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-- February 16, 2018 --

Let It Be Known

My new fanzine, titled Musica Obscura, is out in a limited edition of 100 signed, and numbered, copies.

It collects over 15 different in depth articles on bizarre and rare music from around the world. Topics include the hatred against the early punk scene, the co-optation of underground ideas, postmodernist thought in contemporary music, plus brief histories to the Luk Thung music of Thailand, Cambodia's 60s scene, the transgendered in music, and sex records. It also comes with a free disc of 130+ mp3s, so you can listen as you read.
$6 with postage paid. Make contact for copies.

 

 

-- February 02, 2018 --

Bringing Down the Hammer

In 2005, a Boston, MA group claiming to be a branch of Fred Phelp's hateful Westboro Baptist Church opened a Yahoo Group "GodHatesGoths". Calling themselves The Church of the Hammer (after the 1480 anti-witchcraft treatise Malleus Maleficarum, which translates as "the Hammer of Witches"), they were led by a Reverend Green, and soon had a web presence with the URL godhatesgoths.com. Their message was simple, and laid out in their 16 point plan:

Kill people who don't listen to priests.
Kill witches.
Kill homosexuals.
Kill fortune tellers.
Death for hitting dad.
Death for cursing parents.
Death for adultery.
Death for fornication.
Death to followers of other religions.
Kill nonbelievers.
Kill false prophets.
Kill the entire town if one person worships another god.
Kill women who are not virgins on their wedding night.
Death for blasphemy.
Infidels and gays should die.
Kill people for working on the Sabbath.

This list set off alarms in the FBI that year, and agents were sent to investigate.

Though their website openly admitted many acts of terrorism (such as a night club arson, and poisoning an entire group shelter in the group's original home state of Colorado), law enforcement had trouble tracking down members. This shadowy group, who also went under the names Parents Against Goth Movement, and God's Hammer Baptist Church, was hard to trace. Even the nefarious Reverend Green was impossible to find, as records for the assault charges he bragged of were nonexistent. It almost seemed like the whole thing could have been one big joke.
Sometime in 2006, one of the agents decided to read the church's entire website, and found a disclaimer in the "About Us" page, stating it was all satire. The Bureau could take no chances, and kept working hard on the case, but a full two years after opening files on The Church of the Hammer (July, 2007), they shut down the operation, admitting they'd been had.

I wonder how much of our tax dollars went into this embarrassing operation?

 

 

-- January 18, 2018 --

Some Call Him the Space Cowboy

When Norman Odam was growing up in Lubbock, TX, he used to look up at the stars, and dream. Later in life, knowing he may never make it off this planet, he pulled out Plan 2: reach for stardom. While in college, he got the idea to write "a wild song that would captivate everybody". In 1968, he entered a recording studio in Fort Worth, and went to work on two tracks that helped pioneer the sound of psychobilly. Releasing 500 copies of a single under his new moniker, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, on his own label, Psycho-Suave Records, the A-side was titled "Paralyzed", and was thought to be pretty intense, which got him picked up by Mercury Records.

The Mercury Records' push got him a spot onto the Billboard Top 200, as well as on NBC's Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In (where he ran off in mid-song when he thought the cast members were making fun of him).
Not long after, a copy of the original 7" wound up in the hands of NASA's John Kevin Watson of Houston Mission Control. He thought "Paralyzed" would be a great song to help the space crew get up and go. The ground crew loved it, and set it up for the next morning's play. Once the tune began, the astronauts jumped out of bed startled, and their performance was terrible throughout the day. This led to NASA "banning" the song from their rotation, and it is never to be played again for any mission. So check out the track that is no longer allowed in space...

Today, he is remembered fondly as a great outsider artist, and David Bowie even covered LSC's "I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship" on his 2002 Heathen LP. In 2011, "The Ledge" - as he is called by fans - release a retrospective double CD of his work, titled For Sarah, Raquel, and David: An Anthology, on Cherry Red Records, and if you're looking for a spaced-out wild time, he still plays out whenever he can.

 

 

-- January 04, 2018 --

Draining the Swamp Sea

In 1920, German architect Herman Sörgel (1885 -1952), had developed an idea to create huge amounts of cheap electricity for the entire continent of Europe, as well as create thousands of square miles of new land for development throughout the whole Mediterranean region. The project was called Atlantropa (also Panropa), and consisted of building five giant hydroelectric dams.
The first, and most important would be across the Strait of Gibraltar, separating the Atlantic Ocean from the Mediterranean Sea. The following four were to be placed across the Dardanelles Strait (holding back the Black Sea), between Sicily and Tunisia (which would also provide a road through the Mediterranean Sea), on the Congo River (providing irrigation to the Sahara Desert), and along the Suez Canal (to maintain the Red Sea). All of this would have caused the Mediterranean Sea to drop by 200 meters (660 ft), creating new land for development opportunities.

The Nazi Party loved the idea, and it became one of many reasons to conquer new lands, especially in Africa. It was to take close to 100 years for the completion of the project, so it was also seen as a way to create a Pan-European and African cooperation and (somehow) pacifism. After WWII, the Allies picked up the idea, thinking it would help create stronger ties with Africa, and help fight Communism.
Though many believed the scheme would have caused havoc on the climate, along with earthquakes, the propaganda produced by the architect's Atlantropa Institute spun those disasters in a positive light (such as Britain would get warmer winters due to a stronger Gulf Stream). Luckily for the planet, the idea died along with Sörgel, in 1952, as no one else pushed the idea as strongly as he did. Knowing what we do now, about how the rotation of the Earth was affected by China's Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, it is deemed that we're all better off for not trying it out anyway.

 

 

-- December 21, 2017 --

Rave Your Way To Sleep

Stressed? Anxious? Having trouble falling asleep? A Manchester, UK ambient music trio called Marconi Union may be able to help.
In October of 2011, the band worked with the British Academy of Sound Therapy, to produce an eight-minute single, titled "Weightless". The track is set at 60 beats-per-minute, which is said to synchronize your heartbeat to your brain's alpha waves. The song is eight minutes long, as it takes about five minutes for this process to begin. The harmonic intervals were set in such as way as to cause feelings of euphoria. Also, there are no repeating melodies, and this will allow the brain to switch off, since it's not trying to predict what's upcoming. High tones, which stimulate, went unused; while the music consists of many low tones that help induce trance states.
Have a listen (but not while operating heavy machinery)...

Later that year, Time Magazine included Marconi Union into their "Inventors of the Year" list for producing the track, though the song didn't hit the Billboard charts until 2017, when a few more articles where released about the music's creation.
If you want more to listen to, Marconi Union released a thirty-minute version of "Weightless", plus other tracks deemed as some of the world's most relaxing music include: Enya's "Watermark", "Pure Shores" by All Saints, "Strawberry Swing" from Coldpaly, and Mozart's "Canzonetta Sull'aria"
Nite, nite.

 

 

-- December 11, 2017 --

Pissing Off the Pope

Rarely has a drug ever been blessed by the head of the Catholic Church, but one in specific had the pontiff's people working overtime.
In 1946, chemical engineer, Piero Donini, while working for the Italian pharmaceutical company Serono Pharmacological Institute, was the first to purify and extract two urinary gonadotropins which stimulated ovulation (the hormones FSH and LH), speculating this could be used to treat infertility. Soon, he discovered that the highest levels of the hormones were produced in post-menopausal women, as the chemicals stimulate egg production, and women's bodies will produce much more after the ovaries stop this process.
Donini Pergonal called his new drug Pergonal, after the Italian phrase "per gonadi" (meaning: from the gonads), but didn't have the means to produce a large enough quantity to run tests. The drug was shelved for a little over ten years, until a Vienna medical student, Bruno Lunenfeld, was studying the effect of human hormones in fertility, and stumbled upon Piero's work. After contacting Serono executives, he convinced them to begin trials of the drug, but came upon a huge stumbling block. Seeing as it took a dozen women a dozen days to produce a little over one treatment, how would he get enough urine from menopausal females to continue experiments?
In steps Italian aristocrat, and Serono executive, Giulio Pacelli, who happens to have been the nephew of Pope Pius XII. Pacelli asked his uncle for help, and the idea came to use nuns in Vatican-run retirement homes. In no time, the golden showers rained down enough to fill tanker trucks. For years, the holy pee flowed from homes across Italy, and into Serono's headquarters in Rome.

In 1962, the first child (a girl) was born to a woman treated with Pergonal, by Lunenfeld, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Another twenty children were born in the following two years, but - by the 1980s - 8000 gallons (30,000 liters) a day was needed to keep up production. Finally, the good nun's bladders could rest in 1995, as a synthesized hormone, Gonal-F, was approved.
Though I'm sure this story has been a huge splash to my regular readers, it might seem like a bit of yellow journalism to many outsiders. Even so, I'm glad I leaked it here.

 

 

-- November 27, 2017 --

Donkey Goes Boom

I hate animal cruelty, but some acts are bafflingly bizarre.
As reported in a September 1881 issue of Scientific American, General Henry L. Abbot of the Engineer School of Application in Willet's Point, NY, decided to use an old mule giving him trouble in a photographic experiment. The exercise was to showcase the "remarkable sensitiveness" of the era's photo-gelatin plates, as well as the fact that cameras could take instantaneous photos (over setting them up to expose a scene for minutes at a time).
In June of that same year, Van Sothen, a photographer from the U.S. School of Submarine Engineers, rigged an electric trigger to, both, a camera, and a packet of dynamite attached to the donkey's head. Upon flipping the switch, this odd image was forever cataloged into the world of early photography.


click on image for larger view

 

 

-- November 15, 2017 --

Back To Hitting the Books

I love a good (read: weird) literary story, and this is another one that deserves to be posted of.
In 1966, Newsday columnist Mike McGrady believed any book with enough sex would hit the bestseller lists, and therefore the lists of his day were populated with basic garbage. To prove it, he recruited fellow Newsday writer Harvey Aronson, 1965 Pulitzer Prize winner Gene Goltz, journalist Marilyn Berge, and Robert W. Greene (who would later win a Pulitzer in 1970), to write the crappiest, most sex-filled novel they could.
Each author wrote a different chapter, filling it with the most inane dialog, scenes that made no sense, and - of course - packed it with tons of sexually explicit material. The book, titled Naked Came the Stranger, and credited to the nonexistent Penelope Ashe, was about two hosts of a NYC morning radio show, The Billy & Gilly Show, who thought themselves to be a perfect couple. The wife then finds her husband having an affair, and decides to have flings of her own, which include rabbis and mobsters.

Published in 1969, on Lyle Stuart, Inc. (who in the 90s became Barricade Books, infamous for reprinting the racist The Turner Diaries), the book quickly sold 20,000 copies. The authors soon appeared on TV's The David Frost Show, to expose the hoax, which helped the sale of another 70,000 - placing the book on The New York Times' Best-Seller List for 13 weeks. As expected, the book was made into a porno film in 1975, and, as of today, the novel has sold half a million units.
The following year, McGrady released Stranger Than Naked, or How to Write Dirty Books for Fun and Profit, which told the story of the creation of Naked Came the Stranger, which goes to show that even with the wool pulled over some people's eyes, they can still smell out sex when they want it.

 

 

-- November 01, 2017 --

When Lightning Strikes

Recently, I've passed some of the most interesting spots in the United States, yet rarely gotten to stop, and visit. Sometimes, luck is on my side, and I've pulled over to enjoy what I normally have been flying by.
One such case was when I stopped at Nevada's Thunder Mountain Monument.
In the late-1960s, WWII veteran Frank Van Zant took LSD one day, and suddenly believed himself to be a Native American. In 1969, he changed his name to Rolling Mountain Thunder, and began to construct bizarre monuments in the small town of Imlay, which were to supposed to be shelters for American Indians in the upcoming apocalypse, calling it Thunder Mountain. Off the side of I-80, be built a number of buildings (using rocks, cement and discarded junk), as well as over 200 statues. The site became home to hundreds of hippies throughout the 70s. In 1983, Nevada made Frank their "Artist of the Year", but soon someone tried to burn down Thunder Mountain, and destroyed a bit of it.
Sadly, in 1989, he put a gun to his head, and ended his career as an outsider artist. The buildings sat derelict, until the state made it a historic site in 1992.

For more photos of my visit, click here.

 

 

-- October 20, 2017 --

The King In Yellow

I think there is something terribly wrong with those who commit acts of art vandalism. Sure, there are a few people who've fucked up works by mistake, like the kid who tripped, and put his fist through Paolo Porpora's Flowers (a 17th Century painting, priced at $1.5 million). There are also ones who have done it purposefully, and without merit, such as the constant attacks on Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa (an acid splash in 1956, as well as a rock thrown a few months later, plus red spray paint in 1974, and a souvenir mug thrown in 2009). A few executions are supposedly legitimate, such as artist Ai Weiwei dropping a million dollar Han Dynasty vase to protest China's human rights violations. There are so many deeds of art vandalism, Wikipedia has an entire page listing most of them (see here).
One of the odder ones would have to be the case of Russian-born art blogger Wlodzimierz Umaniec, who walked into London's Tate Modern in October of 2012, and vandalized Mark Rothko's 1958 piece, Black on Maroon. After stepping over the roped barrier, Umaniec proceeded to write on the Rothko's work, with a type of homemade black marker popular with graffiti artists, "A Potential Piece of Yellowism," then signing it with his tag-name, "Vladimir Umanets". It is believed Wlodzimierz performed the vandal operation to further his art career, and gain press for his art movement known as "Yellowism".

On his blog, he writes, "Yellowism is not art, and Yellowism isn't anti-art," explaining in an interview, "The main difference between Yellowism, and art, is that in art you have got freedom of interpretation, in Yellowism you don't have freedom of interpretation, everything is about Yellowism." Confused? No matter, because the action garnered the self-proclaimed artist two years in jail, not to mention several more years of scorn from art lovers.
Well, it's good to know that for most of these works of iconoclastic destruction, there is retribution. While this artist was put behind bars, in the case of the previously mentioned vase-dropping, an angry citizen, Maximo Caminero, walked into an Ai Weiwei retrospective in Miami, and smashed one of the artist's 16 vases on display. So, if you're looking for way to become famous, try creating something instead.

 

 

-- October 05, 2017 --

False Narratives

Keeping up with my posts on books, I'd thought to share this odd slice of literary history.
In 1955, Jean 'Shep' Shepherd, best known for his hilarious 1983 movie A Christmas Story, was hosting an AM radio show on New York City's WOR. He was peeved at how most books had gotten listed in many bestseller lists, which consisted, not only on sales, but also on requests at book sellers. To help change the process, he asked his listeners to go to book stores, and ask for a nonexistent book and author, I, Libertine by Frederick R. Ewing, even going so far as to set up a plot, and claiming it was banned in Boston. Fans of the show did so, with a few actually referencing it in articles of smaller newspapers. The fake book had gotten so much demand, it made in onto The New York Times' Best Seller list.
Later, Shepherd, along with publisher Ian Ballantine, and novelist Theodore Sturgeon, decided to actually write the novel. Sturgeon typed all day long, and when he passed out from the day's work without finishing it, Ian's wife, editor Betty Ballantine, finished the last chapter for him. The book, with a cover by science fiction and fantasy artist Frank Kelly Freas, was released by Ballantine Books in September of 1956, even though The Wall Street Journal had exposed the hoax a few weeks before. Not wanting to fleece folks, the profits from the sale of the book were donated to charity.

 

 

-- September 18, 2017 --

Lost In Translation, Literally

In 1855, Portuguese writer Pedro Carolino thought to help many of his countrymen learn the English language by translating an 1853 Portuguese–French phrase book, O novo guia da conversação em francês e português, written by José da Fonseca. The only problem was that Carolino didn't speak a word of English himself. He thought to fix that by using a French-English dictionary, and got to work translating the phrase book word by word.

The result, O novo guia da conversação em portuguez e inglez, became one of the earliest known examples of unintentional humor, as phrases such as "Quem cala consente" (Silence is consent") became "That not says a word, consent", and "Anda de gatinhas" ("He's crawling") were turned into "He go to four feet".
In 1883, a Boston publishing house reprinted the book, under the title English As She Is Spoke, and included an introduction by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), who wrote, "Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect."
The original helped spawn many other works of comedy, including L'Anglais tel qu'on le parle (French Without a Master), by playwright Tristan Bernard (Paul Bernard), and Eugène Ionesco's La Cantatrice Chauve (The Bald Soprano), which both use lines from the book, as well as Ingglish az she iz spelt in 1885, by Fritz Federheld (Frederick Atherton Fernald), and Paul Jennings' 1976 British travel guide Britain as she is visit.
You can read an abridged version of this slice of hilarity here, or - if you're lucky - check eBay for an original.

 

 

-- September 07, 2017 --

Can Milk Make Grapes Sour?

Sometimes, it's better to just ignore a troublemaker. A lot of the time, if you take one on, you're just making bigger trouble for yourself.
Though mothers had known this for ages, the issue of breast-milk substitutes causing health risks for newborns was publicly brought to light by the International Baby Food Action Network, who encouraged the practice of nutrition through natural methods, and inspired a 1973 article in New Internationalist magazine.
In 1974, a British antipoverty charity, called War On Want, released a small booklet, titled The Baby Killer. The pamphlet attacked the Swiss food company Nestlé, and what WOW claimed was their "aggressive marketing" of breast milk substitutes in third-word countries.

Instead of letting a handful of malcontents talk shit about them, and having the headache go away in time, Nestlé decided to sue the group for libel. The case was brought before Judge Jürg Sollberger, who only sided with Nestlé because the company couldn't be held responsible for the death of infants "in terms of criminal law", and fined the fund a mere 300 Swiss Francs (about $400 US).
This caused a bit of a stir with the media, and the story began to gain traction. The boycott was soon picked up by Minneapolis, MN's Infant Formula Action Coalition, which helped spread the word in Canada, then Australia, and the rest of Europe. By 1978, the US Senate held a public hearing looking into the promotion of breast-milk substitutes, and wound up calling for a marketing code. The following year, the World Health Organization and UNICEF pushed for a marketing code in an international meeting, and the 34th World Health Assembly approved Resolution WHA34.22 which includes the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes in 1981. In 1984, Nestlé finally gave in, and proved that there are times when the bigger guy should just take getting picked on by smaller folk.
If you'd like to read the now-infamous tract, The Baby Killer, click here.

 

 

-- August 21, 2017 --

Light Up the Sky

Since everyone is on an astronomy kick because of the solar eclipse, I'd thought I'd tell you about another great event that'll happen in our lifetime (supposing you don't die in the next five years).
In 2022, a "new star" will not only be visible, but possibly be one of the brightest stars in the night sky. Well, for at least six months, anyway.

Back in our 3rd Century, 1800 years ago, two stars in the Cygnus constellation (a binary system named KIC9832227) crashed into one another forming a Red Nova. The light from the two stars joining will reach us soon, and has been dubbed the Boom Star.
First discovered in 2013 by Professor Larry Molnar of Calvin College, who, using data dating back to 1999, noticed the orbital speed of the system decreasing as time went on. Though these types of explosions occur once every ten years in our galaxy, this one is close enough for us to see it with the naked eye. According to the work presented at the 2016 American Astronomy Association meeting in Texas, it should be one of the most visible stars for a minimum of six months.
The UK's Royal Astronomical Society's Dr. Robert Massey said, "Nobody has ever managed to predict the birth of a star before, so this is really unprecedented, and I think there will be a race among amateur astronomers, and members of the public to spot it first."

 

 

-- August 11, 2017 --

When Bones Tell A Tale

Abel Folgar, over at Miami New Times, asked me a few questions concerning my recent 10" release for an online feature.

Click here to check it out, and enjoy the read!

 

 

-- July 28, 2017 --

Massacre of the Innocent

I'm a huge animal lover, and this is one of those stories that really got to me.
I understand depression, and that many can't control their actions when they suffer from it, but sometimes those actions boggle even my mind. Take the case of Terry Thompson. Terry was a veteran of the Vietnam War, but - more importantly - one of Ohio's best known exotic animal collectors. In 2008, he appeared on The Rachael Ray Show, and also supplied animals for photo shoots, but, in 2010, Thompson was arrested on federal gun charges, and was sent to prison. Soon, he was in debt, and then his wife had left him. Afterward, he decided to cut this mortal coil.

On October 18th of 2011, Terry decided to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head, but, before doing so, he set free all the animals at his Zanesville, OH private zoo, Muskingum County Animal Farm. He released 56 animals, including eighteen tigers, seventeen lions, eight bears, three cougars, two wolves, and a baboon. A neighbor, Sam Kopchak, noticed his horse freaking out, and then a lion creeping up to it. He ran for a phone, and called Terry to let him know one of his animals was loose. After no answer, he dialed 911, and the police visited Thompson's property, only to find all the cages empty. Springing into action, the cops put out warnings for the locals, and went on the hunt. 49 of those beautiful creatures were shot, and killed. Of those not gunned down by the pigs: one wolf was hit by a car, and six others (three leopards, a grizzly and two monkeys) made their way into Terry's home, where they were tranquilized, and later brought to the Columbus Zoo.

In the days after, Ohio governor, John Kasich, signed a temporary moratorium on the sale of exotic animals, and it is now illegal to own one in that state.
As I normally state after posts like these: if you ever find yourself in desperate times, and are in need of someone to talk to, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

 

 

-- July 11, 2017 --

The World's Most Dangerous Book

In 1874, S. George & Company released a book by a doctor from Michigan, Robert Clark Kedzie, titled Shadows from the Walls of Death.

Upon returning to Michigan from his service in the Civil War in 1863, he was offered a chair in the Michigan Agricultural College's chemistry department. There he he experimented with beet sugars, and is now remembered as the "Father of the Michigan Beet Sugar Industry". During his tenure, he found high arsenic levels to be a major issue in the local soil, and was later (1873) asked to head a Board of Health committee on "Poisons, Special Sources of Danger to Life and Health". The following year he released a paper titled, "Poisonous Papers", and got the idea to release a book on the wallpaper industry's use of arsenic.
His book, Shadows from the Walls of Death, contained 86 pages, but only six of those - a preface - contained words. What followed Dr. Kedzie's introduction were 22 x 30" (56 x 76 cm) wallpaper samples. The reason for the book, which was released in a very limited quantity, was to showcase the ever-growing use of wallpaper dyed using arsenic pigments, and it contained actual pieces of the poisonous wallpapers.
Currently, there are only two known copies, both of which are housed at Michigan State University's Special Collections Library. Strangely enough, contemporary interest in the book spawned a 178-page reprint (minus the arsenic, of course), in 2014.

 

 

-- July 07, 2017 --

Huge Apologies

I was struggling for a bit to find the time to update this blog, and that kind of depressed me.
Well, I've settled in, and feel I can now devote some energy back here. You'll start seeing new posts before next month.
On a side note, I am no longer writing for No Echo, but you can still find an archive of over 30 of my articles on the site (click here).
Check back soon for new posts!

 

 

-- February 25, 2017 --

Gone Again!?

Yep. I'm hitting the road again for a bit: traveling up to Green Bay, WI, and Atlanta, GA, for about a month. Though I plan to keep up this blog when I return, I'll have no new projects out for some time (except the upcoming 156 Good-Bye, Bed-Stuy, Ten Times cassette / booklet, due out this summer). I'll also be working on, and wrapping up, my newest issue of Exscind, but that won't be out until almost next winter. Still, I wrote some great music pieces for No Echo, which they will post throughout the next two-three months, so check them out until I return to regular posting here. Cheers!

 

 

-- February 17, 2017 --

Well Heil Be Damned

Christian socialist and novelist Francis Julius Bellamy (1855 - 1931) is best known for penning the most recent version of the U.S. "Pledge of Allegiance" in 1892. Immediately after writing the Pledge, he recalled a salute created by James B. Upham, which Bellamy found in the children's magazine The Youth's Companion, and thought it would fit perfectly. He called it the "flag salute", and it was demonstrated for the first time on October 12, 1892 for the National School Celebration of Columbus Day. It originally had an open palm facing up, but many found it uncomfortable, and it was soon switched to holding the palm down.

The salute was picked up by Italian Fascists in the 1920s (calling it the Roman salute), and it was later adopted by the Germans (known as the Sieg Heil). Once the Unites States got involved in World War II, Congress amended the Flag Code in 1942, replacing what became known as the "Bellamy salute" with the simple gesture of holding one's hand over their heart for civilians performing the "Pledge of Allegiance".

 

 

 

 

 

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