This Day in Death

7.19.14: James Garner – DEAD!

Filed under: Uncategorized —James @ 7:19 am August 3, 2014

JAMES_GARNERHey, I had that issue! Yeah, I used to wrap it around my Princess Di fanzines in middle school. Made a solid spitball shield as well, if I recall. Anyway, she was the People’s Princess, you know.

 

Sad news as actor James Garner has passed away due to a massive heart attack. But you know what’s still alive? My love of spicy salsa music. The rhythm’s gonna getcha!

You probably know Garner best from his work on The Rockford Files, the Files being the worst football team the Rockford, Illinois school district ever founded (Ha, I misunderstood the concept!). He also starred in Maverick, which I never saw but have to assume was about a guy named Johnny Maverick traveling the country obeying local laws and ordinances. When did you get so on the nose, television?

He was fiercely independent, challenging the studios on both “Maverick” and “Rockford” when he felt he wasn’t being treated fairly. He sued studios twice and won both times.

Garner was also a longtime political activist. He helped organize the 1963 March on Washington and frequently donated to Democratic candidates and liberal causes.

Ah, the Democrats; Endearingly clueless at first, then infuriatingly bumbling for years to come. Really the Steve Urkels of American politics. Actually, I believe they used all of those donations to buy a sweet new slogan in ’76:

DEMOCRATS

Sorry, but if you really wanna make a difference, grassroots efforts are the only place where your good intentions might not be ground down into a gritty paste by the bootheel of political corruption. For instance, you could donate to my lawsuit against Target for willfully selling me this “My Swag is Ill” t-shirt. It turns out that it grossly misrepresents the nature of my swag, and they failed to inform me of this at the time of purchase. That’s definitely on them.


Source: CNN

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4.29.14: Bob Hoskins – DEAD!

Filed under: Uncategorized —James @ 10:49 pm May 7, 2014

BOB_HOSKINSHey! Maybe you guys can use those hydraulic leg braces to help you leap into a better movie.


British actor/Denzel Washington co-conspirator Bob Hoskins is dead today, so let’s skim his IMDB profile for credits that your brows are low enough to recognize. (Sorry.)

To the Rockstar-soaked brains of today’s early thirtysomethings (sorry!), Hoskins is best known for playing Eddie Valiant in 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the wildly innovative film that spawned countless other animation/live-action hybrid noir parody films, such as Cool World and… others.

Come on, you guys remember Cool World, right? Brad Pitt before he mattered, back when maybe you might’ve had a shot with him? Like, you’d just happen to see him in some dank bar, hair mussed and looking downtrodden, but his rugged, homegrown good looks still shining through like some sort of celestial aura tangled in the complexities of human existence. You quietly walk up to him, with a confidence you’ve never known before, born of an almost holy certainty that this, this, is the reason you’ve been put on Earth. You ask him, coolly, “what’s wrong, handsome?” He looks up, trying to mask a subtle doubletake as he wonders how he ever got this lucky. Sensing your inborn compassion, he explains his doubts about his career, about whether or not he’ll ever truly “break through.” You listen. You more than listen, you hear. And, what’s more… he knows. He knows how deeply you care, how profoundly you understand. You quickly rebuild his spirit, not with hollow niceties, but rather with a series of impeccably perceptive reassurances that Brad can’t help but be bolstered by. The two of you continue to talk for the better part of maybe an hour, purposely withholding the inevitable for just a little bit longer. Why hurry? Your connection is so cosmic, yet so primal, that you both know there’s no chance of this night ending any other way. Eventually the urge simply becomes too intense to fight any longer, and with a coy, “do you want to get out of here?” and a flagged taxi, Brad rips away the membrane separating the evening’s intimate conversation from the night of transcendent lovemaking to come. The next morning you slip out before Brad wakes up, lightly brushing his silken hair away from his eyes, knowing that nothing will ever be able to match this inconceivably perfect experience. There’s no sadness in your heart: you’re forever secure in the knowledge that you and only you are responsible for putting Brad back on the path that will eventually give us such classics as Seven, Inglourious Basterds, and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. Then, back at your underground lab, you use a stolen saliva sample to craft an army of superstrong Brad clones that expertly perform a barrage of daring bank heists that quickly raise the funds you’ll need for your orbital Evapo-Ray, which will hold the planet hostage under constant threat of the evaporation of every body of water on the planet. You know: Old-fashioned romance.

Annnnnd…. block quote:

Harlequin
Harlequin
Harlequin
Harlequin

He followed [Roger Rabbit] with performances in a variety of films, including 1991’s “Hook” in which he played Smee, the pirate assistant of Captain Hook; 1995’s “Nixon” as FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover; and 2001’s “Last Orders” as the gambler friend of protagonist Michael Caine, whose pals gather to spread his ashes after his death.

Hoskins also depicted video game mascot/half of the reason the Italian Anti-Defamation League exists Mario in the floptrocious disastrophe that was the Super Mario Bros. film. Hey, you can complain all you want, but pardon me if I don’t have a lot of sympathy because a movie based on a video game about a fat plumber who collects floating coins didn’t have the respectful gravitas you were expecting. I hear they’re getting Tolstoy’s ghost to iron out some kinks for the reboot.



Source: CNN

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12.31.13: James Avery, Television’s “Uncle Phil” – DEAD!

Filed under: Uncategorized —James @ 5:33 pm January 3, 2014

JAMES_AVERYUncle Phil has long been a key square in my patchwork quilt of television father figures, right between Archie Bunker and Inspector Gadget. I was kinda on the fence about including that last one, but by the time I’d reconsidered his square was already landlocked.

 

Actor James Avery, or Rick Ross if you’re super racist and bad at Google image searches, has died from complications related to heart surgery. Avery is probably best know for portraying Uncle Phil on television’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in the 90s. You know, it’s long been my pet theory that the character of Will Smith actually suffered a traumatic head injury during the street fight that supposedly resulted in his being sent to Bel-Air. As far as I’m concerned, Smith actually fell into a coma, and the entire series was simply a manifestation of his fractured psyche attempting to reassemble itself.

You see, jarring trauma had left Smith imagining himself in a landscape diametrically opposed to everything he’d ever known in terms of culture, class, income level, and even geography. He now lives in a west coast “mansion,” which is in actuality a complex psychological structure, a nest, to allow Smith some manner of protection from the onslaught of his upcoming trials. In this new lifestyle he sees what he can become if he can slay his personal demons and escape the poverty-stricken hell that he was born into.

Each of the “children” that he now lives with represent an aspect of Smith’s psyche, forcing him to confront all of the most difficult internal struggles of a young man growing up in the ghetto; “Hilary” is Smith at his most vain and sexually manipulative. “Little Nicky” is his childishness, his inability to focus his talents personified. “Ashley” is his rebellious naivete, a noble urge to reject societal norms that largely lacks the contextual nuance necessary to understand said urge. “Carlton” represents the intellectual gifts that Smith has forced himself to conceal in order to better fulfill the stereotype of the ignorant thug he had played into to survive on the streets of Philly. The key giveaway here comes at the end of the pilot episode, when we see Will, believing he is unobserved in his “mansion” (i.e. his psyche’s defense mechanism), display a seemingly uncharacteristic knowledge of classical music.

Avery, as “Uncle Phil,” fulfills an ambitious triple function; Firstly, he represents a grounding agent for Smith. “Phil” is clearly a stand-in for Smith’s hometown of Philadelphia, a huge, looming presence in the boy’s life. His relationship with “Uncle Philadelphia” (seemingly a laughably obvious portmanteau for the viewer to infer, lazily spoonfed to us by the normally subtle writing staff, but the delicate truth of this will be explained later) is one of tension and conflict, but ultimately love and respect. Secondly, in his “uncle,” Smith sees his own journey complete. That is, to be born of little means but remain resolute and eventually conquer the oppressive forces in his life. Finally, “Phil” is a father figure, a stand-in for Smith’s own absent biological father, his mind’s desperate attempt to pull together some sort of paternal influence to guide him through his trials.

“Jazz” represents the allure to return to his old lifestyle of ignorance and low ambition. Simultaneously, we see in “Jazz” the most explicit dichotomy of the two worlds that Smith is torn between. This is why Smith rarely objects to “Uncle Phil” ejecting him from the “mansion”; He recognizes that “Jazz” does not deserve the sanctuary, and is instead a disease that will destroy everything he is working towards.

“Geoffrey” the butler can be viewed as Smith’s fear of becoming an “Uncle Tom” if he abandons his street life, which is a common fear among those he has grown up with. However, with time, Smith comes to understand that “Geoffrey” has lived an admirable life and is well-respected and loved by the family he serves. The revelation serves to signify Smith’s gradual understanding of the misleading cultural traps he has fallen prey to all his young life. The boy begins to recognize the shades of grey that make up the real world.

“Aunt Viv” is largely unrealized as a character, seemingly the show’s rare misstep in characterization. In truth, she is underdeveloped because Smith already has a healthy relationship with his biological mother and has no reason to construct a surrogate one. She mainly exists to add authenticity and a sense of a fully-formed “nuclear family” to Smith’s delusions.

At “Bel-Air Academy,” Smith regularly puts his new skills to the test, confronting prejudice, temptation, vice, and judgement. It is less a “school” and more a “training ground.” However, to most inner-city youths, there is no distinction between the two. Truly masterful.

Over the course of his ordeal, Smith’s mind tries to convey to him some limited information about the truth of what he’s dealing with by hinting that he is surrounded by metaphorical constructs. It does this by giving these constructs obvious names that reveal their significance and reach beyond the level of coincidence, such as “Banks,” “Butler,” and “Phil.” Furthermore, Smith should be able to sense that his life has been broken down episodically, with major developments usually fitting neatly into a three-act structure spread over 22 minutes of relevant interactions.

If Smith can successfully rise above his own existential shackles he will be rebuilt, renewed, cleaned, truly “fresh” and deserving of the “mansion” he has found himself in. Smith can become a fully-realized individual, a model of human achievement rising from a wasteland of ash and ruin. However, to our national despair, our hero never fulfills his journey: The unmentioned change in actors portraying both “Aunt Viv” and “Little Nicky” (as well as the inexplicable age jumps of several characters throughout the series) are, sadly, the result of Smith’s mind failing to keep together the narrative strands it has developed, a sign that his journey is taking too long and the structure is collapsing around him. Smith’s brain continues to deteriorate as the episodes begin to take on slightly more bizarre or metatextural aspects, but through it all the boy remains oblivious to the truth, lost in delusion even as he strives to overcome the challenges that have become all too real to him after so much time inside his own psyche.

Yes, it’s true that Smith, the psychological construct, eventually makes the right decisions. He has doubtlessly grown. But not quickly enough. After six years his mind has become lost in its own labyrinth of plot and character, unable to wake from the coma it no longer realizes it’s trapped inside. The end of the series is bittersweet: Smith, in his mind, will lead a full life, never suspecting the truth about himself. But the rest of us are left devastated, with a cautionary tale about the always-ticking clock that hangs above us all like an albatross ringing in our ears, begging us to break free of our oppressions while we still have that divine luxury.

Avery was also the voice of Shredder on the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, which was a show about turtles who had been mutated and then became martial arts masters in their teenage years. That’s a dumb idea.


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4.19.13: M*A*S*H Actor Allan Arbus – DEAD!

Filed under: Uncategorized —James @ 9:37 am April 24, 2013

ALLAN_ARBUSFun fact: The Korean War was actually waged solely to serve as a backdrop to M*A*S*H.

 

Actor Allan Arbus is dead today at the age of 95, which may seem pretty old, but keep in mind that Jack LaLane was still picking fights with silverback gorillas at that age. Serious anger problems, that guy. Anyway, Arbus was best known for playing Major Sidney Freedman, the company psychiatrist on legendary war dramedy M*A*S*H in the 70s and 80s. So, to review: Pretending to be a psychiatrist while on the set of a popular television show = totally fine. Pretending to be a psychiatrist after locking an actual psychiatrist in a broom closet = felony. If you’re anything like me, you may want to consider printing out this post and putting it on your fridge as a daily reminder. That’s what they call “life-hacking.”

Mr. Arbus appeared in films like “Coffy” and “Crossroads” and was a TV regular during the 1970s and ’80s, appearing on “Taxi,” “Starsky & Hutch,” “Matlock” and other shows. But his best-known role was Major Freedman, the liberal psychiatrist who appeared in a dozen episodes of “M*A*S*H.” He treated wounds of the psyche much as Capt. Hawkeye Pierce treated surgery patients: with a never-ending string of zingers.

Yikes. This is starting to hit pretty close to home, to be honest. I know I keep things pretty light around here, but the truth is I’m using humor to mask a lot of my own confusion and fear about death. I think a lot of it probably stems from watching Ghost Dad without the proper adult supervision. That kind of thing will really mess a kid up if they don’t have someone there to put what they’re seeing into a healthy context. Oh! And also when I was seven years old I went into my neighbor’s house and found him wearing my dead dog’s face as a mask. Man… it took me a looong time to see the humor in that.

 

Source: NY Times

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4.8.13: Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – DEAD!

Filed under: Uncategorized —James @ 4:12 am April 9, 2013

 MARGARET_THATCHERI once bought a sex toy called The Iron Lady. I don’t really wanna talk any more about that.

 

Former Prime Minister and Meryl Streep job-creator Margaret Thatcher has died this week at the age of 87. I know I should’ve reported on it earlier, but it took a while to translate those BBC reports from goofy British English to your standard SuperXXXtreme American English*. You can’t just throw a superfluous ‘u’ into a word without asking us first, Britain!

Thatcher was a divisive figure in the UK for her controversial stance on, I don’t know, crumpet taxes or something. She also played a key role in ending the Cold War:

Thatcher’s political instincts had wide-ranging effects, including her conclusion early on that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev represented a clear shift in the Soviet tradition of autocratic rulers. She said the West could “do business” with him, a position that influenced U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s dealings with Gorbachev as the Soviet era declined.

Christ, the Cold War was boring. 50 years and we never even got a really solid cartoonish supervillain out of it. I wasn’t expecting a Hitler 2 or an Ivan the Terrible (the Remix), but at least throw us a bone with an Ivan the Total Dick or something. Even the Cola Wars had Ray Charles declaring a fatwa on thirst, that was pretty cool. Or put Gorbachev in a cryogenic suit, Mr. Freeze-style. Point is, I don’t care what the transcripts say: It was 10th grade American History that failed me.

 

*Brought to you by Geico

Source: CBC News

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3.26.13: Simpsons Writer Don Payne – DEAD!

Filed under: Uncategorized —James @ 5:48 pm March 28, 2013

DON_PAYNEBy way of contrast, most episodes of The PJs were written by a team of those brine shrimp you order from the backs of comic books. Well, until they unionized.

 

On Tuesday, Simpsons writer Don Payne died of bone cancer at the age of 48. Upon hearing the news, Seth MacFarlane immediately made plans to contract bone cancer as well, then launched into a 12-minute Vaudeville routine that tickled and delighted positively everyone whose name rhymes with Beth MacFarlane.

“But James,” I can practically hear you wheezing between labored, open-mouthed breaths, “The Simpsons is a quality social satire, and I simply do not care for that. Did Mr. Payne ever write any crap?” Jesus, just look at you: Ill-fitting clothes, air whistling through where your front teeth used to be, lumbering through the world like an uneducated troglodyte with your “truckers do it in the hammer lane” cap and your gallon of Mountain Dew in a dirty 7-11 container. Why am I even trying to communicate with you? What are the odds that anything I’m writing can even be processed into cogent thoughts inside that bongwater-damaged DVR you call your mind anyway? Can you even conceive of how little you contribute to the world? How your very existence challenges all notions of forward evolution, suggesting, at best, a type of “devolution” that will probably result in you crawling back into the ocean within your lifetime to spawn and then die choking on a piece of coral reef your walnut-sized brain assumed was a fishstick? God. How do you even live with yourself? But yes, he wrote a bunch of crap:

Payne, a self-professed “comic book geek,” also was behind the scripts for My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006), starring Uma Thurman and Luke Wilson, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) and Columbia’s upcoming Maximum Ride, based on James Patterson’s young adult novel.

Payne also worked on a series of failed TV sitcoms in the ’90s: Hope & Gloria, Pride & Joy, Can’t Hurry Love, Men Behaving Badly, Veronica’s Closet and The Brian Benben Show.

Ugh. That is a spotty resume. It really makes the pilot I wrote for the show about the dog wedding planner look pretty great by comparison. People criticized it because I didn’t make it clear if the premise was that it was a dog who plans human weddings or a human who plans weddings for dogs, but in my defense after I came up with that killer “matrimony is going to the dogs!” tagline I kinda assumed the rest would just sorta… write itself. Heh. Dogs are funny.



Source: The Hollywood Reporter

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3.20.13: Opera Singer Risë Stevens – DEAD!

Filed under: Uncategorized —James @ 2:51 pm March 26, 2013

RISE_STEVENSThis ended up being neither as racist as I had feared nor as delicious as I had hoped. That’s a little something called ‘false advertising,’ messieurs  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer!

 

Opera singer Rise Stevens is dead today at the age of 99, presumably due to some sort of mishap with that horned helmet they all have to wear. That thing is a deathtrap. Anyway, Stevens is best known among the theater community for portraying the central character in Carmen during the 1950s, but because none of us here could identify an opera singer from a particularly foppish hobo, we’re gonna need a little more by way of specifics.

[…]she performed an aria from “Carmen” in “Going My Way,” the Oscar-winning Crosby musical that was one of the highest-grossing movies of 1944.

Although movie mogul Louis B. Mayer wanted her to appear in more movies, she knew that opera was “her medium” and that nothing could match the musical heights and expansive themes she found there. “She knew it, felt it, lived it,” her son, speaking of her dedication to opera, told the Associated Press last week.

Lady, you bet on the wrong horse. Film is the wave of the future, according to this newsreel from 1908 that I’ve been watching for some reason. Personally I like movies that feature at least two conflicting supernatural elements, like that one where Frankenstein is a high-powered CEO and has to fight off a corporate takeover from the mole people. Oh! I also like movies that have a scene in them where an assassin is getting on a plane to go kill someone, and the lady at the gate asks him “business or pleasure?” and he puts on his sunglasses and looks at the camera and says, “both.” Man, that’s so cool. In conclusion, I’m a bit of a film buff.

 

Source: The LA Times

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3.5.13: William Moody, aka Paul Bearer – DEAD!

Filed under: Uncategorized —James @ 10:28 pm March 7, 2013

PAUL_BEARERTim Burton’s WWE needs more Helena Bonham-Carter.

 

It’s time to spritz some Febreze onto your mourning singlet, because William “Paul Bearer” Moody, professional wrestling’s resident mortician and The Undertaker’s manager, is dead. Wait, why would you hire a mortician to manage your career? That seems like a conflict of interest. The late night talk show monologues would practically write themselves. I mean, I appreciate his wanting to keep a consistent theme going, but this just seems like a poorly executed professional decision from the normally thoughtful Undertaker. It’s like when I found out that Bret “Hitman” Hart wasn’t filing quarterly, despite the tax breaks he’d get as an independently contracted assassin. Jesus, man! You’re just causing undue tax season stress if you’re filing annually based on a 1099-MISC! The 1040-ES is made for you! Goddammit… It really hurts to find out your childhood heroes weren’t all they were cracked up to be.

“WWE is saddened to learn of the passing of William Moody, aka Paul Bearer,” the wrestling organization said on its website.

“Moody made his WWE debut in 1991 as the manager of The Undertaker and went on to become a memorable part of WWE over the course of the next 20 years,” the site said.

For his spooky character, Moody wore pasty makeup, carried an urn and spoke in a high-pitched wail. He made his last television appearance for WWE in April 2012, the organization said.

Alright, let’s stick our fists into the disgusting hopper that is the microblogosphere and see if we can pull out a new entry for our series of insincere tweets of mourning:

HOGAN_TWEETOkay, I’m prepared to assume that the lack of proper spacing after the commas is just general ignorance. He’s not a damn 4th grade English teacher, I’m letting that slide. Things don’t really get questionable until the end, when the Hulkster must’ve realized he was running dangerously short on characters and sure as shit wasn’t gonna burn *two* tweets on a guy he’s not entirely sure wasn’t just a ‘roid rage hallucination, so he just starts deleting words and punctuation altogether. What’s really interesting, though, is that he made sure to set two characters aside so that he could include his initials, despite the fact that his twitter handle is already @HulkHogan, the name on his profile is Hulk Hogan, and there’s a picture of Hulk Hogan staring right at you. Because there’s a time to grieve, and then there’s a time to grow your brand, brother.


Source: Yahoo!

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2.5.13: Hollywood Makeup Artist Stuart Freeborn – DEAD!

Filed under: Uncategorized —James @ 6:23 pm February 8, 2013

STUART_FREEBORNHey ladies, wouldn’t it be great if we could do that to every man’s head? Woo! I have had *too many* Coco Snowball Martinis.

 

From transvestites and the excessively vain to the slutty Golden Girl and even your validation-starved sister, everyone loves makeup. But did you know that it can be used for something other than reinforcing oppressively stereotypical gender expectations? It’s true! Makeup can also be used to make space turtles or whatever for movies. That’s what Yoda is, right? Some kinda space turtle? Whatever, I don’t really care. Point is, Stuart Freeborn, who created the makeup for characters in Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey and more, is dead today at the age of 98.

Lucas said in a statement:

“[Freeborn] brought with him not only decades of experience but boundless creative energy. His artistry and craftsmanship will live on forever in the characters he created. His Star Wars creatures may be reinterpreted in new forms by new generations but at their heart they continue to be what Stuart created for the original films.”

Freeborn was just another member of the delicate ecosystem of talented people who worked tirelessly to bring George Lucas’ half-assed fever dreams to something approaching palatability. In retrospect, what exactly did Lucas contribute to the empire that keeps his horrific meatbeard so glossy? Other people designed and built everything, and even a lot of the directing and writing duties were taken up by more competent nerds than Lucas. At this point it seems like he basically just scribbled “ROBOTS N MONKEYS IN SPACE!” in crayon and tricked everyone into feeling sorry enough to try and help him. I tell you, in the 70s you could get anything done with enough moxie. Moxie, of course, being 70s slang for cocaine.



Source: Time

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10.15.12: Former King of Cambodia Norodom Sihanouk – DEAD!

Filed under: Uncategorized —James @ 6:56 pm October 18, 2012

 In his latter years, Sihanouk successfully ran for mayor of Boca Raton, Florida. Sweet gig, man.


Former king of Cambodia Norodom Sihanouk died this week, and since I don’t know anything about Cambodia this makes me really… sad… ? Relieved… ? Hungry? Let’s just go with respectfully disinterested. Ah, that feels nice. GOOOOOOOOOO CULTURAL IGNORANCE!

The keffiyeh models over at NPR daintily tapped out the following on their iPads:

His former information official Prince Sisowath Thomico recalls that when politics got rough, Sihanouk would escape into lavish parties, where he would wine, dine and sing for his guests. His real personality, Sisowath Thomico says, was that of an artist.

Sihanouk directed several movies, including the 1992 film My Village At Sunset, about a love triangle in a hospital full of land mine victims. Sihanouk also painted, played in a jazz band and was a big fan of Elvis Presley ballads.

Cambodia’s French colonial rulers assumed he would make a good puppet king when they put him on the throne in 1941. Instead he helped Cambodia win its independence in 1953.

I’m not gonna call anyone a liar, but I’m upwards of 1000% certain that that’s just the premise of some lost Chris Farley movie. “He farted a LOT, and that really resonated with me,” raved one reviewer. Hmm. Hey, remember when this blog used to be classier?

 
Source: NPR

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