Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Spectacular Settings - WEP: A Slice of Montmartre, Paris

A quote about Paris, from David McCullough, in The Greater Journey.

". . .Paris was a place where one wanted to walk, where to walk - Flâneur* . . .as the French said - was practically a way of life." ('Ah, to wander over Paris!' wrote Honore de Balzac, 'what an adorable and delectable existence is that.  Flânerie is a form of science, it is the gastronomy of the eye.")

I concur.

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A Slice of Montmartre Life

Paris - A Montmartre Street Still Life, by DG Hudson

A man in the left foreground of the image above, stands behind his wife who is framing a photograph.

"Oh honey, just take the photo. . .quick before the tour group leaves us behind."

"But I just noticed that street performer on the other side of the street. . .where did he come from?"

"Who knows? Be sure to get Sacre Coeur's dome in the shot, that's what we want - the church looming over the hill, reminding the people of its past. . .as the Mount of Martyrs."


"Of course, the camera is set for wide angle. I have included the church, the performer, the tourists, even the mother and child."

“Great, let’s catch up with our tour group. The performer is headed that way."

***

 The young mother watches the performer with his tell-tale long legs and wonders at his purpose.  Her son in the stroller sees him too.

"Maman! Maman! Look!" the child points to the street performer in stilts.

"I see him, ma cherie, do you know what he is?"

"Street play man? I want to see, ple-e-a-s-s-e, Maman!"

"We will see if he stops, little one, he may be headed for that tour group up the hill. . ."

***

The performer focuses on retaining his balance and stride as he climbs up the hill towards the tour group. His black and white ensemble is de rigeur for his occupation.

These new stilts are slowing me down a bit. . .but no matter, that must be the tour group ahead. What a disjointed collection of travellers. . .but I will charm them. I would much rather entertain that child and its mother, the little ones always love me, but the tour group will pay better. I have to eat too. 

I know what will appeal to this older audience, I will present the French tour guide view as he tries to interpret the Franglais and other mashed languages that most of the visitors speak.  I will be diplomatic as they say, of course! Ah, Paris!

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*Flâneur - an aimless idler, dawdler, a dandy with time to stroll; one who observes life and offers his opinion on what he has observed.

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From DG:

As I walked the steep hills of Montmartre, I saw the little things that bring a place to life and imprint upon the memory: the blue door to the residence where two brothers Van Gogh lived, an inner city vineyard, Lapin Agile - a café which swapped meals for art, the wall-passer - an author's story brought to life by a sculpture in a small square, and the view from  Sacré CoeurI saw the areas which had declined with time, but they faded behind the historical aura of Impressionist artists painting turn of the century dances in courtyards tucked in the shadow of the windmills. I could almost smell the fresh bread made from the milled flour.

WC = 501

Feedback = MPA


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August WEP Prompt: Spectacular Settings

A setting can infuse our imagination. The visual prompts the sensory and the memory follows along. What is spectacular will vary with each writer. 






WEP = Write, Edit, Publish - this worthy challenge is back!

WEP has been revised to allow more time between prompts and more opportunity to read the work by the writers who join in the challenge, WEP offers the writer an opportunity to test their short writing skills. The word limit is 1000 or less.

The hosting job is now shared between two writer/bloggers, Denise and Yolanda, who have tweaked this challenge to make it more interesting. Read more about the changes, the prompt and how to participate at the WEP blog site. Also check out their blog sites to find out a bit more about our two hosts.

Join us! Hope you enjoy reading all the entries via the web site and giving feedback where indicated. 







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Have you heard of WEP? Are you interested in joining? Do you like reading short fiction?

Please leave a comment just to say you were here, so I know you dropped by!  Constructive feedback is welcome. Hope you enjoy the reading!

Thanks for reading my entry, and don't forget to visit the other writers on the list at WEP - Write, Edit, Publish! 

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Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Fiery Cross by D. Gabaldon, A Book Review

In the distance it glows, the red and orange flames licking the shape, defining the burning cross. . .


Cover 'The Fiery Cross', by Diana Gabaldon


It's the symbol to gather for war or a visual notice that your laird (or lord of the manor) has something to say that he deems important enough for such a traditionally called clan gathering. A large fiery cross burns for all to see for miles around. The tradition was brought to America by the Scottish settlers and adopted in the mid-coastal colonies of the southeast for civil matters in the 1700s. Over time this symbol became transmuted into something more fearful. The laird James Fraser calls his loyal henchmen to serve as militia in this way, unknowing of the future symbol's dark image. But Claire knows. . .

***

By the acclaimed author of Outlander, Fiery Cross takes place in a different time period and a different setting, in the Carolinas of the 1700s, in a young America. Called the Colonies prior to the American War for Independence, it was a place to start over in many ways. Scottish settlers bought land and tried to adapt to life in the New World, while the long arm of British Law and Governance tried to control those who had flown the coop.

Generals and militia men and ghosts from the past whom we met in Outlander show up here in the States in that historical period before the War for Independence. This is a story of a time when tension and distrust ran high, medicine knowledge was poor, and men were passionate in their beliefs. Land and loyalty were treasured, men were put to the scaffold for treason without a fair trial.

In this book, we see more of the daily occurrences of Jamie and Claire, and daughter Brianna and her husband. We learn of the harshness of life and the ghosts which haunt them. We see the young America before it has spurned the control of the mighty British Empire, we see a young nation flexing its muscles. Claire continues to practice her duties as a doctor, even attempting to formulate a type of medicine to battle the bacteria which takes so many lives.  She follows the early skirmishes with Jamie to give medical aid and to be with her man.


D. Gabaldon's 'The Fiery Cross', DGH collection


I can't find any fault with this tome (it's one of her BIG books) which I attained on sale by our local library. There is one section near the end which I found the story started to lag, but an unexpected attack on the main character, Jamie Fraser brought me right back. I found myself once again turning page after page with heightened interest as Claire tried to save her man.

Highly recommended. For the record, I'm not reading the Outlander series books in order, but that doesn't ever bother me. I can handle story jumps as well as time travel jumps in my reading.

If you like history, entwined with romance, intrigue, time travel references, and strong characters, you'll like Gabaldon's writing, and if you're American, it may give you a totally different outlook on this era. The Fiery Cross doesn't read like the dry history books from which we were taught.


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Are you a Diana Gabaldon fan? Have you read many or any of the books she has written? How do you like the tv series based on the Outlander book? 

Please leave a comment to let me know you were here, and I'll reply. Thanks for dropping by! BTW - I like the tv series and I watch very few.  It's the Scottish version of history done on a micro scale with time travel and romance. Gabaldon does both well!

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Review - THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT, by Roland Yeomans

Don't look too close or you might see that which hides in the darkness. . .or an evil that's been slumbering for milleniums. . .




Egyptian lore lures with its unknowns, its mysteries and the characters and stories that Roland Yeomans places in the setting of bygone times. Samuel McCord, Nikola Tesla, Mark Twain/Samuel Clements, Meilori/Sekhmet, Bastet, a young Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde and other names come and go in this riveting tale which begins in the United States, jumps to India and then to Egypt. Gathering at the exotic Shepheard's Hotel in Cairo, the friends prepare to unearth an ancient curse, while dodging or dispatching those who would stop them.

This is a story of intrigue, betrayal, love, friendship, and adventure. It is a magnificent waltz of power and control which fluctuates as various enemies make their attempts to foil the expedition. By the way, don't miss the lavish ball, it's the event of the season in this tale.

Samuel McCord remains the beacon to which the others gather, He protects. Tesla provides the means of transport, and Meilori orchestrates the restraint and/or demise of several enemies who would harm them.

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The Stars Bleed at Midnight follows Death in the House of Life, the first book about the Egyptian expedition, the story that introduced the characters and one which I enjoyed very much. What inspired the massive monuments in Egypt? Were they of this world or another? Who is Bastet? And how did Oscar Wilde and Winston Churchill end up being in this place and time? These are all questions that will be answered, at least some of them. . .

I recommend taking your time reading this one, savouring the exotic location and the interactions between characters. Consider this quote by the character Daystar:

"There are none more complicit in one's undoing than one's own heart. . ." 

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The adventure and the intrigue continues in the next novel about this expedition: Red Land and Black Death. I'm looking forward to it. . .Be sure to check Roland Yeomans' blog site to see the other offerings by this prolific author.

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Have you read any of Roland's novels? How about Death in the House of Life? Have you read that one? I've reviewed that novel here.

Please leave a comment to let me know you were here and I'll reply. Thanks for dropping by! I'll be back with another review soon, on a Diana Gabaldon novel. Stay tuned.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

CAPTAIN BARTHOLOMEW QUASAR, Serial Chapters, by Milo James Fowler


Do you like your reading in bite-size chunks? Have you heard about Milo's latest novel, in serial form? 


Author Milo J. Fowler, cover


New Release:

CAPTAIN BARTHOLOMEW QUASAR
and the 
Space-Time Displacement Conundrum

published by 


16 weeks of serial chapters every weekday
80 exciting episodes of adventure aboard the Effervescent Magnitude 
Only $5 USD (includes an eBook edition following serialization)

Don't delay – Subscribe today! 

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Captain Quasar is out of time. . .


Pursued by vengeful Goobalob toll collectors, savage Arachnoid bounty hunters, and formidable Amazonians, Captain Bartholomew Quasar must do whatever he can to keep the crew of the Effervescent Magnitude out of harm's way. All in a day's work—except time is not on his side.

Torn from the present to relive his past, he vows to keep mistakes from occurring the second time around. But is he doomed to repeat history? Or can he erase his regrets?

Villains will be vanquished. Lives will be lost. Bonds will be betrayed. Heroes will be heroic.
Join the crew of the Effervescent Magnitude for a hilarious time-travel space adventure the likes of which you've never seen!


Prologue:

Jaw muscle twitching at untimed intervals, Captain Bartholomew Quasar gripped the armrests of his deluxe-model captain's chair and narrowed his heroic gaze. The main viewscreen on the bridge of the Effervescent Magnitude radiated with white-hot streaks blurring in elongated trajectories as his star cruiser plunged into the depths of space at something near the speed of light.

Quasar could feel the tension in the air. It was palpable and tasted like sweat—mostly his own. The members of his bridge crew remained silent, standing at their stations and staring at the viewscreen. Many forgot to blink as their insides trembled, recoiling with a nameless fear.

They had never moved so fast in their lives.

This was the Magnitude's maiden voyage into deep space utilizing the recently installed cold fusion near-lightspeed reactor—an experimental propulsion system they'd picked up on the planet Carpethria. One thing was readily apparent: it worked. But how long could the ship could maintain this incredible velocity without compromising hull integrity?

Already, the ship was creaking and groaning in protest, and the helmsman—a very hairy, four-armed Carpethrian who resembled something between a sloth and an overweight orangutan—had begun to grumble that the reactor really should have been tested before this full-speed leap into the black.

But there had been no other choice. Their options at the time were either flight (and survival) or fight (and undoubtedly be destroyed). Vicious Arachnoid bounty hunters were on their tail, and Arachnoids tended to be a very hungry lot—often foregoing payment for their illicit services in favor of a fresh kill.

The Magnitude's first officer, Commander Selene Wan, wasn't keen on the idea of allowing a Carpethrian to man the helm of their freshly minted star cruiser. But no one else on board knew how to navigate at near-lightspeed, and it took all four of the alien's hands to do the job—something two humans would have had to coordinate in tandem. And that could have gotten awkward.

"Steady as she goes." Quasar smoothed down his close-cropped blond hair and cringed as the ship released a moan that didn't sound good at all—something akin to a whale giving birth. "How are we doing, Hank?"


"Haven't run into anything yet," grunted the very hairy helmsman, hands flying across the controls.

"Status report?" Quasar half-turned to regard his first officer with a confidently raised eyebrow.

Commander Wan, a tall, slim Eurasian with impeccable posture, kept her attention riveted on her console. "Proximity scanners are offline." She swayed on her feet with the rocking movements of the ship, her sleek black hair swinging across her shoulders. "Artificial gravity is holding. Life support remains functional." A sudden frown creased her usually furrow-free forehead. "But the reactor, sir… We may have a serious problem."

"Elaborate."

"It's overheating, Captain. If we don't decelerate, it may—" She swallowed. "Explode."

That wouldn't be good at all. The folks back home were depending on Captain Quasar and company to bring back loads of quartz necessary for virtually every form of technology and transportation on Earth, not to mention haute vintage time pieces. The Magnitude could not possibly be allowed to blow up.

"Hank?" Quasar faced the shaggy helmsman. "Could we possibly slow down a bit?"

The Carpethrian grunted something intelligible, followed by, "Commencing deceleration sequence."

"Very good." The captain nodded, glancing over his shoulder at his first officer. Everything was under control. "Status?"

She shook her head without a word. Quasar checked the console on his armrest. The Arachnoid ship was nowhere in sight, and the Magnitude had begun to slow down, but only by an infinitesimal fraction of its near-lightspeed velocity.

"Uh-Hank? About that deceleration sequence…" Quasar cleared his throat.

"It will take thirty minutes, Captain. Any sudden downshift in speed would tear the ship apart."

Quasar maintained a brave façade for the sake of his crew. Such was expected from starship captains, after all. Clenching his jaw, he leaned toward Wan and whispered, "Do we have thirty minutes?"

She met his gaze, and he didn't like what he saw in her eyes—something she hadn't shown before when they'd dealt with the horrible Goobalobs or the savage Arachnoids:

Terror.

***

Now Available from Every Day Novels
Add Captain Quasar to your Goodreads bookshelf or add it to your TBR list.
AND. . .
Get to know the author, Milo:



Milo James Fowler, Author

1. When did you start seriously pursuing writing as a career?

I've been writing since I was 12, but I started submitting my work for publication in the summer of 2009. I'd always thought I would pursue publication at some point—probably after I retired from teaching or turned 40. My first story was published in January 2010, and I've had over a hundred others accepted for publication since then. I won't turn 40 for another year, and I'm still teaching full-time. Doesn't look like I'll be retiring anytime soon!


2. How did you create the character Bartholomew Quasar?

When I came up with Captain Bartholomew Quasar back in the spring of 2010, I was going for a mash-up between William Shatner's James T. Kirk and Dudley Do-Right from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (but in Quasar's case, things seldom ever go right). He's one of those classic pulp heroes with a heart of gold whose narcissistic tendencies often land him in hot water. I hope readers can laugh at Bartholomew Quasar and root for him at the same time. He's ridiculous, but there's something about his fallible nature that most of us can relate to on some level.


3. Are you working on more Captain Quasar stories?

I've written over 20 Captain Quasar tales so far, many of which are out on the submission circuit, looking for good homes. "Captain Quasar and the Ghosts of Space Command" will be published in the next issue of Perihelion Science Fiction. "Captain Quasar and the Carpethrian Call of the Wild" will be included in the B is for Broken anthology, and "Captain Quasar and the Devious Powers of Persuasion" will be in the Geminid Press space opera anthology. I'm in the middle of edits on a novella-length adventure I plan to submit for publication soon. My collection of 15 Quasar tales Starfaring Adentures…in SPACE is available everywhere eBooks are sold—and free for the taking, last time I checked.  

Author Bio:

Milo James Fowler is a teacher by day, speculative fictioneer by night, and an active SFWA member. When he's not grading papers, he's imagining what the world might be like in a dozen alternate realities. In the past 5 years, his short fiction has appeared in more than 100 publications, including AE SciFi, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction, Nature, Shimmer, and the Wastelands 2 anthology.


Visit www.milojamesfowler.com and join The Crew for updates about new releases.

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Have you read any of Milo's novels? Do you like his detective noir, weird westerns, or science fiction best?


Please leave a comment to let me know you were here, and I will respond. Thanks for dropping by, and don't forget to wish Milo Good Luck!! I might be able to get Milo to drop by for a few comments as well. My favourite is his detective noir work! 


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Monday, May 4, 2015

Reflections - A to Z Challenge 2015 - French Theme

What did you learn from the A to Z Blog Challenge this year? 





A theme is de rigueur for me. I'm not French, but I love Paris and many things that are of French origin. With a theme, the passion you have for what you're writing about comes through, whether it's your own life, vignettes, or subject matter. De rigueur = strictly required by etiquette, usage or fashion.


Romancing the subject - or searching for connections with any given theme via research adds depth to the posts. Add extra information like side dishes to make the reader go 'hmmm - I never knew that or thought of it that way'.


For the 'planner' that I am, prepping posts beforehand with research material and images and ensuring I have a subject for each letter is something I do. Why? Life intervenes at the most inconvenient times and pre-scheduling alleviates that.  The challenge is to produce a post a day, not just to see if you can fly by the seat of your pants, unless you are a pantser at heart and enjoy doing the flying style. It's a choice.


Search for those blogs that appeal and follow those that you like.
Good advice because we each have different interests that appeal to us when we look for blog to read. It's a good way to meet bloggers you haven't discovered yet. This month long challenge is like a boot camp for blogging.


Expand your horizons, and make the post interesting to others. It's discovery, a way to grow in your writing, and a way to learn something too.  Each year I've kept the posts in a collection, since the theme helps with that and afterwards, added a tab at the top of my blog. Most of those posts continue to bring in readers long after the challenge is over.


Entertainment. Some of my favourite blogging themes entertained me all month - one on all things Cornish, one with alpha lists of a combo nature-books, movies, and bloggers, one on retro TV shows, one with alphabetical themed vignettes, and one naming all sorts of disasters. I discovered  a few new blogs and lost a bit of sleep. I'll look for your Reflections post, if you decide to post one.


Previous collections: Paris, Etc, 2012Art A to Z 2014, and now I'll add a French Faves 2015 (the Archives on this page also shows A to Z posts for April in the sidebar). I'm happy with what I have produced, and I've enjoyed the trip through the month of April. 


Thanks to all those who formed the Hosting Team! 
Lee (Arlee), all the co-hosts, ambassadors, teams, and Congrats to all participants! I plan to keep strolling through the list to see those I missed during the hectic times. I've got my survivor badge. Remember there are T-shirts and a Reflections badge too! Check at the A to Z site.




Are you doing a Reflections post? Did you enjoy the Challenge this year?

Please leave a comment and let me know you were here. I'll respond. Thanks for stopping by!

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Z = Zénith de Paris, French Faves - A to Z Challenge

 Zenith * - the highest or culminating point 
 Oxford Dictionary

Le Zenith, Parisian Venue - Creative Commons*

Z = Zénith de Paris

Zénith de Paris is an indoor multi-purpose arena in Paris, France. It is located in the Parc de la Villette on the edge of the Canal de l'Ourcq. It seats up to 6293 people which makes it one of the largest venues in Paris. 


Le Zénith was built in 1983 to replace the Hippodrome de Pantin, a circus big-top which had become the main venue for touring rock bands visiting Paris. Designed by architects Philippe Chaix and Jean-Paul Morel, Le Zénith was built on the same location as the old circus tent.

As with the Eiffel Tower, this hall was intended to be used for a fixed term of three years after which it was to be dismantled and replaced by a new hall nearby.  However, instead its success gave birth to a chain of new halls throughout France. 

Well, if something works well, why not keep it? That kind of thinking helped save the Eiffel Tower from being dismantled after the initial exhibition / World's Fair.

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Have you ever heard the name Le Zénith in regard to concert venues in France? Is Zenith (in English) a word you have used very much? 

Please leave a comment to let me know you stopped by, and if you are part of the A to Z Challenge. I'll be sure to check your blog, and reciprocate. If you're not in the challenge, thanks for stopping by to visit! I try to reply to all comments.

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The A to Z Blog Challenge is brainchild of Lee, at Tossing It Out.  Please visit the A to Z blog site to find out more information and the participant list.  There are also Twitter and Facebook presences if you want to check those!



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References:

Zénith
Definition: The point on the celestial sphere that is directly above the observer.

Wiki on Le Zénith
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z%C3%A9nith_de_Paris

Le Zenith de Paris
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Y = Yé-yé Music, French Faves, or Not - A to Z Blog Challenge

French Pop Music in the 1960s. . .


Amazon Image - limited edition Album

Y = Yé-yé
Yeah-Yeah

Yé-yé was a style of pop music that became popular in France, Italy and Spain in the early 1960s. The term Yé-yé was derived from the English term "yeah! yeah!" popularized by the British Beat music bands such as the Beatles. The style expanded worldwide for a time to a specific audience.


Yé-yé Gets Around

Yé-yé music remained a mostly European phenomenon featuring young female singers. Although the Yé-yé movement was led by female singers, it was not an exclusively female movement. Ages 16-17 was the average age for performers.

As for Yé-yé girls, Sylvie Vartan, a glamorous young singer, married the rock star, Johnny Hallyday in 1965. They toured in the USA and Asia, but several years later, she was still singing girly-girl songs. Hm-mm.

Early French artists dabbling in Rock n' Roll and similar genres such as Johnny Hallyday admit that they were creating an imitation of English language Rock n' Roll, and yé-yé music helped assimilate that music in a unique, French way. Johnny Hallyday was an icon in the French speaking world from the beginning in the early 60s, and has been called the French Elvis. . .

Yé-yé style songs were trendy for a while, then faded away as times moved on. Then, in 2012 in the USA, French-Canadian actress Jessica Paré performed a cover of "Zou Bisou Bisou" (a yé-yé song) in the tv series, Mad Men, a popular show in its fifth season at that time.

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NOTE: This is not a favourite style of music of mine, but it is a 'Y' subject with a few interesting details. I prefer my French music flavoured by Stephane Grappelli, Django Reinhardt, or Edith Piaf. In fact, I only learned about this novelty music during research for the A to Z Challenge.


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Have you ever heard of Yé-yé music? Do you like girl groups or pop music in this style? Did you watch Mad Men in 2012 and do you remember hearing such a song?


Please leave a comment to let me know you stopped by, and if you are part of the A to Z Challenge. I'll be sure to check your blog, and reciprocate. If you're not in the challenge, thanks for stopping by to visit! I try to reply to all comments.

***

The A to Z Blog Challenge is brainchild of Lee, at Tossing It Out.  Please visit the A to Z blog site to find out more information and the participant list.  There are also Twitter and Facebook presences if you want to check those!



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References

Yé-yé Music
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y%C3%A9-y%C3%A9

Johnny Hallyday
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Hallyday

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