August 03, 2015

Bearcam

August 01, 2015

I got yer violent movie right here

Eric: So, what're you doing then? On your holidays? 
Carter: No, I'm visiting relatives. 
Eric: Oh, that's nice. 
Carter: It would be... if they were still living.


Intro -



Accountability -



"[L]ike a bottle of neat gin swallowed before breakfast. It's intoxicating all right, but it'll do you no good." - George Melly, The Observer

Employee orientation

  1. We work as a team
  2. We are accountable to others.
  3. We value self-reliance.
  4. We respond appropriately to adversity.
Also, we don't read Harvard Business Review...except for this one article.


The Big Lebowski: Two persuasive critical perspectives

As Film Noir

 


As Alice in Wonderland

Hmm

55. BLIND GOSSIP 07/06 **#2**
There are quite a few celebrities out there who like to lie about themselves, but this professional athlete really takes the cake! You cannot believe a single word that comes out of his mouth when it comes to his personal life. Whenever he says something, know that it is exactly the opposite of whatever is really going on. He thinks that people are really buying into his whole holier-than-thou act that he and his new girl are throwing out there. Are you? Pass the cake, please!
Russell Wilson/Ciara (vow of abstinence)

(link)

July 31, 2015

And that's all I have to say about that

Status Update: On Fire

Well-played, Wilmer, well-played

July 29, 2015

Eisengeiste clickbait



July 28, 2015

Trending now

July 27, 2015

A good follow

July 26, 2015

fyi

The old ways are best

Su Shi ("not to be confused with Sushi" - Wikipedia) said:

The learning of superior men and the skills of a hundred craftsmen, having originated in [antiquity] and developed during the Han and Tang periods, had reached a state of completion.  By the time poetry had produced a Du Fu [717-770], prose writing a Han Yu [768-824], calligraphy a Yan Zhenqing, and painting a Wu Daozi, all possibilities for change in the arts had been exhausted.

- Chinese Calligraphy (The Culture & Civilization of China)


From Yan Zhenqing's "Memorial Stele for Yan Qinli"

A few excerpts from 'Eastern Approaches'

I recommend this book unreservedly to all.  These passages are from his brief history of the Balkans:








July 25, 2015

Another C

I got out to the car the other day and noticed a CD I'd bought before right before I left town, the tribute album Eric Clapton put together for JJ Cale.  The Yin to Cream's Yang in Clapton's artistic life was JJ Cale.  After Cream broke up Clapton complained about their limited repertoire, that their music was "mean", and not "honest."  Cale was at the opposite pole on all three dimensions, prolific, laid-back, and authentic.  And, where Cream's ambitions were heavily commercial, Cale eschewed the limelight.

From another perspective, his bandmates in Cream were the bullying upperclassmen at his school.  Cale, he says, was simply "my hero."

As with all such efforts, the album has hits and misses (Willie Nelson?), but far more hits.  If you like this, you'll like the album.  If not, take a pass.

Here is a long interview Clapton did about the album, which gives you some flavor for how he operates in his post-rock star, post-substance abuse incarnation:



Here is an another interview from 2007, timed to the release of his autobiography, where he is very frank about his long road to recovery.

July 23, 2015

I certainly hope not, Mr. Chandler






(link)

July 22, 2015

Leaving the house is overrated

In Los Angeles, here is only part of what often happens when you leave the house, in order of when/how I learned it: 
  1. You are flattened by a car while crossing the street.
  2. You go to a stunning 1920s Spanish revival mansion on a cliff in Santa Monica for a party where you know everybody already and you know you can’t tolerate even one of them.
  3. You get hit on by an elderly fat journalist with red-wine-mouth.
  4. While hiking, your dog is kicked by one of those self-satisfied people running uncontrollably downhill, and so jumps into the moldy, muddy, algae-lined water bowl at Runyon Canyon.
  5. A woman wearing a straw hat and bikini shouts at you for letting your dog jump into the water bowl.
  6. You accidentally rear-end someone while reversing to get a parking space at Trader Joe’s.
  7. You rupture your L3-L4 spinal disc just by carrying groceries.
(link)

July 20, 2015

Now look what you started

Classic Zombies Lineup to Reunite for 'Odessey & Oracle' Tour

Surviving members of 1968 lineup behind classic LP will hit the road this autumn

By  


Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/classic-zombies-lineup-to-reunite-for-odessey-oracle-tour-20150720#ixzz3gUG7xFwN 

July 19, 2015

Staggering into the light at the National Palace Museum, Taipei


But, you know...these guys aren't half bad




The tragedy was that throughout 1965 and 1966, the Zombies released a string of equally fine, intricately arranged singles that flopped commercially, at a time in which chart success of 45s was a lot more important to sustain a band's livelihood than it would be a few years down the road. "Remember When I Loved Her," "I Want You Back Again," "Indication," "She's Coming Home," "Whenever You're Ready," "Gotta Get a Hold of Myself," "I Must Move," "Remember You," "Just Out of Reach," "How We Were Before" -- all are lost classics, some relegated to B-sides that went virtually unheard, all showing the group eager to try new ideas and expand their approaches. What's worse, the lack of a big single denied the group opportunities to record albums -- only one LP, rushed out to capitalize on the success of "She's Not There," would appear before 1968.   - Richie Unterberger, Allmusic.com


 Also relevant: Hold Your Head Up Woman

July 18, 2015

Casualties of the British Invasion

As I sipped my latte at Peets this morning and considered next steps (pastry? shower? Luminal?), a familiar song, scientifically selected no doubt, came through the speakers.  It was the Zombies' Summertime, and it hurled me back into the maelstrom I'd just crawled out of, the extraordinary creative destruction the Summer of Love visited on the music industry.
Fun Fact:  Both the Zombies and Cream quote The Odyssey, incorrectly.  The Zombies' posthumous triumph, Odessey and Oracle, inadvertently mis-spells the title of the epic poem.  Cream, meanwhile, has Odysseus encountering Aphrodite (apparently) in "Tales of Brave Ulysses", although this never happens in The Odyssey. 

The reality is that both bands folded for primarily commercial reasons.  Cream was an artistic success by any standard, but they didn't need that - all three members were already well-regarded.  For all the talk about the band being "an experiment," the reason they came to America, and recorded Disraeli Gears in LA, and toured all over the country, was that they wanted to make it big.  And they did, but...
We went off to America to record Disraeli Gears, which I thought was an incredibly good album. And when we got back no one was interested because Are You Experienced had come out and wiped everybody else out, including us. Jimi had it sewn up. - Eric Clapton

If you were going to pick a year to try to break through as a band, 1967 might have been the worst one possible.  Here are some other albums that came out that year:
  • Sgt. Pepper, The Beatles 
  • "The Doors" - The Doors (which owes a lot to the Zombies, by the way)
  • "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You" - Aretha
  • "Are You Experienced?" - Hendrix
  • "Between the Buttons" - Rolling Stones 
  • "Surrealistic Pillow" - Jefferson Airplane
  • "The Velvet Underground and Nico" - Velvet Underground
  • "Grateful Dead" - Grateful Dead
  • and Big Brother and the Holding Company etc. etc.
Some noise was not meant to be broken through.

Come at me bro.

The Zombies had an even tougher time of it.  It must have been particularly frustating for them, because just a couple of years before they had been the new sound.  They released "She's Not There" in September 1964, and it was #2 in the U.S. by December.  Here were the top Billboard hits of that year:
  1. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" The Beatles
  2. "She Loves You" The Beatles
  3. "Hello, Dolly!" Louis Armstrong
  4. "Oh, Pretty Woman" Roy Orbison
  5. "I Get Around" The Beach Boys
  6. "Everybody Loves Somebody" Dean Martin
  7. "My Guy" Mary Wells
  8. "We'll Sing in the Sunshine" Gale Garnett
  9. "Last Kiss" J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers
  10. "Where Did Our Love Go" The Supremes 

These are fine songs, but "She's Not There" is a different animal, completely away from the pop vernacular of the time.  Imagine hearing the Beatles on the radio in 1964, then getting this, in a minor key, with its slightly histrionic vocals, rhythmic stops and starts, and trippy keyboards, not to mention the lyrics themselves - "why should I care?" indeed.

Perhaps it was their own fault for not writing three more of those right away, but by 1967 the Beatles had long since caught up and the Zombies were yesterday's news.
Fun Fact:  In the 1970s the Zombies' guitarist, the late Paul Atkinson, worked with Paul McCartney.  McCartney sang him "She's Not There" from memory, knew every word.

And listening this morning, I'm thinking this music completely holds up.  I am so fond of that cover of "Summertime" they did, because it's respectful to the original but also really puts the band's own stamp on the material.  "Summertime" fits perfectly with their intentions, right down to the  ambiguity of its origins:
Summertime is often considered an adaptation of the African American spiritual "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child", which ended the play version of Porgy.  Alternatively, the song has been proposed as an amalgamation of that spiritual and the Ukrainian Yiddish lullaby "Pipi-pipipee".  The Ukrainian-Canadian composer and singer Alexis Kochan has suggested that some part of Gershwin's inspiration may have come from having heard the Ukrainian lullaby, "Oi Khodyt Son Kolo Vikno" ("A Dream Passes By The Windows") at a New York City performance by Alexander Koshetz's Ukrainian National Chorus in 1929 (or 1926). - Wikipedia

Maybe there were hallucinogens in the coffee, but it occured to me that "Time of the Season" is a kind of bizarro-"Summertime".  Apart from the musical similarities, and the fact that the band knew "Summertime" inside and out, "Time of the Season" virtually quotes Gershwin:
  • Your Daddy's rich
  • Who's your Daddy?  Is he rich like me?
  • Summertime, and the living is easy
  • In this time, give it to me easy

"Time of the Season" will always be associated with the Summer of Love, and it was recorded at exactly that moment: July/August 1967.  When they were done taping, the band broke up and went their separate ways.  In April of 1968 the album was actually released, and "Time of the Season" really did break through, becoming their greatest hit.  The band eventually got to play it live...when they reunited 40 years later.

The album did ok, too:
[It] has risen from obscurity to be hailed as a pop masterpiece. It appears on numerous “Greatest Albums Of All Time” lists, including those in Rolling Stone and Mojo, and has been cited as a favorite by artists as diverse as mod rocker Paul Weller, folk hero Elliott Smith, and grunge god Dave Grohl. Unlike many rediscovered “lost albums” that owe their belated success to a movie soundtrack or television advertisement, Odessey and Oracle has endured solely thanks to its musical merits and the passion of those who’ve heard it. Based primarily on word of mouth, the record’s status increases each year.  -  Jordan Runtagh, VH-1 News

After Cream reunited at the Albert Hall in 2005, they followed up their success with an implosion full of the same toxic rage and recrimination that wrecked them the first time.  The Zombies stayed together, though:  they closed their show with "Time of the Season" at Stern Grove last year.  But, unlike the Cream reunion, which to my mind represented some of their very best work (Clapton not struggling to keep up anymore), I am not so moved by the re-vivified Zombies.  They're ok, I guess, but I think Dave Matthews, for example, does a nicer job with "Time of the Season":



Say what you want about the band, the song stands up.  Gershwin would be proud.

July 16, 2015

Sometimes I hang out in France

Photo credit:  The Other Front, various digital enhancement tools

Telling Zombies from Cream

Two British invasion bands that broke up in 1968, both musically outstanding and now regarded as icons of their era.  Both ended too soon, one in a classic drug-fuelled self-immolation, the other so the lead singer could become an insurance clerk.  In many ways they are similar, but also different.

Herewith the Eisengeiste guide to telling the difference between Cream and The Zombies:


Group founded:
  • Zombies - 1961
  • Cream - 1966

Dominant aesthetic:
  • Zombies - haunting proto-psychedelic pop
  • Cream - power psychedelic power blues

Defining album:
  • Zombies - Odessey and Oracle (listen here)
    • "[A]n achievement to rival anything the summer of love produced."  - The Guardian
    • "[A] beautifully arranged, harmony-drenched pristine pop paean to memory, the changing of seasons, the passage of time and lost love."  - The New York Times
  • Cream - Disraeli Gears (listen here)
    • "[A] quintessential heavy rock album of the '60s." - Allmusic.com
    • Surprisingly hard to find another killer quote.  So here's another thing:  when Black Sabbath's first album came out, Robert Christgau called it "Cream, but worse."

Key strengths:
  • Zombies - hauntingly beautiful melodies and outstanding vocal performances
  • Cream - power, skillful musicianship, power, power, power, and then also power
    • Baker:  “The last year with Cream was just agony. It’s damaged my hearing permanently.”

Biggest hit:
  • Zombies - She's Not There (#2 in U.S., 12/12/64)
  • Cream - Sunshine of Your Love (#5 in U.S., 8/31/68)

Other great songs:
  • Zombies - Time of the Season, Tell Her No
  • Cream - Strange Brew, Tales of Brave Ulysses

But I suggest you also listen to:

The band owed a lot to:
  • Zombies - The Beatles (and vice-versa).
    • John Lennon offered to manage them after they split with their agent.
  • Cream - Buddy Guy, Hendrix
    • [Hendrix] got up and played Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor”. Even today I don’t know many people who can play that. It’s a very, very tough piece of music. But Jimi did it and then he put the guitar behind his back and I thought, “My god, this is like Buddy Guy on acid.” - Clapton

Group broke up (for the 1st time):
  • Zombies - 1968
  • Cream - 1968

Group broke up because:
  • Zombies - Couldn't sell records, lead singer apparently interested in insurance.
  • Cream - "I was calling home...and saying, 'Get me out of here – these guys are crazy. I don’t know what’s going on and I’ve had enough.'"  - Clapton

Heartwarming reunion:

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
  • Zombies - no, a travesty of justice
  • Cream - yes, inducted in 1993, with an inspiring speech by Clapton and a too-brief, tantalizing, reunion performance

Epic talent that would help define his instrument for a generation to come:
  • Zombies - none
  • Cream - Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker
    • "If you listen to 'I'm So Glad' on Goodbye, you really hear the three guys go – and Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were a couple of jazz guys, pushing Clapton forward. I once read that Clapton said, 'I didn't know what the hell I was doing.' He was just trying to keep up with the other two guys!"  -Eddie Van Halen

People in the band prone to sudden violent outbursts
  • Zombies - none known
  • Cream - Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker

Members of band likely to murder one another if left alone:
  • Zombies - none we are aware of
  • Cream - Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker

Refer all further questions to this man:
Ginger Baker attacks documentary filmmaker Jay Bulger, breaking his nose.

I heard that was a big war

July 15, 2015

Jet lag therapy: this, and a lot of espresso

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunshine_of_Your_Love



Fine documentary on the making of Disraeli Gears is here.

Alaska is similar, but slightly colder in places

July 14, 2015

'Sup


Labels:

Spaghetti: for all your Ramadan fasting needs

Nobel Prize nominee:  food advertising 

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Emirates is the best airline


PROOF

President Barack Obama shaking hands with an Islamic person.

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June 15, 2015

Dreaming the dream

Jumping on a plane today, so I may not be able to blog for quite some time depending on Google's policies regarding fictional bloggers in the Netherlands, Germany, Malaysia, and France.  Usually they're cranky about it.  Twitter is less...selective, so maybe see you there.

I'd hoped to post this after Game 6, with the Warriors either triumphant or returning home for The Last Showdown.  But this is better, while their fate hangs in the balance.  It is just as Lasker said of chess, "it is too beautiful to spend your life upon...the conflict between ideas and opinions, attack and defence, life and death."

That Game 7, if it happens, will be beyond epic.  LeBron has been somewhat mediocre in this series (a .399 field goal percentage?  seriously?), but in that Game 7 the Warriors would face, on a home court, for all the marbles:
  • The greatest combination of athleticism and basketball talent since Wilt Chamberlain,
  • With the opportunity to win a third NBA championship for himself,
  • And the first for his city,
  • For the team he abandoned and then rejoined,
  • Against the man who won the MVP ahead of him,
  • and is the only threat to his claim to be the greatest basketball player from Akron, Ohio.
It will make High Noon look like My Cousin Vinnie.  

(Tim Roye's all-Akron team:
  • C - Nate Thurmond
  • PF/SF - LeBron James
  • PF/SF - Gus Johnson
  • G - Steph Curry
  • G - Some other person from Akron, Ohio )

Anyway, as I've mentioned, I don't think it matters all that much how the Finals turn out...the Warriors are a great team, a classic team.  The '76-'77 Sixers - the Playground All-Stars - lost in the finals to Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas, and their minions, but the Sixers were a monster team and everyone knows it.  And anyone who knows basketball knows these Warriors are even better.

But how good?  Looking up and down that list of top seasons by Elo rating, I kept turning over in my mind how my beloved '85-'86 Celtics would do against this Warriors team.  It would be an intriguing contest.  The Celtics only had that lineup for one year (in 1987 Walton was DNP/Injury, McHale played on a broken foot, and Bird - playing too many minutes - started to break down).  But in that one magic year, they were something.  Like the 90's Bulls at their peak, no one could give them a game.  According to Dr. Elo, and me, that was the best Celtic team ever, which is saying something (interactive tool is here).



In his famous interview with Bill Simmons, Larry Bird agreed, saying this was the best Celtics team he ever played on.  Here are matchups for that team against our Golden State Warriors.  We'll go Celtic-by-Celtic, in descending order of minutes played in the regular season.  We of course assume modern training methods and conditioning, normalized rules, and officiating that is fair to both teams, and not letting Cleveland get away with murder on every damn...but I digress.  Here are the matchups:
  • Larry Bird (Small Forward) - The toughest matchup for the Warriors, or any other team.  At this moment Bird is the prototypical modern player, the first of his kind:  a big man (6' 9") who can post up, pass, rebound, and win the NBA 3-point contest.  His basketball IQ is stratospheric.  He is close to his physical peak here - stronger and faster than you probably remember - and you cannot intimidate him.  In 1986 he is winning his third consecutive MVP award and, really, no one - not even "athletic" players - can guard him.  Later in his career he had trouble with extremely quick defenders, notably the Lakers' Michael Cooper, but like LeBron and Michael, no one can actually shut him down.  The Warriors would have to tag-team Bird with Iguodala and Green, as they do with LeBron, and hope for the best.  
    • Big edge to Celtics
  • Dennis Johnson (Point Guard) - Johnson is the Celtics' cooler on the defensive end, but probably isn't quick enough to cover Curry, so in this series he's on Thompson.  On the offensive end Johnson can shoot, and won a championship for the Sonics doing so (he was Finals MVP), but on this team he prefers to execute astonishing pass plays to Bird.  Not really a 3-point threat.  Thompson is a great shooter, with three point range, and also a capable defender.  But at this stage of his career he has nothing like Johnson's playoff experience and court savvy.  
    • Edge to the Celtics
  • Robert Parish (Center) - Parish and the Warriors' Andrew Bogut have similar, lunch bucket roles.  Both men are the fifth option in their team's offense, though Parish had a serviceable post-up game.  Parish's big problem was receiving the entry pass, and quick defenders could get the Celtics into a loose ball situation if they went to the well too often with him.  Bogut is even less of a shooting threat (he passes up dunks), but he is a deadly passer, and well-suited to the Warriors' ball-movement offense.  Both men are strong and mean and willing to knock down a disrespectful person if necessary.  But Parish will draw fouls and make his free throws, which is an issue with Bogut.  
    • Slight edge to the Celtics
  • Danny Ainge (Shooting Guard) - This is the worst matchup for the Celtics, by far.  Ainge was a decent shooting guard - never at the top of the League, but capable.  He had tremendous fire, but his ambition often exceeded his talent, as his career .469 field goal percentage will attest.  Ainge is facing off against Steph Curry, the greatest shooter of all time (Curry shoots .440 just on 3s).  As a defender Curry would completely shut down Ainge's limited repertoire, and/or cheat away to double the Celtics' bigs.
    • Big edge to the Warriors
  • Kevin McHale (Power Forward) - McHale is, at this moment, one of the two or three best post-up men in the League, and a good defender (early in his career they'd have him guard Erving, and he wasn't terrible, usually).  He has unnaturally long arms for his size, and he's 6' 10".  He draws fouls and makes his free throws.  The Warriors would have either Iguodala or Green on McHale, and they're both good, but he'd score a bunch anyway.  On the other hand, he can't run with either of them, and he's not coming out to challenge their three point shots.
    • Slight edge to the Celtics, but McHale vs. Iguodala at Center is not great for the Celtics when the Warriors go small
  • Jerry Sichting (Bench Guard) - This is ugly for the Celtics.  Sichting is a spot-up jump shooter, and makes 55% of his shots in '85-'86, one or two of which were actually contested (his defender would normally be doubling the Celtics' big men).  But he couldn't create his own shot.  With the Warrriors' switching defense, he'd play no role in this series.  Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa can both score and would easily handle him defensively.
    • Big edge to the Warriors
  • Bill Walton (Bench Center) - Well, there's your problem.  Now, this is not the Bill Walton who won the 1977 NBA Championship with Lucas and an otherwise forgettable supporting cast (Johnny Davis, Bob Gross, Dave Twardzik).  At this stage of his career he's been hurt, he's kicked around the League, and he's not as mobile as he once was.  But he is still:  extremely smart, strong, defensively astute, a fine rebounder, and one of the greatest passing centers in the history of the game.  The Celtics bring him in off the bench to spell Parish, and sometimes even play them together.  Walton plays about 20 minutes a game, and it is amok time.  In the halfcourt Walton and Bird whip it around like the Globetrotters.  The Warriors counter with Festus Ezeli and Ognjen Kuzmic, and that's not going to go well for them.
    • Very large edge to the Celtics
  • Scott Wedman (Bench Forward) - Wedman is a little past his prime here, a former All-Star who can come in and score, but is not much of a force on defense.  The Warriors counter with David Lee, who is a little past his prime here, a former All-Star who can come in and score, but is not much of a force on defense.
    • Draw
  • The rest of the bench - Now the Celtics have a big problem: they are out of players.  Rick Carlisle, David Thirdkill, Greg Kite - these guys are not going to have any impact whatsoever (although I have a soft spot in my heart for Sly Williams).  Meanwhile, the Warriors have two very good players left - Harrison Barnes is young but good for 10 points a game (with legit defense and three point range), and Marreese Speights ("Mo' Buckets") comes in for 15 minutes a game and scores another 10 points for you.
    • Big edge to the Warriors
  • Coaching - The Celtics are coached by Larry Bird.  A man named KC Jones stands on the sidelines and claps.  This works for them.  The Warriors are coached from the sidelines, by a rookie coach, but one who has selected a great staff and has brought them to the threshold of an NBA championship.  Steve Kerr is also one of the few people who has a competitive spirit comparable to Bird's, as evidenced by his (insane) willingness to fight Michael Jordan during a scrimmage in his first year with the Bulls.
    • Small edge to the Warriors
  • The Crowd - Boston Garden against Oracle Arena?  Two of the greatest crowds in the history of the game.  The Bostonians are vocal and loyal to a fault, but incredibly savvy, astute, cerebral.  They heckle Don Nelson (a former Celtic) for his disguised zone defenses.  The Oracle crowd is even louder, less interested in nuance, but capable of becoming a primal emotional force more powerful than any other in the history of the game.
    • Draw
The Verdict:  Wow, this is tough.  If it's one game, I'd give an edge to the Celtics, who could use the Cavaliers' strategy of slowing it way down and throwing up random shots while the front line gets rebounds and putbacks, and Larry Bird's not going to shoot some weak-ass .399 against you, either.

In a longer series, however, the Warriors' running game, greater depth and durability will start to tell.  This was the deepest of the Celtic teams of that era, but even those guys can't put five fresh new faces on the floor like the Warriors can, and they will struggle when the Warriors go small.  Just as the Celtics had trouble against the fast-breaking Laker teams, they would surely struggle against the team that invented the fast break to the three-point line.

Maybe/probably if you adjust for everything, the Celtics are little better (the Rockets or Cavaliers with three or four all-stars instead of just one).  But if you can stand next to Larry Bird and not look completely outclassed, you are pretty damn good.

Maybe that's another reason I enjoy this team so much - they invite comparison with teams that brought me a lot of good memories, even as they create new ones.

June 14, 2015

Rare air

(link)

Stepping back, and stepping up

Cue the music

I don't think that means what you think it means

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