Images from France


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Real Ignornace

I saw a more recent interview with this man last week.  He talked about how the discoveries that the scientific comunity for the past several decades had been “filtered” so that the new information that challenges the established darwinian theory of evolution never make it to the public.  Very interesting.

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the advantages of assuming the documentary authority

Dealing in prehistory, allows for great latitude when it come to our story, and the documentary style format allows us to pick and choose how we frame the decisions we made in this creation myth, or any one for that matter. It really depends on the aspect of our human nature to hold up to the light for closer pondering, whats the Kernel?

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So maybe here’s a rough outline…

Enter The Tribe, to perform a creation ritual in the depths of a cave

The Ritual is a Story, performed using Chanting and Shrieking and Banging on Drums and Rattling Rattles and making Totem-Puppets out of Bits of Bone and Sticks and Animal Skins and Fire and Groans and So On:

The Animal Spirit-Ancestor-Totems Hump

The First Human is Born, into a Tribe of Almost-Humans

The Tribe is overjoyed, and the First Human is Adored

But The Tribe is Afflicted by the Sinister Spirit of Hunger, or Natural Evil

Hunting is Going Badly

The First Human has a Dream of a Place where Hunger cannot Go, and where Everybody is Happy: Heaven

The First Human describes Heaven to The Tribe, and says it’s Out There Somewhere

The Tribe is Confused and Hurt that the First Human wants to Go

The First Human Goes Alone into the Wilderness

The Tribe joins the First Human, having decided to Trust the Dream

They Crown the First Human their Leader, and Follow

The Tribe travels through the Wastes, where they are Defenseless against Hunger and Other Monsters

The Tribe grows Unruly, and the First Human must urge them Onwards

But a Member of the Tribe is too Weak to Continue

The First Human decides to Leave the Weak One Behind

But Heaven is still Nowhere in Sight: Despair

The Tribe Rebels against the First Human, and Kills En, and Eats En

But they are now Lost in the Wastes, with no Leader, no Dream, and no Way Home

They feel Overwhelming Guilt, and have a Funeral for the First Human

They blame the Spirit of Hunger (Evil) for the Crime

The Ritual is Finished.  Exit the Tribe from the Cave.

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The Primal Horde

Anybody read Totem & Taboo: Resemblances Between the Psychic Lives of Savages & Neurotics, by ol’ Sigmund Freud?

Just finished it myself.  I know Freud’s got a bad reputation these days, but it’s hard to deny that reading what he has to say can be a joyous experience.  Partly because of the utter audacity of his assertions, partly because of their beauty, and partly because they’re very powerful.  I’m not talking about the whole nefarious Penis Envy business, I know that’s where he kind of fell off the ledge, but this book, taken with a big ‘this was written a hundred years ago’ grain of salt, has got way too much to say to us, the writers of Ignorance.

He’s trying to figure out why there are such complicated rules of taboo in ‘savage’ societies, and also why humans have such a universal attraction to identifying ourselves with animals, which form exogamous groups within the tribe – exogamous meaning groups whose members can’t marry each other.  I won’t attempt to summarize all the marvels of this book, but I’ll describe a little of where it ends up, with the most evocative description of the Origin of Everything: totem, taboo, ghosts, sacrifices, magic, art, religion, the whole shamozzle.

He describes our original social organization as being pretty much like you see amongst apes: there’s a big mean ape (Dad) that keeps all the women for himself.  The weaker apes (the Sons) live outcast on the fringes, having half-hearted sex with each other, envying the Big Mean Ape, fearing him, and admiring him.  Finally, they have the idea to get together, and kill him.  Seems good at first — but they realize that they’ve just ruined everything: now it’s brother against brother to the death, and their alliance is destroyed.  Unless they agree that such a thing can Never Happen Again – they regret the act.  They feel Guilt for the first time.  And they maneuver out of it by pretending they didn’t do it, by ascribing the act to supernatural causes, and holding ritual funerals for the Dad where they ask forgiveness for their sin, and ascribe enormous spiritual power to the Ghost of the Dad.

He manages to roll a whole lot of other things into the heap when all is said and done, but here’s what’s interesting about it, in terms of Ignorance: we’ve got basically the same plot, except that Freud’s Dad is a Big Mean Ape, who rules by dominance, and ours, Twig, is a Leader who rules by an Inspiring Vision.  And then is murdered by the Tribe, who regret it and have a big funeral ritual.

Now, oddly enough, I’m also reading a book we bought at the bookstore at the Grotte de Niaux, called The Mind in the Cave, which is about the origin of cave art – written by some fellow whose name I don’t remember just at the moment.  I could go on and on about what he’s saying, but here’s the relevant bit – he thinks cave art was a highly political act, enforcing the power of a shamanic class, who claimed authority based on their ability to penetrate the veil (which is actually the cave wall) between this world and the spirit world, where they could understand things that everybody else couldn’t.

One might imagine that the first glimmerings of higher order consciousness – that is, the ability to imagine elaborately realized visions of alternate realities, would have struck our thick-browed ancestors as powerful magic.  To make real, in your mind, something that is not real!

In other words, if you put Freud and The Mind in the Cave together, you get our play.

Well, I thought it was pretty neat.

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So is Twig a man or a woman?

Of course, it’s a politicized issue.  Ingenious gender neutral pronouns aside, we’ve been skirting the question for awhile.  It might not ordinarily be quite so big of an issue either way, but maybe because of the deep gender weirdness of the Adam and Eve business, it does seem like making Twig a fella would be reinforcing some ancient misogyny, whereas making Twig a lady would be making a Big Statement about women; what Twig does, and what e’s responsible for, might not be necessarily 100% attractive, and who wants to be making a Big Statement that says, all over again, that women are responsible for the Fall from Grace?  (Not me.  I couldn’t tell you whether male and female brains evolved differently – maybe they did – but it’s not really what the show’s about, anyway.)  Maybe it’s possible to make Twig gender neutral – after all, e will be a rough bundle of twigs and things, maybe not so evident what kind of bits e’s got, but that seems disingenuous.  I would think that Twig’s gender would be a pretty important feature to cave people.

So I don’t know.  Any opinions out there?

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How to make the Evolution of Imagination dramatic

An argument I might try to make: the evolution of the imagination, that is, the ability to envision situations that aren’t real (yet), also marks the evolution of leadership, because now there’s a vision originating in one person’s head that must be communicated to other people.  Leadership I define as different from dominance – apes dominate each other, but through force, not through inspiration, I’d guess.  (Actually I don’t know a dang thing about apes; there could be very inspirational apes.)  Leadership means followers, which means making choices for other people, which means the followers must trust the leader, or the leader must resort to ape-like means to maintain control.  But even when leadership is founded on absolute love, it’s about choices, and any choice entails the sacrifice of alternate choices.  Choice is drama: there’s lots of tension in the act of imagining.  You could even say it’s the fundamental tension – a beast without the ability to imagine a different situation than the one it’s presently in, whether nice or nasty, would not understand the situation as dramatic, only a circumstance to be endured or enjoyed.

So: once we’ve established the initiating event of our story – somebody imagines something – then we have a tension, or a choice: to lead or not to lead.  To follow or not to follow.  To have faith in the vision, or to deny it.  The dramatic formula of our story, then: Napoleon going to Russia.  Ahab going to kill Moby Dick.  Jesus on His way to Golgotha.

All such stories end with disaster, and with the sacrifice of the leader.  Maybe this is a kind of revenge upon the faculty of imagination itself?  Maybe it’s a tension we feel in ourselves, between the part of us that’s happy in our garden, waiting for the potatoes to grow, and the part of us that says: not enough.

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The Inner Napoleon

I recall (probably poorly) a lecture I heard in university, in some kind of psychology class.  The professor explained the common features of a psychotic episode: the sufferer believes that there is a great and cosmic battle going on, between binary opposing forces (good and evil, humans versus aliens, democracy versus communism); the sufferer believes they are central to this battle, and can turn the tide of the battle one way or the other; they believe that this battle is taking place in a secret world, that everybody else is blind to it, but that there are esoteric messages, signs and wonders, lurking behind the ordinary signification of things.

These are also the common features of your average children’s book.

I take this to mean that insanity is a kind of amplification of the internal heroic narrative which powers our lives.  At least for our childhood, and probably for our entire lives (unless we give ourselves to the Buddha, Krsna, Jesus etc.), we have a little voice whispering the same rough outline; in the crazy, or just the angry, that voice starts to speak at full volume, or to shriek.  Maybe it’s the satanic murmur, or maybe it’s just how we get up in the morning, by believing we matter more than we actually do.

We spend a great deal of time and effort telling ourselves to silence this voice – that we should be humble, or detached, or surrender to love – and we aren’t overwhelmingly successful at it despite thousands of years of effort.  After all, it’s the same voice that makes us kill, or hate, or hurt ourselves, as the voice that makes art or invents or protects our families.  But it is a kind of torment, that voice, because it’s an intimate sibling to disappointment – the world is constantly disproving it.  Bang your toe on a stair, and suddenly you’re not the centre of the universe after all, which is why you tell the stair to fuck off.  This is a kind of constant tension in our lives and in society.

This tension is resolved, or (perhaps better said) held at bay, using various methods.  In ancient societies, the heroic narrative would be ascribed to a leader, a god-king or emperor, which gave everybody a place in the narrative as a servant to that larger destiny.  (At the same time, as Freud points out, the ritual duties of the god-king proliferated, so that their lives became tortuously proscribed, as a kind of vengeance wrought by the people who don’t get to be god-king.)  We do the same kind of thing with fan-dom, I think; we like such-and-such – an actor, a band, a wine, high art or low art, doesn’t matter – which allies us with a larger destiny by fusing our narrative with something more important.  Or, as I say, we enact various rituals of convincing ourselves that our destiny is beyond these things, in shedding our egos/heroic narratives, which is perilously close to being just another heroic narrative (puritanism, yoga, suicide bombers) – or even, maybe, all efforts to transcend the ego are ego-driven efforts by those who have lost life’s battle to win by ethereal means.

However: maybe the internal heroic narrative, at full volume, wasn’t a problem for prehistoric people, in their context.  Maybe it was really useful to feel like your tribe had a great mythical destiny, because that held everybody together.  To inscribe your clan’s totem on a cave wall was not just art, it was art on the scale of, say, Napoleon’s tomb, a mark on eternity, like your name spoken by an angel in the dark waters of the womb.

We just visited a cave, near Bordeaux, which had been continuously inhabited for 60,000 years.  For the first 30,000 years, it was a Neanderthal cave, and then Cro-Magnon arrived, and probably kicked them out, or slaughtered them.  It was a really great cave – it had a natural chimney, an entrance too narrow for a cave-bear to get in, a couple really smooth sleeping spots right be the fire, and a spring that made a perfect little pool of water.  I can only imagine that it was hotly contested over its history, with clans fighting over it perhaps every winter.  (Much cave art is peculiar in that often the depictions of beasts are superimposed on one another – hard to say why, but I’m guessing it’s the conquering clan raising their flag over the field of victory.)

In that context, i.e., there’s only room for one clan in this amazing cave, the sense of the cosmic rightness of your own clan’s triumph would be indispensable.  You couldn’t have an existential crisis in the middle of battle or you’d get a sharp rock in the brain.  It’s only once society becomes too complex, too populated, that we have to invent systems that counter the mythological impulse, so that we can more or less get along.  You can’t have a line-up at a bank if everybody thinks they’re Napoleon.

The problem is that everybody kind of does think they’re Napoleon, but they know they can’t think that, too, and those contradictory imperatives sometimes lead to psychological collapse in one form or another – people go crazy, or succumb to destructive impulses (smoke, punch holes in the wall, obsess about their weight, have mid-life crises, la la la…), or join cults, or armies.

So much for civilization and its discontents.  The question is: what’s the way out?

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an image

We had to come up with an image for the show for advance publicity.  Here’s what we managed:


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The Wowerful Power of Now

How’s this for an idea?

The initial impulse to do this show had something to do with the quest for happiness.  Hence, the title – Ignorance, as in, Ignorance is Bliss.  What’s bliss, and where does it come from, and why can’t we have it all the time?  Why would ignorance have anything to do with it?  It only occurs to me now that the phrase is generally interpreted to mean something like ‘it’s better not to read the newspaper, the news is so depressing, ignorance is bliss,’ but I always thought it was trying to tell us that our cleverness is the reason for our misery.  It’s not an uncommon theory.  I remember a revelation: instant coffee doesn’t actually taste bad.  It tastes really good, actually, unless you think of it as fake coffee, an inferior copy of something real; your mind tells you it’s not real (which makes no sense) so it’s not as good, but if you stop thinking of it as ‘instant coffee’ and call it something completely different, say, ‘ungh,’ it no longer fits into the general category of coffee, and then it need not be compared to ‘real’ coffee, and can be judged on its own terms.  And then enjoyed for the tasty thing it is.

What I’m getting at: if you were ignorant of what real coffee tasted like, or ignorant of the name of instant coffee, you’d be perfectly happy with your cup of Nescafé.  And in the same way, we can really make ourselves miserable by comparing our real lives with the lives we imagine we could or should be having.

In other words, it’s the ability to imagine that ruins everything.  The ability to imagine also makes it possible to imagine what would happen if you roasted those beans and then squirted hot water through it, i.e., to have coffee at all, so it’s one of those double edged swords we’ve heard so much about.

The point being: the show could be about the moment that imagination was invented.  And then ruined everything.  The moment when somebody has an image in their head of not-being-hungry when they’re hungry, or of not-being-cold when they’re cold.  In other words, the moment Heaven is invented, and so is Hell.  Tree of Knowledge, that kind of stuff.  The Fall from Grace.

So, what if: the show was a creation myth, the story of how we fell from grace, how our minds grew to betray us, told by a tribe of cave-people?  The whole thing would be like a wild and sometimes even impenetrable ritual, performed by our Noh-style cave puppeteers, using antlers and bones and skulls and sticks and furs to create totem-puppets of the first humans and the spirits that plague their dreams and the monsters that roam their world’s rim.  As if the audience were fellow tribe members, gathered in the cave to whimper and laugh and shriek at the mysteries of their own faintly glimmering thoughts, the story of how we left home, and why we can’t seem to find our way back.

Something like that?

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Okay, whoa, sorry, we’re back.

Got all tangled up in touring for a bit there.  But we’re back on it now.

We Trouts are in France, beleaguering the gentle & undeserving populace with our old show Famous Puppet Death Scenes.  However, we just had a bit of time off, and managed to orchestrate a field trip to Les Grottes de Niaux, in the Ariège Department in the Pyrenées.  The whole area is lousy with caves – in fact from the caves of Niaux there’s another prehistoric residence a few minutes walk down the mountain and another visible across the valley.  They must have peered suspiciously out at night at the glow of each other’s hearth-fires.  Maybe the caves were kind of like hereditary strongholds, like the old ruined castles which sit on top of every mountain, it seems, around here.

Although the nice cave guide seemed to be telling us that people never actually lived in caves at all.  That’s just a charming and evocative 19th century myth that, to be honest, I’m going to keep believing against all evidence.

Although the truth seems to be even more evocative: they didn’t live in caves, they only painted in them.  They made arduous and surely terrifying journeys into the pitch darkness carrying grease lamps for the sole purpose of painting.  We don’t know why.

There are various theories, of course.  Me, I’m inclined towards this one: in those days, there was still profound magic in the act of ‘calling something to mind.’  That is, summoning the thing, half-real and half-ghost, into existence, by naming it, by making a mark with a stone that parted the veil between this world and another world, dimly evident inside our own cave-like skulls, an intermingling of dream and reality.  We were just beginning to be able to imagine things that weren’t there, and this was such a shattering revelation that it could only be hidden in the deep and dark, only perceived by flickering flames.  From that newfound and terrible ability sprang everything else – the ability to think ahead, to imagine a future that might be, or that might not, thence to theories, ideals, politics, philosophy, demons, ghosts, and angels.

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Onwards, upwards

Our trio proceed through the darkness, guided by stinkolocation. The grade changes and they are moving upwards again. They pass a different drip, its cadence peculiar to them. They can smell a change in the air as they proceed; more carbon dioxide, more mercury. Soon, bizarre new pollens and millions of human b.o.’s , then daylight, and they emerge in Our World. In Playa del Carmen, or New York City, or maybe whevever the play is being performed (Hello Cleveland!).

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Art

Another thought, from seeing the sunrise over the Caribbean ocean: nature is more beautiful than anything we could create.  But it’s also dangerous.  A painting of a storm at sea is nothing compared to the actual storm, but at least you’re not going to drown.  The painting of the cave-bear won’t eat you, and that’s part of what makes it wonderful, and part of what makes it a path away from the world, away from life. Art is an effort to make beauty safe.

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Cave party

So I’m in Playa del Carmen, which is a resort town on the east coast of Mexico.  It’s stunningly beautiful, no doubt about it, and of course that means that it’s also a fortified orgy-pit for the rich and deranged, surrounded by jungle and impoverished Mayans whose ancient language is now used to name condominium complexes, whose sacred architecture is now imitated by mega-hotels, whose children now collect beer cans for change from the beach — a teetering Versailles, except with silicone implants instead of art.  There was some kind of electronic music fesitival going on last weekend, which was attended by many jet-setting Paris Hilton types and roaming gangs of dudes with enormous pectorals and backwards baseball caps, everybody twitching and fist-pumping and girls-gone-wild-ing as waves of narcotics and digital thumping assaulted their sun-shrivelled brains.  The other night we were in a club which is built into a cave – super cool, truth be told, except for the ambience of prowling and predation, and of course I thought of our cave-people puppet show, because here were people in a cave, having a party.  I realize that I imagine cave-people having really great parties.  I remembered the beautiful promise of early electronic music culture, which filtered its way to me back in the early nineties in the form of rumours – I missed the whole thing, because my generation was still in the grunge phase, which was more about beer and mosh-pits – stories of parties in the wilderness driven by a kind of one-blood/one-heart ecstacy-induced mysticism, not far from what I imagine Woodstock promised, in which everybody gathered together in a rhythmic trance and felt their universal bond.  Not so much the vibe nowadays, at least in Playa del Carmen nightclubs, which feel devoid of beautiful utopian visions, of a future, in fact – it’s kind of the dark side of the Now.  But what’s the beautiful utopian vision I was looking for?  The tribe, I think.  The kind of intense bond a wolf must feel for its pack, or a cro-magnon must have felt for es comrades and family, gathered in their cave, together against the beasts and the terrors outside.  It’s been said before, but it seems to me that modern society has severed many bonds that used to be the architecture of our lives – the communion of church, of soldiers, of tribe, of extended family, and so on.  Theatre itself is a kind of attempt to return to that state – except that it doesn’t do it well anymore.  I’d love it if we could create a sense of connection, not just between the audience and the performers, but also between the audience members themselves.

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Rock art

So that last post inspired me to link to some Australian rock and cave art. Some have been dated at around 12,000 years ago.

Some are images of gods and ghosts from http://www.australiasnorthwest.com/en/Travel_Info/Conservation/Pages/Indigenous_Sites.aspx

Some are celebrations (from http://www.edunetconnect.com/cat/timemachine/10000aa.html)

and some are just handprints, created by spitting paint at the rock. Maybe like a “I WAS HERE” kind of signature. (from http://www.media.australia.com/en-au/newsletters/archive_1159.aspx)

People like to decorate the spaces around them with things they know from life and stories and I wonder if the guys you’re creating would be no different. What do they dream of? What do they concern themselves with? What do they think about and concentrate on? What would they paint on their cave walls?

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Petrified fire

So reading your blog I had this idea.

What if, before neanderthals discovered fire, they had fire made of rocks? So I set about making that image.

Once it was made I wondered if, instead of fire made of rocks, was it petrified fire in a museum setting in a display of neanderthal life? It could be either…


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Drip Drip Drip

a distant echo
of water drip drip dripping,
carving out the cave.

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Merry Merry

We Trouts wish everybody was happy at this time of year or any other for that matter. We’re on holidays for the next little bit, so if we don’t post it’s not because we’re being passive aggressive or sulking or something, it’s because we’re stuffed from feasting and feeling too convivial to say anything clever.  Joy to all!


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religion

Tonight is a total eclipse of the moon – hasn’t happened for almost 500 years, when Elizabeth I was locked in the Tower of London – our Neanderthal may have seen one a few millenia before that. (It starts at 2:42 am Toronto time and is  at it’s max at 3:17 am.)

Because of magical forces, this is moon is known as the Blood Moon; it will appear to be red tonight during the eclipse.

Does the emergence of knowledge of the night sky and its stars signal the growth of some humanising capability? The beginning of religion linked to the history of astronomy? The Wise Men were astrologers -the junction of Jupiter and Venus near Regulus may have been the star of Bethlehem…

Could the stars and planets in the night sky could be characters in the play? Like a Greek chorus, commenting on our Neanderthal…

Tonight the moon will appear to be three dimensional against the winter Milky Way… a red orb, rather than a disc. Watching the eclipse happen could make us all feel closer to those brave and hairy guys, who knew so much more about the natural world than we do now….

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brandy

This is a post, rather than just a comment, because I have had a glass of brandy. It’s after midnight. I got back out of bed to write this. This happens. It’s that: a subject of discussion that might pre-occupy the professors’ forum around the bone pile (if anybody’s keen on that idea) could be: we are just a bundle of absolutely wild impulses and needs. How in HELL are we supposed to be able to control this? It is just absolutely UNBELIEVABLE, the characters say, that one entity, the HUMAN FUCKING BEING, is supposed to at the same time, HAVE all these overwhelming desires and compulsions, and BE EXPECTED TO CONTROL THEM! This is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE! Who ever thought of THIS? How in god’s name are we supposed to DO this? I mean, we sure as hell aren’t managing it NOW! (40,000 B.C.). They speculate: is there any way in god’s hell, that say, in 50,000 years from then/now or whatever, the human race could EVER come to terms with this? I mean, if we ever managed it, would we still be humans? Or would be be, like, machine (read, computers) or something? They look at individual impulses. Sex. Good. Rape. OK. Murder. Sometimes necessary. Unbearable envy. Well, hell. It’s there, eh? What are you going to do about it? Make the girl less beautiful who is dancing with that asshole right now? No! She’s absolutely heart-breakingly beautiful. Dig it. Nostalgia. What? Are you going to somehow diminish the intense memory of the incredible thrill of a young encounter, just because you’re old? Why? Hatred. Hell, that’s one of the finest human emotions! There’s plenty to hate, that’s for sure. And what would life BE without things to hate? What about guilt. Guilt? What the hell’s THAT? Feeling sorry for something you did because, WHAT? BECAUSE YOU’RE HUMAN? I don’t THINK so! Anyway, the guys around the fire wrestle with these questions while they are sitting in a situation/context that is obviously out of control: in other words, a recognizeable reflection of today’s (21st C) world. Maybe they speculate at a few things humans might end up doing millennia from then, to try to control this primal human fact of wildness. They suggest a few. After each one, they just laugh and have another drink: Religion? Laugh. Law? Laugh. Government? Laugh. How about trickle down economics? They just split up laughing. Like that. Well, I guess, now, another glass of brandy might be in order before I go back to bed, eh?

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