Always The Quest

The alien world of Mer is being devoured by Dark Water. Only Ren,
a young prince, can stop it, by finding the lost Thirteen Treasures
of Rule. At his side is an unlikely but loyal crew of misfits; at his
back, the evil pirate lord Bloth, who would stop at nothing to get
the Treasures for himself.

It's high adventure with The Pirates of Dark Water!

» News

Pirates of Dark Water is available on DVD!
It's a made-to-order 4-DVD set with episodes 1-21, released by WBShop (Warner Bros's online store). Currently available only in the US.

» Frequently Asked Questions

Right here. Info on the fate/ending of the show, where to find the episodes or merchandise, and more! First-time visitors: your biggest questions should be answered here.

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That recent screenshot redraw meme

Just sharing a couple of pieces of my own quick, intentionally sketchy art lately–these are redraws of screengrabs from The Game Players of Undaar (such awesome action poses in that episode!). The screenshot’s on top and my art’s on bottom.

Longtime visitors may remember that I used to draw a TON many years ago, all the way through my undergrad years, but somehow fell off the bandwagon (I guess photography while I lived abroad, followed by visual design while in grad school and working, had been my major visual outlets). But I really don’t want to let this slip. This meme was an awesome excuse for me to try my hand at this again, and to try painting the characters in a slightly darker and more detailed light than early-90s American animation allowed.

ARTISTS: you totally should try this yourself! And if you do, send me a link or a copy of your art and I’ll post it to the blog!

Ioz and Tula - The Game Players of Undaar (screengrab redraw)

Ren vs. the Korb - The Game Players of Undaar (screengrab redraw)

:) Thanks for humoring me.

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Testing out RedBubble

Check it out! For the moment, there are stickers and smartphone/iPad cases available with the PoDW logo. (As much as I love that dark red background, it’s too bad it won’t let users choose various colors–I’ll upload different cases with different background colors soon. Also, no t-shirts because I’m boycotting American Apparel for their horrendously sexist/exploitative/prejudiced advertising and other questionable business practices. Unfortunately, RedBubble/Zazzle/Society6 all use AA shirts, so…crap. Any suggestions for alternate websites/vendors?)

A note: for some digital illustration practice (and to kill time at my last job), months ago I decided to re-create the PoDW logo in Adobe Illustrator. It’s taken a bit of tweaking every so often, but I’ve finally got it as close as I’m going to get it. In addition, I’ve made greyscale and b&w/outline versions as well, and hope to put up more stickers/merch/etc. with all the logo variations. (EDIT, 2:45PM ET – just put up the greyscale and B&W logos, too! Would love input/suggestions on/for background colors.)

(And shout-out to Brittany and Ian for their other PoDW Redbubble work! Totally not meant to step on Ian’s toes, but now you have both a regular and a pixel version of the logo to choose from.)

And my ultimate goal is to make these vector files of the logo public under a Creative Commons license, so anyone and everyone can use them to create their own wares! As I said on RedBubble, the more PoDW swag there is out there, the happier our generation of geeks will be. (And the more attention the show will get, which may have a positive ripple effect…)

- – - – -

In other news…nothing to report. My grandmother’s having some major health issues, so I’ve started spending my weekends helping her while she’s in a rehab facility (proximity to relatives is one of the numerous reasons I wanted to be in Pittsburgh again), so that’s kind of robbed me of most of my free time. The site redesign’s definitely in the back of my mind, and I’ve been exploring less onerous CMSes to work with as well (WordPress is great, but kind of a beast). Little by little, it’ll get there…!

Hope you’re all doing well. Peace and hugs. :)

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World Book character sheets ARE ALL ONLINE. (plus other goodies.)

It’s only taken me…what, 10 years now? But–it’s true–after major fan demand, ALL THE WORLD BOOK CHARACTER SHEETS HAVE BEEN SCANNED AND ARE ONLINE.

They’re up as individual images for the moment. I need to transcribe the last ~45 and will start to…okay, eventually…put the images and text into a document/PDF. (I was going to say that I had done this with the World Book, but the PDF version actually does not have any images in it. Something else to add to the to-do list!)

For those who have been asking me (for YEARS now), I am truly sorry for the delay. Just…you know…life and stuff. I hope that these have been worth the wait!

Well, in other news…hello! Stuff is definitely in the works. It’ll be quite a while yet but a redesign/update of the site is in progress, to finally dust it off, clean it up, and bring it into this decade of web design.

A few things of note, sent in by some awesome people over the months:

Alexandre has captured the Sega Genesis PoDW soundtrack and converted it to mp3s for our listening pleasure. ** will host these files on this site once I update **

Neike has edited and uploaded an incredible collection of screenshots of locations and creatures, the Treasures of Rule, and more.
** will host these files on this site once I update **

Brittany contacted me about a doll she spotted on eBay a while ago. It’s a doll of Ren that I’ve never seen before, and even the original listing has no real information on it beyond “Made in Korea.” Do any of you know know anything about this? See below…


Jakub, and possibly some others, have been working on building out a wiki for PoDW.

Sony/”Konway” has uploaded a few choice videos: the end credits of Dark Water, the Dishonor cut scene* with Roddy McDowall vs. Frank Welker

Want a hi-res scan of the background image behind episodes 1-13? Doug pointed out that the original painting was up for auction at Heritage Auctions a while back but the image is still there.

And deviantART user DanFelix has been maintaining Dark-Water-Pirates, a collection of fanart from across the website. People have created some really interesting, clever, and fun pieces lately.

*I refer to this as “cut,” though some people were fortunate enough to see the show on TV with this clip included. Different stations made subtly different cuts to the show.

That’s it for all, but hopefully not for long. Cheers! Thank you so much for your support and kind words–I never say it enough, but I deeply appreciate your encouragement and enthusiasm over all these years.

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A smattering of this and that

Quick lunch-break post…

Happy 100th(!) birthday to esteemed animator Don Lusk! He worked on PoDW during his tenure at Hanna-Barbera (as well as Captain Planet and others in the late 80s/early 90s), and has an amazing history, having also worked for Disney for nearly 30 years and animated some very memorable scenes for them. (More info at Cartoon Brew, which called PoDW out by name (woo!).)

Also, the PoDW opening made an appearance at the Alamo Drafthouse as part of a pirate-animation-themed montage that aired before viewings of Captain Phillips. (The opening of Peter Pan and the Pirates also aired.) Cheers, William/@whatevercove!

And to answer the questions that some people have left in the comments, I SWEAR that I want to get back to scanning the RPG module’s character pages, as well as my copies of storyboards from The Quest. Maybe I’ll commit to doing 10 pages a day or something…I give you all permission to nag me about this! (I’m also pretty behind on e-mails due to the move–will catch up soon.)

As usual, there’s probably a ton more that I’m forgetting. More soon, I hope! (Life is great. Leaving Boston and moving back to Pittsburgh was absolutely the right choice for me–I am so much happier here already. Currently starting week 4 of my new job–so far so good! Any local/regional PoDW fans, do drop me a line and let me know if you ever want to meet up if you’re in the area!)

Hope you all are doing wonderfully, and I do mean that truly. :)

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Personal plug: anime/manga merch on eBay (and some other goodies)

Hi, everyone! Please forgive the non-PoDW content, but I’ve just posted some manga and anime books/animanga to eBay. I’m moving in a month and looking to offload stuff I’ve been meaning to sell for years. Anyway, do take a look and place a bid if you’re interested. :) I really appreciate it!

So, yes, personal update: Boston has been a challenging experience these past 2 years, and a job opportunity has suddenly opened up in Pittsburgh that looks wonderful in every way. So I’m taking a chance (well, not really, as I’d lived there during grad school and love the city) and packing up my life here and moving on. I will definitely miss the people I’ve met here–including a couple of pretty wonderful PoDW fans!–but sometimes you just have to go with the flow to find your happiness.

Okay, here’s a little PoDW content for you, courtesy of Twitter…

Tomasz Rozejowski just tweeted this afternoon to share an impressive Tula figurine he’s created. It’s great to see her finally get some attention, since there was never an official action figure of her! He hopes to do similarly styled figures of Ren and Bloth as well.

Also, Shane has gotten the linework and initial colors for a sexy/sultry Tula tattoo! (If he sees this…I hope it’s not creepy to check out a stranger’s Instagram account–after finding one picture, I peeked to see if there were other WIP images. It looks great, though.)

I’ve also been messing around with re-creating the PoDW logo in Illustrator just to keep my own digital skills sharp. Maybe I’ll post the final product whenever it’s done–it’d be great to make a sticker for my laptop cover or something. :)

Okay, that’s it for now–so much to plan and do in the next 4 weeks. Hope you’re all having a great summer!

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A (tongue-in-cheek) creative challenge, and going behind-the-scenes

I recently learned that the following domains are available. I challenge (dare, really!) any of you creative people who see this to create something inspired by the following names…


.* = .com, .net, .org, and so on.


No prize or anything–but if you do actually create something, email it to me and I’ll happily post it here!

(It turns out is available and going up for auction, but the minimum bidding price is close to $200! Sheesh…let’s just save that for whoever creates a kickass reboot of the show, shall we?)

- – - – -

Also, I may as well note here…I recently heard from Lane Raichert, one of the writers on PoDW episodes 1-5 (not much besides just letting me know that he was redoing his website and the PoDW section was coming down for a while). And that got me thinking…something I have never thought much about doing was to reach out to the people who worked on the show. I’ve always been far more interested in the creativity of this universe, the worldbuilding aspects, and so forth, but it never even occurred to me to actively reach out and contact the behind-the-scenes crew. (Other fans have, though! Mr. Raichert said that he’s frequently contacted about PoDW, which is awesome. Also, conceptual artist Floro Dery is probably the one exception, as far as my contact with the PoDW production team–he has reached out several times with gorgeous examples of his brilliant work from the show.)

This is something I want to do more of, going forward. The show’s over 20 years old now, and some of the creative team were at least halfway into their careers when they worked on it–and some have, sadly enough, already passed away. It’s time to really get moving, to get stories about how it all came to be!

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Music and merchandise finds

Happy spring, Northern Hemisphere citizens! Time to share a couple of recent PoDW Twitter finds:

For those of you familiar with the Sega Genesis PoDW game, somebody put together a great clip of himself performing the Sega game’s Janda Town theme music. The layering of the different sounds and lines is really great and spot-on. Check it out!

Also, Ian has set up a RedBubble site with apparel with the PoDW logo on it! The only thing: he’s using a version of the video game logo that may be a little blurry/artifacted when it’s enlarged. But it still looks great, and RedBubble provides some pretty cool options: varieties of shirt types, colors, and sizes, to fit your taste. At SF conventions I attended in the past, I always made it a point to wear a PoDW shirt and/or bring the up in panel discussions, to get it back on people’s radar one way or another. The more people who do stuff like that, the better the odds are that eventually enough people interested in a reboot of the show will get noticed. So…you never know. :)

And if I haven’t linked to this yet, Nate has done in a few months what I haven’t gotten around to in many years, and ripped a few video clips of the Dark Water miniseries–specifically, 2 clips with Roddy McDowall voicing Niddler (something I know a lot of you have been really curious about), as well as the miniseries opening.

Oh! OH. I DID make an update…to the contact page. (Better than nothing, right…?) It was horribly outdated–I’ve removed my Facebook link (I deleted–not disabled, but fully deleted–my profile last summer), and added links to Twitter and my (pretty outdated) personal website. I’ve also cleaned up the language somewhat, and apologize sincerely if anything on there was a little too blunt or offputting.

That’s it for now. I’m quite busy…preparing to move this summer for the 3rd time since November (I’ve had surprisingly horrible luck with living situations during my 1.5 years in Boston), playing in a lot of orchestra/opera concerts, presenting at a conference in a few weeks, and looking forward to finding some free time in the summer for personal and/or portfolio-padding projects. (Like this site, perhaps?) Now that the sun no longer sets by 4:30pm, life is pretty wonderful again. :)

I hope you’re doing well, too!

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Looking back and looking ahead. (Also, merchandise on Etsy!)

Firstly, thank you.

I never say this sort of thing enough. And most of you are strangers–some of you have sent me very kind e-mails (and every single one has been deeply appreciated), some of you have gone on to become social media buddies, online friends, and even close offline friends–but it’s so heartening to see how a shared childhood/young-adult memory from 15-20 years ago has inspired and encouraged people’s imaginations, and I’m really honored and grateful that your comments and energy and support have continued to feed this website along.

This, on the other hand, is something I say repeatedly, and I do mean it–this website is a culmination of the efforts of a lot of friendly, nostalgic fans (as well as former Hanna-Barbera employees!). It isn’t just me–it never has been and it never will be. You guys send in the awesomeness (whether that’s actual info/media/merchandise/etc., or even cheerful reminiscing), or post it here and there online, and it all finds it way here. (Eventually, anyway.)

Why am I waxing nostalgic like this?

This is why.

Site visitors: country breakdown

(click to enlarge.)

This is the breakdown of visitors to Always The Quest over the last three years, when I installed Google Analytics. I just viewed it in full for the first time tonight.

Over 70,000 visits.
Over 150 countries and territories. There are PoDW fans on every continent!
And this is in just the last 3 years. (This site has been online since the summer of 1996–almost 17 years! I was 15 then, and I’m 31 now. Holy moly.)

(The color is the relative number of visitors from each country. The US was the source of over 40,000 of those visitors, hence how dark the shading is. BUT STILL!)

These days the site averages 40-50 visits a day. Not bad, considering the obscurity of the material. Definitely lower than its peak average of 100+ a day, during my undergrad days. I’m not desperate for thousands of views, but I would like to improve the searchability of the site. Nearly 40,000 of the visits were via searches. There were only a handful of searches that didn’t relate to the show, but I still see where I can improve from skimming people’s search terms. (Among the more interesting: “action poses” and “poop deck.” Ha! Also, there were 4 searches for “pirates of dark water tickling.” I don’t think I want to know what that’s about…)


This is still pretty tremendous. At least, it is to me. Though our community isn’t nearly as cohesive as those that have more content to talk about, I’m so glad it’s still around. And I’m especially excited to see where it goes next.

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.

* * * * *

Holy fitting segues, Batman. ;)

Next up: I would love to make some big changes to the site this year. (Possibly by gutting it and then rebuilding it piece by piece. Tempting…) And this is where you all come in.

I want to give you a heads-up about this: would you be willing to take a survey for me? About the site, what you value and don’t value, what you’d like to see that isn’t here and what you’d like to have removed or modified/updated, that sort of thing. I still need to put it together. But this site is for you all–it’s a repository of info, but it can be so much more than that.

For example, people (not me, but others) have described this site’s function/purpose in a number of different ways:
- source of plentiful info
- campaigning to finish the show
- community for the fans
- a shrine/time capsule
- digging up the behind-the-scenes view of the show

And more. And some of these were actually quite a surprise to me. What do you all think? I don’t want to put stuff up that many of you really don’t care about.

Do start thinking about it. :)

* * * * *

And, last but not least!

Etsy seller DanielleMeetsWorld is selling two handmade PoDW wallets. They’re upcycled, using pages from PoDW comic #4, “Break-Up” (episode #3, yes, but comic #4, as episode #1 was spread out over 2 comics), and intentionally DIY. Even better: part of the price goes to benefit worthy charities. One, two.

If you’re interested in your own copy of the comics (or even the action figures), they are always, always available on eBay. :)

And that’s all for now! As always, thank you for reading, and for showing your support just through your visit. Much love to you all!

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Quarterly update: international openings and character commentary

Hey, everyone, long time no see… :) This is still not a website update (sorry…)–I’ve been keeping a little too busy as of late, like to the point that I don’t even turn my home computer on more than a couple of times a week these days. I’m very eager for things to settle down soon.

But I did want to post some fun finds from around the web…

Firstly, a series of international PoDW openings on YouTube: Las Piratas de las Aguas Negras (Spanish), the Swedish intro, A Sötét Víz Kalózai (Hungarian), and ~???????? ???????? (Japanese–this hilarious pop song intro by Hironobu Kageyama that will now be stuck in my head for the rest of the day. By the way, check out the “international” tagged posts to get more info on the Japanese version of the show).

Also, this great comment, from Tumblr user nijireiki -

Man, I really wanna do a rewrite comic of Pirates of Dark Water.

Like, CLEARLY there were some executive meetings to make Ioz nicer, curse less, and stop referencing whorehouses; to make Niddler less of a racial critique and more of a buffoonish stereotype; to make Ren paler, less “femme,” and more competent as a leader (rather than a naïve lighthouse boy who assembles a relatively equal TEAM); and to make Tula sweeter, more helpless/less competent, less creepy (ecomancers have… side effects that come with their skillset), less revolutionary, more “femme”/scantily clad, paler, and all-around healer/mystic/team girl. (AND to make the bad guys less threatening, though, interestingly for a ’90s cartoon, death— even onscreen death— was not phased out of the show entirely.)

I think it would just be awesome to restore some of that stuff, you know? A lot of worldbuilding clearly went into Dark Water, and it’s a damn shame the show never finished and so few people know about it. :/

You know, I did wonder about whether all ecomancers’ legs sprout (or transform into) roots and branches, the way Teron’s did. He didn’t have the incandescent lightning effect that Tula did, so my assumption was that it’s a little different for everyone–kind of an organic manifestation that depends on the person.

But anyway, that bit aside, the rest of the commentary is spot-on: the characters did change rather dramatically throughout the series. I’d even argue that the three main chunks of the series (released in 1991, 1992, and 1993, respectively) show noticeable differences: episodes 1-5 are the most solid and balanced representations, episodes 6-13 are definitely more watered-down and geared towards kids, and episodes 14-21 trend towards the darker and/or more grown-up side with some of their themes and action sequences.

Though, then again, a woman with a 17-year-long obsession over a man (and then that man’s son) who died a horrible death by melting into a pool of Dark Water was in that middle block of episodes, as was a wizard being killed by his own ghastly creations after using his magic to kill many people in order to steal their gold (but yet again, that episode also has the monumentally awful and OBVIOUSLY watered-down line, “You fight like your captain, Swar–not very well!”)…but that whole block of episodes did focus more heavily on moral themes, and you can derive very clear ones from each episode.

But then in those last 8 episodes, Ioz’s temper towards Tula waxed and waned (raging at her one minute, then grudgingly acknowledging that she was capable and worthy of respect, and asking Ren not to tell Tula that he had admitted he was “a greedy fool”), Tula became a bit more badass again (though still watered-down by her obvious interest in Ren and her jealousy over him expressing interest in other women–but tempered by the fact that she really stole the show when she fake-betrayed her friends in order to protect them from the Delpha Warriors and to try to secure the Eighth Treasure of Rule), and Ren made some tough moral decisions (not leaving Bloth to die when he could have, learning greatly from his own experience of being transformed into a dagron) and grew a lot in the process. (Note that I’m not saying a word about Niddler, because I’m really irritated that he was such a great and multi-dimensional character in episodes 1-5–embittered and damaged by his service to Bloth, but a loyal and true friend with deep convictions and moral fiber–and then was relegated to the irritating, selfish, childish comic relief after that.)

Also, it’s interesting, but I guess not that surprising, that pretty much the entirety of the character development happened with the protagonists. It was still a show from the era of wanting to proper delineate good and evil, so the bad guys were simply that. They had backstories and motivations and personalities that were uniquely theirs (especially in episodes 1-5–Mantus’s cool “Of course, sir. When you let the enemy think he’s in charge, it’s easy.” line still is pretty freaking cool), but at the end of the day, they were The Bad Guys. Period.

Okay, enough of that for now. It’s nice to reflect on the show in terms of the era in which it was conceived, and in terms of more “grown-up” sensibilities (I’m now older than Ioz! haha). And it’s great to have conversations with people who continue to rediscover and reflect on the show in their own ways. I do appreciate how enthusiastic you all are–the e-mails and comments have been wonderful and I’ve seriously enjoyed the discussions we’ve had over the years. Thank you for your lasting support over all this time. :) Hopefully I’ll actually update the site one of these days (weeks? months? years? sigh), clean it up, and integrate the bulk of the info from the blog, and make it up to you!

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On Pirates of Dark Water and race

For the ~15 people who still read this site ;), this may or may not stir up a hornet’s nest of trouble, as it has done in other places. But it’s a fairly active topic of discussion in other circles, and thanks to the Racebending movement and fascinating and apt blogs like Racialicious and Sociological Images, I’ve become more aware of these issues, and really feel the need to say something.

On several recent occasions, I’ve noticed PoDW fanart (illustrated or created with doll-making software or through other means) where the characters were depicted with light, or lighter, skin.

This is problematic.

The show’s protagonists, as well as many of the antagonists and supporting characters, are dark-skinned. This is one of the many things that has made the show so unique: a serious animated show aimed at teenagers and adults, with real plot and character development, not to mention a cast of characters that is not white or a stereotypical image of a minority.

Pretty much every single character has a subtly different skin tone, and (with the exception of Jenna and an occasional background character) all those skin tones are unmistakably brown! How cool is that? As a result, PoDW brilliantly avoids the horrid “light=good, dark=bad” stereotypes that have pervaded popular media. (If you haven’t noticed it, just look at your average action-adventure/fantasy flick, and pay attention to what roles the dark-skinned characters play. Really egregious examples: the live-action “The Last Airbender,” “Prince of Persia,” even “Back to the Future” (the Libyans, who are Hispanic and spouting gibberish instead of Arabic), and the “Indiana Jones” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies and others that feature random shots of dark-skinned “untamed savages” randomly attacking the good (and typically white) heroes. Once you start seeing it, you can’t unsee it…and that’s a good thing, because awareness is the first step in making lasting change happen.)

The biggest counterargument, especially in these “racebending/whitewashing” arguments around fantasy series, is that you can’t claim that the characters actually are Asian or Middle-Eastern, because the races and ethnicities in our world don’t exist in theirs.

Yes, races as they exist in our world do not exist in the PoDW universe. However, you can’t deny the ethnic influences throughout the PoDW universe, put there by the people who created this world. Fans I’ve talked to over the years, and fans attempting to match up actors with the characters, have referred to them as Latin, Jamaican, East Asian, Indian/South Asian, Turkish/Middle Eastern, and more. And there’s a reason for that–they have recognizable features and character/clothing designs that derive directly from those cultures. Even the conceptual artist behind the show, Floro Dery, attested that Tula’s clothing design was derived from Turkish influences.

In our society, whiteness has come to be the “default” skin tone. While whites are the majority population in the west, that’s an unfortunate mentality. I mean, I’m American, and I’m brown: a 100% Indian-American female, but I’ll often see “nude” and “natural” as labels for a default skin tone that’s markedly lighter than what is physically the “nude” and “natural” skin tone that describes my coffee-colored skin.

Also, how cool is it to have strong, relatable characters in a world where skin tone not only does not matter, but is unmistakably diverse? I really related to Tula growing up, because she bore a pretty strong resemblance to me and was a fantastic role model for me (well, minus the whole “double-crossing you guys for my own cause” thing, but it all worked out in the end!). And while I also related to light-skinned characters, I definitely noticed when there were characters that Looked Like Me.

It’s so easy for people to play this all off as just being fantasy, as just being random crap on TV and magazines…but when it’s everywhere, when it’s all you see, a part of you can’t help but grasp onto it and start believing and internalizing it. And it is everywhere–again, check out the above blogs for example after damning example. The subtle racism that plays into people subconsciously favoring light skin is really dangerous, in part because it’s just not questioned and it’s accepted blindly, and it leads to a lot of subconscious perceptions and actions that people don’t even realize are fueled by societally-induced racist tendencies.

Anyway, long story short: detail is important. And it’s not cool to default “ambiguous” (or even unambiguous) characters to white, or even to assume that light-skinned characters look “better” than dark-skinned ones. It doesn’t matter if they’re real or fictitious, live-action or animated: that still perpetuates a “light skin is better than dark skin” mentality that is not acceptable.

So, yeah. The characters have dark skin. Please respect that trait as being part of who they are, and please depict them appropriately.

Thanks for reading. :)

- Smitha, your cheerful female brown crusader for equality and goodwill for all

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