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John Belushi: the overdose that marked an end and a beginning in Hollywood | Culture

In Hollywood, the saying goes that the 1970s ended on March 5, 1982, the day that John Belushi died from an overdose of cocaine and heroin. “The game was up,” Taxi Driver director Paul Schrader would recall. “Some people stopped straight away; the feeling was that the rules had changed.” Bob Woodward’s 1984 biography of the comedian and actor, Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi, has recently been reissued in Spain, in which the journalist who uncovered the Watergate scandal paints a portrait not only of a man who was incapable of controlling his demons and impulses, but of a culture, that of Hollywood in the 1970s, that tolerated, facilitated and celebrated the rampant consumption of drugs.

It is hard to overstate Belushi’s impact on American culture, but it is also difficult to understand outside of his time. During an era of mistrust of the institutions and a crisis of values, after Nixon’s fall and the incapacity of Jimmy Carter, the US found a vehicle for its catharsis in Belushi. His humor was unpredictable, anarchic, uncomfortable, anti-system, surrealist and impulsive. “He adapted the counterculture to comedy,” says Toni García Ramón, author of the Spanish reissue of the prolog to Wired. “He was one of the first to pull jokes out of his sleeve, to improvise everything. He came from that dark, dirty, punk New York that Giuliani would later take on. Belushi was pure counterculture, he never bowed to anyone. He would walk into any sketch and blow it up. His greatest discovery was bringing street humor to the television, making the public at large laugh at the rough jokes people would tell in Hell’s Kitchen bars full of transvestites, punks and hookers.”

Saturday Night Live was the first show created by and for that generation who were born at the same time as television. Belushi used the platform to do things nobody thought could be done on television: he shoved cigars up his nose, smashed beer cans on his forehead, filled his mouth with food and spat it out. Through comedy, he dissected human behavior and parodied a masculinity that, in the middle of a second wave of feminism, had become childish, primitive and explosive. His style of humor was imitated so many times that it swiftly lost its impact, but in 1975 it made Belushi, 26, a national idol. “He represented all of the messy bedrooms in America,” said Steven Spielberg, who directed Belushi in 1941.

Belushi developed his ability to dissect American culture during adolescence. “He was a great observer,” says García Ramón. “He came from a family of immigrants that never integrated and knew little about the United States. He spent the afternoons at his classmates’ houses. He had to completely reinvent himself. And that’s one of the things that made him stand out as a comedian. He was the only person who could do it because he had invented it.”

In 1978, Belushi had the most-watched show on television, a number one record with the Blues Brothers, the duo he formed with Dan Aykroyd, to warm up the Saturday Night Live audience before filming, and the highest-grossing comedy movie in history at the time, National Lampoon’s Animal House.

“John would literally hail police cars like taxis. The cops would say, ‘Hey, Belushi!’ Then we’d fall into the backseat and the cops would drive us home.”,” writer and producer Mitch Glazer told Vanity Fair. For the first time in history, young people were in charge. The US had become one big university campus and Belushi was its demented dean. Comedian Nick Helm told The Guardian that in the 1970s comedians were the kings of New York. “He introduced [the idea of] funny people not just as rock stars but gods. And I think that the funniness of it maybe came second to the lifestyle. It’s hard to watch those SNL sketches and not smell the alcohol and drugs. They just smell of excess.” In one of Belushi’s most popular sketches, he is pretending to be Beethoven and after sniffing a white powder, he turns into Ray Charles. What he sniffed, live in front of 17 million viewers, was real cocaine. Belushi called it “Hitler’s drug” for the power it made him feel. He was convinced that his best impersonations, from Henry Kissinger to Joe Cocker, were due to cocaine. “The truth is that many on the show thought that you can’t do a ninety-minute live comedy show week after week without doing cocaine,” SNL writer (and future US Senator) Al Franken told People.

The budget for The Blues Brothers movie provided for cocaine, for night-time scenes. “Everyone did it, including me,” Aykroyd told Vanity Fair. “[But] John, he just loved what it did. It sort of brought him alive at night – that superpower feeling where you start to talk and converse and figure you can solve all the world’s problems.” In the documentary Belushi, there are letters the comedian wrote to his wife, promising he would give up drugs after the next movie. Belushi ended up spending $2,500 a week on cocaine. The more he earned, the more he took. And if he didn’t have money, it was given to him as a gift.

“I swear, you’d walk down the street with him, and people would hand him drugs. And then he’d do all of them — be the kind of character he played in sketches or Animal House,” the director Penny Marshall told Vanity Fair.

Some of the stories Woodward relates in his biography are as sad as they are terrifying. One night he turned up on set at SNL in such a bad state that the producer, Lorne Michaels, called a doctor, who said that if Belushi performed he may well die. “What’s the probability?” Michaels asked. Fifty-fifty, came the reply. “I can live with that.” John Landis, who directed The Blues Brothers, found Belushi found him semi-conscious, soaked in urine and next to a pile of cocaine. “John, you’re killing yourself! This isn’t financially viable. You can’t do this to my movie!” His wife, Judy, wrote to Belushi’s dealer. “I understand it’s your job, but please stop selling him cocaine.”

As Belushi had been banned from all the bars in New York, he opened his own in an abandoned building on Hudson Street. Among his regulars were David Bowie, Keith Richards and ZZ Top. “It was tiny, it smelled awful and the bathrooms were filthy… it became the most fashionable party in New York,” Glazer recalls in the documentary.

Belushi spent the first week of March 1982 in Bungalow 3 at the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard, trying to rewrite the script for Noble Rot, a romantic comedy he hoped would help him mature as an actor. Paramount instead proposed he film The Joy of Sex, a comedy that required Belushi to wear diapers. The failures of 1941, Continental Divide and Neighbors had made him feel like a Hollywood pariah. Belushi, despite being anti-system, carried positive reviews around in his jacket pocket.

Bungalow 3 became a 24-hour party. To be able to sleep, Belushi had to rent a room at a nearby hotel. On March 5, Robin Williams came by to say hello and Robert de Niro stopped for a couple of drinks, but he didn’t stay long as he was uncomfortable around the mess, with bottles, overfilled ashtrays and leftover food everywhere, and because he didn’t like, by his own description, the “tawdry woman” accompanying Belushi.

That woman was Cathy Smith, a groupie who had lived in the Rolling Stones’ mansion for a couple of years and was then running errands for rock stars. Smith had taken up residence with Belushi at Chateau Marmont with the task of injecting him with speedballs, a mixture of cocaine and heroin, because he didn’t like needles. At dawn the next day, Smith took him a glass of water in bed and he told her that he was fine but asked her not to leave him alone. But she had errands to run. When she returned, the hotel was surrounded by police, reporters and onlookers: At midday, personal trainer Bill Wallace, who was helping Belushi to lose weight, had found him dead in his bed, naked and in the fetal position. He was 33 years old.

That morning, Hollywood awoke from a party that seemed it would never end but had stopped being fun all at once. “Before that day, nobody thought you could die from it,” Franken said. Belushi became a fable, with cautionary tale included, about the moral corruption of Hollywood and the suffering of its stars. Woodward’s book definitively inscribed the myth in the folklore of the city: “He made us laugh,” the reporter summed up. “Now he’s making us think.”

Photographs from Belushi’s funeral capture a generation of comedy stars in a state of shock. Cathy Smith gave an interview to sensationalist tabloid National Enquirer whose headline, I killed John Belushi, prompted the reopening of the investigation into his death. Smith was sentenced to 15 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter. She died in 2020, aged 73. The New York Times published an obituary describing her as “one of the most notorious footnotes in pop culture.”

Chateau Marmont, which had always been a discreet refuge for the stars, entered into the black chronicle of Hollywood after Belushi’s death. With the passage of time, the coaches carrying tourists around added it to the list of obligatory stops. Bungalow 3 became a place a cult worship and pilgrimage. New York artist Jean-Michel Basquiat would always stay in Bungalow 3 during his trips to Los Angeles (he died in 1998 from a heroin overdose). In the late 1980s, writer Jay McInerney traveled to Hollywood to work on the movie adaptation of his novel Bright Lights, Big City, which was released in 1988 and starred Michael J. Fox and Kiefer Sutherland. On getting out of his taxi, the movie’s producer told McInerney he had a room reserved for him at Chateau Marmont. “Is it any good?” asked the writer. “Is it any good?” the producer replied. “John Belushi died here!”

Have you heard our Spanish news podcast ¿Qué? Each week we try to explain the curious, the under-reported and sometimes simply bizarre news stories that are often in the headlines in Spain.

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Mexico City, the scene of revenge, blood and torture in the new installment of ‘Saw’ | Culture

Screenwriter Leigh Whannell was unhappy with the work he was doing and began to suffer from migraines. He was convinced he might have a brain tumor and went to a neurologist for an MRI. Sitting in the office, he thought, what if you were to receive the news that you had a brain tumor and were going to die soon? How would you react to that? Those thoughts led him to create the character of John Kramer, a cancer-stricken sociopath whose resentment and inordinate attachment to life turn him into a merciless judge, jury and executioner, allowing his victims to decide their lives and the lives of others through twisted games.

Along with his colleague filmmaker James Wan, Whannel thought outside the box. Both are avid consumers of horror films, and they came up with the idea of starting a movie with two men chained in a bathroom, with a corpse in between them, not knowing what the hell had happened; Kramer is behind them, pulling the strings that decide their fate. Thus, Saw was born in 2004. The movie was well received at Sundance and the Toronto Film Festival. Lionsgate invested a budget of barely $1 million in the project and ended up making over $100 million at the box office.

Saw X
A still shot from the film shows the outside of a building in Mexico City at night.Lionsgate

Eight sequels and $1 billion in revenues at the box office later, Saw is back with a new installment. This is the franchise’s tenth movie, its first in over seven years. This time, the action takes place in Mexico City, where Kramer—better known as serial killer Jigsaw—unleashes his revenge and bloody torture games once again.

Saw X takes place between the events of Saw (2004) and Saw II (2005). Desperate and sick, John Kramer (Tobin Bell) travels to Mexico to undergo an experimental and very risky treatment in the hopes of curing his deadly cancer. However, the entire operation turns out to be a fraud to deceive the most vulnerable. Filled with rage and a lurid new purpose, his new victims will face the most ingenious, deadly and torturous traps in a visceral and ruthless game.

Actresses Renata Vaca, Paulette Hernández and actors Octavio Hinojosa and Joshua Okamoto are part of the Mexican cast who will try to survive the games that Jigsaw has in store for them in Mexico City. Saw X director Kevin Greutert, who was the editor of six Saw films and also directed Saw VI and Saw VII 3D, says that the idea in the original script was initially for the movie to be filmed in Prague and Bulgaria, but ultimately Mexico was a “great choice,” and he could not imagine another version of the film without Mexican actors.

Saw X
Renata Vaca in the role of Gabriela.Alexandro Bolaños Escamilla (Lionsgate)

“There’s such mythology, the city is so amazing, and we can’t say enough about it. There’s something creepy about it, a certain history; it absolutely worked for us. I’m sure everyone knows that, but it’s the first time we’ve ever said where we are in a movie [in the Saw franchise]. And we really stand behind that,” Greutert says.

Renata Vaca, 24, who is also a musician, says she was 9 years old when she first watched Saw in the U.S. She saw it with her uncle, a fan of horror movies. Billy, the puppet, Jigsaw’s avatar in the films, caught her attention. “My uncle told me, ‘Dude, don’t wuss out on me.’ So, we saw it, and I was really scared. But look, it’s intense, and now here we are.” The actress, who will soon appear with Yalitza Aparicio and Diego Calva in Midnight Family, emphasizes that the film is like a trip back to the Mexico of 20 years ago, which can be seen in certain details like the clothing and yesteryear’s green and white cabs. “I had to do a lot of research for the role. It’s cool because you’ll feel like you’re in 2000s-era Mexico,” she says.

Saw X
Joshua Okamoto in the role of Diego.Lionsgate

Okamoto, who was in the sequel to Sexo, pudor y lágrimas (Sex, Shame & Tears) and has Netflix and HBO Max projects in the works, admits that he hadn’t had a chance to see Saw before he was cast in the film. However, he does remember the Saw promotional poster and how it was illustrated: it had the piece of a calf with a foot and the fragment of a hand. “I felt very frightened when I saw the poster, and it left a very unpleasant feeling in my chest and stomach,” he recalls.

The first Saw film began with touches of gore and, according to several specialists, it later evolved into torture porn, because it uses violence to titillate the audience as if they were experiencing a sexual act.

In Saw X, Mexico becomes another character and influences different aspects of the narrative. “One of the great successes of this latest installment is that they manage to portray Mexico as another character. You can feel the city in the background, the textures, the colors. We are not only a country…there is a very folkloric culture, from the rituals of the Aztecs onward [and] some elements naturally sneak into the plot. In the traps, there are also, let’s say mythological, references that are part of urban legends, iconography, evidence of pre-Hispanic influences,” Okamoto explains.

Saw X
Octavio Hinojosa in the role of Mateo.Lionsgate

With the exception of Octavio Hinojosa, none of the actors had ever been in a horror film before. All three agree that the biggest challenge in this film was keeping their emotions at full throttle during the 12-hour call. “That’s screaming, running, sweating, hyperventilating. The most difficult thing was to sustain those states,” says Okamoto. Vaca agrees with him: “You have to be all in, with your entire body, [and be] very open to what is happening in the moment, because sometimes what happens goes beyond what you had thought.”

“It was like doing theater… being there all the time, being seen all the time. It was very tiring, very exhausting. Emotions become real when they go through one’s body. There’s a part of you that says, ‘I’m in a [fictional story],’ but you do get upset. You do get scared. You do cry and you do experience it. That is very, very exhausting, but we actors are a little masochistic; we enjoy being on the edge of emotions, and at the end of a call, when you do things right you say: ‘Very good, I did it. That’s great,’” Hinojosa concludes.

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“The Creator”: A Glimpse Into A Future Defined By Artificial Intelligence (AI) Warfare

By Cindy Porter

In “The Creator” visionary director Gareth Edwards thrusts us into the heart of a dystopian future, where the battle lines are drawn between artificial intelligence and the free Western world.

Set against the backdrop of a post-rebellion Los Angeles, the film grapples with pressing questions about the role of AI in our society.

A Glimpse into a Future Defined by Artificial Intelligence (AI) Warfare

A Glimpse into a Future Defined by Artificial Intelligence (AI) Warfare

While the narrative treads familiar ground, it is timely, given the rising prominence of artificial intelligence in our daily lives.

A Fusion of Genres

Edwards embarks on an ambitious endeavor, blending elements of science fiction classics with contemporary themes.

The result is a cinematic stew reminiscent of James Cameron’s “Aliens” tinged with shades of “Blade Runner” a dash of “Children of Men,” and a sprinkle of “Akira” This concoction, while intriguing, occasionally veers toward familiarity rather than forging its own distinct identity.

Edwards’ Cinematic Journey

The British filmmaker, known for his foray into doomsday scenarios with the BBC docudrama “End Day” in 2005, has traversed a path from indie gem “Monsters” (2010) to the expansive Star Wars universe with “Rogue One” (2016).

“The Creator” marks another bold step in his repertoire. The film introduces compelling concepts like the posthumous donation of personality traits, punctuated by impactful visuals, and raises pertinent ethical dilemmas. It stands as a commendable endeavor, even if it occasionally falters in execution.

Navigating Complexity

In his pursuit of depth, Edwards at times stumbles into the realm of convolution, leaving the audience grappling with intricacies rather than immersing in the narrative.

While adept at crafting visual spectacles and orchestrating soundscapes, the film occasionally falters in the art of storytelling.

In an era where classic storytelling is seemingly on the wane, some may argue that this approach is emblematic of the times.

AI: Savior or Peril?

“The Creator” leaves us with a question that resonates long after the credits roll: Will artificial intelligence be humanity’s salvation or its undoing? The film’s take on machine ethics leans toward simplicity, attributing AI emotions to programmed responses.

This portrayal encapsulates the film’s stance on the subject – a theme as enigmatic as the AI it grapples with.

“The Creator”

Director: Gareth Edwards.
Starring: John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Madeleine Yuna Boyles, Ken Watanabe.
Genre: Science fiction.
Release Year: 2023.
Duration: 133 minutes.
Premiere Date: September 29.


Top 5 Movies by Gareth Edwards:

1. “Monsters” (2010)

– A breakout hit, “Monsters” showcases Edwards’ talent for blending intimate human drama with towering sci-fi spectacles. Set in a world recovering from an alien invasion, it’s a poignant tale of love amidst chaos.

2. “Rogue One” (2016)

– Edwards helms this epic Star Wars installment, seamlessly integrating new characters with the beloved original trilogy. It’s a testament to his ability to navigate complex narratives on a grand scale.

3. “End Day” (2005)

– This BBC docudrama marked Edwards’ entry into the world of speculative storytelling. Presenting five doomsday scenarios, it set the stage for his later exploration of dystopian futures.

4. “The Creator” (2023)

– Edwards’ latest venture, “The Creator,” immerses audiences in a future fraught with AI warfare. While not without its challenges, it boldly tackles pertinent questions about the role of artificial intelligence in our lives.

5. Potential Future Project

– As Edwards continues to push the boundaries of speculative cinema, audiences eagerly anticipate his next cinematic endeavor, poised to be another thought-provoking addition to his illustrious filmography.

“The Creator” stands as a testament to Gareth Edwards’ unyielding vision and his penchant for exploring the frontiers of speculative cinema.

While it doesn’t shy away from the complexities of AI, it occasionally falters in navigating its intricate narrative.

As we peer into this cinematic crystal ball, we’re left with a stark question: Will artificial intelligence be our beacon of hope, or will it cast a shadow over humanity’s future? Only time will unveil the answer.

We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!

— By Cindy Porter

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Why Most Men Don’t Carry A Purse

Men do not carry purses; that much is clear. In the last century or two they have carried wallets, briefcases, satchels or backpacks, always associated with their activity or profession, but never a purse, a bag with straps or handles full of their personal effects. Perhaps that is why, nowadays, a man hanging a purse from his shoulder unleashes some kind of physical phenomenon, a whirlwind of comments, raised eyebrows and criticism that, depending on the protagonist’s profile, can become more or less violent.

The case of some celebrities is different (just take a look at examples like actor Jacob Elordi and his Bottega Veneta Cassette Bag, or singer Harry Styles with his Gucci Jackie); after all, they live in another plane of existence and can do whatever they want. But why can they carry a purse and regular people can’t? Why is it so difficult to find an ordinary citizen who has incorporated a handbag into their daily life? Don’t they need to carry Kleenex, glasses, a charger, eye drops or any personal items?

British singer Harry Styles with a Gucci bag.
British singer Harry Styles with a Gucci bag.

The fact is that men’s bags went out of fashion more than 300 years ago, right around the time when pants began to become tight and one of the most practical inventions in the history of clothing became a regular feature: pockets. Up until then, men did carry bags, as ornate and spectacular as their social position demanded. “From classical antiquity to the Renaissance, small bags were a common accessory for men and women to carry coins,” explains Rosa Moreno Laorga, trend analyst, fashion consultant, teacher of art and fashion and sociology of fashion at the European Institute of Design in Madrid, Spain and author of Hacer de lo cotidiano un ritual contemporáneo: Ensayo sobre el origen de las tendencias (Turning the Everyday into a Contemporary Ritual, An Essay on the Origin of Trends). In fact, for much of history men were the ones who carried the purse, as they were the ones who carried the money. Women did not need one because they did not venture too far from home.

An independent accessory

At the end of the 19th century, the Rational Dress Society was founded in London. Along with the burgeoning women’s suffrage movement, it argued that women’s independence could not be achieved in a tight-fitting, pocketless dress. True liberation required loose clothing that allowed freedom of movement and pockets to keep necessities close at hand — including a revolver, if necessary. The movement did not address the matter of purses, but fashion knew how to read the times and when at the end of the century women were allowed to travel alone, Louis Vuitton began to sell large bags for women, positioning their products as a sign of female independence. They had compartments and zippers and radiated luxury.

The 20th century gave an important boost to the purse as a feminine accessory. In February 1955, Gabrielle Chanel created the 2.55 (a name inspired by the date of its creation). The bag, merely 7.5 inches long, was made of black padded leather with three pockets inside, two at both ends and a smaller one in the middle to store lipstick. That was the first modern handbag, a pioneer that included a revolutionary detail: two chains made of flat metal links that freed up the hands. That model, which continues to be reinvented today in different finishes, colors and materials, is still the French firm’s best-seller.

Jacob Elordi.
Jacob Elordi.

In the 1980s, when women entered the workplace en masse, they adopted men’s clothing (blazers, suits, pants). That was not only a practical decision, but also a reflection of the time (there were hardly any models of female leadership to draw inspiration from, or any corporate uniform comparable to the men’s suit). Work-related films of that era clearly reflect this aesthetic: while Melanie Griffith carried a huge brown leather bag all the way to the office in Working Girl (she needed something to carry the high heels she would wear at the office instead of the Reebok sneakers she arrived in), none of Tom Cruise’s bosses in The Firm had to carry anything in their hands. They simply did not need it: they had assistants — all women — to carry things for them.

The image of a man in a suit with nothing in his hands became the picture of success. Will we have to wait for the balance of power to shift for good before they are the ones to adopt feminine clothing as a symbol of power? Will those feminine items remain imbued with a certain disempowerment until then? Ana Velasco Molpeceres, journalist, professor at the Complutense University of Madrid and historian specialized in communication and fashion, who recently published Ropa vieja: Historia de las prendas que vestimos (Old Clothes: The History of the Clothes We Wear) finds in history the answers to why men still do not use purses: “Since the 19th century, bags have been associated with women. Therefore, they are categorized as a feminine accessory. For women, carrying a bag simply means being dressed like a woman and being able to carry their things comfortably. For men, carrying a bag means adopting a garment that is ‘problematic,’ because it is gendered.”

A symbol of male liberation?

Today, the big luxury brands are determined to get men to carry bags. Could this accessory become a symbol of male liberation, overcoming some stereotypes about how a man is supposed to act, dress and present himself to the world? Many young men, men involved in fashion and men who do not dress according to gender conventions do use it, but it is a minority.

“Without a doubt, breaking the norm regarding what is traditionally feminine or masculine always entails a new vision and a clear evolution in terms of the perception of conventional roles. These changes help to get rid of many limiting, harmful stereotypes, and I think using fashion as a tool that helps us be free is always commendable. A purse can be a symbol that helps us break the molds instead of fitting into them; don’t forget that Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent were the first to break sexual dimorphism by migrating garments from the male to the female wardrobe, thus creating new ways of being in the world for the women who took part in this transformation,” reflects Moreno Laorga.

Fashion is considered a language within an evolving culture; perhaps that is why it has been championing genderless styles and garments for several years now. We see artists, music stars and models carrying handbags at events and red carpets. Still, the reactions we see on social media reveal that, in some particularly conservative sectors, a man walking around with a bag is still not widely accepted.

“Gender roles continue to have a key and important weight in the media, advertising, movies and more. At first, an image whose pieces are not as expected is always disruptive, in this case a handbag (which is traditionally associated with the female universe) in the hands of a straight, cis man, but time will normalize the use of this accessory, in case it becomes popular and enters the norm,” says Moreno Laorga.

David Beckham in Paris in 2022.
David Beckham in Paris in 2022.

“Soccer players and other men wear sling bags, because they are part of the culture of luxury and opulence. In their case, carrying a bag is masculine because, in their iconography, it is something expensive and branded. It is associated with power. Just like jewelry or exaggerated hairstyles and aesthetics [tattoos],” explains Velasco Molpeceres.

“Currently, the trend towards genderless fashion leads us to think that whether it is a woman or a man, the symbolic weight of this accessory will be associated with its appearance, the value of the materials, the design style… aspects related to the object itself, more than the gender of the person who wears it. A good example of this is Telfar, the New York fashion brand that has managed to elevate its unisex bags to the category of icons by using this discourse,” says this expert.

Handbags belong to a category of accessories that respond to a certain functionality; a functionality that, in certain cases (as in the example of JW Anderson’s viral clutch bags that look like pigeons, cushions and more), evolves to the point of becoming decoration, points out Moreno Laorga. “Perhaps in the future, the handbag will go from being a container of belongings to a container of identities; a non-verbal language tool that serves to express aspects about the person who carries it and how they decide to carry it,” she says. Maybe, in the future, a bag will not aggravate people so much.

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