march 2011

Reality Check

vonnegutIf you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.—Kurt Vonnegut in his essay ‘Here is a lesson in creative writing,’ originally published in his book A Man Without a Country. Save for this opening paragraph, most of the essay is posted online at Lapham’s Quarterly

Joke Of The Month


Passerby: Pardon me, sir, do you have change of a dollar?

LeBron James: I only have three quarters. I don’t have a fourth quarter.

Congratulations to the Dallas Mavericks for a superb, unyielding team effort in dispatching the overhyped Miami Heat in six games to win their first NBA championship. A special and sweeping bow to Finals MVP DIRK NOWITZKI, who played with pride and humility, plus a lethal fourth-quarter bloodthirstiness for victory unmatched since Michael Jordan exited the court. This was some great pro basketball Dallas displayed when it mattered most.




Fulfilling Her Promise
By David McGee

With Hellos, Goodbyes & Butterflies, Donna Hughes bridges the gap between traditional and contemporary bluegrass and casts a glow that shines beyond it. A profile of a most unusual bluegrass singer-songwriter. Yes, a bluegrass singer-songwriter.

andy griffith

By David McGee
turned 85 this month, and THE GRASCALS are marking the occasion and last year’s 50th anniversary of The Andy Griffith Show with a new EP of music performed by Andy and the Dillards on the classic show, Dance Til Your Stockings Are Hot and Ravelin’. A look back at a great show, a look at the EP in question with Grascals guitarist/lead singer TERRY ELDREDGE.


By David McGee

When contemplating Roy Orbison, music writers and musicians tend to speak in tones of hushed introspection. We take Roy Orbison’s music very personally, and the memory of it touches something fundamental, something spiritually resonant, in our souls, that visceral sense of being connected to the earth we walk on and to the people whose lives we touch and whose lives touch ours. It’s not easy to explain, any more than Orbison’s music is easy to explain. But we still reach out to it, loving it completely, without completely understanding it.



A label change in 1950 and the arrival of Jimmy Martin in the Blue Grass Boys spark a period of remarkable productivity for Bill Monroe


From starring in one of the worst movies ever made, Ed Wood Jr.’s Glen or Glenda, to remaking herself as a songwriter and placing some dozen of her tunes in Elvis Presley movies, DOLORES FULLER, who died on May 9, always kept it interesting. When she and live-in boyfriend Wood split up, she took her angora sweaters with her and fashioned a most improbable life for herself.

Appalachia & The Song of the High Hills, Frederick Delius

*A new Chandos release showcases two works from two periods of FREDERICK DELIUS’s life, Appalachia from 1896 inspired by black workers at a tobacco factory singing an old slave song, and the second from 1912, The Song of the High Hills, inspired by the composer’s annual trips to Norway. Also, a quick Q&A with conductor GUNTHER SCHULLER on the joys of Delius’s Appalachia.

*In a Delius-related piece, ‘The Search for Thomas F. Ward, Teacher of Frederick Delius,’ author DON C. GILLESPIE traces the peripatetic life of Brooklyn-born organist Thomas F. Ward as it intersected with that of Frederick Delius when the latter came to Florida to work on an orange plantation and befriended the black workers, whose old slave songs mesmerized the young composer and worked their way into his beloved composition Appalachia. Ward became Delius’s teacher and had a profound influence on the headstrong composer. Author Gillespie properly identified Ward’s influence on Delius, as the latter’s link to the black culture he found when he came from Europe to manage an orange plantation in Florida. In this excerpt, Gillespie recounts how he began his search for Thomas F. Ward, a near-forgotten figure in music history who played a decisive role in Delius’s development as a composer.


Of Bells
By Chateaubriand

A meditation on the larger import, the greater glory--indeed, the grandeur--of pealing bells from The Genius of Christianity, the 1802 book by the father of Romanticism in French literature that sparked a religious revival in his native land.

The Gospel Set

By Bob Marovich

The church where Emmett Till’s funeral was held marks a milestone birthday

chuck wagon*GOSPEL NEWS & NOTES
The Gang Rolls On: Exit Dave Emery, Enter Jeremy Stephens: Now in its 75th year, the CHUCK WAGON GANG is still going strong, but change is coming around. Long-time bass singer and guitarist Dave Emery has fulfilled a lifelong dream by moving to Florida, where he hints he might one day be found singing gospel music again. Taking his place is 26-year-old Jeremy Stephens, who recently filled in while the Gang’s Stan Hill was away taking care of his ailing wife. In other news: Absolutel Gospel reports that the DIXIE MELODY BOYS are preparing for a July 1 release for their 50th anniversary album, The Call Is Still The Same. The Boys’ Gospel Hall of Fame bass singer and owner Ed O’Neal says: “It's been nearly ten years since we have done a project of this scale. It will be a milestone for the Dixie Melody Boys,” Another new album on its way is a bluegrass gospel effort by THE FAR CITY BOYS, who boast one of the genre’s great lead singers in Kevin Street. Yet untitled, the album is slated for a late summer release and will include the group’s recent radio hit, “I Have Been Blessed,’ with a new verse. “These songs selected come straight from the heart of The Far City Boys,” states bassist Kevin Michael Street.


munizziMARTHA MUNIZZI, Make It Loud--Is it me or does Martha Munizzi get even better with each successive CD? The Florida worship leader's latest release, Make It Loud, definitely lives up to its title. The opening selections barrel out of the starting gate as if powered by racing fuel. The title track and "Excellent" are stadium filling, high-energy praise and worship celebrations.

burrellKIM BURRELL, The Love Album--Grammy nominated and Stellar Award-winning singer Kim Burrell takes on a timeless subject in all of its manifestations on her appropriately titled The Love Album. The collection of ten songs deliberately blurs the lines, musically and lyrically, between spiritual and physical love. Here, the "you" in "I love you" is sometimes ambiguous and other times unambiguously cleaer. As Kirk Franklin commented, "Ms. Burrell is beginning to break down those walls of the church and the romantic."

bakerTONYA BAKER, The Live Encounter--Tonya Baker's sophomore album for Kingdom Records, The Live Encounter, is a great way to experience the singer. The Dayton, Ohio, psalmist is in her element leading a praise and worship service, which is essentially what this CD is.

jayJAY WHITE, Larger Than Life —The son of Bishop Jeffrey L. White, Senior Pastor of Brooklyn’s Greater Temple of Faith (“House of Judah”), Jay White makes an impressive solo debut on Larger Than Life, a CD anchored by crisp, jazzy musicianship that evokes the Winans' early work. Complex Take Six-like harmonies underpin White's omnipresent vocals that make frequent leaps into falsetto. The selections are love songs to the Lord, delivered with a conviction suggesting a love forged in the crucible of trial.


Border Crossings: Romania

gabi luncaExperiencing Gabi Lunca, 'The Silken Gypsy Woman'
Culled from the archives of the former Romanian State Radio in Bucharest, and re-mastered for CD, Gabi Lunca: Sounds From A Bygone Age, Vol.5 spans the years 1956 to 1978, when GABI LUNCA was in her prime as a vocalist. Lunca was considered one of the ‘grande dames’ of the Romanian music world and performed with some of the premier musicians of her time, so what you're hearing on this collection is representative of the best of the popular music of her era. Our Gabi Lunca coverage includes ‘Gabi Lunca: A Voice from Romania’s Margins,’ a profile of the now-retired but still beloved vocalist.



Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer with us in another retro summer special. This year we reprise two popular features from last year’s summer issue, and add some new ones to the archive.

The Story of the Filmmaker and the Film that Changed the Surfing World
By Paul Holmes

Made for around $50,000 and single-handedly produced, directed, filmed, edited and narrated by BRUCE BROWN, THE ENDLESS SUMMER is far and away the most successful surf movie of al time, and still the model for most surf flicks to this day. Its creator, Brown, was little known outside the limited confines of the surfing subculture, which in 1966, the year of the film’s release, was familiar to most Americans through the distorted lens of Beach Party movies and a surf music craze that had been on the wane since the British Invasion of 1964. As PAUL HOLMES writes: “Wholesome, charming, corny at times, but with what film critic Leonard Maltin describes as a ‘diverting, tongue-in-cheek narration,’ the film’s premise--a quest for the holy grail of a perfect wave--gave surfers some noble dignity at a time when they were often stereotyped as derelicts, ne’er do wells or delinquents. But the stars of The Endless Summer, Robert August and Mike Hynson, came across as clean-cut, fun-loving athletes and surfing itself as a grand, healthy, respectable sport with unexpected global appeal.” Brown and his crew literally followed Hynson and August around the world, chasing the sun and the summer as it crossed the planet, as the pair tested out some spots--such as Hawaii--famous for big waves, and others--such as Acra, Ghana--where surfing was completely unknown to the natives. With a spirited, plaintive soundtrack by The Sandals, the feel of The Endless Summer is as idyllic as its protagonists’ journey is romantic--a near-perfect mating of existential ambition depicted on screen and spiritual/metaphysical striving expressed in music. Holmes captures the whole epic saga in this definitive piece first published in the now-defunct Longboard surfing magazine in 2005. NOTE: THIS STORY, ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN OUR JUNE 2010 ISSUE, IS A PDF & WILL DIRECT YOU TO THE JUNE 2010 ISSUE OF THE BLUEGRASS SPECIAL. TO RETURN TO THE CURRENT ISSUE CLICK YOUR BROWSER'S BACK BUTTON.

By Paul Johnson, The Belairs

In 1961 Paul Johnson was the guitarist in an instrumental rock band from California called The Belairs. Along with Dick Dale, the quintet pioneered a new style of music that surfers themselves dubbed ‘surf music’ for the way in which its sounds evoked the rolling and crashing of the waves, and the ethereal, metaphysical experience of riding those waves. But where, when and how did it start, this ‘surf’ music? Who better to answer the question than one of the artists who helped craft the form, namely PAUL JOHNSON himself. Far from being a relic, Johnson remains quite active and in the forefront of a very-much-alive surf music subculture as a member of The Surfaris (‘Wipe Out’), his own band The Duo-tones, the Hepcats, and as a writer, whose script for a documentary about surf music is now in production. In this exclusive piece for, Johnson offers us a ground-zero perspective on the music around which a social community coalesced. No less an authority on surf music than Dan Forte, who in his guise at recording/performing artist Teisco del Rey has done laudable work demonstrating the continued vitality of surf music, hails Johnson, “more than any other artist,” for having “succeeded in bringing surf music into the present without sacrificing its past.” We welcome Paul Johnson to our pages, and are throwing in a cool bio of him that is also available on his website (, plus an audio clip of The Belairs’ groundbreaking, Johnson-penned hit, “Mr. Moto.”


By David McGee

The East Coast counterpart to surf music actually predated surf, was rawer, bluesier and blacker, never migrated east to west, and wasn’t even a defined genre. But its music—drawn from Stax, Motown, Atlantic, and countless indie labels, featuring nationally known and obscure artists both—was simply great and timeless, the lynchpin of a life affirming, joyous scene. Which may account for that scene remaining vibrant today in the Carolinas of its birth, however much below the national radar it may be. Herewith a basic guide to BEACH MUSIC essentials. NOTE: CLICKING ON THIS LINK WILL TAKE YOU TO THIS STORY IN OUR JUNE 2010 ISSUE. CLICK YOUR BROWSER'S BACK BUTTON TO RETURN TO THIS MONTH'S ISSUE.

How Eddie Cochran Crafted A Seasonal Classic
By David McGee

The making of one of the first summertime perennials, as recounted by EDDIE COCHRAN’s co-writer and partner JERRY CAPEHART, with additional reminiscences of the recording session by legendary engineer LARRY LEVINE.

By David McGee

His seasonal classic ‘Here Comes Summer’ made the 22-year-old JERRY KELLER a one-hit wonder. Now nearing 74, he has everything he ever wanted, including a satisfied mind and an impressive resume of achievements as a songwriter and jingles singer. His life has been as happy as his only hit. The inside story, as told in an exclusive interview with the artist.


A True-Life Surfing Adventure
By Ted Bennett

‘I can't explain why I didn't notice myself zooming on a collision course with the steel pilings of the Pismo Beach pier until it was too late. I was living in the moment, I guess.’ A true account of a memorable day surfing Pismo Beach written by a surfer who nearly shot the curl into the afterlife.

surf poetry

Three poets find their muse in the waves
Poetry inspired by surfing from GARRET LISI, HUGH COOK and BRYAN KNOWLES with musical accompaniment by THE SENTINALS, THE TARANTULAS and DICK DALE & HIS DEL-TONES.

surf city*VIDEO FILE: TWO GIRLS FOR EVERY BOY--JAN & DEAN go to ‘Surf City’ and other swingin’ cities and places in a special summer Video File. This month’s installment includes the liner notes from J&D’s original 1963 Surf City And Other Swingin’ Cities album, written in true ‘60s hipster DJ jargon by L.A.’s KFWB star disc jockey BILL BALANCE. Videos include ‘Surf City,’ ‘Dead Man’s Curve,’ ‘Drag City,’ ‘New Girl In School,’ ‘She’s My Summer Girl,’ ‘Honolulu Lulu,’ ‘The Restless Surfer,’ ‘Ride the Wild Surf,’ ‘I Found a Girl,’ a live medly from 1965, and a live performance of ‘Little Old Lady from Pasadena.’ Surf’s up!


branscombI’LL TAKE LOVE: FROM THE PEN OF LOUISA BRANSCOMB--One of the most recorded songwriters in contemporary bluegrass, Louisa Branscomb’s songs of love and loss get a simply awesome showcase in this collection of various artists’ interpretations of her tunes.

justin-haighJUSTIN HAIGH, People Like Me--Born and raised in South Dakota, muscular voiced Justin Haigh (pronounced Haig) migrated to Texas in 2006 and began honing his music with producer Lew Curatolo and making a name for himself as a strong live performer. Those who have been fortunate enough to see those shows are going to be impressed that his followup to 2006’s Pale Horse Rider (and to 2009’s cool single, “A Real Good Year For Beer”) captures the artist’s live energy and serves as a splendid showcase for his sensitivities as a songwriter and interpreter; those new to Haigh’s music are going to feel like they’ve stumbled upon the next big thing.

lafleurDAVID LAFLEUR, Them Bones…--Charles Town, West Virginia’s David LaFleur says his new album, Them Bones…, represents a plumbing of his two decades-plus history as a folk-blues artist with the aim of assembling a repertoire of traditional and original songs refurbished and enhanced with the assistance of a tight, mostly acoustic ensemble of percussion, mandolin, cello, organ and piano, plus some background singers here and there. He done good.

Beyond The Blue

elvin-bisopELVIN BISHOP, Raisin’ Hell Revue-- Let’s make something clear from the outset: it is never a good idea to second-guess Elvin Bishop, so when he titles an album Raisin’ Hell Revue, rest assured he and his mates do exactly as they claim.


girlsSAMANTHA FISH/CASSIE TAYLOR/DANI WILD, Girls With Guitars-- Ahead of their joint appearance on the 2011 Ruf Records Blues Caravan Tour, American blues women Samantha Fish and Cassie Taylor and the U.K.’s formidable Dani Wilde holed up in a Berlin studio with Blues Award winning producer/guitarist Mike Zito and cut an album to mark the occasion. Singers-songwriters-instrumentalists all, each gal contributed three original songs, wrote one together, then bookended these with two ambitious covers. As such, Girls With Guitars boasts a pleasing variety of electrified blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll by a trio of gifted female artists in ascendance.

judy-wexlerJUDY WEXLER, Under A Painted Sky--California-born and -bred Judy Wexler floats above and flits about her songs with breezy joie de vivre and with such delight in their themes that a casual listener might mistake her sunniness for superficiality. Those casual listeners would be wrong. Wexler’s warm, airy voice is deceptively but deeply engaged in her repertoire’s emotional textures, and once you hear its woodwind quality in the context of her tight jazz octet’s sublime conversations, her passion for the moment, and her determination to find a distinctive opening for herself (especially in some of this album’s more familiar tunes), become dramas unto themselves.


Christine Santelli’s Video Of The Month

‘Runaway Train,’ from her 100 videos in 100 days project. For the latest Christine Santelli news and live performance schedule, visit her website.



, the Civil Right icon who led the nation’s first sit-in, sparked a movement and played a central role in breaking the back of segregation, passed away on June 8. We look back on an extraordinary, influential life.

7 impossible things


A special double dose of 7-Imp this month, with the emphasis on special. First, OSCAR WILDE visits 7-Imp, yes, by way of his 1888 fairy tale “The Selfish Giant,” originally released in Wilde’s collection The Happy Prince and Other Tales. Now the story has been issued in an extraordinary book adaption by Noteworthy Books that is itself a special double dose of pleasure: CHRIS BEATRICE’s extraordinarily vivid illustrations are alone worth the price of admission, but the extra added value is an accompanying CD of original music composed by DAN GOELLER and performed by the Grammy winning NASHVILLE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA. Jules has the story of the story, plus a raft of the dazzling Beatrice illustrations, and four short animated videos featuring Beatrice’s illustrations and Goeller’s music. The Wow! factor on this entry is off the charts.

But there’s more! Jules has sniffed out another exceptional picture book in HOPPER AND WILSON, a couple of stuffed protagonists who join the Hall of Fame of Pooh, Paddington Bear, Corduroy and the Velveteen Rabbit in the pantheon of their kind. MARIA VON LIESHOUT’s book details the exploits of her heartwarming characters, as Wilson (a little yellow stuffed mouse) and Hopper (a big blue stuffed elephant) take an amazing journey they hope will lead them to a staircase to the moon. Ms. Van Lieshout wrote and illustrated this gem, which remains true to her aesthetic of bringing us minimalist art (“gestural artwork,” Kirkus Reviews dubbed it) with concise texts.

blogging farmer

The Blogging Farmer
Alex Tiller's Blog about Agriculture & Farming

There is quite a debate going on regarding organic agriculture. One side says that small, localized organic farming is the future. The other side says that it will be impossible to feed the nine billion people expected to be inhabiting the planet by 2050 using organic methods. However, "organic" may not necessarily be any better for the planet. Alex Tiller, our Blogging Farmer, explains the little-mentioned downsides of organic farming and advises caution.

prince charlesIn a related piece referenced in Tiller’s article, HRH The Prince of Wales, PRINCE CHARLES, spoke on May 4, 2011 (following his son’s wedding—you may have heard about it), at the Future of Food Conference at Georgetown University. His topic:“The role of sustainable agriculture in addressing the world’s most pressing issues, from environmental sustainability to global poverty to economic security,” as Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia succinctly stated in introducing the Prince. In a stirring, impassioned, authoritative speech virtually ignored by the mainstream media in this country, Prince Charles, as the British newspaper The Guardian noted, “took on the powerful agricultural lobbies on both sides of the Atlantic.” The full text of the speech is reprinted here, along with a video of it in its entirety. One of the most important speeches any public figure has given in recent memory, the Prince’s words, coming from a man who has been farming for the past 30 years, are required reading for anyone who cares about how we are going to, as the Prince puts it, “maintain a supply of healthy food at affordable prices when there is mounting pressure on nearly every element affecting the process. In some cases we are pushing Nature’s life-support systems so far, they are struggling to cope with what we ask of them.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Bicentennial Perspective

stoweConceived in grief over the death of her 18-month-old son, Charley, HARRIET BEECHER STOWE’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin stands as one of the most influential books ever published in America. Stowe began writing in 1849; published in 1851, her book sold 305,000 copies in the United States and another two and a half million worldwide. Determined to do some great good for others as a way of reconciling herself to Charley’s death, said that losing Charley made her understand what a slave woman felt when her child was taken away at the auction block. Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin to encourage citizens to disobey what she took to be an unchristian law and to arouse the compassion of white parents, many of whom, she knew, had lost a child. Marking the bicentennial of Stowe’s birth, we offer a three-part perspective on her literary classic:

*’SHE KNEW WHERE TO AIM HER ARROWS’: An interview with JOAN D. HEDRICK, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning biography, Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life.

*MICHAEL WINSHIP ON THE ANATOMY OF AN EARLY AMERICAN BESTSELLER: Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published and promoted on a scale previously unheard-of in the book business here and abroad. Michael Winship, Iris Howard Regents Professor of English II at the University of Texas at Austin, traces the path of Stowe’s story addressing the evils of slavery from its origins in serial form from June 6, 1851 to April 1, 1853 to hardcover phenomenon and how the book’s success changed the publishing industry and its author.

In Which The Reader Is Introduced To A Man Of Humanity;
the entire first chapter of Uncle Tom's Cabin plus, an excerpt from Stowe’s 1854 book, A Key To Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which she wrote in order to defend her novel against one of the most widespread complaints lodged against it by pro-slavery critics--that as an account of slavery Uncle Tom's Cabin was wholly false, or at least wildly exaggerated. Apart from explaining the individual characters in her novel, Stowe considered other slavery-related historical and philosophical issues, concluding with a chapter titled ‘What Is To Be Done?’ In it she appeals to the Christian church ‘of all denominations’) to takethe lead in ending slavery in the North and the South. Herein, an excerpt of her sermon-like appeals to the consciences of her fellow Christians throughout the land.

death valley

NATURE’S TEMPLE: Praising the Wonders of the Natural World
By Mary Austin

This month’s issue features one of nature writing’s legends, Mary Austin. After moving to California at the age of 18, Ms. Austin lived for many years in the desert, where she studied Indian life and composed her first book, The Land of Little Rain (1903). In the opening chapter of that book, reprinted here, Austin describes the "lotus charm" of Death Valley, "the loneliest land that ever came out of God's hands,” which she visited extensively more than 30 years before President Herbert Hoover declared it a National Monument (1933; it was declared a National Park in 1994) and less than 50 years after the first non-Native Americans visited the area during the California Gold Rush of 1849. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Ms. Austin’s observations is that the Death Valley of today is so little changed that she would recognize it from her own turn-of-the-20th-Century writings.

James Arness
brought moral complexity to TV westerns in his portrayal of U.S. Marshall Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke. Remembering a TV icon. Also: James Arness’s final letter to his fans.



CLASS PERSONIFIED: Remembering HARMON KILLEBREW, Who Played the Game Right
On the field, constant hustle and never a cheap home run; off the field, a quiet, sober humanitarian. At all times, the personification of class.


The pro football world lost four solid citizens in the past month. In this issue we remember:

*JOE PERRY and JOHN HENRY JOHNSON--teammates on the San Francisco 49ers, fast, punishing runners who asked and gave no quarter in their rushes to the Hall of Fame.
*JOE STEFFY, a winner wherever he went, was a two-way star on defense and offense (where he opened holes for “Mr. Inside” Doc Blanchard and “Mr. Outside” Glenn Davis) for Army’s 1945 and 1946 undefeated teams, en route to the College Hall of Fame.
*RON SPRINGS, the Dallas Cowboys fullback who teamed with Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett on three Cowboys playoff teams, left a greater legacy off the field. A victim of diabetes and kidney disease, his Gift for Life Foundation continues to spread awareness of the ailments he battled courageously for the last 16 years of his too-brief life.
*ANDY ROBUSTELLI, a 19th round draft choice out of tiny Arnold College in Milford, CT, who became one of the greatest pass rushers in pro football history as part of the New York Giants’ fearsome defensive front four, from 1956 through 1962. He played in eight NFL championship games as a Giant, was a first-team All-Pro six times and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1971. Said one writer in reflecting on #81’s career: ‘Robustelli will be remembered as the right defensive end of the New York Giants in an era when the nation’s viewing habits in the fall were dramatically changing and pro football was about to become king.’

A week after the University of Oklahoma unveiled a statue of its most recent Heisman Trophy winner SAM BRADFORD, one of the teammates Bradford thanked in his gracious speech died of an overdose of painkillers he was taking for a back injury. AUSTIN BOX, gone too soon.

blue heaven

In The Evening by John Henry Newman

O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in thy mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest and peace at last. Amen.

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