Sunday, March 30, 2008

I Absolutely Love Northern California

Thank you, Half Moon Bay, California, for existing.

I enjoyed visiting you today.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Headed to California to Talk Advertising

I'm headed to the annual meeting of the American Academy of Advertising in San Mateo, California today.

There, members of the Texas Tech team will present research on:

Straight Eye for the Queer Ad: Stop, Look, and Dislike
James Angelini, University of Delaware
Samuel Bradley, Texas Tech University

Love is in the Heart: Physiological Responding to Preferred Brands
Wendy Maxian, Texas Tech University
Nikki Siegrist, Texas Tech University
Wes Wise, Texas Tech University
Jessica Freeman, Texas Tech University
Kayla Altman, Texas Tech University
Samuel Bradley, Texas Tech University

Physiological Responses as a Measure of Effectiveness of Brand Placements in Video Games
Harsha Gangadharbatla, Texas Tech University
Samuel Bradley, Texas Tech University
Wes Wise, Texas Tech University
Brandon Nutting, Texas Tech University
Kelli Brown, Texas Tech University
Wendy Maxian, Texas Tech University
Nikki Siegrist, Texas Tech University
Lakshmi Tirumala, Texas Tech University

Gender, Arousal, and Presence as Predictors of Recall of Brands Placed in Videogames
Harsha Gangadharbatla, Texas Tech University

Hope to see you there!

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Great Advice on Publishing Academic Books

I love when I read clever things, and Rachel Toor's article on the relationship between dissertations and academic publishing was especially insightful. The piece was published in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Last summer, I was asked to lunch by an acquaintance from another university, an assistant professor whose tenure clock was running down. She wanted some advice about publishing.

She explained that she had a year to get her dissertation turned into a book. Or else. Being an assistant professor had taken more time and energy than she had expected and now here she sat, with a year to get a book written, accepted, and into production at a good press.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tortured Souls of Great Writers, Artists

UPDATE: Several typos fixed. Ugh.

To write about the range of human emotions, an exceptional writer must have been reduced to the ground in pain and soared among the clouds in ecstasy.

This has been my working theory for years, and I am sure it owes to some intellectual antecedents that I no longer recall. My apologies to those forgotten inspirations.

My case in point has always been Ernest Hemingway. The quintessential American author suffered from alcoholism, bipolar disorder, and eventually took his own life with both barrels of a double-barreled shotgun at age 61.

Writers -- indeed many great artists -- don't seem to be a happy-go-lucky sort. Tortured souls such as Vincent Van Gogh typify the extremely gifted far better than the ever-optimistic Bobby McFerrin.

I was reminded of my theory today as I read the headline "Harry Potter author: I considered suicide" on
[Although] the 42-year-old has spoken before of her battle with depression, it was the first time she had admitted that she contemplated suicide, the newspaper said.

It was then that [J. K.] Rowling began writing the first Harry Potter book, which was eventually published in 1996.
Sadly, it seems, the pain of mental illness drives the creative engine.

It is, I suppose, like method acting taken to the painful extreme. In order to write words that resonate with the lows experienced by the average reader, you must have spent a great deal of time exploring those low places. You must know the shadows of the low places. They must be a part of you. And they must haunt you.

The formula is familiar. Creativity. Greatness. Pain. Depression. Alcohol. Drugs. Rather than hippie indiscretions, these analgesics mask the pain. Creative minds often find a way to self-medicate in order to shut out the darkness.

Although the pain may be numbed, the underlying problem often is made only worse.

I hope that Rowling's days of depression are behind her. She sought proper help for her depression, and luckily the science that helped her has advanced beyond the electro-convulsive therapy that may have descended Hemingway into another circle of hell.

In the meantime, we warm ourselves in the greatness of pained souls only to lose them too soon.

Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Hutchence, Hunter S. Thompson, Spalding Gray, Virginia Woolf.

They either died by their own hands or an accidental overdose. The list is so much longer. The list includes people such as Paul Tilley, the DDB creative chief who fell to his death in February.

I've watched friends who are great talents and writers suffer with depression and mental illness. Sadly, at least one such friend died by his own hand. Another came dangerously close.

There is no cure to link between creativity and emotional pain. Indeed, I believe they are forever fused in a causal link. We can only try to recognize depression and mental illness and reach out to those about whom we care. We can try to reduce the stigma of mental illness and related treatment.

Most people who pick up a pen struggle to rise above mediocrity. Finding the right word is a difficult task, and my words here hardly do justice to the great names listed above. The ability to find the right word is an insight into the human condition. Sadly that insight too often comes from a great deal of pain.

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U.S. Free Speech Continues to Take Beating

The Supreme Court and Indecency
Published: March 23, 2008
The Federal Communications Commission has used its new expletives policy to turn itself into a roving censorship board.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Corona and Sunset on Vernal Equinox

The sun sets behind Picacho Peak in Doña Ana County, New Mexico. This was March 2o, 2008, or the Vernal Equinox.

This is my cheap imitation of a Corona ad.

The sunset became prettier over the next 15 minutes.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Professor's Side of the Story

Interesting story from the New York Times:

The Professor as Open Book
Published: March 20, 2008

IT is not necessary for a student studying multivariable calculus, medieval literature or Roman archaeology to know that the professor on the podium shoots pool, has donned a bunny costume or can’t get enough of Chaka Khan.

Yet professors of all ranks and disciplines are revealing such information on public, national platforms: blogs, Web pages, social networking sites, even campus television.

When scholars were recently given the chance to refute student criticism posted on the Web site, a cult-hit television series, “Professors Strike Back,” was born. The show, which has professors responding on camera to undergraduate gripes such as “boring beyond belief,” made its debut in October on mtvU, a 24-hour network broadcast to more than 7.5 million students on American college campuses.
Thanks to a Texas Tech colleague for pointing this out.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spring Break 2008: Juarez, Cuihuahua, Mexico

Getting my guns up with Texas Tech master's student Brandon Nutting.

Here we are in front of palm trees and the Rocky Mountain cold of Coors Light along Paseo Triunfo de la República in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua Mexico.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Perspective: Border Opinions Differ

Every few weeks I receive the following picture via e-mail. Every time it arrives, I think "hate speech" and move on.

The "Yours / Not Yours" image appears to be a screen capture from Google Maps with some very rudimentary photo editing.

It is usually accompanied by some inflammatory writing.

As I write this, I sit about 45 miles from "Yours." I lived here, in Las Cruces, N.M., for 5 years. As I've bored readers here many times, I edited the NMSU student newspaper for two years, and I worked at the daily newspaper for more than a year.

Perhaps for this reason, I just don't understand the vitriol. The line between "Yours" and "Not Yours" is simply arbitrary, and to treat it as anything more is foolish to me.

Of all the problems in our country, this just does not rank for me. I've walked the streets of Ciudad Juárez with camera in hand. I've walked down the streets that the tourists do not walk down. I have seen the poverty and despair first-hand. Wanting to leave that for the chance to break one's back picking chiles in Doña Ana County just does not strike me as a crime against humanity.

Yet this is the issue for many Americans. Hence the semi-regular arrival of the photograph above.

Last week, however, I saw the image below courtesy of my friend and fellow NMSU alum Joy Victory. Joy lives in Mexico City and posted the following photograph of an Absolut Vodka billboard on her excellent blog this week.

Photo courtesy of Joy Victory, El Blog de Joy.

According to Joy, "This billboard sits above the corner of Nuevo Leon and Sonora, a busy intersection in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City."

The billboard, quite clearly, is part of Absolut's In an Absolut World campaign.

According to Absolut's Web site, "The starting point of the advertising campaign was simple ‘what if everything in the world was approached with the ideal in which we approach ABSOLUT vodka?,’ " according to Karl-Johan Bogefors, Global PR Manager, ABSOLUT Vodka.

Therefore, one is to infer that Absolut interprets the map on the billboard as the "ideal" cartography from the Mexican point of view.

What a stark contrast to the image above.

Clearly, the economics of Mexico City are far different from border towns. The money of the United States acts like a vacuum to the worst elements of a poorer nation (and those south of it).

As far as I can tell from this Web site, the map on the billboard includes:
  • Present day Mexico
  • Republic of Texas (1836-1845), which was apparently claimed by the U.S. from 1845-1848.
  • Mexican Cession (1848)
  • Gadsden Purchase (1853)
At present, I'm sitting about 8 miles from the border of the Gadsden Purchase. A little more than 150 years ago, I'd be on the virtual Mexican border.

This map shows a series of somewhat arbitrary political and military decisions. Twenty miles or so south of here is the town of Anthony (New Mexico and Texas). It's a poor town by U.S. standards. But the quality of life there is vastly different than Juárez, another 25 miles or so to the south.

My point is simply that many of the people living in Anthony are surely descendants of those people who lived in that area 155 years ago. They are American citizens because the border crossed them, not the other way around.

Those ancestors likely played no role in the Gadsden Purchase. I doubt they voted or were polled. Instead, they got lucky.

And if the history of the matter really is that arbitrary, it is difficult for me to muster any passion for the position that looks at the Rio Grande river as if some demarcation of truth where on one side you are entitled to a better education and a much longer lifespan. On the other side of the line, poverty and despair. That's "yours."

And I am supposed to believe this is "not yours."

I'm sorry. I just don't.

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Humor from the Spitzer-Dupre Saga

If you want some laughs at the expense of the disgraced and now-former New York governor, read this blog post.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Media Consumer: Pro$titution over Politics

UPDATE 4:56 p.m.: The New York Post and New York Daily News have slightly obscured photos sans top. I cannot imagine their page load traffic.

From The New York Post:"Meanwhile, her MySpace page was among the Web's most viewed yesterday, with 5 million hits in less than 18 hours."

I am sorry to inform you, dear public opinion scholar, that people just do not care about what you care about.

You care about super delegates.

They care about super-sized Kirstie Alley.

You care about the Middle East.

They care about Jessica Simpson's midriff.

So, when you study public opinion, you're just missing the point.

Do your poll. Ask people about Clinton and Obama. Then ask people about Angelina Jolie and Paris Hilton. Where do the opinions rest?

This was never more clear that this week when the head of the executive branch of a large northeastern state was taken down by a penchant for paid intimate services.

I'm being purposefully vague here lest the search engines lead hundreds of degenerates here in search of JPEGs.

Anyway, this young woman is everywhere I look on the Internet. People are fascinated with this woman. Sure, a lot of the interest is prurient. But these readers and viewers have opinions. Yet ask them whether they have opinions about the protests in Tibet.

"What protests?" you will likely hear.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Peter Arnett Talks about War Coverage

Thursday night Peter Arnett was at Texas Tech to talk about his career as a war correspondent.

The lecture was far longer that scheduled, but I quite enjoyed learning more about this Pulitzer Prize winning journalist's career.

I, of course, learned of Mr. Arnett during his work with CNN during the first gulf war.

[Late add] I learned a lot during the talk. Mostly I learned how little I know about the Vietnam War. Mr. Arnett showed photographs of Buddhist monks in the political act of self-immolation. Given that I have taken photojournalism classes in my life, I am sure that I have seen these photographs before. But I was too young to understand.

There's something horribly profound about a man setting himself on fire in political protest.

One of the benefits of a university life is interesting lectures. It's something that I do not do often enough. As with so many things, life seems to get in the way.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ink Stained Hands and the Fourth Estate

Wednesday I sat in on Robert Wernsman's newswriting class at Texas Tech. The To-Do list still overflows, and I'm still going out-of-town twice in the next couple of weeks. I didn't have a spare hour. But I needed the experience.

It gave me what master's student Wes Wise called "some good ol' fashioned religion."

As I've written here before many times, I was a print journalism major at New Mexico State. Along the way, I made a lot of relatively small choices. And then somehow I ended up on Madison Avenue rather than 50 Rockefeller Plaza.

I'm not sure about the meaning of life. But I am pretty sure that it is closer to the latter than the former.

Somehow the newsrooms in which I've worked seem a million miles away.

Next week I'll be speaking to a class at NMSU. The week after that I'll be spending the afternoon with a former journalism mentor in San José, Calif. So I'm nostalgic, I guess.

Tonight I'll be listening to Peter Arnett give a lecture at Tech. So more journalism nostalgia for me.

This blog is, I suppose, one of my last ties to journalism. I treat it a bit like that, although I don't do either the background research that I should or the editing that I should. There's not time with the real life, and all.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Great Guinness Campaign: New Holiday

I love this promotion.

Check out Guinness's online integrated promotion to make St. Patrick's a holiday. And sign the petition while you're there.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Child's Untimely Death May Be Media Effect

From Seattle's KING TV:
Everett boy buried in sandbox dies

07:00 PM PDT on Monday, March 10, 2008

By DEBORAH FELDMAN / KING 5 News and Staff

EVERETT, Wash. - An Everett-area family is in mourning after a 10-year-old boy died after being buried alive by his playmates.

In a statement, the family of Codey Porter says he died peacefully at 3:35 p.m. with his family by his side.

The bizarre incident, which happened on Saturday, may have been sparked by a television cartoon.

Family members describe Codey, a fifth grader at Silver Firs Elementary School in Everett, as smart and imaginative. Unfortunately, it may have been his imagination that led to his critical situation.

"Really articulate. He's got a really good imagination too. He's just not a regular 10-year-old," said Joshua Quantrille, 30, who is Codey's half-brother.

Quantrille said Codey was playing with his own three sons and several other children Saturday in the backyard of a family friend's home.

"They watch a cartoon where there were like sandmasters or something. They can manipulate sand or something like that," said Quantrille. "He came up with an idea if he were to do this, then he would be able to be one of them. They're all under 10, so a pretty crazy imagination, you know. They were like hey, OK."

The cartoon "Narutu" shows the characters using sand as a tool and weapon and could have been what Codey and the others were trying to mimic when he was buried, headfirst, in a sandbox in the backyard of the house.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Corporate Greed Continues Toll on Fourth Estate

It is both a long and short journey from a daily newspaper journalism job to being an advertising professor.

It was an unplanned journey. I didn't intend to end up here.

The journey was hastened in September 1997 when I started at the Las Cruces (N.M.) Sun-News. At the time, the paper was owned by MediaNews Group and run by William Dean Singleton.

Quickly Singleton became Public Enemy No. 1 to me. If the First Amendment had its own secret police, Singleton would just disappear one night. Everything that happens within MNG makes it appear to outsiders that his avarice knows no bounds.

If you've seen the movie Pretty Woman, think of the character played by Richard Gere. He basically bought up businesses through arbitrage, chopped them up, and left the victims for dead.

From the outside -- and a little more than a year on the inside -- it seems as if William Dean Singleton is nothing more than the newspaper's version of Edward Lewis. Slash and burn.

I admit that it remains possible that Singleton cares about any tenet of journalism, but I have yet to see evidence of any of it.

When I was a journalism intern at The Modesto (Calif.) Bee, I interviewed for a job at the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times. That paper -- then a Knight Ridder paper -- seemed like a great place to work. Instead, I returned to New Mexico for personal reasons. But just 11 years ago, it seemed like a great place to work.

Fast forward a few months more than a decade, and things are different. MediaNews Group now owns the Times. A friend works there now. No surprise that he just endured a round of buyouts that were backed by threats of layoffs. Slash and burn.

Across the Bay, there lies the San Jose Mercury News. I loved that paper. The Merc. One of the most important mentors of my life used to work at the Merc. We toured it during my Dow Jones Newspaper Fund training in 1997. I would have given almost anything to have worked there.

Back in New Mexico, I dreamed of getting enough experience to be hired at the Merc one day. But the Sun-News was not the advocate for the First Amendment of which I had dreamed as a journalism student at New Mexico State.

Instead I went to work every day in a run-down former Safeway store that assured violated numerous safety codes. My editors were great, but they were hamstrung with a tiny budget and a corporate structure that asked only how many ads have been sold.

As my wide-eyed idealism ran into the brick wall of corporate avarice, I pondered graduate school. I returned to study the economics of media industries. I wanted to know whether these corporate policies were as bad as I feared. Along the way, I changed direction.

Yet I still wonder whether the sad state of modern journalism was greatly hastened by the slash and burn policies of avarice that left consumers no good content to choose. I cannot believe that this greed has not taken a toll. It has with me. For the first time in my adult life, I do not subscribe to a daily newspaper. The quality of the local paper is simply too poor to justify my time.

Back in San Jose, things are not going so well. The blog post that started this missive was titled, "Insiders Take on the Slow Decline of the Mercury News." (See more at Mercury Falling here). It's hard to imagine all of these cuts in that glorious newsroom. It seems fitting that a Pulitzer Prize medal should be somewhere in the corner weeping.

Oh, did I mention that the Merc is a MediaNews "property" now?

During a recent lecture at Tech, someone said (I forget precisely whom) that when the last Baby Boomer dies, the print daily newspaper will die with him or her. That's probably true. And sad.

Admittedly I am partial -- and this clearly sounds alarmist -- but I cannot help but feel that the loss of real newspapering is a bigger threat to this nation's future than any terrorist.

I think I'll drive over to Barnes & Noble to pick up a copy of the New York Times just to feel nostalgic for a day.


Saturday, March 08, 2008

It's Great to Live in Texas When ...

... you click on headlines such as "March roars in with deadly storms," and the dateline is Columbus, Ohio, where I used to live.

There's a nice photograph of policemen on horses directing traffic in the snow.


UPDATE: 2:08 p.m. Here's a fresh photo of a foot of snow from Dublin, Ohio, courtesy of brand strategist and should-be Ph.D. student Tim Laubacher. Thanks, Tim!

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Stride Gum on Campus: Unique Promotion

Thanks to graduate student Wes Wise for the photograph.

This stretch Hummer was on campus Wednesday for a Stride gum promotion.

I learned later that they had a T shirt trade in. You could trade in any old T shirt for a new Stride one.


The Hummer had New Jersey plates. I wonder what it cost to drive that thing from New Jersey to Lubbock!

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Kool-Aid Man Makes a Comeback

Increasingly, one of my interests is the intersection of popular culture and the media.

And one of my Lovemarks is the Fox television show Family Guy, which is rich with non sequitur references to popular culture. Multiple episodes have made reference to the Kool-Aid Man bursting through the wall saying, "Oh yeah!"

The Kool-Aid Man is a recurring theme, and a recent episode had me laughing out loud. Great memories from my childhood.

In a courtroom setting, the judge announces his verdict, and everyone shouts "Oh no!"

At which time, the Kool-Aid Man bursts through the wall and shouts "Oh yeah!" [which has happened in the court before].

Then the judge says, "Can I ask everyone to please stop saying 'oh no' in this courtroom, because the f*****g Kool-Aid guy's gonna keep showing up."


What is more interesting is that sitting here this morning, here is the Kool-Aid Man on a new commercial for Kool-Aid. The retro guy made of a pitcher is now cool enough for kids again. In fact, if you Google "Kool-Aid", the No. 1 link is "Welcome to KOOL-AID® Man's House!"

And I can only help but think that Family Guy played a role.

Luckily there's a Family Guy!

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Paul Tilley: Thinking of the Family

I have never heard of Paul Tilley before last month. From what I have read, he was an exceptional man and a great advertiser.

Sadly I learned of Tilley only after his apparent recent suicide. The creative chief for DDB Chicago fell to his death from the 27th floor of a hotel.

Reading about Tilley in Advertising Age reminded me of friends and acquaintances who died too early by their own hands.

I cannot imagine what goes through the mind of a person that leads in the decision to take ones own life. I hope that I never even glimpse a shadow of that mind.

But I do know the pain and suffering that is left behind. And it's a cruel pain wrapped with thoughts of responsibility. Lives are shattered never again to be the same. Little girls -- much like my own -- will grow up never knowing a parent.

As with many mental illnesses, the problems that lead to suicide and draped in untruths and stigma. Many people think that the will to live is tied to the neurotransmitter serotonin; when serotonin levels drop too low, suicide is an all-too-real risk.

I hope that those of you reading this will never think of taking your own life. But if you do, think first of Paul Tilley's family. Think of your family. Think of Tilley's two young daughters who will never have a father at their soccer games, graduation, or wedding. Think of your daughter, son, mother, or father.

Think of every one you know who would spend the rest of their lives wondering what they could have done. I know I feel this way about my former college friend. I knew he was having a rough time, and I will forever wish that I would have found another way to reach out.

Most of all, talk to someone. Anyone. Pick up the phone. Call someone you love. Call someone you trust. Life can be cruel. Life can seem hopeless. But there is always some hope. Please allow someone to help you find that hope.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Your Ad Here: An Experiment

Regular readers will likely notice ads at the top of this page. Please understand that this is no desperate attempt to make money -- indeed I doubt that I'll never have enough click throughs to generate a check from Google.

Instead, this in an attempt to better understand the medium. During a lecture on Thursday night, I learned some new things about Google's AdSense program. My curiosity raised, I began to investigate.

The ads are there for me to learn from. The particular ad that is featured is part of the broader concept of search engine optimization. I want to know how my words trigger key words for Google.

So, with apologies to Dr. Rob Potter, I have added more clutter to the world. My apologies. But I believe the intentions to be good.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Advertising: The Future, Now, and Past

Our National Board of Directors was in town this week. In my opinion, this is a great week at Tech, as we have mass communications industry leaders from across the nation travel to Lubbock.

I believe that the experience is very beneficial, as we get a chance to merge ideas about education and industry.

And as was the case last year, a lot of the talk was about change. And there is a lot of change. We spent a lot of time talking about "new media."

On Thursday night, Linda Sease, Scripps' director of marketing/newspapers, gave an address on, a new online venture.

The next morning, Clear Channel Television's Bill Moll gave an address on the future of television.

Both talks were informative, and both heavily relied on new technologies.

All of which led me to ask -- God forbid -- was Marshall McLuhan right? Is the medium the message?

And I still think the answer is a resounding "no." It's still the message.

I'm still trying to finish David Ogilvy's Confessions of an Advertising Man. Four decades after is was written, it is still uncannily accurate.

The world is changing quickly. The media world is changing even more quickly. People don't change so quickly.

Good advertising might be a banner ad rather than a 30-second spot -- it really is no longer a 60-second spot. But people are still people. Are connecting with them means understanding them.

Good strategy is good strategy. Young would-be advertisers are still better advised to read Ogilvy than Wired Magazine.

The medium is still the medium. You need to understand it. But it does not drive the day. The consumer drives the day. If you don't understand the medium, you're a fool. Don't try to put 30 words on a billboard. They won't be read, and you'll cause accidents. That's just common sense. But if you throw bad strategy up on the same billboard, you've made an even worse mistake.

You might muddy your brand's image and undo other on-strategy work.

It's absurdly simple, really. You have to understand your customer and your medium. Somehow in this rush to adapt, it seems that the medium is getting top billing. And I suggest that is ill-advised.

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