Presentation on “Taboo” topics from National Geographic

Introduction

I chose to do my presentation on a series which was aired by National Geographic titled “Taboo.” It consisted on several seasons which entailed a myriad of topics which are considered taboo in our modern day society. The two topics I chose to report on were the “Food Taboos” and the “Voodoo Taboo.”

–The following links will provide episode one of a four part episode series for each topic.

Food Taboo Link:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hERIwUCX9ZA&feature=related

Voodoo Taboo Link:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RKxQaA8Lg0

Some other topics that National Geographic reported on in there Taboo series include the following:

  • Drugs
  • Prostitution
  • Human Sacrifice
  • Voodoo
  • Sexuality
  • Nudists
  • Tattoos
  • Body Modifications
  • Rites of Passage
  • Witch Craft

I hope some of these topics will trigger some form interest and provide an informative,  entertaining way to enrich your lives with new and extremely interesting information. All of these episodes can be easily viewed on Youtube. I hope you will enjoy watching some of these episodes as much as I did, and leave with a newfound perspective on life and diversity.

Description:

Introduction to Taboo series says “The Forbidden, The Sinful, The taboo…” Forbidden and Sinful are both words that people commonly associate with the word Taboo, however, I believe the goal of these series is to create a sense of world-wide awareness and acceptance for cultural aspects that are not common in the United States. These episodes instill in viewers a stronger sense of open-mindedness and tolerance for things that are not “normal” to us. “Behaviors that divide cultures and inspire fear” “But our differences may be what make us all human” (and show an image of a smiling child when they say the word ´human´)

These episodes describe the nature of a taboo topic. National Geographic has picked over 10 topics considered to be taboo and they have chosen to make a kind of documentary about each topic. The episodes are usually filmed in foreign countries and they use locals from these foreign countries to represent the “characters” in their taboo episode. One common theme that essentially every episode had was a legitimate authority, such as an Anthropologist or a Psychologist, explain or justify the actions and behavior of the people engaging in these taboo activities. One of the things I thought was missing from these series was perhaps some form of statistics. For example, in the Voodoo episode that took place in Benin, it did mention at the beginning of the episode how many people were active and current practitioners of voodoo, but in the episode about food, statistics weren’t provided as to what percentage of citizens actually chose to engage in eating insects, vs. those who refuse to participate in this ancient food custom.

One interesting aspect that most if not all episodes seemed to have in common, was making the Taboo topic, whichever it was, not seem so Taboo, or perhaps, seem more understandable or relatable. For example, in the Voodoo episode, one of the members of a tribe in Benin Africa, sucks blood from a wound in a man’s head (believed to be a direct portal to a powerful spirit.) This action of sucking blood from someone’s head, or any body part for that matter can be disturbing and offensive to many viewers however, the anthropologist that was being interrogated for this particular episode compared the villagers´ choice to ingest blood, to a Catholic’s choice to also ingest blood when taking holy communion. The anthropologist said, “Blood is not a sinister factor that only has a role in religions like voodoo, blood plays a significant role in many religions, such as Catholicism. During communion, unless you are a hypocrite and don’t accept the tenants of your faith, true Catholics genuinely believe they are drinking the blood of Christ while they are engaging in communion, therefore, accepting that they are drinking human blood.” In the food episode, they compared the common and widespread practice of eating insects and dogs, to Americans eating cattle. In India, it would be unthinkable and a sin to eat a cow because cows are considered sacred animals, however, or beliefs as Americans aren’t the same and our main source of protein in the United States is cattle. However, in countries such as China where a dog is simply considered another source of protein such as a cow, and dogs are commonly sold in the market as a food source. Where in most parts of the world, especially the U.S. it would be unthinkable to eat a dog, in China, it is common and is viewed as an acceptable source of food. These Taboo episodes from National Geographic strive to make these comparisons, I believe, to create a sort of understanding from its viewers, a form of balance between what is considered normal and accepting for us, and what is considered normal and accepting for people of other countries, and to come to some sort of reasoning, or understanding as to why and how things are the way they are in other countries foreign to our own.

Analysis and Interpretation:

Significant patterns that emerged in these series, were the use of an authority figure, meaning, a university professor for example (someone highly educated about the subject) typically an anthropologist, or less common, but also used, a psychologist . These people represented legitimate sources that provided credible information to the viewers, and credible viewpoints and commentary about each episode, each ritual, each practice, each belief etc. I believe they also served as a medium between the common viewer, and the participants of the practice being analyzed. They helped to sort of ease the information which was being given to the viewer, softening the rough edges, and providing clarity.

Another common pattern was the appeal to your senses. Whether it be a sense of disgust, a sense of anger, a sense of fear or a sense of confusion, most of these episodes are likely to stir up certain strong emotions in its viewers, which creates some form of attachment or emotional investment in the episodes which makes it more intriguing to watch. One thing we all have in common no matter where we are from is our humanity. We are all human, and therefore share many of the same characteristics, however, life starts to become interesting when we meet people from other nations and other cultures who have different beliefs and different lifestyles as we do, which naturally is intriguing. We know we share the common factor of being human, therefore having strong emotions like, fear, happiness, pain, anger, pleasure etc. and despite however different we might seem, we are still able to connect to other people in some way, shape or form which takes me to my next common theme which is the use of:

Relatedness, and what I mean by this is the strategy of establishing common ground in order to create a sense of understanding. Viewers want to understand what they are seeing, however, this sense of understanding cannot be achieved if they cannot compare, or relate themselves and what they know and believe, to what they are viewing in the episode. Almost every episode provided some form of relation or common ground that the American public could easily attest to. If we are provided with an example of something we don’t know and aren’t familiar with, to an example of something we do know and are familiar with and clearly understand and accept, then it is easier for us to understand and be accepting of other cultures and beliefs, since our specific culture and beliefs can be just as taboo for other cultures, as their specific cultures and beliefs can be extremely taboo for us.

Evaluation:

After watching a multitude of the Taboo series from National Geographic I can safely say that it seems like the more I see the less I know. This series was immensely informative, and very entertaining to watch. After watching several episodes, I feel I have become even more tolerant than I already was towards other cultures and other belief systems simply because it is fascinating to learn about our differences and essentially, our similarities, which after viewing these episodes from National Geographic, I learned that although what makes us all similar is displayed in various different ways, all of these forms of rituals, practices, our beliefs ultimately conjure the same meaning: our devotion and respect for life and its immense diversity.

Engagement:

I think the biggest form of engagement that I could do after viewing these episodes would be to keep advocating tolerance in my society and with my age group. People, especially people my age, tend to reject what they don’t know and aren’t familiar with, however, when you open your mind to the unknown and the uncommon, literally a whole new world can unfold before you, and the experience of fully immersing yourself in the unknown, is way worth the insignificant amount of fear and scrutiny you might encounter.

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Blog Response for Elle magazine article

The magazine I chose to complete this blog response was Elle. After reading several articles, I chose an article dealing with relationships, specifically, divorce. The name of the article is “Till Whatever Do us Part” and it is written by Rachael Combe. Combe begins her article by describing her own wedding day and the events and intimate details of her ceremony, and then goes on to comment on how divorce has become a common and accepted norm in our society. She finishes off her article with a tender anecdote of her grandmother’s death, emphasizing that the only person that was by her side was her husband of 61 years. She leaves readers with the loving image of a successful relationship that ends the way most people entering a marriage hope it to end, “till death do them part.”

She includes the comments and opinions of a couple’s therapist by the name of William J. Doherty who has a PhD from the University of Minnesota. Doherty brings an interesting perception to the reaons why couples usually file for divorce. She categorizes these reasons in what she calls “Soft reasons” and “Hard reasons.” The paragraphs where Combe goes on to explain Doherty’s definitions of soft reasons (to file for a divorce) and hard reasons, was the section in the article that made me think and reflect the most. I applied some of these reasons to personal experiences, and I didn’t and couldn´t fully agree with what the definitons of these two categories were, nor could I agree that couple’s should strive to overcome any and every hardship (including some that were defined as “hard reasons.”) I understand that marriage is a committment and ultimately a life-long promise between two people, an unbreakable moral bond that truely tests the integrity of your word and character. However, I think there are exceptions to everything, and I believe divorce is something which should be viewed at case by case not rule by rule. Every person is different, therefore every couple is different, and likewise, their strengths and weakness (as a couple) vary greatly as well.

I would define this article as a “thinking piece.” This article inspires you to think and re-evaluate your own relationship (if you have one, or plan to have one) and evaluate the intentions and goals of your relationship. Aside from me not agreeing entirely with everything that was written in the article, the article is, in its own way, inspiring some form of change with the way marriage is viewed in our society. It inspires people to re-think the committment they have made, or might make someday, to spend their life with a partner, and accept and hone to the seriousness of their choice. Marriage is not like shopping. And people shouldn’t think it is. Although you technically can “return your purchase” you have to remember that your significant other is a living, breathing, feeling person, not a handbag.

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Blog Response To “The Day the Movies Died”

In response to Harris’s article, “The Day the Movies Died” I was glad to read that my  silent thoughts were also the thoughts of someone else, who took the time to write and publish these thoughts in a very well known magazine. I had already begun to notice that my interest for going to the movie theatres had declined, and that I was usually only insistent in going if the movie did not consist of the main streamline of popular recurring themes Harris mentioned (raunchy comedy, comic book recreations, sequels to sequels etc.) I am not going to lie and say I havn’t ever seen ANY of “these” movies, in fact, I very much enjoy comedies (including raunchy comedies) because they make me laugh until I feel like the popcorn and ICEE I just ate are going to come flying out of mouth. However, there is a limit to my mindless entertainment. I do enjoy being mentally engaged as a viewer and actually having to THINK (oh no!) as I am watching a movie. I too, like the author saw inception, and at one point was completely lost during the movie, however, that was a movie that I would definitley enjoy seeing again, why? Because there is substance to it–and the substance is thick. I get bored of movies with thin substance all of the time, they make amusing time-fillers, but they do not make very good time-enhancers. I want my time to be enhanced if I am occupying it in a leisure manner, and movies with “thick substance” provide that for me.

As far as the engagement process goes, I think that what Harris asks for the readers to do  is both reasonable and obvious. Of course we as consumers are in charge of what is being provided for us! If producers and production companies see that consumers are purchasing more tickets for movies like the ones mentioned in the article (Inception, The Social Network, and The Town) then more movies like these are going to be made! As he stated, the goal of marketing is to pinpoint what people are buying and try to sell more of it. So let’s try and encourage the production of more time-productive movies that will produce a new, more pro-avtive breed of audiences.

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Blog Response On Classmate I interviewed

Wednesday’s project was helpful in the sense that it posed a creative challenge which consisted of not only interviewing someone we didn´t know very well (if at all) but creating interesting questions for the person being interviewed in order to be provided with interesting answers to ultimately create an interesting article about the person all within a time period of about 15 minutes.

Questions that I asked that worked well were: “What are you passionate about in life?” “Where have you traveled?” “Why have you traveled so much?” “Do you plan to travel to Japan in the near future?

What I would do differently if I had a second chance would be to ask more questions about his ventures. Possibly questions such as, what are some of the most memorable places you´ve been to and why were they memorable? What are some of the most stark differences between foreign countries you´ve visited and the United States?  What are 3 of the most important lessons you’ve learned from traveling to foreign countries? What advice would you give an American who has never stepped outside of the United States and is going to a foreign country for the first time?

The person I interviewed was William Meilinger. You might recognize him from the part in his blog where he wrote “I’m a 20 something year-old…” I don’t know about you, but that part in his blog definitely stood out to me because the 20´s are typically not a time period in a person’s life where they chose to conceal their age. I now know his age, but I will omit it from my description since he seems to prefer to keep his age anonymous. (“Wink”– for  William)

From William’s quiet nature, one would never imagine that William could definitely talk for days about all of the places he’s been to. He’s traveled extensively around the world, and this was one of the things which intrigued me the most from William. Other facts about William include his love for film-making, video games, movies, and communications.

After interviewing William, this is the lead and second paragraph I created for him:

“America is very stressful, I find” says 21 year old William Meilinger in a casual and dignified tone. Such a bold statement inevitably came from the lips of a true, cultured, and experience traveler. William has had the pleasure of embarking on multiple family vacations for many years which has given him the opportunity to travel to exotic destinations such as: Brazil, Morocco, Russia, France, Mexico, Germany, Canada, and England among other countries.

Ironically, William has not had the opportunity to travel to a country whose language he has studied for 3 1/2 years, and whose culture he is passionate about. Japan is the country that William finds fascinating, and has not yet had the opportunity to indulge in among his multitude of voyages. His interest in Japan began when he was in 8th and 9th grade, learning about the Japanese culture and studying the Japanese language. Undeniably, William became intrigued by the mystic culture of Japan and his wish is to someday have the opportunity to travel to this vibrant country through the Jet Programme (Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme) an organization which seeks to teach Japanese student the English language and sends American students to Japan to help teach the English language, and in addition to the teaching experience, the Jet Programme gives students the opportunity to receive college credit for their semester abroad. To learn more about the Jet Programme visit their website at www.jetprogramme.org.

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Television Show Blog Post

I decided to watch a show I normally would not have watched simply because I thought it would be more interesting to critique it, in fact, the show I decided to watch was a show I had never seen before. It aired from 8:30pm-9:00pm mountain time on E! and the name of the show was Holly´s World. Holly was previously a playmate at the playboy mansion and was one of Hugh Hefner’s main girlfriends, until they decided to end their relationship and Holly went on to star in her own reality T.V. show.

Indicators of what the show might actually be doing: Judging solely from the 30 minutes of torture this show made me endure, it not only reminded me of why I completely refrain from watching reality T.V. shows it also made me come to the realization that the dumbing down of American audiences is official and very much real. If a show like Holly´s World is permitted to air on national television, not only is this an indicator of our priorities as Americans, but it is an incredibly vulgar and cheap taste in entertainment (not to mention an embarrassment, since this show is a reflection of our culture in its entirety.) I think what this show is actually doing, is reinforcing what already has been predicated many times in our society: superficiality and narcissism rules.

What messages does this show reinforce?: Tanning and modeling lingerie is cool, drinking excessively, acting obnoxious from the effects of alcohol and getting completely and utterly  wasted is even cooler, superficiality, gossiping, and talking like an airhead is accepted and overtly encouraged, selfishness is normal and not frowned upon, in fact, it is pathetically admired, should I continue…?

How does the show work?: Girls prance around in flimsy clothes and are filmed saying incredibly repulsive things about  essentially, nothing, and then small intervals in between scenes display a single girl that appears to be interviewed and sitting down with a backdrop. The person being “interviewed” whoever it may be, comments on what just occurred in the scene prior to his/her interview or comments on what is just about to occur in a future scene. The show continues on like this, with a random mix of scenes and small interludes of people being “interviewed” (I say interviewed because it appears as though they are being interviewed, however, they are simply commenting on events that occurred or will occur in the show.

What is the thesis of this particular episode?: I’m not sure if this show was “meant” to have a thesis. I think its thesis is that it doesn’t have one. The show highlighted and jumped focus on a myriad of random events, it’s difficult to pinpoint a single significant event—if any—I believe the purpose of these kinds of shows is to provide “fun, fast, and easy” entertainment, since these elements seem to be the key elements that the American public seems to demand, enjoy and indulge in.

How does this show appeal to its audience?: The show is utterly obnoxious, superficial, meaningless and dramatic (a recurring trend which is seen more and more in reality T.V. shows.) need I say more?

Commercials being aired during the show: Pro-active, new movie previews, new-series premiers, Dell computers, new movies that are ready to purchase (Burlesque) skin lotion, hair color, a website called Groupon.com. These commercials were obviously intended to be viewed by a younger audience, since the commercials included things like acne treatment, hair-color, and a youthful seductive movie called Burlesque which would most likely be accepted and viewed by a younger crowd.

How do the characters/actors behave, why, who does this appeal to:? The characters in the reality show Holly’s World (which are essentially actors) act the way most people stopped acting back in middle school. The women on this show are not only incredibly vain and narrow-minded, they are insanely hypocritical and tasteless women who seem to have nothing more productive to do with their lives other than gossip, bicker, and straighten their hair. Why they behave this way, is beyond me, however, I am sure it increases their ratings by about 1,000% Who does this appeal to? Probably people with the same pitiful personality.

What shows don’t I like: Obviously reality T.V. shows wouldn’t even make it to the bottom of my list since they are so low on my rating, thus reality shows are definitely shows I do not like. Why? Read my blog, or watch a reality show yourself—warning, if you chose to do the latter, you might vomit after the show is over.

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Radio Broadcast Blog Response

1.)Description

2.)Analysis

3.)Interpretation

Radio Station: Colorado Public Radio

Title: Metro State Prepared for Budget Costs

Date: Thursday February 17th 2011

Interviewer (radio broadcaster): Ryan Warner

Interviewee: President of Metropolitan State College of Denver, Stephen Jordan

Link to podcast: http://www.cpr.org/#load_article|Metro_State_Prepared_For_Budget_Cuts

Brief Description: Since governor John Hickenlooper announced that he would cut $425 million dollars from the state budget, multiple sectors have been targeted and affected including: state worker salaries, prisons, state parks and education. In this interview with president of Metro State Stephen Jordan, Jordan discusses how the governor’s proposal to reduce educational funding by $36 million dollars has affected, but not utterly destroyed, Metro’s ability to continue functioning as one of Colorado’s largest universities.

Jordan:“To hear a reduction of only 36 million was at least encouraging.”

Warner:“It’s less bad news…” (compared to the anticipated 50 million that was going to be lost)

9% tuition increase for Metro last year

16% tuition increase for next year

12% tuition increase in 2012

9% tuition increase in each of the subsequent 3 years after that

I wish Jordan would have provided some figures as to what a typical in-state college student who attends Metro State full-time pays for his/her classes right now, and what that same student with a same full-time schedule would have to pay to continue being a full-time Metro student in one year.

“We’re fortunate in Colorado, that at least for a number of our institutions (which ones?) we start at a relatively small tuition level.” (relative to whom, or what?)

“We’re at the bottom 25th percentile so relative to most other places it’s very very inexpensive.” (to “most” other places? Which places? Where did this stat come from?)

“Almost 1 out of every 2 dollars that tuition is going up, is going to go back to students in the form of financial aid.” (Almost? What is the exact amount then? It could be 99 cents or 79 cents, both are almost a dollar but one is “almost more of” a dollar than the other)

“Lowest income students will be absolutely 100% protected” (Really? 100%? That’s a lot of confidence,  exactly what measures are going to be taken to ensure this bold statement?)

“We’re really working very hard to protect those who would be affected most severely by this tuition increase.”

“I would say we’ve done as well as anyone else has done.” (Whose “anyone else?” Who is Jordan comparing his institution to? And why is he comparing?)

4.)Evaluation

After listening to two podcasts (the first being the one which is currently being discussed and analyzed and the second podcast being an interview with governor John Hickenlooper about the budget cuts http://www.cpr.org/#load_article|Governor_Talks_About_Budget_Cuts) I feel that the budget cuts that were made, clearly convey the priorities of this country, and one of those priorities continues to not be excellence in this country’s educational system. Every year that we fall behind in our country’s educational system is one more year that other countries are gaining a step ahead, and we will inevitably continue to fall further behind as long as we keep leaving education in the back burner and treating ignorance as the common norm. This country desperately needs to focus more on producing high-quality citizens that are capable of reasoning at a level above “proficient “ because often it seems like more and more mediocre students seem to be the norm in college, and with schools in general.  With the continuous rise of mediocre expectations from both teachers and ultimately people in power, we, as a whole, are going to start becoming a mediocre nation that is going to continue producing mediocre politicians, business people, and educators. We as citizens must demonstrate that if there is one thing we still have complete and utter control over, it´s the control over what we do with our brain. It is our right to douse our minds with knowledge and we must drown ourselves with this right, because it is only through the acquisition of knowledge that we gain power, because through the death of ignorance comes the birth of evolution.

5.)Engagement

My best contribution to anyone I meet in a classroom, on a bus, in the library, or on a plane is to demonstrate that I am not another stereotypical “partying” college student that spends her weekends drinking and wandering aimlessly from bar to bar. I am in school because I have a passion for learning. I am aware that the more I know, the better prepared I will be when an opportunity arises to begin some form of dialogue with any adult about virtually any topic. This is my goal, today and always, to demonstrate that staying 1 step ahead of the game, will actually place you at 3 steps ahead in the long run. That’s why I feel it is crucial to stay informed about events occurring all over the world, not only on the Auraria Campus, not only in Denver, not only in Colorado, not only in the United States, but in our neighboring countries (Canada and Mexico) and in other countries as well. My engagement stems from my desire to become a well-rounded college graduate that is able to express a relevant and articulate opinions about any topic, and in my efforts to proceed with this engagement process, I have made two changes to my life: I have programmed NPR onto my car stereo (I actually did this earlier in the semester) and as of last week, I have made the BBC World News website my home-page. Hopefully these two minuscule changes that took me only minutes to make, will make a substantial difference in my credibility as a person that will grant me a lifetime of respect.

 

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Independant Recording Company Blog Response

1.) Description

Independent Recording Company: Matador Records

Website: http://www.matadorrecords.com/

Genre: This label seems to specialize in light rock as their genre, and from a simple random sampling of some of their recording artists all of the groups seemed to have a “light rock” feel to their music.

Some Groups: Belle and Sebastian, Glasser, Interpol, Esben and the Witch, Yo La Tengo

Glasser: Light rock/a little pop

Belle and Sebastian: Light rock/kind of a modern 50´s feel

Interpol: Light rock/very modern feel

Esben and the witch: Light rock/depressing mood or tone

Yo La Tengo: Light Rock/Variety of sounds, wasn’t quite able to describe it…

Distribution to consumers: In the United states Matador is distributed by ADA and Matador Direct. In Canada, Matador  is distributed by Beggars Canada and in the U.K. Matador is distributed by Vital.

Matador’s criteria for signing new artists (how the label identifies its musical artists):
“We’re not looking for any specific thing — except truth, beauty, solace, shelter, etc. Musical taste is a funny thing, especially if you have some.”
How the label describes itself:“ We’ll sign someone from Mars if we like their music enough.”

2.) Analysis

Fan type: The record label seems to be targeting a 25-35 year-old crowd. The artists that they record music for, are artists that play very light rock, and the sound is not alternative and in general not too modern or “pop” sounding. The music seems to be for the “older young-adult” (if that makes any sense…)

Promotion and distribution: Matador records supervises and promotes sales and marketing of all of its recording artists. They have separate offices and staff in both London and New York.

Independence: The label is half-independent. It is financially viable since,  Beggars a U.K. recording company purchased 50% of Matador in 2002 and has since taken over Matador’s worldwide marketing . Here, a statement from their website: “Matador continues to do its own wholly independent A&R, art, production and direct-store distribution (which will also handle releases from other labels in Beggars Group). The label continues to be run by Chris Lombardi, Gerard Cosloy and Patrick Amory.”

3.) Interpretation

The major problems that independent recording labels face is creating a credible business out of just one person. The majority of independent recording labels start off with just one, person, or a couple of people. The goal is to make the recording label known and reputable. That is probably one of the hardest obstacles to overcome. It is possible for independent recording labels to overcome these problems, (Matador is a perfect example, because they started off with only two working members and have since grown to 24 working members) and many of the artists they have recorded for are being heard worldwide

4.) Evaluation

The value of small independent recording companies to the larger ones, is that produce a new stream of music, a new fan base, they provide diversity and variety and they are able to become an extra source of income for the larger companies should they chose to invest in the small independent recording labels. If smaller independent recording labels didn’t exist, the industry as a whole would most likely suffer from variety. Consumers enjoy variety and small independent labels provide that. They provide a large pool of diverse sounds and artists that wouldn’t be heard otherwise. This market, though small compared to larger recording labels like Columbia Records and Sony Music is significant and large enough to cause a major gap and financial loss in the music industry.

5.) Engagement

I have opened an account on Pandora and have since been sampling music all day. It is fascinating to hear so many different artists, and sounds and songs that I have never heard of before and it is a true shame and loss that our mainstream radio stations have the impertinence to repeat the same songs over and over again, multiple times a day, despite having the privilege of indulging the listeners with such a rich and diverse source of music, artists, and sounds from all over the world.

 

 

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