Category Archives: love

Love Letter to Lisbon (OR Art in the Time of Recession).



Recently I was travelling with an economist, an artist and a doctor. I know that sounds like the set up for a joke, but it’s actually just the first sentence of a love letter. (Or possibly essay. Or a tweet in need of serious editing, I don’t know you, read it and let me know). One morning over breakfast in our temporary Lisbon apartment in the heart of the thriving night life district Bairro Alto, Gretchen (the economist) turned to me and said “I don’t get it. This country is in recession. But there’s art everywhere. There’s all these concerts and festivals. How can they afford to pay artists? Why are artists still working?”


I told her that artists are, in a sense, recession proof. But only in the sense that for most of us what we earn from our art in our best years is what many people in professional jobs would earn in a couple of weeks. Also no benefits. Or rehearsal time. Or sick pay. Or company car. (All this and people STILL want you to work for free all the time.) In the same way that once you’ve jumped in a pool, a little rain isn’t going to bother you, if you’re used to being poor, then (on the individual level) a recession is basically just maintaining the status quo.


Secondly, artists love what they do and will always find creative ways to make their projects happen with limited resources. I know plenty of doctors and lawyers and teachers and chefs who love their jobs too, but most artists have the added benefit of being able to do things on their own terms. I was reading an article recently that advocated the arts in education and one of the key points it made was that artists are resourceful and innovative. They are used to doing things on limited budgets. Sometimes when I work as a creative advisor for commercial companies I have to keep myself from laughing because it takes them twenty times the cost and a hundred times as much paperwork to achieve what I’ve seen friends do on a shoestring budget in their spare time.

IMG_20130628_201640  IMG_20130628_200706  IMG_20130628_202511

Here in Lisbon, I’ve seen abandoned buildings (and there are a lot of them) turned into things of beauty. Three storey murals, prisons turned into art galleries, rubbish bins used as canvases, markets turned into concert venues and a bank turned into a design museum. This last one was my favourite, walking through a two foot thick steel vault door to be surrounded by thousands of tiny boxes that once held immeasurable wealth but now served as a backdrop for art and design felt like stepping inside of some kind of post-capitalist art utopia. Entry was free, by the way.


There are statues of poets all over the place, people shove tiny boats on top of light poles for no apparent reason and music fills the air (Lisbon has a distinct style of music called Fado which is recognised by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity). But more than any of these logical, rational arguments, the real answer is that in times of crisis, people need hope, they need comfort, and they need escape. Art can give you all of this and more, sometimes all in one serve. We shouldn’t be asking ‘why are people still making art in a recession?’ we should be asking ‘why does it take a recession to make us realise the value of art?’




4C arts collective: Thank you and goodnight.


Listen, internet. Sometimes good things happen. Sometimes these things last a day, or week, or a few years or even longer still. Sometimes they last for too long, sometimes for not long enough and sometimes just the right amount.

n672490088_4714132_7414    n643816086_1106093_8212

When the things in question end you basically have three options; be sad that it’s over, be happy that it happened, or create some kind of immersive virtual reality simulator that will allow you to experience the good things in question in uninterrupted perpetuity, perhaps with cool additions like jetpacks and ninja waiters. Since option #3 is still impossible (hurry up science!) in this instance I am choosing option #2.

future specs    n541083451_1023956_1154

Some years ago my friends and I formed a revolving cast of artists, actors, thinkers, drinkers, dancers, philanthropists, philosophers, rapscallions and general ne’er do wells known as the 4c arts collective. Over the course of several years we threw the greatest parties in history (yes alright perhaps that’s a touch hyperbolic, but seriously, they were fucking amazing, Andy Warhol would have gone home crying into his coca-cola with envy) and raised thousands upon thousands of dollars for various charitable causes ranging from the Women’s Legal Service to the environmental activism group Six Degrees. And damn, did we have a good time doing it.



We’re using the last of our funds to make sizeable donations to 4zzz and the Queensland Literary Awards, two of QLD’s most important grass roots arts organisations.

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Thanks to all of the amazing people that made this dream a reality. If you danced, drank, donated, collaborated, osculated (look it up) or in any other way participated then we love you times infinity billion.




Vandal Newman

My Dearest BCC,

I am writing to commend you on your extremely well thought out allocation of 13.5 million dollars to the anti-graffiti campaign. Although I must say, whilst I was overjoyed that such a vast sum is allocated to the aggressive removal of the inexplicably pandemic desire for human beings to express themselves creatively, I was confused as to how $13.5 million appeared out of nowhere when the state of QLD is reportedly broke? vandal newman I am often broke, and yet can never seem to find a spare $13.5 million lying around for anything. Please advise me on how to make $13.5 million appear from betwixt my couch cushions, which normally only yield lint and Canadian pennies, (which is curious as I have never been to Canada). I also really admire the fact you are doing this in the interest of protecting and beautifying public spaces (such as parks), whilst sensibly spending only $6.2 million in total on upgrades to city parks. I intend to follow this avant garde economic example when I buy my next car. I will spend $2 000 on the car itself, and $4 000 on grey paint to repeatedly paint it with.

Now, I know that some of those whiny lefties might be claiming your fiscal prioritisation is somewhat curious, given that you’ve placed funds for graffiti removal ahead of, oh, I don’t know, schools hospitals roads counselling services housing programs rehabilitation programs disease preventation initiatives with a well proven track record indigenous advocacy services well established literary awards emergency services etc etc etc.


Those silly graffists can’t even spell ‘terrific’ right!

I, however, fully understand that a government always acts in the best interests of its people, even the people who ungratefully use spray paint can devices to graffiti-ise the Premier’s office just a few months before the graffiti budget suddenly skyrockets to unprecedented levels. Sure, conspiracy theorists might want to make a connection there, but you and I, we’re reasonable, rational people who just want to use large amounts of public funding to support the establishment of a militarised task force to ensure the systematic destruction of artistic expression, whilst simultaneously funding programs of real cultural value, such as Big Brother.

big brother

The secret is: they’re all annoying!

I also agree with the honorable Mr Quirk’s statement that graffiti artmakerists ‘are not welcome in this city,’ as the best way to deal with disaffected youth who wish to express themselves creatively is assuredly to banish them beyond the city walls. However, I was wondering if there were limits to this mandate? Like, if someone who regularly saves kittens from trees also does graffiti making, would they still be banished? Is there some sort of ratio? Perhaps one graffiti piece per half dozen successful diminutive feline rescues?

bunkwaa-spray-cans  X 1    =    6 X  kitten

Or would they have to achieve a more impressive feat, such as saving someone from being stabbed in an alleyway? What if the only way that they could overpower the assailants was by obscuring their vision with their spray paint cans and they inadvertently got a small amount of paint on a wall in the process?

translink The other day I was walking home and saw this very tasteful and well designed ad stencilled on the footpath. I was wondering if Translink, as an official government partner, has some kind of graffiti license? Or a big shiny badge that they can flash like the cops on TV? If they forget their badge and are out graffiti-making do they get fined $1 000 (roughly the cost of a return trip to the city on a translink service)? lister-graffiti Finally, I was wondering if you would be continuing your proud tradition of going beyond the call of duty and also removing commissioned work by illegally entering private property and painting over commissioned murals by world famous artists?  And of course maintaining your admirable practice of physically subduing artists who have obtained legal permission for their work? This continues to set a world class standard in art control.

Perhaps you could even extend your forces of artistic suppression into other mediums? Sometimes I see youths listening to their ipodphone machines singing and dancing in the street for no reason at all! I find this quite disconcerting. Maybe you could find another $13.5 million for an Unlicensed New Juvenile Undulation Suppression Team. You might even be able to come up with a catchy acronym for that one, but I’ll leave that up to you!

Swarm regards

JM Donellan






It’s here at last! TEN MILLION HUZZAHS!

Hello there citizens of internetland, I trust you are well. I have a heap of announcements that are so exciting that they really should be all IN CAPS but we all know that can be quite annoying so I’ll try and RESTRAIN MYSELF (whoops…) Zeb will see its full, really really real release (try saying that five times fast) in just a few days. Or a few dozen hours. Or a few thousand minutes. You get the idea. Great big squishy thanks to everyone who has already pre-ordered. You are the best.

 For those currently residing in Australia, you can grab it direct from the publisher HERE. This gets me slightly more money than buying it through other retailers, for those lovely people among you who actually care about your money going to the artist so that they can afford extravagant luxuries like rent, socks and copious quantities of two-minute noodles.


Residents of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Andorra, Angola, Madagascar, the UK, the USA or anywhere else in the milky way, you can get it from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. (Amusing sidenote: I once had a friend tell me her slightly eccentric mother had said of Amazon: “It’s so amazing that they can run the world’s largest bookstore from the middle of the jungle!”) UPDATE: Kindle version now available HERE.

Zeb is also available for ITUNES for just $4.99. Seriously, that’s (very very slightly) less than $5. Yes, that’s right, while you’re shopping for Justin Bieber singles or Colonel Claypool’s Bucketful of Bernie Brains albums or old episodes of Xena: The Warrior Princess you can also grab a copy of my book for your ipad.

A list of things that cost less than $5

For those of you who are broke because you spent all your pocket money on yu-gi-oh cards (let’s be honest, we’ve all been there) you should head HERE and see if you can win a copy for FREE (which happens to be my favourite price).



(179 Latrobe tce, Paddington)

September 21st, 5pm

Last but not the opposite of most, don’t forget the launch is next week at Black Cat books followed by a crazy, riotous after party at my house around the corner. Facebook event HERE. This will not be your ordinary launch, no siree Bob. There will be music, performances from some of the best poets in Brisbane, readings, some Qs and some As and all kinds of messy, crazy fun. Finally, here is a great video from one of my favourite people on why books are amazing. Thanks for reading. I hope your day is filled with guitar solos, fireworks and high fives.



Dearest internet. It’s been a long time coming, but my children’s fantasy novel, Zeb and the Great Ruckus, has finally arrived! It’s been described as ‘like 1984 for kids, but with more magic, music and explosions’ and will be available for your rapturous enjoyment from the 15th of September!

FACT: Reading this book will give you superpowers!*
* Note: imagination is a superpower. You may disagree with this. You may also disagree with the laws of gravity, and you will be wrong about that too.

“This is a story made from pieces of all the dreams you had when you were asleep, but then forgot when you woke up.”

Hello! You are reading this in order to determine whether or not this book will be of interest to you! Well, congratulations, you obviously have fabulous taste! Zeb and the Great Ruckus is a story about magic, music, fireworks, bewilderbeasts, clockwork birds and weaponised toffee. It has some funny bits, some scary bits, some sad bits, and a rather large bit about a cave-dwelling ruttersnarl which we would tell you about but we don t want to give away the ending. If you like the sounds of any or all of the above, then this is the book for you! If you would rather read a complete history of European haberdashery, please consult your local book emporium.

Harry Potter says it’s the greatest book he’s ever read!*

Technically, it’s categorised as a children’s fantasy novel, but as I often say categories are for marketing departments and people who are too lazy to make up their minds about things. This isn’t just a book for kids. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s strange, it’s a protest novel, it’s a celebration of art and music.

*quote attributed to Harold S. Potter – 32 year old amateur taxidermist currently residing in his mother’s house in Tingalpa.


I’m extremely excited about the illustrations, which were prodived by fellow Brisbanite Kathleen Jennings. She recently won TWO Ditmar awards (the oldest and most respected scifi/fantasy awards in Australia) and has also been nominated for a World Fantasy Award. Kathleen has a beautiful, whimsical style that encapsulates Zeb and his companions perfectly. Plus, she has an obsession with Daleks that I find thoroughly enjoyable.


Preorders are open right now through Odyssey Books and the Amazon store so hurry up and make with the clickety clicks already! (Amusing side-note:  I once had a fan tell me “My mother, who is 82 said ‘it’s amazing that they can operate the world’s largest book store from the middle of a giant south american jungle!'”).

You can also check out the facebook and goodreads pages. If you enjoy the book and would like to write a kindly review or even send me an email/tweet/messenger pigeon, that would be hugely appreciated. I’m one of those nice authors that actually replies to emails (most of the time.) If you hate it, please address your grievance to our dedicated complaint service email: Details of the launch party will be announced soon (followed by the super secret after party at my house). You should come. It’s going to be one hell of a ruckus.

Contrary to popular belief, I have not actually been eaten by a rabid bear.

Why hello there! I know, I know, it’s been a while. I’ve been absent from the internet. But it’s okay, I haven’t actually been eaten by a rabid bear, even though that’s what all the tabloids have been saying. Nor have I been EATING rabid bears, as the even less reputable tabloids are claiming. I’ve just been busy living life 2.0 in HIGH DEFINITION WITH SURROUND SOUND! as well as making up very extremely long lies (aka writing novels).  I’m sure you’ve been kept busy what with all the robots landing on Mars and trampires to keep you entertained.

This is what happens when we spend money on science instead of weapons. We get fucking amazing pictures of the surface of Mars (ironically, named after the god of war.)

In any case, as Jesus once said to Thomas, “I’M BACK BITCH!” What’s more, I have this shiny new website that you are currently consuming with your retinas. I hope that you like it and take on it picnics and dance around with it in some sort of jubilant montage like this:

All the content from my old blog What Rhymes With Chaos? will now appear here, but will also continue to be archived at my old typepad. To celebrate the launch of the new site, I thought I’d give you all a present for FREE because that is my favourite price. It’s a little novelette (or long short story if you prefer, no one can ever seem to agree on the definitions of these things). It’s the kind of story Edgar Allen Poe may have written if he worked in an office, took tea breaks with Kafka and Stoppard and had an unhealthy fascination with amatoxins and Tom Jones. If you like it feel free to let me know. If you don’t then JUST SHUT THE HELL UP WHY DONTCHA! I’m just kidding. I’ll still love you (just a little less).

Death of a bureaucrat

R.I.P. Rave

Rave Magazine 2

As a teenage music nerd, my bedroom walls were perennially populated by posters featuring various scowling dudes with guitars looking down on me lying on my bed losing myself in my headphones whilst devouring Rave magazine. Growing up I always thought that being a music writer would be the most inconceivably, unbelievably, incontrovertibly cool job imaginable. Years later, I moved into my first Brisbane sharehouse with two wonderful girls, one of whom was just starting to pick up speed as the lead singer of now superstar act the Grates. Her then boyfriend wrote for another local music mag, and it occurred to me for the first time that music writers were actual people who existed in the real world and breathed and ate and drew on the fridge and used the bathroom when you really, really needed it. 


It wasn't until late last year, when I'd accomplished the infinitely more arduous task of having my first novel published that I got around to signing up with Rave. In the short time since then I've reviewed countless gigs and albums and squeezed in just a handful of interviews. As a writer, it's been a fun challenge to pump out tiny bite sized non-fiction pieces at a high rate of frequency, as opposed to my primary concern of churning out massive 80 – 100k word fictional behemoths every few years (if that.)

RaveMagCover    Rave-Mag

I was devastated when I received news that Rave was shutting down, and not only because of the fact that I will now have to start PAYING for gigs like a total loser. Rave provided valuable exposure for local bands and artists, great opportunities for local writers and photographers and, perhaps most importantly, was an entirely independent operation. Independent media is important; the beauty of working for Rave was that we didn't have to serve anyone's agenda. My editors would occasionally ask me to change a few things here and there, but this was more for content quality than because we were beholden to some corporate giant with vested interests (just look at the whole Rinehart/fairfax debacle at present). Clearly music journalism is nowhere near as important as political journalism, but journalistic integrity is of fundamental importance in terms of filtering what and how information reaching the masses and and we are currently seeing a dangerous erosion of its values which the loss of important independent media sources will only exacerbate. Thank Christ operations like New Matilda and The Conversation are still afloat.

Rave3 Rave4  Rave5 

Here are a few highlights from my time with Rave; bands I would never have otherwise heard of, concerts I might never have gone to, interviews with amazing people I would otherwise have never met. Thanks to all the wonderful writers, editors and photographs and bands that I've worked with. This city is filled to the absolute bursting point with obscenely gifted artists and it's been an absolute blast working with a team dedicated to celebrating this this talent. See you at a gig sometime!

INTERVIEW with Jo Nesbo


Cut chemist

Bright Eyes

2011 Poetry Slam

Ball Park Music


WILLIS EARL BEAL – acousmatic sorcery


BIG DEAL – Lights Out


STEVE SMYTH – self-titled


If loving you is wrong, I’d like to be partially incorrect.

This week, I'm going to give you some advice on romance. Now, I know what you're thinking. It's either A) How did I end up at this page when I was looking for videos of cats playing keyboards??? or B) Why on earth would J. M. Donellan be qualified to give relationship advice? He seems to just post about getting dumped all the time


I have no answer for A) but in regards to B) I'm hardly going to be the first amateur to deign to impart ill-founded advice. I mean, the Situation wrote a fucking book with advice on dating, I'm pretty goddamn sure I'm more qualified than he is. Not least because of the fact that I realise that a book should consist of more than just 133 pages of narcissistic, misogynistic ranting. And fashion tips. 

Sure, love can be a beautiful thing. But let's face it there are plenty of times when it can also be gross, stupid, frustrating, painful and sometimes, just really fucking inconvenient. Maybe they're your housemate. Perhaps you just have the wrong anatomy for their romantic preferences. Or they just said the sentence "I don't know who David Bowie is." Maybe they're dating your best friend and the three of you hang out all the time and once in a while you'll all have a little too much to drink and he/she will suggest you all head into the bedroom together and by the time you realise they were only joking you're already half undressed and then you have to pretend like you were only joking too but they both know you weren't and it gets super awkward and even worse they've seen they embarrassing tattoo that you keen meaning to get removed…

Whatever the case. There are times when being in love in just a terrible idea, so here are my strategies to help you not love someone.


Simple but effective. If the politician in question is ugly and/or the wrong gender for your preferences, even better. Just imagine someone who really sums up everything that's wrong with politics and modern society in general, someone like, oh I don't know…

Campbell newman


Canned-chrysalis-300x94"Jenny? Oh no, I'm WAY over her. She smells like transmutational butterfly larvae."

Sounds weird, I know, but weirder than tying all your hopes, dreams and happiness to one single human being who is just going to end up decomposing in the ground some day? I think not. Keep a packet of something disgusting in your pocket, like canned chrysalises for instance. Every time you see or think about your soon-to-be-not-loved one, shove something putrid into your facehole. Once you associate the object of your desire with squirming, crunchy larvae, IT'S BYE BYE ROMANCE!



I know this is often what people do when a relationship is going WELL, but this is primarily due to the fact that people are idiots. By the time dear old dad asks them for the sixth time if they got that nose ring because they were hoping to more closely resemble a swine or just to antagonise their deadbeat parents you'll know that all hopes of a happy, successful relationship are dead in the water.


Dawson-crying"Oh god! I can't do crosswords anymore! She used to use words like, all the time! Sometimes in sentences, or paragraphs even! It was our special thing…"

Bear in mind all relationships end, the only variables are when and how badly. Just try and picture that last time, when you listened to the 3 Smith Kings of Misery (Elliott Smith, The Smiths and Robert Smith) on repeat and lived on a daily intake of three bottles of cheap red wine and a family sized block of cadbury chocolate. Actually that last bit doesn't sound too bad, but then there was the bawling over summertime photos, the dividing of possessions, the places, songs, books and movies that were forever ruined. Yeah, that's right. You've got all of THAT to look forward to. Maybe in three months time, maybe three years, maybe three decades but whatever the case we all know that breaking up with someone feels like having your heart torn out of your chest, ripped in half, spat on, then forcibly reinserted via your colon.

So there you have it. Next time you start falling in love and it's going to be the worst idea ever you can thank me for reminding you that's it's the worst idea ever. Send me a thank you email. Maybe with a photo attached. Perhaps a facebook friend request.

Are you single?


A human writes about human rights.



Congratulations QLD! Your new premier has a lucky elephant. So presumably everything is going to be just fine! (Not making this up he really does call it his lucky elephant.)

The economy is in permanent flux, that's the nature of the beast. Complaining about the economy being unstable is like complaining about water being wet, ice cream being fattening or commercial radio DJs being moronic neanderthals with all the musical and cultural knowledge of a intellectually impaired iguana with early onset dementia. That is simply their inherent condition. 

However, when a government brings in improvements to civil rights, an action, by the way, that can be achieved quickly and at very small cost to the state, then that action becomes very hard to repeal. Newman has made the claim he is going to overturn the civil union act. I'm going to go ahead and bet that he's done that merely to chase the hate vote. Overturning such a recently introduced law would be arduous and, more importantly, unnecessary now that's won this round of game of thrones. 

We need to recognise that the myriad changes that a government can bring in during their three year term in regards to employment, taxation and even infrastructure are of course all very important, but civil rights policy should trump ALL of these. Every. Single. Time. Governments and financial conditions come and go. But the rights of every citizen to be treated equal, to have access to uniform rights and privileges and to enjoy the multitudinous opportunities that being a member of this nation and this state should entitle you to, regardless of gender, race, sexual preference or religion, should be indelible and unassailable. 

People like to use the term 'rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic' I think a more apt metaphor for this situation would be arguing about the Apollo 11’s interior decoration whilst ignoring its trajectory.

"Hey Buzz, whaddya think, should we put the put the coffee table over by the drapes or near the ottoman? Whassat? Ah…I dunno just make a left at the stratosphere and head for the big white hunka rock I guess?"






Dearest Academy Floral OR STFU Valentine’s day

Dearest Academy Floral

Thanks so much for your suggestion for me to send more flowers to my now ex-girlfriend for Valentine's day. And yes, you are right. That first bouquet I sent back in September did indeed ‘WOW!’ her. The problem is that the flowers I had delivered to her have now withered and died and been tossed into the nearest trash receptacle.

 Much like our relationship. 


For a brief period which future literary historians will doubtlessly refer to as ‘J.M. Donellan’s “SWEET MOTHER OF GOD WHY IS EVERYTHING SO UTTERLY AND INCOMPREHENSIBLY HORRIBLE ALWAYS AND ALL THE TIME?’ period I was temporarily transformed into a quivering and mildly alcoholic wreck spending most of my time lying on the floor listening to the Cure’s Disintegration on repeat and consuming a weekly average of twelve packs of oreos.


Thankfully I’ve now more or less recovered, reduced my oreo intake to a much healthier and more sustainable pack a day habit and returned to an emotional state of which Oprah would be far more approving. After all, as the old cliché says, there are ‘plenty more fish in the sea.’ (The fact that the search for love is so frequently compared to tricking a small water dwelling animal into spearing a hook through its face and then subsequently forcing it to asphyxiate in one final furious fit of fatal convulsions before removing its outer layer and internal organs before cooking and consuming said animal does, however, somewhat concern me.)

I suppose I COULD still send her more flowers, but that would seem kind of weird and pathetic. I am both of those things of course, but I’m trying to pretend like I’m not. So far I am attempting to accomplish this by doing push ups every morning, but I’ve been doing this for literally DAYS now and I still don’t have rippling biceps so I’m not really sure what the point is when I can just be my normal scrawny self with absolutely no effort whatsoever.  

I’m sure your message was well intentioned, but the fact is, for a great many people Valentine’s day is just a reminder of the fact that they are tragically alone. It’s a day when single people feel like the entire world has conspired to say LOOK AT US! LOOK AT WHAT WE HAVE! LOOK HOW MUCH HAPPIER WE ARE THAN YOU!

"I wuv you honey baby sweetie pie!"

"Not as much as I wuv YOU my little muffintop on stuffed crust pizza base with double cherries on top and a side of bacon fondue pudding!"

Of course I can always take solace in the fact that the vast majority of those couples are either going to break up at some point in the near future or alternatively edge incrementally towards their graves despising each other slightly more with each transpiring hour until they are just a pair of nonagenarian husks that stare into each other’s gimlet-like eyes with an odious cocktail of disdain and boredom whose potency is outdone only by their own body odour and crippling ennui.

In conclusion, unless you feel like adding a ‘deliver large box filled with vodka, cheesecake and Stevie Ray Vaughn’ albums to your Valentine’s day package options I don’t think I will be interested in your services.

Grey_goose_vodka-948+     Stevie+Ray+Vaughan+no1 + Cheesecake =  YES.

In fact, after I finish writing this email I am going to instigate a campaign to have National “I Am Still Single Because I Refuse to Settle Down with Anyone Who Won’t Make Me Supremely Happy and Allow Me To Do the Same for Them in Return in Order to Allow My Already Astonishing Levels of Awesomeness to Attain Even Greater Heights” day. This will basically involve a host of astoundingly wonderful single people getting together to drink vodka, eat cheesecake, air guitar to Stevie Ray Vaughn albums and indulge in guilt-free make out sessions in the utilities closet.  Feel free to attend.

Kind re:Guards

J.M. Donellan