October 2009 Archives

i feel so validated

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"According to a source briefed on White House-Senate health care negotiations, the public option's saving grace was its political popularity with the Democratic base. The source described the back and forth between Senate health care principals and the White House as a "sort of stare down where the two sides were saying, 'you be the face of pulling it out.'" --TPM, 10/28

So maybe all those Saturday mornings spent collecting petitions, and the phone calls to my reps, and the visit to Price's office, weren't a waste of time after all. Cool.

dragonwyck

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October 23 movie: Dragonwyck. Gothic romance starring Vincent Price and Gene Tierney. When we first put it on, we made fun of it for being so much like the iconic gothic movies of the time, calling it "Jane Eyrebeccaring Heights" and so forth. But I found myself engrossed in the movie. Vincent Price is outstanding. He's charming and brooding and tortured around the edges. Every bit as good as Orson Welles in Jane Eyre. There's a whole class struggle thing with Price as the tyrannical landowner versus angry downtrodden tenant farmers, including Harry Morgan with a big beard. I really enjoyed this.

the lodger

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October 19: The Lodger. Decent thriller about a man suspected of being Jack the Ripper. Stars Merle Oberon, George Sanders, and the real star of the movie: Laird Cregar. Cregar is fantastic. Tragically, he died soon after this movie came out. Apparently he was tired of playing villains, and in an effort to be considered for romantic parts he went on a crash diet involving amphetamines. The drugs and rapid weight loss so damaged his body that he died at age 31. It makes me ill to think of what he might have accomplished if he had lived. He might have gone on to be another Charles Laughton.

the fair

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mini bucket manWe went to the state fair yesterday and had a great time. We don't do midway games or rides. We just like to walk around and look at everything, and go to the low-key things like the agricultural building, craft contests, garden show, Village of Yesteryear, etc. This year we went to a history of the fairgrounds display which was pretty cool. Fun facts: the fairgrounds location was a tank corps training ground during WWI. Also, six presidents have visited the fairgrounds: both Roosevelts, Truman, Ford, Clinton and Obama. I was there for Obama's visit! It was a campaign stop in the summer before the election.

We went pretty moderate on the fair food: we had fresh apple cider, mini donuts, lime fizz, ribbon fries, and ice cream. We split everything except the apple cider, which we each had our own cup of. Lime fizz was fresh lime juice, sugar and seltzer water. Really good. Ribbon fries were spiral cut potato chips fried while you wait. The freshness is really important -- if they're cold, they're just potato chips.

We usually walk through the midway but the fairgrounds were so crowded yesterday that we decided against it. On the way we saw an anti-health care bus. It was from Americans for Prosperity, they were asking people to sign petitions. They had a recorded message like a barker with ludicrous messages about reform. Things like "Are you concerned about Congress' plan to nationalize our health care system? It's not too late to help!" and so forth. I suppose I ought to be upset that they were lying to people and scaring them with a bogeyman threat that doesn't exist, but it was just funny. (Especially since, even right in front of an entrance, few people were signing their petition.) For the rest of the afternoon Georg and I entertained ourselves by intoning things like "Are you concerned about Congress' plan to cause the Mayan apocalypse?"

swipe my WHAT?I walked up to hear what they were saying, and was pretty stunned by a sign next to their table:

"Telling President Obama and Congress to keep their hands off your health care is as easy as 1, 2, 3,
1. Swipe your driver's license/ID
2. Enter your email address
3. Enter your telephone number"

What? Why do they want people to swipe their drivers licenses? Do people actually go along with this? The conservatives I've known would be royally pissed (as I would) at a political group trying to get that kind of information from everyone who signed a petition. But I guess they wouldn't keep using the sign if they got angry reactions.

I really wanted to ask them about it but I had walked right up wearing a Democratic Party sticker. A little late to remove the sticker when you're standing in front of the table! It does make me very curious.

call day

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OFA has a big call day today, trying to get 100,000 calls to Congress in one day. They have a bunch of call parties tonight and I was feeling guilty about not signing up for one. I'm happy to call my reps, but I don't really want to phone bank regular people and ask them to call.

Since I didn't go to a call party tonight, I called my reps again this afternoon. Price and Hagan's offices were fine. I told the staffer I had been following the debate all summer, asked them to thank their boss, and got confirmation that they still support the public option. Hagan's office took my name & my town; Price's did not.

I actually had a pleasant conversation with Burr's staffer. He started out by saying flatly that Burr does not support the bill. I've had a lot of mealy-mouthed letters from senators, and I appreciated his honest answer so much that I tried to engage, which was probably a mistake. I asked the staffer what Burr would do instead, and he said that Burr prefers a plan of tax cuts and preventing the pre-existing condition exclusion. I replied "well my understanding is that the current bill does prevent exclusion based on pre-existing conditions," and he fell back on repeating a bunch of jargon without saying anything. He sounded a little flummoxed. Maybe he wasn't prepared to go off script. Most callers probably just want to vent & don't actually try to have a conversation about the merits of the bill.

While he was babbling he said something to the effect that Burr's main objection was to the public option. So I asked, "if the current bill came to a vote without the public option, would the senator vote for it?" At this point he started totally bullshitting me. He said something vague, I can't remember the exact wording, but something like "the senator wants to see every American have access to health care," which was clearly designed to make me think he was saying "yes, Burr would vote for a public option-less bill." Which is obviously false. Burr will never, ever vote for the bill. He voted against the Franken amendment for god's sake. The guy is so deep into "Party of No" territory he'll vote for rape if it means voting against the Democrats.

At this point I realized that the conversation was a waste of my time so I wished him a nice day and hung up. At least it was a pleasant waste of time. I thought about bringing up the Franken amendment but decided against it, because the subject makes me so angry that I would have started yelling at the staffer. Maybe I should write a letter instead.

2010

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October 17 movie: 2010. I saw something recently which made me want to watch 2010 again. I can't remember now what it was, but I remembered to record the movie when TCM showed it last week.

It wasn't as good as the first time I saw it. Granted, that was in a movie theater when I was 15 years old. So I shouldn't have been surprised that it didn't hold up. Back then, the fact that it was science fiction was good enough for me. I didn't realize then that tying the plot so closely to current events would make it seem preachy and dated in just a few years. And I didn't notice the cheesy soundtrack because it probably wasn't that cheesy in 1984 (was it? was our music really that bad?). And I wasn't aware enough to wonder why the actor playing Roy Scheider's wife was about 200 years younger than he was.

It's not a bad movie. It's a mediocre movie with the bad luck to be the sequel to a visionary work of art. If it had had no connection to 2001 I would have held it to a lesser standard and probably would have enjoyed it more. There were some good things about it. For instance I enjoyed the sequence where John Lithgow and one of the Soviet astronauts cross over to Discovery. That was well done.

the parallax view

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October 17 movie: The Parallax View. Deeply paranoid suspense/thriller starring Warren Beatty as a reporter who stumbles onto a conspiracy to recruit assassins for, um, conspiracies. The cinematography is terrific, lots of long shots which increase the sense of alienation. Good supporting work by Hume Cronyn (who I love), William Daniels, Walter McGinn and Paula Prentiss. The distilled essence of the movie is in a "training video" by the evil conspiracy corporation, a montage of innocuous and disturbing images with captions like "HAPPINESS" "MOTHER" "ENEMY" and "ME".

mutiny on the bounty

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October 17 movie: Mutiny on the Bounty. I didn't intend to watch this again, but there it was, and Robert Osborne talking about Charles Coburn's wonderful acting, which is true, so I had to watch. Osborne said that Franchot Tone's part was originally offered to Robert Montgomery. That would have been weird.

the whistler

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October 15 movie: The Whistler. Richard Dix pays a hit man to kill him, then changes his mind & spends the rest of the movie trying to evade the hit. It's a decent thriller. There's complexity due not to over complicated plot (which so many thrillers rely on), but to the psychological drama between Dix and the hit man, who has an actual personality. Spawned several sequels and a radio series.

Speaking of radio series, I just discovered that XM has a classic radio channel. Unfortunately my commute isn't long enough to listen to a whole program, and they don't include the channel in the online service. So I don't get to hear it as often as I'd like. Still, I've heard a few good programs, including Dragnet and a mystery hosted by Orson Welles. The line-up seems heavy on horror/suspense, maybe because of Halloween.

thanks but no thanks

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I posted a Youtube video of the song "Aruba Liberace" before dinner, and within an hour it had been taken down for copyright. Wow, that didn't take long.

Too bad, it's a fabulous song. How did they find it so fast? If I reposted it with no identifying text, would they still find it?

oops

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Do you remember that case about the famous Obama "Hope" poster? Where the AP said Shepard Fairey had appropriated one of their photos without permission? And Fairey was taking it to court and it was expected to be an important decision about fair use? (I wrote up the details here if you don't remember.)

Well Fairey's case just collapsed, with the revelation that he lied about the photo he used as source material. Apparently he had claimed the illustration was based on a photo of Obama sitting next to George Clooney, which was cropped down to just show Obama's head. In fact the illustration was based on another photo, a portrait-style head shot of Obama that required very little cropping.

Here's the original photo side-by-side with the illustration:
Obama_Pic.jpgObama.gif

And here's the image Fairey claimed was the source material:
apuncropped.jpg

Why does this matter? Well, one of the legal factors in determining whether an unauthorized appropriation is fair use, is "the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole." If Fairey had used the Clooney photo as his source material, then he could make the argument that the portion used was fairly small, in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. I'm not sure that would be a slam dunk: the Copyright Office says that even a tiny amount of copied material can be too much if it makes up the essential part of either the original work, or the derivative work. (I will look for an exact quote on that later but I just got up.) But it would be a good argument to make.

Unfortunately, whether Fairey has a case on the merits looks pretty irrelevant now. Because he just admitted that he lied about which photo he used in his source material, and falsified evidence to support his lie. He said that it was an honest mistake. Which sounds ludicrous, but you know, when I was working on the collages for the Tarot deck, I was surprised by how easy it was to lose track of source material. I kept detailed records which I still have because it was obvious I wasn't going to remember where this or that image came from. Now, I don't think I would make a mistake in a court filing about the source material which made me one of the most famous artists alive. Then again, I've never been in a situation remotely like that -- either being made famous by my art or going to court over it -- so who knows.

Whether truly an honest error or a convenient "mistake," the real problem came when Fairey deleted production files from his computer and created new, fake production files that appeared to support the false claim. His lawyers say he lied to them too, and they are withdrawing from the case.

Fairey says he's going to continue to court, where I expect he will get his ass handed to him. I thought before that there were strong arguments on both sides, and I was really interested in seeing how the case turned out. But I can't see Fairey winning after pulling a stunt like that. As Kevin said in a comment to my last post on the subject, judges tend to look disfavorably on parties who falsify evidence.

So, Shepard Fairey, who portrayed himself as some kind of copyright freedom fighter, and said he was "fighting the AP to protect the rights of all artists," was actually a liar who destroyed an important fair use case. Nice going, jerk.

choose your poison

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Among Rotten Tomatoes' 100 worst movies of the last ten years, I've seen 4. And two of those were Rifftrax versions.

Woo! Ignorance really is bliss!

anita o'day: the life of a jazz singer

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September 30 movie: Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer. This was a fantastic documentary about, oddly enough, jazz singer Anita O'Day. I learned a lot about her, her work and her extremely colorful life, plus there was tons of great performance footage.

There were so many great stories, here's one little one about her performance at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, which was featured in the movie Jazz on a Summer's Day. (also a great movie, by the way.) Anita wore a spectacular outfit: a pretty black dress, huge black straw hat with white feathers, little white gloves and "glass slipper" shoes. She looked like a perfect society girl going to an afternoon party. In Life of a Jazz Singer, she said that she got to the festival and asked the organizer what time was she performing that night? That's when she found out that she was scheduled for mid-afternoon. The clothes she had brought were inappropriate for daytime, so she walked across the street to a little dress boutique and found that dress. Then she asked, "Have you got any hats?" and the woman at the boutique pulled out that amazing hat. Anita had her own shoes and gloves, and that was the outfit.

Here's Anita singing "Sweet Georgia Brown" at Newport. It's amazing that she could walk into a shop and pull together an outfit like that on the spot. It made her look like she'd been in Newport all her life:

(Direct link)

the first great train robbery

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October 1 movie: The First Great Train Robbery. I had forgotten how good this is! It's a perfect caper movie. Funny, suspenseful, sexy, just terrific. The three principals -- Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Lesley-Ann Down -- all shine. I read that Connery did his own stunts, including climbing around on top of the train. Holy crow.

rear window

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October 2 movie: Rear Window. My dad and I watched this while I was up in Delaware. I don't have much to say except that, if you've never seen it, you really should.

down with love

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October 5 movie: Down With Love. Another movie I love! The AV Club reviewed it in their My Year of Flops series, which first of all, I didn't realize it was that much of a flop. Secondly, reading about the movie made me have to watch it again. Imagine my delight when I found that I have it on DVD and didn't even have to wait for Netflix!

Down With Love is such great fun. A delirious full immersion in early 60s retro. (I'm sure you can't imagine why I would like that.) My Year of Flops basically described it as Mad Men, only cheerful. If you haven't seen the movie, there are a few choice clips in their review.

True story: The first time I watched this movie, the DVD from Netflix had a bad spot in the middle, and I had to skip a bit and missed the scene where Renee Zellweger and Ewan MacGregor simulate sex acts across a split screen. So I missed that scene entirely, then the second time I watched the movie (with another DVD, that didn't have a bad spot) was with my dad. Oops! That was awkward.

the girl from 10th avenue

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October 12 movie: The Girl from 10th Avenue. Early Bette Davis movie (so early she was still platinum blonde) in which Bette plays an honest working class girl who rescues idle rich guy Ian Hunter from drinking himself to death because he was jilted by a bitchy society girl. They have a marriage of convenience, and if you don't know how it ends up, you've never seen a romantic melodrama/comedy.

I love this movie. It's a silly bit of fluff and I love it. It's got that weird tension from the early days of the Production Code. Clearly the plot is supposed to be that Davis and Hunter shack up while he dries out, then gradually fall in love and decide make it permanent. But they come up with this marriage of convenience to make the relationship respectable. Then to drive the point home even more, Davis and Hunter seem to be living together platonically, though I can't imagine we're supposed to believe that.

My favorite character is Alison Skipworth, a former Floradora girl who had an affair with the father of one of Hunter's society friends. She was paid off by the family patriach, used the money to buy an apartment building in Manhattan and now spends her time dispensing pragmatic advice to her tenants (including Davis) on how to be a society gent's mistress.

Georg didn't watch the whole movie with me, but he was home when I watched it, and he recognized Ian Hunter from The Adventures of Robin Hood. So every time he walked through he'd say, "so did Drunk Richard the Lionhearted fall in love with Bette Davis yet?"

ice cream for everyone

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In retaliation for voting in favor of health care reform, RedState.com is organizing a campaign to mail rock salt to Olympia Snowe.

I think she's supposed to accidently pour the salt on herself and then melt like the Wicked Witch of the West? Or something? Whatever, I'm all for "activism" that wastes the time and money of angry wingnuts. If she gets enough salt, Snowe can donate it to poor municipalities in Maine which have trouble paying for ice removal. And if not, she can always make ice cream! Wouldn't it be great if she gave away ice cream at campaign appearances, courtesy of RedState.com. Everyone loves homemade ice cream, frozen with wingnut salt and seasoned with wingnut tears.

(thanks to Balloon Juice for the link.)

his noodly appendage

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Had a fun show this afternoon. Which, as usual, I forgot to mention in advance. I played a few back requests which had been made in previous shows, but I hadn't been able to fill at the time. The best one was the most interesting request I've ever gotten: for songs about the Flying Spaghetti Monster. That one totally stumped me when it came in a couple of weeks ago. I thought it over, did some searching and managed to put together a whole set of Flying Spaghetti Monster music:

  • "Flying Home" Charlie Barnet Orchestra
  • "Come Fly With Me" Frank Sinatra
  • "Cock-a-Doodle, I'm Off My Noodle" Harry Reser and the Six Jumping Jacks
  • "Spaghetti Rag" the Light Crust Doughboys
  • "That's Amore" Dean Martin
  • "One Meatball" Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters
  • "Meatballs" Ken Nordine
  • "C is for Cookie" Cookie Monster
  • "Someone to Watch Over Me" George Gershwin

"Cock-a-Doodle, I'm Off My Noodle" was the most fun discovery, a hilarious novelty song from the 1920s. The most hilarious part was that iTunes music store euphemized the title as "C**k-a-Doodle, I'm Off My Noodle." No, I'm not kidding. Thank you iTunes, for protecting me from such dangerous language.

bluestone rules

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new plants arrived!My plants are here! Three days from order to receipt. I love Bluestone.

The box was well packed and everything looked healthy. One plant was missing from the order, and I emailed to let them know, but not until after 5 so I'll probably hear from them on Monday. They've always been excellent with customer service so I'm not worried.

I usually order from the June half price sale, and then we end up losing some of the plants because they're so tiny and it's a tough time to plant here. So this time I figured I'd try buying at their regular prices, at a time of year that's better for planting. I had so many coupons from the previous order that I got about 10% off anyway. We mostly got shade plants:

  • Aquilegia Melba Higgins. A columbine with dark blue flowers. We tried to order this during the sale this past June but it was out of stock.
  • Lamium Orchid Frost. We love lamium, a ground cover for full shade with silvery leaves. This one has lavendar flowers.
  • Phlox stolonifera Sherwood Purple. This is the one that was missing from the package. A ground cover phlox for shade. Bummer! I already had a spot ready for it.
  • Polemonium Blue Pearl. A fragrant Jacob's Ladder with blue flowers. I didn't know anything about it, fell in love with the description in the catalog and on Dave's Garden. It needs moist soil so we're going to put it next to the water barrel by the back door. Overflow from the barrel keeps the soil damp and we'll be able to enjoy the scent.
  • Hosta Sieboldiana Elegans, Blue Angel, Krossa Regal. I wanted to buy the Sieboldiana and one other, and tried to decide between Blue Angel and Krossa Regal, and they were were both half price so how could I resist? So I ended up with three big hostas with solid blue leaves.
  • Brunnera Jack Frost. This was the splurge of the order. Gorgeous foliage. It needs to stay moist so we're going to put it next to one of the rain barrels. It will look beautiful in a little bed we have around one of the barrels, with farfugium and toad lily.

And some for sun:

  • Nepeta Walker's Low. I love catmint! The ones we planted in front have done so well, we had to have more for the back.
  • Iberis Purity. Candytuft is a cute little ground cover with white flowers.
  • Oenothera Summer Solstice. Another one we tried to order from the June sale but were out of stock. Sundrops are a perennial with bright yellow flowers. Known for being aggressive, even at times invasive, so we're putting them in an area with horrible soil. If they can manage to over-spread there, more power to them.
  • Salvia Blue Hill. Can't go wrong with salvias.

I can hardly wait to start planting!

planting time

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It finally feels like fall, so it must be planting time! We've done a lot of work over the past few weeks clearing the roots & vines in the backyard, and we're finally ready to start planting. It's all part to full shade, and up until now we've been focusing on the sunny parts of the yard. It's kind of fun to start working with shade plants. They tend to be delicate & subtle, not bold and showy like plants for full sun.

We bought a few things at the Plant Delights open house a couple of weeks ago. We planted some right away and just got the rest in the ground in the past week:

  • Pilosella officinarum: A ground cover with fuzzy blue-grey leaves and yellow flowers.
  • Meadow Rue: This is why Plant Delights are worth their high prices: they have so many plants I've never ever heard of. This is a delicate little ground cover rue that will grow to 1' square. They called it "dainty" which is about right.
  • Calanthe: A beautiful hardy orchid with bicolored flowers. It was the splurge of the trip ($30 for one plant!). When we checked out the guy said "Ooh, orchids 202!" That scared me a little, but we've had bletilla, orchids 101, for several years and they're doing great. He said calanthe do good in the same conditions as bletilla, as long as they have excellent drainage. We put it in a raised bed near the rain barrel, in loose soil mixed with mulch. So it will get watered frequently but won't stay damp.
  • Yellow Anise: This is a big shrub/small tree from Florida. We got a dwarf variety that has yellow-green leaves & is supposed to end up 4' tall and equally wide. Looking it up just now I see that it needs a lot of moisture, and I planted it in a pretty dry spot under an oak tree. Hm. Maybe I better go back and do a better job of amending the soil around/under it. I could add peat so it stays moist.
  • Voodoo Lily: Low perennial with Jack-in-the-Pulpit-ish flowers. We got one with interesting variegated leaves. It's known as potentially aggressive, so we put it in a spot with horrible soil. Let's see if it can run rampant there.
  • Hosta "Hollywood Lights": I never used to like hostas. I thought they were all the same, boring and always used in bland ways. Then I started to find out what an amazing variety of hostas there are. This is a really big one, which I think are my favorites. Dark green leaves with a narrow white stripe down the center. We put it near the back of the yard where it will get filtered light for a couple of hours in the morning, and again in early afternoon.

Also, while I was away last week my bulb order arrived! My favorite bulb supplier is Terra Ceia because their bulbs are wonderful quality, their prices are good and they're here in NC. Most big bulb sellers are from New England where conditions are so different that what's great for them might not be so good for me. It wasn't a huge order:

  • 25 dwarf irises, only 6" tall!
  • 25 small blue alliums, 10" tall. I planted them and the irises by the back door so we'll see them when we come in and out.
  • 25 Globemaster alliums. These are the monster alliums, 3 foot stems with a giant purple ball of flowers. We want to plant them in alongside the path up to the shed, but we haven't cleared that area, it's still overgrown. So just for now, this morning I planted them on the slope, in an area that's only part sun because of the trees. Next year when the path is cleared we'll move them. The soil on the slope is so horrible I couldn't dig holes deep enough to plant the bulbs! They're supposed to be 6" deep and I could only get 2-3" of soil over them. So I piled up several inches of rotten straw on top as a mulch. I have to say, straw is one of the best things for the garden. It's inexpensive, we buy a bale every winter to protect the tender plants. Then when it warms up we put the straw in a pile in the backyard, and a year later we have mulch!

Along with the alliums, this morning I dug up some volunteer privets, pulled out some poison ivy, and planted a couple of shade perennials that we'd been holding in pots until we had a chance to plant them: a foamflower, a toad lily and two astilbes.

There's more: Tuesday night I placed a big order of woodland plants from Bluestone, and they shipped it Wednesday, and it's scheduled to arrive tomorrow! Now that's service! I usually only order from them during their June half-price sale, and I always end up waiting at least a couple of weeks for shipping. I can't wait to plant them over the weekend. Usually you have to wait a few days with mail-order plants, to let them get used to being in sunlight again. But most of these are shade plants which can go in the ground more quickly.

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