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Ed Waffle

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Everything posted by Ed Waffle

  1. As I have heard this story Callas actually thought the radishes were roses until she picked them up. She was very nearsighted. She also said at the time that "You can't buy vegetables at the opera house," making it clear that she thought the anti-Callas claque at La Scala was escalating their boorish behavior. La Scala can be pretty rough--Renee Fleming was almost booed off the stage there when she did "Lucretia Borgia" and cancelled all her performances after the premiere--but Parma is the absolute worst. Singers go to Parma knowing that much of the audience is waiting for them to make a mistake and scream at the singers for it.
  2. I have "booed" a few time in the theater, but never when a performer was taking a bow. The only time after a ballet performance was when the "Ballets de Monte-Carlo" did Jean-Christophe Maillot's reimaging of "Cinderella". It was a barely recognizable post-post-modern jumble. I booed when Maillot was brought out to take his call. I also booed the conductor (can't recall who it was) who led the Michigan Opera Theater orchestra right off a cliff while waving his baton during "Der Rosenkavalier". He must have gotten lost on the way to Amtrack.
  3. Eight months after first seeing the trailer for this movie, it finally dragged itself onto one screen in Motown. A few notes about “The Company” Whoever decided to put two indispensable American cultural icons ---Altman and the Joffrey—together made a great decision. Seeing dance through Altman’s eyes is an excellent way to experience it on film. I can’t tell if the slices of backstage life, including dressing rooms, rehearsals, meetings, injuries and interviews are true to life but the picture that Altman paints of them resonates with the truth. Neve Campbell— She looks very familiar even though I have seen almost none of her previous work—is she the “face” for a cosmetics company? Or maybe just seeing a lot of trailers for other of her movies. Checking her credits on IMDB.com, the only one I have seen is “Wild Things” and only about 15 minutes of it, which was 14 ½ minutes too many. She is an excellent movie actress. One very telling moment is when she is having her meeting with Antonelli/Arpino/MacDowell and a ballet mistress. They are talking about how if a dancer can dance allegro she can dance anything. As usual, Antonelli is called out of the meeting in order to be someplace else where he is already late. Just as he is leaving he turns back quickly. The camera focuses on Campbell. In much less time than it takes to tell, shows us that she was about to bring up a ballet being made on her, that she realizes that her chance has been lost for now, that she still wants to blurt it out but decides not to. The look of the movie— Chicago looked great: Grant Park Bandshell, a few bits of skyline, the Auditorium Theater, Fourth Presbyterian Church (the wedding scene). The apartment looked as if it was done by a Hollywood set designer. Since a dancer with the Joffrey who worked as a cocktail waitress probably couldn’t afford it, it served the same function as the palatial New York apartments from the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s. In each case the apartments told us something about the characters in the movie and did away with a lot of exposition. The cut from the bar where Ry is playing pool and being watched by Josh (James Franco) to the apartment showing him waking up made a love/sex scene unnecessary. As a quibble, why do so many movies set in Chicago have to show the El rumbling past—and all the apartments are on the second or third floor, so the train can be seen and heard. Altman and dance— I think that he, Andrew Dunn, the cinematographer and Geraldine Peroni, the editor, were excellent in showing dance and dancers, sometimes from unexpected perspectives. Dunn lit and shot “Gosford Park” and Peroni has cut most of Altman’s movies since “The Player”. They are quite a team. A few of the shots were problematical—the one of the female dancer balanced upside down on two male dancers, with her legs perpendicular to her body and parallel to the floor was not meant to be seen from above, for example. But even that went from possibly pornographic to almost abstract moving shapes in a second or two. Most of the dance was lit, shot and edited very well—one saw the dance and was only fleetingly aware of the artistry going on behind the camera. Beautiful (and inexpensive) people— Female ballet dancers are among the most gorgeous creatures on earth. Quick scenes of them in performance, in rehearsal, in dressing rooms or just waiting around are a wonderful way to show them off. Most of the cast were members of the company—not only dancers but also ballet mistresses and masters, stage managers, and technical people, the rehearsal pianist and the physical therapist—which probably made it easier stay within the budget. Another quibble—the injury to the ballerina while she is showing some steps. Would she know immediately that she had ripped her Achilles tendon? My experience (not with dancers but with athletes) is that they only immediately know what an injury is if they have suffered it before. A boxer who breaks a metacarpal bone in his hand, for example, will know it almost as the punch lands on the opponent if it has happened before. But unless the dancer/athlete knows the specific pain, numbness or shock from having felt it in the past she would not know exactly what has happened. I may, of course, be completely wrong about this when it comes to dancers. “The Company” is not a typical Altman movie (actually, what IS a typical Altman movie?) nor is it a major work but it has many of his most successful and recognizable conventions. We see slices of slices of life, overhearing the middle of conversations, coming into meetings as they end, watching an argument among collaborators that has obviously been going on for days, if not years. His best movies have been slashing satires of decadent and blighted institutions or places, taken apart with a jeweler’s eye. “The Company” shows artists at work. I have seen this movie twice in the past two days and will see it a few more times before it creeps out of town. Apparently it was dumped by its distributor and may be difficult to find. But it is well worth seeing.
  4. A few notes: I enjoy reading Ismene Brown, although often more for her style than content. The Telegraph gives her and other critics enough space to actually review a performance. And I learned a new word! "Eurocrash" which has not yet penetrated to the frozen wilderness of the upper midwest. Since ballet is generally absent from the culture calendar in Motown, it would take a very bad review to, in itself, keep my away from a performance. Additionally, companies like Ultima Vez would not make it to Detroit, where the Les Ballet de Monte Carlo is considered edgy.
  5. Funny Face wrote: Couldn't agree more. I first read Gilchrist when I stumbled across "Victory over Japan" many years ago. It is a collection linked short stories and I was completely taken by it. I gave it as a gift to a number of people--my wife's mother was very impressed and has probably read most of what Ellen Gilchrist writes. Well worth pursuing. Rounding up a few of the usual suspects: William Faulkner--he created an entire universe in his fictional but oh so real Yoknapatawpha County. Flannery O'Connor--you can read everything she published in a few weeks. She is known as a "Catholic" writer as well as a "Southern" writer. Pigeonholing creative artists with epithets can be useful in some contexts, but it is also like calling Homer a Greek poet. It is certainly accurate as far as it goes but is woefully incomplete. O'Connors short stories, a total of 32, are terrific. Carson McCullers--her work is often described as Southern Gothic and is full of the same types of grotesque characters as another "regional" writer, Sherwood Anderson. Three of her novels have been made into movies: "Member of the Wedding", "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" and "Reflections in a Golden Eye". Eudora Welty--like Faulker, firmly rooted in Mississippi. She had a real talent for comedy--"Why I Live at the P.O." is an American humor classic. Her four collections of short stories contain some of the best writing in the 20th century in that genre. She also published two books of photographs. "One Writer's Beginnings", a short autobiography, is excellent. Tennessee Williams--"The Glass Menagerie" "A Streetcar Named Desire" "Summer and Smoke" "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof". Along with Faulkner, he changed the world. The fugitive poets, especially John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate and Robert Penn Warren. In their early work the denounced Modernism (and modernity) and looked back nostalgically at the agrarian South. There is a lot more.
  6. Because they aren't grown women--in the sense of mature, socialized, integrated individuals. Additionally many if not most of them are not really actors--the same is true males, of course. Anyone even nominated (almost anyone) for the big four acting awards is, by definition, a movie star. One doesn't need to have training of an actor on the stage to be a movie star. One doesn't have to, for example, speak Shakespeare's verse intelligibly, nor does one have to know how to cross a room elegantly, project one's voice, even if speaking in a whisper, nor convey emotion without speaking. A movie star has to look good when his face is shown on a screen 20 feet high. He doesn't inhabit a role--you never forget that you are watching Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts no matter what character they are trying to impersonate. He has to connect with people who buy movie tickets--they go to the movies to see Tom Hanks or Sandra Bullock, not to see how they will interpret a character. Nicole Kidman is an excellent example of this. She is a true movie star and has been one since she was 24 years old. She has been employed in front of TV or movie cameras from the age of 15. She probably knows as much as anyone whose education stopped in their teens. She is terrific in the right movie--"The Others", "Flirting" "To Die For". She might have been good in "Birthday Girl" but it was edited into incomprehensibility. She was the best thing (for me) in a number of not very good films--"Malice" "Billy Bathgate" "Practical Magic" "Cold Mountain". I saw "Moulin Rouge" six or seven time. The movies with Tom Cruise were unwatchable. But have no interest in what she thinks about anything, nor what she does or says when she is not on screen. Just as I am not interested in what Sean Penn thinks about foreign policy, Mel Gibson thinks about religion or what William H. Macy thinks about this years sugar beet crop (if he does). Maria Bello should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actress in "The Cooler". I hope Marcia Gay Harden wins for "Mystic River" (which I haven't even seen yet) because she is such a terrific movie actress who I have loved since she was in "Miller's Crossing." I am sure Rene Zelleweger will win it though.
  7. I had missed this thread in October. Astounding that it has been that long, and wonderful that Ballet Alert continues to grow and (one hopes) prosper. I can recall the "Post Cards", which must have been before July, 1998--like the Bruckner Symphony number 0 perhaps, or a beta software release. Many thanks to Alexandra, Mel, Victoria and everyone else who has made this board possible.
  8. dirac wrote: I still do. Currently reading Terry Eagleton's book on tragedy. His memoir, "The Gatekeeper" is terrific--and very funny.
  9. Leslie Fiedler has been there and done that. His big book, written in 1960 and still in print, is “Love and Death in the American Novel” which was based on an article he wrote for the Partisan Review, “Come Back to the Raft again, Huck Honey.” His thesis (or at least one of them) was that our literature did not and could not deal with adult sexuality of any type and was obsessed with death. It is learned, beautifully written and a joy to read. Fiedler looks closely at the relationship between Ishmael and Queequeg in Moby Dick, starting with the night they spend sharing a bed in a crowded inn with Ishmael waking to find Queequeg's arm about him. He has a lot to say about race and sex in America, refracting it through the relationship of Huck and Jim in “Huckleberry Finn” and of Natty Bumppo and Chingachgook from Cooper’s “Leatherstocking Tales”. In each case there is what Fiedler sees as a barely concealed homosexual relationship between men of different races—a “chaste marriage” is his term. Fiedler very much a Critic. He used the terms “low brow” “middle brow” and “high brow” to describe various texts. He made it clear that while it might be interesting to see how American myth was expressed in popular novels and television shows, the only Literature worth studying for itself was “high brow”. I don't disagree with him. There was a flurry of interest in Fiedler’s work a year ago—he died in January of 2003 at the age of 85. He was part of a forgotten world, one in which professors of literature had to actually read and know literature.
  10. "The Nautical Chart" is a good place to start. Although that is probably because it was the first of his books that I read and was entranced by it. Discovering new authors can be a bit daunting sometimes, at least for me. I formed a habit back when I first began reading seriously of reading through several books by the same author, one after the other. I can recall essentially checking out entire shelves from the Chicago Public Library and chewing through Melville, Hawthorne, Hardy, Dickens, Faulkner and plenty of others. I still have a tendency to do that, but try to slow down and savor each book as a thing in itself.
  11. Arturo Perez-Reverte writes intellectual thrillers (or literary detective stories) in Spanish. I have read several in English translation. His books are set in Spain and with one exception in the present, although each the stories he relates are rooted in the past--some as long ago as the Middle Ages. Perez-Reverte creates very credible characters—so much so that the reader accepts the occasionally incredible situations he puts them in. Those situations have to occur since his genre is mystery/thriller. He has the mysterious happenings and thrilling occurrences down pat. Literary—he assumes, for example, that the reader knows not only the first sentence of “Moby Dick” (everyone does) and the last few sentences of it (also most of us) but much of what comes between the first and last pages. The plots of his novels center around books and reading. “The Club Dumas” tells of the obsessive acquisitiveness of rare book lovers—and assumes the reader knows the details of many of Dumas’ books, since the characters and action from them especially D’Artangian and Lady DeWinter are woven into the narrative. “The Fencing Master”, while set in the mid-19th century in Madrid, has constant references to fencing tomes of years past and its protagonist ignores the political tumult all around him while attempting to finish life's work, a Treatise on the Art of Fencing. He fails, of course, since this is a thriller, and is drawn into the plots and counter-plots that surround him. “The Nautical Chart”, the book I recommend for those who haven’t yet begun to read Perez-Reverte, has action that is based on interpretation of 17th century Jesuit sources. The action in the novel could not take place without and is based upon critical comparisons of books of atlases from the early modern period. One theme that surfaces constantly in his books is the conflict between history and tradition on one side and modernity on the other. Each of his leading characters are rooted in some way in the past—ancient book dealers, experts on restoration of Renaissance paintings, interpreters of documents from hundreds of years ago. But each of them is also completely comfortable with the very modern tools of his or her trade, is aware of recent breakthroughs in the science behind the art that they practice and is very aware of the current value to the objects for which they strive. A literary device that Perez-Reverte uses to great effect is a shifting point of view. Combined with related tropes like a (slightly) unreliable narrator and uncertainty as to the identity of the protagonist this creates several layers of meaning. His language, while not flowery, is rich and a joy to read. Like many “classic” authors of centuries past, Perez-Reverte immerses his reader in the obsessions and diversions of his characters. In Melville you learn about whaling. Stories of farm life in the Russian provinces run throughout Tolstoy, while detailed explanations of the English courts and justice system characterize Dickens. As with these authors, you will finish one of Perez-Reverte's books knowing a good bit more about what animates the lives of his characters. Art restoration, the history of chess, the different schools of fencing during the waning of the age of Chivalry, the value of books pubished before the year 1600 and how mariners determined longitude before the invention of the chronometer are among the things he discusses in delightful and discursive detail. At least one of his books has yet to be translated into English: “La Riena del Sur” and I haven’t been able to find “El capitan Alatriste” in English. I look forward to reading both of them plus “The Seville Communion”, which I am saving for a bit.
  12. This thread reminds me of two anecdotes, one related to ballet and the season: 1) We were in Chicago a number of years ago, visiting friends and family during Christmastime. I was speaking with my sister's eldest daughter one afternoon and asked her if she was going to the Nutcracker that year with her mother or grandmother, as she had each year for the past several. She told me that she wasn't going because of all the young kids in the audience--kids, she said "who just had no idea of how to behave at the ballet". There were, she said, too many pre-teens. I didn't get it, of course, and asked something like "Oh, you mean really young children who fidget and cry?" She fixed me with the kind of look that long-suffering kids of her age give to adults who simply don't get it. "No, I mean pre-teens--you know, the 12-year olds" She was thirteen at the time. 2) When the 1967 Luis Bunel film Belle de Jour was re-released with sparkling new prints, we saw it at the local art house. Like hockeyfan228, we were surrounded by senior citizens (one of which I will become in all too short a time) but, for a change, they didn't have much to say. Until the very end of the movie, when the credits were rolling. One lady immediately behind us, said to her friend, "That Catherine Deneuve is amazing. She still looks great after all those years."
  13. A few notes: 1) Audiences at Nutcracker performances are a thing unto themselves. One can only hope not to be seated next to a talky child. 2) There are some overture talkers for whom a glare doesn't work. We have found that simply saying "Please stop talking" works wonders--although a group of ladies of a certain age (actually pretty close to my age) once were behind us during a performance of the opera Carmen. They talked during the overture and tried to keep it up during the wonderful entr'acte divertissments. When my wife turned and asked them to keep quiet one of them (the spokesperson?) said "Oh, we never talk while they are singing". 3) Help can come from unexpected sources. Years ago we saw the National Ballet of Canada do Don Quixote with Karen Kain in Windsor, Ontario. The woman seated next to me was wearing a lot of bracelets on each arm and I resigned myself to listening to them go "clink/clank" during the performance. Which wasn't the case--not a clink was heard. However, the people immediately behind us were Karen Kain superfans. During her first entrance they started talking with each other about "Doesn't she look great?" -- "No, I think she is losing weight"-- etc. I was too shocked to turn around, but didn't have to, since Ms. Bracelets pivoted in her seat and gave them a really terrifying SHUUSH!!--which kept everyone quiet. 4) Those who hum along with the music can be a real problem--perhaps moreso in opera than ballet, since so much of the standard rep in opera has been used in commercials, movie themes and cartoons that it is extremely familiar--and mellodically very rich, of course, which makes it easy and fun to hum. I have found that many of them are doing it unconsciously, which makes it really difficult to stop.
  14. That is a wonderful movie and Cagney is terrific in it. The framing device--Cagney as George M. Cohan translating headlines from Daily Variety for teen-agers: Sticks Nix Hicks Flicks"--to get into the story is perfect. He toured vaudeville, one imagines as a song and dance man, before his success in the movies. One of the main reason that his dancing has been so overlooked is that he became the indispensible tough guy of American movies during the 30s and 40s. From the time he hit Mae Clark in the face with a grapefruit--Public Enemy, 1931, until he was "on top of the world, Ma" as a petrochemical plant exploded behind him--White Heat, 1949 Cagney was the first choice as a vicious killer, gangster or punk. Sometimes, as in Angels with Dirty Faces, 1938, he played a hood with a heart of gold. One aspect of his dancing style was the amout of space he covered--while some of may be camera work, he seemed to tour a very large stage without much effort.
  15. I hadn't heard of French pianist Duchable before this article but he should be in the news again if he follows through with blowing up pianos and setting his concert suit afire in protest against the institutions that made his career possible. http://www.andante.com/article/article.cfm?id=21464
  16. Guest conductor at National Opera of Lyon takes a stand on a "reimagining" of Tchiakovsky's Queen of Spades http://www.sunspot.net/entertainment/music...-artslife-music if that url doesn't work, go to http://www.sunspot.net/ then navigate to "music" It is the second article in the list (as of 19:45 EDT)
  17. BBC online does an excellent job with this competition. A link is below. Winners include some international stars -- Karitta Mattila, Bryn Terfel and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Also some who seem to be on their way-- Lisa Gasteen, Inger Dam-Jensen. Finalists include Monica Groop, Franz Hawlata, Tito Beltran, all of whom have significant operatic careers. The jury, who also give public master classes, has been and remains very starry: Joan Sutherland, Carlo Bergonzi, Marilyn Horne, Gundula Janowitz, Sherrill Milnes, Dennis O'Neill, Galina Vishnevskaya. Worth a look and a listen. The "Performer Profiles" has audio and video files of each of the performers. http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/singeroftheworld03/
  18. Both my wife and I thought Seabiscuit was a delightful book and one well worth reading. It is full of different types and classes of people overcoming adversity, but is not told in a saccharine way at all. The thread that holds the stories together, of course, is the thoroughbred Seabiscuit. The resonse to him was electric--those who owned, trained, rode and groomed him, the bettors at the tracks and even men and women who never went to a track. He was a real celebrity during the depression. Extremely well researched and beautifully written, with more than one tear-jerking scene, including the reaction of Seabiscuit's owner when the horse died.
  19. Bing used that in reference to Tebaldi's negotiation style when it cam to her roles, scheduling, others in the cast and even costuming. She simply didn't budge from what she thought was best. Which made it very difficult for Schuyler Chaplin (probably spelled wrong), Bing's successor, to tell Renata that it was time for her to move to a less challenging rep.
  20. Working now: Natalie Dessay. French. Trained as a ballet dancer. Gorgeous. See her while you can because she is having recurrent vocal crises that might spell a very early end to what has been a fabulous career. Denyce Graves. She has had a few PBS specials. She sang at one of the immediate post 9/11/01 memorials. Like Dessay, a knockout. Hey-Kyung Hong. Easy to see her in NYC. The Met is her home company--she doesn't travel much. Susan Graham Tall and voluptous, seems to work everywhere. Karita Mattila. Finnish, sings in NYC a lot. Check out the cover of her recent CD "Live in Helskinki". A bombshell. Anne Sofie von Otter. Swedish. Very rarely gets to North America, but an international star. See the her on the cover of "Ariodante". Retired from the stage: Shirley Verrett. Classic African American beauty. Maria Callas. Fat Callas, Thin Callas, whatever. Kiri Te Kanawa. Has been on PBS often. She still does some recitals. Lucia Popp. The girl next door, if you lived in Prague. Lisa della Casa. Swiss soprano in the 50s and 60s, had movie star looks.
  21. How about an encounter with a favorite singer? I had heard Irina Mishura an Moldavian born mezzo in many roles in several venues throughout the midwest--had become just a bit obsessed with her. Carmen, Amneris, Azucena, Adalgesia--all the big dramatic mezzo roles. And then there was Samson and Delilah, an opera with three arias that are top-forty hits for this voice. I was at five of the six performances of S&D at the Michigan Opera Theatre in Motown and went backstage after one of them. I was prepared--I had both her CDs with the booklets out for signing, the program folded to the page with her picture for another autograph and a few well chosen words memorized. Once backstage, accompanied by a chorus member who we knew, we spoke with a few of the other singers in the production, then came upon Ms. Mishura's dressing room. Her husband (also her manager) was in a chair outside the room--a friendly type--formerly a Detroit area resturant owner--he told us to go right in. The star dressing room backstage at the Detroit Opera House are actually small suites. One room has couch, a few chairs and an upright piano. The next room is the dressing room proper, with a sink, big mirror, etc. As it happened, Ms. Mishura was sitting the dressing room part of the suite, still removing her dark "Delilah" make up. She was not terribly happy that her fans had been sent in to see her while she was still recovering from the performance. I almost turned and ran. She was as gorgeous in person as onstage, and after shooting a look at her husband was graciousness itself. She signed everything and, while it took a while, I was able to get my all purpose speech out: "We saw you as (here fill in roles you have seen the singer and where) and you were wonderful in all of them. But tonight you even outdid those performances--I have never seen anything so good. We hope to see you again in (whatever is coming up)." I have found it always works to tell an artist that you have seen her in several roles and love them all.
  22. I think I have read all the Inspector Morse books published but haven't seen any of the television shows. It must have been difficult to dramatize the books successfully, but probably well worth it. I have seen pictures of John Thaw and he looks like Endeavor Morse would look. The city of Oxford plays an important role, as does eating and drinking. There is plenty of both in, I think, each of the books. Part of it is to show class differences, part to have a setting for Morse and Sgt. Lewis to discuss the case, part to show Morse as a tightwad, Lewis as a decent sort. If one were to chart the amount of alchohol that Morse consumes, it might show that he was at least half drunk most of the time. He is often at pubs when they open and more often when they close. One vignette that I recall very clearly (although I can't think of the book it was in) was a night that Morse had a ticket to the opera. It was a catalog of everything that could go wrong. It was his favorite, Die Walkure. Neither the soprano singing Seiglinda and the tenor singing Siegmund were well suited for thier roles, although this often happens in Wagner. However, Morse was also surrounded by the seatmates from Hell. On one side was an enormously fat man who arrived just as the lights went down. He laboriously removed his coat and his vest, managing to poke Morse with an elbow several time. He also wheezed audibly On the other side was a woman with a full score that she was following with a flashlight--the score would have been about 500 pages long. Behind him was a person unwrapping, one by one, a large box of candy. He stayed at the bar after the first act, then went how to put on a recording--the Solti one, I think. That is the type of thing that could be very well done on TV.
  23. Our house is occupied by myself, my wife and two cats. I have seen in other households (my wife's family, for example) that the question of the evening is "what will we watch tonite?" although that may already be decided. We ask "what will we listen to tonite?". She usually picks the genre--string quartets, for example--and I get to pick the CDs. We are now listening to Mozart chamber works and concertos for oboe, clarinet, horn and flute. Great stuff and I recommend any of these works without reservation. Occasionally we use the TV for tapes--we watched the third act of Die Walkure a few nights ago--but that is about it. At some point we may get a DVD player and if so may have to get a new TV to play it. Ours was purchased in the late 1980s and it has nothing digital about it. There seems to be some really astonishing things coming out on DVD, especially operas, that I would like to see.
  24. How could I have forgotten these-- Richard Halliburton. Seven League Boots, Royal Road to Romance, Flying Carpet and possibly a few others. Halliburton toured the world and did extremely neat things--swam through the Panama Canal, road an elephant over the Alps, got robbed by pirates in Macao and climbs Mt. Fuji in the wrong season. Terrific stuff for a boy to read.
  25. The James Herriot books may work. They tell the story of a young vetranarian coming to age in rural Yorkshire between the wars. There is lots about animals--it is possible to be less enthusiatic about cows giving birth than the author--but more about the people around him. Decently written, quite uplifting.
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