Andy the Talking Hedgehog

It’s hard to take adults who ironically like bad cinema very seriously.

Over time one can’t help but notice a distinct pattern amongst the hard-core MST3K fanbase of people marking time until they die.  Don’t get me wrong, in these jaded times it’s nice that people just like liking stuff, and they don’t get too wrapped up in trying to be the coolest kid on the block by liking all (and only) the right things.  But the love of objectively bad cinema speaks to a need for a low-grade soporific.  In some ways it’s worse than enjoying the latest Devil Mouse blockbuster popcorn flick.  At least popcorn is filling.  At least the Devil Mouse allows a viewer to maintain links to the wider community of regular people.  That’s something at least.  Wallowing in bad cinema smacks of rolling with pigs – even if you do it ironically, you’re still rolling with pigs.

That might sound odd coming from a guy that religiously watches Red Letter Media’s series “Best of the Worst”.  Not quite.  The RLM crew adds value to the process by dissecting what works and what doesn’t work about the films they endure.  They’ve got a real talent for diagnosing what films do wrong, from plot to character to visuals.  A guy could learn a lot from their breakdown of a dozen random films.

With all of that out of the way, let’s talk about “Andy the Talking Hedgehog”.

Wait, one more preface, you can thank The Mixed GM for this one.  He live-tweeted his viewing, and the thread was enough fun to read through for me to plunk down four bucks for the SD rental.

Okay, now that all of that is out of the way, we can talk about “Andy the Talking Hedgehog”.

This is not a good movie.  Put frankly, it’s low budget shovelware.  It’s plagued with all of the usual problems of low-budget films, from bad performances to obvious stock footage to padded out scenes to a scattershot script that really needed to be tidied up with at least one more pass by a competent script doctor.  Dean Cain’s presence adds stark relief on the acting front.  He does wonders with the material given, and his obvious charm and talent only highlights the weakness of the rest of the cast.

The plot revolves around a young girl who wishes that animals (and flowers!) could talk.  Her Fairy BFF makes it so, and hijinks ensue.  A couple of crooked janitor types try to steal the talking hedgehog.  Mean girls at school get their come-uppance.  A young girl learns the value of understanding and embracing God’s natural law.  Typical kid movie stuff.

And yet…there are diamonds amidst the rough.

The movie scored more laughs out of me than the last two Marvel films I’ve seen combined.  The movie features an intact and loving family, including two sisters who actually like each other throughout.  A complete lack of obvious Diversity casting distracting from the plot.  In the end, it’s Dad who brings down the hammer of justice and protects his kith and kin. The aforementioned character arc where a young girl learns that there are larger things in this world than what she rilly rilly wants to be true.  These are all things that work well, and they were surprising by their inclusion.  It’s a wholesome film from start to finish, and that’s saying something these days.

For what it’s worth, the producers showed a few flashes of brilliance by explicitly hand-waving away the limitations of their budget.  Why don’t the animals’ lips move in time with the words?  Why does a bathroom lead to Fairyland?  Why would two janitors want a talking hedgehog?  Why is the old cat such a sourpuss?  All of these are answered, and in the latter case in a particularly touching way.

I don’t know the whole story behind “Andy the Talking Hedgehog”.  For all I know it was one big scam where the producers found ten million dollars in investors to make a one million dollar film and pocketed the other nine million.  Or maybe it’s a couple of fresh out of film school kids thrown some money to see what they could do with it.  Or a vanity project by one of the actresses that played a 25-year-old high school cheerleader on Daddy’s dime.  All I know is that the only thing more ridiculous than this film is that it provided just as entertainment as “Detective Pikachu”, and that might be the most damning indictment of woke Hollywood yet.

In the final analysis, I cannot recommend this film.  Not because of the shoddy Foley work, the odd editing, the questionable voice-over work of the star of the show, the stiff acting of the human characters, or the workmanlike writing.  Mainly because, even a full day later, I just can’t get the damn thing off my mind.  We’re nearly a thousand words into a detailed review of the film and there’s still so much more that I’ve barely even touched upon.  Like the rush job of the bullies at school who almost immediately get what’s coming to them.  Or the copyright questions that revolve around what is clearly an American Girl doll sitting on the main character’s bed grinning with that buck-toothed grin the whole time like all of this is perfectly normal.

It sticks to you.  Worms its way into you.  Makes you want to climb a high mountain and grow a long beard to hide your shame and spend the rest of your life contemplating your life, the mistakes you’ve made along the way, and man’s connection to a wider and more wonderful universe.

It’s haunting.

Oh, “Andy the Talking Hedgehog”, I wish I knew how to quit you.

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Not so Good Omens

Not impressed.

Terry Pratchett has an impressive gift for stringing words together.  The man could make the back of a cereal box interesting to read.  His brain works in strange ways that follow clever paths, a trait that helps him paper over the thinness of his works’ overall plots and characters and underlying worldview.  That wizardry doesn’t lend itself to translation to the screen, particularly when the producers of said translation choose to translate Pratchett’s words literally.

This series opens with a long spiel and a cute animatic that explains the literal translation of Genesis is the literal history of the world in Pratchett’s style.  Smash cut to an overhead view of the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve which tells us the exact same thing AGAIN, only this time without all the self-congratulatory clever-clever voice-over.  It doesn’t establish a mood, it just insults the viewer.  The same thing happens later in the episode when the birth of the anti-Christ goes awry with said anti-Christ switched at birth with a normie baby.  Rather than let the gag play out, the producers inject a heavy-handed explanation of three-card monte that ruins the flow of the story and again, insults the viewer.  Not done yet, they later show a dark and foggy cemetery where two diseased snakes-like men wriggle out of the earth to meet with David Tenant’s demonic character, and hold up – gotta tell everyone these are demons!

Just in case.

Stick it out, and you get a very clever show that plays itself to mediocrity.  Propped up entirely by the performances of the slithering demon of David Tennant and the twee guardian angel of Michael Sheen, it features all the usual gender-swapped silliness of the BBC and Hollywood complete with a bumbling white male witchfinder seduced by a world-wise and not-at-all-author-insert witch.  The Christian witch-finder is a scam artist and a hypocrite, as all voluble Christians are in modren media these days.  All of these little nods to progressive fantasies step on the toes of the central fantasy tale they want to tell and lead to the usual emptiness and lack of viewer investment in the world.  Nothing means anything.  Everything is strange and hollow and unpredictable in all the worst ways.

I’ll say this, though, it handled the crucifixion of Christ with admirable restraint.  The scene where our angel and demon watch with evident confusion proves to be the most suspenseful scene in the first four episodes.  Accidentally.  The suspense arises not  from the level of the narrative, but from the meta-level of wondering how the producers are going to smarm and snark their way through one of the central holiest events in the history of Christendom.  That tension – will they or won’t they – sucks the energy out of the scene on screen.

Perhaps it isn’t fair to lay the blame at the feet of the writers of Good Omens.  They have inherited a new world where the intersectionalists thought that forcing everyone to constantly weigh every production choice would lead to the surrender of the cis-hetero-patriarchal zeitgeist.  Instead, they gave us the tools and excuse to notice how we’ve been played by Hollywood for decades.  And in encouraging us to notice things, they played themselves.

They have ruined their best tool for keeping us asleep while the culture boils around us.

Now we know.

And we notice that what might have been great is just another polished turd more interested in scoring points on those dastardly Christians than telling a good story.

It’s so bad that I didn’t get angry or turn off the show in disgust.  I just went to bed and completely forgot to watch the next episode.  It’s just another show with no heart in a long string of shows with no heart.

Come for the Tennant.  Leave for the lack of everything else.

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New Review: Five Million Watts

Fenton Woods produced a sequel one of my favorite reads of last year, Pirates of the Electromagnetic AirwavesI have an in-depth review of the sequel, Five Million Watts up today over at the Castalia House blog.  Give her a read – you won’t regret it.

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Needs More Templars

What sort of conspiracy theory digs into the Catholic Church and doesn’t find Templars at the bottom of everything?

This kind.

The past decade has seen considerable upheaval in the Catholic Church, an upheaval driven in part by the decreased cost of gathering information.  No longer reliant on pliable media willing to trade their integrity for a little money and influence, the common man has a much better grasp on the rot attacking the heart of so many of Western Civilization’s institutions than he did in decades passed.  And yet, the shadows linger, and the bits of truth that have seeped out have only added to the confusion and discord.  The erosion of trust in our leaders has left most men of good will at a complete loss.

We are fallen souls blundering about in the wilderness of a fallen world, and the guiding light of the Church grows dim as we lose faith men holding that light aloft.  Our footsteps falter as we realize that too many of the men we’ve defended from a hostile secular world have colluded to commit, or enable, unspeakable sins against God’s natural law.  We’ve awoken to the reality that our path is not straight and narrow – we stand amid thorn bushes with our way littered by pits and snares.  How did things come to this pass?  To whom shall we turn?

And yet, even in the midst of the confusion, our faith grows.  We know something is wrong, even if we cannot fully articulate it.  We know where our destination lies, even if we cannot fully see the path.  We know good men abound, even if we struggle to identify them.

We just need some guidance.

And that’s where Infiltration enters the scene.

Taylor Marshall presents a history of the Catholic Church over the past 150 years, both the supernatural history of visions and visitations, and the natural history of political maneuvering at the highest level of the Vatican.  These two aspects of the Catholic experience weave together to paint a grim picture of the many and varied ways that Modernist thought has insinuated itself into the Church – an institution that fought long and valiantly to guard herself from the errors that lead inexorably to Holodomors, genocides, and mass starvation on both physical and spiritual levels.  It’s not so much a conspiracy theory as it is an honest study of the history of the struggle for leadership of the Church, and an analysis of the many failures along the way.

Which is not to say this book paints an ugly and hopeless Heironymous Bosch hellscape vision of the Church.  To the contrary, even the ugly parts of this book are laden with a refrain of hope and reminders of the glory that awaits at the end of All Of This.   (Spoilers: He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.)  All of the slow leaks and confused reporting by secular media and muddled quotes and misquotes are stripped away so that the facts of the Church’s changes over a century and a half can be presented.  The resultant narrative illuminates the events in an easily understood and digested manner, and Infiltration is worth reading by anyone confused by the complex and often obscured events that it details.

The historical portions of the book flow naturally into an analysis of how faithful Catholics can resist the slow march of Modernism through the institution founded by Christ.  Marshall weighs the pros and cons of strategies such as:

  • surrendering to Modernism and living swallowing the constantly shifting heresies
  • sliding into Protestantism or full-blown atheism
  • hooking up with the sedevacantists or the sedeprivationists
  • recognizing that the Church, though not healthy is also not dead, and working to heal Her

It’s no surprise that a man willing to wade through the history of the Church would find all but the last item wanting.  What’s surprising is the simplicity of Marshall’s recommendations for fighting back against the Modernist heresies.  The shortest section of the book, his answer to the challenge may be the hardest one to internalize.  He offers a concise plan of action as simple to explain as it is difficult to implement.

Taylor Marshall has no easy fix, no magic bullet, and no One Weird Trick.  The path he illuminates is a long and difficult one, and it is a path that requires a considerable amount of courage and faith and…well, it requires a healthy dose of all seven of the Great Virtues.  But it is a hopeful path we walk, and one that leads to a glorious end, and if you are serious about finding your way out of the Modernist shadows and brambles, you will find Infiltration a solid map to guide your way.

 

 

 

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Get In, Loser

A big fat No Prize to anyone that can successfully identify all five authors in this photo, and you get no credit for the unmistakable HP Lovecraft.

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Detective Pikachu Post-Mortem

First, the disclaimers:  Came into some gift cards and when going to the movies, it’s better to go see children’s movies.  People talk in every screening these days.  Might as well go to a movie where half the talkers have the excuse of being four year olds.

The lead is a cowardly and stupid bugman who hates Pokémon.  There is literally no reason for the audience to connect with him.  He is incompetent and unlikable to a stomach-churning degree.  I think they tried to paint the Hero’s Journey with broad strokes to make it recognizable to kids.  Or maybe they took the short cut to HumorTown by writing him as bumbling for slapstick reasons.  Either way, but the decision to make him so craven killed any interest in the movie after ten minutes.

Also, he’s a black kid raised by his grandma.  Yeah.  Plot twist – Dad didn’t walk out on him, he walked out on Dad.  Twisted twist:  Turns out Dad is a white guy that’s been trying to be a part of his life ever since Mom died.  Whoops.  How’d that one slip by the sensitivity readers?

The film-makers faced the challenge of introducing non-Pokémon people to the world of Pokémon.  Added to the challenge was a need to explain that the monsters are no longer slaves, they are willing companions and partners of the humans that they tag along behind and mostly obey exactly as though they were partners.  They shoe-horned in a clunky expository video that did the job early so that they could get back to the story.  It was a little on-the-nose, but

Here’s what the film did right:  It’s a noir film for the pint-sized crowd and aside from the protagonist, it works.  It has everything from the strong silhouettes to the convoluted murder investigation, to the billionaire industrialist ready to throw his own offspring down Moloch’s gullet.  They even make nods towards Fake News and the silliness of listicles and clickbait articles.  Like the vastly superior Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the younger set can enjoy the host of Pokémon Easter eggs, while still experiencing a convoluted murder investigation that helps them see there’s more to the world than it seems at first bluch.

It  also features has an interrogation scene that slides down into torture.  No joke, Detective Bugman sort of douses a mime with gasoline and threatens to burn the guy alive if he doesn’t…uh, talk?  He’s a mime, so I sues the word “talk” lightly.  It’s weird, it’s appropriate, and it fits.

He deserves everything he gets

It’s actually a natural fit.  A kid-friendly noir detective story faces some challenges in translating the grimdark of adult fare down to age-appropriate material, but the Pokémon world is perfect for this.  The fantasy elements creates a remove that allows children to experience the gut punches of dark material with a layer of psychological insulation.  The Mime interrogation scene makes for a perfect illustration.  The mime guy’s magic power is that whatever he mimes becomes real.  It’s invisible, but it’s real.  So our hero pretends to soak him in gasoline, and like a 40k Ork, his belief means that our hero pretending to light a match just might actually burn the mime guy alive.  It’s a dark concept made light by the make-believe charades and the clownish victim.  And yet…it’s still a pretty dark scene.  It’s like training wheels for more adult fare, and kid’s movies could use more stories along this vein.

The bright spots shine in this movie, but they are surrounded by a lot of clumsy editing, rushed scenes, empty spectacle, and clunky casting choices.  As usual, Hollywood flirts with greatness, but just can’t unclench enough to allow the concept of kid-friendly noir really shine.

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The Fantasy of Dystopian Fiction

Did you ever notice how most dystopian fiction feels so fake?  That’s probably because in the last final analysis we know what happens.

Spoiler alert: Good wins.

Somebody should really tell James Cameron that.

Science fiction has dealt with the subject of the dark future almost from the very beginning, and no that doesn’t mean Frankenstein. Get outta here with that pleb-tier analysis. The story of Ragnarok is a dystopian future, as is the Revelation of Saint John and other myths from cultures around the world. The fourth episode in James Cameron’s story of science fiction mockumentary takes the same shallow approach as previous episodes.  It seeks to appeal to the popcorn crowd that just wants to be reminded that, when they considering how the world might end from a purely secular standpoint makes, that makes them teh smart.

For the most part, this episode revolves around the same sort of “Boy, people sure are terrible, amirite” approach that the other episodes did.  Broken people, broken dreams, I beat that idea to death before, and you already get it, so we’ll move on to some scattered observations.

Briefly, they mention that most post-apocalypse films end with a note of hope.   They gnash their teeth when they admit that normal people – the healthy people who pay good money to go to the movies – prefer movies that make them feel good at the end.  Most people aren’t sick in the soul, so they get annoyed when story-tellers try to drag them down into the mud.  Oh, they’ll spend a little time there as a novelty, but Western Man knows how the story of everything ends, and even if they cannot put it into words, they feel it on a visceral level.

The eggheads in the documentary identify Mad Max: Fury Road as the first film in the franchise that does so, completely forgetting the end of Road Warrior in which the good guys escape with the go-juice, and the end Beyond Thunderdome which ends with lights shining in the night amid the bones of Old Sydney.  Whoops.

So the film-makers understand that in most instances, end-of-the-world stories are really civilizational collapse stories that take place at the low point in the cycle of history. They just can’t explicitly state, indeed they chafe at the idea that things always get better, because for them History takes sides, donchy’know?  The documentary walks the viewer through the pain they feel at having to share a ray of hope with humanity.

When they discuss Will Smith’s I Am Legend it all gets laid bare. To recap – the story is an inversion of the vampire myth. A favored story among Hollywood types, who by their love of this story display a clear sympathy for the devil. In Wil Smith’s  I Am Legend, the last human preys upon the hapless monsters, who just want to be loved and safe from the predations of the horrible, terrible, no-good human scientist. At test screenings, the audiences went ballistic, and the film-makers realized their attempt to paint humanity as unworthy of inheriting the earth, let alone heaven, failed. The people recognized that achievements of beauty and growth are a treasure and those who take this fallen world and make beauty out of it are far superior to the rat-like degenerates huddled in stinking basements. They saw everything they loved mocked, and for once audiences did not fall for the siren song of modern cinema, and when they rebelled and rejected the movie, the money-men listened.  The soulsick ground their teeth, took out the poison, and gave America a film that reflects the ultimate triumph of good (America) versus evil (monsters).

All the audiences had to do was stand firm and say, “No!”

There’s a valuable lesson in that.

While not a fan of this documentary series, I’m finding it opening up some very interesting and valuable insights into modern media. It’s inadvertently laying bare some connections that the producers probably don’t want made. This doesn’t seem to be foolishness, but arrogance. They are telling us what they are doing, and smiling all the while, safe in the knowledge that there’s nothing we can do about it.   Once more, they give us a reminder that they want us dead, our people enslaved, our children raped and they think it’s funny.

We’ll see who is laughing when their ugly world ends and we can begin the arduous task of rebuilding a better one using their ashes for mortar.  We have the stories to inspire us, even if we had to wrest them from Hollywood ourselves.

Speaking of post-apocalyptic stories with an upbeat ending…here’s the kind of story they don’t want you to read.  See if you can guess where it takes place.

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James Cameron’s Winston Smith’s Story of Sci-Fi

James Cameron is a hell of a visual craftsman.  You can’t deny the man’s vision, nor his solid understanding of the fundamentals of story structure.

His worldview?  Ehh…

The second episode of his brief delve into the story of sci-fi deals with the concept of Monsters.  Oooo, scary.

Thanks to the miracle of modern social media, we’ve all got a really good glimpse under the hood of Hollywood.  Much to our own disgust.

Broken people want to break you.

Most of the episode of Monsters is given over to the usual gray-goo of “we have met the monsters and they are us” nonsense.  You expect that kind of self-hating philosophizing out of people who hate what bargains they made to secure their success.

What you don’t expect is the raft of self-contradictions:

  • Hey, modern sci-fi cinema isn’t all old guys, intercut with lots of footage of old films filled with more than just white guys.
  • Mary Shelley invented sci-fi with Frankenstein, and John Campbell invented sci-fi (Hugo who?) with his building the Golden Age.
  • Women were unfortunately portrayed as monsters sometimes which is bad, and also anyone could be a monster which is bad.

What is equally informative is what they leave out.  There is no mention of the old Lewis quote about fairy tales teaching kids that monsters can be beaten.

The episode does have a few highlights, however:

  • Guillermo del Toro comes across as a very thoughtful man, with decent insights into topics ranging from dragons to suspension of disbelief.
  • Roland Emmerich actually makes a good case for the nineties American Godzilla as a valid heir to the campy Godzilla films of the late sixties.
  • The connection between Ripley in the Aliens franchise and how it handed the baton of chief-dragon slayer off to the Resident Evil’s Alice character is a nice touch, even if it is wrapped up in a tight go-grrl power package with a pretty pink “it has always been and always will be the Current Year” ribbon on it.

It’s light fare made for casual fans by casual fans, or perhaps by mercenary grifters, and safely skipped by serious fans of the genre. People who still think the Hugo Awards mean anything will love this episode. The rest of us won’t get anything out of it but a few laughs.

Maybe you don’t understand my antipathy to this style of message fiction and navel gazing.  Let me spell it out for you.

Mankind is the greatest thing that ever happened to this universe.  People are wonderful, amazing creatures, and each of them carry within themselves a spark of the divine.  They are messy and imperfect and flawed, but they are all worthy of love and respect.  They are capable of so much good and on balance their presence in the world has made it a better place.

Managed forests are healthier than their wild cousins.  Domesticated animals are loved and protected.  The great works add a depth and beauty to the world that nature cannot hope to match – I would take a single Cathedral of Notre Dame over a dozen Grand Canyons any day of the week.

That message is nowhere to be found in the hearts of film-makers today, nor is it found in this documentary series.

But you know where you can find that message?

Conan the Cimmerian.  John Carter.  Holger Carlson.  Tarzan.

Unless Hollywoods gets their grubby child-touching hands on those characters, and then they are turned into crude caricatures, empty simulacra that are weaponized against Western Civilization by men who seek only to destroy.

“Man is the real monster?”

Speak for yourself, degenerate.

I’m a paladin of the new world.

I’m not a monster, I’m a monster slayer.

And so are you.

Don’t give money to people that hate you as much as they hate themselves.

Give it to Fenton Woods instead.  This guy gets it.  His Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves is amazingly good.  It’s a short and sweet tale about a group of young boys who set-up and run a pirate radio station in the kind of almost-America you only dream of calling home.

 

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Stan and Ollie

For all that I take Hollywood out behind the woodshed for their odd views on the world and near total rejection of the truth and beauty of the world, credit where credit is due.

John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan recently put out a fantastic period piece that delves into the latter days of the career of Laurel and Hardy, and it is tender and warm and funny and includes one of the most suspenseful scenes that I’ve experienced in a long, long time.

Set sixteen years after their heyday, the lovable duo are trying to stage a 1950s comeback using their 1930s style humor.  They grapple with the changing times, their rocky friendship, and the incredible stress and strain and blessing of wives who love them even as they don’t fully understand them.  This is a movie about friendship, and the way men relate to each other, and I didn’t think that you could make a movie like this anymore, but the madmen did it.  They really did it.

It’s in there, and they nail it.

The only thing I can think of is that this is as much a movie about Hollywood and film-making as it is about fraternal love.  The execs who greenlit this film must have been tricked into the latter by being sold the former.  For my money, the financial and career stuff only matters insofar as it affected the deep love these two men had for each other.

If you are in the mood for a charming little film without a single explosion or super-power or sex scene, give it a shot. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Let Go Your Feelings

No one is coming to save your precious Star Wars.

I get it.  It was fun while it lasted.  You had some good times, and would really like just one last visit to the old haunts for old times’ sake.  But this…

Spoilers: He couldn’t

This ain’t it, chief.  The original trilogy represents that rarity where heavy handed studio involvement polished up a turd and made it shine like a diamond.  All of the reports and interviews from that era point to a confused mess of a film that took some serious editing wizardry to cobble into the classics we know and love.  When Lucas held the reins, we got the fun but empty and meandering noise-machines of the Prequels.

And then we got Red Tails.  There is no chance a Star Wars made with today’s George Lucas at the helm would share any of the OT’s deep message or fun spirit.  And if you think he’d write a tale any less woke than Jar Jar Abrams and Rian “On Your Parade” Johnson, then you need to sit down and watch Red Tails again.  That’s a harsh medicine to take, but one that should help cure you of your delusions of Lucas’ grandeur.

It had a good run, but it’s over now.

But take heart, there are better intellectual properties out there.  The wheel of life continues to turn, and just as the newcomer and bold risk-taker of George Lucas supplanted the dreary seventies aesthetic in his day, we have a legion of bold risk-takers working to supplant the dreary teens aesthetic of our day.

Good things are on the horizon.  Keep your eyes open and your powder dry – we’ll find them together.

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