Saturday, September 30, 2006
Bound For Moving On

I'll be moving sometime in the next few months. If any Vancouver readers know of a reasonably-priced batchelor, studio, or one-bedroom apartment not in a shared house, preferably within walking distance of the shop, or, alternately, in Marpole, please drop me a line.

Breakfast, Russet Lake, Garibaldi Park, B.C.


Up out of the trees into the pass at twilight. Lengthening shadows all along the eastern slopes, on the gravel slides and swathes of yellow hellebore. No wind, the whole world still. Past the turnoff for the highline trail back to the lifts. Slowly gaining elevation, switchbacking up the eastern edge of the pass. The Black Tusk and Castle Towers Mountain just silhouettes against the fierce pumpkin-orange afterglow on the horizon. Stars here and there, dappling the deep blue-black bowl of sky above. The trail runs on through boulders, through powdery rock dust, through talus, vegetation shrinking back to krummholtz and finally to patches of lichen, black like blood in my headlamp's LED beam.

Fissile Peak perfectly inverted in the dark lake.

The crescent moon.

Headlamps moving, like fireflies, at the lake's eastern edge.

Quarter to eleven, the rest of the camp asleep. Leaning backwards out of my tent, wool shirt wadded up under my neck as a pillow. Tent fly unzipped, the local mouse population sneaky-peteing in one by one to nibble my bagels, shit in my wool hat, and scamper across my face in the dark. Overhead, a huge panorama of sky, light ceaselessly streaming out of the past in patterns as complex as those D. spotted in the brown ferns along the trail.

A shooting star.

The film crew's generator winding down into silence.

A deep and abiding sense of peace.
Recent reading:

Pete Dexter, Paris Trout
Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
George Pelecanos, The Night Gardener
Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Out in the field, test-driving a heavy overnight pack and freeze-dried three berry cobbler. Back on the weekend!
Tuesday, September 26, 2006

My dad, Jim Brayshaw, hiking in Manning Park, mid-September. Nb. cords, old-school shirt, canvas pack. Photograph by dru.

Via the NYT:

"In 'Sensational Spider-Man' No. 30, which went on sale on Wednesday, [NYC-based Marvel Comics writer] Mr. Aguirre-Sacasa used the Whitney Museum of American Art as the setting for a battle between the wall crawler and Max Dillon, who happens to be a fan of fine art and is also the supervillain Electro. While Dillon is admiring paintings by Mark Rothko, a caption tells the reader, 'Before he was a supervillain, before he was a telephone-wire repairman, Dillon dreamed about being an artist. (The same way a young German man named Adolph once did.)' Soon enough, however, the art lesson is over and a superpowered fight begins."
Monday, September 25, 2006

Like Brothers on a Hotel Bed

Evidence of Myself

Packing, I keep running across evidence of older selves. Trashed paint brushes in a metal can; a catalog of Ted Godwin tartans; SM101; Jack Kirby's Kamandi (40+ issues!); Lowry's October Ferry to Gabriola; Paul Simon CDs; climbing guides for the Scottish mainland; the typescript of what was once the third chapter of an aborted science fiction novel, set in Montreal, in the snow. "Your head's not even there," snapped one of my staff on Saturday afternoon, surveying the blizzard of papers on my office desk; the various handwritten drafts of Evan's talk; the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal; the till tapes and half-full cups of mouldy jasmine tea; the bills and catalogs and brand new copy of SGB's EK Modernism monograph, fresh off the plane from Glasgow. Well, no shit. Look in the mirror at 5am, the silver at the sides of my close-cropped skull, the creases in my skin, the wide-eyed, slightly haunted look that long since ceased to be an affectation and is now a permanant facial fixture, some essential self welling up from below. An impatience, too, beating just below the surface, such as that expressed here, in yesterday's conversation with Annoying Yuppie Man:

AYM [brandishing a copy of Paulo Coehlo's The Alchemist]: Would you recommend this book?

CJB: Would I personally recommend it?

AYM: Yes.

CJB: No.

AYM: Why?

CJB: Because its style is a blatant rip-off of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's.

AYM: OK, recommend something else you like to me.

CJB [vainly trying to salvage some semblance of customer service]: Name a few books you've read recently that you really liked.

AYM: I'm not, y'know, really a reader. I want your opinion. A book you really liked.

CJB [still trying to salvage the encounter by recommending "popular favorites"]: Hunter Thompson...Kurt Vonnegut...Tom Robbins...Anthony Bourdain.

AYM: No, I want something really good. Really life-changing.

CJB: Here ya go! [Proffers copy of Theodor Adorno's Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life]

THEODOR ADORNO: Those who won't take advice can't be helped, the bourgeois used to say, hoping, with advice that costs nothing, to buy themselves out of the obligation to help, and at the same time to gain power over the helpless person who had turned to them. But there was in this at least an appeal to reason, conceived in the same way by the supplicant and by the turner of the deaf ear, and remotely reminiscent of justice: by following shrewd advice one might even occasionally chance on a way out. That is past.

AYM: Huh. This guy is a bit like Ayn Rand.

CJB: No he isn't.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
WOMAN WALKING THROUGH THE DOOR [to friend]: He couldn't wake up to wish me "Happy Birthday." So he can go get fucked!

Today's work playlist courtesy Sam The Record Man, Yonge Street, Toronto:

Ann Peebles, The Hi Records Singles A's and B's
Marvin Gaye, Here My Dear
Bud Powell, Jazz Giant

...followed by...

Donald Fagen, Morph The Cat
Rodney Graham, Rock is Hard
Otis Clay, Testify! The One-derful! Singles 1965-68
Nick Drake, Bryter Layer
Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere
Beach Boys, Friends / 20/20

Roger Lowenstein, Buffett:

"It is scarcely implausible that Buffett's fear of death has contributed to his desire to accumulate. Agnostic and hyperrational, he has few other opiates. His one passion has been to collect -- not money, precisely, but tangible evidence of himself. He clings to his friends, his house, his old foods and stock lines, and his stocks themselves. Notably, he says he does not enjoy running businesses; he enjoys owning them. In the view of his friend Barbara Morrow, the formative trauma of his life was when he was yanked out of Omaha to go to school in Washington -- a forced seperation. He has been accumulating assets, but hardly ever selling or disengaging from them, ever since. As he commented in a recent letter, 'We like to buy. Selling, however, is a different story.' In a sense, his whole career has been an act of holding on -- of refusing to say goodbye."

Dream: a voice asks, "What would it take to make you feel secure?"

"'What would you understand,' Seria Mau asked it, 'by the idea, "Evidence of myself?"'"
Saturday, September 23, 2006

CJB: [mid-rant, complaining about a neighborhood nuisance]: ...he's around 24/7, and I'm only here, what, 19/6?

"SPARKY," LLB. [drinking companion]: But 19 and 6 makes 25, and there's only 24 hours in the day. Where'd you get the extra hour?

CJB: West Coast hydro's pretty powerful, hey?

"SPARKY": What d'you...oh. Heh.
Friday, September 22, 2006

Fall on the West Coast, small colored leaves everywhere. On last week's 8 a.m. flight the Boeing 757 first flew south, then south-east, passing over the Deltaport causeway, Point Roberts, Blaine, and the Picket Range, Baker sprawling off in the distance. Lots of early snow on those steep-sided ramparts and glaciers! Low clouds then cut off the view, which was fine with me, as I could concentrate on, a/ not panicking about flying ("If I think really, really hard, and tense every muscle in my body, and don't relax my focus for the next four hours and twenty-seven minutes, I can stop the plane crashing through sheer force of will"), and, b/ writing Evan's talk (blue ballpoint stick-pen on lined yellow legal pads), and, c/ wondering where the Nikon had gotten to (inadvertently packed into my checked baggage, where Harmony Airways' crack staff discovered it by jumping up and down on top of it), and, d/ eating breakfast (Spanish Omelette, coffee, sausage link, yogurt), and, e/ not panicking about flying!
Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thanks to the readers of Vancouver's Georgia Straight newspaper, for voting Pulpfiction Best Used Bookstore for the 3rd year in a row. Thanks also to the staff -- Chris Clarke, Keith Dunsmuir, Bonnie Jacques, Michael Young, and Katie Davis -- for putting up with me year round, and for their substantial part in the shop's success.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Walt, Donald, and the Art Crimes '93 Orchestra performing Donald's IGY, my favorite pop song of all time. Spandex jackets for everyone!
Today's YouTube: The Rajahs of Erase

Untitled (Payphone), 2006

Gryphon, Lillian H. Smith Branch Library, Toronto
Someone writes to ask if I'm still analyzing companies for fun and profit. Yes, but not as methodically as last year; many of last year's short list candidates have fallen into buying range and most of 2006's "investing activity" has focused more on shovelling money into previously analyzed situations than on finding new ones.

The same writer wonders, rather presumptuously in my view, if I'm finding "compelling value" anywhere on the TSE. Yup. Though I sense what is being laboriously fished for is a stock tip. I don't give these; anyone attempting to solicit one from a self-taught deep value investor pretty much deserves what he or she gets.

Just for fun, though, here's a quiz. Five midsize TSE-listed companies below. One's a bargain; three might or might not be; one's a train wreck leaking toxic chemicals into the local water supply. Which is which? Support your answer with a few pieces of evidence, pro or con. All readers, including the original writer and all members of the Canadian art world, are invited to play. All that is required is a passing grade in Math 12, and basic common sense. I'll post the most entertaining replies and analysis in a week. Disclaimer: I do not own and am not currently buying any of the five.

The List:

1. Norbord, Inc. makes wood-based panels: particleboard, MDF, plywood, etc.

2. Menu Foods Limited Partnership and its subsidiaries Menu Foods Limited and Menu Foods Operating Limited Partnership manufacture wet pet food products under private label for retailers and mass merchandisers. The Incredible Talking Cats unreservedly recommend Menu's products; the stock may or may not be as enticing as the product line-up.

3. Peyto Energy Trust explores for oil and natural gas and acquires and holds interests in oil and natural gas properties.

4. E-L Financial Corporation (no website) is a holding company, the operating entities of which are engaged in the underwriting of all types of insurance.

5. The North West Company Inc. operates small-scale retail stores in remote communities and larger regional centres under the Northern banner and other banners. Stores offer perishable and non-perishable foods, general household merchandise, small watercraft, snowmobiles, and services such as automated teller machines, gasoline sales, and catalogue shopping. The Company also distributes full-line produce and fresh meats in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario, and engages in fur marketing and the marketing of Inuit art.
I Smelled Something Dirty

A text by Barbara Campbell and Tim Etchells, from Campbell's 1001 nights cast. I really admire this piece's narrative and stylistic economy; would that I could achive similar results in my own fiction.

"Sometimes just a change of circumstances is enough to make a life change for the better and get depression lifted."
I love no other way...

The great Leslie Feist in concert, Seattle, early fall.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Untitled (Cone), 2006

One Hundred Famous Ghosts (29), 2006
ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): beerbistro

"Beer-Bacon Wrapped Monkfish. Goat cheese gnocchi, blistered tomatoes, leeks and celery basil vinaigrette. Suggested beer pairing is QUENCHING, such as Denison’s Weissbier"

Or, McAuslan Apricot Wheat Ale. Take your pick!

Today's soundtrack: Ann Peebles, "(I Feel Like) Breaking Up Somebody's Home."

Just back from YYZ, and hardly conscious. Stories and pictures forthcoming.
Thursday, September 14, 2006

Still Available (Unsigned) at the VAG Gift Shop for $25!


In Toronto for a few days. On Saturday, September 16th, I'll be giving a free public talk on Evan Lee's new photographs at Monte Clark Gallery. Beyond that? Visiting friends and colleagues, riding the Go Train, and ghost-hunting. Back soon.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Say Anything -- one of my favorite scenes, John Cusack's Lloyd Dobler a deep and permanent role model


All of the guys are sitting against a wire fence drinking and
eating crisps. As each of them talks, the rest agree with him.

JOE: Lloyd man, no babe is worth it, you know. Listen, hang with us
man, we'll teach you.

GUY 1: Right. Lloyd man, you can't even trust them man, because you
know what it's about? They spend your money, and they tell their
friends everything man, it's bigonomics.

GUY 2: Man, all you gotta do is find a girl who looks just like her,
nail her, and then dump her man, get her off your mind.

MARK: Your only mistake is that you didn't dump her first. Diane Court
is a showpony. You need a stallion, my friend. Walk with us and
you walk tall.

LUKE: Bitches, man! Hey dude, I'd better bail. See you later.

They all say goodbye.

MARK: Later for you, Luke.

LLOYD: I got a question. If you guys know so much about women, how come
you're here at the Gas 'n' Sip on a Saturday night completely alone, drinking beers, no women anywhere?


JOE: By choice, man!

GUY 2: Yeah man, conscious choice.

GUY 1: I'm choosing it.
Is That a Dress My Son is Wearing?

ACT (Aesthetically Claimed Thing): A SCA Guide For Parents
"I left no time to dwell on promises I had no way of keeping...."

Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Wedge II, 2006

Re-shot this morning on the way to work. Honking SUV behind me once again. Yesterday's version available below for comparison, but even a quick back-and-forth says this one's a keeper.
Monday, September 11, 2006

One Hundred Famous Ghosts (28), 2006

Wedge II, 2006 (compare with Wedge, 9/26/2005)

Not depicted: the honking SUV behind me. Downtown Vancouver, 8am, diffuse grey light in all the canyons. Enough to start carrying the camera seriously again, after a hot summer whose harsh flat light wasn't particularly conducive to the kind of pictures I kept trying (and failing) to make.

A scene I walk by on my way to the express bus every morning. At some point it announced itself "as a picture." I don't know what significance it has beyond feeling like the concrete wedge at center most days, full of hairline cracks and propped in place by conflicting social motives. I was thinking, too, of Jeff Wall's Concrete Ball, 2003, and Roy Arden's East Vancouver, 2006 (in the Anodyne archives, 6/9/2006). That tiny strip of blue in the upper left hand corner -- a mirrored-glass building one block down -- strikes me as a defect but I don't know how to eliminate it without pivoting the whole scene around and ruining the torsion, so it will probably stay for now.

I'm going to show some photographs in a rented space above the bookstore in January 2007. Legacy's 5 panels, some of the black and white forest interiors, three ghosts, two Untitleds. Mistakes and failures undoubtedly among them, but at least they're my mistakes and failures.

This year, in place of Richard Drew's Falling Man, a big old Happy Birthday to "the Jon Stewart of the Canadian visual art PR world." A complicated in-joke that only two readers are likely to make much sense of.

(Image: Sean Duggan, from his excellent toy camera website)
Sunday, September 10, 2006
ART (Aesthetically Rejected Thing): Paid Buzz

"Q: I'm so enthusiastic in the prospects for word of mouth for my business, how do I build my own 24/7/365 word of mouth brand community for my brand/my client's brand?

A: We will have somebody contact you and if interested, an account team will sit down in person with you and consult your branded footprint in the word of mouth space."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

One of a Kind House For Sale!

"The fortress is also fully wired with electrical/phone/plumbing/drains. It also has many secret doors, and a 1-ton blast door at the entrance and a 3-ton motorized door to seal you in and close the fortress to the outside world. There are at least 5 ways to get in/out of the fortress back into the house!"

This Must Be The Place I Waited Years to Leave

I dreamt I was back in uniform
And a candidate for examination
History, someone had blundered
And a voice rapped, "Knuckle under!"
Living a law just short of delusion
When we fall in love there's confusion
This must be the place I waited years to leave
This must be the place I waited years to leave
And how
And how
How long?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Stan Lee's Watchmen (thx dru, jnadiger, and the whole rest of the comics-reading planet)

Evan Lee
Manual Labour
9 September - 8 October 2006
CSA Space
#5- 2414 Main Street, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Curated by Christopher Brayshaw, Adam Harrison, and Steven Tong
In association with Monte Clark Gallery, Vancouver/Toronto

Opening Friday 8 September, 6-9pm. Y'all come!

Ghosts haunting the dusty sun-struck basement of a Vancouver Island art college. Ghosts by Caleb Speller, photograph by Tolagson. The Incredible Talking Cats studied this image with closer than usual attention; lots of ITC DNA in these spooky little guys, who also seem distantly related to Jack Shadbolt's owls.

Untitled (Sunflower), 2006
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Jacques Derrida contemplates ghosts:

"The subject that haunts is not identifiable, one cannot see, localize, fix any form, one cannot decide between hallucination and perception, there are only displacements, one feels oneself looked at by what one cannot see..."
Monday, September 04, 2006
The Bargaining Model of Depression


"When social partners have conflicts of interest, 'cheap' signals of need, such as crying, might not be believed. Biologists and economists have proposed that signals with inherent costs can credibly signal information when there are conflicts of interest. The symptoms of major depression, such as loss of interest in virtually all activities and suicidality, are inherently costly, but, as costly signaling theory requires, the costs differ for individuals in different states. For individuals who are not genuinely in need, the fitness cost of major depression is very high because it threatens the flow of fitness benefits. For individuals who are in genuine need, however, the fitness cost of major depression is low because the individual is not generating many fitness benefits. Thus, only an individual in genuine need can afford to suffer major depression. Major depression therefore serves as an honest, or credible, signal of need."

Wholesale Partnership Opportunities

Courtesy Amazon's largest vendor of "penny books." The thought of opening one of these $250 specials makes my lower back hair stand straight up. A boxed-up, freeze-dried version of the world's worst thrift store, like the Goodwill I visited in Akron, Ohio, back in 2004. Sitting there on your doorstep, grinning at you like Stephen King's sinister wind-up monkey.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
And while I was typing up that last entry...

"Whoops!" (16oz. coffee, heavy cream & sugar, overturned on $200+ of gardening and cook books)
Die, Yankee Dog!

Last week's paving crews have completely blocked off Main and Broadway. No buses, sporadic traffic, sidewalks blocked by bright orange barricades and perforated plastic fencing. Steamrollers, asphalt trucks, sulfurous fumes! Plus tourists.

In wander two lost American hippie-goths:

HIM: Ponytail, black shirt with a grinning clown's face on it, combat boots.

HER: Ponytail, trashed camera, weird-ass rose-tinted 70s glasses, whinnying laugh.

CJB: Morning!

HER: We're going around asking bookstores about fun stuff to do in Vancouver.

CJB: Such as?

HIM: Y'know, where all the cool bars are.

HER: [screechy laugh]

HIM: Is this a trendy part of town?

CJB: You're kidding, right?

HER: You can't help us?

CJB: I'm not really a "trendy" kind of guy. Sorry.

HER: What, you just work here and go home?

CJB: Basically, yeah.

HIM: You don't have a favorite bar?

CJB: Sure I do. I just don't want you in it.

HER: What's that supposed to mean?

CJB: Die, yankee dog!

M. John Harrison, Climbers:

"So we went, as he put it, arseholing down the M6 with the radio turned up full: AC/DC, Kate Bush, Bowie's 'Station to Station' already a nostalgia number. How many times, coming back after a hard day like that, has there seemed to be something utterly significant in the curve of a cooling tower, or the way a field between two factories, reddened in the evening light, rises to meet the locks on a disused canal? Motorway bridges, smoke, spires, glow in the sun: it is a kind of psychic illumination. The music is immanent in the light, the day immanent in the music: life in the day. It is to do with being alive, but I am never sure how."
Here's an oldie from the vaults, a piece of short fiction originally written and self-published as a double-sided broadsheet in April 1993 (12 numbered, 2 lettered copies). Probably my scarcest work to date.

The Musician, Descending
By Christopher Brayshaw

I recall the tale of the musician, who loves his wife more than life itself. But a snake bites her, and she dies. The musician is inconsolable; broken-hearted, he wanders the earth lamenting his loss. So beautiful is his song that trees bow down their branches as he passes, and rivers stand still so they can hear.

The gods take notice and appear before the musician; they say, Enough. All things move to their natural ends. Grieve, singer, but understand, and forget her. But he answers, I will not forsake her, and plays on. All earth stands motionless before the wonder of his song.

On the dark side of the stationary globe, men and women shiver in the cold and send up prayers to heaven. The gods hear them and ask again: Singer, leave this madness. And again the musician answers, I will not forsake my love.

One of the gods strikes a heavy staff against the ground. Earth itself shudders and gives way, revealing a staircase leading down. Then go to her, singer, commands the god, in the land of the dead. Terrified, the musician obeys. He descends, and the light of the upper world disappears. Dead things draw near and threaten him in the darkness, but he says to them, Do you not know me?, and they are still as he sings of things left behind in death: sunlight, breath, the touch of a lover's hand.

The musician walks unmolested for six days and nights. On the morning of the seventh day, he reaches the bank of a river and waits until a skiff glides from the darkness to ferry him across. The boatman's hands are bare white bones; the pole they grip leaves no mark in the still dark oily water.

Beyond the river lies the land of the dead. As the musician strides across its open fields, silent shades approach him, and he sings of his quest and his love. As the river fades from view the shades grow more numerous, and press around him, so he is obliged to push them aside, and beneath his hands they feel like clouds of mist, or thickly falling snow.

So thick are the shades that surround him, that when the lord of the dead appears, the musician does not notice him until he speaks: Singer? What do you want?

I have come for my wife
, says the musician, and as he speaks he glimpses her among the shades that throng round the lord of the dead.

You may have her, says the lord, for the songs you bring with you are all too seldom heard here, and we are properly grateful for this rare diversion.

Then come, says the musician to his wife, but the lord steps between them. We attach one condition.

Name it.

That you leave now (says the lord), and retrace your steps to the surface. I promise she will follow you, but the moment you turn to make sure, she is lost to you forever. What say you?

I agree.

Then go, says the lord of the dead, and the singer turns to leave, and the other shades fall from him as he walks, and the sound of their retreat is like wind through autumn leaves, or waves along a shore.

The musician walks on. Fields and the river, then darkness, and walking through the darkness is like walking deep within his own mind. He moves on, foot after weary foot, mile after endless mile, but with every step he takes, doubt grows within him. There was once a musican who loved. More than life itself. Something's wrong here. Why is love more important than the woman loved? And why does she have no name? And if she drank from that still dark river, is this journey then a second death, a tearing-away from a world grown familiar and loved?

Light gleams up ahead: the edge of the upper world.

All things pass. Hold her whole; love her; let her go. And with that he turns to see her fading in the sunlight, like a last note from a harp, diminishing into air.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Tonight's soundtrack: Bowie, "Teenage Wildlife" (Scary Monsters)

And no one will have seen and no one will confess
The fingerprints will prove that you couldn't pass the test
There'll be others on the line filing past, who'll whisper low
I miss you, he really had to go
Well, each to his own...
Diana Wynne-Jones on narrative construction and recombination:

"The other wonderful thing about myth and folktale elements is that nearly every story is in segments, which can be taken apart and either recombined or included on their own. In this form they carry the same weight but their meaning often alters. I first grasped this at the age of about eleven, when I was allowed to read a scholarly book when I was ill (‘but don’t dare get it crumpled!’), which was mostly sixteen versions of the same Persian folktale – the one where the younger prince fetches the princess from the glass mountain – placed in such an order that, as the details of the story altered, you watched it changing from one sort of narrative (the trial of strength and valour) to another (the test of character), while the outline of the story itself never changed. This kind of thing fascinates me. When I was a student I imagine I caused Tolkien much grief by turning up to hear him lecture week after week, while he was trying to wrap his series up after a fortnight and get on with The Lord of the Rings (you could do that in those days, if you lacked an audience, and still get paid). I sat there obdurately despite all his mumbling and talking with his face pressed up to the blackboard, forcing him to go on expounding every week how you could start with a simple quest-narrative and, by gradually twitching elements as it went along, arrive at the complex and entirely different story of Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale – a story that still contains the excitement of the quest-narrative that seeded it. What little I heard of all this was wholly fascinating."

Young buck, Grouse Mountain, 31 August 2006.

Another 1231m climb from sea level, this time from West Vancouver's Ambleside Park, where I left the Legacy in the early afternoon, post-Air Care.

Three bucks freeloading on the summit, with a crowd of onlookers:

TOURIST #1: ...and that one's a doe.

TOURIST #2: Really? How d'you know?

TOURIST #1: (pointing) There aren't as many points on her antlers, see?

TOURIST #2: Ooooooh.

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