MonthFebruary 2004

Shark Attacks

     Over the Christmas holiday this past year, my girlfriend and I visted Chicago. We thought it would be a really good idea to go to all the museums and such – neglecting to consider the fact that there would be a hundred billion little-kid-toting-parents with the same idea. One of the places we visited was Shedd’s Aquarium. Now, two things you should know about me to appreciate the following anecdotes are that 1.) I am very, very, VERY easily startled, and 2.) Sea life creeps me out.

     So we were looking at this tank of vaguely menacing sharkish things (They may have, in fact, been sharks),
when one of the previously mentioned little kids BOLTED right into my backside and FRANTICALLY GRABBED my arm. This, of course, SCARED THE
LIVING SHIT OUT OF ME, because in my brain, one of the sharks had found a way out of the tank, learned to breathe air and was biting my arm. I
reacted in much the same way I imagine I would were an actual shark to run up and bite my arm: I leapt about two feet in the direction
opposite the kid/shark, and let out a very audible “YAH!” – which the boy’s mother found hilarious. But whatever – they never would have
found the octopus if I hadn’t pointed it out to them.

     Similarly, Last summer, my girlfriend and I went with friends to that ridiculously large / cheap concert for SARS in Toronto. We stayed with friends, sleeping in their living room. I just realized you need to know a third thing about me to appreciate this story: 3.) My vision is absolutely terrible.

     Anyway, at some point during the night, I got up to use the facilities. On my way back down the hallway towards the living room, I looked up from admiring the tasteful plugless nightlights that adorned the floor and was surprised to find someone
directly in front of me – I had almost run right into them. I was groggy and without my corrective lenses, so I surmised that someone
else from the living room camp had risen to take their turn in the bathroom. “Oh, sorry!” I apologized, thinking I had almost obliviously
wandered into this poor person.

     But the person didn’t move, or say anything. They just stood there motionless – eerily silent and staring straight at me. A few seconds passed, during which my brain decided that this was clearly a monster of supernatural origin or some other such assailant, who had clearly entered the hallway to eviscerate me. I responded to this new development as one would expect – by letting out what sounded like an intensely terrified but
half-hearted scream / plea / yawn / sigh, waking up those sleeping in the living room ahead of me.

     Big finish: it was a coat rack. My girlfriend was awake when I initially left for the bathroom, so she got to witness my apology / reaction to the coat rack as it happened. I’m not sure how I managed to miss the coat rack on the way to the bathroom, but I did.

Pepsi / iTunes

     I should preface the following story by explaining to anyone who doesn’t live in Michigan, New York, Oregon, California, Iowa, Delaware, Massachusets, Connecticut, Vermont, or Maine that in these states we pay a deposit on every can and bottle we buy, and that deposit is refunded upon the container’s return. Anyone who has seen the Seinfeld episodes dealing with Kramer’s efforts to gather empties in non-deposit states already knows about this, but I’ve always been amazed at how.. well, AMAZED so many out-of-towners are at the deposit / refund procedure when it is explained to them.

     This is important because the bulk of this post deals with soda /pop bottles. For all four years of my highschool career, I worked at the local grocery store. In those days, the bottle return machines that are unavoidable now had not yet made it into the smaller suburban chain stores, so the bottle return functions were handled by humans. This particular detail was of the utmost importance during the year Pepsi offered it’s ‘Pepsi Points’ promotion.

     This promotion should be familiar (In principle) to any smoker – a company includes points of various denomination with its products, and the customer can exchange a set number of accumulated points for various promotional products. The thing with soda / pop cap promotions is that americans drink so much damn pop / soda, that 90% of them never bother to look at the cap. During the Pepsi Points promotion, the plastic bottle caps were good for anywhere from 1 to 20 points (usually 1), whereas the boxes containg 12 cans – which people often reused to return their cans – were worth a guaranteed 10. Given our proximity to an endless source of pepsi points, it should come as no surprise that basically everyone employed there was madly hoarding caps.

     I ended up with thousands of Pepsi points by the time the deadline came. I exchanged them for the Skateboard despite the fact that by then I had long given up on my quest to master the kickflip. The board was manufactured by Santa Cruz – so it wasn’t some no name board, and my younger brother ended up getting a lot of use out of it. I actually found a photo of one here, and as you can see it’s pretty GNARLY.

Nollie.

     I had to work on the day of the deadline, so my Mom offered to take my carton o’ points to the post office for me. For some reason it never occurred to either of us that a LOT of people would also be waiting for the last day of the promotion to mail in their points. The post office was overrun with Pepsi enthusiasts.

     The Pepsi Point contest also spawned one of those stories where someone spies a loophole in the rules of a corporate sponsored contest and then ruthlessly exploits it, to the joy of internet folk everywhere. The story of the man who accumulated an obscenely large quantity of frequent flyer miles via a loophole in a similar contest was all over the internet before eventually finding its way into P.T. Anderson’s ‘Punch Drunk Love.’ The keys to the Pepsi contest loophole lay in the fact that you could purchase additional points, and Pepsi’s television commercials for the contest:

     “As most of you know, Pepsi ran a promotion in which “Pepsi points” could be redeemed for merchandise. In a commercial they ran, they listed some of the merchandise that could be bought, concluding with a Harrier “Jump Jet” for 7 million Pepsi points. The rules of the promotion
stated that a purchaser of any given piece of merchandise must redeem at least 15 original Pepsi points, but could purchase any additional
points needed to purchase the item from PepsiCo at a price of US$.10 each.

     So, on March 28, 1996, John Leonard submitted a Pepsi Stuff order form along with 15 original pepsi points, and a check for US$700,008.50 for
the remaining Pepsi points and shipping and handling charges. On May 7 of the same year, Pepsi refused to deliver the Harrier jet, returning his check and giving him a coupon for three free cases of pepsi as consolation.

     Leonard resubmitted on May 14, and Pepsi refused again. Leonard submitted the request a third time, got turned down again, and then filed suit against PepsiCo for breach of contract and fraud.

     The only actual case file I can find on this is located at http://www.fcsl.edu/cdr2web/leonard.php3, which purports to be a copy of case #96-44518 in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York. I can’t find anything on this, or for that
particular court, anywhere on government pages (granted, I didn’t look all that hard).

     CNN did some coverage of the story at the time, running a story quoting Pentagon officials as stating that even were John Leonard to win the case, Pepsi would not be able to acquire a Harrier jet, as they are illegal to own by private citizens. That story is here.” [From Will England’s Site]

     Snope’s has a bit on the final ruling here:

“In August 1999, the New York judge upheld Pepsi’s case. “No objective person could reasonably have concluded that the commercial actually offered consumers a Harrier jet,” U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood said.

Not that Leonard would have ended up with the full jet anyway if things had gone his way — the Pentagon quashed the promotion in September 1997 when it announced that these $33.8 million jets are not for sale in flyable shape. Harriers take off and land vertically. But the Pentagon said any of the Marine aircraft would have to be “demilitarized” before being offered to the public, which means stripping them of their armament and rendering them unable to fly.”

     Another Pepsi contest that was ruthlessly exploited by the employees of this particular grocery store was the ‘perpetual 20 ounce.’ This involved the contest where things like “You’ve won a free 20 Oz.!” are printed beneath the caps of 20 Oz. bottles of Pepsi. It was discovered that by some flaw in the design of pepsi bottles, one could ‘cheat.’

     By holding the bottle at a certain angle above one’s head, you could clearly make out which bottles were winners, and which weren’t. By this process, the ‘perpetual 20 Oz.’ was born. One could purchase the first winner for an outlay of $0.79 plus 10 cents deposit, and then by carefully selecting winners each time, drink for free for the duration of the contest. Good times.

mmmmmmm.

     It is with these anecdotes in mind that I bring up the subject of Pepsi’s current promotion in cooperation with apple – the iTunes free song giveaway. Under pepsi caps bearing the iTunes promotional design, you have a 1 in 3 chance of winning a free song, with a limit of 200 per person over the course of the promotion. Additionally, the fountain cups at 7-11 stores offer another opportunity to win, and you don’t even have to drink pepsi products. The caps went into circulation shortly before the superbowl, but they seem to be a bit slow in making it to certain areas. There is a site keeping an updated map of where winners have been found here, and a store locater here.

     Given my previous experience with such contests, it was no surprise that someone immediately applied the ‘perpetual 20 Oz’ principle to this contest, determining that winning caps had 4 lines of text and losers have 3. There’s a convenient demonstration of this technique here (Ironically hosted on Apple’s Servers).

Free Music.

     Also of interest is Tune Recycler. Given the previously stated lack of interest of the general public, many of these caps will go unused. If you are aware of the promotion but don’t really feel like cashing in your caps, you can donate them so that the credit will be put towards artists on independent labels.

Stuff from my email

A Reunion of Sorts

     Edward Miller pointed out this messageboard thread which details yesterday’s apparent reunion of Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo with original Weezer bassist Matt Sharp. I checked the Official Weezer site and it is indeed true, there are photos and everything.

!!!

Zumpano Namesake Speaks!

     I got an email from Zumpano drummer Jason Zumpano regarding the 1997 live set I posted a few days back:

“Hello, Adam.

     It seems that you are rather fond of a band I used to be part of. Very interesting. I think that I remember the show. Not many people there. Heat wave. A SubPop package tour? Anyway, I took a quick listen at the live stuff. How do I say? Not so tight? I think our shows improved soon after that. It’s great that you have that Japanese cd since mine was stolen a long time ago. I would love to have seen the reaction on the dirtbag that grabbed it (along with various other cds and things). What the? How is? Why the?

keep the dream alive,

J.Zumpano”

Mysterious Video Revealed

     In case you missed it in the comments below, a mysterious stranger (‘jb’) came forward with the name of the artist behind the bizarre video I posted about.

     “I would bet it was Les Rita Mitsouko, a kind of eurythmics-like duo that had some marginal success along the way. I think in the following link they’re probably discussing the video you saw. Of course, maybe not. Good luck. [link] Even better: [link], and just to be sure you don’t miss it on that page, this looks like a shot from the set or a still you might recognize. Just by way of disclaimer, I have no bizarre fetish relating to this band, it just seemed like a question that needed answering.”

     Yep, that’s them. The song was called ‘Ce Comme Ca ,’ released in November 1986.

Slightly More ‘Credible’ NES music

     Josh points me towards yet another NES cover band:

     “Forget the minibosses. There’s a band called The Advantage that is like 1000 times better. They are on 5rc records with bands like xiu xiu, hella, deerhoof…etc. you can download an entire sampler album of sorts on their website.

check it out.

Josh”

     That is one ugly website. IN the interest of preventing headaches, I’ll link directly to the MP3 page. They seem pretty good.

Airline Guitars

     Tim O. Thompson writes:

“I think I read in Blender magazine that some fan bought one of those really expensive Airline guitars off eBay and gave it to Jack White because Jack’s main guitar was in bad shape. If I can find it, I’ll send it on…”

I'm Gown-ta Witch Uh Taw

     One of the many ‘projects’ that I used as an excuse for not updating this site for almost a year was researching
the history of Wurlitzer Stereo Guitars (I put my findings here). In
doing so, I became intimately acquainted with the world of off-brand 1960’s guitars. One such ‘Off-brand’ has been spending quite a bit of time in the public eye lately: Montgomery Ward house brand Airline guitars.

     This renewed interest in Airline Guitars is attributable to the meteoric rise of Mr. Jack White – his guitar of choice is a red two-pickup 1964 JB Hutto Res O Glass Airline. Sure, one would expect there to be some interest, but have you seen what these things are selling for lately? While I was doing my ‘research,’ I punched ‘AIRLINE GUITAR WHITE STRIPES’ into eBay, and was greeted with sales
figures in the $2000 – $2500 range. For those without a frame of reference, this is a ridiculously high price for what was essentially a student model guitar.

     I’m not the only one who thinks this is crazy. WIllie Moseley is a regular contributor to Vintage Guitar Magazine, and was very helpful when I was hunting down information on Wurlitzer. In the February 2004 issue of Vintage Guitar, he weighs in on the market Mr. White has created for vintage Airlines. I’ve quoted the ‘highlights’ below (Best read with the understanding that the article originally appeared in a magazine catering to middle-aged men who collect expensive guitars):

     “I used to own one of these oddball, asymmetrical Valco-made Airline electric guitars. I’d bought it in ’92 at a Texas guitar show, because I thought it was an exemplary so-ugly-it’s-cool piece of guitar memorobilia. It’s quality wasn’t so hot, and to get the maximum volume out of the treble pickup, a player had to roll off the pickup’s Tone control, as the stock capacitors therein were too strong. This meant the treble pickup put out a dinky signal whenever the Tone control was on full treble (And such a malady was stereotypical of all Valco electronics of that era).

Still, the Airline’s awkward-looking, lopsided body silhouette and Gumby-shaped headstock would probably appeal to guitar enthusiasts with a penchant for everyman-budget instruments from that era. The one I purchased happened to be the two pickup, red model. I’d bet anyone who’d owned this brand and model for some time was probably bemused when the value of these instruments skyrocketed in 2003, simply because the guitarist of a famous band played one. Given the history and quality of such instruments, its mind-boggling to the point of being inexplicable. How and why in the world should “Star Power” – one famous player in one band – cause some cheapo instrument’s demand and price to multiply several times over in less than a year?

     The Airline model’s tenure as an overpriced collectible piece depends on the longevity of the White Stripes and nothing else, and who really thinks they’re the next Beatles? If the band turns out to be more durable, I’ll be the first to acknowledge the erroneous
prognostication, but I’d be willing to bet their viability will be based on their unusual visual image, which, as is usually the case with fads, could wear out pretty quickly.

     And my own red two-pickup Airline? Damn right I sold it. It’ll be interesting to see where the White Stripes and the price of such Airline guitars end up a year from now, but I decided not to wait any longer.”

     Consulting eBay at the time of this posting yields no models identical to Mr. White’s – which I suppose is a testament to its scarcity – but the white ones are still commanding $800 or so. This newsgroup thread discusses a red Airline that recently surfaced on eBay and immediately sold:

     “Read in a recent Guitar Player about this kid, Jack White, who is having some commercial success but has decided that the only guitar for him is some piece of junk Sears or Wards plastic toy from way back. OK, fair enough, you like what you like. Out of curiosity, I looked that particular model up on e-Bay and, lo and behold, look at the numbers this thing is commanding. Somebody snapped it up at the “Buy it Now” price of $2,500.00.”

Okay, shifting gears now – bear with me.

     Two summers ago I started a project where I planned to wear every one of the ridiculously large number of T-shirts I had accumulated exactly once before repeating a shirt. I successfully finished the project, but the website I put up to document the project kind of petered out before I got everything up – primarily because I made it my goal to write a haiku about each shirt. I regularly get email from people who stumble across this page, asking to buy certain shirts.

     By far the most popular amongst these requests is my red ‘Say Yes to Michigan’ shirt. Apparently lots of people of a similar mindset have started a “Collect all 50 state t-shirts” project, and Michigan is proving elusive. I have not yet sold it. It is with
these two seemingly unrelated anecdotes in mind that I direct your attention to this year’s Village Voice Pazz & Jop awards. Check out that shirt Mr. White is modeling. Look familiar? It should!

Say Yes.

     So, my plan is this: list the shirt on eBay, include the Village Voice photo in the auction, and set the buy
it now around $2000. PERFECT.

Questions for You

I have two questions that maybe you know the answers to?

1.) Mysterious Video

     Sometime in the middle of 2003, I saw a video on VH1 Classic’s afternoon request show. It was completely insane, so I memorized the name of the artist. By ‘Memorized,’ I mean that I ‘immediately forgot.’ Here’s everything that I remember about the video:

  • The song/artist were french.
  • The singer was a female.
  • The guitarist was made up to look vaguely like Charlie Chaplin.
  • In the video at least, the drummer was looped video of a baby/small child.
  • At the end of the video, there was an epic 30 second shot (!) of a television showing the singer smiling and repositioning her pose in absolute silence.

     It was truly bizarre, and I need to know what it is. I’ve had this particular plea posted in my friendster profile for months, to no avail. Help!

2.) Large Cardboard

     I am in need of a very large flat sheet of cardboard, somewhere in the ballpark of six feet by four feet. I realize I could break down a washer box or something, but I’m really hoping to find a source for a big flat piece with no creases in it (For structural reasons). If any of you artsy types have any idea where I could get my hands on such an expanse of cardboard, please let me know.

BOOTLEGGIN' '97!

     In the Winter of 1997 I got into the habit of bringing a cassette recorder and a little microphone with me to shows. Only once did I have any problem with security – at the release show for the Enclave edition of Sloan’s ‘One Chord to Another,’ at the 7th house in Pontiac, Michigan.

     My general technique was to clip the microphone to the collar of my jacket and keep the recorder in a coat pocket. In this particular instance, I had taken the cassette recorder out of my pocket to check the level it was recording at, and one of the back-to-the stage security guys caught a glimpse of the red LED. As soon as I looked up, I saw the guy point at me, and as I turned around, thinking I could just walk back through the crowd, another security fella grabbed my arm and said “Come with me.” He took me up to the balcony and into a back room.

     After closing the door behind us, the security guy turned and walked into the room. Directly across from the door was a greasy, overweight gentleman sitting at a low table. The man was in the process of opening confiscated cameras, removing the film canisters, and then yanking the exposed frames out from within the canister. He would then throw the streamers of ruined film into a wastebasket that sat next to the table. Across from him on the table was a fleet of neatly organized cameras. In retrospect, this break in the action was a blatant “Pause for effect.”

     Seeing that I had adequately taken in the scene before me, my ‘escort’ demanded the cassette from my recorder, and I gave it to him. He handed it to the man at the table, who began pulling the magnetic tape from the cassette. As he did this, he addressed me. Exactly what he said is lost to my 17 year-old memory, but the general sentiment was that he was both incredulous and angry that I thought I could get away with taping a live show. He expressed deep concern for the lack of respect I was showing for both the band and his crew’s abilities. When he finished with the tape, I asked for my cassette recorder back, armed with the enthusiasm of a high school junior and the knowledge that I had another 90 minute maxell in my sock. He refused, telling me that I could pick it up after the show.

     I watched the end of the set and the encore from the balcony, and once the house lights came up, I knocked on the door. No answer. A crowd of the recently de-camera’d gathered at the door, and still nothing was heard from within. After about 20 minutes of dead silence on the other side of the door, it opened, and one of the beefy security dudes poked his head out. He began the laborious process of taking the description of one camera, closing the door and disappearing for at least five minutes, and then reappearing with the camera and a warning – ‘Don’t ever bring a camera again.’ I finally got my cassette recorder back and joined my friends outside.

A few months later I got a great audience recording of the show via a tape trade.

Hey look, I found a use for this after all.

     I recently found a shoebox full of these recordings. One of them was unlabeled, and upon playing it back I found that it contained 45 minutes worth of Zumpano’s 1997 show at the Shelter in Detroit. For those who aren’t aware, Zumpano was Carl Newman of the New Pornographers’ previous project – they released two albums on SubPop in the 90’s. Since I had recently put up a page to share the Zumpano B-sides that I’d acquired, I decided to convert this tape into mp3’s and share them, too. You can download them at behindthebeehive.com. The quality leaves plenty to be desired, but I’ve never seen any other live Zumpano material pop up online, and there are a few unique songs in the set, so I’d say it’s worth it.

Bananas

     A few months before Christmas I read ‘I Bought Andy Warhol‘ in a variety of hospital waiting rooms. The book revolves around author Richard Polsky’s quest to own an Andy Warhol original, and by extension his experiences as an art dealer in the 1980’s. It’s a fast read that covers lots of interesting tangents, but as the Amazon reviews will attest, it has its problems. For those with an interest, however, Polsky offers enough insight into the inner workings of the modern art trade to make it worth wading through the character assassination and autobiographical attempts at redemption that sometimes slow things down. [Incidentally, does anyone know if Amazon puts negative reviews at the bottom on purpose? Or if not, do they only spotlight the 5 star reviews?].

     Most interesting (To me, at least) were the sections detailing the many eccentricities of dealing with the Warhol Estate. The estate was apparently very tight-lipped regarding what remained unsold after the artist’s death – making it difficult to gauge the supply and value of original Warhol work. Polsky details the painstaking process of scheduling a viewing with the estate, and the politics of favor that determined what you were offered.

     Also of interest were the sections dealing with forgery – to which Warhol’s work lends itself well. One chapter deals with an artist who set out to duplicate Warhol’s technique exactly, producing a (supposedly) perfect forgery before deciding not to proceed any further with the experiment; while another describes the author’s encounter with several unsigned ‘originals’ which may or may not have been forgeries – as Warhol’s signiture policy was a bit of an eccentricity in and of itself.

     I would have forgotten all about having read this book had I not stumbled upon a plush version of the Andy Warhol’s Velvet Underground cover available at Kid Robot, complete with unzippable skin:

Woof.

     It’s a pretty great (and pretty pricey) recycling of the pop-art image as a new pop-art item (Available in 12″, 24″ and 36″ models).

Krmpa vs. Kempa

Three things dealing with the name Kempa:

One:

     Krmpa.com is one easy typo away from kempa.com – the ‘E’ and ‘R’ keys are right next to each other. The reason this is notable is that krmpa.com is the website of Koleos, Rosenberg & Metzger, P.A., a law firm that deals with very bitter divorce settlements. People who send email regarding such subjects are often very enraged and not paying attention to their typing. Here’s an example of the spiteful missives I’ve recieved, found atop a GIGANTIC volley of quoted emails detailing the division of property and children:

“It is difficult for me to believe that I was at one time so proud of you, however, after receiving e-mails such as this, I am forever grateful that I filed for divorce. I truly cannot wait until you find someone else and take your focus off of me.”

     Insane. Once one of these fights takes off, I’m in for the long haul because these people are carbon copying the lawyers (Which is actually me, because of the typo) on each message, and attempts to notify them of their mistake result in no reply.

Two:

     It’s come to my attention that there is a German sporting goods company named Kempa, which is amazing because I suddenly have access to an entire line of personalized sportswear and handball equipment at www.kempa-handball.de.

SWOOSH!.

Three:

     Michal Tomasz Kempa of Polish website kempa.pl linked my site based on my name alone, so I’m doing the same. Here’s what he had to say:

“greetings forU don’t look at page of mine is horrible flat but I’ll change up in soon (I spoke it2yearsAgo2: AD REM: on the bottom this site : www.kempa.pl is link forU P.S. Your site is crazy but nice & maybe little update?? (the readers (me &other) still wait & cry (beacause nothing new) & wait again ……;-)”

Go visit his site here.

Chris Ware Trivia Update, Pt. 2

     One of the benefits of having a girlfriend who is a librarian is that you can say: “Hey, would you see if you can find out about this ridiculously obscure thing for me?” Sometimes, I don’t even have to ask. After reading my previous post about the Chris Ware / George Wilson dual identity, she managed to unearth another ‘George Wilson’ work. This effort appears in the February 2002 issue of Esquire Magazine.
The artwork appears in a section called ‘Lost Arts,’ and Ware contributed a faux book cover (‘The Lost Arts – A guide to the things our grandfathers did so effortlessly, but about which we know slightly less than squat’) and three strips: ‘The Lost Art of Carrying a Handkerchief,’ ‘The Lost Art of Standing Up When a Lady Approaches’ and ‘The Lost Art of Sword Fighting.”

The Lost Arts - Cover.
The Lost Art of Swordfighting.
The Lost Art of Standing When a Lady Approaches.
The Lost Art of Carrying a Handkerchief.

     Another interesting thing she found was that another George Wilson did the cover interior illustrations for a handful of Hardy Boys novels. Initially I hypothosized that this was where the pseudonym came from, but on further investigation I’m less sure. Worth mentioning, though.

     Supposedly there are two more Chris Ware works floating around credited to George Wilson, so if you happen to stumble upon one, let me know! In the meantime, we have this to look forward to:

McSWEENEY’S ISSUE 13



Edited by Chris Ware

$24 US, hardcover

Coming in April



     Issue 13 is a Very Special Issue. We might say that a lot, and we mean it
every time, but this time we really really mean it. This issue is all
comics. It is edited by Chris Ware (author of Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid
on Earth), and features so many artists to know and love: R. Crumb, Art
Spiegelman, Daniel Clowes, Lynda Barry, Los Bros Hernandez, Adrian Tomine,
Julie Doucet, and on and on. The issue also includes essays from Michael
Chabon, Ira Glass, John Updike, Chip Kidd, and others. Hardcover,
clothbound, with an enormous dust jacket that does much more than guard
against dust. This one makes our throats go tight.

BONER!

Smart Dog

     I took my dog, speck, through a ‘Manners’ class. He got ‘Most Improved.’ This is his graduation photo. Note the books in the background – ‘Fetch,’ ‘Spot: A True Story,’ etc.

Woof.

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