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PENTEX: Research & Inspiration Company by Company

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  • PENTEX: Research & Inspiration Company by Company

    So, because it came up in another thread, I thought it might be useful to start a thread looking at the various PENTEX subsidiaries and offering up various fictional and non-fictional sources of information and inspiration about each one. That being the history of those industries, interesting events or scandals, corporate cultures, various criticisms (legitimate or otherwise) of the business, and any fictional works that give ideas for potential plot hooks or horrors for the Garou to stumble upon and fight.

    If anyone has any suggestions that I missed, I will gladly add them to each company's listing. Thank you in advance.

    I figure I'll start with the Wikipedia article on Holding Companies, which is what PENTEX is supposed to be, and people can chase links from there to their heart's content.

    Added: As far as corporate culture goes, PENTEX was heavily influenced by the original Robocop (1987) and it's sequel Robocop 2 (1990). (The second one is not as good as the first one, but does continue the wonderful examples of corporate backstabbing and throwing people under the bus.) Also, Michael Crichton's Rising Sun and Disclosure. (The film versions of these are OK, but the books get more in to corporate culture and its pitfalls.)

    More Added: As mentioned by Crowley, the current series Mister Robot also offers up some potential PENTEX ideas.

    ENDRON INTERNATIONAL (Oil, Petroleum and other forms of Energy)

    So, they're the original seed of the whole thing. Hence, it's probably a good idea to understand the history of the petroleum business. For that, I offer up Daniel Yergin's The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, a look at the oil industry up until 1990, and it's follow up, The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World, which game out in 2011. Also, Upton Sinclair's classic Oil!, which was one of the inspirations for the movie There Will Be Blood (2007). And, of course, no book about the energy industry would be complete without Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind's The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron (which also has a film version). I haven't seen Deepwater Horizon (2016) yet, so can't comment on it.

    Fiction-wise, the X-Files did a long running thread about an alien virus that thrived in earth's underground petroleum supply, which tied into a number of other business-related conspiracy angles.

    More Added: I've not read Adam Baker's Outpost, about the small crew of an Arctic Ocean oil rig during a global pandemic (and possible zombie apocalypse), but it does get good word of mouth from people I usually find trustworthy. I suspect one can get at least a few ideas about Endron workers going stir crazy or Garou trying to take over an oil platform out of it.

    China Mieville wrote a short story, Covenhithe, as something for The Guardian's anniversary coverage of Deepwater Horizon. I won't spoil it, but it's weird in the way that Mieville's stories usually are, and would make a rather odd chronicle idea.

    Quantum of Solace (2008) involves some oil industry shenanigans, but mostly as part of a larger unrelated conspiracy.

    Ida Tarbell's The History of Standard Oil is a period classic that shaped the way pretty much everyone remembered John D. Rockefeller and his rise to power.

    Knowledge Hub on YouTube has a pretty good summery of Rockefeller here.

    And if you feel up for binge viewing, try finding the tv show Dallas (1978-1991). J.R. Ewing is the early 80s poster boy for the Magnificent Bastard trope, and the sort of man who should be running a PENTEX subsidiary.

    Modern Marvels did a number of episodes about the oil industry (3:07 Oil; 5:10 The Alaskan Oil Pipeline; 6:26 Offshore Oil Drilling; 9:31 Gasoline; 11:08 Oil Firefighting; 11:30 Oil Tankers; 12:41 Lube Job), most of which can probably be found at various places online.

    Outside of their original business of oil, there's also the realm of natural gas. There are more than a few films critical to natural gas production, especially hydraulic fracturing. I can't conscientiously call these documentaries, as these sorts of films usually start with a preselected point of view to push and carefully craft the presentation to sway viewers to that point of view. I believe the proper term for this is "propaganda". That said, they are certainly mineable for ideas of stuff Endron might be up to which Garou can uncover. (I think Gasland was the really big one, IIRC.)

    Even though Endron apparently bought out Atlas International in Book of the Wyrm 2nd ed, I'm going to save them for later, as the nuclear power industry is its own animal, and it gets into things like, for example, General Electric, which is pretty complicated.

    ADDED: Steve Coil's Private Empire: Exxon Mobil and American Power, a look at what is one of (if not the) biggest corporations in the US and some of it's various shenanigans. Also, Daniel Ammann's The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich, a man who's somewhat shady and occasionally weird life has a lot of potential plot hooks for Endron and PENTEX.

    Added 3-11: For those looking for something odd to do with Endron, I offer up the 1976 remake of King Kong. The film is, quite frankly, awful, but for the purpose of this list, the plot involves an oil company (named Petrox, which makes me wonder if this is the original inspiration for PENTEX's name) making an expedition to an uncharted island in the Indian Ocean in search of untapped oil deposits. The oil they find is low grade junk, so they decide to bring Kong back as their new company mascot. That's kind of the 70s in a nutshell, I think. But it does offer the interesting idea of an Endron expedition that finds a lost island full of Mokole, Ananasi, Kami, and one of the Great Beasts.


    More to come.
    Last edited by No One of Consequence; 03-11-2018, 04:41 PM.

  • No One of Consequence
    replied
    Professional Basketball (The Readers Digest Version)

    So, basketball was invented in 1891 by James Naismith, a Canadian transplant to Massachusetts. If you would like to know more about him and how he invented the game, see Rob Rains's James Naismith: The Man Who Invented Basketball, as well as Naismith's own Basketball: It's Origin and Development.

    It took a while for pro basketball as we know it to develop. By the 1920s, there were a lot of professional teams all over the East Coast and Midwest and elsewhere, but no real organized league. One of the main standouts of this era were the Harlem Globetrotters, who traveled the Midwest playing local teams. By the 1950s, before the modern League, they were one of the biggest basketball teams in the nation (especially after beating the all-white Minneapolis Lakers in 1948). After the NBA came along, they developed into the entertainment spectacle they are famously known for as a way to stay in business. Ben Greene's Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters is a good history of the team. There's also the 2005 documentary Harlem Globetrotters: The Team that Changed the World.

    The National Basketball Association is actually from the merger of two briefly existing leagues, the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League, in 1949. By the late 50s, they'd firmly established themselves, and were already integrated, with both Asian-American and African-American players. (One of these was Bill Russell, who helped lead the Boston Celtics to a decade long dominance of the league in the 60s; Another was one of his biggest rivals, Wilt Chamberlain, a former Harlem Globetrotter.) A number of teams relocated during this period, including the Lakers moving to LA (where there are no lakes). David Surdam's The Rise of the National Basketball Association is a somewhat scholarly look at this early period, including the League's economic history. Also interesting is John Tyler's The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball.

    In 1967, the NBA got a rival, the American Basketball Association. The ABA's roster of teams was a little fluid, with a number of teams folding (sometimes getting replaced in the same market the next year, sometimes not) or moving around. (The New Orleans Buccaneers managed to play in three different cities under six different names before folding as the Baltimore Claws in 1975.) In 1976, the ABA was finally able to get the NBA to agree to a merger (becoming the template dream for every upstart sports league since). However, only four of the ABA teams actually got to join the NBA. The rest had either already folded, save two. The owners of the Kentucky Colonels took a buyout, but the owners of the Spirits of St. Louis struck what has to be the single greatest deal in the history of sports, would get a cut of the four ABA-turned-NBA teams' TV revenue in perpetuity. This netted them $300 Million over four decades, before the NBA finally convinced them to take a final $500 Million lump sum to end the deal. Terry Pluto's Loose Balls: The Short Wild Life of the ABA is a good history of the league. Also see The Company Man YouTube video discussing the differences between the ABA and NBA, and how the ABA strongly influenced the NBA going forward into the 1980s. And, for amusement, there's the 2008 comedy Semi-Pro, with the fictional Flint (Michigan) Tropics trying to be one of the surviving four teams.

    One bit I will mention from the 70s and 80s is LA Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. At over seven feet tall, Kareem was a stand out even in an era of really great players, not least of which for his ability to play the professional game competitively for two decades. One of the things he had attributed this to is that he studied Jeet Kune Do under Bruce Lee and took up yoga in the mid 70s. He's been an actor (appearing in Bruce Lee's 1972 film Game of Death and in the classic comedy Airplane!) and a prolific writer, especially on the topics of civil rights and African-American history (he earned a BA in history at UCLA). I have used him as the inspiration for an Akashic Brotherhood Master in some of my Mage games.

    As far as the modern NBA goes, it's a huge money machine. And not just for teams and their owners, but the players as well. Part of this is due to Oscar Robertson. In addition to being one of the better players of his generation, his lawsuit against the NBA in his role as president of the NBA Players' Association. Robertson v National Basketball Ass'n was an antitrust suit filed in 1970 to stop the ABA and NBA from merging. It was settled in 1976, with part of the settlement being the change to free agency and draft rules, and ultimately much higher salaries for NBA players. Sam Smith's Hard Labor: The Battle that Birthed the Billion Dollar NBA covers the story fairly well.
    Elsewhere, Brian Windhorst's LeBron, Inc.: The Making of a Billion Dollar Athlete looks at the evolution of LeBron James from top player to business mogul and international brand name. Elevated: The Global Rise of the NBA is a collection of work by various New York Times columnists over the past four decades covering the League. Pete Croatto's From Hang Time to Prime Time is a history of the NBA during the 70s and 80s that looks interesting, but sadly won't be out until September 2020. Likewise Joel Gunderson's (Inter)National Basketball Association, looking at how the NBA has become an international powerhouse and how the growth of basketball around the world has impacted the NBA (with now about a third of their players coming from outside the United States), which won't be out until October.

    As far as specific teams go, I'll mention the Golden State Warriors. Eric Malinowski's Betaball and Ethan Straus's The Victory Machine both look at the team's recent decade of success and more recent troubles. On the other side of the coin, Mick Minas's The Curse looks at the somewhat troubled history of the LA Clippers.

    There aren't really a lot of films about professional basketball, let alone any with supernatural, sci fi, or criminal overtones. (1996's Space Jam is about it, really.) College ball seems much more popular with film makers. I will mention Teen Wolf (1985), with a werewolf playing high school basketball, and The 6th Man (1997), a rather forgettable film with a dead college player haunting his brother and team.

    (At some point I will talk about women's professional basketball.)
    Last edited by No One of Consequence; 02-20-2020, 08:59 PM.

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  • No One of Consequence
    replied
    So, I spent two hours writing a post about professional basketball. And then by hitting the wrong key at the very end, lost the entire thing. So, no update.

    Currently eating ice cream.
    Last edited by No One of Consequence; 02-19-2020, 12:05 AM.

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  • No One of Consequence
    replied
    White Collar Corporate and Office Culture

    In the real world, corporate offices are often a collection of oppressed cube drones, back stabbing ladder climbers, and high level executives jealously guarding their own fiefdoms while lining their pockets. So, you can imagine how much worse this might be in the World of Darkness, and even more so in a bunch of companies owned and operated by outright sociopaths devoted to controlling, corrupting, or destroying humanity and the world.

    There are a lot of various theories and methods to office management. While the long standing stereotype is the traditionalist model with strict rules, compartmentalization, and major decisions made by the highest ranks, a number of other models have come in to vogue in the business world over the past few decades. This ranges from completely horizontal organizations where everyone, even the CEO, is theoretically equal, and team-oriented set ups where group culture and harmony are prioritized (sometimes even over actual ability), to places where everyone is in competition with each other to make improvements or just advance themselves and places of perpetual uncertainty with often massive employee turnover for one reason or another. Countless articles and books have been written about this over the decades for those who are interested in effective management and leadership. But, in the terms of PENTEX, we are more interested in bad behavior and parody.

    So, one of the most famous examinations/parodies of office cultures in the past few decades is Scott Adams's Dilbert. In addition to the long running daily comic strip and an animated series, it has also spawned a number of non-fiction books about office culture. The first one was The Dilbert Principle, named after Adams's concept that companies systematically promote incompetent employees to management in order to get them out of the workflow and keep them from disrupting real business. A similar concept is "The Peter principle", the idea that people will be promoted until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent. Also very suitable for PENTEX is Dogbert's Top Secret Management Handbook, a tongue in cheek guide to being an evil boss. And then there's The Joy of Work: Finding Happiness at the Expense of Your Co-Workers and Dilbert & The Way of the Weasel.

    The view from the trenches looks very different from that on high. Your average PENTEX office employees are kept in little cubes and made to do mind-numbing paperwork with low pay and not very much in the way of benefits. If you've never seen the film Office Space (1999), you should. It's an entertaining and sarcastic look at a bunch of disgruntled programers facing being downsized and deciding to embezzle money from the company after being laid off. (The ploy is similar to one used by Richard Pryor in Superman III, which isn't a good film, but does have Robert Vaughn as an evil CEO and a malevolent super computer. It's also from the "computers and satellites are magic" era, which is always amusing.) Another personal favorite of mine is 9 To 5 (1980), about three different office women dealing with their sexist - and it turns out - crooked boss.

    For those looking to climb the corporate ladder, a certain level of ruthlessness is necessary to go along with one's ambition. This is even more true at PENTEX. This is a fairly popular topic in film. Wall Street (1987), with a young up and comer willing to go to any lengths, even illegal ones, to ingratiate himself to a big name financier, is a classic of its decade. While not as ruthless, Working Girl (1988) is a somewhat unfairly forgotten film from that period, with a young working class woman from Staten Island trying to make a place for herself in Manhattan's business world. Also worth watching is Up in the Air (2009), based on the novel by Walter Kim, about a professional "downsizer" who flies around the nation firing employees for other companies. Another good one is Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), involving four real estate salesmen who become increasingly desperate as they face downsizing. And on the more comedic front, The Secret of My Success (1987) is a fun film with Michael J. Fox as a mail room employee masquerading as a midlevel executive. Regarding bad behavior, The Company of Men (1997) is a look at sexism in the corporate world and how amoralism tends to be rewarded. And then there's the poster child for sociopathic corporate behavior, American Psycho (2000), and the Bret Easten Ellis book its based on.

    And at top of the pile are CEOs and boards. These are popular subjects of films. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) is a film worth watching, involving an underhanded board member trying to take over his own company using a male room clerk turned executive. But the most entertaining is Robocop (1987), with its rather cyberpunk-ish take on corporate politics complete with murder. Also worth watching is the sequel, Robocop 2 (1990), which is not as good, but has wonderful examples of backstabbing and throwing people under the bus.

    While most of this deals with American business, I will note three bits about Japanese corporate culture worth looking at. One is Gung Ho (1986), involving a Japanese company trying to reopen a Pennsylvania auto plant, and the culture clashes that result. It's a comedy, and some of the jokes haven't aged well, but it is an interesting look at a period when Japanese industry seemed to dominate and appeared poised to take over America. More serious is Rising Sun (1993), based on the novel by Michael Crichton, involving the conflicts of culture during a murder investigation. Finally, The Bad Sleep Well (1960) is a film from Akira Kirosawa, basically a retelling of Hamlet in which a young man joins a corrupt company in order to gain revenge for the death of his father.

    As far as the supernatural corruption corporate life can cause, Vampire's Kiss (1989) is a look at a yuppie literary agent as he slowly loses his mind and thinks he's turning into a vampire. In the World of Darkness, obviously such a person could really be a vampire, or a ghoul. They could also be a breed of famori that is a literal blood sucking leach. Another worth looking at is the very surreal How To Get Ahead in Business (1989), in which a businessman develops a cyst on his neck that soon starts talking to him and encouraging him to do evil.

    Finally, an anthology of note, Corporate Cthulhu, which is a little hard to find, but is an entertaining collection of Mythos and Mythos-influenced stories set in the corporate world.

    Added: A few additions.

    The Office, both its original British version and the American remake, deals with the day to day activities of employees of a paper company in a mockumentary style.

    While the animated tv series Archer is mainly concerned with espionage and the like (at least in its early seasons), it also involves a lot of dysfunctional workplace drama that would work well at PENTEX companies.

    And I've previously mentioned the film Grandma's Boy (2006), which is kind of a dumb comedy, but for our purposes, the workplace conflict is interesting, and both Joel Moore as a borderline unstable jerk and Kevin Nealon as a boss obsessed with New Age Asian mysticism can both easily serve as inspiration for PENTEX employees.
    Last edited by No One of Consequence; 02-09-2020, 05:41 PM.

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  • No One of Consequence
    replied
    And for those who think the modern cigarette industry is bad, I give you Cocarettes.

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  • No One of Consequence
    replied
    Economics and Capitalism

    It's a new year, and I thought I might start by going back to the very basics. Economics is one of those things that tend to be a bit mind numbing, and most people really have no idea about how economies work. Thankfully, there are books for that. And even better, books for people who aren't economists (or at least pretend to be ones on TV) and who have little patience for academic jargon. (This is why I'm not going to get into the various "schools" such as Keynesian, Chicago, Austrian, etc., or the differences in micro and macroeconomics.)

    Alfred Mill's Economics 101 is part of the Adams 101 series of introductions to various topics, and a decent enough intro to the subject. Also The Economics Book, part of the "Big Ideas Simply Explained" series.

    Going a little deeper, I personally find Thomas Sowell's work well worth reading. He's part of the more libertarian "Chicago School", but more than that, he's been a prolific writer on economics and the social impact of economic policies for the past several decades. ( I consider his books The Vision of the Anointed and A Conflict of Visions to be must reading for Mage.) His Basic Economics is a fairly easy to read introduction to the topic. Also worth reading is his Economic Facts and Fallacies, and if you really want to dive into the topic, Applied Economics.

    Economics in One Lesson is by Henry Hazlitt, part of the "Austrian School", which also skews libertarian (likely as a response to the various statist forces that had wrecked Europe at the time this was written in 1947, and of the new wave of statists who had occupied Eastern Europe at the time). This is the same "school" of thought that produced Fredrick Hayek and his book Road to Serfdom, also written around this same time.

    While not exactly economics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's Freakanomics is a really interesting and entertaining look at a number of topics through an economics lens. Including things like why professional sumo wrestling is occasionally fixed and how crack gangs work a lot like fast food franchises. There's also a sequel, Super Freakanomics, as well as two other follow ups, Think Like a Freak, and When to Rob a Bank.

    Regarding capitalism, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, written during the Scottish Enlightenment, is one of those cornerstone books of the modern world. Unfortunately, it's a little hard to read. (PJ O'Rourke actually did an entire book about his trying to read Adam Smith, which is easier to read.) Less known is Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, about the concepts of morality, virtue, and duty, all of which ended up being a foundation for a lot of what he wrote in Wealth of Nations. (Russ Roberts's How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life describes Moral Sentiments as "the greatest self help book that almost no one had read.") There are a few children's books about Smith and his economic theories that explain it in a simple and easy fashion. (Weirdly, he's not part of the Who Was biography series, which annoys me as those are usually pretty good.)

    However, most of what we see around the world is not capitalism, but crony capitalism (also known as cronyism, corporatism, or just kleptocratism). This is when people in government power rig the system in favor of their friends or donors. Wealthy individuals or large corporations give politicians large sums of money (but its ok because its a campaign donation so it's not a bribe), and in return, when laws or regulations are drafted, the donees make sure that there are loop holes or exceptions for their friends. Or they make sure their donors get those big government contracts. Sometimes it's more subtle than this. A big company, lets say Wal-Mart, might invent a well paying position on it's board of directors and have the Governor's wife of the state they are headquartered in fill that position. And suddenly Wal-Mart is getting a lot of special favors from the state government. Or say you have a Congressmen who is chairman of a powerful committee who's wife runs a consulting firm, and companies that have business impacted by that committee just happen to hire that consulting firm. Or you have an entire Congress drafting a major bill that will radically overhaul how health insurance is handled in the entire country, and all of them just happen to starting buying and selling their stocks in various health and medical investments just before the bill is voted on. That's crony capitalism, which has about as much to do with real capitalism as The Village People did with punk rock.
    While he is probably most (in)famous for his book Clinton Cash (about how that family had turned crony capitalism into an art form), Peter Schweizer has also written other books about political corruption on both sides of the political spectrum, including Throw Them All Out, Extortion, and Secret Empires.
    I'm rather irritated that there are no books about the Keating Five scandal in the late 80s. For those two young to remember, this was when five US Senators intervened in a federal regulatory investigation of Charles Keating and his Lincoln Savings and Loan after Keating had made over a million dollars (in 1980s money) in campaign donations to the five men. The S&L later collapsed in 89, taking with it over three Billion dollars of government - meaning US tax payers' - money.

    That's all for now. I hope to have something about corporate culture in general done in the next week or so.

    Last edited by No One of Consequence; 01-13-2020, 09:11 PM.

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  • Fat Larry
    replied
    Just got done watching the recent Hellboy film.

    While the film isn't very good, the first 15 minutes was an AWESOME inspiration for the World of Darkness' Extreme Wrestling Warfare organization.

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  • Reighnhell
    replied
    This is amazing. Even though I play more Chronicles of Darkness that World of Darkness these days, I consider WtA my "native" game and this material is incredibly useful for any game (or fiction project) involving corrupt corporations.

    I also thank you for the numerous references to Friday the 13th: the Series. I thought I was the only one who remembered that show! It has had a lasting influence my tastes.
    I look forward to your next entry!

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  • Fat Larry
    replied
    Over the last couple of years, Roxxon Energy Corporation has become a mirror image of Pentex. Good job, Marvel.

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  • Matt the Bruins fan
    replied
    http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/...iction/hm.aspx

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  • Inertial Frame
    replied
    Even though it's been months since you broached the subject, since there hasn't been much movement I thought I'd chime in on the wax museums. There is a pretty excellent* short story by Hazel Heald and HP Lovecraft by the name "The Horror in the Museum" which is almost entirely set in a wax museum at night. Of course, this is Lovecraft, so Cthulhian shenanigans ensue, but by and large, this could totally be a Wyrm situation in the Victorian era to the 1920's for the World of Darkness. I have no idea if it's available in print or otherwise anymore, but I'm sure it can be found somewhere, if only in a used book store hidden among the anthology works.








    *Excellent may be subjective here. You may or may not find it as good as I did.

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  • Konradleijon
    replied
    Yeah. I guess you could look at video game crunch..?

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  • No One of Consequence
    replied
    Yes. I've just been badly distracted by work and health issues over the past two months.

    Meanwhile, anyone looking for a potentially weird PENTEX plot hook straight out of the sort of 70s and 80s cinema that heavily inspired a lot of the company in the first place can check out Dead Heat, (1988), starring Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo, and with appearances by Vincent Price and Darren McGavin (of Kolchak fame). Basically an 80s buddy cop film - and honestly feels like it's entirely aware of all the genre cliches it's checking off - complicated by the fact that the criminal plot involves reanimated corpses committing crimes. This leads to a shady research company (named Dante Labs; as I said, you can see where this sort of thing was an influence) that has a plan to allow rich people to live forever, or at least as long as they can keep paying. It's cheesy fun, and can be the basis for an interesting chronicle involving Magadon or some related company.

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  • Konradleijon
    replied
    Is this thread still open?

    Leave a comment:


  • Logothétēs
    replied
    Originally posted by Fat Larry View Post
    Just finished rewatching the entire Jurassic Park franchise.

    Ingen really does make for a PERFECT Pentex subsidiary.

    Run by Mnetics/corrupted Mokole. no doubt.

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