Alex Chesbro's Blog

Blog Promoting

May 13, 2009
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I added a new link, for those of you who are interested, to Bad Astronomy, one of my favorite blogs.  I’ve been fascinated with science and the universe since I was a little kid, and this blog just fosters and encourages my curiosity.

I implore anyone remotely interested in skepticism, astronomy, or science in general to check it out.  There are some amazing photos and great posts every day.  Thanks to the Bad Astronomer for helping me out on my quest to “learn something new every day!”

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The best Taxi ride

May 13, 2009
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Just a quickie here (as promised).  Just saw this on AdFreak, a great TV spot with AMAZING copywriting.  It’s a spot for MoMA.  Click here to see it on AdFreak’s site, but I’ll try to embed it here…bear with me, it’s my 1st time.

The ad is done  by Taxi, a Canadian agency with its lone US office in NYC.  I’m going to assume the ad was done by the NYC office.  Anyway, the copywriting is amazing in this, and I can only hope that it claims at least some sort of award.  They’re a smaller creative shop like Strawberry Frog, however without the lame-ass name.  They were named Canada’s best agency last year and a few years past, so yeah, they’re good.

Nothing left to say, let the words speak for me.


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I Miss My Bike

May 12, 2009
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So the Giro d’Italia started a few days ago.  It’s Lance Armstrong’s 1st time riding it, and he’s going to do well.  Probably won’t win, but hopefully his teammate Levi Leipheimer will.  Right now, after Stage 4, Armstrong is in 6th, and Levi is in 5th.  So far so good.  But it’s the Grand Tours that really get me thinking.  And missing.  My.  Bike.

See, I used to be in great shape.  I wasn’t always a rolling ball of Prosciutto.  I played soccer in high school, and somewhat dominated the 400 hurdles in my section (not state…those bastards were FAST!).  Then in college at American University, I discovered cycling.  I saw a poster on the wall for the team and was like, “hey, what the hell, how hard can it be?  I used to run for a quarter mile as fast as I possibly could while jumping over 3-foot-high planks of wood.”

Damn.  If I’ve ever been wrong in my life, it was then.  Racing bikes is by far the hardest sport I’ve ever done (soccer, rugby, track, bowling).  At that time, AU’s team was small…maybe 10 or 12 dedicated people who fostered and encouraged everyone, including me.  I was definitely not in “bike shape.”  I was in “soccer shape,” and those are 2 totalllllly different things.  But anyway, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them from the bottom of my heart for encouraging me and helping me train for the season that I was able to race.  It’s an experience I’ll never forget.  And I’d like to take the time to say congratulations to the current team, which is even bigger and better than when I left.  

Sorry about the digression.  I got a great deal on a Cannondale R1000 (great entry race bike, btw) thanks to the partnership with Cannondale and City Bikes.  If you’re ever in DC and need a bike or a bike fixed…go to City Bikes.  It was then I fell in love.  The training rides were tough, because I wasn’t in bike fitness, but I persevered.  Then over spring break we went to Boone, NC to bike through the mountains for a training camp.  You can read about my time there here on my old blog.

It wasn’t until after the school year was over that I really got into training and riding a lot.  When I got home to Virginia at my parents house, in the 3 or 4 months before I left for study abroad, I would go out and ride just about every day.  Some people go to the gym.  I woke up and went on a 2 or 3 hour bike ride.  It was glorious.  The wind in your face, sun shining.  Hell, I didn’t let rain stop me either.  Sometimes, I would wait until 1pm to go for a ride, so I could improve my tan lines.  Yes, I shaved my legs.  I’ll admit…I grew to like them.  There’s nothing like putting on a freshly washed pair of jeans on freshly shaved legs.  Or crawling into bed with freshly washed sheets and freshly shaved legs. I had those horribly awesome tan lines.  It was amazing.

There’s absolutely nothing like biking up a mountain and pushing through the constant burning pain in your legs for an hour or so.  But the reward is waiting for you at the top.  Because the only thing better than loving the pain, is the ride back down. There’s nothing better than bombing down a descent at 40 or 50 mph with nothing between you and a bad case of road rash but a 25mm piece of rubber.  It’s heaven on earth.  I haven’t gone skydiving yet, but I’m going to assume going 50mph downhill on a bike ranks a close second to that.

I miss my bike.  I had to sell it to make it to Germany this winter.  I wish I could just saddle up and go out on a ride right now.  I know it would get me back into shape.  But I was spoiled by that bike.  I don’t have $2,000 to spend on a bike that I would ride every day, and I really don’t want to settle for anything less.  I want to sprint at 30mph on a nice flat road.  Draft behind cars.  Climb hills and mountains that I would never think I’d make it up.  I don’t care how long it would take me.  Because I would have accomplished that.  

So it’s with those discombobulated thoughts that I leave you with a plea.  Watch the Giro, or the Tour de France.  Those skinny guys in spandex riding their bikes, they’re working harder than you ever have at any sport.  They don’t ride for 3 hours and stop.  Some of the stages are pushing 200 miles.  And the Grand Tours last for a month, with only 2 or 3 rest days.  I mean, the Tour de France is almost 3,000 miles long.  You do the math.  Anyway, I love cycling, and thanks to the guys at AU, I always will.

I think I miss the tan lines the most.

I leave you finally with what seems to be the only picture I have from my racing days.  I’m behind the colossal Asian guy, getting ready to pull around him.  He had crashed early in the race, and we worked together to catch back up to the pack with 7 laps left.  We sat with the pack, and he crashed again, fuckin’ up our chances of placing in the top 10.  We shoulda just kept pounding it out.  Oh well.  Great times. Thanks for reading.

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P.S.    Sorry the last 2 posts have been really long.  I just can’t wrap up my love for cycling in a few paragraphs.  I promise I’ll have some shorter posts coming up.


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Touchy Subjects

May 11, 2009
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I read some unsettling news on Yahoo! today.  John Demjanjuk, the suspected Nazi guard at the Sobibor camp, could possibly be deported by Tuesday.  I think this is the wrong decision.  I will explain later, but now, let me clarify things. The Holocaust was a terrible time in history.  World War II defined the 20th centuries and the atrocities that could happen, lest people stop them.  I believe that the Nurnburg Trials were shoddy, almost a Kangaroo Court, but the outcome was the correct outcome.  Genocide is not something good, obviously, and in no way do I support any Nazi ideals, racism, or anything of that sort. 

That said, Demjanjuk got a raw deal.  Why?  The man is 89 years old. 

This may run long, but I’ll try to summarize as much as possible.  Demjanjuk arrived in the USA in 1952 and was granted citizenship 1958.  Then in 1977 evidence surfaced that he had been a guard at Sobibor and various other Nazi Death Camps.  He was identified by various Jewish survivors in group photos and such.  This alone should not have been hard evidence, but it was treated as such.  So in 1983 Israel issued an extradition request to put Demjanjuk on trial.  They had compiled legitimate evidence that he had served as a guard at Sobibor and Treblinka, where he was called “Ivan the Terrible.”  The prosecution provided written evidence of who he was and that he had, in fact, been a guard.

In 1988, Demjanjuk was found guilty of all charges and sentenced to death.  This verdict was obviously appealed and sent to the Supreme Court of Israel.  The Supreme Court overturned all guilty charges.  That ruling was an astounding 405 pages.  Quoting the ruling:   The main issue of the indictment sheet filed against the appellant was his identification as Ivan the Terrible, an operator of the gas chambers in the extermination camp at Treblinka … By virtue of this gnawing [new evidence indicating mistaken identity] … we restrained ourselves from convicting the appellant of the horrors of Treblinka. Ivan Demjanjuk has been acquitted by us, because of doubt, of the terrible charges attributed to Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka. This was the proper course for judges who cannot examine the heart and mind, but have only what their eyes see and read.”

So, a strong possibility that he wasn’t Ivan the Terrible.  Personally, I doubt that he was.  I think he was a collaborator, not a driving force.  

So, getting to the grindstone.  Whether or not this man was a guard is clear: he was.  Ok..that’s not a crime in itself, as there were many SS guards at Nazi camps, and many of them were never brought to trial.  Whether or not this man was Ivan the Terrible is still up for debate.  Whether or not this man is guilty of war crimes, however, should not be.  He was basically found NOT GUILTY by….Israel.  Since this was before the time of the ICC, they should have had the last say in the matter, as it was their people/race who were the focus of the genocide against them.

But now, with Demjanjuk pushing 90 years of age, Germany wants to put him on trial.  How this isn’t double-jeopardy is beyond me.  Besides the fact that it’s a separate country, you’d think international lawyers would just try to show an 89 year old man some respect in his last years of his life.  He’s more or less confined to a wheelchair and in constant pain.  What could there possibly be to gain from getting a guilty verdict against an old man.  There have to be some other criminals for them to go after, if you can even consider Demjanjuk a criminal, which I don’t.

I believe his case can be likened to that of Adolf Eichmann’s.  If you’ll remember, Eichmann was tried under the assumption that he was the “architect of the Holocaust.”  Wrong.  Eichmann was a bean counter, and he was only invited to the Wansee Conference to be a recorder of minutes.  At that meeting, Eichmann was given the job of “Transportation Administrator” of the Final Solution.  He was in charge of the trains.  

The psychology of Eichmann is far too deep to go into here, but he was a hard worker who joined the Nazi Party in order to build a career, and he was, in every sense of the word, a loyal person.  He was just loyal to the wrong side.  His final words were, “I had to obey the rules of war and my flag.”  And that’s possibly the greatest thing we can take away from his situation.  Hannah Arendt said he showed no trace of an antisemitic personality or of any psychological damage to his character. She called him the embodiment of the “Banality of Evil“, as he appeared at his trial to have an ordinary and common personality, displaying neither guilt nor hatred.  Stanley Milgram later said that if put in the right situation, even normal people will do terrible things.

2 normal people allegedly did horrible things.  We’ll never know because of the shadings of revisionist history.  

Back to Demjanjuk.  He was acquitted by the People who he was allegedly set out to eliminate.  Not guilty.  If he truly participated in running the ovens, instead of being just a guard, he’s had to live with that his whole life.  That in itself is punishment enough for this 89 year old man.  Nothing will be gained from trying him, or sentencing him to death this late in the game.  

In writing this, I lost my train of thought and forgot the conclusion I was going to write.  So I’ll let you draw your own, and maybe I’ll remember mine and edit it in here.  This could have been a lot longer, but hopefully the links help educate whoever reads this into exploring different alternatives to “everyone who did anything in Nazi Germany was an evil person.”  Because that’s just not the case.  

Thanks to whoever slogs through this.


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Divorces and Advertising

May 6, 2009
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How much would it cost an agency to divorce themselves from an advertising holding company?  It’s a financial conundrum.  What is the agency worth to the holding company (HC)?  Is that dependent on the cost of their billings?  The amount of their returns?  The revenue that they generate for their clients?  Or is it dependent on earning plus the debt load of the agency, or even a shared portion of the debt load of the holding company?

 

I ask because it bothers me that WPP is planning on eliminating around 6% of its workforce over the course of this year.  That’s around 7,200 people, according to the Financial Times article.  This new round of layoffs will occur mainly in the USA and Europe.  The 1st round of layoffs that happened in the first quarter of the year eliminated around 10% of WPP’s workforce across the board, while the upper management continues to shovel in the dough.  JWT even closed its Chicago office completely in the wake of the recession.

 

So what would it take?  More than a few people have their reservations about Ogilvy & Mather head Miles Young, but the man can make the big decisions.  How ballsy would he have to get to go to Martin Sorrell, the head of WPP, and tell him, “Hey, shove it up your ass, we’re going to go back to do what we used to do: Great Advertising.”  

 

Large agencies like Ogilvy have more than somewhat declined in their output since being acquired by holding companies like WPP.  It’s not that their output hasn’t decreased, or that they’re not winning awards (self-congratulating industry glitz), but many believe that large agencies are tending towards somewhat ineffective advertising.  

 

Isn’t that the reason ad agencies get hired in the 1st place?  To drive sales for their clients.  Isn’t that why we’re in this business? Because we have an inherent desire to be creative and helpful at the same time?  Or is it to make big money while producing mediocre work?

 

It’s not something to be taken lightly.  Clients can dispose of their agency whenever they want to, really.  It’s rare, yet not unheard of, for an agency to get rid of a client when they’re less than agreeable.  But an agency cutting itself off from a holding company?  That’d be something to watch.  

 

 

wpp-graphic-415x439


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Hey, I’ve Got a Great Idea for a Movie…

May 4, 2009
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(Scene opens on a full conference room of  Studio Execs)

Pitch Man:  Ok, so I’ve got this great idea for a new romantic comedy.  I know you’re really hurting for an infusion of that Rom-Com cash.  So we’re going to cast some hot people.  People that are really hot right now.  Matthew McConaughey and that fox Kate Beckinsale.  That should be some sticky action right there.  And to top it off, we’re going to bring in the talent of Gary Oldman and Patricia Arquette.

Studio Exec:  Hmm.  I like what I hear so far.  Those are some big names.  What’s the plot?

PM:  Ok, so Beckinsale is this famous painter, right?  But she’s really independent.  That’s something the women in the audience can relate to, ya know?  Gotta show some strength to these women.  So, right, she’s this talented painter.  Matthew walks into her studio one day and is just so taken with her that he wants to take her out, do all that Rom-Com crap that we all know.  And Beckinsale finds herself falling in love with him.

SE:  Ok, this could be good.  2 big names so far, sturdy plot.  Make it exciting. 

PM:  Right, so.  After a while, Beckinsale gets knocked up.  That throws a real wrench in the psyche of the audience.  Makes them connect with the characters a little more, because, y’know, they’ve gotta work to keep it together, all that good shit.  But there’s something, well, different about Matthew’s character that we just can’t get at.  Something nagging that we don’t get until his father shows up.

SE:  His father?  Would that be Oldman?

PM:  Correct.  Oldman walks in one day, and just surprises the hell outta Beckinsale.

SE:  Wait.  How can a father just show up and surprise someone that much?

PM:  Wait for it.  Matthew is the only regular-sized person in a family of dwarves.

SE:  Hold please.  Dwarves?  Like…little people?

PM:  Exactly.  Gary Oldman’s character is a dwarf.  Matthew is his son.  So you can imagine that this wreaks Pearl Harbor-level panic in Beckinsale when she starts to think about how her unborn child might be a dwarf.  So she grows apart from Matthew because she thinks he lied to her, and she starts to rely on Oldman more to come to grips and an understanding about the life her child might lead.  Then everything is Rom-Comish in the end, and it’s all hunky-dory.

SE:  Do we have to cast a dwarf for Oldman?

PM:  No, we’ll just have Oldman on his knees the whole time, and tie his arms behind his back.

SE:  Ah.  Greenlight that for a DVD.

 

(END SCENE)

And so it goes…for the upcoming movie review of an unnamed movie.  Although, I’m sure if you Googled “Gary Oldman, Dwarf,” you’d shit yourself in anticipation.

 

midgetwrestling


In the News of WTF…

April 29, 2009
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I read a lot of news.  Washington Post, NYT, Colbert Report, the good stuff.  I have a saying, “learn something new every day,” and I try to stick by that, whether it be a new German word, or determining the Red Shift of Gamma Ray Bursts (GRB).  Like, a few days ago, a GRB was detected that happened over 13.1 BILLION YEARS AGO.  At that point, the universe was only like 600 million or so years old, and the only planets that existed were maybe some gas giants; there weren’t enough heavy elements to create harder, earth-like planted at that time.  But I digress…

Obviously, I come across some weird shit.  Weird, ginger-head shit.  Some of it’s just off-the-wall ridiculous.  But some of it is comically serious.  This article borders on taking the gold for today.    Really? No, really?  Because pork is “outlawed” in Judaism and Islam, the term “Swine Flu” is OFFENSIVE?  No, no, I’m sorry, that’s not how it works. Maybe if the name were “Delicious bacon-wrapped influenza,” they’d have some case, but as it stands, this is patently retarded.  Rename it “Mexican Flu” they say.  Hey dickwads, you think by naming something after Mexicans is going to make anything better?  It’s like taking “Ebola” as offensive, since it denigrates the sanctity of the Ebola River and naming it “Africa’s Dark Curse.” See, that just doesn’t work.

Another story that rattled my bones was this one.  Ok, that’s a good law to have: Don’t fuck animals.  Not because it can lead to sexual crimes on humans, but because it’s just straight fucked up.  Florida is one of the 16 (soon to be 15) states that don’t have a law against porking (PUN) animals.  However, read down a little bit.  The law won’t apply to veterinarians.  That’s kinda screwed up.  I think it’d be funny if there were this rash of vets just banging the shit out of family pets. The local news does a little investigative reporting, and these are all people who are sex offenders, or something of that sort.  But they’re within the law!!  SCANDAL!  (Imagine this conversation: “Well, I’m going to have to do some surgery on Fido.  *under breath* With my dick.”

So yeah, my day is pretty much WTF right about now.  I could use something that would make it FTW.

fail-owned-hat-tan-fail


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Suggestions, Suggestions

April 29, 2009
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As I contemplate my future, I can’t help but contemplate my past. Why? Because it stares me right in the face whenever I log into Facebook.  Nobu had a good comment on Ari’s post a few days back, about keeping in ‘contact’ with people you might normally not hear from until your 10 year reunion.  

I remember when Facebook first came out.  I was a sophomore at American University.  At that point, not a whole lot of people were on it, as it was just for students.  “How fucking cool!” I remember saying.  It was a way to connect with people from classes, get the homework, post some incriminating pictures…you know, the good stuff.  Then, as more and more schools were added, people from High School started popping up.  Now, this isn’t a bad thing.  I know these people.  But, if it were not for Facebook, I would never be in any sort of contact with them, because I just wouldn’t want to.  But that’s not the most troubling thing.

The most troubling thing started happening just a few months ago.  Maybe longer, but with the new site redesigns, they’re more prominent.  

Those.  Suggestions.

With all the “friends,” come all their “likes.”  You can become a “Fan” of something as mundane as God, or Summer.  Now, Facebook has a ton of metadata with which to work.  It’ll hone your user data to pinpoint certain ads to you, things like that.  My question is, why the fuck can’t they do that with the Suggestions?  Every morning, it’s the same thing.  “Here’s some new suggestions we shat in your direction.”  Summer, God, New Years, Oswego, Harborfest, Ice cream, the list just goes on.

I’m sorry, I’m ranting.  I don’t like these suggestions.  When I think of suggestions, I think of constructive criticism.  Not useless crap. I wish Facebook was Old Facebook.  OG Facebook.


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Old And New

April 27, 2009
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I’ve decided to mock up some old stuff from Miami, and some new stuff from boredom.  

Liquid Paper: Everyone Makes Mistakes

My goal here is to show, well, the headline.  Everyone makes mistakes, duh.  The German people of the 1930s.  The American people of the early 2000s.  Humanity circa 2000 B.C.  I’m taking suggestions for more “mistakes,” but they have to be a) humorous once applied to the page, and b) huge.

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liquid-paper-22

 

 

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And then there was the assignment to write copy like the great Tate museum ads.  If I remember correctly, our job was to write about one major piece of work, but I can’t be certain.  All I know is I offended Catholics everywhere.  So my goal was met, more or less.

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And for those of you who don’t know the sculpture (you should learn more…)….

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Update:  Here’s another “Tate” ad for the Art Institute of Chicago.  I hate Cy Twombly

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Monday Music Mania!

April 20, 2009
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So it’s Monday.  I’ve got no ambition to do anything right now, so I hope it shows in my prose.

The Virgins:

the_virgins

If I had to describe the type of music The Virgins play, I could do it.  Think of a mature Strokes.  Or think if the Strokes and Jet had an affair and the Strokes got pregnant, but since the Strokes were having an affair with Paolo Nuttini on the side, and also cheated with the upstrokes of Vampire Weekend, and somewhere in there would be the bastard love-child named The Virgins.  It’s good music.  I’d usually label something like this as NYC-post-punk-garage-rock, but the stylings are a little more produced than something like that.  “Rich Girls” is their big hit, it seems, and it’s alright.  I’m more a fan of “She’s Expensive,” or “Hey Hey Girl,” but every song on this album is a treat unto itself.  Grade: B+, only because I think they lyrics could use more punch, and the album lacks some kind of total power or driving force.

Lilly Allen: It’s Not Me, It’s You

lilyitsnotmesleeve

I haven’t had a chance to listen to this all the way through, but on first skip throughs, it’s a solid album.  It’s catchy, for sure, but I can’t recommend it beyond something to play at either a party, or to set your iTunes to shuffle and enjoy a song that pops up.  It might not be good to listen to all the way, through, but that’s probably just because it’s not really my kind of music.  For those of you who love English accents, don’t mind over-produced beats, and dig chick music, this is for you.  For those of you who like Kate Nash, this isn’t for you. Grade: C

We Are Hunted

hunted_logo

Holy shit, this is my new favorite toy.  This is Billboard for the digital generation.  Hell, this blows Billboard out of the water, and has the possibility of changing the way we rank music forever.  It scours message boards, social networks, and other interactive social media and aggregates what the people are saying, and ranks the songs based on what’s being said.  

To quote: “We Are Hunted aggregates music based on semantic elements like positive sentiment, expression, and advocacy across social networks, forums, music blogs, torrents, P2P networks, and — yes of course — TwitterTwitter reviews. The end result is 99 songs that the social web has proclaimed worthy of listening to.”

It’s grabbing info from a ton of places.  Especially considering Twitter, that seems it’d be a lot of information.  Whatever their algorithm, it sure works.  It’s a great place to discover new music.  I really, really hope, with all my heart, that this site takes off and kicks Billboard’s ass.  Billboard is just the stank from the old generation of music, and it’s time to move on to something that’s more user-defined.  Isn’t that what we’re all looking for anyway?  Grade: A++

Update:::

One Night Only: Started a Fire

one-night-only-started-a-fire-2008

I just got this album after reading about it in March’s issue of Interview Magazine.  Started in 2003, One Night Only’s name was supposed to last, well, one night only.  It was the name they came up with for a one-night gig.  And it stuck, and lucky us.  I generally shy away from Indie rock, because most Indie rock blows more than a truck stop hooker on a Friday night.  I think these guys would too, except that for one addition: a keyboard player who actually knows how to play his instrument.

There’s some 1st and 3rd wave ska upbeat guitars.  Some post-punk strumming.  1960s drumbeats.  1990s synth-keyboards.  Catchy vocals: “You and me, equality, that’s how it should be, you and me.”  “You and Me” is the song used in the London 2012 Olympics viral video.  

This is a great album.  I can’t stress enough how…upbeat this album is in comparison to some other “Indie Rock” out there.  This makes Indie Rock look like the shit you get your friends together in your basement for.  

Grade: A


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