what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout
Typing out the long letter that comprises this week's Phonosnout entry was another exercise in reminding myself of the person I used to be. Not necessarily a more frequent correspondent but certainly a better one--though it helped that in my job there was a lot of free time that I had to fill with something that looked professional and typing letters filled that bill. I simply don't have time for that in my current job, though I do drop messages here and there into the UWBB.
By that time in my life I had already decided to follow my heart and complete a double major in creative writing and English lit and to hell with the practicality of the social work degree or anything like that, though doing the lit degree still left me open for highschool teaching. The creative writing degree didn't do much practical good, nor did the MFA that follow it, but still. They certainly made me the person I am today. In many ways it was the start of many things: of my real dedication to writing, my breaking away from Christianity, becoming a true adult.
The sad thing is that now I'm typed out and I don't have much to say from the self I currently am that doesn't appear elsewhere on this page.
Forgive me, and I'll see you next week. I hope.
last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing
An unnamed friend of mine sent me a copy of the unreleased Splashdown album Blueshift. This may never be released because it was recorded for a label that didn't release it before they and the band parted ways. Splashdown does hope to be able to negotiate its release at some point in the future, but in the meantime they're recording a new album they either they will release themselves or which will be released by the small label that released their previous album. In any case, a few promo versions of the album were sent out before the record deal fell through and are floating around out there, which is how my friend--and thus I--came across it. I know most of the songs on the album because of the Redshift ep that the label did released out of the material and the versions of a couple of the songs that have appeared other places. Because of this, having the album feels like getting a new ep rather than a new whole album of Splashdown songs--but that still feels really wonderful to me. I'm loving the new songs and impressed once again with the lead singer's, Melissa Kaplan's, stunning voice and the band's ability to create really catchy songs. 15 tracks worth of captivating songs. I'm surprised another major label hasn't jumped on the opportunity to release their music. It's a shame this may never see the light of day--and that the Redshift ep is getting harder and harder to find.
last week's listening § next week's listening
Joanthan Carroll's The Wooden Sea is the third in a loosely connected trilogy of novels that also includes Kissing the Beehive and The Marriage of Sticks (commented on in my September 26, 1999 entry). This is the story of Police Chief Frannie McCabe, and begins with an odd event--a strange three-legged dog that he'd adopted dropping dead in his office, him burying it and finding it again in the trunk of his car. There's an oddly coloured feather, too, that keeps appearing in strange places, and then one morning he goes downstairs to find his seventeen-year-old self waiting there to speak to him. And that's just the beginning of the strange events that surround his life. I always like Jonathan Carroll's novels: they're odd and inventive, cleanly written, and even though he puts his characters through bizarre and sometimes horrible things you can still feel the affection he feels for them shining through. These things are once again true of this novel, which I highly enjoyed. I do have some small reservations about the outlandish source of the oddities, but that didn't affect my pleasure as I read this novel.
Bradley Denton's Lunatics is also an outlandish novel. The story of a group of friends trying to help a man who has fallen in love with Lilith, goddess of the moon, this story plays with the surreal. I suspect that had I a different sense of humour I might have found this novel extremely funny. One of the blurbs on the back (by Katharine Weber) says "Imagine The Big Chill with E.T. a member of the ensemble. Next: Think of a crew of sex-obsessed baby boomers pairing off and coming to therms with their angst--but doing it with vintage musical comedy silliness." This describes the book far better than I could. I enjoyed this more than I thought I would at first, but I rather hesitate to recommend it to anyone else. It was slight but not slight, funny but not funny, surreal but not surreal, realistic but not realistic, and not exactly everyone's cup of tea. Not even really my cup of tea.
Someone on Usenet (which yes I'm wasting my time with occasionally again) recommended Faye Kellerman's The Quality of Mercy. I can't remember exactly why--some discussion of mysteries or perhaps of Shylock. I think what intrigued me is that Shakespeare is the sleuth in this case. The novel begins with Shakespeare at the funeral of his friend and mentor who has been murdered when he sees a mysterious and beautiful woman (Rebecca) at another funeral nearby. The friend's widow asks Shakespeare to find out who the murderer was, and so through love of his friend Shakespeare begins re-tracing his friend's last journey north, uncovering secret Catholics and discovering the ruthless leader of a ring of thieves is involved somehow peripherally in the murder. Meanwhile, Rebecca's family is, though nominally Protestant, secretly Jewish, and her father is Queen Elizabeth's physician and embroiled in court intrigues--Essex hates him--and the family is bargaining with King Philip of Spain to smuggle Jews away from Spanish Inquisition. Rebecca is educated and rebellious: she dresses in her brother's clothing to experience the world and runs across Shakespeare who challenges her to a duel--only at the end when she escapes does he realize she is a woman, and of course they fall in love while she is tangled in her family's intrigues and he is trying to find his friend's murderer. I found the story of the lovers rather implausible, but both the story of the murder and Rebecca's family (part of which was based on historical events) interesting, and of course the aura of authentic knowledge of Renaissance England was hard to resist, and the peripheral characters were fascinating. Worth reading but the plot holes are rather too large in places. And the connection with the real-life Shakespeare rather strained.
last week's reading § next week's reading
I finally got my copy of the autumn issue of Arc, which has my poem "Meditation at La Push" in it (which also appears in Blood Memory), also the new issue of LitRag, which has my poem "The Grey Cairns of Camster" in it.
Since these were the last of my project magazine publications, I figured that it was time to send some poems out. Tweaked them a little, and out went five poems (one submission) and have five more almost ready to send out as another submission. I hope you're impressed--that's two more than I've had out most of the last few years. The sad truth is that once Blood Memory was accepted I really didn't have enough finished poems to keep submissions in circulation, and I have at last achieved enough of a critical mass to begin sending poems out and about again.
The new LitRag issue also has my first real review of Blood Memory--and it was wonderfully positive and written by someone who really understood what I was trying to do with the book. I am delighted. See my comments page for snippets of the review.
last week's writing § next week's writing
About the Phonosnout
June 14, 1979
There's a big gap in my journal here. In that period of time I finished my third year of university, wrote a couple of poems that had enough spark that I included them in my (eventual) first book Seven Robins, moved from my shared apartment back to my parents' house after my sister and her baby moved out, was taking an intersession course in Canadian Literature, and quit the retail world to work as a receptionist (part-time, at least at this point) at an alcoholic treatment centre, Gillain Manor. I'd kept a photocopy of this letter--not sure why, but it does give a good portrait of my mind at the time and probably makes a better segue into the next entries in the journal (which start up again a few days later) than any précis I could write. The letter is typed (using the excitingly modern features of the IBM selectric) to my friend Gerry Gail, first mentioned at the very beginning of The Phonosnout (which appears in my January 10, 1999 entry). Gerry had at this point moved from Victoria to Vancouver to attend a fashion design course there.
this being Thursday, June 14, 1979
the message beginning
Dear Gerry Gail,
Well, hello there. Did I tell you I got both your letters on the same day? Did I tell you I don't know your address? You mean I didn't? You mean I haven't written yet? Well, let me tell you I got both your letters on the same day. I don't have your new address. Good Morning. 8:15 A.M. at Gillain Manor, and all is sleep in the eyes.
Gerry, I've got sloth again. (sigh.)
Today I had just barely got to sleep when the sun burst pointblank into my eyes , the sun being huge and orange, my eyes being opened by it. The birds being silent and the trees mumbling, the rabbits humming off into the bushes. Yes, we have a large colony of rabbits in our woods. You never see them except at dawn.
Your mother just came in, and yes, she will give me your address . I'd hate to think that I have expended my early morning energy on a letter that would sit here forever, collecting dust, hoping for an address, knowing that "Gerry Gail, Vancouver" just wouldn't take it very far. This letter wants to travel. It has high hopes and aspirations. It dreams of China, of the sun bursting orangely over the cedars, and over the island. Let's fit this type where it belongs . How it belongs. I love this type, it is attractive. Yes, nice. 8:30. Cars coming. Yes, this is morning, this is the building of light for the new world .
I looked in all the Irish, Gaelic and Welsh dictionaries I could find. "Gillain" doesn't exist there, though there are several close ones. The closest in spelling being Gillan, a Gaelic word for eunuch. I am sort of amuse-d. I shouldn't be, I guess. It's morning, Gerry. I can't like it except to look at (nice to visit, but...).
You like your new place, Gerry? You like this speckled paper? My grandmother is in the Gorge Road Hospital, and will be for a much long time. I asked my mother if I should stay in her apartment and she had a fit. I knew not why she had a fit, until the next morning she admits the truth--she doesn't want me to leave. Nice to be wanted, but Mummy.
The orange sun, burning my eyelids (hey, maybe that's where I got this eye infection).
Weekend after this one I go to see Hark the Harold in Cawston. Maybe I pass through Vancouver, yes? Short visit pre-ferry, yes? What thinkest thou? (Monday afternoon--I'll have Daddy's car .)
I am silly, this is morning.
The switchboard doesn't buzz, they don't need me, I go home. I've got a name tag and my stomach didn't like breakfast. Team flakes with old powdered milk, and not enough milk. Condition: probably fatal. I steamed my face last night. I have to get my car through the testing station by a week tomorrow. Question: Will Buglet pass? Will Buglet cop out, and say "I don't like exams"? Will he race home tearfully, leap into bed, assume the fetal position and turn the electric blanket up to "nine"?  Will he yell at the examiner, saying, "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries"? . These very much are the questions of the week. The questions of the meek, of the sleep. I am prone to anxiety attacks this early in the morning. I am under attack. The enemy: mornings, work, essays, life, that orange sun.
Result: death and taxes, hamsters, elderberries.
Gee, it's nice being paid five dollars an hour to type letters, and to wish the switchboard would ring. Gee it's nice, it's paradise. Too bad I can't do it at home (preferably in bed). Sigh. I'm just mad because they don't have anything for me to do and I was awake all night, suffering from anxiety worries about business letters and memos. Unfair, unclean. Your mommy doesn't like me. O sigh. Maybe I should think positively; she probably is just having a lousy day. Maybe she sees my blush lines. Oh, I shouldn't expect her to rave over me. I can't type. I can't think.
I. I. I. Oh me. This is a letter. This is morning. The xerox machine going, and all. The weather being bright and sunny. The sun being an orange ball at 4:30. Having my daddy come in. Having the switchboard being left on all night. Having been babbling in a letter, having not known someone's name, having worked only weekends and holidays prior to this experience. Morning, yes, naught else.
People are friendly here. People are awake here. I am not here. It is 9:15. I know not why I'm here. I feel like I don't exist. I pinch me. Morning, yes morning. The terrors of the A.M. (Ancient Mariner). Water, water, everywhere, and all that. I am drenched with the sun this morning, and I won't turn on the overhead lights, the overhead lights being fluorescent . Fluorescent being hard on my little eyen, infection and all. Dying is fine, but Death, O baby I wouldn't like death... .
I'm doing a lot of beach walking, Randy living on the beach and all. I grew up in forests, and now as I drive my car, I see the forests covering the roads and houses, and it must once have done. It makes it hard to see the lights (i.e., red).
My English class goes well. The prof is turning out to be great. He lectures on backgrounds and things, not on line 24 of page 174 of this book. He is philosophical, which means something (what, we're not too sure). He also gave me an "A" on my paper, which says a lot for his taste. But seriously folks, he really is good, and has a lot of interesting things to say, not the basic stuff anyone (except me) gets out of Book "X". He means things, and makes the after-class cider worthwhile. Gasp, typing that here! No alarms, what happened?
It is not far to my place, you can come smallboat. I found once a root with shape, and have heard a new sound among the insects.... Dream. Taste the orangeness of the sun. Yes, it's worth getting up for, though now the sun turns a watery yellow. The vibrancy is gone. The time: 9:30. The door: open. The breeze: cool. The object: close door by mental kinetic ability (nonexistent). The punishment: cold knees. The object: nerves. I shouldn't exist here. I just paged Dr. Bradley knowing he was in his lecture; I flunked.
This is far too much for me. I shall join Buglet under the electric blanket. I shall quiver in my desk in fear and trembling. I shall...stop being such an idiot and try to cope. This is morning. I may dream but never awaken for I will be cedar, wordheavy , and madder than the hatter. I will trip over my tongue. I will feel the weight at the back of my neck, pushing me under. I shall admit my subversive activity, my underground rebellion, my tea and cold knees. I will admit it was all a pink plot. I will stop pretending I am typing a letter to you, and admit I am writing words to send to you, in fear and trembling, shivers and pain. I am sorry, Gerry. These things are to be expected of me. I steamed my face last night with chamomile .
I read books, and laze in the sun. Yes, there is sun here. Yes, I dream. I write mental letters (always better than the ones on paper, witty, and thought-provoking). So now I type on and on, hoping to make up in quantity what I lack in thought and concentration. There is a knot of fear in my throat. The only dream is of cedars, and the breeze. I guess I've got this thing about trees, especially cedar, as is obvious.
So, Gerry Gail, how are you? How is life, and love, and all?
Yesterday I sat on the beach and a strange man came with a blanket and asked if I wanted to share a patch of sand with him. I told him Randy was up at his cottage asleep, and that he was coming down and would not like it, so he just sat with a log between us. We didn't talk much; he had a book, and I had some paper. It was so strange, I felt like I was in someone's novel (existentialist). He was not unattractive, but I couldn't understand his meaning; what was he supposed to mean to me or me to him? Did he just want companionship? I am very sure he wasn't just trying to pick me up. We talked a bit about houses. Then my pen ran out of ink, so I went up to the house, and puzzled about it. Randy woke up, and was unhappy. He is very depressed suddenly. I am worried about him; I think he's gone off to hide somewhere because he was supposed to phone me today and didn't and is not home. We had a very hard discussion last night about who and what we are, and what we want. I think I shattered some of his illusions about me being so sure of myself. I think he has realized that it is not only him who is drifting, looking for the right door to open on a life's work, a career, a happiness of some sort. I think that he thought that he was the only one. It's sad to think that no one has any real answers, even those that have answers only have their own, and they are almost always compromises, or directions. There is no ARRIVAL. Actually, I am afraid of arrival; I don't want to arrive in heaven. I want to keep growing. I can't believe that we all just stand around praising; I see God as an active God. He can't just want idle worshippers. There will be work, serene work, but work nonetheless. That idea pleases me. Can you imagine an eternity sitting? I don't want to be fat there, too. That's all I need.
Gerry, spiritually things are strange, but I'm beginning to want God again. There's been such a long time where I really didn't want to have anything to do with Him. Now I really feel the longing and the need to get back in touch.
This is going to be awkward, because I realize now that I left the rest of this letter to you at home. I hope I don't repeat myself too much (boring).
Meanwhile back at the ranch...Nancy is sitting typing looking busy and office-y, and the whole world falls apart around her feet; where's Randy? Where is that man? What did he want? He didn't really want conversation, just someone to sit by while he read, I think.
Randy and I went and saw Tim and Marjanna (and their baby Shara ) last night (before our discussion). I think Tim is doing well--no, I don't. He's busy searching for the right way to spread the gospel and support his family. Nothing is working out for him, so it looks like they are going on welfare. I can't believe that God is sending him in this direction. I believe that a man should support his family, etc. etc. I still admire Tim for his faith, though I feel that he has blinders on.
We all have our blinders, our prejudices. Mine is to other Christians (with a few exceptions, of course). I don't want anybody praying for my answers. I'm not going to pray for your answer, Gerry, though I do pray for your growth and direction.
Gerry, I miss you. I wish that we were able to see more of each other. Sob, sob. Well, there's one thing, at least we're not going to get sick of each other.
Men. Gerry, where do you find a man? It was a man that sat beside me, but Randy is a boy, not that I don't love him. Sigh. I keep trying to help Randy grow into a man; he's come an incredibly long way, but he feels that he needs the organization of church to grow and be a Christian. Fine, I say, then try to explain why I don't feel the same way, and he thinks I'm trying to dissuade him. He doesn't see that I am just trying to justify myself. Last night he said that he never wanted to go to school, and that he felt really pushed into it. He really wants to own a contractor company or something like that, then get married, and make a good life for his family. I tried to point out that that was what his sister had tried to do, and what her husband had tried to do (now she is living with some guy, and her husband has their four kids). Then said (later, and kindly, not angrily, or condemnatory in any way)--"If that's what you want, go back to Edmonton, get a good job, find a good church there, and a girl there, and marry her." He was taken quite aback and told me that I didn't mean that. I did, of course, and that really surprised him. I don't think that he wants me to want that for him. I don't but if that's all he wants, then I certainly want him to go for it. He knows that I don't fit into that kind of plan. Actually, we both know we weren't the ones for each other, but I didn't think it mattered. It seems that it does to Randy. O sigh. Maybe it, whatever it is, or was, is all over. Maybe I should try to find that man from the beach again, eh?
Dying is fine, but death? O baby I wouldn't like death.... Ending is fine, but the end? O Gerry, I don't like the end.... I want a man just like the man that married dear old Mom. Just a whimper away , and all.
Marie-Claire Blais. Very interesting, dark and all, but there's something very good about her writing. I'm falling in love with my Can Lit prof. Past smitten and into smut, as Mork would say 15. (Not really.)
Christina's in town, and I'll be seeing her tomorrow before work. Maybe she can get through to Randy. He has a tremendous admiration for her. Almost puts her on a pedestal, but not quite. (What about me?)
This is going to be a dead night, there is nothing to do, and not too many people around at all. Nothing to amuse poor me except thoughts and letters. You guessed it; this letter will keep growing. Aren't you glad that I have nothing to do? Otherwise you would get a much shorter letter, and it would be handwritten, and my handwriting is getting quite atrocious. I can't figure it out. I can't print quickly to take notes, so I just seem to keep on trying to write better. Maybe I should learn calligraphy. I wouldn't mind. I'd like to have a personal style of writing; I keep changing to backhand, forehand, straight up and down, big, small, etc., etc.
This matters, doesn't it? Well, Gerry Gail, these are the important existential matters that concern me at the moment. Nothing matters, everything means nothing. (Wah.) Sorry, I do apologize.
How is your life? What are you doing to keep busy? Are you doing a lot of sewing? I've got a lot sitting at home, and can't seem to get going on it, though I know I don't have many clothes (especially for work). Soon I'll get moving on it, soon. All these projects sitting there. I hate this sloth. It's the most awful thing in the world. I wish I didn't like to read so much. Whimper............
Ah, what great literature is in the making! What poems are hidden in this letter. Just think, Gerry, in your old age you can sell this for much money. I guess it would be worth more if I said something a little more important, or handwrote it.
TREATISE ON LIFE--seeing things wholly. This is important, learning is incredibly important, growing. God is important, He can't be put second, but He must not be an excuse for putting yourself in a closed structure. We are too finite to know all of God, so let's not assume that His only structure is church on Sunday, many meetings, etc. Let's assume that He trusts us enough not to lift us into a boxed cage where we will learn not to disobey Him; let us assume that a big God has love for us, and wants us to learn by trial and error if need be. Let us assume that He wants us to live largely, and wants education for the intelligent, peace for those who need peace, solitude for those who want solitude, family for those who want family, excitement for those who want excitement, and narrow lives for those who need that sort of structure. God by His nature must have different plans for these so different people that He has created. I myself know that I must live a life that has space for my writing. I don't know where it will fit, but I must live creatively. Just as you must have room for your designing. Neither you nor I would be happy being wife and Mom. We need more. I don't think now that I would ever like to get married, though I know that may quickly change. I can see myself travelling, working and writing. I am beginning to think that I may try some prose writing, though you and I both know that it would have to be poetic prose. I don't think that I could write a straight novel. Do you ever feel that your creative side needs more room? I know you do; that is why you are so dissatisfied with your course at this point. It's awful knowing when you are in the midst of people who are simply playing with the craft that means amost everything to you. Doesn't it bother you to see all those girls who are taking your course simply because they had no other ideas and want something "glamourous"? Worse if you have to compete with them for jobs. The earnest have their problems. My problem is fear and indecision at the moment. I know I should begin sending out my poems, but I'm not sure where. None of the magazines seem exactly right for them. Harold finally, after many years of trying, has had two of his poems accepted by Fiddlehead. My leeway is disappearing; I can't still say "well, Harold hasn't published." O hiss, why did he have to do that?
I must get going. Action, Nancy! Do you have the same problem? Are there places that you can send your designs to? What are your impossible dreams? Would you like to work for one of the big designing companies? New York? Paris? I would like to edit a poetry magazine, perhaps to teaching writing at university. I don't think that I would like teaching high school, though it is definitely an option. Gerry, most of all I want to be good. I don't think recognition is too important for me, but I do want to think that I am good.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS IN LAST LETTER:
I still haven't got your address. Yer Mum fergot. I guess that I'll have to give her a call.
- February, Filmed was both premeditated and expelled. I had one line in my head (that was later cut out--"cut to: The man, crying"). The rest just came and built itself around it. I'll be glad to work on help you with the rest when we get together again. Glad you like them!!
- Yes, I know what you mean. NO Christian has the right to make you feel less of a Christian because your faith takes a different direction. Everyone gets too tied up in the petty things, and forgets to take into account the only important other thing--does the other person love God? (And I'm just as bad in the way I feel about people I consider legalistic.) There is only the one thing that matters, not whether the person believe in transubstantiation, or in full emersion baptism, or in tongues. These divisions are doctrinal not spiritual, and are teeny-tiny in the BIG view of things.
- The Museum job--well, I didn't get it. HOWEVER, they did say they were impressed with me, and that I should get my application in early next yet. (Impressed? With me? Next year I'll probably be terrifying.) They gave the job to someone who had worked there before.
It is quite a quiet night. There was an A.A. meeting at 8:00, but now it's 9:45, and everyone had gone. Solitude, sort of. I had to do some typing for Dad, and that took quite a while as it was figures, and they were hard to line up.
This is getting very exciting. I guess I should go.
The courses I'll be taking starting July are Chaucer (whom I love) and British plays from about 1914, which will be okay. The Chaucer prof has been rented from Princeton, and is supposed to be very good. I'll be happy if he is 1/10th as good as the man they imported from Liverpool for my Shakespeare course last summer. That was probably the best class I've had, though this Can Lit one is beginning to rival it at times. There still are boring moments, and so I think Shakespeare wins by an Elizabethan nose. Besides, Can Lit is basically dull .
I think I'll put the other type back in, it's prettier (word!)
Back with the nicer type. O how I like this type. I guess it's because it's close to the way I'd like to print, how I do at times.
Try some more type (I can't like this, it looks very funny, don't you think?)
Try even more type, I think that this one is uglier than sin!!!
Ahh, back to something a little more aesthetically pleasing. I just noticed that there is a piece of cheese sitting in the desk; I wonder how old it is? Years.
Well, Gerry Gail, I think it is time for all good girls to end their epistles and try something else for the short while before quitting time. So, good night, and may God bless you. You know that you are in my prayers. "May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit." (Philippians 4:23).
[Scrawled not typed:] Gerry Gail, I thought you might like something in my own handwriting so you'd be sure that it was me at the keys of the typewriter. 10:10 and all's pretty quiet, there's someone playing pool and I hear the occasional Crack! from the room. Isn't my writing incredibly messy! I wonder what happened to me? I still have the southpaw excuse, though.
I hope everything is SUPER for you in your new house (home).
1. An echo/theft of an early poem by A.R. Ammons
2. My friend Gerry Gail's mother also worked at the treatment centre. So did my father, which is how I knew the job was open, though not how I got it.
3. I'd had the pitch setting wrong on the typewriter, leaving the characters too spread out and just adjusted it.
4. Here I'm echoing my own voice, called "Voices for The New World" which appears in Seven Robins.
5. No one trusted my 1966 Beetle, Buglet, to carry me safely across mountain passes.
6. Ripped off bleeding from between-song chatter by The Slightly Fabulous Limelighters.
7. Ripped off bleeding from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
8. I still turn off fluorescent lights whenever possible. Something about them makes my head spin.
9. From a poem by e.e. cummings.
10. From a poem by A.R. Ammons.
11. Quoting myself again, from another poem that made it into
Seven Robins, this one entitled "Holding".
12. Which is why I have trouble thinking of chamomile as something to drink. It's a cosmetic tea, not a drinking tea.
13. I explained who Tim was in my April 11, 1999 entry and mentioned Marjanna in my August 27, 2000 Phonosnout entry and their wedding in my September 3, 2000 Phonosnout entry.
14. There's a sappy love song in Disney's version of Sleeping Beauty that has the line, "just a whisper away". It was a album that I had when I was growing up.
15. Mork being the Robin Williams character from the TV show Mork and Mindy.
16. Well, at least the stuff that was studied at universities in 1979.
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