The Parlour Tea Room, Basingstoke

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I recently made a visit to the Parlour Tearoom in Basingstoke. The Parlour Tearoom sells sandwiches, cakes, and afternoon tea. I had made a previous visit. This first visit was over a year ago, and I had a toasted cheese sandwich, Victoria Sponge cake and a cupcake, which I took away. I visited with my parents, and they also had sandwiches and different flavours of cupcakes. All of this was very good. Unfortunately, all of my photographs of this visit somehow got lost, and I've not been able to return until recently.

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The Parlour Tearoom is located in the Viables area of Basingstoke outside the town centre. This area is also home to large businesses, and I used to work there until the end of January 2010, but the tearoom was not around then. The Parlour Tearooms are located in converted stables or workhouses, and many more of these now house local businesses selling crafts, jewellery, sweets, and food.

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The interior has a vintage-inspired design with bunting. 

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During my most recent visit, I had a pot of tea and a scone with jam and clotted cream, and this tasted delicious.

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This was followed by a vanilla cupcake.

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Other flavours of cupcake are on offer for taking away or eating in.

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I recommend The Parlour Tea Rooms in Basingstoke for a visit. The cakes and cupcakes are delicious. 

This is the post where I made a confession that I am a nerd/geek. I have always been a massive fan of 'Star Wars', from watching it while I was growing up in the 1980s and from the time when it was considered 'uncool'. I wanted to join the Rebel Alliance and become a Jedi, had a crush on Luke Skywalker, and continuously drew X-wings/snowspeeders and Rebel Alliance symbols on my school folders. I dressed up as a Jedi in High School for Halloween in an outfit that I made myself. I was probably slightly obsessed with the films.

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It's hard to believe now, but 'Star Wars' was not popular for a time around the late 1980s to the mid 1990s; nothing much was happening in the 'Star Wars' universe, and the only merchandise available to buy were the original items made in the late 1970s, until merchandising rights were relaxed. However, I was (and still am) a big fan of 'Star Wars'. Fast forward to 1999 with the release of 'The Phantom Menace' (which was a big disappointment) to the other two films in the trilogy and spin-off series and film, not to mention the gaming industry.

'Star Wars' has been considered popular again in the past fifteen years, and it's captured the minds of a younger audience, whom I am envious of for having so much more available in the fandom methods for building on their fandom through social media. The rights of 'Star Wars' have been recently sold to Disney, and the new film (a sequel to the original trilogy) is due to hit cinemas this December. I know that although some of the fans who grew up on the original trilogy still love 'Star Wars', we may be a little skeptical, particularly after the disappointment of the 1999 abomination and aspects of the follow-up films and some of the pointless edited scenes of the original trilogy. However, I am looking forward to seeing the new film, but I am not trying to become too excited to the point where I am disappointed. I have mixed feelings about Disney, and I can only hope that Disney have fans of the original trilogy on board to make it a success.

This brings me to Secret Cinema's (http://www.secretcinema.org) most recent installment of immersive cinema. For those who do not know, immersive cinema allows the film to be shown around a 'world' that the viewer can be immersed in and play a part in. Visitors are encouraged to dress up in order to become a part of the experience. 

Last summer, Secret Cinema hosted 'Back to the Future', complete with the construction of a set of the 1950s fictional American town of Hill Valley, which I covered here. This summer, the big film is 'The Empire Strikes Back', which is considered the most popular and most-loved film of the original trilogy. (My personal favourite is 'A New Hope', the first film.) I am going to the event in a few days, but I first wanted to check out the Secret Cinema Cantina pop-up club in London.

Similar to the Secret Cinema showing of 'The Empire Strikes Back' film, the Cantina is open until the end of September. It's only open on some week nights and Saturday night for music and drinks. It is also open on Sundays during the day and caters more for children. We went along to the Saturday evening opening of the Cantina this past weekend. For those who are not familiar with 'Star Wars', the Cantina is based on scenes from the original film's cantina in Mos Eisley at Tatooine (the desert planet). This is the scene where Luke and Obi Wan Kenobi have a drink at the bar (and see just what damage a lightsabre can do) and meet characters Han Solo and Chewbaca.

With any Secret Cinema event, it's best enjoyed dressed up in cosplay, and we did. A little more than half of the visitors to the Cantina did come in the recommended cosplay. We enjoyed meeting a Jawa (the creature with glowing eyes pictured above) and listening to music by London bands/DJs and the Cantina band (with alien band from 'Star Wars'). We also met some other 'made-up' characters, saw some Twi'lek dancers, and had to complete a couple of missions. We also enjoyed a couple of drinks, named "Jawa Juice" (a Vodka mix with lemon) and "Storm Cooler" (a gin mix with apple). This was a fun experience, and I cannot give that much away, but a group of us are going to the main event and are looking forward to it.

June is my birthday month, and I was happy to receive my Birchbox the day after my birthday. For those who do not know, Birchbox is a monthly subscription box, and subscribers receive approximately five sample or full-size skincare or beauty items. Although my subscription had ended last month, I decided to subscribe to one more box as I nearly had earned enough points to spend in the shop. I knew that this month was a collaboration with French Sole, a shoe brand. Each box came with one of three designed shoe bags, which could be selected by the subscriber. I choose the blue and white striped one with a red heart. 

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So, what was in my box this month? 

HIP Ultra Shine Shampoo: This peppermint-scented perfume promises to make your hair healthy and happy. I am never fond of receiving shampoo as the brands that I use seem perfectly okay. This product seemed okay, but I was underwhelmed.

REN Instand Firming Body Shot: This product promises to plump and tone the skin to rid wrinkles. I actually bought a sample size a little over a month ago, but I have not yet given it a try. It does have some good reviews, so I am keen to try it out.

Balance Me Super Moisturising Body Wash: This is an award-winning product that doubles as a body wash and moisturiser. I have a small hoard of body wash, and this is a pleasant addition to the hoard.

Penhaligon's Iris Prima perfume: This perfume is a musky scent, and the company is a British perfumer. The scent if Berganot, sandalwood, and vanilla. This is a very grown-up perfume. I don't have anything quite like it as I tend to opt for the floral scents.

Mirenesse Secret Weapon 24Hr Mascara: This mascara promises to separate and coat lashes without clumping. The product is not thick, but it has a subtle effect. I am keeping this sample one aside as I recently received two of these in another box and had another sent for free (after I paid shipping costs). I will probably end up giving this one away.

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STYLondon temporary metallic tattoos: Similar to this month's Glossybox, every subscriber received these temporary tattoos. These are the 'in' item at the moment and look best at festivals. I have tried these, and the first attempt was ruined. My second attempt was much better, and I received some nice comments about it.

Birchbox and French Sole Shoe Bag: Subscribers could pick out the design of the show bag that they wanted to receive, and I picked out the striped one. Each matches a pair of French Sole's ballet pumps. I do like the design of this.

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What is my verdict? Again, I was underwhelmed with Birchbox. Many of the items I have already tried or currently own. The REN, mascara, and tattoos are products that I currently own. The shampoo and perfume are a bit 'meh', and I have a hoard of body wash. These are all products that just add to my ever-growing hoard. I would have liked to have tried some of the other items that others received this month in their boxes, but Birchbox rarely seems to get it right for me even after changing my beauty profile. Birchbox just wasn't hitting the mark for me. So, it's time to say goodbye to Birchbox and to attempt to use my stash of beauty and make-up goods. 

Formula E in Battersea Park, London

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Saturday was probably the warmest and sunniest day that we have had all summer. A few months ago, the bloke booked a standing area to watch the Formula E racing. The races are similar to Formula 1 cars, but these are electric race cars.  We watched part of the qualifying and the race and wandered around the eVillage.

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Our standing area was #26, which was in the middle of a straight stretch between two turns in the track, so the bloke knew that there would be opportunities for over-taking, which there were. When we first arrived during the morning practice, the stands were fairly empty and we got a decent view. However, the safety barriers in place and double barriers do mean that it was impossible to get decent photographs.

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We headed toward eVillage where all the merchandising and food stands are located. On the way, there was only one section near entry to pit lanes where there was a gap in the barriers where I could snap a couple of very restricted-view photographs.

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There were several bridges that crossed the tracks on our way, which we had to walk on in order to get to eVillage. We also saw the pit area.

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Pits

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Pit entrance

The eVillage could be used by general admission, but we paid more for our standing area to have full access. We watched some of the qualifying from the screens here (as we were late to return to our standing area due to queueing for the race simulators that the bloke wanted to do, and the queue was over an hour). We also managed to get lunch in this area, which was quick but costly. The sponsor stands and merchandising areas were located in eVillage too. 

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We made our way back around to where our standing area (#26) was located, but just as we were a couple of hundred yards away, the area we came to earlier was now fenced off with security standing guard. This meant that we had to back-track. Battersea Park is huge, so we had to walk all the way back to eVillage and back around. We thought there would be a shortcut through the lake, but we never found one, so we had to circle all the way around it and then back-track all the way through to our costly standing area. My feet were shattered, and the viewing area are all standing only.

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We missed some of the cars and bikes going through, but I managed to capture this guy doing stunts on a bike when we arrived, and this was followed by some electric cars. The standing area was already busy with all the first level standing areas taken on the three tiers, and the only spots available were behind people or on the stairs. 

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For the cost of the tickets paid, it was impossible to really see a lot with all of the heads in the view and the safety fencing in place. I feel they crammed too many people into the standing areas, and having to walk all the way back around (because they closed a gate that was previously opened) meant we lost chance of securing a better area to watch the race. The standing area got busier and busier just before the race. Too many people were crammed into this small space, and I had trouble seeing the cars over the heads in front and below, even though I am quite tall myself.

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We had a good day, but there are a few points that the organisers failed on that need to be worked on in case Formula E returns to London, such as:

  • visitor flow around the track and access to/from standing areas. The park is huge, and walkways that were open earlier in the day became closed off later on in the day, and access to these areas meant a very long walk in the hot temperatures.
  • the maintenance of the narrow track and bumps/slopes. This meant that the race had to have a safety car start. Parts were very unsafe for the cars, and this required some work before the big race.
  • the location of additional concession stands. Drinks and food are not permitted, and as it was a hot day with a lot of walking, more concession stands with food and drink need to be placed in more areas instead of mainly the eVillage. I started to get dehydrated after all of the walking on a hot day; lucky for me, the standing area I was in had a concession stand behind it in order for me to buy a drink, but these concession areas were rare outside of eVillage.
  • Tickets to the standing areas is costly; restrict the amount of people allowed in to the space as the view was obscured.

The area that the track covers in Battersea Park is a huge area. I know this is the first race that London has had since the early 1970s, so maybe London's forgotten how to host an event like this. In my view, London has a way to go to rectify these issues and get ahead of the game. Fortunately, the main race was a good one, and the weather on both days was good, but I can foresee the track becoming very dangerous if the rain had managed to linger on for a longer time on the day of the main race.

I used to work around the corner from Rosa's, a Thai Restaurant on Hanbury Street in London, near Spitalfields. This small area has a few of the best restaurants in London. Poppies, the best fish and chips in London, is a couple of doors down, and Hawksmoor steakhouse is about a three-minute walk up Commercial Road. Rosa's became a favourite of mine after a colleague and I visited near the start of our employment at the company. That was two and a half years ago, and I'm only just now getting to publish a write-up about it.

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The photographs from this visit were taken one rainy evening toward the end of last summer. I had extremely long commutes, so every few months, I'd stay in a hotel near the area to give myself a break from the commutes. This time, I stayed on Brick Lane and my partner and I arrived on the Sunday evening. The rain was pouring down and we decided to get a bite to eat, so I mentioned Rosa's, and we headed out, avoiding all of the calls from the staff at the curry restaurants down Brick Lane. When we arrived, I'd ordered a bottle of Prosecco.

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Next up were the starters, and I had the vegetable spring rolls while my partner had crab cakes. The photograph of these didn't turn out very well. I ordered the green thai curry, and this came with its usual sticky rice. My partner had the beef red curry. 

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I love both the green and red curries here, and everything that I have tried has tasted delicious and is full of flavour with the correct levels of spice. That's what makes Rosa's one of the best Thai restaurants in London.

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Afterwards, we decided to have ice cream for dessert. I had coconut flavour and green tea flavour. These were good, but they were not the best ice cream that I've ever had. They did hit the spot after the meal.

Rosa's is located on Hanbury Street near Spitalfields Market. They are open for lunch and dinner each evening, but they do get quite busy as the restaurant is small inside.

A couple of weeks ago, the bloke got a free ticket to see Miss Saigon through his workplace. As I was told awhile ago that Miss Saigon was an excellent show, I put it on my "to see" list. When I knew the bloke was going, I booked my own ticket so that we could watch the play at the same time. Before the show, we decided to meet up at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. The restaurant, a chain from the USA, came to London last autumn. I've been wanting to visit since.

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The theatre is only a short walk away, so I got a booth and waited for the bloke at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.

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The restaurant is decked out like a restaurant that you'd expect to find near the seaside in the states with harbour-style lighting and wooden ceilings. American-style memorabilia can be seen on the walls. These include licenses, cookie jars, tin plates, children's toys, and signage from my childhood and the childhoods of previous generations.

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Bubba Gump Shrimp Company is inspired by the film Forrest Gump, of course. I remember that it came into existence a few years after the 1994 film. The film was extremely popular in the states in the mid-1990s, and it was always showing on television. The restaurant takes its name from the main character, Forrest Gump, and a man (nicknamed Bubba) that he meets while in Vietnam (which is appropriate with the play we were about to see, I guess). Bubba's dream is to buy a boat and fish for shrimp, and he and Forrest become close friends. The restaurant has many items from the film in addition to the other memorabilia.

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I had never been to any of the restaurants in the chain before, but the service uses signage as a form of communication. The sign "Run, Forrest, Run" is a line in the film. Once visitors are ready to order or need service, they can flip this sign to the read sign underneath, which reads "Stop, Forrest, Stop". Once the service has been taken, the sign should be flipped back. Because of this, we never had to wait too long for service and drink refills.

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For the starter, I ordered the onion strings, which came with two dips. These were delicious, and in keeping in line with the film, the 'newspaper' that they were wrapped in was titled "Greenbow" from the town in Alabama where Forrest Gump grew up.

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Next, our drinks arrived. I ordered the "Fizzy Fun" cherry lemonade. This came with a light-up cup that I could keep. I still have it, and the light can be turned off and on. I'm sure I will get a little bit more use out of it. The bloke ordered an alcoholic drink that came in another free glass. This is a cocktail shaker glass, but it did not light up.

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In addition to the flashing blue and red lights from my cup, the bottom leaves an image of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company logo when picked up.

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Our main meals came pretty quickly, and the bloke ordered fish and chips. Most of the menu items were seafood.

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I had Mama's Southern Fried Chicken. This was battered chicken, chips, and corn on the cob. The meal came with gravy. I could have had mashed potatoes instead of chips; perhaps I should have as it would have been more traditional. The chicken was ok, but I could not finish it. I was not keen on the chips.

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After I finished eating, I went to the toilets and checked out some of the items along the way. These were from the movie and featured some of the characters and events from the film.

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When I returned, the dessert was waiting. I wanted to try the trio of dessert favourites (Dessert Sampler), which I anticipated to be small tasters. They were actually what I would consider full-sized desserts. They included Mama's Bread Pudding, which I was tempted to order separately. This was delicious. Second is the Mama's Best Strawberry Shortcake. It tasted a little like strawberry shortcake, but I am sorry to say that my mother makes much better strawberry shortcake, and I left missing her strawberry shortcake! This is a dish that we do not have in the UK. Last, but not least, was a sample of the Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae. This was delicious. I love cookies; they are my weakness. I think this may have been slightly better than the bread pudding.

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We left with full tummies, and I actually had some of the desserts boxed to eat the following day. We walked to Old Compton Street to Prince Edward Theatre for the show. I've previously seen 'Jersey Boys' at this theatre a few years ago.

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I was not familiar with the story, but I did anticipate that it would be about the Vietnam war in the 1970s and perhaps a love story between a US soldier and Vietnamese girl. I will not spoil the rest of the play, but I will say that it is a sad play and is based on true stories. The production was brilliant, and I was told that the theatre owner was present and watching the play as he does sometimes to ensure that standards are kept up. As I was alone, I talked to the lady next to me, who was friends with the person who is in charge of the lighting and who teaches theatre to young children. 

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Here's a view from the front of the theatre in London's Soho area.

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Overall, it was a good production, and I recommend it. I will not spoil it, but there are some excellent uses of props and spaces, and there's some good music. The bloke and I talked after the play as we walked back to the tube station, and we both thought that the engineer character was probably the best and most diverse of the characters. I cannot say any more without giving it away, but there's so much I do want to say. If you do see it, enjoy it.

A few months ago, I purchased the Cocktail Party bath melts from Wild Olive. The bath melts are made in England and contain no sodium sulphate, no parabens, and no animal fats. The collection includes one of each 'flavour' of bath melt: gin & lime, strawberry daquiri, mango mojito, and pina colada. Receiving these was a pleasure, and they do smell wonderful.

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The bath melts arrived in a small box, inside what resembles an egg carton. Each bath melt came in its own casing with its own embellishments, and each smelled and looked delicious. The bath melts soothed and moisturised my skin, and they smell very strongly, which made for a pleasant bath experience. They did not dissolve immediately, like some bath products, so I had time to savour the moisture and scent of the products when I used them in my baths.

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This was a good product for relaxing bath times for me. I really enjoyed using these bath melts and thought that they were really cute.

Street Art: Dzia

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A few weeks ago, the high-profile wall at the corner of Hanbury Street and Brick Lane was repainted with a piece featuring a golden fox puppy by Belgian street artist Dzia Krank (DZIA). The artist's style and theme is geometric animals, and foxes do feature quite often. I do like this cute and friendly-looking fox puppy. Who can resist a cute fox puppy mural?

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I loved this new artwork, but the annoying black car (parked on the double yellow line) was in the way, so I wasn't able to get a good photograph of it.

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In addition to the fox, the artist also painted a wall of scaffolding on Dray's Walk, a couple hundred yards away. This features a moth or dragon fly that appears caught in a spider's web. This is a difficult wall to photograph as there's always something in front of it. 

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More information can be read about the artist by visiting the Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dzia-Krank/52285210664 

Additionally, the artist's website is here: http://www.dzia.be

The Greenhouse Effect 2015

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A few weeks ago, I captured some photographs of the murals that were painted for The Greenhouse Effect painting event before a lot of the work was painted over. Last year, there was a similar event in this same area on Fleet Street Hill off of Brick Lane. Artists from the 1 Love Community network and LSD Magazine joined forces to create some nice works of art. The following street artists took part: Jim Vision, Cranio, Zadock, Himbad, SeaPuppy, Charlie McFarley, Tizer, and more. 

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The top part of the large mural was painted last year, and this year's painting took place at ground level and also around the fenced-in land between the railroad tracks.

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SeaPuppy

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Charlie McFarley

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Georgie

I believe that this vacant plot of land will be used for locals to grow their own vegetables for free, but I have also heard that new housing will be built here.

A few weeks ago, I was walking down Sclater Street and discovered a brightly-coloured blue and green wall by Stika (Josh Stika), whose work I recognised around east London. At first glance, the mural looked unfinished, but I immediately noticed the car parked next to it and that the car was painted like the mural. The car was a part of the mural, and I thought that this was cool. As I was stepping back to take a photograph of it, the owners of the car appeared and got inside. One of them went over to near where I was in order to get a photograph. I had to compliment the artwork, which he said was done by his friend. (Apologies for the photograph not being straight on; I wasn't able to take one straight on.)

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This street art is actually a PR stunt for Vauxhall car manufacturer to raise awareness of their car 'Adam'. This is meant to represent the customisation options of their Opel Adam car. Even though it is a PR stunt, it does still look good to me. I like the concept of using street art to advertise in unique ways, such as this, though I think that this is probably a little frowned on in the street art world.

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