Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

RIP Rose’s Turn

posted by Sarah Mucho

Rose’s Turn is the best bar ever. Any night of the week you’ll find the greatest, funniest, most talented people gathered there making music, drinking, laughing, enjoying life. This has been so for over 50 years but this Sunday, the 22 of July, 2007 it will all come to an end. Our venue for joy and mayhem is closing it’s doors for good and a much needed real estate agency will take its place. What a shame. I have had the best times of my life in that little shithole but aside from that, it’s an historic spot on an historic street and legendary performers have appeared there including Barbara Streisand, Richard Pryor and Joan Rivers. We are all losing something very dear and I encourage everyone to go this week before it’s gone just to have the experience, one that is unique to NYC or, at least, what NYC used to be. You will have the best time and you will hear some of the best talent in the city and you will be part of something special.

Rose’s Turn is located at 55 Grove St. at the corner of 7th Avenue.

July 17, 2007 Posted by | Culture, Music, New York City | 1 Comment

The Problem of Peer Review

So in recent weeks, I’ve quoted some linked articles in Alexander Cockburn’s ongoing tirade against the global warming hypothesis. Today, I finally waded through the source material of this tirade – an ongoing ‘debate’ between Monbiot and Cockburn hosted by Znet after Cockburn’s first column appeared in the Nation several months back. Bracketing any dispute I may have with Cockburn on the ‘global warming’ issue, after reading the exchanges, I can now completely understand why his columns took the direction that they did – and I have completely lost all respect for Monbiot. Let’s start at the beginning.

Let me begin this response with an admission of incompetence. I am not qualified to comment on the scientific claims made in Alexander Cockburn’s article. But nor is Cockburn qualified to make them.

George, you are a journalist who writes almost exclusively on environmentalism and environmental science. If you are not ‘qualified to comment’, you should seek another field. But this point is just the opening volley of a gross appeal to ‘experts’, to people who seem more qualified to offer their opinions simply because they have letters after their names and their writings have been ‘peer reviewed’

When a non-scientist attempts to dispute the findings of an entire body of science, a good deal of humility and a great deal of research is required. Otherwise he puts himself in the position of the 9/11 truthers.

Right, so when someone appeals to the work of scientists who disagree with the prevailing paradigm, they are immediately to be deemed conspiracy theorists who believe that no plane hit the Pentagon. Great. Got that point.

Cockburn’s article cannot be taken seriously until we have seen his list of references, and affirmed that the key claims he makes have already been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. This would not mean they are correct, though it does mean that they are worth discussing.

And we reach the point – the only science ‘worth discussing’ is that which appears in peer-reviewed journals. Before I dissect this, I would like to backtrack to one more statement made in this foray by Monbiot:

If you want to believe that HIV does not cause AIDs, you can find a professor of medicine who supports that view.

Well, given your high appraisal of peer review, I ‘d like to see the peer-reviewed article in which 1. HIV has been isolated, 2. HIV has been shown to be present in vivo in blood and fluid, 3. HIV is shown to have a clear pathogenesis resulting in AIDS, and 4. That the non-specific antibody tests for HIV actually predict an AIDS diagnosis in the absence of other factors which could result in an AIDS diagnosis. Don’t put yourself out George, Kary Mullis has been asking the HIV royalty for this ‘peer reviewed’ article for about 15 years, neither Gallo nor Montaigne have coughed it up. And for your information, some 2,500 scientists, doctors & academics have concluded from a review of the literature that HIV does not cause AIDS. There are several Nobel laureates, there are a vast array of people formerly working in the field, there are a vast array of some the most prominent scientists currently alive on that list.

Why are their opinions not worthy of grants George?

Peer Review.

I have long had issues with the ‘peer review’ system. We now seem to accept it unquestionably as the only way to vet knowledge. It wasn’t always such. And it serves a far more nefarious purpose than one would imagine. David Noble has written a great article on the history of peer review that should be a both a revelation and reiteration for anyone following science in the ensuing decades.

Led by New Deal senator Harley Kilgore they put forth a plan for a postwar National Science Foundation that emphasized lay control over science and political accountability. It was to be headed by a presidentially appointed director advised by a board whose members would include citizens representing consumers, labor, and small businesses as well as large corporations and scientists. The agency would let contracts to firms and universities on an equitable basis and would retain public ownership of all patents. Kilgore envisioned the new agency as a democratic means to socially responsive science.

This democratic proposal alarmed Bush and his elite academic and corporate colleagues who formulated a counter proposal, for National Research Foundation (later, also called the National Science Foundation). Central to this plan was an agency that guaranteed professional rather than lay control over science, was insulated from political accountability, and gave its director discretion over the awarding of patent ownership. In essence, the Bush agency was designed to guarantee public support for scientists – and, indirectly, for the corporations they served as well – without public control, a regime of science run by scientists and paid for by the taxpayer.

And

In 1950 a compromise version of the Bush bill was passed and signed by Truman, now once again under (cold)wartime exigencies. The new agency included a presidentially-appointed director but a board composed only of scientists committed to continuing the comfortable patterns established by the OSRD during the war. As a bulwark against democratic oversight and lay involvement in the awarding of scientific contracts and grants, the agency adopted a new mechanism of exclusion: “peer review.” Only peers – fellow privileged professionals, whatever their unacknowledged ties to commercial enterprise – could be involved in deciding upon the merits and agenda of science.

Hence the origin of ‘peer review’ – a political attempt to keep ‘science’ under the control of government and the corporate interests they serve. Keep that in mind the next time you ask for ‘peer reviewed sources’.

But this gets to the crux of the matter. What has this legislative dictum wrought? Precisely what we have today – a world in which the status quo is reaffirmed by grant after grant, and those doing real science, those questioning, those debating, those doing whatever they can to cobble together research that contradicts the ‘right’ ideas, are completely excluded from the ‘scientific world’. They are cranks, quacks and snake oil salesman. It doesn’t matter if they’ve won Nobel Prizes or are recognized in other ways as some of the greatest scientists of all time. They’re still heretics in the face of ‘peer review’, because their ideas don’t serve political ends. 

June 28, 2007 Posted by | Politics, Public Health, Science | 2 Comments

Peter Apfelbaum, June 16 – Jazz Gallery

posted by Lucid

I first encountered Peter Apfelbaum when I was approached by a friend of long time Trombonist Josh Roseman to record a show of theirs in 2001. I was happy to do it, as a jazz head and an amateur recordist. I loved the show & cherished the recordings. For reasons inexplicable, I hadn’t gone to a Peter Apfelbaum date since then… until this past Saturday.

Peter has not only expanded the scope of his writing, but he has expanded the scope of his band. From Berkeley in 1977 when he first made a name for the ‘Hieroglyphics’, Peter has always shown a flair for blending African, Middle Eastern and American jazz idioms into a festive stew of riveting tunes, tonalities, idiosyncrasies – and extending them in his live shows with solos nodding to everyone from Zorn to Ponty.

This band, in its current configuration, surpasses anything I’ve heard in the past. It’s a 12 piece – traps, bass, 2 guitars, violin, 6 horns [with some reeds], and Peter. The night I saw them, it was all new material – no song names, with the only pauses to introduce band members. Peter has truly become a band leader. While in the past resting on the chops of his band to execute far simpler songs, with the complexity his writing now achieves, he comes into his own directing an ensemble of formidable musicians.

For me, the high point was the amazing violin solo in the third song by Charlie Burnham. From a traditional violin sound he transformed into a Jan Hammer/John McLoughlin screaming cat with a simple use of the wah – and a facial expression that left me wandering between sex, death and ecstasy.

Peter’s new music starts from tropes similar to his older material. He is a fan of a groove that encompasses anything form North African folk to McCoy Tyner piano idiomatics, but with his expanded line up, the veritable ‘wall of horns’ produces a symphony of harmonic & rhythmic ideas that cross paths, play in their own sandbox, and come back for a dive at the public pool. The band plays polyrhythms, odd time signatures and added measures with a tightness one would expect from an orchestra.

 Peter Apfelbaum and the NY Hieroglyphics are a must see when they’re in town – and it’s a very reasonable ticket for jazz this good.

June 20, 2007 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | 7 Comments

Concert Review: Linda Draper at Cake Shop, NYC 5/26/07

Linda Draper played the cd release show for her latest and fifth effort, Keepsake. Playing solo on acoustic guitar as she virtually always does, she fingerpicked with imagination and agility and made it look effortless. She still sings with the bell-like clarity of a chorister, which she once was, but she’s utilizing her lower register more and it suits her material. As a lyricist, Draper is unsurpassed. While her new material backs away from the intricate rhyme schemes and deliciously off-the-wall metrics that were all over her last couple of albums, she hasn’t lost the ability to deliver a knockout double or triple entendre. As much as her songs tend to be melancholy, she writes mostly in major keys, and serves them up with considerable humor, even on the haunting, ghostly Traces Of, from the new album. She’s also reverted to the catchy pop sensibility of her first album, as opposed to the hypnotic fingerpicking style that she’d been mining until recently: you can hum her stuff for hours after hearing it. Despite this being Memorial Day weekend, the house was full, the audience was ecstatic and wouldn’t let her leave without an encore.

 

Kat Heyman and her rhythm section opened the show with a soporific set of generically narcissistic, tuneless Lilith fare.

May 30, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Hazmat Modine and Dr. John at the Hoboken Arts and Music Festival 5/6/07

Knowing what time the bands start at this semi-annual outdoor deepfried food festival is always a crapshoot: the schedule on the festival’s official website didn’t gybe with stagetimes the day of the show. Reportedly this is par for course. Word on the street was that Demolition String Band’s 1 PM set was excellent. Hazmat Modine took the stage at just a little after two, looking like they’d just crawled out of bed, the lot of them (and there are a lot of them: two harmonicas, trumpet, bari sax, a rhythm section with a tuba substituting for bass, and two guitarists who traded off on lapsteel and banjitar). Confined to a set that ran just over 45 minutes, there was a minimum of the expansive, frequently exhilarating soloing that they’re best known for. Instead, they worked on squeezing in as many songs as they could from their wildly psychedelic new cd Bahamut along with some road-tested crowd-pleasers. They opened with the exuberant So Glad, frontman Wade Schuman and his sparring partner, Randy Weinstein trading bluesy harmonica licks over a bouncing reggae beat. Later they did a spirited cover of the Irving Berlin novelty tune Walking Stick: while it’s easy to see this song becoming totally Sesame Street (perhaps as its creator intended it), Schuman worked the lyric’s innuendo for all it was worth. Trumpeter Pam Fleming stole the show as usual with a flamenco-flavored solo, particularly apt since the song is basically a tango. When her 12 bars were up, she paused for a second, gave a quick look to the band as if to say, “look out!” and then launched the song into the stratosphere with one of her trademark crescendos.

Though Schuman looked sleepy and wasn’t nearly as boisterous as he usually is in front of the band, he had no difficulty getting the crowd hollering, with a long, James Cotton-inflected harmonica solo that he took by himself as the band looked on, singing through the reeds as does from time to time. He also added some unusual textures by playing through a wah-wah pedal on a couple of songs. The band wound up the set with an especially terse version of the title track from the new cd, a calypso-flavored behemoth about “the largest thing that never existed,” which seems to be some kind of Borges reference. The crowd didn’t want them to leave: perhaps because Hoboken is replete with blues cover bands, this exposure to something far more authentically blues-based went over particularly well.

Afterward on the Sixth Street stage, local guitarist Karyn Kuhl and her mostly female backing band stomped through a painlessly formulaic set of punky pop with cheerleaderesque vocals and forgettable lyrics. Their best song was a minor-key blues that Kuhl said they’d never played live before.

Back to the main stage where Dr. John was headlining. He’s a hot-and-cold performer: when the mood strikes him, especially in a small club, he can be electrifying, but he’s just as likely to take the money and phone it in, especially at an outdoor festival. Happily, the Night Tripper was in a particularly dark and stormy mood, the result being a fiery, impassioned, hourlong show. Before launching into the two-part post-Katrina salute to his hometown, Sweet Home New Orleans, he berated the audience to give their money only to smallscale charities: “With the big ones, the money disappears before it gets there.” A bit later he did a bristling, impressively fresh take on the old standard St. James Infirmary Blues that he ended by pounding out the opening hook from the famous Grieg A Minor prelude.

“We call ourselves Dr. John and the Lower 9/11th,” he told the crowd. He posed the rhetorical question of why they’d continue to dwell on something the rest of the world has pretty much forgotten: we’re tough customers, he said: “We carry a grudge.” This was still a party (it’s always a party when the Doctor is in town), but a defiant celebration delivered in minor keys. No Iko Iko: we got Gris-Gris instead and it was clear that Mr. Rebennac felt like he wanted to hoodoo someone. At the end of the show they lightened up a bit, the drummer showing off his collection of funk beats before bringing Dr. John back to the stage for the encores.

Despite a degree of disorganization, the Hoboken Arts & Music Festival always has some first-rate performers on the bill: the Moonlighters, Patti Smith, Mary Lee’s Corvette and Laura Cantrell have all recently played there, and it’s safe to say that this fall’s lineup should be a good one.

May 7, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Adam Masterson at Banjo Jim’s, NYC 5/1/07

So often the best shows are the ones you never expect to see. The only reason I was there was because a friend of mine was tending bar and invited me down to alleviate the boredom on what was to soon become a slow rainy night.We had the place to ourselves til Adam Masterson showed up. Neither one of us had any idea of what to expect and cynic that I am, I expected the worst. After screwing around with the soundboard for half an hour, the bartender and I finally got it up and running, soundchecked the guy and then kicked back with a beer. The club was empty except for us: Masterson’s crowd was depleted since he’d played a gig the previous night.

He piqued our interest during soundcheck: to say that his guitar skills are a cut above your average performer is faint praise, in this post-grunge era, but he impressed with his sense of melody and the licks he threw in between chords. Then he took a seat at the piano and showed us a rolling, gospel-inflected chordal style. He launched into his set before anyone else got to the bar.

Two hours and three sets later, he’d made a fan of everyone who’d braved the rain. What a discovery this guy is: you should see him. He’s British, sounding a lot like a young, pre-delirium tremens Shane MacGowan, casting himself as an acoustic punk gutter poet of sorts. Most of his vivid, hook-driven tales of life among the down-and-out take place in “twisted nightmare alleys past rotten rags and half-chewed chicken bones,” to quote a line from one of his songs. He delivers them in a hoarse, soul-inflected voice (which rang especially true on a rousing cover of Sam Cooke’s Change Is Gonna Come).

The first of the night’s two best songs was a surprise cover of the obscure Clash b-side Gates of the West (available on the Super Black Market Clash anthology), an apt choice for an expatriate. He didn’t do it note for note with the original, but the bittersweet longing of someone who made it “from Camden Town Station to 44th and 8th” and still feels like an outcast here rang true.

The other was his strongest original, a brilliantly catchy portrait of dejection and despair in the London slums. While Masterson’s lyrics generally express optimism despite all odds, this haunting story of a junkie, his prostitute girlfriend and their sketchy neighborhood doesn’t end well: To his credit, Masterson could have gone all mawkish and romanticized it, but he didn’t.

In what amounted to about two hours onstage, he did several other impressive originals (sometimes more than once for the sake of latecomers), including the fiery Can’t Control Myself and My Only Way Out; Avenue Walk (a piano song that could be a dead ringer for a swinging, country-inflected Sam Llanas Bodeans hit); Metropolitan, a London cityscape set to a rolling piano melody, and the 6/8 cabaret blues The Actress, which casts drugs as an actress who’s always there for the “show, show, show.” Mighty good stuff. Masterson is a rock band type at heart, but he’s a passionate performer and an uncommonly intelligent songwriter and for that reason very much worth seeing play solo. Fitting that I’d see this guy for the first time on a rainy night in what used to be a slum. Masterson has a demo cd that’s worth taking home for the songs even if it doesn’t capture the fire of his live performance.

May 4, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

White House Mulls Deal With News Corp

The LC Wire has learned from a senior administration official that Rupert Murdoch’s company, News Corp., is currently negotiating a deal with the Bush administration for the purchase of the United States. The official stated, “Both the Bush administration and Rupert Murdoch have long shared the belief that a country is most prosperous when run as a corporation and when reflecting on the difficulties this administration has faced in its 6 years, a meeting between Bush and top Cabinet officials concluded this end could best be achieved if the US were actually owned by a corporation.” When asked by the LC Wire whether this would stand up to scrutiny in the courts, the official responded, “Given the favorable rulings the courts have given on Corporate law in recent years, the Administration is confident that such a merger would be upheld, even by the Supreme Court.”

When News Corp was reached for comment, the head spokesman for the company stated, “This is a boon for both the American people and the investors in News Corp.” When queried over concerns about the debt to profitability ratio currently enshrouding the US economy, he continued, “This was an area of concern from the get go. But our top corporate raiders have devised a number of proposals to address both the current debt faced by the US and the stagnant areas of its economy. We have been in negotiations with the five remaining national banks in the US who have agreed to form a conglomerate. With the restructuring of US bankruptcy law in recent years, it will then be possible for this conglomerate to administer a ‘debt prison’ system. Most lower and middle class Americans and their families will fall under their jurisdiction. This will allow us to create a huge pool of slave labor by which we can make American products competitive once again on the international market. Further, as this “debt prison” system will likely reduce the average lifespan of “debt prisoners” below the retirement age it will be possible to eliminate the Social Security and Medicare systems and replace them with a ‘slave bond’ program covering wage earners outside the “debt prison” system. These upstanding citizens will have 15% of their earnings invested each year in “slave bonds” to be administered by the banking conglomerate. Upon maturity these “slave bonds” will insure that upstanding citizens will have enough funds to live a comfortable retirement.” He added, “We are also considering outlawing vagrancy which will bring most of the non-working poor under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system. This dramatic increase in prisoners will create a large economic sector for the employ of the working poor as prison guards and policemen. It will also serve to continually replenish our military stock which will be integral to defending News Corp’s interests around the globe.”

When the LC Wire inquired as to how these proposals would attain Congressional approval, the spokesman stated, “News Corp has invested a lot of money over the years in Congressional politics. Both the Republican Party and the DLC are now wholly owned subsidiaries of News Corp. We don’t anticipate any problems. In fact Senators Biden and McConnell have already introduced bi-partisan legislation in the Senate to enact some of these proposals in the “America Works Act of 2007”. We expect similar legislation to be introduced in the House shortly.”

Moments after the conversation with the News Corp spokesman, the LC Wire received a short press release from Rupert Murdoch himself stating, “I think the United States can become a very properous division of News Corp. The arms, energy and pharmaceutical sectors are performing remarkably well, and our proposals to shore up the stagnant areas of the US economy are remarkably solid and far-sighted. I’m sure that News Corps investors will see wonderful dividends from this acquisition.”

The White House has scheduled a press briefing tonight presumably outlining the details of the merger.

May 1, 2007 Posted by | snark | 5 Comments

CD Review: Radio Birdman – Zeno Beach

Volcanic comeback album by these legendary Australian garage punks that mixes a violent apocalypticism with a handful of black humor-driven, traditional garage rock numbers that sometimes veer to the goofy side. For three years in the late 70s, there was no better band on the planet. Driven by lead guitarist Deniz Tek’s maniacal Middle Eastern-inflected playing over a pummeling surf beat, Radio Birdman’s first two studio albums set the standard for uncompromising, raw, fast rock. Influenced by the Stooges, MC5, Blue Oyster Cult, Doors (you should hear the bootleg of their cover of LA Woman) and Ventures, they burned from 1976 to 1980 when Tek left the band for the Air Force and two of the remaining members spun off into the New Christs. Radio Birdman’s releases after the initial breakup are a mixed bag: the mix of alternate versions of songs from their classic 1979 album Radios Appear, including a couple of deliriously good outtakes, is a masterpiece; their 1997 live album, recorded at one of their annual reunion concerts in Australia, found the band lost in a maze of Marshall stacks and high-tech gear, their signature raw power blunted by a booming sound system. This, then is their real comeback, and it’s pretty amazing. With the exception of the new drummer, these guys are in their fifties now and can still outplay and out-write just about any band out there.  

As with their best work, it’s an eerie, death-defying ride. Just a glance at the song titles proves they haven’t lost their dark vision. You Just Make It Worse. Remorseless. Found Dead. Die Like April. Hungry Cannibals. Locked Up. This is desperate stuff; the rage that drove them in 1979 hasn’t dissipated one iota. The album kicks off with We’ve Come So Far (To Be Here Today), sounding nothing like the Grateful Deadly title might imply: it’s a blast of chromatic, minor-key fury, fueled by the twin guitars of Tek and Chris Masuak (who’s become a brilliant lead player in his own right), and organist Pip Hoyle. The album’s next track is a surprisingly trad garage riff-rocker, something that would sound perfectly at home on a good Lyres record. Next we get the haunting, aptly titled Remorseless: the tension of this burning, funereal midtempo song never lets up. After that’s over, Found Dead continues in the same vein. Connected explores reincarnation, a topic Tek has addressed in his solo work. The impressively ornate, artsy Die Like April builds off a hook that sounds suspiciously similar to something by their Aussie compatriots the Church. Heyday takes a Beatles lick and does pretty much the same thing.

 

Eventually it’s back to the nuevo-60s garage feel with the tracks If You Say Please and Hungry Cannibals, the latter of which brings some welcome comic relief. But it’s black humor, it doesn’t last long and you get the feeling that just maybe, the band might not be joking after all. After that, Locked Up is a scorching, Stooges-inflected riff-rocker; then the album winds up with two uncharacteristically sunny tunes, both by keyboardist Hoyle. The Brotherhood of Al Wazah riffs on Middle East terrorism, and the title cut works both as a tribute to a good surf beach and a warning that we could all be On the Beach.

 

Frontman Rob Younger no longer comes across as the Australian Iggy Pop; the oldest member of the band, he’s come to sound eerily like another Australian rock legend, guitarist/songwriter Marty Willson-Piper from the Church. You wouldn’t think a voice like that would necessarily work with such a ferocious band behind it, but it does. Descend into the maelstrom with these guys if you dare. One of the best albums of the decade so far, end of story.

April 26, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

With Static and Perception

When a party to your aggression,
We pass it off
As a cocktail hour parfait,
The delicate whipped cream
Accenting a Dijonaise.

When a party to your aggression,
We flinch,
Drawn taut.
We flail
In the peppered afterthought
Of your goose liver pate.

When a party to your aggression,
There is a bangbang
A shot you think is true.
Cutting flesh
Like flesh cuts you.

But these fantasies are just that.
The ghosts of culture
The Gladstone of the Frontier
The historic yearning
For a past without fear.

Our reality
Asks something more.
With static,
And perception
Our peace is here..

April 19, 2007 Posted by | Culture, philosophy, poetry, Politics | Leave a comment

Lucid Culture.

What is it? What was it? What could it be?

In ancient Greece, there was an early chthonic cult that insinuated itself into Greek culture as it evolved: the cult of the Charities. The Charities had their hands in many things: music, education, recognition, beauty, and yes, morality. But the way in which this early cult ultimately came to celebration was with the idea of charis, grace. Its most direct referent is ‘light’ – precisely to alight the physical form, a light that makes the physical form beautiful. But this ‘alighting’ of the physical is also more an ‘illumining’ of the physical. Grace lets us intuit beyond what is immediately seen and into what ruminates behind – the beauty of action, of conviction, social interaction – and the motivation of history. And further, grace elucidates, it begs intellectual enlightenment, it asks the deepest questions and seeks the deepest answers.

To be lucid [alighted], means to have grace. To seek a lucid culture, means to approach it with grace.

To that end, we will cater to the Charities. We will promote and review music, as that is the basis of all chthonic cults, toward a lucidite of artist and audience. We will attempt to alight culture and politics beyond the moribund silliness of ‘Hollywood Stories’. We will try to promote and make art which illuminates our lives in the present age. We will do our best to elucidate.

To make lucid.

To contribute to a lucid culture.

April 4, 2007 Posted by | Art, Culture, Literature, Music, philosophy, Politics | 27 Comments

   

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