Dedicated to classics and hits.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Museum Review: New San Diego Main Library/Central Library Opens

Open air atrium of the New San Diego Central/Main Libtrary

Museum Review:
New San Diego Main Library/Central Library
330 Park Blvd.

  The new San Diego Main Library/Central Library replaces the decrepit prior Central Library, a claustrophobia inducing Public Works Administration holdover favored by members of our Vagrant-American population.  It is no way an exaggeration or slur to simply state the fact that the old Central Library smelt strongly of stale human urine.  Truth be told, I haven't been into a non-legal library since I graduated from law school in San Francisco more then a decade ago (and oof.)

New San Diego Central Public Library entrance plaza- v. inviting.

  There is something charming about opening a new library in 2013, just as books and reading seem to be on the verge of extinction.  The new location is excellent, across the street from Petco Park and located near trolley and bus lines.  The interior has an indoor/outdoor design appropriate to the weather in San Diego.  The first three stories have a spacious open-air atrium that invites the casual user inside.

  Plenty of computers as one expects, but also all their books on display.  I wouldn't say that I was impressed with the collection, but fuck man, it's a brand new library.  I've been reading public domain novels on my Kindle for like three years so it really opens up some new opportunities in literary criticism and history books.

  If you are a downtown/Golden Hill/South Park/Barrio Logan this is a great opportunity to renew your love affair with the library.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Goldenvoice/AEG Announce 2014 Stagecoach Line-Up & Dates

Event Preview
Stagecoach Festival (2014)
April 26th-28th.

Friday April 26th, 2014
Artist (Facebook fans/Last FM plays/Last FM Listeners)
Eric Church  (2 M/4 M/400 K)
Brantley Gilbert (1.9 M/ 1 M/122 K)
Easton Corbin (600k/1.2 M/245 K)
Loretta Lynn (350k/1.9 M/226 K)

Saturday April 27th, 2014
Jason Aldean (7.7 M/6.7 M/620 K)
Hunter Hayes (1 M/1.4 M/125 K)
Jennifer Nettles
Jason Isbell

Sunday April 28th, 2014
Luke Bryan (5.2 M/5 M/500K)
Florida Georgia Line
Lee Brice
John Prine

  If you hang around music industry people in Los Angeles, meeting a Golden Voice employee is inevitable.  They typically meet expectations in terms of being the people you would expect Golden Voice to employee. Even though Goldenvoice is now a division of entertainment megalith AEG. it maintains a distinct personality. Does AEG have a personality?  I've never met anyone from there.

  What sticks out at me about all of the artists on the 2014 Stagecoach line up is that they have Facebook fans far in excess of what their Last FM play count would tend to indicate.   Eric Church having two million facebook fans and only four million Last FM plays is insane.  That is a 2:1 ratio.  Now compare that same ratio for a band like Best Coast (250K/16M), Dum Dum Girls (66K/4 M), ETC.  I think it may point to the lack of an international audience for country artists, and certainly points towards country fans not using Last FM very much.  If Eric Church had the same ratio of Facebook friends to Last FM listens, he would have 128 M Last FM plays.  128 MILLION.

 Jason Aldean actually has fewer last fm plays then he has facebook friends, which is insane.  He should have roughly 500 M Last Fm plays using the Best Coast/Dum Dum Girls 60x calculation.

The Hidden Fortress (1958) d. Akira Kurosawa

Princess Yuki in Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress is the direct and obvious inspiration for Princess Leia in Star Wars, no matter what George Lucas may think.

Movie Review
The Hidden Fortress (1958)
d. Akira Kurosawa
Criterion Collection #116

  Man I don't know what it is about Kurosawa but I suffer through every single one of his films.  It took me 4 days to get through The Hidden Fortress, which is an action film, mind you.

  The highlight of the Hulu Plus streaming version of this film is that they include what can only be described as a priceless interview with George Lucas, who borrowed significantly from The Hidden Fortress when he was writing a little movie called Star Wars.  To his credit, he cops to it...sort of.  After first saying that The Hidden Fortress is his "fourth favorite" Kurosawa film, he admits that he was "inspired" by the two peasants who form the narrative focus of The Hidden Fortress (They were turned into Droids for Star Wars.)  He's less forthcoming about the relationship between Kurosawa's Priness Yuki and his own Princesss Leia.  At one point he says that Leia is a more active, adventurous character and that this represents a huge difference between Leia and Yuki but he must have been high when he said that because Yuki is like a spitting image of Princess Leia.

   The story of The Hidden Fortress:  A General must escort his Princess behind enemy lines to get her home after her army loses is a battle, has obvious similarities with the plot of Star Wars, even if Lucas is able to sanguinely state that there are really only 32 plots in existence, so of course movies resemble one another.

 Keep telling yourself that George.  It is cool that he did the interview though, I'm sure a lot of Artists would be reticient to praise a work that they directly lifted from to make their own breakthrough hit. Obviously though, he got away with it, because how many people actually saw The Hidden Fortress before the video/DVD era.  Lucas flat out states that the only reason he saw it was because he was enrolled in film school.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Bling Ring (2013) d. Sofia Coppola

Emma Watson does her Vanessa Hudgens in the Bling Ring, d. Sofia Coppola (2013)

   Movie Review
The Bling Ring (2013)
d. Sofia Coppola
Theatrical release June 21st, 2013

   Wow so people really didn't dig The Bling Ring did they?  What the fuck were they expecting from a Sofia Coppola joint about this subject?  Citizen Kane or something?  People be hating on Sofia Coppola but she knows how to portray contemporary mores in more or less the same fashion as a 19th century English novelist like The Bronte sisters or Jane Austen.  Her women are young, vulnerable but with huge social influence.  They have been the subject of Art since they came into existence at the beginning of time.  Each of Coppola's films details some woman at the cross roads of irrelevance and power.
Katie Chang as the Bling Ring ring leader Rebecca.

  The Bling Ring is her most explicit foray into the relationship of young women to power.  Here, the setting is modern day Los Angeles, specifically the subset of Los Angeles residents who are there to "make it."  The girls/women of The Bling Ring exist outside of a framework of morality, they are "home schooled" by a Mom who follows the "spiritual" tenets of The Secret.  They are modern day Maenads, young female followers of Dionysus ready for a frenzy or down for whatever.
Gavin Rossdale is The Bling Ring, because why not?

  Like Spring Breakers, The Bling Ring is best viewed without reference to Christian morality.  Whatever you want to say about the movie, "Thou Shall Not Steal" does not come up in conversation at all, for the entire movie.  The gleeful amorality of contemporary youth culture is in no way a novel subject for film, but Coppola deserves unacknowledged credit for opening a window on this most recent iteration of a theme that requires regular updating.

  The non mise en scene aspects of Coppola's work always fascinate- her soundtracks have been influential since Air scored a huge break-out in the aftermath of the Virgin Suicides.  Coppola outpaces other potential filmic/musical influencers by virtue of impeccable taste and an apparently excellent licensing department.  I would even argue that The Bling Ring is the superior soundtrack vs. Spring Breakers.  Spring Breakers and Bling Ring both have M.I.A.'s Bad Girls, which is obviously the theme song for this genre of film.  Only The Bling Ring opens with Sleigh Bells Crown on the Ground over the credits.

 I'm inclined to think that cinema at it's best is a kind of fun-house mirror, reflecting and distorting truth/reality and showing it back to people (for 10 USD plus a pop) so I think some of the negative reaction to The Bling Ring is from people who are like that and didn't like what they saw.  A bold strategy for Coppola as a director, and I think The Bling Ring is a film that will be appreciated more in the future as more people get a chance to actually like it.

 I also think that Coppola is right on in depicting the young upper middle class women of Southern California as a group of beautiful gangsters.  Gleeful amorality doesn't even begin to describe it. And the sound track, wow, evocative of the milieu.


The House By The Medlar Tree by Giovanni Verga

They made a movie out of The House By The Medlar Tree and I bet it was boring as shit.

Book Review
The House By The Medlar Tree
by Giovanni Verga
p. 1881
Translated by Raymond Rosenthal
University California Press

 Pretty sure I could have died without reading this book.  Seems like a kind of charity inclusion on the list of 1001 Books To Read Before You Die to give the Italians some action in the period between 1850 and 1900, because I think this is their only entry.  As the introduction by Giovanni Cecchetti makes clear, Verga was an avid follower of developments in the realist novel and kept up with Balzac and then Zola- he literally had the relevant French literary journals and books shipped to Italy to keep up.

  The House By The Medlar Tree is a pretty straight forward exploration into the lives of a family of poor Italian fishermen living in a small village in southern Italy.  It is also just as fun to read as that description sounds.  I haven't gotten so little out of a book in years, it was all I could do just to finish.  19th century realism, and 20th century Japanese films, are the current bane of my existence. But yet... I must endure.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Rhetoric and Music

  I was driving to and from the California desert yesterday and thinking a whole lot about the relationship between rhetoric and music.  For if it is often stated that "music is a language," then surely the discipline of rhetoric applies, since rhetoric involves the understanding of language and its impact on the Audience. This being 2013 I was able to find an article online covering that very topic, and one of the co-authors may actually be someone I know- an attorney in San Diego who left to become a philosophy professor- also a musician/vinyl fan etc.  There will be additional posts on this subject.

From Rhetoric and Music by BLAKE WILSON (I, 1), GEORGE J. BUELOW (I, 2–4), PETER A. HOYT (II)

Interrelationships between music and the spoken arts – artes dicendi (grammar, rhetoric, dialectic) – are at once obvious and unclear. Until fairly late in the history of Western civilization, music was predominantly vocal and thus bound to words. Composers have therefore generally been influenced to some degree by rhetorical doctrines governing the setting of texts to music, and even after the growth of independent instrumental music, rhetorical principles continued for some time to be used not only for vocal music but for instrumental works too. What still remains to be fully explained is how these critical interrelationships often controlled the craft of composition. These developments are unclear partly because modern musicians and scholars are untrained in the rhetorical disciplines, which since the beginning of the 19th century have largely disappeared from most educational and philosophical system. It was only in the early 20th century that music historians rediscovered the importance of rhetoric as the basis of aesthetic and theoretical concepts in earlier music. An entire discipline that had once been the common property of every educated man has had to be rediscovered and reconstructed during the intervening decades, and only now is it beginning to be understood how much Western art music has depended on rhetorical concepts.

Selected English Language Bibliography

J. Stevens : Words and Music in the Middle Ages: Song, Narrative, Dance and Drama, 1050–1350 (Cambridge, 1986)
D. Harrán : ‘Elegance as a Concept in Sixteenth-Century Music Criticism’, Renaissance Quarterly, xlii (1988), 413–38
V.K. Agawu : Playing with Signs: a Semiotic Interpretation of Classic Music (Princeton, NJ, 1991)
M.E. Bonds : Wordless Rhetoric: Musical Form and the Metaphor of the Oration (Cambridge, MA, 1991)

Days of Wrath (1943) d. Carl Th. Dreyer

Lisbeth Movin plays Anne, the young wife of an old Danish minister who has a torrid, 17th century affair with her husbands son, and who is maybe a witch, too- in Days of Wrath by Carl Th. Dreyer.

Movie Review
Days of Wrath (1943)
d. Carl Th. Dreyer
Criterion Collection #125

  Boy, this movie has EVERYTHING if your definition of everything includes 17th century Danish fashion, witch burning and step mother/step son sex.  From a movie shot in 1943 in Denmark, under Nazi occupation, no less.  Truly a testament to what a skilled film maker can accomplish under strained circumstances, although I have to imagine the Danes were pretty mellow about being occupied by the Nazis.   In fact, even though I knew this was a Danish film the language sounded so close to German and/or Dutch that I was unable to distinguish a difference, even though I was listening to one.  I guess I was expecting something more along the lines of Swedish.
  It turns out I actually dig Northern European/German cinema- I'm loving Ingmar Bergman, I love this guy Dreyer and I look forward to watching films from this part of the world.   Days of Wrath is as emotionally intense as any movie I've seen, the fact that it came out of the 1940s makes it all the more remarkable.  Also remarkable is the fact that anyone can now watch this movie streaming on Hulu Plus.  I can't imagine there were more then a half dozen viewings of the old 16 MM pre DVD print in America in the last 50 years- if that many.
  The accompanying essay on the Criterion Collection page for Days of Wrath makes some interesting points regarding the novel style of camera work that Dreyer employed- I must confess that my eye was not sophisticated to catch it but after reading the article and taking another look I see what author Jonathan Rosenbaum is pointing out about his use of tracks to create a disorienting effect.
  Also Dreyer really nails the period part of this period piece- you get a sense of how witch burning was simply a fact of life in the day.  Personally, my image of witch burning always involved tying a woman to a stake in he middle of a pile of wood and then setting fire to the wood, but here, in what I assume is a more historically accurate depiction of actual witch burning methodology, they start the bon fire, then tie the witch to a ladder, then hoist up the ladder and tip it into the fire, so that with falls face first into the flames.  Also, they have a children's choir singing about burning the witch as they burn they witch, which- even if you are opposed to witch burning- is an undeniably classy touch.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

I Married a Witch (1942) d.Rene Clair

Veronica Lake

Movie Review
I Married a Witch  (1942)
 d.Rene Clair
Criterion Collection #676
Criterion Collection edition released October 8th, 2013

  New release woop woop. I Married a Witch is obviously given Criterion Collection status because it was directed by Rene Clair and stars Veronica Lake and is a screwball comedy about a family of witches and isn't that enough, dammit?  It is hardly the best film of Rene Clair's career. Veronica Lake is better known for a half dozen other roles, but still... the combination of the two with the supernatural theme; not to mention a 75 minute run time.... It's... easy to see why you would pick this film for Criterion Collection treatment.
Veronica Lake

  Still, I Married a Witch is not a canonical type picture, but it does have Veronica Lake in it, and it is directed by Rene Clair.  Veronica Lake has a fairly spectacular Hollywood flame out story attached that makes her a kind of Hollywood Actresses' Hollywood Actress.  Plus, she has the film noir roles with Alan Ladd.  And she is a total babe.  It's not a must buy, but you should probably at least watch it.  Veronica Lake plays a witch.  That should be enough.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Nicole Kidman played the nanny character in Alejandro Amenabar loosely adapted film version, The Others (2001)  Did Nicole Kidman get the rights to every gd Henry James novel or what?

Book Review
The Turn of the Screw
by Henry James
p. 1898

Guide to 19th Century American Literature

Book Review: The Awakening by Kate Chopin ,1899,  9/26/13
Book Review: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, 1885, 10/15/13
Book Review: The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James ,1880 , 7/16/13
Book Review; Ben Hur by Lew Wallace,1880  6/13/13
Book Review: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott,1869, 3/9/13
Book Review: The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne 1860, 9/19/12
Book Review: Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe 1852, 9/12/12
Book Review: The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne,1851, 5/30/12
Book Review: Moby Dick by Herman Melville 1851, 8/27/12
Book Review: The House of the Seven Gables,1851,  6/21/12
Book Review: The Pit and The Pendulum  1842, 3/28/12
Book Review: The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe, 1844, 3/27/12
Book Review: The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, 1839, 3/20/12
Book Review: The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, 1826, 6/18/12

  In grade school there was this program called "Great Books" where we would read short stories and such and then have a discussion about the themes and issues raised by that story.  I particularly reading a Ray Bradbury short story about a boy living on Venus where it rained every day.  On the one day it is sunny he is victimized by bullies and locked in a closet, so he misses the sunny day.

  Reading The Turn of the Screw, I was reminded of that grade school experience, because James seems to have written The Turn of the Screw specifically to enthrall and dismay readers who want a novel to have a specific meaning.  At a basic level, The Turn of the Screw is a ghost story heavily influenced by the genre of gothic fiction, but at a more sophisticated level it is a story told by an unreliable narrator with multiple potential interpretations.

  The two central unresolved issues at the heart of The Turn of the Screw are first, are there actual ghosts involved or is the narrator/nanny insane; and if the ghosts are real, what is the horrible, unspoken secret that they are concealing.  Like a road trip, all the fun in The Turn of the Screw is the journey, because the end gives you no answers, unless you consider a dead child an "answer."

  This kind of narrative ambiguity obviously foreshadows a central concern of modernist literature, that of the collapse of a certain narrative, and it is totally clear while Henry James is so utterly beloved by literary critics.  He really gives you the best of both pre-modernist/Victorian fiction while including enough Modernist themes to keep the reader interested in the deeper meaning of his work.

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Stylistic Influence of Pearl Harbor/Puro Instinct on Haim

Puro Instinct/Pearl Harbor photograph

The Stylistic Influence of Pearl/Harbor/Puro Instinct On Haim

This photograph accompanied an LA Times print feature on the bands Best Coast, Dum Dum Girls and Pearl Harbor/Puro Instinc in 2010.

   The class of bands this blog is most closely follows are those that emerged from the greater Southern California indie scene from 2006 to the present.  That list includes:  Best Coast, Wavves, Dum Dum Girls, Crocodiles, Cults AND Puro Instinct/Pearl Harbor.
      Three of those artists were featured in a photograph which accompanied a 2010 LA Times feature, "Queens of the Lo Fi Scene."  Written by Jeff Weiss, the article made statements like, " Over the last half-decade, a group of exciting artists united by their use of inexpensive home recording technology has begun to emerge out of the Silver Lake, Echo Park and downtown scenes. The performers below rank among the brightest talents continuing the female rock tradition..."

Haim photographed in London 2013.
  This article has been very much on my mind over the last couple weeks as I've encountered a tidal wave of Haim in Los Angeles.  Haim, on the cover of LA Weekly perused over coffee at Intelligensia in Silver Lake.  Haim, discussed in the back seat of BMW driving across Hollywood at 11 PM.  Haim, peering back at me from the screen of an Iphone 5 clasping the hand of British Prime Minister David Cameron.   Haim, being played on the Sirius/XFM download 15 driving to a showing of Gravity at the Arclight.  Watching an unfamiliar television and seeing Haim  enter the VH1 top 20 countdown. (Quoth the DJ, "Haim's mom is a huge fan of the VH1 Top Twenty Count Down, and so are the girls.")  Best New Music from Pitchfork, number one record in the UK, Haim, Haim, Haim.

Haim Sisters Strike a Pose

    Haim, of course, was formed in 2012, but all three sisters had been active in the entertainment industry in their formative years. (WIKIPEDIA)  Anyone who thinks that Haim wasn't consciously put together by Hollywood insiders doesn't have a very clear grasp on reality.

Haim, a sister act (see: Hand Holding.)

    I would argue that Haim owes it's existence to the example of Pearl Harbor/Puro Instinct who were, of course, a sister act (2 not three) who evoked the gauzy haze of 70s Los Angeles in a youthful, precious and of course female package.   I can imagine Haim's Mom- who exists- and is probably their manager(?) sitting down over her coffee in 2010, and reading that LA Times article, and seeing a light bulb pop off on top of her head.

Pearl Harbor/Puro Instinct: Sister act.

   I'm not talking about music, although you would expect Haim to share reference points with other similarly aged women who started rock bands between 2008 and 2012, but rather about the concept of "HAIM" as an act.  After all, Haim was not the first try of any of the people involved in its conception and execution.  Rather they reflect an aesthetic sensibility that has already tested well with a smaller Audience.  Haim then, is an example of the larger music industry reaping what indie artists have sowed.  This is neither good nor bad, and Haim is a demonstrably popular band with a huge Audience, so any questions about their aesthetic merit are simply irrelevant.

  I've written this post merely to illustrate the reality of how careers in the Arts are created, people on the inside are always watching people who emerge from the periphery.  They seek to repackage the style generated by outsiders or fringe players and replicate the appeal to the broadest general Audience.  This is a standard event in the culture industries.   There is always some kind of give and take between the fringe and the center, and the people who negotiate that border are remembered as successes. 

Calexico, Justin Townes Earle & Jessica Pratt @ Way Over Yonder Fest at Santa Monica Pier

Justin Townes Earle was clearly intoxicated on stage at the Way Over Yonder Fest but who gives a shit, right?  Grump old people, for one.

Newport Folk Festival Presents
Calexico, Justin Townes Earle & Jessica Pratt
@ Way Over Yonder Fest
at Santa Monica Pier t
Los Angeles, CA.

Calexico kills live.

  Before going to the Saturday edition of this two day festival, I spent a small amount of time wondering whether someone would mention Bob Dylan's famous 1965 performance at the annual festival in Rhode Island.  The subsection of Newport Folk Festival Wikipedia  page devoted to the subject is called "The Electric Dylan" controversy.

  During that performance Dylan "plugged in" to hoots of derision from the Audience.  In the words of the Wiki, "some audience members booed" the performance.  If you are someone who seeks to understand the history of popular music in 20th century, this episode stands for the proposition that Audiences can be wrong.  Obviously, "the electric Dylan" controversy is a case study in the management of Artist/Audience relations, but one lesson that SHOULDN'T be extrapolated is that Dylan was some kind of victim.  I would wager that he intended to evoke such a reaction, and he was making a clear statement that as an Artist he wouldn't be limited by genre conventions. It's a standard Artist tactic, but the electric dylan controversy is probably the best, and certainly most famous example.

 So, it happened 15 minutes into the set of the first Artist I saw perform, Justin Townes Earle who is not to be confused with Robert Earl Keen.  It is fair to say this is a brave new world for me in terms of taste.  On the drive over I heard the latest Blake Shelton number, Sure Be Cool If You Would, which was played about 1,000 times on Last FM last week- that's good but in no way great.  It was crazier then the time I listened to an Afrojack DJ set on Sirius/XFM driving back from LA at 3 AM a couple months back.  In a different way of course.

 Regarding the first reference to the Electric Dylan at the Way Over Yonder festival, it was during the performance of Justin Townes Earle, who was obviously intoxicated, but not in an unprofessional way.  I've seen plenty of unprofessional musicians, and I thought that Justin Townes Earle was funny and disarming and has real talent.  Polished, he was not.  For me though, imperfection is part of successful Art.  Perfection is robotic, corporate, monotonous.

 However some fans did not agree with my benevolent assessment of the performance and there was some heckling to which  Earle responded by referencing the Electric Dylan controversy in a more-or-less coherent fashion. So everyone had to drink.

 The festival was held in an outdoor setting at the Santa Monica Pier.  I would say that the combination of venue/promoter/talent was just short of being "magical."  The Santa Monica Pier is a pretty accessible location, with plenty of parking at the venue and in nearby Santa Monica.  The location is essentially behind the row of shops and restaurants that line the Pier, and in front of the Ferris wheel and other ride type features.

  If you haven't seen a show at the Santa Monica Pier it is worth a look.  They also show movies in the same location.  Calexico was the reason I agreed to go to the show and they did not disappoint.  In fact, they crushed it.  It was a regal, commanding performance, with slide guitar, mariachis and cover versions to spare. (Joy Division! Minutemen!)  The crowd ate it up and so did I- Calexico is so good.

Jessica Pratt is the real deal.

 On the way out I caught a couple songs from Jessica Pratt- who I've now seen 3 times in the last two months.  She is a real talent!  You should see her if she plays your town.

Double Suicide (1969) d. Masahiro Shinoda

At least Double Suicide has some tits.

Movie Review
Double Suicide (1969)
 d. Masahiro Shinoda
Criterion Collectin #104

  Not sure what it is about Japanese cinema but it is rapidly becoming my least favorite sub part of the Criterion Collection.  I like Seijun Suzuki and can obviously appreciate the majesty of Kurosawa, but other then the Suzuki films I don't actually like watching any of them.  It's just a chore.  Double Suicide is the worst of the bunch thus far.  Double Suicide is a take on a classic Bunraku puppet play, where a man goes ga ga over a courtesan in feudal Japan.  Unable to be together in life, they chose to be together.... in death.  So yeah, it's another movie where you are waiting for the main characters to die at the end.  Oh is this it?  Do they die here?  Oh maybe it's now?  No.  Now?

  It's also not one of those films where afterwards you are like, "Oh I can't wait to till person X about this movie, I bet they will really like it."  I don't know a single person in the entire universe who would make it through a half hour of Double Suicide.  I can only surmise that it included in the Criterion Collection because it as free to acquire, or perhaps because the director uses "Brechtian distancing techniques" in the form of black garbed "puppeteers" who follow the (human) characters around and even intervene in the action at time.  Me, I found it tedious.  Not recommended!

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