Movies & Music

ARCHITECTURE

1.  Water & Power Museum.  Some fantastic pictures of Los Angeles buildings through the years.
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FILM

1. Technicolor Timeline (Zauberklang) by Barbara Flueckiger.

ANTI-WAR FILMS

1.  Grave of the Fireflies, 1988.  Posted on Sunday, December 31, 2017.

The film begins at Sannomiya Station on 21 September 1945, shortly after the end of World War II. A boy, Seita (清太), is shown dying of starvation. Later that night, having removed Seita’s body, a janitor digs through his possessions and finds a candy tin which he throws away into a nearby field. The spirit of Seita’s younger sister, Setsuko (節子), springs from the tin and is joined by Seita’s spirit as well as a cloud of fireflies. Seita’s spirit then begins to narrate their story accompanied by an extended flashback of the final months of World War II.

Then this

Grave of the Fireflies (火垂るの墓 Hotaru no Haka) is a 1988 Japanese animated wardrama film written and directed by Isao Takahata and animated by Studio Ghibli. It is based on the 1967 semi-autobiographical short story of the same name by Akiyuki Nosaka.[2] The film stars Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Yoshiko Shinohara and Akemi Yamaguchi. Set in the city of Kobe, Japan, the film tells the story of two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, and their desperate struggle to survive during the final months of the Second World War. 

 

3.  Harry’s War, 1981.  (posted Friday, March 23, 2018)

Harry’s War is a small independent film produced in 1981 by Kieth Merril. The movie suffered limited distribution and play time, allegedly due to fear by theater owners incurring unwanted attention from the IRS. It quickly faded into obscurity into local video stores. It was re-released for a short run in DVD in 2005 and currently is out of print.

The plot centers on the IRS applying aggressive auditing methods against Harry Johnson (Edward Herrmann) and his Aunt Beverly Payne’s (Geraldine Page) to extract back taxes for spurious reasons. At the beginning, Harry is portrayed as a nice guy with naïve faith in the American justice system. When the IRS freezes his bank account and confiscates his aunt’s large, ramshackle mansion, his aunt Beverly succumbs to a heart attack in court and dies. Enraged, Harry transforms from a nebbish sheeple to an avenging agitator. He declares a one-man war on the IRS. His nemesis is the local IRS director, Ernie Scelera (David Ogden Stiers).

4.  The Zoo Keeper’s Wife, 2017.  I have not seen this movie and I don’t know that I need to.  I have seen enough Nazi and Holocaust films to satiate my interest in ritualistic violence and desolate attempts at survival.  The stories are compelling with the Nazi aggression serving as stressful background for a character’s survival.  Okay.  The movie is based on Ackerman’s book by the same title.

Escape From Sobibor, 1987.  Though I liked this movie when I first saw in 1998, I have since been underwhelmed by it.  But it’s still good. 

Katyn, 2007.

This is an incredible movie.  It is the story about the 1940 Katyn Massacre of 22,000 Polish officers, teachers, intellectuals, community leaders who volunteered to defend Poland in WWII against the 1939 Soviet-Germany Invasion.  Fifty percent of Poland’s officer corp was murdered in the massacre.  The Katyn Forest is located just across the border of eastern Poland in the Soviet Union.  

Sophi Scholl–The Final Days, 2005.

The drama and dialogue were taught in this film.  Sophie Scholl’s story is compelling, and the movie gives us an excellent portrayal not only of the heroine but of the despotic judge who effectively served as Hitler’s executioner, Roland Freisler.  There is one video on YouTube that tries to demonize Sophie Scholl as a communist.  Ha.  The NAZI government was socialist to the core, and how their defenders try to distinguish themselves from communists is laughable.  The distinction between Nazism and Communism is that the former is national socialist and the latter is international socialism.  But be clear that both are absolutely socialism!!  Robert Mohr was an interrogation specialist of the Gestapo.  Wikipedia explains that 

Between 18 and 20 February 1943, Mohr interrogated Sophie Scholl and obtained her confession to the distribution of leaflets for the White Rose movement. In a 1951 report to Robert Scholl, Sophie’s father, Mohr claimed that he tried to save Sophie’s life by leading her to testify against her brother Hans Scholl, to say she was under his influence and that they had different opinions on politics.

In Sophie Scholl–The Final Days, Robert Mohr was portrayed by Gerald Alexander HeldHere is his Wikipedia page

Black Book, 2006.

The Lives of Others, 2007.  This was a chilling account of East Germany’s mass surveillance by its Ministry for State Security or STASI army. Chilling for how extensive it was and how the government turned its people in cowardly agents who would easily betray family and friends for an extra slice of bread.  This movie had relevance for me as I saw this kind of dirt-blowing (some call this whistleblowing), rumormongering, harassment throughout the school district.

Life Is Beautiful, 1998.  I didn’t like this movie much because there was one teacher in Los Angeles who preferred it over some of the other more explicit movies/stories about the Holocaust.  It is a sweet and tender and horrible story, but I am not a fan of treating life as though it were trivial.  I don’t want others to trifle with my life, that’s for sure.  But if the movie is about relating hard truths about the world, groups, horrible ideologies, I do think that it’s better to tell them straight than to tell them slant as Emily Dickinson would argue.  Being direct saves time, the most precious commodity than any of us have.  

5.

TV SERIES

Saturday, January 1, 2016
This is a pretty good interview of the popular 70s sitcom, The Brady Bunch. What I liked about it were the histories and backgrounds of the casting directors and the efforts they made in trying to book the actors to the series. You might like it as well.

 

DOCUMENTARIES

1. Top Documentary Films
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MOVIES

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

I saw the Paul Muni movie, Angel on My Shoulder, 1946, with Claude Rains and Anne Baxter.  What an absolutely delightful screenplay and script.  Loved it.

 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.  My first delight at this pic was the fact that James Cagney’s brother, William, produced the film.  The second delight was to see it was made in 1950.  The movie is violent.  Outside of Cagney’s character Ralph Cotter, later changed to the alias, Paul Murphy, shooting the brother of his girl, the next violent scene that disturbed me was when Inspector Charles Weber, played by Ward Bond, pinning Cagney’s character to the wall by the throat.  He pins him up against the wall by the throat repeatedly to make the violent point.  Beyond that, I thought the production quality was excellent. Cagney’s dialogue was stunning in its sociopathic arrogance.  It may be one reason why the state of Ohio banned the movie from release in that state.

The film was banned in Ohio as “a sordid, sadistic presentation of brutality and an extreme presentation of crime with explicit steps in commission.”

The film definitely is that.  But it is also one of Cagney’s great performances with his facial expression, pinging between shrewd, criminal opportunist and boyish thug.

Gordon M. Douglas (Come Fill the Cup/Only the Valiant) helms it by keeping it fast-paced, brutal and cynical, and lets star James Cagney pick up where he left off in the year earlier White Heat as an unsympathetic mad dog killer.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Just finished watching this delightful movie. Yes, the drama was taut, made even more so by the editing. Loved seeing a young Brian Keith, a young and gorgeous Anne Bancroft, and Aldo Ray, for whom there’s been so much praise by the older women through the years mainly for his looks, candidness, and kindness. Not sure. But a terrific cast. I loved seeing Anne Bancroft so young.  Seeing James Gregory was kind of interesting; had forgotten his recurring role on Barney Miller as “loudmouthed Inspector Frank Luger.”

The low-budget film is remembered today for camera work by cinematographer Burnett Guffey. It uses flashbacks as a device to tell the story, which was based on a 1947 novel by David Goodis.[1]

Nightfall was written by Stirling Silliphant, who 10 years later would win an Academy Award for his original screenplay for In the Heat of the Night.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016
This review does an excellent job comparing the two Ben Hur movies, the 1956 Charleton Heston gem with the 2016 Jack Huston flop. Jack Huston is John Huston’s grandson.  It was John Huston who played Noah Cross in Polanski’s 1974, Chinatown.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 from Charles Burris @ LRC

There is perhaps no other film which contrasts how mainstream Hollywood looked upon vital questions of social justice, racial tolerance and Southern history from a bygone pre-politically correct cinematic era than the movie Judge Priest.

Judge Priest is a 1934 American film starring the great Will Rogers. The film was directed by the legendary John Ford, produced by Sol M. Wurtzel in association with Fox Film, and based on humorist Irving S. Cobb’s character Judge Priest. The picture is set in post-Reconstruction Kentucky and the marvelous supporting cast features Henry B. Warthall, Hattie McDaniels (who would go on to win an Academy Award for her memorable performance in Gone With The Wind), and Stepin Fetchit.

Will Rogers portrays Judge Priest. The film played a major role in earning Roger’s recognition as the number one box office star of 1934. Rogers received critical praise for his role, some noting that Rogers simply fell right into the role with his heart-warming personality. Rogers managed a balance of comedic one-liners with serious dramatics. The Tulsa Daily World summed up the famous Oklahoman’s performance: “The star’s portrayal of Judge Priest has the mark of authenticity upon it . . . the unique blending of unique talent with a rich and splendid role.”

Judge Priest is an eccentric judge in a small Kentucky town. Although his wife died 19 years before the film takes place, he shows no interest in remarrying. He sometimes stumbles his words, but he shows his wit throughout the film. The Judge, despite all his talk of being a Confederate veteran, finds his best friend to be the black Jeff Poindexter, portrayed by Stepin Fetchit. Judge Priest has pride in his tolerance for others. Walthall’s powerful court-room speech at the conclusion is not to be missed.

Rogers was killed in a plane crash on August 15, 1935, just a year after the release of Judge Priest.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Just finished watching Sleep My Love, 1948, with Bob Cummings, Don Ameche, and Claudette Colbert.  Raymond Burr of Ironside and Perry Mason fame, costarred.  Bob Cummings’ performance was the best.  He played friend and unofficial detective, a kind of Rockford gaining illegal entry by ruse and shtick.  He was serious when he needed to be and endearing when it warranted.  It was quite the best performance I’d ever seen him do. Growing up I’d heard criticism of him because of his off-screen antics.  My dad’s friend, Conroy, used to work in the Hall of Records where criminals, petty and otherwise, were processed.  Cummings had a drug problem.  Did not know that he worked with Julie Newmar, Cat Woman from the Batman TV series.  That’s pretty cool.

The story starts out with Colbert’s character on a train heading out of Boston and away from home.  She wakes up in a berth and doesn’t know how she got there.

1961, The Young Savages, starring Burt Lancaster and Telly Savales.  I really liked the hoodlum played by John Davis Chandler.  I mean the guy had the perfectly repulsive face for a desperate gangster.  And he lived up to the role often. Great actor.

Saturday, April 4, 2015
The movie, Race with the Devil, 1975, starring Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, and Loretta Swit, and Lara Parker, terrified me as a kid.  I saw it late at night in the comfort of my parents’ living room.  It’s a story about two middle-class families running from Satanic worshipers after witnessing a live human sacrifice.  To the Old Testament, sacrifices were understood as gifts to God.  So they were good, no?  Abraham said he was following instructions from God when he tried to sacrifice his son, Isaac.  Christ’s death on the cross was a sacrifice to his Father in Heaven.

Man loves to sacrifice someone.  Somehow.  In man’s law, human sacrifice is murder and murder is a crime.  That is at least how middle-class capitalists view human sacrifice–not as a gift to a higher power, but as cold-blooded murder.  In this way, the movie revolves subtly around competing narratives. Satanists who were conducting private rituals and law-abiding capitalists who hold other humans accountable for murder.  In the end, the couples are buried alive inside their RV engulfed by a ring of fire set by the Satanists.  Their RV lifestyle and middle-class values get torched in a sacrifice to Envy.  That is what Satan is all about–Envy; he is Envy personified.  The battle of Satan versus Christ is not so much about competing religious views–it’s more about competing moral forces between Envy and Moral Intelligence.   What we see in the movie is highly organized cult built on Envy.  Envy relies on force.  It relies on violence.  It works on the fringes and hates positive productivity.  The middle-class families has all of the accouterments of productivity. Their RV and motorcycles and rifles, intelligences and survival skills are all the result of decades of hard work and family tradition.  All of this can easily be ripped away by violence, whose motivating factor is Envy.  The Satanists envy collectively the success and individual freedom of the Christian middle class.

To this day it scares me.  Few things seem to allay my fears with this.  It’s because the satanists infiltrate the legitimate authority in town and exercise their power as an unrelenting collective, who sets cultural privileges, establishes laws that support it, and enforces those laws while enjoying the sadistic pleasure of isolating and then torturing the individual as an aberrant “lone nut,” and therefore, criminal, against “humanity.”

How many other stories capture this peculiar theme.  I am reminded of Shirley Jackson’s, 1948, “The Lottery,” where a community sacrifices one of its own to the relief and delight of all those not being sacrificed.  There is also Kurt Vonnegurt’s, 1961, “Harrison Bergeron.” The 60s and 70s culture was rife with occult movies on television.  Little did I know back then that television programming was competing for my soul.

RaceWithTheDevil

The movie stars Peter Fonda and Warren Oates as successful owners of a motorcycle dealership in San Antonio, Texas.  With their wives, played by Lara Parker and Loretta Swit, they drive from San Antonio in an RV to Aspen, Colorado for a skiing vacation.  On their way, they park their motor home in a remote meadow in central Texas, where Roger and Frank ride their motorcycles for fun and sport. After their wives turn in for the evening, Roger and Frank step outside to appreciate the starlit sky and remoteness of their existence only to witness a Satanic human sacrifice across the river. The occult priest conducting the murderous sacrifice spots them, and the occult members begin an intense, murderous pursuit of the middle-class couples.

This is the story of successful, middle-class capitalists are sacrificed to the envy of occult members.  One could call them the envious poor who prefer to practice every base and criminal impulse and defend their collective or their lifestyle in the name of community.  The movie can be viewed as indictment of how blood thirsty people can become as they share the same narrative.  Take Social Justice folks for example.

The Satanic occult in the movie can be viewed something akin to the KKK that has its members dispersed throughout the community and how those opinions and values infiltrate and control an entire culture.  As a result of the dissemination of those values, the legal system set up to establish itself and protect itself becomes so corrupt and staffed by a good ol’ boys network that it commits every atrocity known to man in the name of justice.  While never indicting itself.  To a 17-year-old kid who had no experience or knowledge of a good ol’ boy network and who only saw law enforcement as legitimate, reputable, and honest–like Adam-12, Dragnet, Mission Impossible, Streets of San Francisco, Ironside, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. [United Network Command for Law and Enforcement], Mannix, and the MOD Squad–the movie was a horror.  It seemed that all the small town folks had conspired with the Satanists to exact revenge on the successful business owner for no other reason than out of an envious to murder people they didn’t like.  The other part of the horror was that the whole town seemed to have signed off on being sadistic accomplices in murder.

The movie ends with the couples being burned and buried alive in a sadistic sacrifice to their god, Phthonos.

Another one of my favorite movies that I’ve only seen just recently is John Cusaks’ High Fidelty.  A beautiful movie and script.  He was a co-author on the script, which made it more interesting.

MOVIE TIMELINE

Posted Monday, June 27, 2016

Some interesting references in this film, Keeper of the Flame, 1943, which can be found at Internet Archive.  Charles Burris offered a few insights on the movie:

Keeper of the Flame is a 1943 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) drama directed by George Cukor, and starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.

The screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart (noted Hollywood Communist Party member) is adapted from the novel Keeper of the Flame by I. A. R. Wylie. Stewart considered the script to be the finest moment of his entire career, feeling vindicated by the assignment as he believed that Hollywood had punished him for years for his Stalinist political views.

The film was screened for the Office of War Information’s Bureau of Motion Pictures on December 2, 1942, where it was disapproved of by the Bureau’s chief, Lowell Mellett. Keeper of the Flame premiered to a poor reception at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday, March 18, 1943. MGM head Louis B. Mayer stormed out of the cinema, enraged by his having encouraged the making of a film which equated wealth with fascism. Republican members of Congress complained about the film’s obviously leftist politics, and demanded that Will H. Hays, President of the Motion Picture Production Code, establish motion picture industry guidelines for propaganda. Cukor himself was highly dissatisfied by the film and considered it one of his poorest efforts.

Nonetheless, today the film is seen more positively, with one critic concluding that Keeper of the Flame is “truly provocative in that it was one of Hollywood’s few forays into imagining the possibility of homegrown American Fascism and the crucial damage which can be done to individual rights when inhumane and tyrannical ideas sweep a society through a charismatic leader.”

Keeper of the Flame is not Donald Trump’s favorite movie.

Film references:
1. Ecce Homo, “behold the man.”
2. The second reference I heard was Joshua and Jerico.
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MUSIC

Posted Wednesday, June 3, 2015

This is an excellent introduction as to how the band, The Band, got its start.  I learned that Ronny Hawkins, singer, and Levon Helm, drummer, played together in a band, called the Hawks.  Apparently they weren’t getting enough gigs in Arkansas, so they drove up to Toronto, Canada where the developed a following.  And when they finally got a following, they came back to Arkansas and played to sold out crowds.  Interesting how the key players of The Band were all recruited in Toronto but done by American artists, Levon Helm and Ronny Hawkins.  There were The Hawks, Levon and the Hawks, and Levon Helm Sextet, The Canadian Squires, and Bob Dylan and The Band Timeline.  Here is the song called “Forty Days,” introduced by Dick Clark wearing a cowboy hat.  Doh jeeze. 

Friday, February 20, 2015
from Eric Alper
Patty Smith 1-JsIPl1Hm48jH61ccv4Z0dw

“My mother worked at a soda fountain. She made the food and was a waitress and she was a really hard worker and a devoted worker. And her potato salad became famous! She wouldn’t get potato salad from the deli, she would get up at five o’clock in the morning and make it herself, and people would come from Camden or Philly to this little soda fountain in South Jersey because she had famous potato salad. She was proud of that, and when she would come home at night, completely wiped out and throwing her tip money on the table and counting it, one of her great prides was that people would come from far and wide for her potato salad. People would say, “Well, what did your mother do? She was a waitress?” She served the people, and she served in the way that she knew best.”

Friday, January 30, 2015
Songs great for soundtracks!!

Sunday, February 28, 2016
“Imagine a Man” by The Who from their The Who By Numbers album.

Posted Thursday, August, 4, 2016.
“They’re All In Love,” The Who.

How Many Friends Have I Really Got?  The Who.  Lyrics are here.

Thursday, August 4, 2016
Nena, Leuchtturm.

Nena, Wilst Du Mitt Mir Gehn,

Nena, Remmler, & Pocher, “Ich kann nix dafur.”

Stephan Remmler,

Monday, March 9, 2015
Two Steps from Hell: Heart of Courage

Two Steps from Hell: Moving Mountains

Monday, March 2, 2015
This song by Radical Face, titled Welcome Home, is memorable for me.  I first heard it when I was watching a video covering Ueli Stek’s record breaking climb of Eiger Mountain.

Radical Face, “Welcome Home”

And need a space between these two videos.

Here is Cathy Burton.

And Julian Vincent.

Need a space between these two videos.

Overwerk” by Daybreak.

Monday, January 26, 2015
The song, “Elephant Talk,” by King Crimson, out in 1981, is the only song I’ve ever heard use the word “balderdash,” and they use it in the emphatic which only furthers my delight.  I first heard “Elephant Talk” on the radio when it came out in 1981, probably on KMET or  KLOS.  But the band and its music was introduced to me a few years earlier from a guy I worked with for a very short time in 1978, 37 years ago. I was working at Colamco, Inc. in San Dimas, a laminate factory that made diamond tucked panels from Naughahyde for freight trucks like Kenworth, Mack, Freightliner, and others. The guy I worked with was a temporary worker for the fall season.  I was pulling a double shift for the money. And I was tired. This new hire comes in and was asked to help me fill orders in Shipping & Receiving. His name was Ray.  He didn’t look like a Ray.  He looked like a troll but came to work with his boom box and cassette player. We already had a radio in our little corner desk we called our station.  But he brought in his box. He started playing King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man,” 1969. It was 9pm. Shift ended at 12am. I said to him “What the hell is that!” He said, “Hey, you listen to your music. Now I listen to mine.” I liked the power of that statement.

When “Elephant Talk” came out in 1981, the first person I thought of was Ray from Colamco.  Have loved “Elephant Talk” if for no other reason than it uses the word balderdash; plus, the tune is catchy, and it reminded me of this guy who didn’t put up with anybody’s bull.  I love this fact that from a guy I barely knew and for only a few days left such an indelible impression on me by way of King Crimson, a British progressive rock band. He worked for only a few days at Colamco and was gone.  His blunt attitude was great instruction for me.  At first, I couldn’t stand the guy–he was short, scruffy, and his long black wavy hair was oily.  Within a week he and I got along; he turned out to be a really decent, good-humored guy. I missed him when he left.  He was smart and assertive. He knew how he looked to others and never paid people’s drivel any mind. I dig that attitude. So every time I hear “Elephant Talk,” my mind goes right back to Ray at Colamco’s Shipping & Receiving in 1978.

I just learned tonight that Greg Lake played for King Crimson in 1970.

A couple of songs I found tonight that I would love to have played at my wake.

And this one by Albannach, Gaelic word for Scottish:

Saturday, January 17, 2015
Bob Dylan is not the only one who sings this, but his rendition is the best.  “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” 1962.

I do like Edie Brickell‘s light and easy voice, but the lyrics to “What I Am,” 1988, which she wrote, do not inspire.  The music has an easy-going rhythm to it.

Her songs with Steve Martin on the banjo are a lot better. Let me see who wrote the songs.
1. When You Get to Asheville.
2. Get Along Stray Dog.
3. Love Has Come for You.
4. Friend of Mine.
5. Siamese Cat.
6. Yes She Did.
7. Sarah Jane and the Iron Mountain Baby.
8. Fighter.
9. King of Boys.
10. Sun’s Gonna Shine.
11. Who You Gonna Take?
12. Shawnee.
13. Remember Me This Way.

The Band has an unmistakable sound. That sound is endearing and epic. Not sure if that is achieved because of the story quality to their songs. Every time I hear their songs I want to be a part of the story, in spite of the inscrutable lyrics or meanings. I want to be a part of it. That’s freakin’ powerful.


This review by Peter Viney is the best and only review
of the song, “The Weight,” 1968, that I’ve read. But it is truly remarkable.

The other song that Viney reviews is The Band’s “Acadian Driftwood,” 1975.

Uploaded on January 11, 2016

Samuel Barber – Adagio for Strings, op. 11 by Leonard Bernstein

Uploaded on December 9, 2015

NOVELS
1)  Stewardship of Aslan, commentary on C.S. Lewis’s Magician’s Nephew.
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ACTORS
1.  Martha Hyer, 1924-2014.
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CULTURAL-ish BLOGS
1.  Vigilant Citizen.
2.  Taki Magazine.
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SHORT STORIES
1.  “The Emperor Has No Clothes,” (1837) by Hans Christian Anderson, is a short tale by Hans Christian Andersen about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that they don’t see any suit of clothes until a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” The tale has been translated into over 100 languages
2.  Red Dress–1946, Alice Munro.
3.  Two Kinds, Amy Tan.
4.  American History, Judith Ortiz Cofer.
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Posted Tuesday, October 24, 2017

This song Ashokan Farewell comes by way of Gary North, who reviewed the recent Ken Burns documentary Vietnam in the context of Burns’ Civil War documentary.

POSTED SUNDAY, APRIL 8, 2018.

Some Southern Rock songs I grew up on in the ’70s.

And this one

And this

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