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Archive for the ‘The Simpsons’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Ventura (2013).

Not content to have just one concert on a release, Ventura contains two complete concerts from July 30, 1997, and July 20, 1998, at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura, California.

It’s an opportunity to compare the band at the same location one year later–these two shows exist in the vacuum between the release of Billy Breathes (1996) and The Story of the Ghost (1998), so there’s a few “new” songs in 1997, but it also doesn’t mean that they are playing the same sets–not by any means.  In fact, between the two shows they repeat only two songs: Water in the Sky (new) and Prince Caspian (from Billy)

1997 sees the band in good form.  After two solid openers with “NICO” and “Wolfman,” they play a wild “Chalk Dust” which has some crazy dissonant soloing in it.  “Water in the Sky” is a slow countryish version with piano and twangy guitar.  There’s a great “Stash” with appropriate audience clapping (I really want to see that live) and then a typically fun “Weigh.”  This is followed by lovely versions of “Piper” and “Cars Trucks Buses,” and the set ends with a slow funky version of “Character Zero.”

Set two opens with a groovy “Pinch You in the Eye” (9 minutes) and a great jamming version of “Free” (almost 12 minutes) with a funky solo.  “Free” is one of my favorite songs by them and I always think of it as “new” because it is rather poppy.  But it’s from way back in 1996 so it’s surely not new. After about four and a half minutes of trippy sounds and echoes. they start “David Bowie” (which includes The Simpsons riff and a Doh!).  The solo is long with a lengthy piano section and a mellow jazzy middle before it turns a little funky and then to a groovy jam to the end.  It runs for just over 21 minutes and the end of the song starts the chords for Talking Heads’ “Cities,” which the band segues into perfectly and then segues back into “Bowie” fop another 6 minutes.  There’s a scorching end of the song with a lot of noise before the end.  Those last scorching solos each have a break where the band sounds like they are collapsing before resuming perfectly.  It is a spectacular 32 minutes of music.  (Their live releases have me believing that they “Cities” a lot more than statistically they do).

They slow things down with a relatively mellow version of “Bouncing around the Room” (as mellow as that song can be anyhow) and then the bluegrass version of “Uncle Pen.”  The end of the second set comes with a mellow jam to start “Prince Caspian.”  Even the jam is mellow for about 9 minutes, but the set ends with a raucous version of Jimi Hendrix’ “Fire.”

The encore is a rollicking run through “My Soul” with a very fast “mymymymymymmysoul oh my soul.”  It’s a great show with lots of perfect peaks and valleys.

There’s a bonus track–a 9 minute soundcheck jam.  There’s some casual singing of some “dah dah dahs” and some high pitched “ooohs.”  A keyboard solo follows and it ends with a noisy section and a scream of delight.

In 1998, the band opened the show with a 21 minute “Bathtub Gin.”  It’s not that often that their opening song is a big ass jam.  (I’m sure someone has stats to back that up).   There’s a lot of piano riffage in the middle too.  After this, the band plays mostly short songs for a while: a mellow version of “Dirt.” Then a  fast and fun “Poor Heart” (in which Trey introduces Mike as the author–which he is).  Then a jazzy “Lawn Boy.”  There’s a romping “My Sweet One” which segues into a rocking “Birds of a Feather.”  By the time the get to “Theme from the Bottom,” which sounds great, they’re ready to stretch out.  It’s about 9 minutes long with a nice long solo.

They repeat “Water in the Sky” from last year.  It’s pretty although a minute shorter than 1997.  There’s a 4 minute jam before “The Moma Dance” starts proper (that will be on Ghost).  The set ends with a 14 minute “Split Open and Melt.”

Set 2 opens with a really long (14 minute) version of The Who’s “Drowned” and a dark moody jam although the reggae chords of “Makisupa Policeman” start long before “Drowned” ends.  And as the reggae jam starts, Trey sings “woke up this morning… SKUNKED” to much cheering.  The song ends with a trippy synth section that segues into “Maze.”  Page continues The Who theme with a solo version of “Sea and Sand.”  It’s interesting that in 1997 their second to last song was “Prince Caspian” (about 9 minutes). A year later their second to last song is also “Caspian,” this time 12 minutes with a rocking solo.  It segues into a stellar set-ending fifteen minute “Harry Hood.”

The encore is a crazy “Sexual Healing” sung by fish.  It’s goofy and it goes on way too long (nearly 8 minutes), but they follow it with a 12 minute jam of “Haley’s Comet.”  I love the harmonies.  The song ends with some rumbling noises as the guys leave the stage.

The bonus soundcheck is a reggae riff with them reciting the lyrics “I’m your Venus, I’m your fire.”  It’s a decent enough jam for a soundcheck although I’m most impressed with how Trey ends with a wrap-up riff instead of just stopping the song.

The bonus soundcheck songs aren’t that great to have–more like special feature on a DVD.  But the main sets are fantastic.  And you get 35 different songs between the two shows.

[READ: November 22, 2016] Tales Told in Oz

I read the 16 Madras Press Books some time ago and posted about half of them.  So here’s the other half coming up.  So what is Madras Press?

Madras Press publishes limited-edition short stories and novella-length booklets and distributes the proceeds to a growing list of non-profit organizations chosen by our authors.

For this particular book, “The author of the bestselling Wicked Years series returns to Oz with a compendium of folktales.  Proceeds to benefit Friends of West Hartford Library.”

I’m probably the only person who would read this book not knowing who Gregory Maguire was.   Well, I’ll amend that.  I knew who he was and I loved Wicked when I read it.  But I forgot who he was (his name  did sound familiar, though).

As I said, I loved Wicked but didn’t read anything else in the series.  I was only vaguely aware that there was a series–evidently there are 4 books and this book is considered 0.5.

All of this is introduction is to set up why I didn’t really enjoy this book that much.  Not realizing that it was part of Maguire re-imagining Oz, I thought it was weird and arbitrary that it was “set” in Oz.  Why not just make up your own world to tell these stories about.

Now realizing what was at stake, I appreciate it more, but since I’m not invested in his series (or really in Oz itself–I’ve never read more than the first book of that series either), these were just amusing tales. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: April 15, 2016] Stink: the World’s Worst Super-Stinky Sneakers & the Great Guinea Pig Express

Tabitha was listening to this book in her room and I said, hey, that’s Bart Simpson.  And indeed, the book was being read by Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart (as well as Nelson, Ralph, and dozens of other minor characters).  The next day we went on a car ride and she asked to listen to the stories.  So we did.  I heard the end of the Guinea Pig story and then all of the sneaker story.  Well, I couldn’t have a half finished story in my head so I had to listen to the beginning of the guinea pig story too, and call it all finished.

I knew of Stink from the Judy Moody books.  Stink is Judy’s younger brother (and she’s pretty awful in these books.  I don’t recall if she was awful in her own books).  But that could just be because this is about Stink and not her.  We learn how Stink got his name: Judy started singing a song about him in which stink was the chorus.  And it just stuck.

Stink goes by Stink in school and elsewhere.  And apparently he has a super duper sniffer (this may just be a coincidence and not a side effect of being called Stink).  (more…)

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sept1 SOUNDTRACK: WILLIAM BELL-Tiny Desk Concert #562 (September 7, 2016).

william-bellI’d never heard of William Bell before this show, although I see that he is apparently a classic soul singer with hits from Stax records back in 1960s.

Bell has a new album out this year and the title song “This is Where I Live” is a kind of autobiographical story of his life.  He sings of growing up and hearing Sam Cooke and then writing songs of his own that have taken him around the world.

I love the idea of “The Three of Me”: “Last night I had a dream and there were three of me.  There was the man I was, the man I am, and the man I want to be.”

The first two songs sound great–classic soul with horns and lots of bass and backing vocalists.

Bell’s voice sounds great as well.  He sounds like a veteran soulmaker.  And although he sounds timeless, I’d never guess he was 77 years old. And yet, he co-wrote “Born Under a Bad Sign,” which I thought was older than 70 years.

Either way, he plays it here.  I think his is the version I know least well (he mentions that even Homer Simpson has done a cover of it).  Bell’s version is, of course, great.

And here I have to mention his backing band  There are about 12 people all wearing bright yellow shirts.   And just about every person with an instrument gets to do a solo during “Bad Sign” which is why the song clocks in at about 10 minutes.

It starts with a great bluesy guitar solo, and then in turn we get to hear bars from saxophone, bass, organ, piano, bass sax, soprano sax and trombone.  The backing band is called The Total Package Band.  And they sound perfect for Bell’s music.

[READ: March 1, 2016] “Gorse is Not People”

Here’s another case of the same author being published just a few months after their previous story (June).

This story had a date at the end of the story–1954.  I had to look up some details about Janet Frame.  Turns out that she is an author from New Zealand and she began writing in the 1950s.

I don’t know if that’s what makes her stories seem so alien to me or what.  I found her previous story to be pretty inaccessible.  And this one is also pretty out there.  It also seemed very un-PC–which makes sense if it was written 60 years ago.  But the previous story was all about someone in a psychiatric home.  And this one is also about someone who is in a special place “in the yard where they put people who were strange in shape and ways” (more…)

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sardine6SOUNDTRACK0 Tonne Seize [CST bonus] (2016).

tonne0 Tonne Seize is a bonus compilation of three tracks each from Off World, Automatiste and Jason Sharp.  The collection is 41 minutes of music (not too shabby) and came with a pre-order of the three records (and is available on Soundcloud as well).

The first three songs are by Off World and the first two of those are remixes.  The original “Wonder Farm” is dominated by popping drum sounds.  There are some other sounds that go through the track but the base is mostly a kind of slow Asian melody.  The “Wonder Farm (Summer Crop)” mix removes those snaps and percussion entirely.  It focuses just on the music, which I have to say is far more enjoyable without the bangs.  “Primitive Streak” is a slow droning piece, while this compilation’s “Primitive Streak (Silver Mix)” doesn’t sound all that different.  It also removes the drums, and highlights the squeaky synth sounds and the overall drone tone.  It seems to emphasize and de-emphasize different instruments but otherwise sounds pretty similar. The final track  “Lost Meadow” is a pretty, delicate piano based piece with some twinkling of spacey synth notes.  It’s easily the prettiest piece.

The three Automatiste tracks do not quite follow the same naming convention as the actual disc, although the first track is called “Simultanéité 5.” It has slow beats and is basically two-note washes building on top of each other.  “Fragments continus” is a noisy piece with layered thudding drums (like heartbeats especially around the 1 minute mark) and drone noises that wash in and out.   About half way through what sounds like a melody appears amid the din, but it feels like it formed organically around the synths and drums which is pretty cool.   “Le Silence 3” opens with some jackhammer sounding drums and then almost easy listening synths.  The juxtaposition is interesting and by the end the song feels nicely dancey.

The final three songs are from Jason Sharp.  These three are quite different from his album because they really feature the saxophone to a larger degree.  “Plummeting Veins” opens with a heartbeat and some rumbling sax (that sounds like the opening of the Speed Racer TV show).   This track is under 2 minutes, the shortest he’s done by far, and the way the heartbeat speeds up as the sax plays some low rumbling notes is pretty cool. “Hear a Fading Cry” is a much longer number.  The heartbeat is quieter but the sax is much louder.  It sounds a lot like Colin Stetson in the low rumbling and noisy barking that the bass sax can produce.  It ends with some rather high-pitched squeaky sounds that I assume come from the sax, but which I can’t imagine coming from such a bass instrument.  It’s 7 minutes long although it takes almost 2 minutes to really get going.  And it swerves between loud and rumbling and then sort of menacing by the end,  “Ride On Into the Sweetening Dark” is perhaps the most conventional of Sharp’s songs.  It is a series of sax solo lines over a gentle tinkling backing drone.  Some of the solos lead to noisy wailing, but for the most part the line are pretty and jazzy.

It’s interesting how different these bonus tracks tend to be from the actual releases.  I enjoyed listening to these variants to see what else these artists are capable of.

[READ: April 9, 2016] Sardine in Outer Space 6

Sardine is a children’s book published by First Second.  It was originally published in France (and in French) and was translated by Sasha Watson.  There are six Sardine books out.

The inner flap says “No Grownups Allowed (Unless they’re pirates or space adventurers).”  This is the final Sardine book.  And while I didn’t enjoy the first book much, by now I’m sorry to see the series end.

This book also has the fewest stories in it (only 9). (more…)

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sardine5SOUNDTRACK: JASON SHARP-A Boat Upon Its Blood [CST119] (2016).

Layout 1Constellation records had been rather quiet this year in terms of new releases.  And then back in August they announced three new discs with this intriguing blurb:

Constellation’s three new fall releases by Off World, Automatisme and Jason Sharp are dropping on September 30th…  These new releases are wildly different yet satisfyingly leftfield albums that share an electric thread of sorts.  Electronic music strategies, technologies, histories and sensibilities come into play, in very diverse ways, with each of these debut records – making them stand out a little differently in the context of the Constellation catalogue perhaps, but also informing one another and making a lot of sense to our ears as an album trio (somewhat in the spirit of our Musique Fragile series).

This is the third of those three.

Jason Sharp has written this disc as “music written for amplified heart & breath,” and Sharp is credited with “playing” amplified heart, feedback, synthesizers and bass saxophone.  Other instruments listed are Pedal Steel Guitar, Violin and various percussive instruments.

From the Constellation site: “Using custom-built equipment to translate breath and heart rate into variegated sonic triggers, along with other modes of signal processing and in tandem with traditional instrumentation…[the album] deploys the human metronome of amplified pulse as a recurring undercurrent, with compositions that incorporate electro-acoustic and musique concrète strategies, drone, noise, electronics, methodical dissonance, tone poem, layered rhythmic and melodic figures, and improvisation.”

The disc opens with a trio of songs: “A Boat Upon Its Blood Pt.s 1, 2 & 3”  Part 1 begins with some quiet drones and pulses and what sounds (if you think about it) like water running through pipes or blood through veins.  It also like plectrum hitting strings or a musical rain stick.  The songs build in intensity until a pulse that sounds a lot like a heart beat (which it should) ends the track. This heart beat segues into Part 2 which is dominated by violins.  The violins seem to alternate between drones and dissonance with the pulses seeming to beat a bit faster in parts.  As this track ends, a martial beat takes over the drums, and that segues into Part 3 which has more drone sounds.   About midway through, new percussive sounds come in, changing the tone of the piece entirely.

Track 4 is “In the construction of the chest, there is a heart” is the most interesting of the bunch.  It has what I assume are several different heart beat sounds modified to create different percussion under various droning sounds. It really exemplifies the “heartbeat” aspect of the piece, which I thought would be more prominent in the disc overall.  The second half of the song is full of swishes and scratchy sounds which I certainly hope are the sounds of his blood pulsing through his veins.

“A blast at best” is a noise piece which sounds almost like the heart beats have been put through an autotune.  Midway through the song comes the bass sax playing some farting and pulsing sounds that add an interesting  melody to the sloshy noises.

Tracks 6 and 7 are another multi-part song “Still I sit
with you inside me Parts 1 and 2.”  Part 1 opens with a much more pleasant, albeit somber violin.  Slowly the heartbeats grow louder and more prominent.  The pulses increase and decrease although not necessarily with the intensity of the music.  The violins swirl and ebb, growing louder and more intense and then fading and seguing into the last track which opens with pretty guitars and accompanying violin.  About halfway through the song, the heartbeat resumes.  It come pulsing into the song louder and louder, dominating the whole thing.  And then with a few seconds left it builds a wall of feedback and noise that gives way to a cathartic echo.

This would be another string candidate for NPR’s Echoes.  Have you heard this, John Diliberto?

The disc notes that the piece was inspired by the Robert Creeley poem, “The Heart,” which I have included at the end of the post.

[READ: April 9, 2016] Sardine in Outer Space 5

Sardine is a children’s book published by First Second.  It was originally published in France (and in French) and was translated by Sasha Watson.  There are six Sardine books out.

The inner flap says “No Grownups Allowed (Unless they’re pirates or space adventurers).”  For the first time, Sardine was created without the help of Joann Sfar.  And I found this one to be my favorite one yet!

It seems like Sardine has really hits its stride with Book 5.  The author is having a ton of fun playing around with pop culture and with the idea that the characters know that there are books about them. It’s still a little weird that Supermuscleman is really the only bad guy and that he is always coincidentally where they show up, but that’s clearly not the point of the comic, right? (more…)

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sardine4 SOUNDTRACK: AUTOMATISME-Momentform Accumulations [CST118] (2016).

Layout 1Constellation records had been rather quiet this year in terms of new releases.  And then back in August they announced three new discs with this intriguing blurb:

Constellation’s three new fall releases by Off World, Automatisme and Jason Sharp are dropping on September 30th…  These new releases are wildly different yet satisfyingly leftfield albums that share an electric thread of sorts.  Electronic music strategies, technologies, histories and sensibilities come into play, in very diverse ways, with each of these debut records – making them stand out a little differently in the context of the Constellation catalogue perhaps, but also informing one another and making a lot of sense to our ears as an album trio (somewhat in the spirit of our Musique Fragile series).

This is the second of those three.

From the Constellation site: “Automatisme is the electronic music project of Quebec-based producer William Jourdain, who has been self-releasing a brilliant series of albums and tracks under this moniker since 2013, exploring various intersections of drone, dub techno, electronica, ambient, electro-acoustic, and noise.”

This album is, indeed, very drone, dub techno, electronica, ambient, electro-acoustic, and noise.  There are six tracks: Transport 1, 2, and 3 and Simultanéité 3, 1, and 4.  The Transport tracks are all about 5 minutes and the Simultanéité tracks are all about 9 and they are interfiled on the record.

“Transport 1” seems to be all about the thumping drums. The synth lines are fairly simple and serve to propel the song along as almost an ambient dance track.  “Simultanéité 3” opens with some mechanical drone sounds and a beeping almost like a heart monitor.  The beeps change and then a new drum beat is added while fiddling synths tickle along the top of the song.  Things slow down and speed up and the track reminds me a lot of something you’d heard on NPRs awesome Echoes program.

“Transport 2” is more about drums. There are several different percussion themes going on–fat repeated drums, the main steady beat and then some low synth that runs through pretty much the whole thing.  “Simultanéité 1” is a drone song with a drum sound that is like a heart beat.  About a minute in the note changes and 30 second later the song takes on a different texture and pulse.  It remains largely ambient for most of the song.

“Transport 3” has more percussive sounds that make this track much faster than the others. The final track “Simultanéité 4” has what sounds like voices (although I assume they are not) echoing underneath the slow pulsing rhythms.

While the track listing alternates between drum heavy tracks and more mellow tracks, the whole disc has a very chill vibe.

[READ: December 5, 2014] Sardine in Outer Space 4

Sardine is a children’s book published by First Second.  It was originally published in France (and in French) and was translated by Sasha Watson.  There are six Sardine books out.

This time the inner flap says “No Grownups Allowed (Unless they’re pirates or space adventurers),” and this book had some of my favorite cartoons yet.

“Under the Bed” has the kids getting lost under Little Louie’s bed and finding all the monsters that hide there.  But Sardine’s adventures are so scary that the monsters don’t stand a chance trying to frighten him–they’re even a little afraid of Sardine, too.  Of course the kids have someone who they can go frighten. (more…)

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dfwSOUNDTRACK: BUILT TO SPILL-Ultimate Alternative Wavers (1993).

Bts I am going to see Built to Spill this Friday.  I was supposed to see them back in 2001, but then some bad things happened in New York City and their show was cancelled (or I opted not to go–I see on Setlist that they did play that night).  Since then, I have enjoyed each new album more than the previous one, so I am really excited to see them.

I thought it would be interesting to revisit their earlier records.  In reading about the band I learned that Doug Martsch was in Treepeople (which I didn’t know and who I don’t really know at all).  I also learned that his plan for BtS was to have just him with a different line up for each album.  That didn’t quite work out, but there has been a bit of change over the years.

Their debut album is surprisingly cohesive and right in line with their newer material.  It’s not to say that they haven’t changed or grown, but there’s a few songs on here that with a little better production could easily appear on a newer album.  Martsch’s voice sounds more or less the same, and the catchiness is already present (even if it sometimes buried under all kinds of things).  And of course, Marstch’s guitar skill is apparent throughout.  The album (released on the tiny C/Z label) also plays around a lot with experimental sounds and multitracking.  When listening closely, it gives the album a kind of lurching quality, with backing vocals and guitars at different levels of volume throughout the disc.

But “The First Song” sounds like a fully formed BtS song–the voice and guitar and catchy chorus are all there..  The only real difference is the presence of the organ in the background.  “Three Years Ago Today” feels a bit more slackery–it sounds very 90s (like the irony of the cover), which isn’t a bad thing.  The song switches between slow and fast and a completely new section later in the song.  “Revolution” opens with acoustic guitars and then an occasional really heavy electric guitar riff that seems to come from nowhere.  The end of the song is experimental with weird sounds and doubled voices and even a cough used as a kind of percussion.

“Shameful Dread” is an 8 minute song.   There’s a slow section, a fast section, a big noisy section and a coda that features the guys singing “la la la la la”.  Of course the most fun is that the song ends and then Nelson from The Simpsons says “ha ha” and a distorted kind of acoustic outro completes the last two minutes.

“Nowhere Nuthin’ Fuckup” is one of my favorite songs on the record.  There’s a sound in the background that is probably guitar but sounds like harbor seals barking.  I recently learned that the lyrics are an interpretation of the Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin.”  They aren’t exactly the same but are very close for some verses.  The rest of the music is not VU at all.  In fact the chorus gets really loud and angular.  I love the way the guitars build and then stop dramatically.

“Get a Life” opens with a wild riff that reminds me of Modest Mouse (who cite BtS as an influence), but the song quickly settles down (with more multitracked voices).  I love how at around 4 minutes a big swath of noise takes over and it is resolved with a really catchy noisy end section.  “Built to Spill” starts out slow and quiet, and grows louder with a catchy chorus.  In the background there’s all kinds of noisy guitars and superfuzzed bass.

“Lie for a Lie” is pretty much a simple song with s constant riff running throughout.  The verses are catchy, but the middle section is just crazy–with snippets of guitars, out of tune piano, a cowbell and random guitar squawking and even shouts and screams throughout the “solo” section.  “Hazy” is a slow song with many a lot of soloing.  The disc ends with the nine minute “Built Too Long, Pts 1,2 and 3”  Part 1 is a slow rumbling take on a riff (with slide guitar and piano).  It last about 90 seconds before Part 2 comes in.  It has a big fuzzy bass (with a similar if not identical riff) and wailing guitar solos.  Over the course of its five or so minutes it get twisted and morphed in various bizarre ways.  With about 30 seconds left, Chuck D shouts “Bring that beat back” and the song returns, sort of, to the opening acoustic section.

While the album definitely has a lot of “immature” moments (and why shouldn’t the band have fun?) there’s a lot of really great stuff here.

btstix

[READ: September 26, 2015] Critical Insights: David Foster Wallace

It’s unlikely that a non-academic would read a book of critical insights about an author.  Of course, if you really like an author you might be persuaded to read some dry academic prose about that author’s work.  But as it turns out, this book is not dry at all.  In fact, I found it really enjoyable (well, all but one or two articles).

One of the things that makes a book like this enjoyable (and perhaps questionable in terms of honest scholarship) is that everyone who writes essays for this collection is basically a fan of DFW’s work.  (Who wants to spend years thoroughly researching an author only to say means things about him or her anyway?).  So while there are certainly criticisms, it’s not going to be a book that bashes the author.  This is of course good for the fan of DFW and brings a pleasant tone to the book overall.

For the most part the authors of this collection were good writers who avoided a lot of jargon and made compelling arguments about either the book in question or about how it connected to something else.  I didn’t realize until after I looked at the biographies of the authors that nearly everyone writing in this book was from England or Ireland.  I don’t think that makes any difference to anything but it was unexpected to have such an Anglocentric collection about such an American writer (although one of the essays in this book is about how DFW writes globally).

Philip Coleman is the editor and he write three more or less introductory pieces.  Then there are two primary sections: Critical Insights and Critical Essays. (more…)

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