Tag Archives: David Bowie

Seattle: The Emerald City

26 Sep

“I used to hate playing Seattle shows.” – Chris Cornell

This was the first thing I saw as the captain told us we were beginning our descent to SeaTac International Airport.

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It had been a harrowing flight. Long. Hot (especially in that lymphodema sleeve). And full of turbulence. I hate turbulence on any flight but each bump on this plane called back the man in line behind me at the Delta counter in JFK, just hours before, that collapsed and had a massive seizure. There’s really no way for me to properly talk about the effect this had on me or the reactions of people nearby or the experience for this man so I’m just going to leave it at that.

When we finally landed in Seattle and existed the airport, there was Mt. Rainer, and the moon, just cutting up the sky together. During our duration, it never looked nearly as clear or as majestic. I grew up in Hudson Valley. I thought we had mountains. We did not have mountains. Not like this.

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It was late and as New Yorkers felt even later by the time we were able to grab some noodles and collapse into bed.

We had breakfast the next morning at the Five Points Cafe5points

Originally opened in 1929 it is the oldest bar in Belltown and the longest running family owned eatery in Seattle. It also serves a plate of hash browns bigger than my head. It was fantastic. (Except on the second visit at the end of the trip when my waiter who is clearly a MONSTER served me English Breakfast when I clearly asked for Earl Grey because as we all know, English Breakfast tastes like it was run through my grandmothers socks. I will never forgive nor forget this monster.)

One of the most touristy but still genuinely awesome places in Seattle is Pike’s Market.

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If you’re wondering why this sounds familiar it’s because this is where they throw the fish around. You’ve seen the videos. Yes, I watched them throw the fish. I don’t have any photos because there were a million and people and it was hard to catch (Ha!) but also because ew, fish.

Ew.

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They also sell these huge bouquets of flowers crazy cheap. I’m talking $10 cheap. If I lived there I would Mrs. Dalloway that shit every single day. I mean look at these:

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Pike Market was sneakily much bigger than I expected. There are LEVELS within LEVELS. They have a magic shop in this place. I’m not kidding. I haven’t seen trick gum for sale anywhere in decades.

Behind Pike Market is the gum wall. But Ally, you ask, what’s a gum wall?

THIS IS A GUM WALL:

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and to Gum Wall’s defense it should actually be called a Gum Alleyway because it just keeps on going

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Then, being that we were in Seattle we did exactly what you think we’d do. We went to find the apartment building from Singles and Kurt Cobain’s house.

Don’t judge me!

The building from Singles is located in a super adorable area called Capital Hill. While adorable this is a misnomer. It should be called “Capital Mountain” or “Capital You Need A Tow Rope To Get Up This Bitch” or maybe “Capital You’re Dead Now”

Because this was seriously steep shit. I’m talking 18% grade steep. Some of them just turn INTO STEPS. Like, screw your car, it’s mountain climbing time!

For instance let’s look at this image I found online. This is Denny Way which we talked. Do you see the parts where it levels off and then it’s all mountain again? It’s like a giants staircase!

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I walked UP that. And it was really hot too. Figures I wind up in Seattle when they’re in the 90’s.

Anyway, we found the Singles apartment. Being a 90’s girl this movie was on a constant rotation with Reality Bites. I could probably act it out.

The apartments are located at 1820 E. Thomas Street and yes (minus the fountain which they added) it looks exactly the same.

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“I was just no where NEAR your neighborhood”

Then we headed back down to Lake Washington to find where Cobain lived…and well, died. It felt strange. I’m not going to lie. I’ve found lots of artists homes and graves and what not over my traveling years but I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place that was so tragic and so important in my own life.

The walk out there is gorgeous. The lake is gorgeous. To get to Kurt’s road you go down little winding wooden steps.

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You wouldn’t even know you were only a few miles from where Pearl Jam used to rehearse back in Belltown

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And I couldn’t help but wonder as we crested the hill that was Viretta Park that is right along the property if maybe that was part of the problem. All I know is that the Denny-Blaine neighborhood looked alot different than Belltown or Capital Hill.

In Viretta Park is a makeshift memorial – a bench that has been graffittied. When we were there someone had left flowers.

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From there you can see just the top of the house. It was sad and solemn and I felt a bit like maybe I shouldn’t have come.

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To offset that feeling, we headed up to Fremont (via bus cause you can’t walk and also because at this point I COULDN’T walk. Damn hills. I’m so old).

Fremont is a very cool neighborhood full of record stores and cool restaurants but more so it’s got this:

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This is the Fremont Troll and in case you couldn’t tell, he lives under the bridge. He’s big.

Like climb on him big

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(Dear god, we have sunburns in September in Seattle because of global warming.)

Down the road is a giant statue of Lenin with a red hand. Interpret that as you will

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But as I was saying we came over to Fremont for something else too. Something Kurt.

This is Reciprocal Recording Studios. reciprocal

This little tiny shack has quite a history. A band called Ted Ed Fred wanted to record here because Soundgarden recorded Screaming Life. Ted Ed Fred would soon change their name to Nirvana. In this little space they recorded their first demo on January 23, 1988. They had no drummer at the time, just Cobain and Novoselic so they borrowed the drummer from the Melvins. Jack Endino recorded and mixed ten songs. Two would go on to be on Bleach. Endino kept a copy which he brought to SubPop which landed Nirvana their first record deal.

I stood in front of the door thinking how excited they must have been when it was all starting out. I tried to make that memory burn brighter than that bench or that dusty park or that peaked roof of that mansion.

Just down the road from Fremont is the Gas Works Park

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It’s really cool with an incredible view:

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And we stopped into Linda’s a couple of times and had some pints of cider. This was the last place Kurt was seen alive.

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And yes of COURSE we did the Space Needle. Which I should get a few snaps for because this girl is afraid of heights. You should have seen me walking across the George Washington Bridge one time. I nearly made my peace with having to live in Jersey forever.

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It’s so tall

But I was cool about it.

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My hands down favorite thing we did in Seattle was easily the Museum of Pop Culture

This place was incredible. First off every exhibit was cool. Every. Single. One.

There was a fantasy one that had…..

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Dorothy’s dress

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Yeah that’s the witch’s hat

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Oh just Princess Buttercup and Westley and Indigo’s gear No biggie.

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What’s that you say? Oh yes that IS all the weapons from Lord of the Rings.

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Susan Pevensie’s bow and arrow. I’m screaming!

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The White Witch’s ice crown

And then there was the Bowie by Mick Rock exhibit

Mick was Bowies photographer from 1972-1973 and he captured some of the most iconic images from the Ziggy Stardust years. He told his manager that Mick seems him as he sees himself.

Mick also took these:

Hang on cause we’re JUST getting started with this museum.

Then they had the Jim Henson Experience. I had recently been to the Museum of Moving Image and seen their now permanent Henson exhibit which I loved but I was delighted to learn that many of my favorites were currently at MoPOP.

They even let you make a little video of you working as a puppeteer. I forgot to make my dude turn to the other camera so that’s why there are blank spaces! All the same, if this librarianship thing doesn’t work out I think I might have some options.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/235594692″>seattle 068</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user50279965″>ally malinenko</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Okay I just re-watched that and it was pretty terrible. I take it back. I have no future in puppeteer.

And some from his movies too!

And Jareth’s outfit and Sarah’s dress from the ballroom scene in Labyrinth

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Then, because we’re still not done with MoPOP they had a Star Trek exhibit!

and a science fiction one, which according to the website had Doctor Who props. So I go in figuring they’ll be small stuff, like maybe K9 but no. There was this:

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CYBERMAN!

And this:

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Yes they had an actual Dalek and I just about lost my mind.

They also had Mork’s outfit, a jawa, the ghostbuster’s pack and hoverboards from Back to the Future!

We also went down to the International District which is home to the Uwajimaya Market which served the best Udon chicken soup of my life. I burned every layer off my tongue and it was worth it. The whole area is really pretty.

There was also a lot of information about Japanese Seattle residents and the internment camps in 1942. 127,00 people were imprisoned, more than half of whom were American born citizens.IMG_2608[1]

And just like that the week was up and we were heading home, home, home.

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Thanks for a lovely time, Seattle. I’m sure I’ll be back.

Peace, Love and Starbursts,

Ally

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2016: The Year Everyone Died

24 Feb

And just like that, February is almost over.

I finally stumbled out of the David Bowie mourning phase. In the meantime, every creative person in the world seems to be dropping like flies. First Bowie, then Alan Rickman, Glen Fry, George Gaynes, Dan Haggerty, Clarence “Blowfly” Reid, Harper Lee, Umerto Eco, Abe Vigoda, for Pete’s sake.

2016: The Year Everyone Died.

I think it’s time to form a protective circle around Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.

That said, let’s recap: I have much thanks to give.

So first off, thank you to the Commonline Journal for accepting this poem, The Preacher. The subway continues to be a never-ending supply of sad/weird/beautiful.

And to Red Fez for taking Thirty-Seven.

And to Dead Snakes for giving a home to Membership, Blackstar and Radiation Day 26. All cancer poems and I swear, Blackstar was written before I knew anything about Bowie’s last album. Honest.

Also thanks to Drunk Monkeys for giving a home to When David Bowie Was Dying.

Speaking of the late great Starman, I also wrote this essay for Barrelhouse called Can You Hear Me, Major Tom? which owes a special thank you to my older sister, Jennifer who was the first one to introduce me to Bowie. A gift she probably didn’t realize that I would carry through my entire life. So thanks, Jenn. You’re a good sister.

 

I was really excited to have my essay included, because guys, honestly, there are some really amazing stories in here. And, because Barrelhouse is so awesome, they decided to put the whole thing together in a free downloadable ebook entitled And The Stars Look Very Different Today: Writers Felfect on David Bowie

How cool is this??!! Thanks so much to Barrelhouse, especially Sheila who rocks.

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Since Bowie died, there have been tons of really great tributes, but I think my favorite so far is Strung Out In Heaven.

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Jherek Bischoff and Amanda Palmer pulled this lovely tribute together thanks to her Patreon. John Cameron Mitchell is on it and when I say that the German version of Heroes is incredible, I mean uber-incredible.

The track listing is fantastic, the strings are divine and yes, I cry when I listen to it. It’s cathartic. Leave me alone.

In non-Bowie news (What? What’s that?) I am really excited to say that I joined the staff of Yellow Chair Review as an essayist/interviewer/whatever-random-tidbits-I-think-of-saying-that-the-editor-in-chief-agrees-to-publish-ist.

My first piece went up this month. It’s about lying and telling the truth and the importance of doing both in storytelling as long as you have heaps and heaps of empathy. Empathy is everything (in life too). It’s mainly about people’s reactions to This Is Sarah and their disappointment when I explained to them that I was neither Claire, nor Colin, nor Sarah. That while I made them and their story up, the emotions behind it are real.

Because I am real. I swear.

So thank you to everyone for everything and all that. Hugs and starbursts forever.

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Next up, I had some time off last month and that meant that I was able to go gallivanting around New York City, my home, as a tourist/traveler. No I’m not talking about the Empire State Building, I’m talking about ART-ING.

We hit The Met, the MoMA, and some galleries (eek!) which was really a big deal cause honestly, that can be super awkward. First off, I can’t buy actual art on a librarian’s salary so if I get a hard sell I tend to just stare at the ceiling until they give up and walk away. Secondly, often we’re the only people in the place which means that either a) they act like you’re not there and you feel like you’ve crashed some private party or b) they act like you want a personal tour and you have to make awkward small talk and pretend that you know how to talk about art.

That said, awkwardness aside, galleries are totally worth it. Museums are great, don’t get me wrong. You need to go see all the Rembrandts and Monets and Van Goghs. But seeing the work of contemporary – sometimes still living breathing artists –  is so important.

It’s like a water fountain that fills my thirsty art-making face. Or something like that.

So the first was a Betty Tompkin’s exhibit at FLAG entitled Women: WORDS Phrases and Stories. I’m not going to go into too much detail here because Sarah at YCR  might (fingers crossed) publish the thought piece/review I did on the exhibit. So I’ll just share some images. We’ll let the art speak for itself.

 

I also saw Vincent Smith’s work. Mr. Smith, who passed away in 2004, was a prominent member of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s and a Brooklyn native (woot!). He gets compared to Romare Bearden (which I can definitely see) but there’s something very Debuffet going on here, don’t you think?

The actual canvas is covered in dirt and rocks that have been painted giving it so much texture – hence my Debuffet comment.

So to recap, galleries =a touch intimidating but definitely good.

The return to writing the last two weeks has been good. Actually wrote some poems thanks to reading Eileen Myles who is incredible. Really moved by how frank she is.

And back to working on Gravity Wins, the book about my falling in love and then off a waterfall. #LongStory

That said, been reading through my old journals and even thought I know hindsight is 20/20 and even though I know it wasn’t really like this, part of 1993-1994 with two very good friends felt an awful lot like the dance scene from Godard’s Bande A Part:

 

and also this:

 

Peace love and starbursts,

Ally

 

The Stars Look Very Different Today

12 Jan

 

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
 - Mary Oliver

 

I needed something else to think about.

It was as complicated and as simple as that.

I had always been a fan. In fact there was a period of time when Hours was on constant play in my home. But in June of 2014, after I was diagnosed at 37 with cancer I needed something else to think about.

That something became David Bowie.

I listened to him and only him constantly. I analyzed his lyrics. I filled in the gaps of my record collection. For a period of time the only thing that stopped me from worrying about a premature death was David Bowie.

I had three surgeries that summer. I wore my David Bowie t-shirt to all of them. It sounds stupid but I needed him. I needed a little bit of stardust and magic.

He was the only one, even now, that has truly and completely transcended the chasm that my diagnosis ripped through my life. Every other musician feels….tainted. I can’t listen to their music because it belongs to that other life. In the same way that when I look at photos of myself right before diagnosis, I think “that girl, right there, has cancer and doesn’t know it yet.”

Bruce. Bob. Ryan. Everything felt like it was tethered to a life I was, in a very real way, no longer living. Except Bowie. Bowie, like the starman he was, found a way to bridge the gap, to pull me over, to help to slowly stitch up that rip.

(Coincidentally my husband experienced the same thing with music and also found someone to carry into this new strange life. His was Neil Young.)

I am in no way exaggerating when I say that David Bowie’s music saved my life.

And now here we are. And David Bowie has died.

It seemed impossible, even as my husband, as gently as he could broke the news to me.

I spent close to an hour in a state of absolute shock and then, when that finally wore off, crying.

I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art because I thought that maybe I could fill this star-sized hole inside of me.

David Bowie died.

How was that even possible?

He lived for 18 months with terminal liver cancer. He kept it a secret.

He would have been diagnosed around the same time as me. Spring/Summer 2014.

For awhile I kept my cancer a secret too.

In the last year of his life, he worked, just like he did in all the other years. Because the work mattered. Because he crafted a giant net in which all us freaks could be together. Could find each other. Could love.

There was a piece in the New York Times last weekend about how you should live every year like it’s your last. This is unabashedly how I try to live. Even before the diagnosis. I recognized how incredibly unlikely it is that we should even exist. Every single one of us is a product of everything going exactly right. Miraculously right. The fact that the right sperm and egg got together. The fact that your parents even met. That their parents before them met. Every perfect necessary  moment stretching back through all of time.The slim chance that we all somehow managed to survive.

To be here. Now.

To have been lucky enough to have lived in the world at the same time as an artist like David Bowie. To be inspired. Delighted. Moved and,  yes, saved.

Saved.

So thank you, David Bowie. From the deepest bottom of my very broken heart.

Remember friends, you only have so much time. Don’t waste it.

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Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig, Prague: Refugees Welcome (Part 2)

11 May

So where did we leave off?

Oh that’s right, the train ride back to Berlin.

While we were there we went grave hunting cause that’s what we do and came across these two:

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Yes indeed those are the Brothers Grimm, librarian/fairy tale collector extraordinaires.

And because we love all things Bowie, Jay found where he lived:

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And hung out:

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and recorded Low and Heroes and produced The Idiot for Iggy Pop

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We also went to Bableplatz – the site of the infamous Nazi book burning in 1933

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Now, Bableplatz has a makeshift library complete with comfy bean bag reading chairs

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And a memorial to the Empty Library which includes a glass cut square below the platz that depicts empty shelves. The Nazi’s burned around 20,000 books, including books by Heinrich Mann, Karl Marx and Albert Einstein.

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At the Neue Wache up on Museum Island we found this chilling memorial by Käthe Kollwitz  entitled Mother with her Dead Son. The memorial includes the remains of an unknown soldier and a nameless concentration camp victim.

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My birthday, May 1st is also May Day in Europe – a massive spring celebration. In Berlin it’s also a time of protest. We had heard about how great Kreuzberg  was and the day before my birthday headed out there to see the East Side Gallery (a long segment of the graffiti wall) and have the most amazing burger at Kreuzburger (seriously if you’re ever there you have to try this place). So we figured for my birthday we’d head back that way.

This was our first mistake.

Kreuzberg (surprise!) is also home to some of the most famous and violent police and demonstrator clashes on May Day. As the elevated subway pulled into the neighborhood, there were THRONGS of people. And by throngs I mean thousands and thousands of people. We could barely get out of the subway station, which the police were blocking to prevent overcrowding on the platform (I think). The crowds had a penchant for 90’s rap. I’m not kidding. We heard Snoop Doggy Dog.

The feeling was intense, electric. Standing amongst them, aside from feeling incredible old, I couldn’t help but realize that this is what political activism can look like. That after Nazism and Communism Berlin is still making herself over and it’s being done by the young people. It’s vital.

I would love to see how this city is going to transform itself over the next 25 years.

I didn’t shoot this film but it is from May Day, 2015 in Kreuzberg.

From Berlin, we took the train south to Leipzig.

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Bizarre sculpture depicting life under Nazism and then Communism.

Leipzig is Bach-land. Bach lived and worked in Leipzig, raising a considerable family and caring for the choirboys at St. Thomas Church where he was Kappelmeister. He’s buried inside the church.

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But Bach isn’t the only game in town. There is also an extensively done Felix Mendelssohn Museum:

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which included his DEATH MASK!

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After he died, Wagner being a massive anti-Semite started trash talking Felix. The idea that he was a lesser composer took root and by the time the Nazi’s were in power, Felix was all but wiped off the books. The statue that had been erected for him was melted down. It took until 2008 for a replacement to be erected.

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And the morning that we were scheduled to leave Leipzig for Prague (and then from Prague back to Berlin to fly to NYC) the Germans decided to have a major transit strike, thereby shutting down the Deutsche Bahn for 10 days. Which meant if we went to Prague we could feasibly not have a way back to Berlin to fly home.

So naturally we went to Prague.

Part 3 coming up next…..

Peace love and Starbursts,

Ally

Six Gallery Bowie

20 Jun

So back in 2008, Six Gallery Press published my first (and currently only) book of poems entitled The Wanting Bone.

Why am I telling you this? Cause they got a new blog and I think you should check it out.

They publish really great writers like John Grochalski (who in full disclosure I am married to, but my opinion of his writing is totally unbiased, I swear) and Don Wentworth (who not only is a fantastic poet but runs Lilliput Review one of my favorite mags) and Scott Silsbe and Jason Baldinger and Jonathan Moody and Kris Collins and lots and lots of other really really great writers.

Prove it, you say? Here, in fact, is a bit of that pudding:

Stop counting syllables

Start counting the dead

                             – From Past All Traps by Don Wentworth

History isn’t like us at all, it seems. And lately,

it’s hard to tell who’s doing the remembering anyway.

At any rate, the chalkboards tire of synonyms.

and all those left behind mourn less and less.

Everything’s erasable for someone at a dead end.

No regrets this year. Better luck next time.

                                           – From Beyond Naming by Scott Silsbe

See? Really great stuff.

In other non related news, here’s some Bowie. Why? Because…it’s Bowie.

The thing I love about this video is that even though Tilda Swinton is in it, I’m still not convinced that she and david bowie are not the same person

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