Virtue in the Wasteland Podcast

What do we do when the euphoria of Christmas morning is past? We discuss the Persian holiday of Yalda, the future, a bit more about Christmas movies, and share stories about our family Christmases. 

Direct download: Christmas_Methodone.mp3
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The obligations of virtuous citizens, with respect to the Syrian refugee situation, Trump, Angela Merkel, journalism, and American self-imposed ignorance.

Uwe is a lay theologian and internationally-renowned journalist.  Siemon-Netto was born in Leipzig, Germany, where his devoutly Lutheran grandmother was the pivotal figure in his childhood in World War II. He is the former religion editor of United Press International.  He began his journalism career 1956 as a trainee at Westfalenpost, a large regional newspaper in southern Westphalia. In 1958, he joined the Associated Press in Frankfurt first as copy editor, then as slot editor and roving reporter, covering, among other things, the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. From 1962 to 1969, he worked as a correspondent for Springer Foreign News Service in London, Paris, New York, Vietnam, the Middle East and Hong Kong. His assignments included the United Nations, the U.S. civil rights movement, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War (over a period of five years), the Arab-Israeli Six Day War, and China's Cultural Revolution. From 1969 to 1973 Siemon-Netto was North American correspondent for the magazine, Der Stern, writing about many major news events in North, Central and South America, East Asia, France, and again Vietnam.From 1973 to 1986, Siemon-Netto served as Managing Editor for Hamburger Morgenpost, taught journalism at Hamburg's Journalistenschule Henri Nannen, worked as a freelance correspondent for German, Swiss, French and U.S. publications, and as a media consultant overseeing a variety of design and management tasks at publications in Germany and the United States.

In mid-career, at age 50, he began his theological studies, first in Chicago, then in Boston. During these studies, Siemon-Netto freelanced as a magazine correspondent. At the time of the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and Germany's subsequent reunification, he served, concurrently with his academic work, as an editorial consultant and—as independent contractor—executive editor for Bild, launching its East German editions, helping plan newspapers for Leipzig and Dresden, training Eastern German journalists and developing a new curriculum for Journalistenschule Axel Springer.

From 1993 to 1994 he managed the redesign of Der Tagesspiegel, a Berlin daily, the Scientific American, in New York, and idea-Spektrum, a Protestant magazine in Wetzlar, Germany. He also co-founded CA-Confessio Augustana, a Lutheran quarterly magazine in Neuendettelsau, Bavaria. From 2000-2005, he was religious affairs editor of United Press International and a Washington-based columnist for a variety of German-language publications.

He studied for his M.A. in theology at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. His Ph.D. in theology and sociology of religion is from Boston University under Peter L. Berger, Carter Lindberg and Uri Ra'Anan. He spent a post-doctoral year at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, N.J. working on a project to bridge the gap between theology and the media.

He is the author of Duc: A Reporter's Love for the Wounded People of VietnamThe Acquittal of God: A Theology for Vietnam Veteransand The Fabricated Luther: The Rise and Fall of the Shirer MythOne Incarnate Truth: Christianity's Answer to Spiritual Chaos.


Direct download: Refugee_Neigbors.mp3
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Expert in the history of Christian-Muslim relations, Dr. Francisco chats with us about the perplexing circumstances of our era.  How do we balance our love for neighbor with our concern for our neighbors' safety.  How do we juggle religious freedom and obvious threats from radicalized believers.  We discuss Trump, ISIS, ISIL, jihad, refugees, and radical Islam.

Direct download: Extremism_and_The_Limits_of_Hospitality.mp3
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Many atheists and conservative Christians have one thing in common this Christmas season: they worry about whether they should tell their kids a benevolent but not exactly true tale about Santa Claus.  There are economic, mythic, religious, and cultural issues at play. We learn about the history and development of the Santa legend.

Direct download: Santa_and_Other_Demonic_Lies.mp3
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Twitter, public vitriol, shrill rhetoric, journalism, the history of political debate, postmodern thought, the linguistic turn, analytic philosophy and speech act theory.

Direct download: Why_Cant_We_Talk_to_Each_Other.mp3
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Give thanks for even the things you think you resent. Hear how Jeff, Dan, the 1517 crew, and sports radio all interconnect.

Direct download: Hey_Thanks.mp3
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The cultural, philosophical, and religious significance of Star Wars, as we anticipate the reboot in December.

Direct download: Star_Wars.mp3
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Are you a Chicken Little, always shouting about impending doom?  Are you an ostrich with your head in the sand, not attending to the threats on the horizon? What kind of bird are you? This week, Dan and Jeff reset after several shows about societal collapse and discuss various aspects--all in free-form--of the phenomenon of being right but not having any satisfaction once vindicated.  We mess about but have some fun.

Direct download: I_Told_You_So.mp3
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Modern art and art critic and author, Dr. Daniel Seidell, all while we watch a muted game 2 of the World Series. What does art provide? Is there a way in which beauty might bring us back to truth? And what does that mean? Maybe our favorite show. This cat is the real deal.  Too much fun amidst profound exploration of ideas.  

Direct download: The_Art_of_Faith_with_Dr._Dan_Seidell.mp3
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Dr. Deen is a Faithful Masks Fellow, a 1517 Thinking Fellow, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Concordia University, Irvine, and a dude who specializes in the ethics of belief.  We think virtue is the way out of the intellectual wasteland, and we discuss ways to move forward with respect to perplexing issues like science and religion, and reproductive ethics.

Direct download: History_of_the_Fall_Part_4.mp3
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World War I, the Lost Generation, postmodernity, continental philosophy, and the US presidential contenders, like Trump, Clinton, Bush, and Sanders.  

We don't recount all the events, we just put them into context.

Direct download: History_of_the_Fall_Part_3.mp3
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Dr. Olson is chair of Exercise Sports Science at Concordia University, where he also serves as Assistant Dean.  He helps us sort out the confusion of the idea of getting healthy.  We learn that we don't know a lot.  Nor do many of the famous gurus.  We unlearn some things and learn other things.  And we have a bit of fun.

Direct download: The_Health_Fad_Hustle.mp3
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After back tracking to discuss monasticism as an option for cultural (dis)engagement, we discuss the valuable contributions of the Enlightenment, ending with a warning that, despite its gifts, not all was well during the autumn of the progressive era.

Direct download: History_of_the_Fall_Part_2.mp3
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Fatherhood, the Prodigal Son, and grace in the home.  Scott Keith is an Associate Dean of Students and Adjunct Professor of Theology at Concordia University, Irvine.  He is also a Thinking Fellow of 1517 The Legacy Project.  Here, he discusses his new book On Being Dad, available at NRP Books and on Amazon.  

Direct download: The_Fall_of_Fatherhood.mp3
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Transhumanism, theology, cyborgs, and what to do about it all.  We discuss H+ as a movement, focussing on the ideas of super-longevity, super-intelligence, and super-wellbeing.  Ray Kurtzweil's dream of living forever on a digital platform may come true; if it does, Jeff requests his consciousness be kept on a Mac OS not a PC.


Dr. Oesch is Associate Professor of Theology and director of the MA in Theology at Concordia University, Irvine.  He is also the creator and essayist on  

Direct download: Transhumanism.mp3
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We look for the resources from sages past to see how they figured out how to live at peace and find virtue in our cultural wasteland.  A bit of ancient philosophy like Taoism and a discussion of Seneca, Sextus Empiricus, Luther, and Calvin.

Direct download: History_of_the_Fall_I.mp3
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This one's a bit of a downer.  We explore some reasons why we are all, whatever we think about the grass on someone else's side, terribly stuck.  We are stuck in this penultimate world hoping for ultimate victory but sometimes unable to see it.  We still believe everything is going to be ok.  That doesn't mean every day between now and our deaths will be an easy road.  No sir.  No ma'am.  We begin a theme for fall: the Fall.  Why can't we expect political, ecclesiastical, and mental health utopias?  Cause it's all fallen.  But it's all redeemable.  Let's try and press on together, dear listener.  Moral courage and sincere humility are where we start.  Hope is our banner.  But we must first face the abyss.  Here's the show mainly about the abyss.  

Direct download: The_Fall.mp3
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Jeff and Dan discuss the personal development that occurs through travel and by being open to new people and experiences even near home.  Jeff shares a series of insights he and his son Auggie drafted while watching the sun set over the Yulong river. 

Direct download: Get_Outside_Yourself.mp3
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Are things getting better or worse?  What do the statistics say about crime and can we trust them.  Faithful Masks fellow Dr. Kristen Koenig helps answer these questions.

Direct download: Krime_with_Kristen_Koenig.mp3
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What to wear and the history of style just in time for back to school wardrobe upgrades.  Maybe deeper stuff too.

Direct download: Fashion.mp3
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By letting three outside observers reflect on American culture, we reflect on the nature of the American spirit, our anxieties, and our hopes.  History, religion, and politics.  Join our expedition.

Direct download: What_Does_it_Mean_to_Be_Amerian_.mp3
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The history, famous personalities, and social importance of fundamentalism in America.

Direct download: F_Word.mp3
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Is Harper Lee's novel worth reading?  Does it disappoint us about the complexity of racism in America?  Listen up and find out.

Direct download: Go_Set_A_Watchman.mp3
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Reinke discusses the back story and aftermath of the circumstances surrounding the critically-acclaimed documentary, "The Overnighters" (2014), winner of several awards, including the Sundance special award for best documentary.  This is an amazing conversation, reflecting on the work of Reinke and his LCMS congregation to help displaced workers who came to North Dakota to benefit from the fracking boom.  Reinke is by no means a perfect guy, he never claims to be.  But he also has a way of inspiring folks to consider radical hospitality and grace--even to the unloveable. He is an underdog, and a champion of underdogs.  That isn't always a formula for earthly succes.  Perhaps the best quote from our guest (who had a good many): "Love is not an investment. Love is a gift."

Direct download: The_Underdog_Pastor.mp3
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What do you do when you hate what you do?  Before that, we discuss emails and feedback related to our previous show.  We share a bit about what's been going on this summer with our family vacations. We reveal a dream Jeff's dad had about the nature of this life's journey.  We read through and discuss a letter a young Hunter S. Thompson wrote to a friend.

Direct download: When_Your_Job_Sucks.mp3
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Gay marriage, the constitution, ethics, Christianity, and America.


Will the 14th Amendment threaten the 1st Amendment?  Is there a difference between what is legal and what is moral?  Should conservative Christians be as upset as they are about the recent Supreme Court decision?   On this show, we risk upsetting everyone from right to left.  We challenge the conservative view that the sky is falling.  We challenge the view of those who want to use the state to further biblical positions.  We agree with some of the concerns of the consevative, dissenting justices on points of law, and yet suggest that the overall outcome is a reasonable one.

Direct download: Marriage_Morality_and_the_Law.mp3
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What is pietism, who were the Pietists, and why does this all matter for contemporary American culture?


We chat about Wesley, Zinzendorf, Spener, Arndt, Haugee etc.

Direct download: PIetism.mp3
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Narnia, myth, mere Christianity, and how to be both faithful and willing to play nice with others.

Dr. Mueller is Dean of Christ College, Concordia University Irvine, where he is also a Prof. of Theology.  He is the author of several books, including Called to Believe, Teach, and Confess: An Introduction to Doctrinal Theology (Wipf & Stock, 2005), Not a Tame God (CPH, 2002), and The Reformation Heritage Bible Commentary (CPH, 2015). 

Direct download: On_C_S_Lewis.mp3
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Another show in the Wrong Side of History series, we sit down with a native Hawaiian and a missionary to the Navaho Nation to discuss the ways in which Western Christians have made mistakes, but also some positive contributions, to first nations people around the world, especially in US states and territories.

De Lude III (Native Hawaiian) serves the Native Hawaiian people on the island of O’ahu, the third largest and most densely populated island comprising the state. Having received his master’s in Lutheran education and serving many years as vice-principal, Clarence is now enrolled in the Cross-Cultural Ministry Center (CMC) Program at Concordia University, Irvine, Calif., leading to ordination.

Tim Norton and his family serve the Navajo Nation – the largest Native nation both in terms of population and area of more than 25,000 square miles. Tim works with Louise Lee (Navajo), who also serves with Lutheran Indian Ministries at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Navajo, N.M. Tim is enrolled in the Cross-Cultural Ministry Center (CMC) Program at Concordia University, Irvine, Calif., leading to ordination.
Direct download: Missions_to_Hawaiians_and_Native_Americans.mp3
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LA Country music, religion, hipsters, and making sincere music.

Direct download: Sex_Drugs_and_Country_Music_with_Sam_Outlaw.mp3
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Music and book suggestions to change things up for you this summer.  Don't get into a rut.  We created a playlist on spotify to sample some of the stuff we mention:

You can find a full list of readings on our website:


Direct download: Summer_Reading.mp3
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Climate change, desertification, ethics, ecology, fisheries, and caring for our neighbors around the world.  Dr. Bignmami is a marine biologist, specializing in the relationship between fish and the acidity of our oceans.

Another episode with the "wrong side of history" theme.

Direct download: Climate_Change.mp3
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If we look at our landscapes, our cities, our churches, and our homes, we can tell what we value.  Indeed, we can determine who our real gods are.  From cathedrals to bank buildings, we have, as a race, shifted our allegiances (sometimes from God to mammon).  Dan and Jeff banter about Mirecea Eliade, the layout of a home, and though we only use the term once: cultural Feng Shui.  

Direct download: Architecture_of_Your_Life.mp3
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Commencement speaches tend to be salads of platitudes and cliches.  But one great one was offered by David Foster Wallace ("This is Water").  We share our advice to students who graduate this year, but also to anyone who wants to reset, wake up, and live well.

Direct download: Graduation_Special_2.mp3
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Fighting, our fights, and the Crusades.  This is part of our recent theme: "The Wrong Side of History." Historian and scholar of Islam, Adam Francisco (a Faithful Mask Fellow) joins us to reset our understanding of the history and legacy of the crusades.  

Direct download: The_Crusades.mp3
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We bring Rev. Dr. C. J. Armstrong back to help unpack the ways in which religious communities and other groups maintain their identity, struggle with welcoming outsiders and maintaining identity, and appear to the outside world.  We go into the concept of taboos in Freud and Alasdair MacInytre, and spend some time giving a brief history of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, as a case study for this topic.

Direct download: Taboos_and_Religious_Identity.mp3
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This is a brief show that we hope to elaborate on later. (Dan's edit: a show on which we wish to elaborate later).  In some ways it was occasioned by a comment by Jesse Nigro, posted to a 1517 Legacy blog post by Jeff. How is it that two guys in a conservative and sometimes prickly denomination are simultaneously irenic.  We ultimately argue that by being confident in our confession, we can be in dialog with people from radically different perspectives.  It's not that we jump on the fad of the hour, but rather that because of our anchor, we need not fret when strange winds blow.


Direct download: Picking_Your_Battles.mp3
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Narrative, fiction, stories, and myth. Why do stories matter? What do they say about society and ideology.  Come find out. 


We mention Casey Abrams, George Washington, Cato, Into the Woods, John Milbank, Radical Orthodoxy, postliberalism, Turretin, ACTC, Stephen Jay Gould, and Enlightenment.

Direct download: The_Stories_We_Tell.mp3
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How should we talk to our children about dating?  How should we date ourselves? Dr. C. J. Armstrong comes along for the mellow ride, as a chapperone. Courtship, love, romance, sex, adolescence, and flirtation.

Direct download: Dating.mp3
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Onanism is an old word for masturbation. Why?  What is the historical background to the ways in which the church has understood sexuality, the body, what is normal, and how to talk to young people about sexuality.  We discuss the origins of the Graham cracker, grain based cereal, and 19th century health fads.

This is the first in a series of shows dedicated to evaluating whether the church has been on the wrong side of history and learning how we can apply lessons from the past to our cultural engagement today.

Direct download: The_Sin_of_Onan_.mp3
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Don't listen to this one first, if you've never heard the show before.  We've been busy, so this show checks in and answers some mail that's been piling up.  Is Dan really a Republican?  What have we been reading?  Why are we in LA?

Direct download: Outside_Ramblings.mp3
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Hear what some sharp students and Faithful Masks Fellow Dr. Kristen Koenig have to say about hearing President Obama at the 50th anniversary of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  Martin Luther King Jr., Al Sharpton, Barack Obama, Rosa Young, Concordia Alabama, and more.  

This is episode 114.

Direct download: Pilgrimage_to_Selma.mp3
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A discussion of political, cultural, or religious code words and signs that separate the in group from the out group.


Direct download: Shibboleth.mp3
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Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto, author of Triumph of the Absurd, discusses ways in which we can apply lessons from Vietnam for today's crises.  

Direct download: Overcoming_the_Absurd.mp3
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Introverts, introversion, C. G. Jung, dreams, and how to live an optimal life as an introvert or someone who loves an introvert.  What is the MBTI test and does it matter? Should it lock us in to patterns of life?  Dr. Cosgrove is a Prof. of Psychology at Concordia University Irvine.

This is episode #111.  

Direct download: Introvert_Uprising.mp3
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We're not giving up on this show.  But we are talking about ways in which giving something up for a time might be good for us.

Just days after Valentine's Day, we ask what's up with Lent? Is it worth giving a shot?  Even if we aren't Roman Catholic?  Or even religous at all?  

Jeff explains why he has recently changed his favorite holiday from Ash Wednesday to an unlikely day on the calendar (for him).  Dan goes deep into major artists in popular culture, like REM and the Pixies.  Listen to find out how (or whether) this all fits together.

Direct download: Giving_Up.mp3
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A Valentine's day bonus.  Sociologist Kristen Koenig joins us to deconstruct relationships in contemporary culture, the holiday called Valentine's day, the nature of passion, eros, love, commitment, and our era's dissolution.  

This is episode #109

Direct download: 50_Shades_of_Love.mp3
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We try to move past the meaninglessness of some ideologies, past the cheap hope of the positive thinking movement, and on to a path to hope.  We have an ethical obligation to hope until its last embers have been extinguished.  Patience, friends. Things are going to be fine.  There's a crack in everything, as Leonard Cohen says, but that's how the light gets through.  

This is episode 108.


Direct download: Hope.mp3
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Jenn Koiter shares her poetry with us as we discuss her nonprofit work in India, the value of poetry, the problems of poverty tourism and cultural appropriation, suffering, sex trafficking in Asia, Zen, and why one might stick with their Western spiritual heritage through it all.  We did not censor this episode, though even grandma should find it tame overall.  This is episode 106.


Direct download: Bindis_at_Coachella.mp3
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Lending with interest in European history, Adam Smith, social ethics, borrowing, debt, greed, and cash societies.  The song we play at the break is "Gimme Some Money" by the spoof band Spinal Tap.

Direct download: Usury_and_Debt.mp3
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Shūsaku Endō, his Tanizaki Prize winning novel Silence, when mentors disappoint you, Jesuits, the Catholic mission to Japan in the early modern era, Francis Xavier, Martin Scorsesse, Pure Land Buddhism, Jodo Shu, Jodo Shinshu, faith, doubt, martyrdom, and the silence of God in the midst of suffering and abandonment.  We won't give any spoilers till after the music break.  Check out other wasteland companions if you dig this sort of thing.

Direct download: Silence.mp3
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What is anti-wisdom?  What is it's purpose?  How does it inform our spirituality, emotions, ethics, and philosophy?  Job and Ecclesiastes are examples in the Hebrew Bible.  They deal with themes that assist us during times when conventional wisdom can't help us.  

Direct download: Antiwisdom.mp3
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We discuss the recent film by James Franco and Seth Rogan, its cultural effects, and its international implications.  We discuss the difficulty of liking things on facebook that have ideological baggage.  We share our new year's resolutions for each other.

Episode 102

Direct download: The_Interview.mp3
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