Reason

Lanny Friedlander: The Eccentric Genius Who Created Reason Magazine

Reason was the anti-establishment brainchild of a brilliant but erratic 20-year-old student who lived with his mother and drove a delivery van for a living.

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Prestigious journals of opinion often emanate from prestige. Reason, on the other hand, was dreamed into existence by a 20-year-old Boston University student named Lanny Friedlander, who designed, wrote, mimeographed, and stapled together the magazine's first issues from his mother's house in Brighton, Massachusetts.

But don't let those humble beginnings fool you. Friedlander was a sharp writer, deep thinker, and remarkably avant-garde designer, influencing not only the nascent libertarian movement fermenting in Boston and New York, but also such future cutting-edge publications as Wired magazine.

Yet after exploding onto the world stage at such a tender age, Friedlander was gone from the pages of his own creation by the age of 25, drifting out of sight, then in and out of mental institutions. Only decades later did his own magazine track him down and reconnect; by then he had just months to live.

Reason's origin story is like no other comparative journal of opinion. It's time for Lanny Friedlander to get his proper due.

This video is based on the essay "Mad Genius," from our December 2018 issue.

Written and narrated by Matt Welch; Motion graphics by Lex Villena and Isaac Reese; Additional b-roll by Regan Taylor

Music credits: Freeway by Wonderlust; NOTHING by wurlishmouk; Mood Swings by ZURI; Feel It by Stoic; Ascend by Arcane

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  1. So let me predict the gist of the comments…

    “and he was still a better editor than the current crew!”

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    2. > “…who lived with his mother”

      Yes, it would resonate.

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    3. I’ll bite: The anti-establishment vibe long gone.

        1. Yup. There isn’t a Top Man cock that won’t be sucked in the current iteration.
          And, if one of the big boys does break from the establishment (Trump, Elon Musk), Reason writers will make them pay.

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    4. Ranking reason editors on a 1 to 10 scale with Virginia Postrel being an 11 and Matt Welch a zero how does Friedlander rank?

    5. I can’t say that he was a better editor than the current crew, not having read it until the 80’s, but it was better edited and written 30-40 years ago.

    6. I quit working at shoprite and now I make $65-85 per/h. How? I’m working online! My work didn’t dgxs exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new… after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier.

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  2. >>Friedlander was gone from the pages of his own creation by the age of 25

    has to be Bailey’s fault.

    1. Nope still trumps fault

      1. Fat, orange, time-traveling demon.

  3. Reason was the anti-establishment brainchild of a brilliant but erratic 20-year-old student who lived with his mother and drove a delivery van for a living.

    Never a truer libertarian exists.

    1. Welch should be commended for sending such a fat pitch over the plate like that.

    2. ‘Cept for no Hot Pockets. That OK, though. Pizza Rolls were a thing by then and more suited to a delivery driver.

      1. Pizza rolls are tricky to get just right. They tend to be either half-baked, or they explode to the point they are worthless.

        So, I guess they are kinda like libertarians.

        1. The trick is to let pizza rolls set a couple minutes or so after removing from the microwave. That allows them to get a little crunchy. Conventional baking avoids this pizza roll problem entirely.

          Now, as for libertarians, I would hope we would resist like Hell before anyone even thinks to put us in any oven.

  4. Lowell- Lanny R. Friedlander, age 63, a recent resident of Lowell, died Mar. 19th at Lowell General Hospital.
    Born in Boston on December 7, 1947, son of Herbert Friedlander of FL and the late Edith (Wolf) Friedlander.
    He served his country in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and was stationed aboard the USS Forrestal. He was the original founder of Reason Magazine which is still being published, and today has over 60,000 59,999 subscribers.

    Cancel my subscription!

    1. If you guys ran Reason who would you hire for regular articles? Not necessarily as a “Reason editor” but at least a contributor like Stossel or Rommelman.

      I’d try to bring on Tabbi and Greenwald articles for a left libertarian perspective and Glenn Reynolds for a center-right. None of the three are pure libertarian, but they’re light-years ahead of the current crop of establishment shills.
      (I’d also shitcan everyone in the current crew besides Emo Fonzie and Robby, but that’s a different question)

      1. I’d hire myself from 30 years ago, give myself a budget for research, and do some investigation.

      2. From the left perspective I’d hire Greenwald and Brendan O’Neill. Also Matt Taibbi would be a strong contender. In addition inwould Court Andrew Doyle. (Looking awfully British here) From the conservative/classical liberal side I would strongly Court Douglas Murray, I might also bring in Peter Hitchens to contribute.

        On the more traditional Anarchist libertarian side I would definitely try to bring in Michael Malice. To really troll the establishment and get the establishment and hate juices flowing I would solicit contributions from Jordan Peterson and Bettina Arndt. Bettina would replace ENB on sex issues.

        For the cigar-chomping rabble-rousing, scrappy constitutionalist legal opinion articles I would also Court Robert Barnes.

        That”s just my starting lineup.

        1. Oooh, I forgot about Malice. Hitchen’s isn’t very libertarian but he’s an amazing thinker and would bring some wonderfully unorthodox and challenging ideas.
          Peterson and Arndt would also be great.

          If were going down that path, an occasional shit-disturbing column to rustle our jimmies by the likes of Zizek or Russell Brand, would get everyone’s intellectual juices flowing.

          Oh, I forgot. Paglia would replace ENB and that hooker (I forget her name) on the sex beat.

  5. “When REASON speaks of poverty, racism, the draft, the war, studentpower, politics, and other vital issues, it shall be reasons, not slogans, it gives for conclusions . . . . Proof, not belligerent assertion. Logic, not legends. Coherance (sic), not contradictions. This is our promise: this is the reason for REASON.”

    —-Reason, Issue 1, Volume 1, May 1968

    https://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/07/us/07friedlander.html

    This is what should distinguish Reason staff and Reason commenters from other people elsewhere on the internet.

    Between yesterday and the day before, I had two lefty commenters that appeared to question the correctness of a logical fallacy. After I explained why their thinking was clearly wrong–and linked to the fallacy–they persisted with the fallacy. To be clear, they didn’t object that the fallacy didn’t apply to the case in question. They argued with the fallacy itself–as if correlation really does mean causation, etc.!

    Facts and logic have a libertarian and capitalist bias. The Objectivists were wrong to believe that it’s absolutely necessary to have a rational society before we can have more libertarian and capitalist society, but they were right to think that the more rational people are, the more libertarian and capitalist they become.

    Progressivism is generally indefensible from a factual, rational, and ethical standpoint, and when we insist on engaging with progressives on a factual, rational, and ethical basis, we force them to either be irrational, be unethical, abandon their progressive position and generally make fools of themselves.

    This really is the good reason for Reason, even if half the staff don’t believe that anymore.

    1. Systemic racism: You’re soaking in it.

    2. Facts and logic.

      For more than a year now you have been posting that “ facts and logic” necessitated support and votes for Donald Trump.

      All of this time and effort to try to siphon support and votes away from the libertarian movement.

      Your guy did not lose because of libertarians. You just bet on the wrong horse. Now we are stuck with the Dems. Great job.

      1. Logic is realizing the 1% voter base, that lost a big chunk of her own voters by using the term anti racist, was not worth the risk of a party who openly espouses shit like the GND winning and taking over.

        Youre not logical.

        1. I doubt Jo Jorgensen lost even 1,000 votes by supporting “anti-racist.”

          1. I know quite a few libertarians who have a strong line on anything CRT related.

            1. It’s 21st century nazism.
              If you voted for her despite her endorsement of it, well…

      2. “All of this time and effort to try to siphon support and votes away from the libertarian movement.”

        The libertarian movement and the Libertarian Party are two separate things.

        The Libertarian Party is valuable to the extent that it presents libertarian arguments to non-libertarians at a time when voters are thinking about politics, the way the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a valuable marketing tool for Macy’s because it presents people who are thinking about what to buy their family for Christmas with a good idea of where they might like to shop.

        If, on the other hand, the Libertarian Party becomes a weakness for authoritarian socialists to exploit, then it is not an asset for the libertarian movement. It’s a liability.

        Sometimes the Libertarian Party is a asset. Sometimes, it’s a liability. In no case should it ever be conflated with the libertarian movement. It may be one aspect of the libertarian movement, but it is not the libertarian movement itself. The libertarian movement is the idea that we should be free to make choices for ourselves and the people who believe in that.

        People can differ on how to achieve those ideas in reality, but I’m of the opinion that seizing power through the ballot box and inflicting the Libertarian Party platform on the unwilling is self-defeating and contradictory to the real purpose of the libertarian movement. I’m of the opinion that Libertopia happens when we persuade a critical mass of our fellow Americans to want more liberty. When the libertarian movement succeeds, there won’t be a need for a Libertarian Party anymore.

        1. It also isn’t libertarian to blindly support the party named after the moment thinking their authority trumps ones own vision of liberty. Yet poster after poster here, usually from deep blue states, uses that sole metric as to measure one’s libertarian beliefs, such as Echo above.

          The fact is that libertarians should not default for a strict adherence to a party, especially one that flirts with authoritarian beliefs such as CRT as Jo did.

          Libertarians should seek to maximize liberty. Last election the candidates weren’t even close. One was anti war, lower regulations, lower taxes while the other promised race mandates, GND adoption, heavy regulations and such.

          But Echo ignores this thinking the LP is who determines libertarian principles which is almost as anti libertarian as one can get.

          1. Your support is appreciated.

            1. If the GOPe dissenters called themselves the “New Libertarian Party” and kept trotting along with business as usual, would they be part of the libertarian movement according to your idiotic definition?

              I’ll be honest, that’s one of the dumbest arguments I’ve read here, and that’s up against sarcasmic and White Knight.

        2. Does today’s LP want to “inflict the LP Platform on the unwilling?”
          The LP of yore had tons of members who were willing to let the statists stew in their own juices: “You like Social Security, you can fund it, just keep me out.” “You want to go fight the Ugandan tyrant, be our guest; the laws against forming your own Lincoln Brigade is repealed. ” “You want to live in an authoritarian HOA-like community, knock yourself out; just don’t violate the rights of people who don’t want to join your commune.”

          1. I was referring to taking control of the government generally. We shouldn’t put the cart before the horse. Once we persuade enough voters to want freedom, the politicians we already have will start falling all over themselves trying to be more libertarian than each other.

            The politician who said, “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” changed his mind and became an integrationist–once the wind changed direction and that’s what the people wanted. This just isn’t a top down world. MLK and others led people to demand an end to segregation from below, and once that reached a critical mass, the politicians had to get on board or get out of the way.

            Jesus didn’t take over the Roman Empire through elections or conquest. He and his disciples persuaded one person at a time. Constantine felt compelled to convert because so much of his empire was already Christian. Marx didn’t start a political party. He persuaded people from the libertarian side of the spectrum, like Orwell, to the authoritarian side of the spectrum like Castro.

            Even as recently as the Obama administration, the president was genuinely concerned that people might think he wasn’t a Christian and how that might impact his ability to lead and be reelected. If we libertarians could be as influential as MLK, Jesus of Nazareth, or Marx, what a libertarian and capitalist world it would be.

            Persuading people is a pain in the ass and can be slow, but it has a couple of advantages. One of them is that because we’re correct about libertarianism and capitalism, we can be persuasive. Marx has had more influence than we’ve had on policy–despite the fact that he was wrong, wrong, wrong. We should be able to do better than that! The other advantage of persuading people is that it’s the only solution that will work over the long term. Inflicting solutions on the the unwilling with political power always ends in tears.

            1. No, that’s not the way I heard Constantine converted. There was a lot more intrigue to how the Roman Empire became Christian than you think. It wasn’t that popular a movement, then it got imposed from above.

              1. I don’t know what you heard, but by the time of Constantine, Christianity had spread throughout the empire to the point that persecuting it made about as much sense as fighting the drug war against marijuana does today in California. When the government finally decides to tolerate something like that, it’s often with the understanding that the state, more or less, will be in charge of it. Christianity certainly kept spreading to the point that even if Constantine hadn’t become Christian for political reasons, later leaders would have become Christians for those reasons. In fact, as recently as Barack Obama, our presidents have remained concerned about the political implications of people thinking the president isn’t really a Christian.

                And the point remains that Jesus of Nazareth didn’t seize power through elections or conquest and inflict Christianity on the Roman Empire using the coercive power of government. Rather, a critical mass of people were persuaded to become Christian, and at some point, the government found their influence impossible to ignore.

                This is also the way things like the end of segregation were initiated and even toleration for LGBT. Trying to dictate terms to the market always ends in tears, and the market of ideas is no exception. Once a critical mass of average Americans decided segregation was unacceptable, its days were numbered–no matter what the politicians wanted. When the public started embracing popular figures like David Bowie, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, and Boy George, the days of LGBT being confined to the closet were numbered, as well.

                Our path to influence isn’t by seizing the reigns of power and driving the public like a rented mule. Our path to influence is in persuading the average American to want what we want. This is one of the reasons why elitism is the self-defeating enemy of libertarianism. It’s practically impossible to persuade average people when we’re showing them nothing but contempt.

                And the things we need to persuade average Americans of should be easy sells. We can tell them that markets are people making choices and that even stupid people make better choices for themselves within the context of markets than experts can make on their behalf. We can tell them that markets are more representative of what average people want than representative democracy because average people can represent themselves and their own unique blend of qualitative preferences in a market.

                If you want to initiate lasting change, it comes from the bottom up. And, yeah, that’s the way Christianity came to dominate the Roman Empire.

                1. Ken,
                  That was very well written!
                  I agree with every word you said.

              2. “There was a lot more intrigue to how the Roman Empire became Christian than you think. It wasn’t that popular a movement”

                Lol, somebodies been reading way to much Patheos.

            2. “Once we persuade enough voters to want freedom, the politicians we already have will start falling all over themselves trying to be more libertarian than each other.”

              No, once in office they’ll pretend to be libertarian while doing all they can to preserve and extend their power without too many voters noticing. Look at all the Republican office-holders that have been mouthing “small government” over the last 40 years, while supporting the war on some drugs and the militarized police that requires, and somehow finding it impossible to prune regulations, shut down or even cut back government agencies, or to cut the budget.

        3. Well done, as always. Excellent. Frankly, almost any single one of your posts, on any given day, contains more logic and libertarian reasoning than an entire month’s worth of articles here at Reason.

          Keep it up.

          Other than coming here for the troll bashing and shit posting, I come here to read your comments. Need more libertarians like you; we really do.

      3. Logic is realizing foindations and construction of a building is more important than its facade. You’d rather support a benevolent dictator than an asshole increasing freedoms.

        Youre not logical.

      4. “siphon support and votes away from the libertarian movement”

        F-U-C-K Y-O-U

        You don’t seem to realize that libertarianism is a social and political philosophy. It IS NOT the American Libertarian Party, nor is supporting it necessary.

        You can be a Chinese or Peruvian and be libertarian, and you can identify left or right and be libertarian. It has absolutely nothing to do with your fucking party.
        In fact after Johnson, JoJo and Bill Weld, your party has little to do with libertarianism outside of its name.

    3. “Between yesterday and the day before, I had two lefty commenters that appeared to question the correctness of a logical fallacy. After I explained why their thinking was clearly wrong–and linked to the fallacy–they persisted with the fallacy.”

      Your obsession with the logical fallacy made you miss the forest for the trees. You do that a lot.

      1. Your obsession with ignoring logic and fact, or understanding why the fallacies are, in fact, fallacious, is one of the major reasons your comments and ideas receive such biting criticism here.

        You could make a bunch of *wrong* (incorrect, not fully informed, other miscellaneous reasons) arguments without actually performing bad logic in arriving at your conclusions, but you do not bother to suss out why you want to argue what you feel like agreeing with.

        One can not by reason argue another out of a position which they did not reason themselves into.

        1. And Ken went off on obsessing about some logical fallacy, but lost track that he was speculating about an unlikely scenario that he has no evidence for. When called on it, he couldn’t see past “but I was just using logic!”

          1. Here we go again…

            White Knight can’t rebut the meat of Ken’s argument so he tries to redirect the conversation and then pettifog.

            1. He’s a real lying piece of shit, isn’t he?

          2. If I’d just told people that you persist in arguing with a fallacy that’s thousands of years old, even after it was explained and linked for you, they might not have believed me.

            https://reason.com/2021/03/10/cambridge-will-recognize-polyamorous-partnerships-and-other-domestic-arrangements-with-more-than-2-adults/#comment-8800946

            Because you don’t understand what other people are saying when they’re pointing out that your logic is obviously flawed, doesn’t mean they’ve lost track of anything.

            That you want to relive this rather than forget it as an embarrassing episode for you is telling. Do you imagine that the fallacy of composition will change or go away because you disagree with it?

            1. You can tell when White Excrement can’t put forth an actual argument when he starts engaging in that sort of sealioning.

              1. I had to look that up. It’s spot on. Jeffy and some of the others are just as bad.

    4. Facts and logic have a libertarian and capitalist bias. The Objectivists were wrong to believe that it’s absolutely necessary to have a rational society before we can have more libertarian and capitalist society, but they were right to think that the more rational people are, the more libertarian and capitalist they become.

      And yet literally everyone in the atheist, freethinker, and rationalist movements are not just not libertarians, but hardcore left wing bombthrowers. And the more educated one becomes, the less likely they are to be a libertarian or a capitalist. Other than the trust fund Koch bros, of which you’re down to just one, there are literally no businessmen – capitalists! – who agree with you. Talk about living in a fucking alternate reality.

      1. “And the more educated one becomes, the less likely they are to be a libertarian or a capitalist.

        Are you suggesting that rationality and obtaining degrees are the same thing? If people become more susceptible to appeal to authority fallacies, for instance, as they gain the accouterments of authority by way of their degrees, that does not mean they’re becoming more rational.

        Did you know that markets make people behave as if they possessed knowledge they could not possess, or that S&P 500 index funds routinely outperform the brightest and best motivated stock pickers our society has to offer? Birdbrained geese flew in v-formation for thousands of years before mankind knew anything about aerodynamics, and if those geese had confined themselves to only doing what the experts understood and allowed, they would have died out as a species long ago.

        There are rational atheists out there, but those that advocate central planning and progressive economic policies are behaving as if they’re dumber than creationists. It’s far more rational to assume that the universe is so big and complicated that it must have been designed by an omniscient mind than it is to believe that some of our politicians, bureaucrats, and experts are so well “educated” that they possess the Godlike powers necessary to make choices for each of us better than we can make for ourselves by participating in markets.

        There may not be anyone in our society more irrational than an “educated” person who imagines his degrees give him a legitimately authoritative basis to make qualitative judgments for other people, and the “uneducated” among us who scoff at letting more educated people make their qualitative judgments for them are quite rational to do so.

        Doesn’t the question of whether we should sacrifice our standard of living for the environment and future generations depend on qualitative criteria that defies the authority of experts? Why should we care more about future generations than ourselves? There are rational arguments to make for that, but there are rational arguments against it, too. The idea that people can become so well educated that they can make better choices for you about your quality of life than you can for yourself is absurd, however, and if people with degrees become more susceptible to believing that irrational hogwash as they obtain more degrees, that doesn’t make the hogwash rational.

      2. This is true. Seems it’s practically impossible to stay for long in both the anti-theist and anti-authoritarian movements at the same time. I was briefly, but see that now the overwhelming majority of militant atheists and rationalists are scientific progressives or Marxists.

        However, a combination that does seem to be fairly stable is the anti-clerical and libertarian. Specifically there are radical libertarians who are pagans and quite opposed to the Catholic and Islamic clerisy, and almost as vehemently anti-Protestant and anti-Jewish clerisy. Not so hostile to non-Noachide religions, though, and definitely not opposed to magick.

    5. I agree with you, but proglodytes argue from emotion, not logic. If you want to change hearts and minds, you have to reach both.

      1. We don’t need to get all of them. We just need to get a critical mass.

        “Progressivism is generally indefensible from a factual, rational, and ethical standpoint, and when we insist on engaging with progressives on a factual, rational, and ethical basis, we force them to either be irrational, be unethical, [or] abandon their progressive position.”

        —-Ken Shultz

        And when they come after people’s emotions, we can appeal to people’s ethics. Forcing people to do things against their will is the definition of unethical. That’s why rape is a crime. That’s why they lose every time they argue that shooting an unarmed protester is the right thing do if she’s trespassing on public property. That’s why Tony loses every time he argues that because our rights only exist if the government says so, Jews didn’t have a right to their lives during the holocaust. Forcing them to be emotional ninnies is winning. Responding by attacking their ethics won’t win over every last American, but we don’t need to win all of them. Just a critical mass.

  6. Reason’s story is quite inspiring indeed. From an anti-establishment magazine created by a regular guy with a blue-collar job, to a billionaire-funded foundation whose employees overwhelmingly endorsed Joe Biden — the most establishment Presidential candidate ever.

    #ICallThatProgress

    1. lol closest you’ve ever come to taking the words out of my mouth.

    2. Friedlander sounds to me like a weirdo outsider who would have bristled at being called a “regular guy”.

      And what the fuck do you want people to vote for when they’re given more or less one other choice, and the other choice is surpassingly bad.

      1. The other choice was the most libertarian president that the US has had since Coolidge, and was only “bad” because he tweeted mean things about Top Men.

        It was a choice between the political world’s John Belushi and the decrepit meatpuppet of Woke Cthulhu.

        1. >It was a choice between the political world’s John Belushi and the decrepit meatpuppet of Woke Cthulhu.

          I’m stealing that.

  7. If he was still alive, he would be turning in his grave.

    1. Like many Biden voters, I’m sure.

      1. Ba-dum-tss

  8. Look where you are today and wonder.

  9. I never knew the founder of Reason was a Brighton boy, which is the neighborhood in Boston between the Town of Brookline and the Cities of Cambridge and Newton. It’s truly an urban village, predominantly working-class Irish and Jewish families, with a significant percentage of college kids from BU and BC, when I was a growing up in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. Now it’s mostly college students and young professionals and has a more trendy vibe.

  10. I do miss him though I never knew him until reading the Archives of Reason. This magazine was gumshoe investigative, gonzo journalist, and fighting radical in it’s past. Their work was so good, it’s stories got coverage on CBS’ 60 Minutes without cocktail parties of fruit sushi with members of the JournoList. Oh! To have a time-travelling Hoopty to go back to those times and bring back the writers and staff!

  11. Reason went full TDS over Trump and supported Biden. Dictator Biden in 50 days makes Trump look like the king of freedom. Yet Reason sugar coats Biden where it rabid dogged Trump. Reason used to be posted on news aggregator “librarian news dot org”, but was removed for “going full communist” and replaced with NewsMax. I have been reading and commenting on Reason for years, and it is frustrating and depressing to see their total lose of libertarian principles in favor or woke socialism

    1. You can make a case for Reason having gone TDS.

      They never supported Biden; that is just the butthurt perception of the Trump fan boys who congregate here in the commentariat.

      1. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Reason supported Biden by being such strident anti-Trump bots. That’s how TDS works.

      2. It’s comments like this that kick White Knight’s narrative about not being a DNC shill in the ass.

      3. I am a libertarian and supported neither candidate, nor voted for neither so I look at this from a pretty neutral position. Reason has changed their is no doubt and no longer supports libertarian views. The fact they took them off the news aggregator speaks volumes. They support woke liberalism, which is not libertarian. You can see the difference in the words in phrases used, praising Biden and demeaning Trump. Even know they are still treating Biden with kid gloves. This is no longer a librarian site, it is filled with conservatives, liberals and spam. It is a disgrace to what the founder wanted.

        1. They support the premise that AGW is real also.

      4. I am a libertarian and supported neither candidate, nor voted for neither so I look at this from a pretty neutral position. Reason has changed their is no doubt and no longer supports libertarian views. The fact they took them off the news aggregator speaks volumes. They support woke liberalism, which is not libertarian. You can see the difference in the words in phrases used, praising Biden and demeaning Trump. Even now they are still treating Biden with kid gloves. This is no longer a librarian site, it is filled with conservatives, liberals and spam. It is a disgrace to what the founder wanted.

  12. Thank you, Matt!

    1. Well that’s a first.

  13. We are oddly lucky that some of those allotted very little time or like Freidlander very little useful time get their great things done before their time runs out.

  14. I believe that everyone has seen his work and has been read a lot
    https://www.ku-168.net

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