Recently in Art Category

T.S. Eliot had his "social function of poetry" and we have social media - YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc. etc.

Could it be that what we celebrate as the art of our times is not Art at all? If so, What is Art? 

At best, our culture has relegated Art to the dubious field of "entertainment" - hijacked from its true purpose, left to serve as a decoration on the public walls of high society museums and the private walls of wealthy collectors. At best, art is fashion.

Wait, wait, wait.

John Seely Brown's latest newsletter takes us to task by raising an important point: 

"Artists are not included in our debate on how we build the economy for the future. They're excluded in our nation's emphasis on innovation which has been left to the STEM crowd. We're not thinking about designing for emergence. Innovation is about seeing the world differently. Who is better at helping us see the world differently than the artists?"

Why is this? I can think of three reasons:

1) The "art" made by "artists" is irrelevant

2) The "artists" are not Artists

3) Art is generally devalued in a society polarized by Science, Fashion, and Politics

Alright, I'm being a bit silly, but here is someone who's not:  Ben Davis and his 9.5 Theses on Art and Class (h/t Doug Smith) serve as both an indictment and a wake-up call for artists everywhere. Have a look at this excerpt:

2.0 Today, the ruling class, which is capitalist, dominates the sphere of the visual arts

2.1 It is part of the definition of a ruling class that it controls the material resources of society 

2.2 The ruling ideologies, which serve to reproduce this material situation, also represent the interests of the ruling class

2.3 The dominant values given to art, therefore, will be ones that serve the interests of the current ruling class

2.4 Concretely, within the sphere of the contemporary visual arts, the agents whose interests determine the dominant values of art are: large corporations, including auction houses and corporate collectors; art investors, private collectors and patrons; trustees and administrators of large cultural institutions and universities

2.5 One role for art, therefore, is as a luxury good, whose superior craftsmanship or intellectual prestige indicates superior social status

2.6 Another role for art is to serve as financial instrument or tradable repository of value

2.7 Another role for art is as sign of "giving back" to the community, to whitewash ill-gotten gains

2.8 Another role for art is symbolic escape valve for radical impulses, to serve as a place to isolate and contain social energy that runs counter to the dominant ideology

2.9 A final role for art is the self-replication of ruling-class ideology about art itself--the dominant values given to art serve not only to enact ruling-class values directly, but also to subjugate, within the sphere of the arts, other possible values of art

OK. But why are artists banished from the Republic? 

One can argue (via Ben Franklin) that the last artist was Jesus and before him Socrates. I'd add folks like Gandhi, Malcolm X, Mandela, Marley... The artist sees differently. Not just paintings on a wall, but society itself. Who paints our vision for society today? Lady Gaga or our lobbyists?

Walker Percy saw the artist (or writer) as a canary in the coal mine. The artist as prophet. But we are deaf to the canary. We've banned our artists from society - not by muzzling them with threats and jail time, but by turning them into designers of consumer and fashion goods.  

For the first time in history, we've made art useful as a financial commodity- and killed it in the process.

Meanwhile, somewhere, hidden from the lights of Sotheby's and Christie's, art is still being made.

Ever since the Haiti earthquake, I’ve been thinking about why we don’t have a quick-build house made of sustainable materials at a price point that the poor can afford (with micro-credit if needed).

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The $300 House-for-the-Poor is an extension of the concept of “reverse innovation(inspired by my client and friend VG) in which innovations developed in poor countries are then brought back for use in developed countries and other parts of the world. Housing impacts health, energy, education, and security.

What if we could build sustainably designed houses for the world’s poor at an affordable cost? What if these same designs could provide relief to refugees and victims of natural disasters? The we I’m referring to is a collaborative of companies, governments, and NGOs.

This type of a structure will be engineered in the same way the TATA Nano was engineered - without the traditional assumptions.

Once built, the $300 house should be used across the globe - from Haiti, to Africa, India, and yes, even in this country, to help the homeless.

So what are we waiting for?  It’s time to get busy designing the $300 House!

Letters from Van Gogh

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What would you do if you received something like this in the mail from a starving artist?

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Don't toss 'em!

Click and play... stay positive.

Now that's a Da Vinci!

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Poor Leonardo. After losing out to Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni during his lifetime, he still doesn't get the credit or recognition his work deserves. Finally, someone trusted their intuition, and bought a sketch which looked to him like a Leonardo, and, lo - it was! His $19000 investment is now worth $150 million:

Now that's what I call reverse innovation!

If you'll excuse me, I'm off to the basement to see if I have any Da Vinci's lying around in my art collection...

Michael Moore is serious, and most of all, he's right.

It's time for Capitalism 2.0. Let's get some True Democracy going.

Umberto Eco on Handwriting

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Maybe he just likes the taste of ink on his fingers, or maybe he's concerned that we won't be seeing too many works like Jung's Red Book any more, but Umberto Eco tells us that handwriting is good for the soul:

Why should we regret the passing of good handwriting? The capacity to write well and quickly on a keyboard encourages rapid thought, and often (not always) the spell-checker will underline a misspelling.

Eco's own handwriting seems a little less than soulful, if we are to judge by this specimen:

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His concern, however, is real: most kids - what with computers (when they use them) and text messages - can no longer write by hand, except in laboured capital letters.

And of course, we do know that computers don't help you think.  That's best done w/ a sheet of blank paper and a fountain pen. My own love for ink pens stems from a different sort of "creativity" - I enjoy creating doodles out of the ink I spill.

But unlike Eco, I think ballpoint pens do have a purpose, especially during those endless business meetings:


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I have to say the story of Jung's Red Book is fascinating.

But what really stunned me was what the book actually looks like:

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A work of art, surely, but we are about to learn a lot more about dreams. And reality.

Do you have a book of dreams?

The magic of Steel Pulse is their ability to transform a song into a mystical experience.

What should be a simple rendition of "Chant a Psalm" turns into a moving version of their timeless classic:

And here's another version of David Hinds singing the same song in a more traditional style.

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Funny how the church goes silent when anything important happens... whatever happened to the "least of my brethren"?

Maybe the Pope got bought off by the insurance lobby...

The Tao that can be blogged is not the eternal Tao. Or is it?

The great thing about working for myself is that I get to work with people (and companies) I like. In this case, I've been asked by Penguin Press to promote Stephen Mitchell's latest work: The Second Book of the Tao.

Stephen Mitchell is a quiet soul. The last gentleman. He's definitely not the self-promoting type. So it was with some difficulty that we got him to talk about his first Tao (Tao Te Ching) and his newest masterpiece - The Second Book of the Tao.

The results are on YouTube!

Here Stephen talks about how The Second Book of The Tao came into being:

And here's an excerpt; Chapter 14 from The Second Book of The Tao:

Here's a little more about the book, adapted from the Penguin press release:

The Second Book of The Tao is a twenty-first-century form of ancient wisdom, bringing a sequel of the Tao Te Ching into the modern world. Alongside each translated passage, Stephen adds his own insights for contemporary readers.

"His meditations and provocative re-imagining of the original texts comprise a book that is both a companion volume and an anti-manual to the Tao Te Ching. Mitchell renders these ancient teachings at once modern, relevant, and timeless."

Agreed.

Learn to govern your mind, and the universe will govern itself.

Or, as Funkadelic might say, "Free Your Mind...And Your -ss Will Follow." (That wasn't in the Penguin press release)

To appreciate Mitchell's mind, see StephenMitchellBooks.com >>

And here are some stories about Stephen as told by his wife Byron Katie: here, here and here >>

The original, Steel Pulse in 1985:

The remake, Morgan Heritage in 2008:

The lyrics:

Blues Dance Raid
by Steel Pulse

Muzik a bubble not looking for trouble
Some shekels fe I shenks
Just a burn up de lambs bread
Session rocking ysh!

So dem come so dem drop
From time to time dem been watching
Dem a spy with dem bad eye
(Come a raid I blues dance)
Tipped off by informers
Dem a watch who come out and come in yeh
(Come a raid I blues dance)
Yes they knew when the time would be right
Run come gate crash I party
(Come a raid I blues dance)
Raid blues dance raid I blues
(Come a raid I blues dance)
Kick off door woe I name dem call
I back against de wall a rub a daughter
(Come a raid I blues dance)
Dem a run come kill I vibe interfere with I
The pigs come to destroy Rasta cry blood
Dreadlocks cry blood

Raid blues dance
Out of darkness out of night
People screaming batons wheeling
A lot of bleeding bruised feelings

Search warrant for their outvitation
Walkie talkies reinforcements
From dem pocket dem draw handcuff
Dis yah session it rough
Every step of the way got to retaliate yeh
Fight dem back mash dem down
Vex to death dem a threat
Mek arrest kiss me neck
Raid blues dance raid I blues
A run come a run come who
Run come kill I vibe interfere with I
Pigs come to destroy Rasta cry blood
Dreadlocks cry blood

Come a come a come a come a raid
Come a kick I speaker
Come a mash up I tweeter
Come a grab up I shenks
Come a lick out I window
Come a move out I soft drink

Come a rough up the people
Come a turn off me System
Have fe give you some bitch lick
Come a smash I turntables

Come a scratch up I music
Come a drive up you meat van
Come a come a come a raid.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For me, there's no contest.

Steel Pulse, all the way. But Morgan Heritage is fun as well :-)

Farewell, John Updike

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Not the greatest of interviews, but it offers a few glimpses into his thought process:

R.I.P.

Spielberg and Tintin?

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Now this might be fun...

I grew up on Tintin - in India - of all places.

Why Music?

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What appetite drives the proliferation of music to the point where the average American teenager spends 1½-2½ hours a day—an eighth of his waking life—listening to it?

Why music?

My answer - Steel Pulse's Chant a Psalm:

The Soweto Blues = The Worldwide Blues...

R.I.P. Mama Afrika. She died in Castel Volturno, near Caserta, Italy, of a heart attack, shortly after taking part in a concert organized to support writer Roberto Saviano in his stand against the Camorra, a mafia-like organisation

See also this stirring rendition of N'Kosi Sikeleli Africa:

Age and Classical Music

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Interesting:

"Popular conception says the arts' supporters are graying and shriveling. But it may be that as the crowd's individuals change, its age doesn't."

Personally, I'd still rather listen to Steel Pulse.

Does death stimulate creativity? There's something in that - just ask Steve Jobs.

Chindogu anyone?

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Being stalked? Just go ahead and camouflage yourself as a Coke machine.

Martin Fackler's NYTimes article Fearing Crime, Japanese Wear the Hiding Place gives us a look at the peculiar world of Japanese innovation.

Writes Fackler:

[Japan is] home to a prolific subculture of individual inventors, whose ideas range from practical to bizarre. Inventors say a tradition of tinkering and building has made Japan welcoming to experimental ideas, no matter how eccentric.

“Japanese society won’t just laugh, so inventors are not afraid to try new things,” said Takumi Hirai, chairman of Japan’s largest association of individual inventors, the 10,000-member Hatsumeigakkai.

In fact, Japan produces so many unusual inventions that it even has a word for them: chindogu, or “queer tools.”

A chindogu manifesto is available online for all you budding inventors. The ten tenets are:

1. A Chindogu cannot be for real use.

2. A Chindogu must exist.

3. Inherent in every Chindogu is the spirit of anarchy.

4. Chindogu are tools for everyday life.

5. Chindogu are not for sale.

6. Humor must not be the sole reason for creating Chindogu.

7. Chindogu are not propaganda.

8. Chindogu are never taboo.

9. Chindogu cannot be patented.

10. Chindogu are without prejudice.

And here are a few examples of chindogu from the King of Chindogu - Kenji Kawakami.

Finally, here's more from the International Chindogu Society. Check out the "portable zebra crossing" >>

And the award goes to Spicelines.com - the best spice blog on the web!

Move over Victoria Beckham! The authentic spice girl is Courtenay Beinhorn Dunk.

She describes herself as an "obsessive cook, style fanatic, avid traveler, reluctant writer, food photographer when the light is right..." Judge for yourself by visiting the Spiceline archives >>

Wait, there's more. Spices, you see, are part of our global heritage.

Says Dunk:

"The more I traveled, the more I noticed that spices and their flavors are global. It’s the local tastes that are different.

"When I ate fish head curry in Singapore I could taste the earthiness of the cumin that flavors carrot salad in Morocco and tomatillo salsa in Mexico. In Paris at Ze Kitchen Galerie, William Ledeuil used flowery Tahitian vanilla to bring out the sea-sweet taste of perfectly fresh sea bass. In the West we think of cinnamon as a dessert spice, yet at La Maison Bleue in Fez, it was the dominant spice in a savory 14th century lamb and couscous dish."

Wow.

Check out:

- Aurora's Chicken Enchiladas in Tomatillo Sauce with Garlic and Cumin

- Salt, Salt Everywhere: The Five Salts You Really Need

- Great Reads: Climbing the Mango Trees, a Spicy Memoir of India

There's even fiction like this bit - SpiceTales: Claire's Dream

Whew!

I've been so buried lately, that I hadn't notice that Courtenay has actually answered my request for "butter chicken"... the recipe I've been experimenting with for over seven years now. I'll try it this weekend! Thanks, Courtenay!! :-)

2005 Harold Pinter

2004 Elfriede Jelinek

2003 J.M. Coetzee

2002 Imre Kertész

2001 V.S. Naipaul

2000 Gao Xingjian

1999 Günter Grass

1998 José Saramago

1997 Dario Fo

1996 Wislawa Szymborska

1995 Seamus Heaney

1994 Kenzaburo Oe

1993 Toni Morrison

1992 Derek Walcott

1991 Nadine Gordimer

1990 Octavio Paz

1989 Camilo José Cela

1988 Naguib Mahfouz

1987 Joseph Brodsky

1986 Wole Soyinka

1985 Claude Simon

1984 Jaroslav Seifert

1983 William Golding

1982 Gabriel García Márquez

1981 Elias Canetti

1980 Czeslaw Milosz

1979 Odysseus Elytis

1978 Isaac Bashevis Singer

1977 Vicente Aleixandre

1976 Saul Bellow

1975 Eugenio Montale

1974 Eyvind Johnson, Harry Martinson

1973 Patrick White

1972 Heinrich Böll

1971 Pablo Neruda

1970 Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

1969 Samuel Beckett

1968 Yasunari Kawabata

1967 Miguel Angel Asturias

1966 Samuel Agnon, Nelly Sachs

1965 Mikhail Sholokhov

1964 Jean-Paul Sartre

1963 Giorgos Seferis

1962 John Steinbeck

1961 Ivo Andric

1960 Saint-John Perse

1959 Salvatore Quasimodo

1958 Boris Pasternak

1957 Albert Camus

1956 Juan Ramón Jiménez

1955 Halldór Laxness

1954 Ernest Hemingway

1953 Winston Churchill

1952 François Mauriac

1951 Pär Lagerkvist

1950 Bertrand Russell

1949 William Faulkner

1948 T.S. Eliot

1947 André Gide

1946 Hermann Hesse

1945 Gabriela Mistral

1944 Johannes V. Jensen

1943 The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section

1942 The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section

1941 The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section

1940 The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section

1939 Frans Eemil Sillanpää

1938 Pearl Buck

1937 Roger Martin du Gard

1936 Eugene O'Neill

1935 The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section

1934 Luigi Pirandello

1933 Ivan Bunin

1932 John Galsworthy

1931 Erik Axel Karlfeldt

1930 Sinclair Lewis

1929 Thomas Mann

1928 Sigrid Undset

1927 Henri Bergson

1926 Grazia Deledda

1925 George Bernard Shaw

1924 Wladyslaw Reymont

1923 William Butler Yeats

1922 Jacinto Benavente

1921 Anatole France

1920 Knut Hamsun

1919 Carl Spitteler

1918 The prize money was allocated to the Special Fund of this prize section

1917 Karl Gjellerup, Henrik Pontoppidan

1916 Verner von Heidenstam

1915 Romain Rolland

1914 The prize money was allocated to the Special Fund of this prize section

1913 Rabindranath Tagore

1912 Gerhart Hauptmann

1911 Maurice Maeterlinck

1910 Paul Heyse

1909 Selma Lagerlöf

1908 Rudolf Eucken

1907 Rudyard Kipling

1906 Giosuè Carducci

1905 Henryk Sienkiewicz

1904 Frédéric Mistral, José Echegaray

1903 Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

1902 Theodor Mommsen

1901 Sully Prudhomme

From Harold Pinter – Nobel Lecture

Art, Truth & Politics

© THE NOBEL FOUNDATION 2005

In 1958 I wrote the following:

'There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.'

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.

I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.

.......

I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as 'full spectrum dominance'. That is not my term, it is theirs. 'Full spectrum dominance' means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.

The United States now occupies 702 military installations throughout the world in 132 countries, with the honourable exception of Sweden, of course. We don't quite know how they got there but they are there all right.

The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity – the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons – is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.

Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government's actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force – yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish.

I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.

'God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'

A writer's life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don't have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter, no protection – unless you lie – in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.

I have referred to death quite a few times this evening. I shall now quote a poem of my own called 'Death'.

Where was the dead body found?
Who found the dead body?
Was the dead body dead when found?
How was the dead body found?

Who was the dead body?

Who was the father or daughter or brother
Or uncle or sister or mother or son
Of the dead and abandoned body?

Was the body dead when abandoned?
Was the body abandoned?
By whom had it been abandoned?

Was the dead body naked or dressed for a journey?

What made you declare the dead body dead?
Did you declare the dead body dead?
How well did you know the dead body?
How did you know the dead body was dead?

Did you wash the dead body
Did you close both its eyes
Did you bury the body
Did you leave it abandoned
Did you kiss the dead body

When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate. But move a millimetre and the image changes. We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections. But sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror – for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us.

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.

...

Read the whole thing and weep.

...

Meaning. Meaningful. Meaningless. The news is fiction. Lies are truth. What happens when the news becomes "magical realism"? The largest post-modern mashup of thought and ideas: the Uncyclopedia.

a few samples:

- The How-To section [ see subsection: How to Make Up Quotes ]
- Attack of the 500 foot Jesus
- United States of America
- Bill Gates

What's scary is that the Uncyclopedia reminds me of the "new and improved" Nightline, now that Ted Koppel is gone. Koppel- can you believe how they've destroyed your show in so short a time? The work of decades destroyed in days.

"Ignorance is Strength!" see UnNews

"I get better news coverage watching Entertainment Tonight" - Oscar Wilde

Thomas Nast: Turkey Day 1881

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Claude Monet: Happy Birthday!

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The kids told me it was Monet's birthday today...

Springtime in Giverny- I cropped the picture for detail.

HBS Working Knowledge:

The image of artist, cast as a metaphor for those who provide acts of leadership, immediately evokes two primary responses—affirmation and resistance. Those who think of themselves as artists in the conventional sense of the word—for example, painters, sculptors, musicians, writers, architects, photographers, and some athletes and gardeners—may pick up the metaphor with ready enthusiasm, recognizing that incorporating their artist-self into their practice of leadership opens into a horizon of powerful possibilities. But those who suffered through their last required art project in school, or who hold the stereotype of an artist as nonrational, asocial, marginal, or soft—may cast a more jaundiced eye upon this metaphor.

It is highly likely, however, that the jaundiced eye belongs to someone who in some aspect of his or her professional or personal life exemplifies the power and qualities of an artist: the ability to work on an edge, in an interdependent relationship with the medium, with a capacity for creative improvisation. (Entrepreneurs and some politicians, physicians, and educators, for example, are akin to artists, seeking to bring into being what has not yet taken form.)

Hmmm.

Farewell, American Idol.

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