Building Sand Castles by the Sea

July 28, 2007

Today was Coney Island’s 17th Annual Sand Sculpting Contest and the weather was perfect. The competition, which lasted all afternoon, was open to children, adults and groups of all ages and skill levels.

The City Parks Department trucked in 50 mounds of sand, Astella Development Corporation provided cash prizes to the winners (top prize was $200) and dozens of beach-loving, suncreen-wearing New Yorkers participated.

Enthusiastic entrants created castles, creatures, monsters, mermaids, images of Coney Island itself … even a construction site belching smoke on the beach right next to the fabled Boardwalk.

Sand Sculpting Contest
Sand Sculpting Contest banner

Underdog & creator

Finishing the sleeping mermaid

Curled up next to her tail, the sleeping mermaid’s mer-cat

Construction site

“Construction workers” at the site (please note the smoke)

Coney Island castle

King Neptune

Two sand sculptors with their creation

Sand sculptures along the Boardwalk


Man in the sand

Banner on trashcans

Sea creatures

Eagle over USA


Little entrant shows off her creation

Clown holding flowers

Bay News: Fairy tales still thrive in Coney Island
NY1: Sand Sculptors Compete
Astella Development Corporation
New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

Orange Fridays

July 27, 2007

The urgent color of orange — the color that has been assigned to those detained and tortured with no due process — must become the color of a gathering sentiment to end the Bush regime and reverse its program.

Flyer distributed at Orange Fridays rally

Union Square Park is the site of countless protests and demonstrations. This evening I stumbled across a particularly colorful one: a coalition of anti-war, anti-administration activists holding the first rally of their “Declare it Now: Wear Orange” campaign.

Supporters of the group called The World Can’t Wait/Drive Out the Bush Regime vowed to wear orange every Friday to show opposition to Bush’s policies. They are calling for “impeachment, resignation or indictment.” The protesters plan to meet every week in Union Square at 5:00 p.m. and hope to make Orange Fridays a nationwide movement.

Please note: this political movement should not be confused with the Orange Fridays promotion sponsored by the San Francisco Giants baseball team.

Distributing flyers
Distributing flyers

Protesting with papa

Parading through the park
Parading through the park

Veteran protester
Veteran protester

Drumming up attention

Adjusting the microphone
Adjusting the microphone

Blindfolded singer

Torture + Silence = Complicity
Banner on the stage

Buying badges

Selling orange t-shirts and bandanas

All oranged-up

Buying an orange shirt

“I’ve been doing this all my life,” she said.

The World Can’t Wait
San Francisco Giants: ‘Orange Fridays’

Guitar Guys Friday

July 27, 2007

Thanks to the River to River Festival, this was “Guitar Guys Friday.” Three of the buskers who usually perform in the subways as part of the Transit Authority’s Arts for Transit: Music Under New York program were invited to come above ground and play in the heart of the financial district.

They appeared under a green awning in the space formerly known as Liberty Plaza Park. Unlike most New York City parks, which are owned by the city, this square block on Lower Broadway between Liberty and Cedar Streets is owned by a private real estate company, Brookfield Properties.

The park was destroyed on September 11, 2001 and when it finally re-opened last summer (yes, the park was closed and hidden behind tall fences for nearly five years), the name had been changed to Zuccotti Park to honor John Zuccotti, the U.S. Chairman of Brookfield Properties.

The space is popular with lunchtime crowds, who munched while listening to local guitar heroes Delfin Tardio, who describes his reggae-tinged music as “electric meditation” and Heth and Jed, who call their rock-based sound “Pink Floyd meets the wall.”

Delfin Tardio playing in Zuccotti Park

Delfin Tardio

Heth & Jed in Zuccotti Park

Heth playing the guitar


Jed on his blue guitar


♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

By the way, just to give you a bit of historical perspective, here is a photo of the park on September 11, 2001. I didn’t take it; this image was shot by photojournalist Jeff Mermelstein.

Liberty Plaza Park 9/11 by Jeff Mermelstein
Liberty Plaza Park on 9/11 by Jeff Mermelstein

Heth and Jed
MySpace: Heth & Jed
River to River Festival: Guitar Guys
MTA’s Arts for Transit “Music Under New York” program
New York Times: Jeff Mermelstein
Lower Manhattan: Zuccotti Park
Project Rebirth: Liberty Park Plaza
Cooper Robertson: Liberty Park Plaza
Brookfield Properties

Whose Broads Stripes

July 27, 2007

One of the most imposing buildings on Wall Street, Federal Hall was the original home of the United States Congress, Supreme Court, and Executive Branch offices. It was here that George Washington first took the oath of office.

Today, while Wall Streeters despaired over a slump in the stock market, the steps of the Federal Hall were the site of Lawrence Goldhuber’s Whose Broads Stripes.

No signs, announcements or explanations preceded the performance, so the tourists who crowded around the building, snapping each other’s photos, were shocked when guitarist Geoff Gersh launched into Jimi Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner and two showgirls dressed in red and white sequined gowns began to dance with feathered fans.

After a few minutes of shimmying in the sunlight, they went back up the steps and held aloft protest signs. The music changed to a recording of Pink Floyd’s Money, the dancers dropped the signs, descended and flung phoney $50 bills into the air. 

As the audience dove to grab the funny money, the glamour girls seemed to notice a middle-aged businessman sitting on the steps with the rest of the lunchtime crowd. They pulled the laughingly protesting man to his feet, and he awkwardly, gamely attempted to join them in their dance.

Then, suddenly, they covered him with their fans. From behind the feathers, the man’s jacket flew into the air. Then his tie. And then … when the women lowered the fluffy white fans, the stuffy businessman was gone, replaced by a dancing, strutting superhero.

Geoff Gersh
Geoff Gersh in front of Federal Hall

Geoff Gersh
Geoff Gersh & his guitar

The showgirls appear

Dancing on the steps

Displaying signs asking for peace and love

Throwing fake $50 bills to the crowd

Spotting a businessman beneath the statue of Washington

The businessman awkwardly joins in the dance

They hide the businessman behind their fans

He emerges as a superhero

The superhero & showgirls shake & shimmy together

The end!

Lawrence Goldhuber/BIGMANARTS
Geoff Gersh
Lower Manhattan Cultural Council: Sitelines
River to River Festival
Pink Floyd
Jimi Hendrix
Federal Hall National Memorial

Broadway in Bryant Park

July 26, 2007

Now in its sixth year, Broadway in Bryant Park is a series of Thursday lunchtime performances held in the park behind the main branch of the New York Public Library. Cast members from leading Broadway musicals usually perform two or three songs from each show.

Today the audience saw “showstopping” numbers from four hits: Monty Python’s Spamalot, The Lion King, Curtains and Xanadu. No costumes, no makeup, few props, just a stage full of some of the best singing and dancing in the world, all for free.

Lewis Cleale & Marin Mazzie from Monty Python’s Spamalot

Lewis Cleale & Marin Mazzie sing The Song That Goes Like This from Monty Python’s Spamalot

Lion King
Cornelius Jones Jr. from The Lion King

Lion King
Sophia N. Stephens & Cornelius Jones Jr. sing Can You Feel The Love Tonight from The Lion King

Michael McCormick sings What Kind of Man? from Curtains

Debra Monk sings It’s a Business from Curtains

Kerry Butler & Curtis Holbrook from Xanadu

Jackie Hoffman and Mary Testa sing Witchy Woman from Xanadu

Broadway in Bryant Park audience
The audience in Bryant Park

New York 106.7 FM: Broadway in Bryant Park
Bryant Park: Broadway in Bryant Park
Monty Python’s Spamalot
The Lion King
Bryant Park

The Doc Pomus Project

July 21, 2007

Celebrate Brooklyn is a summer performing arts festival held at the Bandshell in Prospect Park. Tonight the festival featured Hal Willner’s Doc Pomus Project, a tribute to the words and music of the late songwriter.

Doc Pomus was the pen name of Brooklyn native Jerome Felder, who created some of the greatest sounds of the 1950s and 1960s. His songs have been recorded by many stars including Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Jerry Garcia and Ray Charles.

While his name isn’t a household word, Pomus is a legend in the music industry. The evening was organized by music producer Hal Willner and featured Ben E. King, Laurie Anderson, Sharon Jones, Lou Reed, Eric Mingus, Shannon McNally, Jenni Muldaur, Howard Tate, Joel Dorn, Peter Guralnick and more of Pomus’s friends and associates.

The singers relished the chance to present their favorite Pomus numbers: There Must Be a Better World Somewhere was sung by Lou Reed, Hushabye by Shannon McNally, Teenager in Love by Jenni Muldaur, Turn Me Loose by Sharon Jones, Lonely Avenue by Howard Tate, Viva Las Vegas by Joseph Arthur and This Magic Moment by Ben E. King.

In addition to the music, the Project included moments of humor, sweetness and pathos. Pomus contracted polio as a child and afterward depended upon leg braces and crutches. Laurie Anderson read his moving account of the girls who rejected him as a teenaged “cripple” and how the effects of the disease tormented him for the rest of his life.

Despite his personal pain, Doc Pomus was responsible for some of the best and most influential pop songs ever written. His honors include the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation’s Pioneer Award.

Hal Willner
Hal Willner

Lou Reed
Lou Reed

Sharon Jones

Peter Guralnick at Doc Pomus Project
Peter Guralnick

Shannon McNally

Ben E. King


Joseph Arthur
Joseph Arthur

Laurie Anderson
Laurie Anderson

Howard Tate
Howard Tate

Joel Dorn


Kenny Wollesen
Kenny Wollesen

Jenni Muldaur

Eric Mingus

Robin Holcomb at Doc Pomus Project
Robin Holcomb

Ben E. King & Jenni Muldaur
Ben E. King & Jenni Muldaur

Viva Las Vegas
The Finale: Viva Las Vegas

Celebrate Brooklyn
Celebrate Brooklyn Schedule
Doc Pomus
Songwriters Hall of Fame: Doc Pomus
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Doc Pomus
Rhythm & Blues Foundation: Pioneer Award Honorees
Wikipedia: Hal Wilner
Lou Reed
Laurie Anderson
Shannon McNally
Jenni Muldaur
DapTone Records: Sharon Jones
Howard Tate
Eric Mingus
Robin Holcomb
Joseph Arthur
The Ben E. King Stand By Me Foundation
Mocean Worker
Joel Dorn
Wikipedia: Peter Guralnick
Raoul Felder (brother)

Signs of Brooklyn Food Shops

July 19, 2007

Anyone, anywhere can hang a bland, boring factory-made sign on the front of a store. Ho-hum.

That mundane method of advertising might work in some towns, but around here, many shop owners pride themselves on their creative signage, using images that convey the very essence of their business’s identity.

Not only do these shop owners employ unusual signs, they don’t bother to hang them; instead they plant their signposts right in the middle of the sidewalk. Here are a few of the signs currently adorning the pavements in front of some of Brooklyn’s favorite food shops.

Terrace Bagels
Terrace Bagels
224 Prospect Park West

Esposito's Pork Store
Esposito’s Pork Store
357 Court Street

Clemen's Taco and Burrito Place
Clemen’s Taco and Burrito Place
252 Prospect Park West

NY Times: Dry-Cured Sausages: Kissed by Air, Never by Fire
NY Magazine: G. Esposito and Sons Pork Store
NY Magazine: Terrace Bagels Café
NY Magazine: Clemen’s Taco and Burrito Place

Blocks of Color on a Block in Brooklyn

July 16, 2007

You may not know his paintings. You might not even be familiar with his name. But the legacy of Piet Mondrian’s work is inescapable.

The Dutch artist, who was most active in the period between World War I and World War II, created deceptively simple works that reduced painting to its essential elements.

In 1917 Mondrian, along with a few other artists, founded the De Stijl movement which rejected representational painting and advocated a visual vocabulary that was restricted to straight lines, bright blocks of color and shades of black, white, and gray.

Mondrian dubbed the minimalist style neoplasticism and believed that it both freed him from traditional contraints and allowed him to portray his spirituality via images of clarity, purity and harmony.

The style, if not the spiritual message, of Mondrian and the other De Stijl artists spread rapidly across Europe and America, influencing the design of everything from wrapping paper to architecture.  

In the early 1940s, seeking artistic and political freedom, Mondrian came to New York City. He spent the last years of his life working here and is buried in Cyress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn.

When I saw this painted structure on a run-down block near the Brooklyn waterfront, I was reminded of how much the city influenced Mondrian’s work, and how — whether or not we are aware of it — his use of line and color affect the way we see our surroundings every day.

Composition with Color Planes and Gray Lines 1
Composition with Color Planes and Gray Lines 1

Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow
Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow

New York City
New York City

Broadway Boogie Woogie
Broadway Boogie Woogie

Mondrian's Studio at the Time of His Death
Mondrian’s studio at the time of his death

Fence on DeGraw Street
Fence on DeGraw Street

House on DeGraw Street
House on DeGraw Street

Artcyclopedia: Piet Mondrian
Encyclopedia Britannica: Piet Mondrian
Snap Dragon: Mondrian
Cypress Hills Cemetery

The Dog Days of Summer

July 12, 2007

The “dog days of summer” stretch from early July to mid-August and signify the hottest and most humid time of year in the Northern Hemisphere.

The expression originated with the ancient Romans, who called the period caniculares dies (days of the dogs) because it is when Sirius, the Dog Star, is visible in the morning sky as well as the night. The ancients believed that when the heat of Sirius combined with that of the sun, the result was soaring temperatures, lethargy, disease and mad dogs.

When the heat and humidity rise in Brooklyn, dog loving shop owners come to the rescue. Around the borough, they place cool bowls of water on the sidewalks and enable passing pooches keep cool and comfortable during the dog days of summer. 

Shakespeare's Sister on Court Street
Shakespeare’s Sister on Court Street

KC Arts Custom Framing on Court Street
KC Arts Custom Framing on Court Street

Perfect Paws on Hicks Street
Perfect Paws on Hicks Street

Perfect Paws on Hicks Street
Perfect Paws on Hicks Street

Let Them Eat Pie on Columbia Street
Let Them Eat Pie on Columbia Street

National Geographic: Summer’s Dog Days Are Here
NASA: Photo of Sirius

The Arab American Heritage Festival

July 8, 2007

They began arriving in large numbers during the nineteenth century and today about 200,000 Arab Americans call New York City home. Despite the numbers, however, this community is largely unknown to outsiders.

The reason? Perhaps it is because these immigrants come from so many different nations in the Middle East and North Africa. It may be because they’ve never created a distinct neighborhood that caters to tourists, the Arab equivalent of a Little Italy or Chinatown. It might even be due to the fact that they don’t share a single faith.

Whatever the cause, in recent years they have been actively working to help New Yorkers know more about their Arab American neighbors.

Their efforts have led to the establishment of Arab American Heritage Week, which kicked off today with the third annual Arab American Heritage Festival in Prospect Park.

Hundreds came to Brooklyn’s largest park for traditional Arabic food, music, dance and caligraphy as well as the chance to be painted with henna, sip thick coffee, smoke a water pipe and experience more of the city’s diversity.

T-shirt for sale

Folk Dancers
Folk dancers

Poster recruiting teenagers for research study

At the Tagine Dining Gallery tent

A mom waiting at the bouncy castle

Singer on stage

The stage
The stage

Henna tattoo on hand

Smoking the nargile
Smoking the nargile (hookah)

Henna tattoo on upper arm

Arabic Calilgraphy
Arabic Calilgraphy

The diverse crowd

At a food tent

With the WellCare bear

Henna tattoo on lower back

Sitting on the grass
Women sitting on the grass

Little girl with Palestinian flag painted on her face

Alwan for the Arts
Arab-American Heritage Week
Arab-American Family Support Center
Arab American Association Of New York
Tagine Dining Gallery
Alwan: Arab Americans
Gotham Gazette: History Of Arabs New York
A Community of Many Worlds: Arab Americans in New York City

Making a Magic Bus

July 7, 2007

Give me a hundred
I won’t take under
Goes like thunder
It’s a bus-age wonder
Magic bus, magic bus, magic bus, magic bus
I want it, I want it, I want it 

— Pete Townshend, Magic Bus, 1968

Today, down by the South Brooklyn waterfront, I stumbled across a group of artists gathered in the street to paint a bus.

Armed with cans of spray paint and stencils, quenched by glasses of wine and cans of Red Bull, energized by the bright sunlight and the music of the Doors, they channelled the spirit of the 1960s and transformed a rather plain green vehicle into a thoroughly magic bus.

The Bus on Union Street
The Bus on Union Street

Paint cans on the table
Wine glasses and paint cans on the table

Stencil on the sidewalk
Stencil on the sidewalk

The crew at work
The crew at work

Working with white paint
Working with white paint

Section around window
Section around window

Trunk with Mr. T
Trunk with Mr. T

Reflector and skull
Reflector and skull

Village Voice: Columbia Street Waterfront District
Mendoza Auto Sales and Auto Repair
Brooklyn 1863 Draft
Red Bull
The Doors Magic Bus

Happy Birthday!

July 4, 2007

On July 4, 1776, a band of rebellious British colonists adopted Thomas Jefferson’s masterpiece, the Declaration of Independence. It says:

The Unanimous Declaration of the
Thirteen United States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Happy 4th of July, everybody! Happy birthday, America!

From Smith & 9th Street Station
The Statue of Liberty seen from Brooklyn (Smith & 9th Street Station)

US Archives: Declaration of Independence
US Archives: History of the Declaration of Independence
Thomas Jefferson

Swordfish and Roosters and Rams. Oh, my!

July 2, 2007

Deep in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, across from a tile factory and hard by an auto body shop, an eye catching sign stands at the corner of 21st Street and 3rd Avenue.

Adorned with images of a ram, a swordfish and a rooster, in three languages it advertises the Al-Noor Halal Live Poultry Market.

Intrigued by the sign, I ducked around the corner to visit the store. All I’ll say is that for a person like me (accustomed to meat that comes from a white-coated, genial butcher standing behind a gleaming, sanitized counter), slaughterhouses are not suitable for casual visits.

Oh, my!

On the corner of 3rd Avenue & 21 St Street

Ram, Swordfish & Rooster

Al-Noor Live Poultry

Black Electorate: Growing Muslim Community Brings New Traditions To The Neighborhood

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