Daily Dose | Chronogram Magazine

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cellist Peter Wiley Performs in Poughkeepsie

Posted By on Thu, Jan 30, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Peter Wiley
  • Peter Wiley

Cellist Peter Wiley is, for lack of a better term, a rock star of the classical world. Named principal cellist of the Cincinnati Symphony at age 20, he’s a member of the legendary Guarneri Quartet, the piano quartet Opus One, and the Grammy-nominated Beaux Arts Trio; a Bard College Conservatory of Music instructor, he’s also been on the faculty of the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music since 1996 and was awarded a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant. And you’ll have your chance to see him in action at Vassar College on February 15, when he joins esteemed pianist Anna Polonsky in a marathon concert of Beethoven’s complete works for piano and cello.

The concert will include five sonatas spanning Beethoven’s creative output chronologically, as well as three sets of variations. “The variations are all earlier works of Beethoven’s, and are very charming, witty, and a showcase of virtuosity for both players,” says Polonsky, an adjunct artist in music at Vassar. “The five sonatas are representative of Beethoven’s writing throughout his life, from the early, tempestuous, Haydn-esque writing, to the profound, sublime late-Beethoven style.” Polonsky has high praise for Wiley, with whom she has played in numerous chamber configurations. “Peter is one of the greatest cellists active today,” she says. “Hearing Peter in this repertoire will be a rare and precious treat for any music lover.”

To get an idea of what Polonsky’s talking about, check out this video of Wiley performing on a bit of Beethoven’s Trio for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano in B-flat Major:

The February 15 concert will take place at Vassar College’s Skinner Hall in Poughkeepsie. The program will be presented in two segments, with the first beginning at 3pm. There will be a break to allow audience members to have dinner; the second portion of begins at 8pm. The event is free. For more information, call (845) 437-7319 or visit http://music.vassar.edu/.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pete Seeger: The Chronogram Interview

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 4:00 AM

Pete Seeger at his home in Beacon - FIONN REILY
  • Fionn Reily
  • Pete Seeger at his home in Beacon

This is a reposting of an interview Peter Aaron conducted with Pete Seeger in January 2011 and was printed in our February 2011 issue. We miss you already Pete. —The Editors

Pete Seeger has retired. Or, rather, that's been the plan. But, even at 91, it hasn't quite happened yet.

"Oh, I'd like to. But, well, look over there," he says, pointing to a low couch in the hand-built Beacon home he's shared with his wife, Toshi, and their family for over 60 years. Save for an open sitting spot at the far end, the couch, as well as the coffeetable directly in front of it, are thickly blanketed with sheets of mostly handwritten paper. "Letters," he drones, repeating the word a half dozen more times. "Every day, letters. I don't like to do it this way, but I have to use a form letter now to answer them all. There's just too many to keep up with. A woman comes in once a week to help me with them, Sarah Elisabeth. Her husband's a carpenter, works in the city. A good union man."

All of this—the unwavering sense of responsibility, the commitment to the rights of workers and individuals, and, above all else, the supreme value he places on human beings helping one another—is classic Pete Seeger. He's famously humble about all that he does in their name, but these are the core beliefs that have driven him to work so tirelessly in the areas of social justice and the environment.

And then, of course, there's his music. Even if you don't know who the man is, or about his devoted activism, odds are you know at least a couple of his tunes. Eternal anthems that sparked the fuses of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary, the Byrds, and basically the entire post-World War II folk revival and protest-song and folk-rock movements: "If I Had a Hammer," "Turn! Turn! Turn!," and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and two he popularized, "We Shall Overcome" and "Little Boxes," to name a few. His adaptations of ethnic chestnuts like "Wimoweh" and "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena" helped forge the world-music scene. And though his voice is now frail with age, Seeger, today sitting in a chair between his two wall-hanging banjos famously inscribed "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender," keeps right on singing. Eyes closed, he croons from deep memory the lines to old-time nuggets like "It Ain't Gonna Rain No More," the first song he ever learned.

"The clarity of the message in Pete Seeger's songs has always struck me," says Crooked Still banjoist Gregory Liszt, who toured with Bruce Springsteen for his 2006 homage, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (Columbia Records). "All of his music is dedicated to deepening the connections between people, even if that theme is not explicitly mentioned in every song. Even in foreign countries where people hardly spoke any English, Pete's songs really got the crowd involved. Good music is always better if it really stands for something."

Seeger was born in the Putnam County town of Patterson in 1919 to ex-Julliard faculty members Charles and Constance Seeger, whose embrace of both music and political activism helped to shape their son early on. Charles, a noted musicologist and composer, served as a professor at the University of California at Berkeley until 1918, by which time his outspoken pacifism had made him somewhat of a pariah. Constance, a violinist and music teacher, encouraged Pete's interest in music by "leaving instruments—fiddles, squeezeboxes, marimbas—lying around the house for me to fool around with."

While young, Seeger discovered author and Boy Scouts of America founder Ernest Thompson Seton. "[Seton] boosted the idea of learning about the North American Indians," he explains. "I learned that they shared everything they had. There was no such thing as one person in the tribe going hungry and the others having full bellies. That seemed to me to be a sensible way to live. Anthropologists call that tribal communism. So I say that I've been a communist ever since I was seven, when I first started reading Seton." It was also when Seeger was seven that his parents divorced, his father remarrying to modernist composer Ruth Crawford and later taking a job as an adviser with Franklin D. Roosevelt's Farm Resettlement program. While traveling with his dad in 1936 he attended the Mountain Folk and Dance Festival in Asheville, North Carolina, where he first heard a five-string banjo. Fascinated, he plunged into learning to play it, eventually taking lessons in the clawhammer style from Kentucky master Rufus Crisp.

Seeger earned an academic scholarship to Harvard, where he performed folk songs for his fellow students and joined a wing of the Youth Communist League. These activities, along with a mounting disillusionment with hermetic academia, led to his grades suffering, and by 1938 he'd dropped out and gone on tour with the left-leaning Vagabond Puppeteers troupe. If from here it starts to sound like the mythical perfect storm that begat America's foremost folk icon, well, that's exactly what it is.

Through his father Seeger next got a job working for Library of Congress music archivist Alan Lomax, with whom he cataloged thousands of folk and blues records and traveled the Deep South making field recordings. His further immersion in the music's raw, plainspoken honesty redoubled his already evangelical commitment to it, and he began to perform many of the tunes he came across. Seeger became their vessel, and were it not for him much of America's rich music might, at best, lay a-moldering in the National Archives instead of soaring from the throats of the people. During this time he met and sang with luminaries like Leadbelly (another musical vessel), Josh White, and Aunt Molly Jackson, among others. But the big bang of the American folk renaissance came in 1940 at a migrant workers benefit, when he met a 28-year-old songster from Oklahoma: Woody Guthrie. The cocky Dust Bowl troubadour had an immediate and profound influence on Seeger, and the pair became tight friends, hopping trains and getting to know the heartland firsthand.

Seeger eventually landed in New York, where he co-founded the Almanac Singers, a string-band collective that soon also featured Guthrie. The group specialized in topical and socially progressive songs and frequently performed at union rallies and leftist events. The pacifist Almanacs changed their antiwar tune after Germany turned on Russia and Pearl Harbor was attacked, but disintegrated as the members grew apart and the group drew criticism for its past stance. Seeger did serve, and was stationed in the South Pacific, where he played for other troops. He married Toshi, "without whom the world would not turn nor the sun shine," in 1943.

After the war Seeger and his fellow ex-Almanac Lee Hays formed the Weavers, who became wildly popular via hit readings of folk standards like "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" and Leadbelly's "Goodnight Irene." But during the Red Scare of the 1950s the radical pasts of its members landed the group on the government blacklist, which saw them shut out of gigs and record sales. Seeger, who'd long since left the Communist Party, was summoned to stand before the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). When grilled about whether or not he'd performed at Party benefits he refused to answer or plead the Fifth Amendment, asserting that anything he'd done in that vein was protected by the right to free speech. He was convicted for contempt of Congress, a 10-year sentence eventually overturned in 1962, but used the growing backlash against red-baiting to his advantage by performing at colleges, creating the modern touring circuit and becoming the patriarch of the next wave of folk music.

One of the strongest voices of the civil rights movement, Seeger marched and sang freedom songs with Martin Luther King and played countless concerts for the cause. In that decade and into the next he railed against the Vietnam War, performing at peace rallies and even sheltering the odd draft dodger. One of these runaways was musician Victorio Roland Mousaa, who is currently organizing a New York concert for March starring Seeger, Joan Baez, Richie Havens, and others to aid Native American activist Leonard Peltier, who has been imprisoned since 1977 on highly contested murder charges.

Seeger learned to sail while working a job on Cape Cod, and in the mid 1960s bought a small boat that he'd take out on the Hudson. What he saw there—miles of toxic residue, oil pollution, raw sewage—was heartbreaking for the lifelong outdoorsman. "I thought of [economist] John Kenneth Galbraith's great phrase, 'private affluence, public squalor,'" he recalls. "I had enough money to buy this boat, but I was sailing through shit." Resolved to do something about the deplorable state of the once proud, life-giving artery, he co-founded the Clearwater Foundation in 1969 and helped build the sailing sloop and environmental-awareness classroom Clearwater. Over 40 years later, the organization, which the singer calls his greatest achievement, has inspired dozens of kindred efforts worldwide and continues to keep the river clean via fundraising events culminating with June's annual Great Hudson River Revival.

Backed by a school chorus, Seeger and Springsteen sang Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" at President Obama's inauguration. Two years on, how does Seeger view the administration? He thinks a few seconds. "Compromise is part of life," he says. "But there's a slight difference between compromise and selling out." The recipient of such awards as the National Medal of the Arts and a Kennedy Center Lifetime Achievement Honor, Seeger was recently nominated for his fourth Grammy for last year's Tomorrow's Children (Appleseed Records), a collaboration with Beacon youth chorus the Riverfront Kids. "The kids love listening to his stories, asking him about what his songs mean," says Tery Udell, a fourth-grade teacher at J. V. Forrestal Elementary School, whose students co-founded the group in 2009. "He makes them feel so empowered, like they really can change the world one song at a time."

Seeger's propensity for history is legendary, and it's impossible not to be swept up by the animated way he reels off the accounts of local settlers and the ancients. His eyes light up when talk turns to chopping wood ("I love to go whack!") and about how humanity will be preserved through music, as well as the two other communal arts he says most bring people together: cooking and sports. When he cites humor as another saving grace, the words of one of his heroes, musician and unionist Joe Hill, come to mind: "If a person can put a few common-sense facts into a song and dress them up in a cloak of humor, he will succeed in reaching a great number of workers who are too unintelligent or too indifferent to read."

"If the human race is still here in 100 years, it will be because of lots of people doing lots of little things," Seeger says. "Bigger things can get co-opted or bought off by the powers that be. But if there are many, many little things going on it will be too hard for them to keep up with all of them." What would he call his role in history? "A sower of seeds," he says, referencing one of the Bible's parables. "Some seeds fall on stones and don't even sprout, but some seeds fall on fallow ground and multiply a hundredfold."

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Top 10 Books of 2013

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 6:09 PM

Young Friend by Leopoldine Core
  • "Young Friend" by Leopoldine Core
1) Justice by Carey Harrison
2) A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of the Smiths by Tony Fletcher
3) Young Friend by Leopoldine Core
4) Scorned Beauty Comes Up From Behind: Preverbs by George Quasha
5) Signs by Erika Dagnino
6) Charlotte Brontë, You Ruined My Life by Barbara Louise Ungar
7) Sasquatch Stories by Mike Topp
8) Susan Sontag: The Complete Rolling Stone Interview by Jonathan Cott
9) BAsics from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian
10) Incandescence by Mohamed Hmoudane

(I never read current books, or so I thought. But when last year ended, I noticed that I had, for once, acquired a bunch of brand-new books — and read them! Some of these volumes are not from 2013, but are recent: Mike Topp (2010), Bob Avakian, Barbara Louise, Erika (2011), George Quasha (2012). Incidentally, Signs is bilingual, Italian-English; Incandescence is in French. This list is in no order.)

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Grant-Winning Consortium Includes Deep Listening Institute

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Pauline Oliveros
  • Pauline Oliveros

It was inspiring to learn this month that the Deep Listening Institute, the organization founded by composer Pauline Oliveros, is part of a consortium that was recently awarded a $2.5 million partnership grant by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to launch the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation, thanks to the Kingston group's role in the development of AUMI (Adaptive Use Musical Instruments). AUMI is a software program that provides unique and affordable access to music-making for people, including those with even the most severe disabilities, enabling users to play sounds and musical phrases through movement and gestures.

AUMI was developed also in collaboration with faculty and students at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy and Deep Listening Institute’s staff. The program is available as an internet download (free for laptops and desktops and $9.99 for iPADs). It has been downloaded more than 600 times and is in use by therapists both nationally and internationally. Oliveros, an internationally acclaimed musician, composer, philosopher, and pioneer in using technology in the arts, along with DLI Artistic Director Carole Ione and occupational therapist and musician Leaf Miller, were part of the team that created AUMI.

In this promotional video, Oliveros and Miller talk about the revolutionary new program:

For more information, visit

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Simi Stone, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires Heat up Bearsville Theater in Woodstock

Posted By on Mon, Jan 27, 2014 at 10:01 AM

Simi Stone and producer David Baron

Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires band

I always love going to the Bearsville Theater, especially to see Simi Stone, who I have been a fan of since I first heard her sing at the Woodstock Film Festival. Last Friday night she performed solo, opening for soul singer Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires at the Bearsville Theater. Simi Stone sang 7 songs from her upcoming first solo record, along side her producer David Baron on piano. (No release date set yet, but I hope it is coming soon!) I love “I’m Back” and “All of the People.” Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires had the crowd dancing and heated up the crowd. (The Bearsville Theatre removed all the seats from its main floor to allow dancing). The charismatic 62 year-old Charles Bradley was introduced as the Doctor of Love, and he proved it with an emotional performance singing from the heart, and continually telling us he loved us.

“You, you, keep me on the stage,” said Bradley, clutching his heart. Visit Charles Bradley’s website for more beautiful videos of his songs, and the trailer for the documentary “Soul of America” (2012) that tells his compelling story. You wouldn’t know it by watching him perform, but he is releasing his first record this month, Victim of Love. He has lived through a lot of the pain and heartaches he sings about in his songs. When he was 14 years old, the subway was his home. I was so happy to be there in the audience on Friday night. Not only did I get to hear Simi Stone’s new songs, but I was introduced to Charles Bradley’s music, which is now going on my favorites on the iPod!

Vanessa Ahern started Hudson Valley Good Stuff, a blog about where to eat, play & recharge your spirit in the Hudson Valley in 2009. Follow her on Facebook, and sign up for her newsletter to

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Finding Happiness at Work, in Garrison

Posted By on Sun, Jan 26, 2014 at 4:34 PM


Looming deadlines. Water cooler gossip. Competitive colleagues. It can be hard to keep your center in the modern workplace. But instead of letting stress get the best of us, we can learn to breathe and pause. Instead of getting distracted and darkened by negativity, we can decide to focus and shine.

This March, two mindfulness experts - Buddhist meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg and former General Mills VP Janice Marturano - will co-lead "Mindfulness at Work," a weekend-long retreat at The Garrison Institute. Meditation and mindfulness training, along with reflections on topics like ethics and excellence, will equip workers from various career paths with the skills necessary to sidestep stress and be more organized, creative, and effective in the workplace.

The retreat comes on the heels of two books released just this month: Salzberg's Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace (Workman, 2014) and Marturano's Finding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership (Bloomsbury Press, 2014). Combining two perspectives, "Mindfulness at Work" will explore routes toward deeper satisfaction and contentment as well as true accomplishment and leadership.

As for the water cooler gossip and other negativity? It's about learning to let it roll right off, so you can get back to what you do best. Your good work in the world.

Mindfulness at Work, with Sharon Salzberg and Janice Marturano
March 7-9, 2014 at The Garrison Institute

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Kate Hamilton's Big Shoes to Fill

Posted By on Sat, Jan 25, 2014 at 8:00 AM

Dust Jacket; Kate Hamilton; Nylon ripstop, thread, polycarbonate plastic, polyester foam batting, aluminum armature wire, velcro; 10.5' x 21.5'; 2013
  • Dust Jacket; Kate Hamilton; Nylon ripstop, thread, polycarbonate plastic, polyester foam batting, aluminum armature wire, velcro; 10.5' x 21.5'; 2013
"Big Shoes to Fill," Kate Hamilton’s current installation at Thompson Giroux Gallery in Chatham through March 9, creates a world where the giants seem to have left in a hurry, and their crumpled clothes were hung as a warning—these ceiling-height ghosts of garments stilled like sails in the horse latitudes.

Empty Pockets;Kate Hamilton; Nylon ripstop, thread, plastic, polycarbonate plastic, aluminum armature wire, handmade paper (abaca, flax, cotton pulp); 18' x 13.5'; 2012
  • Empty Pockets;Kate Hamilton; Nylon ripstop, thread, plastic, polycarbonate plastic, aluminum armature wire, handmade paper (abaca, flax, cotton pulp); 18' x 13.5'; 2012

Kate Hamilton lives and works in New Paltz, and has been studying and practicing the language of clothes for years, as a hat maker, costumer, and artist. Last summer, with Marian Schoettle, she co-created and produced DaDa Spill, a multi-media, multi-artist project staged underground in the Widow Jane Mine below Rosendale.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Nous to Play Debut Show in Hudson

Posted By on Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Basilica Hudson
  • Matt Charland
  • Basilica Hudson

Owing to the cold weather, performance and arts venue Basilica Hudson has traditionally shut down in the winter months. So it was a pleasant surprise to open my e-mail this month and learn about Basilica breaking the tradition for a one-off event on February 1 featuring the public debut of Nous, a new experimental music project with an impressive list of members: Christopher Bono (Ghost Against Ghost), Greg Fox (Guardian Alien, Zs, Ben Frost, Liturgy), Thor Harris (Swans, Angels of Light, Amanda Palmer, Shearwater), Shahzad Ismaily (Yoko Ono, Laurie Anderson, Bonnie Prince Billy) and Grey Mcmurray (itsnotyouitsme, So Percussion, Tyondai Braxton).

Nous’s instrumentation is comprised of electronics, percussion, guitar, bass, and vocals, and its mission statement is intriguing. The group “aims to build communal musical relationships that collectively work to find new ways of creating art. Each installment will center around a different focal concept, and the project will feature a fluctuating group of artists. Nous aspires to bypass the lower level thought patterns of the egotistical mind and encourages the connection of those involved to reach a higher level of consciousness, providing a creative space where intuitive, unexpected, and unexplained results can occur.” For the Basilica performance and the following night at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, Nous will be augmented with special guests cellist Clarice Jensen, violinist/violist Caleb Burhans, violinist Laura Lutzke, flutist Alex Sopp, cellist/vocalist Imago, plus Laraaji & Arji (zither, ambient sounds) and three dancers directed by Akil Davis from Loud Sol Productions.

Obviously, no live footage yet exists of Nous. But for an idea of where founder and composer Christopher Bono is coming from sonically, take a gander at this clip of a performance of his “Fish, Father, Phoenix” at Performance Research in Brooklyn:

Nous will perform at Basilica Hudson on February 1 at 8pm. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. For more information, call (518) 822-1050 or visit www.basilicahudson.com.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Justice" by Carey Harrison

Posted By on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 12:30 PM

This novel tells a very simple story: a mother returns to Italy after World War II, seeking justice for her son Vittorio, who was killed in the Holocaust. We learn this in the first paragraph. One man is responsible for Vittorio's death: Renzo Cipriano, the police chief who deported him. The book is, in a sense, a murder mystery, where the crime is the extermination of the Jews.

Much of Justice is about waiting: waiting without knowing why, waiting for an unknown deliverance. (Miri, the mother, seeks revenge but hasn't chosen a particular punishment.) Justice only comes to those who nobly wait.

On one level, the book is about the relationship between doctors and nurses. (Miri is a nurse, Renzo a doctor.) It's also about pignolia nuts, a food freely offered by the hills of Italy.

I would call Justice a "geographical love story" — the love between a writer and a landscape. Harrison expertly evokes the Calabria of 1948, a place trying to return to its ancestral sleep, but already bit by the vampire of modernity.

Carey knows what is a novel. Many of the works of fiction today are either genre or facile satires (the latter being the "hot" ones). This is an actual novel; in other words, the last line perfectly completes the logic of the book. The abstract title suggests Carey's ambition — to explain all justice, for all time. And he succeeds.

I just realized: "Vittorio" means "victory"!

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"verbal paradise: preverbs" by George Quasha

Posted By on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 10:10 AM

This is the second book of "preverbs" I've read by George. (The other is Scorned Beauty Comes up from Behind.) verbal paradise is much different than the first — more romantic! Here's an example, chosen at random:

We are here for the ride but who knew such fractals...

Every tongue tip waves particle internals eternal, so to say.

Stuttering mouth quakes its own evolution.

[It's hard to tell, but I think George intended double spacing.] It's about sex, don't you think? Not only that, but good sex. Of course, it also describes George's relationship with the reader. We are here for the ride, he and us, but we did not expect these tricky fractals. (And what exactly are fractals? "A fractal is an object or quantity that displays self-similarity, in a somewhat technical sense, on all scales. The object need not exhibit exactly the same structure at all scales, but the same 'type' of structures must appear on all scales," according to the rather inchoate Internet (but not Wikipedia!)) (Your best plan is to Google "fractal" and look under Images. Fractals look like Valentine's Day cards from Jupiter.)

Incidentally, that poem I quoted above has a title! It's "passing purelands folded in saying so." A lesser artist would have left it untitled. ("purelands" is probably a reference to Pure Land Buddhism.)

Why all this wordplay? Partly it comes from being born with the name Quasha, I suspect.

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Hudson Valley Events

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Intro to Wheel Throwing 9/14-10/19 @ Fall Kill Creative Works

Intro to Wheel Throwing 9/14-10/19

Tuesdays, 5:30-8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 19 — Intro to Wheel Throwing with Grace Moore 6 Tuesdays, 5:30-8 pm September...
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Intro to Watercolors: Adult Class

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