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Author Topic: Killer Openings
eslaine
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So many authors try to find that perfect opening sentence, the one that pulls your eyes and brain to the page--and then won't let go.

As most of you know, this is harder than it may seem in our wild imaginings. (For instance, I thought of calling this thread Killer Pick-Up Lines , but the thread would have gotten so off-track that it's probably a bad idea to even add that thought to your already suggestive minds!) [Big Grin]

Here's one:
quote:
"It wouldn't really be graverobbing," Nicolin was explaining.
Kim Stanley Robinson, The Wild Shore

My favorite novel (if you already didn't know).

But as good as that is here is my favorite opening line (from a master):
quote:
He loved to burn.
Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451

So what's your favorite killer opener?
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Kasie H
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Shakespeare's Macbeth:

quote:
Thunder and lightning. Enter three Witches

First Witch
When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Second Witch
When the hurlyburly's done,
When the battle's lost and won.

Third Witch
That will be ere the set of sun.

Not sure why, but the opening scene of Macbeth always stuck with me. It's creepy.
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Bokonon
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HP Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu:

quote:
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.


[ July 29, 2003, 09:28 AM: Message edited by: Bokonon ]

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Annie
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Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time:
quote:
It was a dark and stormy night.
How'd she get away with that?
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Maethoriell
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quote:
The book you are holding in your hands is extremely dangerous. If the wrong people see you with this objectional autobiography, the results could be disastrous. Please make use of this book's reversible jacket immediately. Disguising this book, and yourself if neccessary, may be your only hope.
Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography

Ok, maybe it's not the first line of the plot but the flaps of the covers get my attention first. I regret reading this book though.

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Bob_Scopatz
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quote:
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.
Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
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Jeffrey Getzin
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quote:

A woman I was introduced to at a dinner party told me how she buried the wrong dead cat. This doesn't mean she was looking for the right dead cat. She wasn't hoping for a dead cat at all. But seeing a dead cat that looked exactly like hers, one that was exactly the same color and had precisely the same markings as her cat, she picked up the dead cat from the side of the road near her home and cried, knowing she'd never get to see her cat play again, or hold it. And after she found a spot for a funeral and dug up some damp earth, putting her cat down into the ground and crying again, she went very sadly home where no one could soothe her or end her pain. That's when she saw her cat sitting on the windowsill in the living room, staring at her disinterestedly, the way cats do.

The woman smiled during that part of the story.

"You mean your cat was alive all along, and you buried someone else's cat?" another woman at the party said.

She smiled and nodded her head.

"At least you buried a dead one. Some people aren't that discriminating," I said.

"Yes," the woman said.

- Begin to Exit Here: A Novel of the Wayward Press by John Welter
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T. Analog Kid
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quote:
It's a pain in the ass waiting around for someone to kill you.
-Roger Zelazny, Trumps of Doom
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Belle
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Jeff!

*tackle hug*

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Eaquae Legit
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"Once upon a time there was Discworld. There is still an adequate supply."

-Science of the Discworld, Terry Pratchett (with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen)

[ July 29, 2003, 10:51 AM: Message edited by: Eaquae Legit ]

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advice for robots
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"Don't panic."

Isn't that how the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy begins?

No way—Jeff?

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T. Analog Kid
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"Don't Panic" is inscrbed in large friendly letters on the cover.

The beginning, if I recall, is
quote:
far out in the backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy, there lies a small, unregarded, yellow star...
may be off a bit, but that's the basic idea...

Or if you mean the fictional book, it starts something like
quote:
Space is big. Really big. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the street to the chemist's, but that's peanuts to space! listen!...

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Vána
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Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler begins this way:

quote:
You are about to being reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to clost the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, "No, I don't want to wtach TV!" Raise your voice--they won't hear you otherwise--"I'm reading! I don't want to be disturbed!" Maybe they haven't heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: "I'm beginning to read Italo Calvino's new novel!" Or if you prefer, don't say anything; just hope they'll leave you alone.
Find the most comfortable position: seated, stretched out, curled up, or lying flat. Flat on your back, on your side, on your stomach. In an easy chair, on the sofa, in the rocker, the deck chair, on the hassock. In the hammok, if you have a hammock. On top of your bed, of course, or in the bed. You can even stand on your hands, head down, in the yoga position. With the book upside down, naturally.

It goes on - oh, man. It's just such an intriguing way to begin a novel. The whole thing is fascinating - go read it! I need to read it agian. It's just so much fun!
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Zalmoxis
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More good openings. Although most of them don't go beyond the first line.
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saxon75
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quote:
Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky-tonks, restaurants and whore-houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flop-houses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, "whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches," by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peep-hole he might have said: "Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men," and he would have meant the same thing.
-Cannery Row, John Steinbeck.
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saxon75
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Not sure what you consider the actual beginning of this story, but:
quote:
All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true. One guy I knew really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that wasn't his. Another guy I knew really did threaten to have his personal enemies killed by hired gunmen after the war. And so on. I've changed all the names.
quote:
Listen:

Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.

-Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut.

The second one is what starts the actual story, and is the kind of line that makes you want to know more.

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saxon75
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quote:
It is possible I already had some presentiment of my future. The locked and rusted gate that stood before us, with wisps of river fog threading its spikes like the mountain paths, remains in my mind now as the symbol of my exile. That is why I have begun this account of it with the aftermath of our swim, in which I, the torturer's apprentice Severian, had so nearly drowned.
-Shadow of the Torturer, Gene Wolfe.
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Bob_Scopatz
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Jeff!!!!

Welcome back!!!!

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saxon75
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quote:
Garp's mother, Jenny Fields, was arrested in Boston in 1942 for wounding a man in a movie theater.
-The World According to Garp, John Irving.
quote:
I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.
-A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving.
quote:
The summer my father bought the bear, none of us was born—we weren't even conceived: not Frank, the oldest; not Franny, the loudest; not me, the next; and not the youngest of us, Lilly and Egg.
-The Hotel New Hampshire, John Irving.
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Chris Bridges
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"In ten years, the penis will be obsolete!"

Steel Beach, John Varley (from memory, may not be dead on)

Jeff! Welcome back!

[ July 29, 2003, 02:31 PM: Message edited by: Chris Bridges ]

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eslaine
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Ooh! Now there's some killer lines! Thanks!

Zalmoxis--I figured there had to be something like it in the past. Thanks for the link!

Saxon_75--Thanks for the Steinbeck and Vonnegut! If I read Breakfast of Champions again today, I would think in Vonnegut all week! (Imagine That!) [Smile]

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saxon75
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I wish we could do a killer closing lines thread, but there are problems with that idea. For one thing, it would ruin the ending for anyone who hadn't read it and, also, endings are harder to find online than beginnings (and I don't keep a library in my head or office).
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eslaine
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Good points.

How about a killer character thread?

A fake killer openings thread? (maybe I should just keep my mouth shut!) [Eek!]

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Fitz
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quote:
She came out of the store just in time to see her young son playing on the sidewalk directly in the path of the gray, gaunt man who stode down the center of the walk like a mechanical derelict. For an instant, her heart quailed. Then she jumped forward, gripped her son by the arm, snatched him out of harm's way.
Lord Foul's Bane , Stephen R. Donaldson
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The Silverblue Sun
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Howard Roark laughed.
_______________________________

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.

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Raia
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Something like:

"Kidnapping children generally isn't a very good idea. But sometimes, it's just got to be done."

Not exact words, but close enough. Island of the Aunts , by Eva Ibbotson

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Morbo
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"In five years, the penis will be obsolete, said the sales man." --Steel Beach
Close. What an ambitious novel for Varley, he just gets better every novel.
I like his chapter headings.The first part's headings are headline's, with one Rev. Jack Chick himself could have writen:
"Scientists Baffled! The truth about dinosaurs they don't want you to know!"

[ July 30, 2003, 12:20 PM: Message edited by: Morbo ]

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FlyingCow
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Thor, you took mine, damn you. (it helps that my last name is Rourke... [Big Grin] )

Some other favorites:

"Once upon a time, there was a Martian named Valentine Michael Smith."

- Stranger in a Strange Land

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."

- The Hobbit.

"It was a nice day. All of the days had been nice. There had been rather more than seven of them so far, and rain hadn't been invented yet. But clouds massing east of Eden suggested that the first thunderstorm was on its way, and it was going to be a big one."

- Good Omens

"The sky above the port was the color of television tuned to a dead channel."

- Neuromancer

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saxon75
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It's dot com!
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Toretha
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There once was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb and he almost deserved it

-Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Raia! I'm SO glad to see someone else reads Eva Ibbotson! I love her!~

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Morbo
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For a great sci-fi humor opening, Neal Stepanson's Snow Crash:
"The Deliverator belongs to an elite order, a hallowed subcategory. He's got esprit up to here. Right now, he is preparing to carry out his third mission of the night. His uniform is black as activated charcoal, filtering the very light out of the air. A bullet will bounce off its arachnofiber weave like a wren hitting a patio door, but excess perspiration wafts through it like a breeze through a freshly napalmed forest. Where his body has bony extremities, the suit has sintered armorgel: feels like gritty jello, protects like a stack of telephone books."
The Deliverator is the main charactor working a temp job delivering pizzas for a Mafia owned chain.
I have read the first two short chapters over and over again they're so funny. [Big Grin] [Big Grin]

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eslaine
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Thanks Morbo! I'd been meaning to check that one out! [Cool]
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Raia
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quote:
Raia! I'm SO glad to see someone else reads Eva Ibbotson! I love her!~
[Smile] Me too... they're so much fun!!

P.S. You read Narnia, so I guess we're even [Wink]

That's awesome!!

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Morbo
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Vernor Vinge has a more serious sci-fi novel --Deepness in the Sky:
"The manhunt extended across more than 100 light years and 8 centuries. It had always been a secret search, unacknowledged even among some of the participants. In the early years, it had simply been encrypted queries hidden in radio broadcasts. Decades and centuries passed. There are clues, interviews with The Man's fellow travelers, pointers in a half dozen contradictory directions:The Man was alone now and heading still farther away; The Man had died before the search had even begun; The man had a war fleet and was coming back upon them."
The Man is Pham Nuwen, barbarian, scoundrel, hero, savior of an entire planetary system and formerly Commodore of huge interstellar slower-than-light trading fleets, searched for by friends, family and enemies (many of them kinfolk.)
Vinge proved he could write about advanced AI and distributed computing in Marooned in Realtime and the Peace Wars, and Deepness continues his run of exellent sci-fi. [Big Grin]

[ July 30, 2003, 04:23 AM: Message edited by: Morbo ]

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eslaine
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Reading All Tomorrow's Parties right now, I guess I need to pick up some Vinge too!
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littlemissattitude
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Saxon... Garp and Hotel New Hampshire were both such strange books...I loved both of them.
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Annie
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Vana - I adore Calvino!
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Jenny Gardener
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I still fall for "Once upon a time..."

Every darn time!

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mackillian
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How 'bout this:
quote:
Key West is the warm breath of summer’s wind on my memory. A separate lifetime shoved into six months, fighting and smiling wrapped up in sun.

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eslaine
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Is that the new Callahan Book? (jealosy!)
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Kasie H
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mack,

That definitely deserves a place on this list.

[Smile]

You write beautifully.

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saxon75
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lma, have you read Owen Meany? That's my favorite of his books. In fact, it's one of my favorite books, period.
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Fitz
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quote:
The courier presses his forehead against layers of glass, argon, high-impact plastic. He watches a gunship traverse the city's middle distance like a hunting wasp, death slung beneath its thorax in a smooth black pod.
Virtual Light . I noticed a few mentions of Gibson books in the last few days, on various threads.
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saxon75
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quote:
I was the last to know what was happening to me. Or at least I was the last to know that I knew.
-Treason, Orson Scott Card

quote:
Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn't. Anyhow, here he is at the bottom, and ready to be introduced to you. Winnie-the-pooh.
-Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne

quote:
When you work in the glove department at Neiman's, you are selling things that nobody buys anymore. These gloves aren't like the hard-working ones sold by L.L. Bean; these are so fine that a lady wearing them can still pick up a straight pin. The glove department is adjacent to the couture department and is really there for show. So a lot of Mirabelle's day is spent leaning against the glass case with one leg cocked behind her and her arms splayed outward, resting on her palms against the countertop.
-Shopgirl, Steve Martin

quote:
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
-One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
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Deirdre
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Mmmm...Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He's the best example I can think of right now of a writer whose first lines make me want to scan the room for some corner where I can read the whole book. Which is funny, since I never actually finished any of his novels. But not because I didn't want to.

Another good one, from Love in the Time of Cholera:
quote:
It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.
I love it. It's so evocative and sinister.
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Zalmoxis
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Since we're doing GGM. Here's the opening sentence to Autumn of the Patriarch:

quote:
Over the weekend the vultures got into the presidential palace by pecking through the screens on the balcony windows and the flapping of their wings stirred up the stagnant time inside, and at dawn on Monday the city awoke out of its lethargy of centuries with the warm, soft breeze of a great man dead and rotting grandeur.

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docmagik
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William Goldman's Magic
quote:
Trust me for a while.
Robert Silverberg's "Enter A Soldier. Later, Enter Another"
quote:
It might be heaven. Certainly it wasn't Spain, and he doubted it could be Peru.
John Varley's "Just Another Perfect Day"
quote:
Don't Worry.

Everything is under control.


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Erik Blackheart
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Bumpin' this thread fer the benefit of upstart newbies! Yarrr!
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FungusHearted Pete
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quote:
And so we stand together -- the human race, plus the members of "Limp Bizkit" -- poised on the brink of the year 2000.
Dave Barry in The Millennium in Review
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eslaine
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Bump for newbies.
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