Thursday, August 30, 2012

Wages of Sin

It is evening, a very short while before Fernando is set to close up for the night. A vehicle pulls up and deposits a teenage girl. Fernando has seen neither the girl nor the SUV before in his life. She enters the Dominion and approaches the counter.
Hello!” Fernando booms as he is wont to do when the chimes above the door jingle. 
Excuse me, but are you hiring at all?” the strange girl asks after a brief start.
No, sorry,” says Fernando. He was hoping she would be one to put money into Fernando's pockets, not one to ask if he would like to give it up.
The girl looks crestfallen. “Are you sure? You wouldn't even hire me for less than minimum wage?”
Fernando presses his lips together. “One, that'd be pretty illegal for me to do. Two, never offer yourself to anyone for less than what you are actually worth. Enough bullshit exploitation and underemployment happens without people who go out of their way to offer an easy solution for the people who have fewer scruples than I do. Do something you enjoy doing and try to make money off that. Make jewelry or cookies or whatever and sell those. If they are good, people will buy them. But if you're dead-set on looking for work under somebody else, the best place is probably Paper World next door. They're usually looking for part-time people to work in the mailroom putting inserts into the newspapers. It's a shitty job, though. I did it for three years in high school.”
Oh, I see. Well, I'll think about it!” The girl is strangely cheerful. “Thanks! Have a good night!”
And you as well.” The girl then leaves.
Whether or not she took Fernando's advice to heart is a secret only the future can reveal.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Opaque Clarity

Hey, what's this movie like?” a man asks one afternoon. He waves the case for Breathless in Fernando's direction.
That is a very dark caper movie about a woman who offs her skeevy husband to abscond with a great deal of his money.”
The man squints down at the case. “What's a movie it's close to?”
Fernando ponders for a moment. “The Ice Harvest, maybe? I haven't seen this one seeing as it just came out today so I can't say for sure. It reads similarly in content to that one, though.”
What's that one?”
It's got John Cusack and Connie Nielsen. They steal a bunch of money from a mobster or something and they need to find a way to make a clean getaway. It's been a while since I've seen it.”
Oh.” The man looks around the store. “That didn't really answer my question.”
I'm sorry. I'm not sure what other answers I can give.”
What's a movie I've seen that's like those ones?”
Fernando doesn't know what the hell movies that guy has seen, so he pulls a good-sounding answer from his ass. “Um...maybe Safe House?
Oh, I liked that one.” With that, the man decides to rent Breathless.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Business Politics

Three guys come into the store one evening near closing time. Fernando's never seen any of them before, and he presumes they are up here for either the off-road races two towns over or to slaughter some type of vertebrate life in their free time. Two of them fan out into the store while the third comes around the entry foyer and stands a few steps inside Fernando's office. “Hey, what's it take to rent here?” he asks.
I just need name, address, driver's license, phone number, the basics,” replies Fernando.
The man nods. “Okay, okay. How do rentals work?”
New releases are three-fifty, the older ones are two bucks a night. It's a buck-fifty for each additional night for the new releases and fifty cents each night for the older ones. They just have to be back by seven P.M. the following night.”
That sounds good, sounds good,” says the man. “You got any good sports movies that come out lately?”
Hmm...only one I can think of off the top of my head is Moneyball. Let me track that down for you.” Fernando rises from his seat and weaves among the trio of strange men to the movie's resting place on the rental rack. “Aside from that....” he continues, searching for something else having to do with sports.
One of the men whom we will refer to as “Vietnam” picks up the case and flips it over to read the back. “I won't watch this,” he says.
Why not?” asks the second man, henceforth arbitrarily named Thailand.
Vietnam replaces the case. “It has that scumbag liberal Damon in it.” Fernando wishes he had some small proficiency in toxicology, as there was some grade-A venom lacing the man's words just waiting to be harvested and analyzed.
The third guy, the one who had first spoken with Fernando—we'll call him Laos—turns back to the Keeper. “Yeah, this one ain't gonna work.”
Well, alright. The invisible hand works in all directions. “Okay...uh, I've got All Things Fall Apart. It's football-themed, has Curtis Jackson. It's pretty much a more cynical Remember the Titans.”
The three men exchange a look. Laos speaks. “Eh, I don't think that's what we're going for either. What else you got?”
Fernando's cheeks puff out in a sigh. It's so hard to please people. “That's about it in terms of newer stuff in that vein. Sports drama isn't the most in-demand genre out there. I've got some older stuff—Invincible and stuff like that—if you're interested, though. The releases that've been really big lately are mostly action-thrillers and comedies.”
What about action? Just straight action,” asks Thailand. Fernando surmises that genre of film must have a fewer scumbag liberals per capita.
Guns-and-explosions action or ass-kickery fisticuffs action?”
Vietnam chuckles and shakes his head. “'Fisticuffs.' Get a load of this guy here.” Fernando ignores that.
Give us the best of both,” says Laos.
Alright. Hobo With a Shotgun's basically a homage to the single angry man seeking revenge for a slight done to him or his community movies from the '80s. Rutger Lauer plays a badass homeless man who's fed up with the mob.”
Laos nods. “Good action?”
Fernando shrugs. “He sticks a guy into a sewer access, ties a rope around his neck, and hitches the other end to a delivery truck.” Vietnam and Thailand make approving noises upon hearing that. Laos takes the case from the rack and carries it with him as Fernando guides them to the next item on his to-sell list.
I've also got Haywire. It's a...well, I won't call it a kung-fu movie, but it's quite a bit like Fighting or Blood and Bone, stuff where people beat the everloving shit out of other people using parts of their body.” At this juncture Fernando tries putting a bit of a sell on a third movie. “The main actress is actually a professional martial artist so, while the acting suffers a little—kind of like how it was in Act of Valor, the one that had the SEALsthe actual choreography and execution of the fight scenes is spectacular.”
Laos selects that case too. He doesn't bite on Fernando's additional recommendation, however. I think that's about it for tonight, yeah?” he asks, looking at his companions. They shrug and make noises of agreement. “Okay, get us set up to rent these things.”
Fernando nods. “Easily done.” He retrieves one of his applications and the three men silently bicker over who gets the honor of filling it out. The responsibility becomes Thailand's in the end. He jots down what needs jotting down, hands over his license for inspection without complaint (miraculous, that!) and completes the slip of paper to Fernando's approval.
Alright, that's seven bucks then.” The men pay and get ready to leave.
Oh, yeah, almost forgot!” Fernando says. “Friday and Saturday I've got complimentary microwave popcorn, if y'all'd like a bag.”
Sure, sure, we'll take one,” says Laos. The man extends a hand out to Fernando after the bag of popcorn is transferred over. “You know, Fern, you're alright.” Fernando shakes his hand. “Firm grip, too,” Laos says with some surprise.
Fernando shrugs. “I do the best that I can.” With this, the three man depart.
The not-really-remarkable thing is that Vietnam's binary worldview, which is apparently constructed in no small measure through political inclinations, would immediately shunt Fernando into the scumbag segment of the population, yet Fernando ended the encounter quite amiably. This is something that far too many people both locally and on a nationwide scale don't or refuse to grasp: political leanings don't fucking matter if you're trying to be a good servitor to a customer. Only a douchebag injects (or interjects) politics into the personal business relationship between customer and provider. Be Keepers of your respective Dominions, not Morality Polices of the External World.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Captain Oblivious

The phone rings one afternoon. Fernando picks up. “Hello, Dominion of Movies.”
Yeah, my name is Monaco. I was wondering if you did any disc cleaning.”
Fernando sighs and runs a hand through his hair. “I used to, but the repair machine I used broke down a while back and I haven't been able to find an acceptable replacement yet. All the ones I've found have been the hand-crank ones that are far more likely to destroy your discs than fix them, or the huge industrial ones that cost about three thousand dollars and take up half a room.”
Have you tried looking online?”
Well, yeah. I've scoured eBay, Amazon, other places. I haven't found any.”
I see. What kind did you have?”
A Maxwell. Couldn't tell you the specifics, but I'd know it if I saw it. It worked amazingly for at least six or so years, probably more since it was here when the old owners were still around.”
What happened to it?”
Well, there are these styrofoam pads that are placed in the machine to do the actual cleaning and they have a thin strip of some sort of polymer material on top. One day this strip somehow came off and smeared and tangled itself all over the disc and moving parts in the machine.”
Did you try cleaning it?”
Uh...yeah. It--”
How about rubbing alcohol and Q-Tips? Those work well for cleaning up machines like that if you take them apart.”
Yes. This stuff was crusted on and I couldn't get any of it off, so in the end I threw it--”
Because I've taken apart and fixed a lot of stuff, gaming systems and stuff. Xbox and GameCube and things like that. Maybe I could take a look for you.”
Fernando resists the urge to shout uncomplimentary words. “I got rid of it after I was unable to clean it.”
I could maybe have fixed it for you.”
I wasn't going to keep a broken piece of machinery around the store.”
Oh.” Monaco makes a pensive chuffing sound. “Have you tried searching Craigslist? They sometimes have stuff up for sale.”
Yes, I have checked Craigslist.”
You didn't find anything?”
If I had, I would have most likely bought it.”
Why don't you get a different one?”
Deep breaths, Fernando. Deep deep breaths. “The hand-crank ones are crap and I don't have the money, space, or inclination to pick up one of the big ones like what Family Video or Blockbuster probably have.”
Oh, Family Video has one of those?”
I would imagine so.”
Do you know if they do it for other people?”
I mean, I don't know. I'm not an expert on how Family Video runs itself.”
I guess I'll call them then.”
That might be for the best. They would be able to answer your questions better than me.”
Monaco is silent for about five seconds. “Okay, so I'll call them then.”
Alrighty. Best of luck to you.”
Monaco hangs up. Fernando passes time staring at the cordless phone in his hand, then replaces it in the charger.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fish Out of Temporal Water

A lady Fernando has never seen before enters the Dominion one evening with a kid, maybe six years old, in tow. Fernando greets her but she ignores him and heads out into the store to browse.
After a couple of minutes, she approaches the counter. “Yes, do you have this on VHS?” She has in her hands Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Um, that came out in 2008 or thereabouts. They actually stopped production of VHS tapes entirely about a number of years ago.”
So you don't have it on tape?”
No, I'm afraid not.”
You don't have any of these newer ones on tape?”
No, sorry. Like I said, they haven't made new VHS tapes in half a decade or more.”
How come you can still buy them online then?”
People sell used items online all the time. They aren't new.”
I've gotten newer movies on tape!”
Then someone recorded it onto a blank VHS tape brought out of a time capsule and sold that recording.”
Can you order some for me?”
No, I'm sorry. I won't knowingly deal in pirated materials.”
That's not piracy!”
I have fewer lawyers than the MPAA, so I feel as though arguing that point would be a lost cause.”
The lady leaves.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Introspection and Bullshit

Every year around this time I feel a vague pining for the days of yore, since this is the time of year in which I would travel to the far-away place at which I spent the majority of nearly half a decade of my life, leaving behind my rustic trappings and chasing what I thought were my dreams in the cultured, enlightened, civilized university environment. This year proves more poignant (and pungent) than most because it marks a decade since I began that phase of my life. It really oughtn't, since a decade is, in the end, a division of time just as arbitrary as any other.
I spent a goodly portion of first night as a know-nothing freshman who'd only been on the campus twice before for a tour and orientation, lost both geographically and socially. I had, for whatever strange reason, decided to pay an extra hundred dollars or thereabouts to attend one of those leadership retreat things about a week before the semester officially started. I was accepted into the honors program at college and had it sold to me by the people in charge (oh, those canny souls!) that going to this thing would benefit me in the long run. Ah, Decade Younger Fernando, the things I would tell you about the promises people make and the reasons they make those offers.
The actual program was not atrocious. It was bullshit and definitely not for me, but not objectively atrocious. I and nine other freshmen were placed in a group for this safari-themed getaway/conference. We were up at six in the morning and in bed at midnight. All the events were mandatory, including the summation party which was dominated by a DJ whose music collection, as was appropriate at that time, included every example of rap-metal known to man and nothing else. There wasn't an option not to show up to these events; if you failed to show up at a thing (and they took attendance, oh yes) you had to pay an additional $300 early move-in fee. If you left any of them early, likewise.
The events were mostly silly teambuilding exercises meant to emphasize and train one's leadership abilities. I mean, yeah, I get it. I'm a Type-B, the INTJ, a solid blue on the four-color personality test. Don't make me sit through self-discovery rituals meant to foster some semblance of kinship with nine other people who I'd never met before and who I would never associate with again, and who would not associate with me, in all the years I attended college. Social organization happens spontaneously and the out-group members will remain out-group members. I was forced to stand in the midst of a plethora of Type-A personalities for three full days of my life, not enjoying any of it.
The rather amazing thing is that my roommate at the time, Nataniel, one of the very few people from my college experience with whom I still communicate now and again, shared a great many of my dour views on humanity. As an added bonus, he despised the overplayed tripe most eighteen-year olds thought was good music, thought reading for leisure was a laudable way to spend one's time, and held the opinion that Kefka was the baddest-ass of all badass video game villains. He was a nice island of sanity amidst the roiling chaos of young adults having their first tastes of actual freedom, and he was one of the few people not to give me shit for being who and what I was.
The unfortunate fact is that I was a minority group member for the first time in my life, part of a social demographic overlooked at best, sneered at at worst, by most of the other people in my state. I'd been long-accustomed to being something of a social pariah, but that was for legitimate reasons including my bubbly personality, idealistic worldview, and tendency to praise others for their hard work and achievements. It was a humbling experience, but it was quite silly of me to get miffed that people mocked the way I said words like “road” and “toast.”
I made a few other friends over the course of my first year, in addition to the aforementioned roommate. I only still speak on occasion with one of them, Consuela, who lived down the hall from us. This is not to say that I was not impacted by the people who've been eroded away by the winds of time. Quite the opposite, really.
At the time, I was a lukewarm adherent to the Catholic faith. I'd attended catechism back home and was at that awkward stage in which I had too many questions and not enough answers. My pastor and catechism teacher spent a bit of money ordering a book, which I now recognize to be pseudoscientific kerfluffle, for me which claimed to link God with (at the time) the most recent discoveries in cosmology and quantum physics. It was meant to stymie my incessant curiosity but instead, when I read it, I found myself asking how the quantum states of matter are an argument for the extra-dimensionality of God.
I enrolled in a Spanish class during my virginal semester and somehow overcame my crippling introversion to make friends with a dating pair of juniors. I think I was reading one of the Sword of Truth novels in the hallway between classes or something, I don't know. They noticed the book, I found out they were nerds and that, by amazing coincidence, I was a nerd; and Ted's your uncle. After a few exploratory conversations held before or after the next few class sessions we somehow stumbled upon the topic of religion and my apparent crisis of the faith, and they recommended that I attend an upcoming meeting of the Campus Crusade for Christ.
Decade Younger Fernando, I'm wagging my finger at you, you silly silly goose.
Of course, I didn't know what to expect at the time. They made it sound far more intellectual than it actually turned out to be. I mean, this thing had everything I didn't want, and that is saying a lot (since there are a great number of things I do not want in life). Testimonials, because we all know the plural of personal anecdote is data. People throwing their heads back and their arms wide and vibrating as God-lovin' music bloomed in their souls, and an honest-to-goodness fire-and-brimstone sermon on masturbation, of all things, given by a resident priest who, I came to find out later, regularly set up an actual soapbox near the main quad and preached The Word about how abortionists and sodomites were destined to eternal damnation. Oh, and new person introductions. That's fun times, having a hundred, hundred-fifty people staring at you just before a man of the cloth starts on a tirade about fapping.
Silver linings exist, though: attending that thing cured me of my personal Catholicism and led to me flirting with other ethical frameworks, most notably Taoism, and led me to pursue my studies in philosophy in the end, since that is how I stumbled across a splendid gent by the name of Friedrich Nietzsche who, it turns out, had written a fair amount on the interplay and relationship between religion and morality.
Little more remains to be said of my first two years at college. I did the things most college students do with their vast amounts of free time and some that they probably do not, like staying up until 3 AM with the roommates and Consuela watching soap operas on the Spanish channel and providing our own dubs for the incomprehensible action on the screen. We discovered Invader Zim through random and fortunate channel surfing only a few days before the fall semester ended, catching the very end of the last episode, “The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever.” The three minutes we saw of fucking awesome candy cane-spider Santa fighting a giant mecha led us to scour every inch of Kazaa (I think Kazaa was still in vogue then; else it was Limewire) for Zim episodes. We amassed most of them and when “The Halloween Spectacular of Spooky Doom” finished downloading we must have watched that thing at least three times within the span of twenty-four hours, and I'm pretty certain this is what kicked off our traditional movie marathon during exams week, where we could watch Christmas-y classics like Gremlins and Edward Scissorhands and The Evil Dead (hey, Christmas-y enough for our purposes!) instead of doing the responsible thing and studying.
The sad fact, now that I think about it, is that I own a movie store but have not watched any of those perennial favorites since our last such gathering in 2005.
What's funny is that, after the first hectic semester, things start to blend together. The tumult settled and college life became blasé. Moments still pop out now and again, like the time someone asked Fernando where he lives and he responded, “Saladolsa,” thinking the question to be one of where he came from, and it just so happens that a non-residential hall on campus bears the name Saladolsa, and Consuela quipped that Fernando maintains a cubbyhole behind the vending machines.
Familiarity begets homogeneity as all the snarls and wrinkles which are the mark of the inexperienced weaver slowly vanish from the tapestry of his or her life, but those imperfections are what makes the tapestry a unique marvel to behold. Existence without adventure, without facing the unknown and overcoming its obstacles, is no existence at all, but a false-life which ends up a hollow caricature of the things others accomplish. Content yourself in your own accomplishments, for no one else would have done the same thing in the same way, then work to avoid stagnation. Pursue a new hobby, learn a new skill, meet new and interesting people, do something that has never been done before, or at the very least do something you have never done before. It might be a wretched experience, it may be heaven on earth, but it will regardless lead to change and growth, even if it takes a decade's worth of hindsight to realize this fact.
Ah, but now if only I would take my own advice....

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Shallow Reference Pools

A young woman enters the Dominion one afternoon. She has rented about twice before. “Do you have the last two Harry Potter movies?” she asks.
Absolutely I do,” Fernando answers. He rises and tracks down the pair of movies, then begins filling out the rental slip.
I love these movies so much. The books are also really good,” she says as Fernando writes.
Oh, yeah. They're remarkably and surprisingly well-done. My only qualm is that they kicked off the stupid thing where studios split the last book of a series into multiple parts in order to eke out more money from them. Granted, Deathly Hallows had enough meat to the story to pull it off well, and probably needed it, but now that everybody's following the leader it grates on me.”
I'm just glad that the author made such a success of herself.”
Yeah, she definitely deserved that. She's the richest woman alive now.”
Yeah, beat out Oprah a while back now.”
Well, good. Someone with that much creativity and originality deserves that kind of thing. Like the...the horse with the bird's head that she created?”
You mean thestrals?”
No, no. From the I think it was third movie.”
Yeah! That's the one!”
Actually, hippogriffs have been around since medieval times. They were claimed to be a rare variety of griffon which came about when a griffon mated with a horse, which didn't usually happen since horses are griffons' favorite meals. She didn't really invent them.”
The woman looks at Fernando askance. “I think you're making all that up.”
Them's fighting words, so Fernando tries a snappy comeback rather than unloading both barrels on her. “Well, yeah, since it's a mythological creature.”
But none of what you just said was in the books.”
I'm not talking about Harry Potter hippogriffs. I'm talking about Rowling's inspiration for hippogriffs, the basis. Ninety percent of people had no clue there even existed such a thing in mankind's mythological history until Prisoner of Azkaban rolled around. When will we ever see an ahuizotl in popular fiction?”
A what?”
Ahuizotl. It's a malicious, sociopathic monkey-dog-thing from Aztec myth that drowns people and eats their teeth, eyeballs, and nails.”
Ew. Why do you know this stuff?”
I've read fantasy and mythology beyond what is contained in the pages of Harry Potter. I chose to retain information like that rather than learning something more practically useful. I could tell you all kinds of useless shit about things that never existed. Did you know that there's a Greek variety of goblin that basically spontaneously combusts if it ever counts to three, and that people used to set colanders on their doorsteps to thwart them?”
No.” The lady's eyes shift in her head in the direction of the door.
Fernando had provided enough of a tongue-lashing, so he relents in his verbal assault. “Just saying, Harry Potter's not the end-all, be-all repository of mythological knowledge. It's a more than adequate gateway drug, though.” Fernando looks down at the rental slip. “It comes to three-fifty.”
She pays and leaves. Fernando gets the feeling she won't be back soon. This is a price he is fine with paying.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Just like last year, a country music festival was held in the Dominion's vicinity. Like most years, the people who went out there did so to spend an unreasonable amount of money listening to barely mediocre music, getting drunk off their asses, and rubbing up against other people lasciviously. Visitors from far and wide inexplicably come to take in this festival's dubious highlights. It's like a fun-sized version of what happens during hunting season.
A silver pickup truck pulls up before the Dominion from the alleyway between it and a neighboring building. A guy gets out and meanders (more accurately, staggers) across the lot to the door. The truck pulls away as the chimes tinkle and the stranger saunters up to the counter and leans on it.
Hey man, you got a pisser I can use?” asks the man, though his pronunciation is closer to “Hemmin, y'gah pisser Ic'n-uze?”
Fernando swivels his chair about to face the guest. “Sorry, I don't.”
C'mon man. I gotta go!”
Fernando peers out the window at the distinct lack of silver pickup in the parking lot. “Where did your buddies go?”
Over...over there.” He tilts his head over his shoulder, in the direction of the nearby gas station.
You didn't go with them to use their toilet?”
How do you go to the bathroom?” asks the man.
Giving an answer to Fernando's legitimate question proved too taxing for his inebriated thought processes, and this prompts Fernando to answer his query in the most honest way. “Standing up, on occasion sitting.”
I mean here.”
I don't. I'm like a camel.”
Oh.” The man looks awkwardly around the foyer for a few seconds before turning and leaving. Fernando does not see the silver pickup pass back in front of the Dominion on the return trip.
Christ, is the music fest so starved for cash that they charge people to use their overflowing, rancid porta-potties, too?

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Fernando sits in the office at his computer one morning, sipping at coffee and catching up on his daily news. As he raises a cup of liquid bliss to his mouth, the glass of his door suffers a great pounding.
What in the hell?” Fernando says aloud. He swings out of the office and sees a young, well-groomed, stereotypically Teutonic male standing there with a satchel over his shoulder and books in his hands.
Fernando heads to the door and pops it open, then stands so as to bar Our Little Aryan from entering, for the lad took a step forward as though Fernando's appearance meant he was welcome inside the Dominion. “Yes?”
Good morning, sir. I'm with a fellowship trying to raise money for a scholarship at a Christian high school. We thought we would try something a little bit different this year.” He extends a book titled Cooking and Faith in Fernando's direction. “Tell me, sir, what...kind of foods do you enjoy?”
The young man's hesitation is brought about because he finally noticed Fernando fixing his gimlet gaze on his visitor's vapid blue eyes. The whole time he was speaking he looked at a point above and to the right of Fernando's head. Fernando checked afterwards if perhaps a guardian spider had taken up residence there, but the potential arachnid perhaps proved savvy enough to maybe avoid having to deal with the chance of experiencing a disgusting combination of proselytizing and panhandling. But, no, the boy was just unwilling or unable to look Fernando in the face when he spoke.
I'm sorry, I recently gave up eating. I'm afraid your offerings do not interest me.”
This does not faze the cultist. “Well, sir, I have a wide selection of other types of literature--”
I can't read.”
The minion who claimed to speak on God's behalf did not give up. “Well, if I could interest you in a pamphlet or prayer book--”
Ce jahor tal, kachadimich!” Fernando looks down at his body as if in shock. “Ih ce cemeler celim theaad nal? Kez mochim ye! Celim mochad, chnaim mochad, cen cemad!” Fernando backs away, cringing and wringing his hands. It is not often that Fernando finds himself possessed and speaking in tongues.These things worry him.
The door clicks shut. Normally when people engage in hammy theatrics similar to those Fernando just did, onlookers have some sort of reaction. They may laugh at the absurdity of it all, they make shake their heads and wonder how the poor soul is outside his padded room, they may do something else entirely, but they do something. This guy just stood there, watching, until Fernando had rounded the bend leading to the office.
Abrahamic faiths argue that humans are the only creatures to possess souls and all the trappings to come along with that dubious honor, but the automatons slaving away not in the name of God, but in the name of some pseudoreligious hack who claims to speak for God, go a long way towards debunking this claim.