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Bryan Adams Tweeted about them. Patti Smith shared a stage with them. And pop-star siblings Tegan and Sara number among their famous fans.
They’re Choir! Choir! Choir!, and after three years of wildly popular “interactive singing nights” in Toronto, founders Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman are bringing their ad-hoc musical community to New York for the first time.
Twice a week in Toronto, the pair brings together crowds to sing “original choir arrangements to classics pop hits.” On October 22, C! C! C! — as their friends call them — lands at The Living Room in Manhattan for a choral rendition of Elliot Smith’s indie moper “Needle in the Hay.” The following night, Goldman and Adilman will take over Brooklyn’s Union Hall to lead the crowd in singing Tegan and Sarah’s “Closer” and “I Was a Fool.”
C! C! C! has recorded more than 175 songs, from The Hollies and The Smiths to Solange and Daft Punk. There are no auditions for the choir; its singing nights are held in bars, where “the atmosphere is casual but the arrangements are tight,” boasts a press release.
The group’s looseness belies massive success in their hometown; Toronto Life magazine named them a “Reason to Love Toronto,” the Globe and Mail saluted them as “choir hopefuls and happy hipsters,” and NPR featured a video of C! C! C!’s performance of Big Star’s “Thirteen.”
Goldman, who manages a popular Toronto brunch spot called Aunties and Uncles, has music in his blood; his father, Hy, runs KlezKanada, North America’s largest Jewish music festival. Adilman, self-described as “half-Jewish on his father’s side,” is a creator of Canadian TV hit Food Jammers; he once pitched a show to Canadian TV about finding other “Jewpanese” (“too niche,” he was told). Adilman spoke to The Arty Semite from Toronto.
Michael Kaminer: How did C! C! C! first come together?
National Geographic Entertainment’s cinematographically beautiful new 3D IMAX movie “Jerusalem” is closer to the heavenly Jerusalem than to the earthly one. But even devoid of contemporary political context, the film provides an informative and visually stunning introduction to the Old City of Jerusalem and its fundamental importance to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
For those unfamiliar with the Holy City, “Jerusalem” is a concise, clear and captivating primer. And for those of us who regularly follow the conflict-fueled news from the Israeli capital, it temporarily zooms us out and away from the daily grind, reminding us of why Jerusalem is and always has been considered by so many to be the center of the earth.
The different quarters of the Old City are introduced and represented by three young women: Revital Zacharie, a Jew; Farah Amouri, a Muslim; and Nadia Tadros, a Christian. Each woman shares a bit about her life, her family’s history in Jerusalem, and her religion’s enduring connection to the place. The filmmakers bolster the women’s personal narratives with scenes of the rituals and festivities of Passover, Easter and Ramadan as they are practiced in the Old City.
Despite a highly successful playwriting career, Donald Margulies has not had much luck with “The Model Apartment.” For convoluted reasons the 30-year-old play has not yet enjoyed a fully successful production in New York. Ironically, when Primary Stages produced the work in 1995, critics were enthusiastic and the play won an OBIE. But it folded quickly when the lead actor jumped ship.
The play, opening October 15, is now being given a new lease on life. Primary Stages is reviving the dark comedy about aging Holocaust survivors, whose inability to deal with their own tortured history has shaped their grown daughter’s troubled life.
Margulies believes the zeitgeist is right for the play. Perhaps it’s taken three decades for audiences simply to “accept a post-modern take on the Holocaust,” he speculated during a phone interview from his New Haven home. “We’ve now had Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Inglorious Basterds’ and Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus.’ This is ‘Oy Vey!’ humor. It’s irreverent. Previously, the play might have seemed untouchable.”
“This is not a sentimental play,” he continued. “It’s just the opposite. I’m demystifying the Holocaust by bringing the enormity of the event into a prosaic setting. Max and Lola are once again fleeing. But this time, they’re fleeing from their daughter. The challenge is to demystify without being disrespectful. I love all the characters.”
Set in the 1980s, the Holocaust couple (played by Mark Blum and Kathryn Grody) takes refuge in an ill-functioning but perfectly appointed model apartment in Florida. When their morbidly obese daughter and her African-American boyfriend (Diane Davis and Hubert Point-Du Jour) surface shortly thereafter, the already dysfunctional family spirals out of control. They all suffer from distorted memories that evoke nightmarish imagery.
When the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded, I knew that Philip Roth had not won.
A colleague condescended: “I never liked Roth,” a put-down to me, a Miltonist and teacher of Renaissance literature, who really doesn’t know better. A couple of decades ago, someone would have mentioned the more elegant, supposedly more disciplined and intellectual – and Nobel Prize-winning - Saul Bellow.
Roth, as the story goes, is Bellow’s vulgar counter-part, obsessed, with his body, and when he’s long enough distracted from that, the bodies of women. Woody Allen was a spermatozoa in Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex, and Roth – with a nod to Kafka – becomes a 155 pound “breast.” He’s the modern example of the celebratory, sometimes self-despising , Jew, and the Swedish judges, one can speculate, just find him uncouth.
Roth began his career masturbating in Portnoy’s Complaint. And then there is the persistent obsession of what he calls himself in Operation Shylock that “pervasive, engulfing, wearying topic…the Jews.” For the Nobel committee in Stockholm, Roth is undoubtedly not only too vulgar, but too vulgarly Jewish.
But saying that Roth is too Jewish is like saying the Leopold Bloom of James Joyce’s Ulysses is too Irish, or the London depicted in Eliot’s The Waste Land too English. Roth may not be Joyce or Eliot, but if the latter began to question our ideas of narrative and identity, Roth is their natural inheritor, and it’s not only in the boutique part of the college catalogue called “American Jewish Literature.”
For more go to Haaretz
In the hands of a lesser writer and director, Hany Abu-Assad’s “Omar,” the story of a trio of young Palestinian friends caught up in a singular act of vengeance against the Israeli occupation, could have descended to the level of mere agit-prop. That would have left the film — which was recently selected as the Palestinian entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar, and is screening October 11 and 12 at the New York Film Festival — appealing strictly to its natural audience: Palestinians and those who make common cause with a reflexive anti-Israel position. But in “Omar,” while using the Separation Wall as the core physical fact around which the drama unfolds, Abu-Assad has other human essentials on his agenda: the nature of love, friendship, trust and betrayal.
These passions play out in a story whose elements are deceptively simple: the title character, a handsome young Palestinian, regularly jumps the wall in order to visit Nadja, a high-school girl who is the sister of his best friend, Tarek. The latter, resolutely militant though unaffiliated with any political or terrorist group, enlists Omar and a third friend, the goofy Amjad, in a nighttime ambush of an Israeli military post. In the event, Amjad — a natural comedian who does a mean imitation of Marlon Brando in “The Godfather” — pulls the trigger to kill a single Israeli soldier. The three flee, but Omar is eventually tracked down and hauled off. At first, he undergoes “enhanced interrogation,” then he’s left to languish in jail until Israeli Agent Rami, armed with a recording in which Omar implicates himself, deftly negotiates the young Palestinian’s release if he will collaborate in bringing in Tarek. Rami clearly has his pulse on Omar and his circle, and he uses his information to leverage all he can from Omar.
Yet upon Omar’s release, and his return to his darling Nadja — a girl who, by age and custom, must be circumspect in her behavior — we see that Omar is open-hearted in his affections but otherwise reticent in revealing how it is that he has been so quickly released by the Israelis. He deflects such questions by answering that the authorities hadn’t sufficient evidence to hold him. Yet he finds himself under suspicion for collaboration by Tarek and, most painfully, by Nadja; under a pall of distrust and paranoia it becomes clear that someone in their circle has been double dealing. And Palestinians do not deal gently with their own collaborators, categorically regarded as traitors to the cause.
Growing up in a kosher household in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, Peter Rosenberg became enamored with hip-hop listening to tapes by rapper Big Daddy Kane and scratching records on the turntables he saved up to buy at age 14. Today, Rosenberg is a co-host of one of the nation’s most listened to morning shows, on the iconic New York City hip-hop station Hot 97. The Forward’s Seth Berkman recently talked with Rosenberg about the influence of his parents (his father, M.J. Rosenberg, is a well-known critic of Israeli policy), the relationship between Jews and blacks in hip-hop, and his die-hard fandom of professional wrestling.
Seth Berkman: Your older brother got you into hip-hop?
Peter Rosenberg: I was already like 8. The first tape that I remember having was when my dad went to a store on his way home from work one day and asked someone what he should get for his son who likes hip-hop and he got me one by Super Lover Cee and Casanova Rud, “Girls I Got ‘Em Locked.” The first summer I went to sleep-away camp at age 9, I had like eight cassettes with me. I had “Long Live the Kane” [by Big Daddy Kane] and then they all got stolen at camp, Jewish camp mind you. Evidently there was a huge contingent of hip-hop fans there.
Were your parents supportive of your interest?
When people think of Hasidim, the image that comes to mind is often in black and white. An art show currently exhibiting local Hasidic artists’ work at a storefront space on Kingston Avenue, the main thoroughfare of Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidim in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, is challenging that notion.
The third annual Sukkot art show, titled “Pure Joy,” opened September 21 and runs through October 13. The roughly 25 men and women whose works are on display at the pop-up gallery, along with those who are performing there for open-mics, improv comedy nights, films, concerts, literary events and a TEDx style evening called Chabad X ( “sharing what they are passionate about in Judaism”) are expressing their creativity in ways that are both colorful and Hasidic. An open mic night September 3 included both male and female performers, though a partition separated the audience by gender.
The project is led by The Creative Soul, a group co-founded by pop-artist Rabbi Yitzchok Moully, who organizes the annual art show in addition to other events and meetings for Hasidic artists. This year’s offerings of prints, paintings, photography, sketches and digital media works have all been selling moderately, according to Moully, whose own pop art is on display.
“There is a certain feeling of ‘in-between’ that you inherit as an immigrant. My life as an artist has expanded this feeling,” said Arkadi Zaides in an interview with The Arty Semite. “Living all over the world, performing and choreographing, it is hard to say what constitutes my home. My home is everywhere.”
Zaides has always felt like an outsider, both artistically and personally. Born in Belarus, the choreographer moved to Israel with his family at age 11. Even after living for decades as an Israeli citizen, he has difficulty defining the concept of home.
Zaides examines his feeling of oscillation on a somatic level in his new piece “Response to Dig Deep” which has its North American premiere at New York Live Arts October 10.
Accompanied by French string quartet Quartour Leonis, Zaides responds to Julia Wolfe’s composition “Dig Deep” in a solo piece interpreting the poignant sound of violins, viola and cello.
“I chose the music because it was so physical. The strings bring out such intense emotion — they literally vibrate, crunch, and move. I mirrored the oscillation with my body and thought thematically about being suspended between two points,” Zaides said.
The shocking true story of a 19th-century “blood libel” in which Hungarian Jews were accused of murdering a Christian girl for her blood is the subject of conductor Ivan Fischer’s first opera, which is to have its premiere this weekend in Budapest.
The gruesome story, set to music in Fischer’s one-act “The Red Heifer”, is based on an incident in the Hungarian village of Tiszaeszlar, where Jews were accused of killing 14-year-old Eszter Solymosi in 1883 to obtain blood to make unleavened bread for Passover — a Jewish libel disseminated in the notorious anti-Semitic tract “The Protocols of Zion.”
Some 15 Jews were tried and acquitted of the murder but the case stirred enormous waves of anti-Semitism at the time.
Fischer, who is Jewish, said the case continues to have repercussions to this day, when Solymosi’s grave has become a pilgrimage site for Hungarians on the far-right.
“Like in the 19th century, Hungary is again a battlefield between enlightened people who would like to join the Western world, especially Europe, and nationalist fundamentalists who feel threatened and create scapegoats,” Fischer told Reuters in response to emailed questions.
In program notes for the Sunday premiere in Budapest, Fischer said he had planned to write an opera based on the Tiszaeszlar affair in the 1980s, after being inspired by a film, but the filmmaker with whom he had hoped to collaborate died.
There is likely not an American of a certain age who does not remember where he was on November 22, 1963 — the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
That event is at the center of “Parkland,” the exciting new film from writer/director Peter Landesman. “Parkland” is the hospital where Kennedy was taken after being shot. The movie offers a different view of the incident, from the perspective of people surrounding the tragedy: the doctors and nurses at the hospital, an FBI agent who knew of Lee Harvey Oswald’s threats of violence, and even Abraham Zapruder, who famously filmed it.
For a first-time director with a limited (by Hollywood standards) $10 million budget, Landesman attracted an amazing cast, including Paul Giamatti, Jacki Weaver, Billy Bob Thornton and Marcia Gay Harden, among others. He spoke to The Arty Semite about how he got the job, what he discovered in his research and the different reactions he’s seen from older and younger audiences.
Curt Schleier: You’re only 48 years old — born two years before the tragedy. What did you know about it?
Peter Landesman: I was an investigative journalist for The New York Times, so you can say I was a student of history. I’m especially a student of history of the truth beneath the headlines, beneath the gloss. I’m always interested in the real personalities, the human element. Usually you end up reading about Kennedy, who is all warts. That’s uninteresting to me, as is the Camelot mythology. I don’t have time for that in the same way I don’t have time for the conspiracy theories.
Keshet International, the distribution and production arm of Israel’s Keshet Media Group, and DC Productions, which owns Dick Clark Productions, have formed Keshet DCP, which makes it likely that more Israeli shows make it across the Atlantic to a TV set near you.
Keshet, which owns a television network in Israel, is where the Showtime hit “Homeland” originated. That alone has made the company’s head honcho, Avi Nir, a Master of the International Television Universe. This deal only enhances his image.
The new company will focus on “unscripted programming,” according to the Hollywood Reporter — game shows, reality programs and the like. Keshet DCP gets the rights to all of KI’s current and future unscripted formats for both English- and Spanish-speaking audiences in the U.S.
The first program that will probably make the trip is” Rising Star,” a live talent show that uses real time voting by audience members using an app integrated into the show. It was watched most recently by almost half the households in Israel.
Lucian Freud did not live to see the first exhibition of his paintings in Vienna, the city his grandfather Sigmund fled in 1938, but he helped plan the retrospective that opens this week.
Freud, considered the greatest British painter of his generation, moved with his family from Berlin to London in 1933 to escape the rise of Nazism. Four of his great-aunts were killed in concentration camps during the Holocaust.
“Vienna was never home for him and it could never be home for him,” curator Jasper Sharp said. “I don’t want to go so far as to say it was a healing or the closing of a circle for him, but a ghost was somehow laid to rest.”
After refusing numerous invitations from German and Austrian galleries for decades, the German-born British figurative artist agreed to the show and helped select the 43 works on display because of his love of the artistic company in which they would be seen.
“He has done this exhibition because of the collections of the Kunsthistorisches Museum first and foremost,” said Sharp, a friend and neighbour from childhood of the Jewish artist who died in 2011 aged 88.
The museum houses the Habsburg royal family’s extensive collections of artists including Titian, Velazquez andRembrandt who inspired Freud, a keen museum-goer who said visiting art galleries was as curative for him as trips to the doctor.
We are living through a golden age of documentary film. Surely “The Square,” a riveting account of the Arab Spring as it played out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square between 2011 and 2013, argues in favor of such optimism. In something under two hours, director Jehane Noujaim’s film — which recently screened at the New York Film Festival — offers an intellectually and emotionally rich view of the philosophies and passions that moved ordinary Egyptian citizens to throw themselves into their country’s historical moment with an extraordinary level of commitment.
Noujaim, an Egyptian-American and Harvard graduate with a solid professional portfolio in documentary filmmaking, wends her way around and through the massive street demonstrations that made Cairo’s central traffic circle and public square the locus of protest, first against the 30-year tyrannical rule of Hosni Mubarak, and then against his democratically-elected replacement, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, whose one-year tenure was judged a betrayal of the democratic spirit which fed the popular street revolution in the first place.
“The Square” follows the lives of six relatively young Egyptians who each take up the revolutionary banner in those first protests calling for Mubarak’s ouster. Noujaim is more than lucky in her choice of subjects. Pride of place goes to Ahmed Hassan, a mid-20s charmer of working-class background who throws his body into the fray, and uses his native intelligence and big heart to argue at top volume until he’s hoarse. He represents revolutionary fervor at its best: committed to social justice for his compatriots, even the Islamists of the Brotherhood of whose religious zeal he is wary. Ahmed is also committed to the crucial notion of individual conscience, which must sustain a civil society if it is to endure.
Google and Moscow’s main Jewish Museum launched a virtual exhibition on Russian Jewish theater.
The project was launched last week on a dedicated, English-language website that is part of Google’s Milestones in History series and is accessible online worldwide.
The Internet giant set up the exhibition conjointly with Moscow’s Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, according to a report published last week by the Russian news site Jewish.ru.
The museum, opened in November 2012, is the sixth Russian cultural institution to team up with Google, according to the Komersant newspaper.
“We believe that we are facilitating a dialogue between our children and our grandfathers and great-grandfathers,” Peter Adamczyk, Google’s head of programs for southeast Europe, told the news site News.ru.
The Jewish Book Council has named the five finalists of this year’s Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, the Forward has learned. Carolyn Hessel, director of the Jewish Book Council, told the Forward that the five finalists are Sarah Bunin Benor for “Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture of Orthodox Judaism”; Matti Friedman for “The Aleppo Codex: In Pursuit of One of the World’s Most Coveted, Sacred, and Mysterious Books”; Nina S. Spiegel for “Embodying Hebrew Culture: Aesthetics, Athletics, and Dance in the Jewish Community of Mandate Palestine”; Eliyahu Stern for “The Genius: Elija of Vilna and the Making of Modern Judaism” and Marni Davis for “Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition.”
The $100,000 prize, the largest of its kind in the world, will be given in 2014. Last year the award was given to Francesca Segal for her novel “The Innocents” and two years ago was given to Forward opinion editor Gal Beckerman for “When They Come For Us We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle To Save Soviet Jewry.” Administered by the Jewish Book Council, The Rohr Prize recognizes emerging writers who examine the Jewish experience. It is given for fiction and non-fiction in alternating years.
The award also includes a $25,000 runner-up, who will receive the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature Choice Award. All finalists become members in the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute, which conducts annual gatherings of all winners, finalists, judges and advisors.
“I was never one of those happy cripples,” is the way Jerome Felder described himself.
Why would he be? He was just 6 years old when he contracted polio. And in a sad irony fit for a blues song, the young Brooklynite caught the virus at a country summer camp he’d been sent to specifically to avoid the disease.
It’s no wonder that Felder was attracted to the Joe Turner songs of pain and suffering he heard on the radio. It’s no surprise, too, that the teenager started hanging out at blues clubs.
What is a little shocking is that when they asked this white Jewish kid on crutches what he was doing there, he had the chutzpah to say he was a blues singer. And he was. Except for the name, of course. So he changed it, to Doc Pomus.
As filmmaker Peter Miller points out in his documentary, “A.K.A. Doc Pomus,” Felder ultimately went on to write the songs that became the soundtrack for many of our lives: “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “This Magic Moment,” “A Teenager in Love,” “Can’t Get Used to Losing You.”
Pop song writing in the ‘50s was centered on the famous Brill Building in Manhattan, the ground zero of the music publishing business. In the world of Brill Building writers — Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Howie Greenfield and Neil Sedaka, Barry Mann and Cyntha Weil, among others — Pomus and his partners were the sun around which other planets revolved.
Miller spoke to The Arty Semite about how he came to make this film, his background in Jewish-themed documentaries, and how marriage changed his level of observance.
Curt Schleier: You’re only 51. Were you familiar with Pomus-era music?
When Stuart Zicherman was 11 years, it seemed like every family in his suburban Long Island, N.Y., neighborhood was getting divorced. His parents sat him down and told him that wouldn’t happen in their household. A year later, his father moved out.
This piece of personal trivia is relevant because Zicherman, now 44, is the co-screenwriter and director of “A.C.O.D.,” which stands for Adult Children of Divorce. The film, which is at once humorous and poignant in its portrayal of the lasting effects of parents’ split on their children, opens in select theaters October 4.
No one would describe Hugh (Richard Jenkins) and Melissa’s (Catherine O’Hara) divorce as amicable. They interrupt their loud argument during their son’s 9th birthday party to ask him — in front of family and friends — whom he wants to live with.
Zicherman has assembled an outstanding cast, including Amy Pohler, Jessica Alba and Jane Lynch. But the key player is Adam Scott (from “Parks and Recreation”), who plays Parker, the elder son forced into adulthood and a role as family mediator.
The crisis arises when Parker’s younger brother, Trey (Clark Duke) gets engaged and wants both parents (who have remarried and not spoken to each other since the divorce) to attend his wedding. It’s Parker’s job to mediate and make it happen.
Zicherman spoke to The Arty Semite about the impact of his parents’ divorce on him, their reaction to the film, and four-hour Seders.
Curt Schleier: The obvious question is, are you Carter?
A queue snaking down north London’s Finchley Road is an unusual sight, as are people on stilts, musicians and ice cream vendors. But JW3, London’s new Jewish community centre, finally opened its doors on September 29 to a crowd that may have represented an unprecedented representation of the community. On the first of two launch days designed to entice and give a flavor of what is on offer in its first season, the place teemed with activity and curiosity, amidst an air of slight organizational chaos.
Its chic piazza had been transformed into the Garden of Eden, the center having taken “In the Beginning” as its theme. A scantily clad Adam and Eve greeted a steady stream of families as they made their way across the garden to the tree of life, hung with fruit and packed with prizes. A giant book was starting to fill with signatures and an interactive display provided another medium for visitors to discover snippets of JW3’s packed program. It included the opportunity to hear an excerpt from “Listen, We’re Family,” JW3’s first theater commission.
“I’ve seen the building go up and I’m very excited about the concept,” remarked one visitor. Another commented that she hoped JW3 would be income producing as well as benefit the community. A noticeable squadron of volunteers was busy answering questions, taking bookings and guiding people to the various sessions, which included a selection of lectures, a taste of self-defense sport krav maga, and cooking demonstrations.
Shades of “Chrismukuh.”
That’s the blended holiday celebrated by the blended Cohen family on the TV show, “The O.C.”
It’s the holiday that will be celebrated on the October 18 episode of “The Neighbors,” a show about blended peoples.
When the Weaver family moved into the gated Hidden Hills development last season, they discovered their new neighbors were aliens from the planet Zabvron. And the two cultures had a lot to learn about each other.
The Zabvronian leader, Larry Bird (Simon Templeman) — all the aliens have taken the names of famous athletes — falls in love with the holiday of Hanukkah as soon as he hears about it. He decides he wants to combine it with his other favorite earth holiday, Halloween. When no one show’s up for the first seven nights, Larry decides to publicize the celebration by giving out candy to kids at the local playground.
This is not the first time Larry became obsessed with earthly holidays. Earlier this season he discovered April Fools Day, which he quickly and accurately describes as “a lot more fun that Yom Kippur.”
A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here.
When Dov Noy would lecture, often without notes, he would look upwards and seemingly draw his inspiration from the upper spheres. But Noy, who was expert in the folklore of numerous Jewish “tribes,” including Ashkenazim, Sephardim and Middle Eastern Jews, developed his profound knowledge from earthbound ethnography and research.
Noy contributed most significantly to the collection and analysis of Jewish folk literature, both written and oral. The Hebrew terms ba’al peh (oral) and biksav (written) are usually applied to the modes of transmission of the Torah. Noy’s extensive and successful efforts to record the oral folktales of the Jews resulted in a folk Torah, if you will, one that revealed the inner heart and soul of diasporic communities throughout the world.
Dov Noy (Neuman) was born in Kolomyia, Poland, in 1920 and died on September 29, less than a month short of his 93rd birthday. He immigrated to Palestine in 1939, studied at Hebrew University, and began teaching Jewish folk literature in 1955. For his dissertation, which he received from Indiana University, he created a motif-index of talmudic-midrashic tales which was soon incorporated into Stith Thompson’s six-volume motif-index of the world’s folk literature, greatly raising the status of Jewish folklore in the field.
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