Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Response to Ken Tamplin's E-Book: Singing Lessons & Voice Training With Vocal Coach Ken Tamplin


Tamplin, Ken. "EBooks - Singing Lessons & Voice Training With Vocal Coach Ken Tamplin." Singing Lessons | How To Sing | Vocal Coach Ken Tamplin. Ken Tamplin Vocal Academy, 2011. Web. 16 Jan. 2012. .Free with e-mail signup.

I remember being a voice student in the early 1990’s. At that time I had a coach who would record each lesson. Her expectation was that we would go home and practice along with the cassette tape every day in order to progress. For the most part, I would say her approach worked. But I often thought that life would be easier if I had just a recorded bunch of exercises, which had explanations, but without a whole bunch of talking, just a vocal workout. In short, what I really wanted was a home-study course.

Times have changed greatly over the last few decades. Now it seems as though the modern voice student has nothing but options in terms of vocal-study materials. From the free YouTube tutorials done by amateurs to the fairly costly studio produced products, one wonders if voice teachers are really necessary any more.

One such product is Ken Tamplin’s “How to Sing Better Than Anyone Else” series. Right off the bat, I want to say that I have not used Mr. Tamplin’s product, and an attempt to review its effectiveness is far beyond the scope of this short article. However; while researching vocal-study-methods I ran across his free “e-book” which I downloaded (by giving my e-mail address) and read. It is, as you might expect, a lengthy advertisement for his vocal study products. But, the text is really more of an informal essay, or even a pamphlet than it is a book, nonetheless it did spark some thoughts and I wanted to make a few comments.

In the first section of the text we are introduced to Ken Tamplin, he writes about his experience and his own journey in bettering his singing voice. From there, he goes on to report on a series of fairly unrelated assumptions about the reader and their development along with other current vocal instructors. It is very hard to tell whether or not he is exclusively bashing the “Singing Success” program of Brett Manning or other SLS-type products. But one thing is for sure, he seems to have little or no appreciation for his colleagues in vocal instruction.

Tamplin writes outright that

…there are SO many vocal teachers out there that  either; Can’t Sing, Can’t Sing Like You Want To Sing, Don’t Want To Teach You Enough To Be Self-Sufficient, Or – are just plain charlatans in the first place (this one probably has the biggest group. (p. 2)

From there, Mr. Tamplin goes on to make the claim that all current vocal products make. This is that they have the “secret” to unlocking the vocal potential of the client that no other program possesses. Ken Tamplin writes that regardless of chosen genre, this program will work, and if it doesn’t, the guarantee of a complete refund is in place (this is actually something I really appreciate, and if it is genuine, then it is the only guarantee I have heard of that is honored 100% of the time).  

From page 3:

I’m blowing the lid off of every other vocal coach out there who doesn’t believe in teaching people to be self-sufficient. I’m sick and tired of watching good people spend their heard earned cash only to be taught scales. Scales help, but that will not make you a good singer on their own.

At this point, I would really appreciate knowing exactly who these voice teachers are that “only teach scales” so that I may also warn people about them. It is a little bit of a weasel word on Tamplin’s part to say: these people exist, but I’m not going to name them. As a voice teacher myself, I can say that scales and scale-patterns play a big part of musical study, and they should. After all; scales (or more exactly, perhaps; modes) and intervals are the raw material from which we derive our melodies. By mastering both in a methodical way we are better prepared to tackle phrases set out in songs we learn.

The book then goes on to draw parallels between singing and other types of performers in order to punctuate how some teachers move slowly with students. This is an interesting thing to write, as earlier he criticized claims of instructors who make grandiose promises of rapid improvement (and, once again; did not outright name them).  Tamplin himself says that progress cannot happen overnight and that true skill is going to take time. So I have a hard time understanding why his is so concerned with instructors who dole out information in easily digestible bite-sized chunks.

Tamplin sums up this section by writing that his tricks really amount to using the right technique (which, of course, he possesses). Again, this is a statement that I find curious. I seriously doubt that Mr. Tamplin is getting a whole bunch of students who are singers of Pansori, or Beijing Opera. How many Ghazal singers have signed up for lessons at KTVA? There are an almost infinite number of musical styles the world over, all with their own history of pedagogy. Simply put, the correct way to sing a Maori chant is not the way one would render a Ukrainian work-song.  So, the claim that there is just one, universal technique to end all others seems a little bombastic.  

At this point in the book, there is an attempt to answer the question: “Can Anyone Sing?” which is the part of the document that I appreciate more than any other. Tamplin mentions progress and hard work, but really, this part of the book is more concerned with embracing your unique voice. He cites examples such as Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Louis Armstrong (all of whom didn’t have conventionally beautifully voices) and their mark on the music world. These are important things to keep in mind, and in our age of conformity (as punctuated by shows such as American Idol, The Voice…etc.) and it is really nice that a prominent instructor is pointing this out.

The final section of the book deals with KTVA’s home study course in minor detail (that is, after reiterating his fairly conspiratorial ideas about “charlatan” vocal coaches). Tamplin is thankfully forthcoming about timeframe for success and makes no claims about an overnight change in the voice. There are three levels to his program, the first two are for less experienced singers and are meant to set the stage for more advanced development, whereas the last level is said to be the most strenuous and the most demanding. Although I do take issue with one of the sections in this area of the text; most problematic to me is the slight contempt Tamplin seems to have for educated terminology: 

What you’re not going to hear from me as a teacher, Well the pharyngeal larynx valve with the dual farbage valve and you times that by the square root of your social security number‟ crap (p. 6)

I would like to know why Tamplin is so against the use of terminology for the voice. Does he believe his audience isn’t educated/intelligent enough to understand? I have always thought that learning the physiology of the voice is very empowering to the student. I often recommend they read the section in “The Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults” By James McKinney about the laryngeal mechanism. When they do this, it is much easier for them to understand what is happening in their own bodies.


Before we wrap this up, I feel inclined to restate that this article is not intended to be a review of any kind regarding Ken Tamplin's singing course or lessons. A quick search over the internet, singing forums and blog-sites like this one, will contain hundreds of positive testimonials. I simply felt that as a voice instructor, some of the statements made in his publication needed a response.  

In the final analysis, I’m glad I read Tamplin’s book. And, it isn’t that hard to believe that his course is fairly effective. In truth, I would very much like to try it (but with my studio needing so much in the way of materials and instruments, it is not likely I will have $300 to spend anytime soon). My problem is that rather than asserting himself as a component in the vocal instruction world, Ken Tamplin seems bent on separating himself from it. I find that sad, as there are so many of us who are NATS and MTNA members working very hard to improve our studios and have devoted hours upon hours to our students with little or no financial gain. And after all of this; to be accused of being interested only in taking students’ money is quite insulting. For my part, I teach many students for free (or almost for free) so long as they state a financial need. I would like to know if KTVA offers any low-income students scholarships (bully for him if he does!). All in all, the educational world does much better with greater communication and if there are people out there scamming students, we should know who they are by name. 


To learn more about Ken Tamplin, visit his website here

31 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. why did you take tamplin' s response down. of all people he should be allowed to repspond

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    2. yes, if possible, put the response back up.

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  4. Wow, I think you overreacted immensely to this ebook.

    As a vocal student, I always feel as though the singing teachers out there selling programs are 95% of the time, completely unbacked in actually singing. How many of them can show that they are self sufficient and can perform a song?

    Why would Ken be specific and defamatory of other coaches out there directly? He's getting people to think about what they're doing and who they're putting their trust into.

    Judge the program on its merits or don't bother writing.

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    1. Because the fallacy here is one of "anonymous authority," (here is a Wiki article if you are unfamiliar http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weasel_word) and can be intellectually dishonest. In order to judge the validity of claims, they need to be cited,this is an absolute cornerstone of both academics and journalism. When someone uses anonymous authority, they circumvent the critical process and rather put forward a claim that cannot be verified nor falsified.

      Furthermore, when you put information into the public sphere (such as publishing an "e-book,") you are de facto accepting whatever praise or criticism may come your way.

      Lastly, I have a bit of a difficult time with your final statement;"Judge the program on its merits or don't bother writing." - Am I clear to understand that one can not be critical of an advertisement? A publication is in and of itself a creation and deserves to be independently scrutinized, if someone will take the time to do so. The fact that this seems to be lost on you is very discouraging.

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  5. Perhaps you should consider why you are scrutinising and performing your critique. It seems to be coming from a position of threat rather than a critical appraisal and the merit of what Ken is pushing. This appears to especially be the case with such a passive aggressive statement as posted above.

    Also, why were 3 comments by Ken deleted?

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    1. Yes, regarding the missing statements, I was worried about people thinking that I had removed them - let me state clearly; I DID NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES DELETE THE REPLIES BY KEN TAMPLIN... I can't state for a certainty that Ken deleted them himself, but I don't know how else they could have been removed.

      I performed this critique not for feeling threatened, as stated above, I teach many people on a need-based scholarship and make very little money from students (and my schedule is booked). Furthermore, I direct students to Tamplin's product (please see the "vocal products list" blog. I do this because I believe that self-study for musicians is paramount to mastering their own sound and style. I firmly believe in the use of self-study products. Obviously if you had read my blogs instead of just traipsing your way onto this one, you would know that.

      Finally, information matters to me, maybe you are happy to blindly follow whatever opinions are laid out in front of you, but I personally feel as though claims should be vetted. Ken Tamplin is an AMAZING singer, and he is probably a dynamic and innovative teacher - but his writings NEED TO BE BACKED UP. Again, it is amazing that you don't understand this.

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  6. Hello!
    I read the ebook and your article and I totally agree with you. I'm 34 and a beginning singer with some basic knowledge of technique (when I was young, I used to be in a choir for a year (making those so called ugly SCALES!!). I still think it helped me a little for today) but I just started to work on my own with some singing programs. I considered Singing success, How to sing better than anyone else, The four pillars of singing, Singorama and finally Raise your voice. What I found in the advertisements of those programs is that everytime they try to make you believe that their method is the best out there. I repeat : every one of them!
    So if Mr. Ken Tamplin was so different and to give its secrets in his ebook for free, I didn't found where it was written. What I saw was how his program will revolutionize my technique bla bla bla. If he was not like the others so called "charlatans", he would share his precious secrets for FREE.
    The irony of all this is that from all programs out there on the subject, his is probably (sorry didn't check fully for this so I'm using a little bit of weasel word ^^) the most expensive!!!
    In fact I turned finally to the less expensive program I found; that is the "Raise your voice" book from Jaime Vendera (after reading some reviews and double checks on the authors of those reviews).
    Been working on it for three weeks now but I can't say if I progressed until now. Not that this program is bad but because I don't have someone to listen to me and give me feedback. So, my point is, even if someone is motivated to work on its own (and I'm certain that it proves some motivation), he still needs some kind of guidance from a real teacher thus making those program not so self studying programs at last.
    Finally, people will still need teachers like you but with programs out there who make you believe you'll make some savings you'll find less work and won't be able to earn a living from it.
    Everyone wants to make a living for their work but criticism on the others is not a good (morally and intellectually) way of gaining credibility.
    Respect and gratitude is the best way to live together.

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    1. Dear Jaysan

      Thank you for your very well-put comments. After a small barrage of Ken Tamplin apologists I was expecting quite a bit of criticism :-) If you are looking for an inexpensive vocal exercise program, you might try Mr. Riggs "singer's advantage" which I have used and reviewed here: http://toolsforlearningmusic.blogspot.com/2012/01/vocal-study-product-singers-advantage.html

      All the very best, thanks again!

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  7. Hello Michael!
    Thanks for your kind words.
    I have to admit that even if Ken Tamplin is really a good performer, I hate his way of putting down the other teachers without giving reliable reasons except to make his products seam the best. That simply gets on my nerves.
    There is also another point I forgot to mention in my last comment and I'd like to share with you and your readers.
    I'm a little obsessed with pedagogy and cognitive science and I'm sure every person who's gone to high school must have been experimenting this at least once in their life :
    a teacher who's highly qualified (high degrees and diplomas) in the domain that he teaches but can't turn his knowledge into simple terms and thus making it impossible to his students to understand anything from him.
    So, my point is, even if someone is really good at something, that doesn't mean he can teach it. Someone with good theory even without experience could teach better if he's got more pedagogy and has the ability to synthesize the knowledge in more understandable ways adapted to each people he have to teach.
    The other thing to take into account is that people are different even in learning processes. So what might work for someone doesn't necessarily mean it will work for anyone. Some are tactile, some are visual and some are conceptual. I might have forgotten some and maybe there are others ways to learn that I might ignore. So, it's good to have many different ways to learn something.
    Hope this will enlighten some people.

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  8. yes, in these regards you and I are in complete agreement. I, too, care deeply about education and feel as though teaching is in and of itself a separate skill, and one that takes just as much time to master as the subject one is teaching. I also appreciate you bringing up different learning styles (something that I had overlooked in my initial review).

    But all of this is why I think Mr. Tamplin belongs within the fold of music instructors. In spite of my criticisms, I do trumpery believe that he has a lot to offer the vocal training world - but I also believe that he (along with EVERY teacher, myself included) has a lot to learn.

    Thanks again for your insights - all the very best!

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  9. Hello!
    Yes! You're right. I don't think that his program is bad and that he's not a good teacher. I might even consider purchasing it if I can find the money because I like to see different approaches to learning. I'm just bored to hear proud people crushing the others and giving bad reasons for that.
    Some humility and respect should be a better way for all those people.

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  10. I bought Ken's full vocal package back in late 2010. This was after I had already used Brett Manning's system, Jaime Vendera's book, and soaked in every ounce of knowledge and tricks I could find all over the internet. This was over a course of 10 years.

    When Ken Tamplin showed up in the vocal forums, he came off pretty overly confident from the bat. Quite a few people took it wrong. He didn't waste any time giving his credentials and revealing his apparently high reputation in the business. Like him or not, he has told the complete truth. I bought his lessons for one major reason. He showed off his voice. I actually almost bought Rob Lunte's vocal lessons back at the time. I had been watching him a lot. But he seemed like he was selling something that wasn't completely legit. I mean, his voice isn't as great as his rhetoric. He uses a lot of made-up terminology to make himself sound like an expert. But to me, Ken Tamplin makes him look like an amateur. I was sold by Tamplins' no-BS approach. I bought the full system and it wasn't cheap. Then again, it is compared to paying a teacher.

    After spending a year on Ken's lessons, I came to realize that people like Jaime Vendera are con artists that are only trying to sell products. Anyone can do sirens and learn how to hit "Ahhs" clear up into their headvoice. But that's not singing. And the guy can't sing. Neither can Brett Manning if you've watched the shocking Youtube videos of that clown. I wasted over $200 on a stand up comedian that basically gave me lip blows.

    In the first year of Ken's lessons, I increased my head voice range. But more importantly, I "grew" my head voice and extended my chest into my head and eventually was able to belt notes in the upper register. I was singing stuff I never thought I would ever be able to. That first year was rough because I had no stamina and battled sinusitis like I do every year. A clogged up soft pallet stops you in your tracks.

    Are Ken's lessons perfect? Not in the least. After a year, I was finally able to fully understand the anatomy of the voice and what goes on in the abs, lungs, throat, face, and vocal cords while singing. At some point I didn't need to use Ken's lessons as often. I was able to pick out songs that I could use to "vocalize" every day since my voice had become strong enough for it.

    My voice is a baritone. But I sing most things in my tenor range by now. To me, Ken's lessons are the best ones out there. They allow you to sing anything. I can sing country very well. Yet, my voice is powerful enough to sing many rock songs. Although, I would need to continue training on Stage 3 to really go all out. But I usually sing country and pop music. I don't feel like I wasted a dime on his lessons.

    I have to be honest. I don't know about Ken's "ebook". As far as I know, he has been selling an all out vocal system on his website and posting hundreds of Youtube videos to demonstrate them and his abilities. I haven't seen one so-called "coach" online that has a voice as powerful as his. Not to mention the guy has done some very excellent videos from the 80s and up. Geez. Who the hell needs ModernVocalist and all the technical jargon when Ken delivers the goods? He has every right to be blunt.

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    1. Thank you for your insight - this posting lacked an inside look at the course, which you have now provided. If you have the time, you might consider giving your testimonial in the "vocal study products list" blog which references Tamplin's materials.

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    2. Curshdude has posted on JustinGuitar's forum and had the exact opposite response to the Tamplin program there. The moderator said that his response and that of another were from the same address, concluded that they were advertisers and banned them from further comments. I've got to say that I've been using JustinGuitar's site for a few years, have made a couple of decent donations to help out, and trust the information there.

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    3. What's more, Curshdude posted a complete opposite impression about Ken Tamplin on TheRangePlace thread about him and his range, as well as in the complete vocal institute thread about him.
      He basically said there that he pushes chest and doesn't sing near as well as when he were younger, and use a system to belt out everything without dynamic.
      In short the complete opposite of what he said here.
      It's not not normal imho.

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  11. in my opinion,i tried the course and ive tried SLS Brett manning seth riggs version melissa cross, roger love, mark baxter etc etc and they all helped a bit but in comparison with Ken there is an abyss between them and Ken, on the other side, he does get very explanatory on his course and on his webinars explanatory enough about the technicallity, (which can be found if you join his forum) i understand not everybody has the money to pay his course, but 300 dollars for someone who REALLY wants to learn to sing, its not much cause the course is effective, instead of taking lessons and lessons which i have,reapeating scales and stuff that hasnt really gotten me anywhere, i see your point he is a little agressive about this ¨other teachers¨ but he DID go with each and every one of them, so i have gone with many, and paid a lot to get the real thing, the developing is an everyday thing, and if you are consistent with the course the voice WILL grow, i highly recommend you to do his course and make a review of it, cause the ebook, and his attitude may not be his best skill, but his teaching is the best not only for me, i have applied his technique on my own students and you see changes FAST obviously not everybody is as gifted, but not THAT FAST technique takes time, and im sure since you teach you know that too, also if anyone took the whole course it would take litterally around 3 to 4 months to get to level 3 which if you did every day would mean a LOT of lessons and would probably overpass the 300 dlrs for high range healthy singing, again i understand this is just for the eBook, you might not like the way he promotes his product, but he still does give all the necessary info if you get the entire course
    Gaston

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    1. Thank you for your reply. It's very nice to see an insider's point of view regarding the course. I would be more than happy to review Tamplin's program - alternatively, you might think about doing a guest blog about why you use it and the benefits you have experienced, it might be a very good counterpoint to my response. Think about it if you get a chance.

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  12. I am also curious why Tamplin's remarks were removed. I consider myself as legitimate as any other person trying to learn how to sing well. I have spent years since 2002 trying to learn to sing with at-home lessons. I started out using Brett Manning's course, which was expensive. But after a year, I tossed it with a lot of doubt in its effectiveness.

    I then spent a few more years and alot of hours researching online, hanging out in forums, and reading books to understand the voice and the likelihood of which methods were the most legitimate. This is where I completely agree with Ken Tamplin. There is certainly a whole lot of inefficient information and techniques to go around in the vocal training world. I actually know quite a few people who went to vocal teachers and gave up because of the monotony and lack of progress.

    The problem in learning how to sing is really often a "business" one. teachers want to limit the knowledge they give you to create a money flow, straight from your wallet. They want to attach a string. I think this is wrong regardless of what kind of business it is.

    This isn't like buying and selling goods. This is about discovering one's own abilities. Think of the number of people every day that give up hope due to lack of information. Who's going to give it to them? Well, yes $300 is a lot to ask. But it's very little when you consider that its complete. And it is because I have Ken's complete system since a few years ago.

    Like all at-home systems, my progress was up or down depending upon my ability to self motivate. For the most part I saw progress early on. There were times when I didn't fully understand set backs. But I persisted.

    I remember a few years ago when Ken showed up in one of my favorite forums pitching his ideas. Quite a few "experts" resented him for showing such confidence. I myself understand it. He has accomplished a lot. And even if there is a time when he does seem alittle "arrogant", I let it roll off my back because I definitely believe he is telling the truth. He takes his work serious. And its obvious he's the genuine article considering he performs with the famous and has for years. For once, we have someone as legit as a celeb, but not branded like one. That's refreshing to me.

    And as someone who has taken music serious since the day I was born, I think today's young singers suck. The reason is because they all sound the same. They are either out there to impress you technically or to simply look good. They are pretentious as Hell. But they all follow SLS and have the same weak sounding voices.

    Methods that develop power are likely to separate you from the rest. Thus, we end up with quality singers who all sound different. Just like we heard before the 1990s. SLS has created a devastating blow to the singing world. Seth Riggs capitalized on the ignorance of people. Unfortunately, we still have many who don't know any better.

    I believe Ken is justified if he separates himself from the rest of the vocal training community. I can understand why. Websites like Modern Vocalist show us that there is an epidemic of self proclaimed experts today in every category of business. You can find 10000 lawyers in a single city, as if we need that many. The same holds true for vocal coaching. Many people are still too dumb to realize the guy down the street doesn't really know enough about the voice to teach it. But he will anyway. Anyone can be called an expert these days. But not anyone can prove it. Ken certainly proves it without a doubt.

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    1. Ken himself deleted those comments - as for the rest of your response, it's obvious you don't read my blog. But I still appreciate your input.

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  13. Hi everyone :-)
    I just happened to cross this page, and I don't know who Ken is, nor anyone one else here; but reading through the comments makes me wonder whether Ken's was the only music program reviewed, and if so, why that is; and if not, where are the comparisons?
    Margaret

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    1. Hi Margaret - please read my blogs on recommendations for home study courses. Here I explicitly stated that I am not reviewing Ken's method, only his "E Book."

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  14. Reading this post and all the comments I must say I wasn't helped either way! The internet is a hard thing to deal with. Never know who is telling the truth. I will plunk down the money and see what I get! Thank you for your article though.

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    3. Calling me a criminal is slander, outright, with no ambiguity. I am not a criminal, I have no criminal record. But engaging in this behavior is criminal behavior and we taking this to court. All of it. Also, given that there is no content what so ever that is threatening you, you are simply engaging in an attack, with no provocation and making yourself look like a vindictive fool. We are building a case that you are going to be answering too in court very soon. You are ill.

      For people reading this. The individual that is doing this is Tristan Paredes from Tumwater, WA. He is butt hurt because I banned him from our online forum for singers that I own, www.TheModernVocalistWorld.com, ... because he was acting like an asshole and nobody wanted him there anymore. Can you imagine? He also made a post in October 2015 that hew would "murder his parents and commit suicide". That was the first time we knew that Tristan Paredes had issues.

      Life is hard enough, let alone, engaging in behavior that flat out, begs a court to issue a restraining order against you, cough up expenses to reimburse the person you attacked and answer to your employer and other associations you work with... for simply choosing to act like a belligerent fool. You absolutely have to be insane to be engaging in this or you are totally naive and clueless about what is coming...

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