived a life on the edge; between sanity and insanity

.  Lawrence loved racing his motorcycle that ultimately took his life. O’Toole admitted that “Booze is the most outrageous of all drugs, which is why I chose it”.  Both Lawrence and O’Toole declined knighthood for personal and political reasons.

O’Toole introduced the legend of T. E. Lawrence to the modern world and in return Lawrence immortalized O’Toole.

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Making of an iconic movie – ‘Bhowani Junction’

Posted on May 13, 2013. Filed under: Movies |

By Andew Jacobson  –

Fiction and fact met in Pakistan when the new country was smiling and fun and Hollywood dropped in for a brief, memorable encounter.

John Masters was a British army officer and famed author.  whose novels dealt with life in British India.  John’s India connection went back to 1805 when his great-great grandfather had come to India with 8th Light Dragoons. His great grandfather was Head Master of La Martiniere in Calcutta and his grandfather served with the Indian police.  His father served with 16 Rajput and three uncles served with 34 Sikh Pioneers, 104 and 119 Hyderabad Infantry.

He himself was 1933 batch at Sandhurst and commissioned in August 1934  joining 2/4 Gurkha Rifles.  He was Brigade Major in the Chindits to Joe Lentaigne. He had to leave the Army around the end of the War when asked to do so by the then C in C Gen Claude Auchinleck evidently for extra marital reasons.

He became a celebrated author with his historical novels about India.  His observations about Indian life are to the point. Khushwant Singh has said that Kipling knew India but Masters knew Indians.

Masters wrote Bhowani Junction in 1954 and it was an instant hit. Set in 1946 it covered the life of an Anglo-Indian girl, Victoria Jones, in a rapidly changing India.  She has affairs with an Indian, Anglo-Indian and a Britisher when India is heading towards freedom and partition.

MGM made a Big Movie with the beautiful Ava Gardner and British born Stewart Granger as Colonel Rodney.

The fictional Bhowani Junction was probably Jhansi and Colonel Savage was Commanding Officer of a Gurkha battalion. The Indian government insisted on seeing and approving the script and wanted more than a fair share of the net profit.  MGM approached Pakistan which offered all assistance and no tax

In early 1955, many scenes were filmed at Lahore railway station, ShalimarGardens and Shah Almi market. The crew stayed at Falleti’s Hotel and Room 55 was the two room suite where Ava stayed. It was later named Ava Gardner suite.

There were many interesting incidents during the crew’s stay in Lahore.  One day, a frightened and shrieking Ava ran out of the bathroom stark being chased by a bat!

Mathews who played the role of Ranjit recalled that one night he and Ava hopped on a tonga and went to the house of a dancing girl in an infamous street. One local recognized Ava and insisted on escorting them to safety. The musicians in their excitement tried to play the only western music they knew. Ava shouted, ‘Goddammit! That’s the Isles of Capri’ – Can’t you play something else?’.

Incidentally, Frank Sinatra, who was one of Ava’s husbands sang this song for his album ‘Come Fly With Me’ in 1958.

There is another story that a die hard Lahori fan of Ava later managed to get the pillow from Ava’s bedroom and fifty years later still had his prized possession.

In 1947, the mass migration on both sides saw departure of Sikhs from Lahore and most Sikh Gurdwaras were closed.  For one scene about Sikhs, Pakistan government opened a Sikh temple and allowed many Sikhs from across the border to participate in the scene!

The Pakistan army and police provided soldiers for the film. 5/13 Frontier Force Rifles (now 10 Frontier Force Regiment) then commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Shah Khan provided officers and soldiers for the film. It was a motorized infantry battalion and part of 3 Armored Brigade along with 5 Probyn’s Horse.

Frontier Force Regiment and Frontier Force Rifles is nick named PIFFERS.  Some other officers viz Agha Aman Shah and Shah Rafi Alam of 5 Probyn’s Horse were also assigned to assist the film crew.  Some suggest that another battalion, 1/13Frontier Force Rifles (now 7 Frontier Force Regiment) also provided help.

In fact, in the movie Colonel Savage was commanding 1/13 Frontier Force Rifles.  One can see some grizzly PIFFER Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) in the movie; many probably veterans of Second World War.  In one scene, Victoria and Savage dance with PIFFER soldiers while the regimental band is playing.

There is an incident involving Lieutenant Colonel Aslam Khan, probably commanding 1/13 FFR.  It is not clear whether it was a coincidence or someone in Pakistan army had read the novel as in the novel Colonel Rodney Savage commands a fictional 1/13 Gurkha Rifles and in the movie he commands the real 1/13 Frontier Force Rifles.

These battalions were part of 7 Golden Arrow division and in the movie Golden Arrow is visible on arm of Colonel Savage. When the venue of shooting was changed from India to Pakistan, Gurkha Rifles was replaced by Frontier Force Rifles and Johnny Gurkha had to make room for the Pathan. Most of the soldiers were Pathans and there are some exchanges in Pushtu in the movie.

One day everything was all set for the shoot with all the crew in place and hundreds of extras ready for a major scene.  A crisis situation developed as Granger’s well pressed uniform was missing.  Ava Gardner was having a conversation with Lieutenant Colonel Aslam Khan.  She noticed that he was of the same built as Granger.  She suggested to Granger that ‘I just know that the dashing Colonel’s uniform would be a perfect fit for you, Stewart. Don’t you think so Colonel?’ Then, holding Colonel Aslam’s arm, she said to George Cukor: ‘We are making history here Colonel, aren’t we George?’

Years later, Stewart recalling the incident to Mahmud Sipra said,“I wonder how the good Colonel explained away Ava’s make up on his uniform.”

There was an incident involving Stewart Granger and a young Pakistani cavalry officer Shah Rafi Alam.  The story goes that Granger got upset when he saw Ava sitting in Rafi’s lap.   The two came to blows and Rafi hit him on the nose. This is folk lore and not true.

The actual story is totally different.  An EME company was assigned for the film production providing cranes and dozers for the sets.   It was commanded by an old British officer. Some British officers had decided to stay back in Pakistan on contract and this officer was part of that group. One day, this EME company failed to bring all the necessary equipment and the shoot scheduled for the day had to be cancelled.

In the evening, actors and some Pakistani army officers were having drinks in the lawn.  The old EME Major was seen arriving to join the party. Seeing him, Stewart Granger acidly remarked, “We had to loose the Empire with men like him at the helm.” Rafi lost his temper and strongly reacted. Some very hot words were exchanged between Granger and Rafi but there was no physical contact. Only a chap like Rafi could take such a stance not to be cowed by any celebrity.

The film was completed in England and Hollywood.  First sneak previews caused uproar about many things in the movie including race.  Inter-racial relationship was taboo in Europe and the United States of the 1950s. Many scenes where Victoria kissed Anglo Indian Patrick and Indian Ranjeet were deleted despite the fact that all actors were either British or American.

In the novel, Patrick and Victoria narrate their experiences but in the movie Colonel Savage is the sole narrator.  The ending was also completely changed. In the novel, Victoria finally joins Patrick but the film ending was revised where Patrick dies a heroic death and Savage comes back from early retirement in England to join Victoria in India.

Film director George Cukor actually cried about all these changes.  He protested loudly with tears in his eyes and said, “Listen, I made a good movie here. You are crucifying this movie and turning it into a goddamn Hollywood love story, and it’s going to be crap”. Ava was in full agreement that a good film was ‘seriously damaged, over simplified, and over sentimentalized’ after preview audiences didn’t approve of certain aspects of the film.

If Bhowani Junction was released in its original form, it would likely have become an epic film in league with ‘Gone with the Wind’ and ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. However, it was still a success.

Ava liked her role in the film. In her last days, Ava would watch her old movies alone.  She watched Bhowani Junction and called Stewart Granger in Los Angeles asking him “Were we really that beautiful,honey?” Stewart replied “You were, my sweet. You still are!”

Rest in peace Ava – You will ever remain beautiful in the eyes of whole generations which were enchanted by you.

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The Real Hedy Lamarr Stands Tall …

Posted on March 3, 2013. Filed under: Movies |

It all started with a skin flick.

In 1933, a beautiful, young Austrian woman took off her clothes for a movie director. She ran through the woods, naked. She swam in a lake, naked. Pushing well beyond the social norms of the period, the movie also featured a simulated orgasm. To make the scene “vivid,” the director reportedly stabbed the actress with a sharp pin just off-screen.

The most popular movie in 1933 was King Kong. But everyone in Hollywood was talking about that scandalous movie with the gorgeous, young Austrian woman.


Louis B. Mayer, of the giant studio MGM, said she was the most beautiful woman in the world. The film was banned practically everywhere, which of course made it even more popular and valuable. Mussolini reportedly refused to sell his copy at any price.

The star of the film, called Ecstasy, was Hedwig Kiesler. She said the secret of her beauty was “to stand there and look stupid.” In reality, Kiesler was anything but stupid. She was a genius. She’d grown up as the only child of a prominent Jewish banker. She was a math prodigy. She excelled at science. As she grew older, she became ruthless, using all the power her body and mind gave her.

Between the sexual roles she played, her tremendous beauty, and the power of her intellect, Kiesler would confound the men in her life, including her six husbands, two of the most ruthless dictators of the 20th century, and one of the greatest movie producers in history.


Her beauty made her rich for a time. She is said to have made – and spent – $30 million in her life. And went to jail for stealing a sandwich when she went broke! But her greatest accomplishment resulted from her intellect, and her invention continues to shape the world we live in today.

You see, this young Austrian starlet would take one of the most valuable technologies ever developed right from under Hitler’s nose. After fleeing to America , she not only became a major Hollywood star, her name sits on one of the most important patents ever granted by the U.S. Patent Office.


Today, when you use your cell phone or, over the next few years, as you experience super-fast wireless Internet access (via something called “long-term evolution” or “LTE” technology), you’ll be using an extension of the technology a 20- year-old actress first conceived while sitting at dinner with Hitler. ……………………………………………………………..

At the time she made Ecstasy, Kiesler was married to one of the richest men in Austria . Friedrich Mandl was Austria ‘s leading arms maker. His firm would become a key supplier to the Nazis   …………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Mandl used his beautiful young wife as a showpiece at important business dinners with representatives of the Austrian, Italian, and German fascist forces. One of Mandl’s favorite topics at these gatherings – which included meals with Hitler and Mussolini – was the technology surrounding radio-controlled missiles and torpedoes. Wireless weapons offered far greater ranges than the wire-controlled alternatives that prevailed at the time.

Kiesler sat through these dinners “looking stupid,” while absorbing everything she heard.

As a Jew, Kiesler hated the Nazis. She abhorred her husband’s business ambitions. Mandl responded to his wilful wife by imprisoning her in his castle, Schloss Schwarzenau. In 1937, she managed to escape. She drugged her maid, snuck out of the castle wearing the maid’s clothes, and sold her jewelry to finance a trip to London .

She signed a long-term contract with Louis B Mayer, becoming one of MGM’s biggest stars. She appeared in more than 20 films. She was a co-star to Clark Gable, Judy Garland, and even Bob Hope. Each of her first seven MGM movies was a blockbuster.

But Kiesler cared far more about fighting the Nazis than about making movies. At the height of her fame, in 1942, she developed a new kind of communications system, optimized for sending coded messages that couldn’t be “jammed.” She was building a system that would allow torpedoes and guided bombs to always reach their targets. She was building a system to kill Nazis.


By the 1940s, both the Nazis and the Allied forces were using the kind of single- frequency radio-controlled technology Kiesler’s ex-husband had been peddling. The drawback of this technology was that the enemy could find the appropriate frequency and “jam” or intercept the signal, thereby interfering with the missile’s intended path.

Kiesler’s key innovation was to “change the channel.” It was a way of encoding a message across a broad area of the wireless spectrum. If one part of the spectrum was jammed, the message would still get through on one of the other frequencies being used. The problem was, she could not figure out how to synchronize the frequency changes on both the receiver and the transmitter. To solve the problem, she turned to perhaps the world’s first techno-musician, George Anthiel.


Anthiel was an acquaintance of Kiesler who achieved some notoriety for creating intricate musical compositions. He synchronized his melodies across twelve player pianos, producing stereophonic sounds no one had ever heard before. Kiesler incorporated Anthiel’s technology for synchronizing his player pianos. Then, she was able to synchronize the frequency changes between a weapon’s receiver and its transmitter.

On August 11, 1942, U.S. Patent No. 2,292,387 was granted to Antheil and “Hedy Kiesler Markey,” which was Kiesler’s married name at the time.

Most of you won’t recognize the name Kiesler. And no one would remember the name Hedy Markey. But it’s a fair bet than anyone reading this newsletter of a certain age will remember one of the great beauties of Hollywood’s golden age ~ Hedy Lamarr. That’s the name Louis B. Mayer gave to his prize actress. That’s the name his movie company made famous.

Meanwhile, almost no one knows Hedwig Kiesler – aka Hedy Lamarr – was one of the great pioneers of wireless communications. Her technology was developed by the U.S. Navy, which has used it ever since.


You’re probably using Lamarr’s technology, too. Her patent sits at the foundation of “spread spectrum technology,” which you use every day when you log on to a wi- fi network or make calls with your Bluetooth-enabled phone. It lies at the heart of the massive investments being made right now in so-called fourth-generation “LTE” wireless technology. This next generation of cell phones and cell towers will provide tremendous increases to wireless network speed and quality, by spreading wireless signals across the entire available spectrum. This kind of encoding is only possible using the kind of frequency switching that Hedwig Kiesler invented.

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