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Hackney Downs by IanMH
Hackney Downs, a photo by IanMH on Flickr.
Saturdays in our flat have become "Pancake Saturday". My boyfriend has mixed feelings about this as he's the Pancake Master. I like to say on Friday night things like "I can't wait for Pancake Saturday tomorrow." Or, "I notice we have bananas and blueberries - Pancake Saturday is going to be extra special tomorrow."

In the morning, he'll try a "you do the coffee then." I'll smile, hit the coffee maker's button and go sit on the sofa. I prepare the coffee maker the night before, you see.

I love nothing more than BBC Radio 6 on a Saturday morning, a copy of the London Review of Books and the smell of pancakes frying in the kitchen. Yesterday, I read in the LRB a review of a Nijinsky biography. About his famed beauty, the choreographing of the Rite of Spring, the ensuing succès de scandale, his madness… before I knew it, I had disappeared into a search through YouTube footage and Tumblr photos.

In the evening, we met my friend Vini Bambimi in Stoke Newington for some drinks at the Three Crown and a spot of dancing downstairs, in The Waiting Room. It was a 90s night - a 90s I'd forgotten about. Utah Saints more exhilarating than Elastica; Hole instead of Nirvana (very popular with the attendees, I'll tell ya); the unfairly neglected Urban Cookie Collective.

It was a LGBT night too. The crowd was mostly young but one or two oldies were also on the dancefloor. It was a good mix.

The Waiting Room

Next Friday night is 80s night - I'm thinking of checking it out with [ profile] millionreasons. (We are going to some birthday drinks in Bloomsbury beforehand and I'm planning on dragging her to the club afterwards.)

It's a very small space - the kind that would elicit many casualties if a stampede broke out. But it has that thing Electric Dreams doesn't have - a dance floor without bright lights straight in your face. Also doesn't take long to get a drink from the bar.

This morning, the boyfriend made an omelette and hashbrowns to go with the croissants we bought on the way home last night from the 24-hour bagel shop on Stoke Newington High Street. We then took the 425 bus to Clapton, where we met Vini Bambini again for a 5K run through Hackney Downs, London Fields, Broadway Market, Regent's Canal and Victoria Park.

I wish I had an Agatha Christie to watch tonight.
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The Drowned Man
The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable, production shot

Gradiva is the story of a young archeologist who buries his desires, but of course what is repressed always returns and one night he dreams of Pompeii; it is the time of the eruption of Vesuvius, and he sees his Gradiva there, the dream image of a woman depicted in a plaster-cast bas-relief, with a particular gait that fascinates him, for which he searches in the streets. He is possessed by her ‘lente festinans’. The woman in his dream lies down as if to sleep, stretched along a broad step. She dies (it is a moment for which Jacques Derrida says all historians wish: to witness the coincidence of the event with the archiving of that event). She is like a beautiful statue and a veil of ashes covers her face and soon buries her. In 1907, Freud published his essay on Gradiva and delusions and dreams. It is also a ghost story, unstable and distorted, its happy ending uncertain even when resolved. [1]

In that same year, Freud wrote a postcard from Rome to his wife, Martha. "He invited her to think of his joy in encountering––or re-encountering––after a long solitude, a beloved face. It was, however, as he remarked, a rather one-sided recognition, for the face to which he was referring was that of the bas-relief of the Gradiva, a figure stepping lightly, high up on a wall in the Vatican".[2]

106 years later, to the date, I step into a building near Paddington Station, London, for Punchdrunk's latest production, The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable.

Contains spoilers... )

[1] & [2] A London Fantasy, by Sharon Kivland
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[ profile] millionreasons has pointed me in the direction of this post by Rebecca Solnit in the London Review of Books that perfectly encapsulates my feelings (and possibly yours as well) about going off the grid:

In or around June 1995 human character changed again. Or rather, it began to undergo a metamorphosis that is still not complete, but is profound – and troubling, not least because it is hardly noted. When I think about, say, 1995, or whenever the last moment was before most of us were on the internet and had mobile phones, it seems like a hundred years ago. Letters came once a day, predictably, in the hands of the postal carrier. News came in three flavours – radio, television, print – and at appointed hours. Some of us even had a newspaper delivered every morning.

It's well worth a read.

There's a link also doing the rounds on Facebook that has made me think of this question about excessive internet use: Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy. From there, I ended up stumbling on 7 Ways To Be Insufferable on Facebook and I realised how much Image Crafting I've been engaged with[1].  But... aren't we all?  Is it possible not to Image Craft while online?  It feels like a conundrum.

Those two Facebook-related articles aren't explicitly about using the internet too much, but I feel you can infer from them that a lot of malady comes from it.

[1] I was doing this thing for a while where I posted online every Monday morning a photo of whichever cafe I was sitting in, doing a bit of creative writing.  Then, I went dancing with some friends and they said (in the best possible way) that those photos made them feel like shit because they always saw them when they were sitting in their offices, staring at the horrible week unfold in front of them.
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Wax Idols, Discipline + Desire, 2013

My boyfriend was cutting my hair last week in our
makeshift hair salon in the kitchen when I suggested this album as soundtrack. As the album unfolded and he snapped at my salt & pepper locks, he said our mirror should be covered with skulls and we should be wearing heavy mascara.

Wax Idols are very old-school gothy (or post-punky, if you prefer).  Siouxsie's influence is in there with Robert Smith's guitar, as well as P.i.L. and Joy Division's rhythm section. For a more recent comparison, I sensed a bit of The Organ in there and even the Pixies.  According to Pitchfork's review, the band's front woman Heather Fortune, who once played with Hunx and His Punx, is a dominatrix during the day, which explains the album's title.  Hailing from California, there's a yearning for the type of darkness only the Brits know. I don't agree though with Pitchfork's conclusion that all songs keep the listener at bay.  It's the opposite for me; their 80s style alternative pop is nostalgic and embracing, with some songs like "Dethrone" staying with you after a few listens. It's a dramatic and catchy album, which is - really - my bread and butter. (It also helps that they are an all-female band!)

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Via [ profile] sarahofthedead
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Walt Whitman by Marion Doss
Walt Whitman, a photo by Marion Doss on Flickr.
I bought a copy of Walt Whitman's poems before yesterday because I've been wanting to revisit Leaves of Grass after hearing him mentioned in My Dinner With Andre. I read Whitman in university and seem to remember my professor not liking him too much; I was a fan though.

I found his poetry collection in that second hand bookshop just by Waitrose in Bloomsbury (the one you go down steps and it's like a Borgean maze of dusty classics.) The book was on the floor, at the top of a poetry pile, waiting for me. £3.

My Dinner With Andre has also made me think/notice about people choosing to dress like what they think they are. I.e. terrorists look like terrorists, designers look like designers, hipsters look like hipsters, bankers look like bankers. We (unconsciously?) try to fit into the stereotype of what we think we should be or look like. Have you noticed? Just watch the news and you'll see confirmation of that.

Who am I? Whom do I look like? I see pictures of myself from 5, 6 years ago and realise how gray my hair has become.

I've also been this week to a launch party by a famous British rapper, and written a letter to a famous dancer (now retired) asking if she'd like me to teach her how to use emails and the internet.

Yesterday, I witnessed two women getting into a fight at the bus stop outside Westfield Stratford. One of them was wearing a hijab and looked Somalian; she was sitting down beside three white British women when she suddenly broke into a loud, angry rant. She accused them of making remarks about her hijab and called them some bad words. Everyone looked at her as if she was mentally ill. A few minutes later, she made a phone call and, during it, began to make offensive comments about the women again. One of them couldn't take it any longer and shouted back: how dare you be racist to me? Somalian lady replied that no British woman shouted at her, which only made the other one shout louder.

An elderly man (muslim as well) tried to calm things as well as the British woman's daughter, but in vain. I saw a policeman walking towards us and made gestures at the daughter that the police was coming. When she understood she tried to stop her mom, but by now there was no stopping that verbal war. More police arrived and the Somalian woman tried to leave. But the police were having none of it - they wanted an explanation as to what was going on. Now Somalian lady looked meek and perhaps aware she was in deep shit (witnesses were also not being allowed to leave - perhaps because it was a suspected racial incident?) I picked up my shopping bags and quickly made a getaway for the Tube.

Later, on my way to friends for a Twin Peaks Marathon, I saw police cars and firetrucks outside my building. People were looking up at the tower block next to ours... one of the flats was on fire.

This morning, I'm debuting a new pair of glasses I bought at Westfield Stratford. The world looks wonky and 3Dish. I can see all the lines on my pale face and I feel even more old.
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Sweet Dreams by Studio d'Xavier
Sweet Dreams, a photo by Studio d'Xavier on Flickr.
I went dancing last night at Electric Dreams, which happens once a month at the London Stone pub. 80s music with a dash of the 90s. Loads of alternative stuff and the occasional run of dancefloor populars. The Cure, Duran Duran, Japan, Depeche Mode, you name it.

Last time I went dancing was last summer, at the disastrous Old School Indie. And before that was The Cure night at Electric Dreams. My dancing days get shorter and rarer, which I find very sad. I'm not ready yet to give them up!

There were four of us and we ended up leaving early (some were tired, some had run out of money and some needed to work in the morning.) I got a good dose of the dancefloor; my leg muscles tingle today.

On our walk back to Liverpool Street Station I luxuriated on my comfort despite not having a scarf. My friend Bia pointed out how Electric Dreams is unusual for its lack of pretention and its variety of people: tall and short, large and thin, old and young, alternative or business-suited, men and women. Nicely split in half, all for the music.

We walked past a homogeneous group of bankers who'd left a posh bar and one of the women had just finished vomiting at their feet. They didn't have an ounce of the fun we had.

My boyfriend and I are now bundling up and stepping outdoors for a walk and some lunch. The sunshine promised during the week failed to materialise.
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Books by nnnnox
Books, a photo by nnnnox on Flickr.
We've started a Short Story Club with a couple of friends who live near us. They invited us over yesterday for an Easter roast, followed by some wine, coffee and stories by George Saunders read out loud. We also did a bit of creative writing inspired by Lynda Barry's exercises. (The one where you pick a random noun and have to explore a memory attached to it.)

These friends live in a beautiful loft in Hackney, north of Victoria Park. Wooden floors, books everywhere, vintage furniture, and now a piano in the living room. My boyfriend played with it for a bit before requesting we hum 80s synth pop melodies so he could try to pick them up on the piano. I hummed this one-hit-wonder.

Halfway through the afternoon, they asked me if I'd like a free one-year subscription to the London Review of Books. They had just renewed their own subscription and won the chance to nominate a friend for the prize. They also gave me a copy of Granta's The Best of Young Brazilian Novelists as they already had a copy. It was Christmas come early on Easter!

I've had a cold this whole Easter break (I only get sick on holidays and long weekend breaks) so it was nice to leave the flat and be a bit sociable. We had to read George Saunders' "Jon" before our meeting - a story about young people raised in a compound for the sole purpose of testing product advertising. When a couple in love decide to leave the compound, the outside world's reality peeks in.

I remember first encountering George Saunders years ago, at the Hay-on-Wye Festival with my boyfriend, [ profile] naturalbornkaos and [ profile] kixie. We'd bought tickets to see Zadie Smith interview him (drawn to her celebrity at the time) and we were all converted by his warmth, intelligence and humour. He mostly writes short stories which tend to be funny pokes at modern life. He's a sort of Kurt Vonnegut, actually.

In the evening, after our Easter roast, we walked up the road to the Hackney Picturehouse and watched Cloud Atlas, which I was surprised didn't suck. For the complexity of the novel it is based on, I think the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer did a good job. I was particularly impressed with Halle Berry, the best actor out of the whole lot. And, of course, my neighbour Ben Whishaw! I do wonder though how comprehensible the story was for anyone who'd not read the book. Did it do well in America? I'd be surprised!

Today, I'm having breakfast with a friend at the Pavillion then meeting Silky Bonadutchi this afternoon. Excessive lemsip has done its job and I don't feel so clogged up today. Sadly, this lovely long weekend has gone by too fast...
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The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was expecting The Help to be a slightly insulting chicklit novel but before I knew it I was hooked. The novel is told through the point of view of three women living in a small town in Mississippi in the early 60s: two black women, Minny and Aibileen, who work as maids, and one young white woman, Skeeter, who dreams of becoming a published writer and exposing the hard life of black women.

Skeeter, indignant with the way her society treats black women, puts together a book of anonymous interviews of the town's maids, exposing the underbelly of 60's southern America. The gathering of these stories sets in motion incidents that put Minny and Aibileen's jobs in danger, maybe even their lives.

Full of good intentions, Stockett's novel is unintentionally campy, reminiscent at times of pulpy trash like The Valley of the Dolls. There's something drag queenish about Skeeter herself. Another character, the mantrap hillbilly Celia, who is shunned by small town society because she's too voluptuous, seems to have been created with an eye on a Marilyn Monroe postcard.

A lot of Stockett’s material was apparently taken from her own upbringing (from what she observed and understood later as a white woman from the American South). Characters are either good or bad, though, with no subtlety in between. More often than not the white ones are ignorant and evil while the black ones are good, kind and hardworking. A lot of emotion comes through as sentimentality, as if written with an eye for the Hallmark Channel’s movies. It’s a novel that portrays the 60s as we imagine it rather than what it was really like.

It's an enjoyable read nevertheless. Stockett conjures a fascist world that reminds me of the claustrophobia and horror of Atwood's Handmaid's Tale. It's a world we haven't completely left behind.

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TWIN PEAKS, a photo by WMHART on Flickr.
It's a Sunday for spending indoors, cooking lunch with friends (brasilian feijoada) and watching Twin Peaks. It's a Sunday where I've finished Madame Bovary for the 2nd time while getting through my 2nd cup of coffee and now have a skype date with my family in Brasil for 8pm tonight (but my mom says my nephew may not be there as he's afraid of computers.)

It's a Sunday of two fried eggs on top of toast for breakfast. It's a Sunday where my boyfriend and I had initially planned to go for a 5K run in Victoria Park but now we are aiming for an hour-long walk to our friends' apartment in Clapton (where said Twin Peaks marathon will take place.) It's a Sunday for further inroads into A Storm of Swords (Game of Thrones #3).

Grey, uninspiring Sunday. Like the radioactive dust that falls on your hands and on your face... on your face... on your faaaaace.

Hungry Sunday.

Monday never comes too late. And for the 6th week running I'll find a coffee shop in the neighbourhood, around 8.30am, and do a bit of creative writing before heading into work.
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Friday Night:

Watched Paedo Roman Polanski's The Tenant. Still a disturbing movie after all these years, in particular its climax in the building's courtyard. Would love to know what Zizek makes of it: teeth inside walls, cross-dressing, people hanging out in public lavatories covered with Egyptian
hieroglyphics. To me, it's a film about schizophrenia brought on by isolation, perhaps an allegory of Polanski's own life - and even foreshadowing his escape from America and life in France.

On Saturday:

Ate pancakes with homemade syrup, honey, butter, bananas and blueberries for breakfast.  Drank coffee.  Listened to the Best of the Subway Sect while reading an article in Uncut about Vic Godard. He became a postman in the 80s and has been in that profession for nearly 30 years, but still recording music on his spare time. Then I listened to Tom Waits first album, "Closing Time", while reading another article in Uncut about how that album came to be created and what Waits was like at the start of his career. I did not like the album (too sentimental) but found a cover of "Lonely" by Bat for Lashes that is very good.

Went for a walk with my boyfriend to his
studio in Bow, keeping track of our movements through the App "RunKeeper" on my iPhone.[2] Wandered to Mile End afterwards and had lunch at a new restaurant on Mile End Road, Box Noodle. Walked through Mile End Park and visited Matt's Gallery. It had two free exhibitions: an installation by Susan Hiller called "Channels", with flickering TVs and real recordings of people who have gone through near-death experiences; and an installation of found objects by Mike Nelson which reminded my boyfriend of "Outsider Art", and for myself of Jason Voorhees.

Susan Hiller "Channels".

Mike Nelson

Walked down Mile End Road and had a look around a small exhibition in the Whitechapel Gallery on the multi-media magazine Aspen, which was published between 1965 and 1971. It was a bit like McSweeney's, with each edition curated by a different person and featuring people like Susan Sontag and William S. Burroughs. Roland Barthes' "Death of an Author" was first published in it and you can see the original draft with corrections at the exhibition. I studied this essay back in Montreal when I was in Uni - reading it again reminded me of contemporary dance for some reason, and the question of how much of a piece is the choreographer's and how much is the dancer's (limitations). Still, obviously, an interesting question for writers and what they create.

Bought pizzas and salad at Tesco, took the bus home while my boyfriend returned to his studio to collect some material he'll have printed this week. Played Xenoblade Chronicles. Made pizza with salad and ate it while watching cheesy 80s Brit chiller Haunted based on a James Herbert novel (somebody please make him stop writing! Won't somebody think of the trees?) The only good thing in it was Aidan Quinn, a bit of eye candy to distract you from the terrible performances, the silly story and the ridiculous special effects. Bizarrely, during Aidan's sex scene with Kate Beckinsale, a body double was used for him!

Next, we watched the documentary The Dungeons Masters, about three people whose lives revolve around Dungeons and Dragons. Funny, fascinating and horrifying in equal measures.[1]

On Sunday:

Had bagels, fried eggs and coffee for breakfast.  Went for a 5K run in the glorious sunshine over Victoria Park. Ran past a Canadian couple we recently met through a Scottish friend we have in common and said a quick hello. Drank a protein smoothie, took a shower, shaved and washed in the bathroom's sink a pair of winter gloves and socks.  Now writing this while waiting for Wink to bake some french fries in the oven and prepare Tuna sandwiches with the last of the bagels.

[1] I used to play Dungeons and Dragons in my early teens - I got all my friends into it.  There's even strong evidence I was the first to play Dungeons and Dragons in Brasil!!!  And I'm not kidding - it was something that didn't exist over there - it was given to me as a gift by my dad in the mid 80s after one of his trips to England. But I'll never be able to prove it.
[2] By the end of the day we'd walked about 9km accumulated over an hour and a half.
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The Song of AchillesThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this to be a beautiful and touching retelling of the mythological love between Achilles and his faithful companion Patroclus, from their first meeting as boys into their adulthood. Miller, an Ancient Greece scholar, poured into the novel all that is known about their lives and the roles they played in the Trojan War (as told in Homer's Iliad), with a bit of creative imagination thrown into the mix. Her style is very light, full of similes that evoke the period and the gods and entities that walked the land. She tells the story through Patroclus' eyes and by the end, as the Trojan war comes to life, you can't stop reading out of fear for what could happen to these characters you've grown to know and like.

Mary Renault, who also specialised in same-sex love stories (most famously the trilogy about Alexander the Great and Hephaestion's love) would have adored this novel. Maybe Miller is her natural successor? They are both fascinated by a long gone time when a man's love for another wasn't a problem as long as his duties to family and country were attended to. In Miller's novel you also get the added benefit of fantastical figures walking among men as portents of victories or disasters, or sometimes simply because they love too much the mortals they are bound to and can't escape them. This is Ancient Greece after all and tragedy is never too far away.

Teen girls have the fantastical creatures in "Twilight" to keep them up at night. Teen gay boys now have "The Song of Achilles", except that this is a very well written story that should please everyone, of all ages. I dare anyone not to be moved by the final page and I'm already playing cast director in my mind as to who should play these characters in the film version (which, if Zeus is fair, should already be in pre-production.)

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Most popular artists in my music library in 2012:

  1. Morrissey
  2. The Smiths
  3. The Magnetic Fields
  4. Cocteau Twins
  5. Suede
  6. Madonna
  7. The Cure
  8. Anouar Brahem
  9. Kronos Quartet
  10. Ladytron
  11. Siouxsie and the Banshees
  12. Saint Etienne
  13. Erasure
  14. Belle and Sebastian
  15. Cat Power

Madonna has dropped one position in my charts this year, which can only mean two things: I didn't clean my house as often as 2011 and I didn't listen much to her new album. Usual suspects in the top 5 and across the chart, with some notable newbies: Saint Etienne and Ladytron, who released fantastic pop albums this year, Anouar Brahem, who records lovely classical albums, and Cat Power, because one of our recent guests gave me all her albums as MP3s. Kronos Quartet also have great classical albums which I enjoy listening to during the weekend when I don't feel like hearing another human being's voice.

Most popular tracks in my music library in 2012:

  1. Austra – Lose It
  2. Jermaine Stewart – We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off
  3. Erasure – Star
  4. Japan – Life In Tokyo
  5. One Dove – White Love (Lonesome demo)
  6. Icona Pop – I Love It
  7. Eternal Summers – Safe At Home
  8. Andrew Lawrence-King: The Harp Consort – Concerto for Organ, op. 4, No. 1: Adagio
  9. The Associates – Party Fears Two
  10. The Passions – I'm In Love With A German Film Star
  11. Hall & Oates – Out Of Touch
  12. Cocteau Twins – From the Flagstones
  13. The Smiths – Hand In Glove
  14. Madonna – Open Your Heart
  15. Joy Division – Failures

Somebody hacked into my Last.FM account!  There's no other explanation for Jermaine Stewart being so high in my charts (ahem).  Austra's Lose It, on the other hand, is a perfect pop song and was on repeat for a good chunk of my year. Their whole album is great and I recommend it.  Same goes for Icona Pop's I Love It (the sound of 2012's summer if it'd had any sunshine).  Release an album already, Icona Pop!  One Dove's White Love is on this chart because I fell asleep with my iPod one night and it got played on repeat for 8 hours straight.  It's the same for Andrew Lawrence-King and Eternal Summers, who I have no clue who they are or how they ended up in my iTunes.  The other tracks are 80s pop and Alternative tracks from post-punk period as per usual.

My top tracks and artists for:

All this info is via my account on Last.FM.


Dec. 13th, 2012 11:52 am
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It's not Friday... but if feels like it! Here's my all time favourite adult contemporary song in the whole wide world:

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Dedicated to [ profile] androktone

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The Lonely LondonersThe Lonely Londoners by Samuel Selvon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The main selling point (or interest) of this short novel for me is its representation of immigrants from the West Indies in London during the 1950s. The mood is set from the opening page where we meet Moses on his way to Waterloo to receive a new arrival from Trinidad, the eccentric Galahad (who feels hot during the English winter and cold in the summers). At first it seems like this will be a story of how Galahad experiences culture shock in London while Moses - already a resident for ten years - helps guide him through the city's society.

But "The Lonely Londoners" - narrated in the same accented voice of the characters - is also about a cast of acquaintances to Moses who try to get by in the rapidly hostile English society with varying degrees of success. Tolroy who suddenly has to find space in his small room for a large family descending on London; Lewis, in search of the lost wife he constantly beat until she'd had enough; Cap, who gets by on hustles; and many more.

There are no chapters, just tales on these different immigrants and how they try to stay afloat, gathering in each other's stuffy bedrooms, never a shilling to be found for the radiators during the winter. The scenes in well-known parts of London (such as Galahad hunting for a pigeon to eat in Hyde Park) stand out for me amidst the gray and lugubrious mood.

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