Understanding Racism, the Easy Way

I was driving through the streets of Los Angeles in silence on Tuesday, processing the US Men’s National Soccer team World Cup loss that had just transpired literally moments beforehand. Dejected, but not distracted* (hop to the footnotes if you’d like my brief take on the USMNT’s campaign at this year’s cup).

 

And then, while working through the rotation at a four-way stop — much more effectively than Jürgen Klinsmann worked through his rotation in Brazil I might add (zing! hashtag topical) — some A-hole goes out of turn** and has the gall to stare me down while his charming female companion yells “Go back to Ohio!” out of the passenger window. I yelled back my own incredibly clever retort (something along the lines of “Where did you learn to fxxxing drive?!” …Sorry, mom***), and proceeded to my next destination. But for some reason, that interaction stuck with me and left me in a negative sort of funk for much longer than it should have. And I spent the better part of the evening on and off trying to figure out why. I don’t know that I fully understand why it effected me in such an unpleasant way, but there are a couple of obvious reasons that I thought I might share with you, by way of exorcism for myself and maybe a way to cope with your own life’s small unpleasantriesº.

 

Before we get to it, credit where credit is due, the fact that they identified my license plate as Ohioan (it’s a pretty basic plate — white with one red and blue stripe at top and bottom, I don’t even think it says Ohio on it large enough to read unless you’re quite close) and were able to use that as the basis for their easy insult in a matter of a second or two is passably impressive, and while it doesn’t make up for the dimwittedness of the rest of their actions, it’s only fair to give them a modicum of credit for being so quick on the draw with their idiocy.

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 3.35.30 AM

 

As anyone who moved to California from a flyover state can tell you, you become something of an apologist for your home turf sort of by default. I’ve spent something like half my life or more in Columbus, Ohio, and while I’m generally quick to point out that I’m a SoCal native, truth be told Columbus is a fine city (better than a lot of similarly sized towns I’ve been through in my touring days) that has plenty going for it, particularly in terms of art and commerce and other hip credentials that the millennial/hipster crowd loves. Frankly, if the weather didn’t suck a strong 80-90% of the time and if I were trying to pursue a different industry, I’d probably still be there (also a great place to raise kids if any of my actor friends are looking to ditch the dream for something more practical). However, none of this has quite made it in to the Ohio stereotype, wherein it is assumed that all Ohioans are cornfield-owning, animal husbandry-ing, slack-jawed country folk with nary a care in the world nor the sense to process it if they did have one. My biggest annoyance at being associated with the MidWest (aside from the MISERABLE Ohio State University Buckeyes, whom I dislike to a fairly extreme degree) is this perceived (albeit clearly unfounded) lack of mental capacity, and by extrapolation, lack of worth. In a heartbeat I had been judged, deemed of a lesser intelligence, and yelled at by these morons…all while they were the ones in the wrong. I’m not much of a guy for road rage (or any rage for that matter…who has the time/energy for that sort of nonsense?), but I found myself wanting to track the offending car down and either beat the crap out of them or explain to them in completely inarguable terms how incorrect and dense they were. Not a very Christian sentiment, I admit. Obviously none of that happened and by the time I was at my friend’s barcade (bar + arcade = barcade, maybe my favorite invention of the modern age) birthday party that night I had gotten over it and was mulling over far greater concerns (like how did pinball ever get so popular? I mean, even before video games were invented I can think of about a million things I’d do before I’d want to watch an oversized marble bounce around erratically in a game that, by definition, can only end when you lose. It’s like building a civilization: you never really win, you just do a little better each time until everything collapses and you start over…isn’t that right The Greeks?).

 

And that takes me to racism (what doesn’t these days, AM I RIGHT? [pauses for huge amounts of laughter, crying hilarity tears, slapping of all nearby knees, etc.] hashtag still topical). What those douchebags in their puce Ford Bronco did in a second is what we’ve been doing on and off to everyone else for hundreds (or even thousands) of years. Taking something arbitraryºº like a license plate (or where you’re from or clothes or gender or the color of one’s skin, etc.) and immediately making a negative snap judgement about the associated person isn’t just wrong, it isn’t just folly, it’s mean and dehumanizingººº. It’s something we all do every day, and it needs to stop if we’re ever going to overcome our own limitations as a species.

 

I’m not saying anything particularly new or revolutionary here, but the classics are classics for a reason, and just because a concept isn’t new or complex, doesn’t mean that we don’t need to be reminded to work on it (did I mention I don’t not love double negatives?). What will it take for you to be spurred into the action of seeing people as individuals this week, rather than just an amalgamation of their surface level traits? Hopefully it’ll be something silly or meaningless like this blog post or a douchey driver yelling at you, and it won’t take something more serious or intense for you to awaken from your prejudicial slumber. And hopefully with enough practice we won’t need these reminders at all, because we’ll just be living life as people among people, not statistics to be summed and totaled prior to any actual interaction.

 

…But in the meantime, eff Belgium, hooray USA! Set your alarm for 2018, the Yanks are coming for ya, World Cup!

 

Play on,
Dustin

 

 

*Before the World Cup started, I had expected/hoped that the USMNT would get a win, a draw, and a loss in the group stage, and either win or lose respectably to a good team in the first knockout match. All this happened, and we managed to convert a lot of US soccer supporters in the process — it was the first World Cup I can recall where even my non-sports friends knew what was going on more or less, and people were generally interested and excited about American futbol. Honestly I did not expect that, and so I’m even more stoked for 2018. I also thought our side performed well against some of the tougher opponents in the world, and while our weaknesses remained our weaknesses (glaring lack of offensive ability, painful inconsistency in quality of play, overall fitness and roster depth, etc.), we should that we are ready to compete with the proverbial big dogs, if not dominate. That said, it was still heartbreaking to lose in the fashion we did, with the promise and potential to do so much more. I believe Jürgen deserves a lot of the credit for getting us to where we were and a lot of the blame for our earlier-than-we-had-potential-for exit. Tim Howard deserved a win in that match, and we owed it to ourselves to win one for The Gipper in Goal, such as it were. Oh well, there’s always next year (…errr, four years from now).

 

**The basic layout was this: it was a four-way stop with two cars at the west end (me and the car in front of me) and two cars at the east end (one car and the A-holes in question behind him). There were no cars at the other sides of the intersection. The car in front of me arrived at the intersection first, then went straight, then the car across from him went straight, then I started to turn left, then the car across from me went straight (the douches), when they should’ve waited for me to turn left (since the right-of-way had passed back to me). Pretty straightforward, literally no idea how they misinterpreted the situation so badly.

 

***Speaking of stereotypes, it’s worth noting that this is the only time I’ve had an “altercation” (for lack of a better word) like this since I’ve lived in LA, I know Los Angeles sort of has this stigma of not being able to drive to your corner grocer without some maniac in an SUV threatening your life, but it’s really not like that. Usually.

 

ºIf your life has no unpleasantries, than by all means stop reading my blog and write a book on how you’re doing it and make a trillion dollars and continue to live out your amazing existence, you son of a bitch.

 

ººObviously in this instance I mean “arbitrary” in terms of being a valid criteria upon which to judge someone or something, not arbitrary in the sense of not having intrinsic value.

 

ºººIt should go without saying (but sadly, this is the internet, where someone out there will find a way to misunderstand everything) that I’m not comparing an afternoon’s annoyance with being disparaged as “Ohioan” with the countless millennia of legitimate and hateful prejudice that races, genders and other groups have had to endure, I’m merely trying to demonstrate that no one likes to be confined to one reductive trait about themselves, and that it is within all of us to empathize with the pain we’ve caused other people groups in our lives, even if we haven’t shared their experiences firsthand. I don’t need to be black to know that treating black men and women differently just because they’re black is hurtful and wrong, and I don’t need to be black to effect positive change around race relations (or acceptance of all sorts) in my own life and sphere. Duh.

 

 

…Want more Mind Bullets? New posts go up every Wednesday at noon PST (or as close to that as I feel like), and you can subscribe if you want them delivered right to your inbox. Or if you’re too impatient to wait that long you can follow me on twitter, instagramyoutube (new videos every Monday), and my boring personal website. Whew, that’s a lot of self promotion…even I don’t like me enough to keep up with all that.

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World Cup Confidential: Tiebreakers

With one of the tightest group standings in the entire 2014 World Cup, some of the more casual US soccer fans are fuzzy on what, exactly, the FIFA rules are if either the Ghana/Portugal and USA teams should end up with the same number of points after today’s matches.

 

For a refresher, here are the current standings for World Cup Group G (USA’s group):

current Group G standings as of 6/25/14

Current Group G standings as of 6/25/14

What does that mean? Well simply, if the US wins or draws against Germany, we advance to the Round of 16 and all is well.

 

However, if the US loses against Germany AND the Ghana/Portugal match does not end in a draw, then a series of tiebreakers will come into play, per FIFA regulations.

 

Here are the FIFA Tiebreaker Protocols, pulled verbatim from the FIFA regulations guide, in the order they will be implemented if necessary:

1) Total points earned through the course of group play. If that results in a tie, then:
2) Goal differential. If that ALSO results in a tie, then:
3) Total number of goals scored by each team. If that ALSO results in a tie, then:
4) Goal difference in games for each team. If that ALSO results in a tie, then:
5) Goals scored in games between the two tied teams. If that ALSO results in a tie, then:
6) Total goals scored without prancing around the pitch like some kind of douchebag. If that ALSO results in a tie, then:
7) Number of “balls” euphemisms made during the course of the tournament. If that ALSO results in a tie, then:
8) Overall attractiveness of team (including manager) on the traditional ten-point scale. If that ALSO results in a tie, then:
9) Total number of abs on a team. If that ALSO results in a tie, then:
10) Largest dollar amount paid to referees and/or FIFA executive board. If that ALSO results in a tie, then:
11) Overall number of Luis Suarez bites received during group play. If that ALSO results in a tie, then:
12) Number of times God thanked during players’ postgame speeches. If that ALSO results in a tie, then:
13) A round of “One two three NOT IT.” If that ALSO results in a tie, then:
14) An on-the-spot “who wore it better” between any two players from the involved teams who exchanged jerseys after a match. If that ALSO results in a tie, then:
15) Nose goes. If that ALSO results in a tie, then:
16) Number of Landon Donovans on team. If that ALSO results in a tie, then:
17) Number of World Wars won. If that ALSO results in a tie, then:
18) Best of three in Rock/Paper/Scissors. Okay well best of five. Wait I wasn’t ready, best of seven… If that ALSO results in a tie, then:
19) Total number of players on each team that are actually Amanda Bynes just dressed up like a man, secretly hoping to win the affections of one of her teammates. If that ALSO results in a tie, then:
20) …Ah f*** it, just flip a coin.

 

So there you have it…here’s hoping it doesn’t come to any of that. Come on you Yanks!

 

Play on,
Dustin

Artist rendering of what the US victory will look like tomorrow.

Artist rendering of what the US victory will look like tomorrow.

…Want more Mind Bullets? New posts go up every Wednesday at noon PST (or as close to that as I feel like), and you can subscribe if you want them delivered right to your inbox. Or if you’re too impatient to wait that long you can follow me on twitter, instagramyoutube (new videos every Monday), and my boring personal website. Whew, that’s a lot of self promotion…even I don’t like me enough to keep up with all that.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman

I wanted this to be a tweet, but it was too long. I wanted this to be a facebook post, but it was too casual.

Truthfully, this probably doesn’t deserve to be written at all. But that’s not the world we live in.

Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away today, by as yet undisclosed (but almost certainly unnatural) means.

 

No stupid tweet can effectively eulogize a human being…that said, Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of my favorite actors and I will miss his talent. We live in a broken world where good people, talented people, die just the same as bad people do. Where well-known people pass away just the same as many thousands of other, lesser-known people will today. So while I encourage your expression of social media sympathy, I implore you to pair it with action. Tell a loved one that they’re loved. And if you struggle with addiction of any sort (not all drugs come in needle/pill/smokable/tangible form), please seek help. Don’t let the complexity and wonder and depth and breadth of your entire earthly existence be reduced to a handful of sympathetic tweets and facebook posts — no matter how sincere or well intentioned they may be. You are better than your shortcomings, you are bigger than your fear, you are stronger than you were. Stay alive.

-dh

 

“Success isn’t what makes you happy. It really isn’t. Success is doing what makes you happy and doing good work and hopefully having a fruitful life. If I’ve felt like I’ve done good work, that makes me happy. The success part of it is all gravy.” —Philip Seymour Hoffman

philip-seymour-hoffman-profile

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Open Letter to Sinead O’Connor’s Open Letter to Miley Cyrus

Sinead,

First of all, know that I’m saying this with a motherly love, and that however biting the sarcasm/satire might get in the next few paragraphs, I genuinely do not wish you any negativity or duress.

Much and more has been made of the open letter that you recently wrote to Miley Cyrus, advising her on her twerking, her increasingly weird public persona, her perceived exploitation at the hands of the music/media industries, and her overall downward spiral from sanity.

“Much and more” is an expression I stole from the Game of Thrones series of books, I started using it as a subtle way to find out if people have read them. Like a verbal secret handshake. If you don’t get the reference, that’s okay, it just means you haven’t spent thousands of pages reading overly detailed descriptions of surcoats and morning meals.

Sinead (for some reason I always read that for a nanosecond as Sinbad, which, not as a diss to you, would be significantly cooler in terms of name badassery. Sinbad makes me think of a garish pirate adventurer and scoundrel, Sinead makes me think of those animal commercials where they do slow zooms on cute puppy pics and play sad music until you promise to adopt an entire wagon of dogs), in true glutton-for-punishment form, you couldn’t be happy with one open letter, so after Miley blew off your original writing with a couple snarky tweets, you wrote her THREE MORE sort of half-sane, increasingly defensive open letters and now the media is calling it a “feud” and Miley’s legions of disciples are dousing you with barrels full of haterade like you’re a coach that just won the Super Bowl. You feel hurt, attacked, betrayed…and you were only trying to help! Woe is you! …Well, not exactly.

You see, Sinead, it’s not that people hate you, it’s not that people love you. It’s that people don’t care about you. I don’t mean that in a mean way, like that nobody cares about you or that you don’t have value enough to be worth caring about, I mean People, the masses of asses (I just came up with that but you can use it if you want), generally do not have a stake or an interest in you or your life. Does that sound harsh? Well it may be, in light of what you’re used to, but keep in mind that for the 99.9999% of us in the world that aren’t world famous singers, that’s pretty much the norm. We don’t care about ourselves. We don’t care about you. I don’t care about you (or Miley for that matter). And that’s okay.

Sinead, I know exactly two facts about you: 1) you tore a picture of the Pope in half on SNL in the 90s, which was pretty controversial back before the FCC said “f*** it” and decided to allow shit, the F word, and nudity on television, and 2) you’re Irish. And to be honest I’m not even 100% sure about that second one, I just know (think?) you’re not American and your name is Sinead O’Connor, so call it a high-probability guess (read: racist stereotype). And that’s all right, because you don’t need my love, opinion, or approval to continue to be a functioning human being, a good mother, and whatever else you’re in to. You don’t need to engage in a one-way PR rivalry with a pop product whose entire existence can be traced back to a line dancing country song for your own validity. It’s nice that you wanted to help, and I don’t know you so I won’t imply that there was any ulterior motive of using someone else’s hype as a way to get a little attention for yourself (though that would certainly be the case if it were me in your shoes…in fact this very blog is meant to at least partly cash in on some of that attention floating around), but that’s the bitch of advising: it’s up to the advisee to decide if they actually want to follow your advice or not. And if you’re surprised that Miley retorted in a childish, unintelligent, and mean sort of way, well then that’s on you for not doing any research on your subject. I mean, this is a girl whose entire public relations strategy can essentially be summed up with:

;-P

…does that strike you as the sort of person looking to take thoughtful counsel from her elders, no matter how well intentioned or well known?

So hey, you took your best shot at helping someone you felt was in need, you gave us some classic Sinead anti-establishment zingers, and you got media attention without having to rip up any 8×10 glossies of the blessed father (do Catholics call him that or is that blasphemy?). Ideal outcome? No. But your fans still love and support you, you got your message out to a ton of little girls who are undoubtedly in need of more “your value isn’t a byproduct of how willing you are to undress and how good you look while undressing” than they get from the rest of society, and that’s got to count for something. And hey, it could be worse, you could be Eli Manning, who doesn’t have the pressures and exploitations of being a teen pop princess to use an excuse for his poor performance/breakdown. So there’s that. In the meantime, I hope you’re well and that this whole thing doesn’t ruin your morning meal of potato soup or make it any harder to keep the kids from getting your Lucky Charms. Buck up kid, you’re just an O, E, and Y away from being related to Sean Connery, and that’s pretty cool. (That’s how relations work, right? You’re automatically related to anyone with the same last name as you? My ancestry.com free trial expired before I could find out).

Play on,
Dustin

Why can't they kiss and make up like Miley kiss that sledgehammer?

Why can’t they kiss and make up like Miley kissed that sledgehammer?

…Want more Mind Bullets? New posts go up every Wednesday at noon PST (or as close to that as I feel like), and you can subscribe if you want them delivered right to your inbox. Or if you’re too impatient to wait that long you can follow me on twitter, instagramyoutube (new videos every Monday), and my boring personal website. Whew, that’s a lot of self promotion…even I don’t like me enough to keep up with all that.

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Fall TV Pass/Fail (Part One)

A fact that sometimes surprises people when they hear it (myself included) is that I graduated an accredited, four-year private college with honors. I say that primarily to brag, but secondarily to let you know that often times I worked very hard in college in very difficult classes that stretched me mentally, academically, and sometimes physically (Ultimate Frisbee, spring quarter senior year…hey everybody should schedule a blowoff class their senior year). And while most of those classes demanded a lot of my attention and focus so I could keep my GPA at honors levels, my favorite classes were graded on what’s known as the pass/fail system.

If you’re unfamiliar with pass/fail classes and somehow also not able to grasp exactly what a pass/fail class is just by the name, it’s a class where instead of an A-to-F grading system, there are only two grades: you either pass, or fail. No in between. That brings me to fall television’s new schedule of shows (I’m not big on segues). We’re all busy, and our leisure time is almost as valuable as our productivity time, so rather than go through and grade every new TV show on some sort of A-F, five star, ten point, etc. scale, I’m going to break it down very simply for you into shows that either pass or fail (assuming of course that the “class” objective of each show is getting you to watch).

This guide is not exhaustive, it’s basically a handful of the new shows that looked interesting enough to me to DVR (I don’t watch anything live anymore that’s not sports), so if your favorite new show didn’t make the list of ones I’ve reviewed, I kind of don’t care. But still let me know in the comments because I’ll need something to fill the void in my life once Breaking Bad ends next week. Also, this list is pretty sitcom heavy because I like comedies and because like black people to Paula Deen, all dramatic hourlong serials look the same to me.

Let’s get started.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Brooklyn99a_8col

Andy Samberg’s first solo outing without SNL backup or his Lonely Island posse, the show’s premise is basically Reno 911 but in New York. I don’t know if a lot of you are  Samberg fans or not, but I like him, and I think his quirky brand of positive comedy is a welcome balance to darker comedies like Louie and It’s Always Sunny and cookie-cutter network fare like whatever is on CBS right now (you’ll note I included exactly zero CBS shows on this list because all CBS shows (particularly sitcoms) are absolute garbage (except The Crazy Ones). Am I generalizing? Yes. Are sweeping generalizations sometimes accurate? Also yes. Did I just use three sub-parentheses in this parenthesis? Triple yes). Two episodes in to B99, I laughed pretty consistently. Grade: PASS.

Dads.
This_is_a_poster_for_the_FOX_sitcom_%22Dads%22

I’ll say it right now: I like Seth MacFarlane. I like Family Guy (even the new seasons), I liked Ted, I loved his hosting job at the Oscars (sorry, classy friends). I already like his new movie, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and it doesn’t even come out for another year. So yeah, I was biased toward this MacFarlane-created sitcom from the start. I wanted to like it, I really did. But, I didn’t. The jokes are hit-or-miss at best (leaning more toward the “miss” side), the leads aren’t that engaging or funny to me (not a Seth Green fan, never have been), and any modern-day tv show that still uses a laugh track already starts at a deficit in my book. The premise is okay, and I appreciate the postmodernist idea of kids having to support their folks at an increasingly younger age, but none of it felt that original or funny to me. Maybe it will get funnier after it’s cancelled and brought back a few years later, ala Family Guy. Grade: FAIL.

Agents of SHIELD (ain’t nobody got time to put all those periods between letters, so just know that it’s an acronym, ok?).
marvels-agents-of-shield
Agent Phil Coulson’s Marvel/Avengers character and Clark Gregg’s acting career are both deservedly resurrected in this weekly sci-fi series that takes place in the same universe as IronMan, Captain America, Hulk, and Thor (though never close enough to get them any screen time). As someone who’s been looking for a replacement for Heroes ever since it went bad after the first few seasons, I’m excited for Agents mostly because it’s the exact same premise as Heroes was, just with a better producing team that (hopefully) learned from the sustainability mistakes of previous attempts at this sort of show (Alphas, The 4400, et al). One episode in I like, don’t love, it but if the Marvel world has taught us anything it’s that the payoff is pretty consistently worth the buildup, so I’m giving it a few more eps to convert me from cautious optimism to full on fangirl. Grade: PASS.

Sean Saves the World.
I’m going to save you the trouble of reading my summary of this show and just show you the promo poster instead and let you make your own extrapolations from there.
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Grade: FAIL.

Derek.
2derek_series_comingsoon2_500

Quickly becoming my favorite atheist (sorry Jamiroquai and Nick Caruso), Ricky Gervais’ latest offering is a show that displays deep understanding of and respect for the human soul (ironically from a man who doesn’t believe they exist). Like the UK version of The Office (if you haven’t seen it, ask your most pretentious friend for a summary, he/she will have), and his lesser-known (but far superior) show, Extras, Derek takes the ordinary (borderline pitiable) and spins it into something fascinating, extraordinary, heart-wrenching and heartwarming. All in 22 minutes. And as an added bonus, this one is a Netflix original, so there’s no killing time for an entire week between episodes. Grade: PASS.

The Goldbergs.
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What if there was a show just like The Wonder Years, but like, less naïve and more self-aware? Also, ‘80s references. That’s basically the premise for The Goldbergs, and if it sounds a little thin, that’s because it is. As an SNL sketch, I love it. As a television show that’s meant to last anywhere from five-to-eight seasons, I’m not on board. The pilot didn’t blow me away, and I don’t see it having a lot of room to grow from there. But if I don’t like it, that probably means the general public will love it. Because that’s the purgatory I live in where 30 Rock and Party Down are off the air but Two and a Half Men is still around and Big Bang Theory just won a handful of Emmys. I can’t sigh exasperatedly enough to describe how I feel about that. Grade: FAIL.

Hello Ladies.
blogpost-image-HBO

Stephen Merchant is a name most of you won’t know, but he’s the creative Yin to Ricky Gervais’ Yang. Except if Yin and Yang were both equally funny in the same way instead of being opposites. Okay so maybe the analogy doesn’t hold up all that well, but for years Stephen Merchant has struck me as Gervais’ wildly underrated comedic equal, and now he’ll finally get the chance to prove me right that he’s been waiting for all these years. Hello Ladies is Merchant’s vehicle and blah blah blah some pun about a sports car and/or cruise control, just watch this show already. You will like it or your money back. Worth stealing your friend’s HBOgo login if you don’t already have one. Grade: PASS.

Well that’s all the grading the FCC will legally allow me to do this week (none of that is true), but check back next week (or whenever I get around to it) for my thoughts on the next wave of TV premieres. And in the meantime don’t forget that South Park, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The League, and New Girl have have all started back up if you’re looking for a comedic safety to fall into in case none of the new shows strike your fancy.

Play on,
Dustin

…Want more Mind Bullets? New posts go up every Wednesday at noon PST (or as close to that as I feel like), and you can subscribe if you want them delivered right to your inbox. Or if you’re too impatient to wait that long you can follow me on twitter, instagramyoutube (new videos every Monday), and my boring personal website. Whew, that’s a lot of self promotion…even I don’t like me enough to keep up with all that.

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