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robertogreco : sartre   11

Why I love my possessions as a mirror and a gallery of me | Aeon Essays
"The trouble is that I am my things and my things are me. I don’t want to relinquish them. This reluctance is not acquisitiveness: it is that I don’t want to abandon myself. Single, childless, I’m all I’ve got: me – and the accumulated external markers of who I am, which are also narrative prompts for the ongoing story of my life. These stories connect me to the past, present, future, and live in nearly everything I own. Those oak tables in my living room come from a Maryland junk shop; embedded in their grain is the story of my bribing friends with a promise of crab cakes in exchange for help transporting the furniture back to New Jersey. A kitschy dish shaped like a duck taking flight reminds me of researching a book in Nashville. The bisque Rosenthal vase shouts: ‘Get back to Berlin’ every time I dust it.

In Being and Nothingness (1943), Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that man wishes to possess things in order to enlarge his sense of self, and that we can know who we are only by observing what we have. Studies of ownership and identity – by marketing experts, anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists – come to the same conclusion: we project our sense of self onto everything we own. According to Russell Belk, a professor of marketing at York University whose 1988 paper about possessions and the extended self remains a touchstone for all subsequent research, this kind of projection serves a valuable function for a healthy personality, ‘acting as an objective manifestation of self’. Humans have a fundamental need to store memories, values and experiences in objects, perhaps to keep them safe from memory loss; proof that, yes, that really happened.

It is not even necessary to own these totemic items for their charge to hold. People speak about ‘my’ television programme, ‘my’ movie star, or ‘my’ seat in a classroom – a form of possessive self-definition that extends to matters of taste as well as to stuff. Questions such as: ‘Are you Beatles or are you Stones? Blur or Oasis?’ are examples of how taste funnels us into tribes that proclaim our aspirations and ideals along with our interests.

Who are my people? Open my front door and the first thing you notice are books. They line the walls, hover overhead, and stack up on tables. Each is a chunk of autobiography, a clue to who I was while reading it, what I found to love inside its pages and where it sent me next. Umberto Eco understood this phenomenon well, saying: ‘The contents of someone’s bookcase are part of his history, like an ancestral portrait.’"



"As I contemplate a possible future of enforced minimalism, I am unsettled by the words of the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who wrote in ‘Why We Need Things’ (1993) that: ‘Artefacts help objectify the self … by demonstrating the owner’s power.’ They ‘reveal the continuity of the self through time, by providing foci of involvement in the present, mementos and souvenirs of the past, and signposts to future goals… objects give concrete evidence of one’s place in a social network as symbols… of valued relationships.’ As such, they stabilise our identities, giving permanent shape to ourselves ‘that otherwise would quickly dissolve in the flux of consciousness’.

I fear that disposing of my possessions would dissolve me. I’m precariously balanced on an emotional seesaw. On one side, writ large, are phrases such as ‘check your privilege’ and ‘first-world problems’, which remind me that many endure far worse. On the other side is the gut-wrenching sensation that I’m being erased. I try projecting myself into an unfettered future of ease and liberation. But all my imagination conjures is the kind of grim bedsit existence depicted by Muriel Spark."



"Sophie Woodward, a lecturer in sociology at Manchester University, works on a research project called Dormant Things. She studies the items that people store in cupboards and attics, and which they often never use, but which have ‘implications for understanding memories, life and relationship changes, and also for developing more sustainable consumption’. Time and again, Woodward notes that people think they ought to get rid of stuff; but, she tells me: ‘The more I talk to them, the more I realise that they get immense pleasure out of having those things, even things they don’t look at, because when they do it reminds them of something.’"



"Anecdotal evidence reinforces my instinct that jettisoning everything would undermine my me-ness. Daniel Miller, an anthropologist at University College London, spent 17 months conducting interviews with 30 London residents for his book The Comfort of Things (2008), in order to explore ‘the role of objects in our relationships, both to each other and to ourselves’. He was testing the popular assumption that ‘our relationships to things [come] at the expense of our relationships to people’.

He discovered that this assumption wasn’t true: ‘usually the closer our relationships are with objects, the closer our relationships are with people’. One of his most unsettling encounters was with a man who owned nothing, living ­– perching, really – amid a minimum of donated furniture and clothes. ‘There is a loss of shape, discernment and integrity. There is no sense of the person as the other, who defines one’s own boundary and extent.’ This seems to support Csikszentmihalyi’s belief that our psyches need the stability that possessions bring."



"Which brings me to a last, shaming truth. While I don’t buy high-cost, high-status items, my pride in what I possess is linked to a desire for admiration and love. I hope that people visiting my home will get me in a way that’s not possible when meeting me elsewhere. What’s more, this happened: my ex-husband swore that he fell for me when he saw my library and the dictionary that lives by my bed. Yet I’d need a nonstop stream of visitors to justify my numerous possessions. Why do I persist in playing to an imaginary audience, like a fairy tale princess in suspended animation, waiting to be discovered? Perhaps the dream of an improved future self keeps us whole and functioning in the here and now. Perhaps this is the necessity."
possessions  leerandall  2016  minimalism  jean-paulsarte  sartre  umbertoeco  mihalycsikszentmihalyi  michaellandy  sophiewoodward  meaning  memory  psychology  danielmiller  objects  relationships  marcallum 
august 2016 by robertogreco
What Is an "Existential Crisis”?: An Animated Video Explains What the Expression Really Means | Open Culture
[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEzMwNBjkAU ]

"“Who am I?” many of us have wondered at some point in our lives, “What am I? Where am I?”… maybe even—while gazing in bewilderment at the pale blue dot and listening to the Talking Heads—“How did I get here?”

That feeling of unsettling and profound confusion, when it seems like the hard floor of certainty has turned into a black abyss of endless oblivion…. Thanks to modern philosophy, it has a handy name: an existential crisis. It’s a name, says Alain de Botton in his School of Life video above, that “touches on one of the major traditions of European philosophy,” a tradition “associated with ideas of five philosophers in particular: Kierkegaard, Camus, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre.”

What do these five have in common? The question is complicated, and we can’t really point to a “tradition.” As the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes, Existentialism is a “catch-all term” for a few continental philosophers from the 19th and 20th centuries, some of whom had little or no association with each other. Also, “most of the philosophers conventionally grouped under this heading either never used, or actively disavowed the term ‘existentialist.’” Camus, according to Richard Raskin, thought of Existentialism as a “form of philosophical suicide” and a “destructive mode of thought.” Even Sartre, who can be most closely identified with it, once said “Existentialism? I don’t know what it is.”

But labels aside, we can identify many common characteristics of the five thinkers de Botton names that apply to our paralyzing experiences of supreme doubt. The video identifies five such broad commonalities of the “existential crisis”:

1. “It’s a period when a lot that had previously seemed like common sense or normal reveals its contingent, chance, uncanny, and relative nature…. We are freer than we thought.”

2. We recognize we’d been deluding ourselves about what had to be…. We come to a disturbing awareness that our ultimate responsibility is to ourselves, not the social world.”

3. “We develop a heightened awareness of death. Time is short and running out. We need to re-examine our lives, but the clock is ticking.”

4. “We have many choices, but are, by the nature of the human condition, denied the information we would need to choose with ultimate wisdom or certainty. We are forced to decide, but can never be assured that we’ve done so adequately. We are steering blind.”

5. This means that anxiety is a “basic feature” of all human existence.

All of this, de Botton admits, can “seem perilous and dispiriting,” and yet can also ennoble us when we consider that the private agonies we think belong to us alone are “fundamental features of the human condition.” We can dispense with the trivializing idea, propagated by advertisers and self-help gurus, that “intelligent choice might be possible and untragic… that perfection is within reach.” Yet de Botton himself presents Existentialist thought as a kind of self-help program, one that helps us with regret, since we realize that everyone bears the burdens of choice, mortality, and contingency, not just us.

However, in most so-called Existentialist philosophers, we also discover another pressing problem. Once we become untethered from pleasing fictions of pre-existing realities, “worlds-behind-the-scene,” as Nietzsche put it, or “being-behind-the-appearance,” in Sartre’s words, we no longer see a benevolent hand arranging things neatly, nor have absolute order, meaning, or purpose to appeal to.

We must confront that fact that we, and no one else, bear responsibility for our choices, even though we make them blindly. It’s not a comforting thought, hence the “crisis.” But many of us resolve these moments of shock with varying degrees of wisdom and experience. As we know from another great thinker, Eleanor Roosevelt, who was not an Existentialist philosopher, “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being…. For the person who is unwilling to grow up… this is a frightening prospect.”"
existentialcrises  existentialism  philosophy  video  2016  kierkegaard  camus  nietzsche  heidegger  sartre  jean-paulsartre  albertcamus  humancondition  alaindebotton 
july 2016 by robertogreco
▶ On The History of Ugliness - VideoLectures.NET
"In “History of Beauty,” Umberto Eco explored the ways in which notions of attractiveness shift from culture to culture and era to era. With ON UGLINESS, a collection of images and written excerpts from ancient times to the present, he asks: Is repulsiveness, too, in the eye of the beholder? And what do we learn about that beholder when we delve into his aversions? Selecting stark visual images of gore, deformity, moral turpitude and malice, and quotations from sources ranging from Plato to radical feminists, Eco unfurls a taxonomy of ugliness. As gross-out contests go, it’s both absorbing and highbrow."
aesthetics  art  beauty  culture  umbertoeco  2007  ugliness  zombies  history  monsters  arthistory  socrates  aesop  donnaharaway  suffering  christ  unicorns  dragons  physiognomy  anthropology  jean-paulsartre  monalisa  pieromanzoni  richardgere  marilynmanson  piercings  cyborgs  et  disgust  cyranodebergerac  hunchbacks  jews  gender  sirens  kitsch  uglification  monarchs  naomicampbell  picasso  sartre 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Nicole Fenton | Words as Material
"These are some of the questions that have come up for me along the way:

What does writing contribute to the design process?
How can designers use words to articulate what they’re making?
How can we, as humans, benefit from clear language?
How can writing make products easier to adopt and understand?
How can I broaden the definition of “writing” for designers?"



"I believe that writing is part of every design. If you can clearly define what you’re making and articulate its value, the steps to bring it out into the world will go much faster. It’s easy to put pixels together when you’ve already made decisions. And since we work across systems and borders, there’s no better way to articulate design than with writing."



"Language makes it possible for us to navigate places and relationships; to express needs and requirements; to name and categorize things; and to understand our place in the universe."



"Without words, we wouldn’t be able to plan or effect change.

As a technology, writing has many merits. It complements verbal and visual communication. It’s sturdy and can stay put. It’s cheap. It’s easy to change or reproduce. And it moves faster than ships or airplanes. Writing makes it possible to propel knowledge and intent forward through time.

Historically, writing has served us as a force of stability. It gave us a way to record history, exchange information, and establish legal systems. We wrote to preserve knowledge, transmit ideas, and pass on traditions. And of course, we still do those things, even with hypertext. We still treat writing as a product of the editorial process."
nicolefenton  writing  2015  design  words  language  howwewrite  whywewrite  learning  communication  annegalloway  mattjones  frankchimero  abbycovert  clarity  annelamott  thichnhathanh  collaboration  jean-paulsartre  sartre 
june 2015 by robertogreco
“A Question of Silence”: Why We Don’t Read Or Write About Education
"The lack of imagination evident in these narratives reflects the lack of real-world alternatives. In the real-world fantasylands of schooling (e.g., Finland, Cuba, Massachusetts) education looks more or less the same as it does everywhere else. In short, the system is missing—or ignores—its real antithesis, its own real death. Without that counter-argument, educational writing loses focus. Educationalists present schooling as being in a constant state of crisis. Ignoring for a second the obvious fact that without a crisis most educationalists would be out of a job—i.e., closing our eyes to their vested interest in the problem’s persistence—what does this crisis consist of? Apparently, the failure of schools to do what they are supposed to do. But what are they supposed to do? What is their purpose? And why should we stand behind their purpose? This is the line of inquiry that—can you believe it—is ignored.

Of all the civic institutions that reproduce social relations, said Louis Althusser, “one… certainly has the dominant role, although hardly anyone lends an ear to its music: it is so silent! This is the School.” That statement was made in 1970, by which time school buses zigzagged the cities every working morning and afternoon, school bells rang across city and countryside, the words “dropout” and “failure” had become synonymous, education schools were in full swing, and school reform had gained its permanent nook on the prayer-wheel of electoral campaigns. In other words: what silence?

Althusser, of course, was referring to the absence of schooling as a topic in critical discourse. In this regard he was, and continues to be, accurate. The few paragraphs that he appended to the above-quoted statement may well be the only coherent critique of schooling in the upper echelons of critical theory. Critical theory, which has written volumes on Hollywood, television, the arts, madhouses, social science, the state, the novel, speech, space, and every other bulwark of control or resistance, has consistently avoided a direct gaze at schooling (see footnote). ((Here follows a cursory tally of what critical theorists (using the term very loosely to include some old favorite cultural critics) have written on education. I won’t be sad if readers find fault with it:

Horkheimer is silent. Barthes and Brecht, the same. Adorno has one essay and one lecture. Marcuse delivered a few perfunctory lectures on the role of university students in politics—but he makes it clear that you can’t build on them (university politics as well as the lectures, sadly). Derrida has some tantalizing pronouncements, particularly in Glas (“What is education? The death of the parents…”), but they are scattered and more relevant to the family setting than the school. Something similar, unfortunately, could be said of Bachelard—why was he not nostalgic about his education? Baudrillard, Lefebvre, and Foucault all seem interested in the question, if we judge by their interviews and lectures—and wouldn’t it be lovely to hear from them—but they never go into any depth. Even Althusser’s essay, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, which contains the above quote, quickly shies away from the topic: instead, he concentrates on the Church. In short, professional critical philosophy might have produced a more interesting study of Kung Fu Panda (see Žižek, who is also silent) than of the whole business of education. The one exception would be Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster, which I will discuss.)) Even Foucault, champion of enclosures, keeps out of the schoolhouse. ((Part III of Discipline and Punish includes a discussion, but his analysis there is mixed with all the other institutions that exercise punishment. The only direct references are in two lecture-discussions with students, both from 1971.)) The silence is particularly striking if we see radical philosophy itself as an educational endeavor, an enterprise concerned with ways of seeing and doing.

It’s not that there are no critical conversations within education—there are, and I will discuss them soon. But I think the silence of radical philosophers is emblematic of some special problems in the relationship between education and society."



"Progressive educators, who as a rule crave resources and ideas from outside their field, nonetheless did not seem bothered by the new seclusion. They even welcomed it. Today, every schoolteacher, admin, or researcher learns as part of her training to show open disdain for any opinion on education that doesn’t come from inside the field (“but has she taught?”). In American education schools, it’s possible to get a doctorate without having been assigned a single book from outside your field. Education is such an intensely social process (think of any classroom vignette, all the forces at play) that this intellectual swamp could only survive by a sheer will to isolation. Educationalists need this privacy partly because it allows them to ignore the core contradictions of their practice. The most important of these contradictions is that they have to uphold public schooling as a social good, and at the same time face up to the fact that schooling is one of the most oppressive institutions humanity has constructed. It has to be built up as much as it needs to be torn down brick by brick.

This dilemma bedevils the majority of writing by the most active educationalists. The redoubtable Deborah Meier is a good example—good, because she really is. Meier is the godmother of the small school movement in the United States. She has dedicated her life to making schools more humane and works with more energy than entire schools of education put together. Her philosophical base is one of Dewey’s pragmatism and American-style anarchism. She is also in a unique position to understand the contradictions of schooling, because she has built alternative schools and then watched them lose their momentum and revert to traditional models. What’s more, Meier can write. But when she writes, her books take titles like Keeping School and In Schools We Trust. In which schools, exactly? Not the same ones through which most of us suffered, I assume; rather, the progressive, semi-democratic ones on the fringes of the public system. The problem, apparently, is not schooling itself. It’s just that, inexplicably, the vast majority of schools fail to get it right. The “reformed school” is a sort of sublime object: something that does not quite exist, but whose potential existence justifies the continuation of what is actually there.

We are all familiar with this type of “we oppose the war but support the troops” liberal double-talk, a pernicious language game that divests all ground agents of responsibility—as if there could be a war without soldiers (though we seem to be moving that way) or bad classrooms without teachers. Now, it wouldn’t be fair to place the blame squarely on the teachers’ shoulders—considering the poor education they themselves receive in the first place—but we must also expose this kind of double-talk for what it really is: an easy out. And it is an easy out that abandons the oppressed: in this case, those students who actively resist teachers, those last few who have not been browbeaten or co-opted into submission. ((When Michelle Rhee, the (former) chancellor of public schools in Washington D.C., began shutting down schools, liberals tore their shirts and pulled their hair and finally ousted her. Very few people mentioned that those schools—a veritable prison system—should have been shut down. The problem was not the closures—the problem was that Rhee, like other Republican spawns of her generation, is a loudmouth opportunist who offered no plan beyond her PR campaign. What’s striking is that Rhee was using the exact same language of “crisis” and “reform” as progressives, and nothing in the language itself made her sound ridiculous. Since then, progressives have eased up a little on the crisis talk.))

Because the phenomenon of student resistance to education so blatantly flies in the face of the prevailing liberal mythology of schooling, it is a topic that continues to attract some genuine theorization. ((For a review of literature and some original thoughts, see Henry Giroux’s Resistance and Theory in Education (1983). For a more readable discussion of the same, see Herbert Kohl’s I Won’t Learn From You (1991).)) It’s also a topic that is closely tied to another intractable bugaboo of the discussion: the staggering dropout rate, in the US at least, among working class and immigrant students, and particularly among blacks and Latinos. Education is the civil rights issue of our time—Obama and Arne Duncan’s favorite slogan—was originally a rallying cry among black educationalists. ((The latter, in case you don’t know, is Obama’s Secretary of Education. A (very thin) volume could be written on the absolute lack of political and intellectual gumption that he epitomizes. To the Bush-era, bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act (a severe and ineffective set of testing requirements), Duncan added the Race to the Top initiative, thus bringing much unintentional clarity to the discourse: education reform is a race in which no one’s left behind.)) But if we understand a “civil rights struggle” to be, fundamentally, the story of the disenfranchised and the marginalized classes’ resistance to structural oppression, then this seemingly simple phrase is haunted by a kind of dramatic irony—since a great deal of research shows that what many black and working class students actively resist is schooling itself. Further studies showed that even those underserved students who succeed in schools persevere by dividing their identities; by cordoning off their critical impulses; by maintaining their disaffection even while they keep it well out of the teacher’s sight."



"A fundamental problem is that education demands a scientific foothold … [more]
education  unschooling  canon  houmanharouni  2013  criticaleducation  theory  eleanorduckworth  deborahmeier  jeanpiaget  paulofreire  ivanillich  karlmarx  society  schooling  oppression  class  liberals  progressive  progressives  theleft  paulgoodman  sartre  theodoreadorno  michellerhee  reform  edreform  nclb  rttt  radicalism  revolution  1968  herbertmarcuse  power  policy  politics  teaching  learning  jaquesrancière  arneduncan  foucault  louisalthusser  deschooling  frantzfanon  samuelbowles  herbertgintis  jenshoyrup  josephjacotot  praxis  johndewey  philosophy  criticaltheory  henrygiroux  herbertkohl  jeananyon  work  labor  capitalism  neoliberalism  liberalism  progressiveeducation  school  schooliness  crisis  democracy  untouchables  mythology  specialization  isolation  seclusion  piaget  michelfoucault  althusser  jean-paulsartre 
december 2013 by robertogreco
▶ Ideas at the House: Tavi Gevinson - Tavi's Big Big World (At 17) - YouTube
"She's been called the voice of her generation. The future of journalism. A style icon. A muse. Oh, and she's still in high school.

Tavi Gevinson has gone from bedroom blogger to founder and editor-in-chief of website and print series, Rookie, in just a few years. Rookie attracted over one million views within a week of launching, and has featured contributors such as Lena Dunham, Thom Yorke, Joss Whedon, Malcolm Gladwell, and Sarah Silverman.

Watch this inspiring talk as Tavi discusses adversity, the creative process, her outlook on life, what inspires her, and the value of being a 'fangirl.'"
tavigevinson  2013  teens  adolescence  rookie  writing  creativity  life  living  depression  frannyandzooey  books  reading  howwework  patternrecognition  procrastination  howwelive  teenagers  gender  feminism  authenticity  writer'sblock  making  fangirls  fanboys  wonder  relationships  art  originality  internet  web  fangirling  identity  happiness  fanart  theideaofthethingisbetterthanthethingitself  culture  fanfiction  davidattenborough  passion  success  fame  love  fans  disaffection  museumofjurassictechnology  collections  words  shimmer  confusion  davidwilson  davidhildebrandwilson  fanaticism  connection  noticing  angst  adolescents  feelings  emotions  chriskraus  jdsalinger  literature  meaning  meaningmaking  sensemaking  jean-paulsartre  sincerity  earnestness  howtolove  thevirginsuicides  purity  loving  innocence  naïvité  journaling  journals  notetaking  sketching  notebooks  sketchbooks  virginiawoolf  openness  beauty  observation  observing  interestedness  daydreaming  self  uniqueness  belatedness  inspiration  imagination  obsessions  fandom  lawrenceweschler  so 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Sartre, Heidegger, Nietzsche: Three Philosophers in Three Hours | Open Culture
"“Human, All Too Human” is a three-hour BBC series from 1999, about the lives and work of Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre. The filmmakers focus heavily on politics and historical context — the Heidegger hour, for example, focuses almost exclusively on his troubling relationship with Nazism.

The most engaging chapter is “Jean-Paul Sartre: The Road to Freedom,” in part because the filmmakers had so much archival footage and interview material (Check out a still lovely Simone de Bouvoir at minute 9:00, giggling that Sartre was the ugliest, dirtiest, most unshaven student at the Sorbonne).

A note on Part 2: Thinking the Unthinkable. We linked to the YouTube version, which has a slight whistle in the background. Catch a cleaner version here on Google Video while you still can."
culture  philosophy  video  towatch  jean-paulsartre  sartre  heidegger  nietzsche  via:javierarbona  simonedebouvoir  documentary 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 120, Mario Vargas Llosa ["I realized then that we [Latin Americans] have extremely interesting writers—the novelists perhaps less so than the essayists or poets.…]
"…Sarmiento, for example, who never wrote a novel, is in my opinion one of the greatest storytellers Latin America has produced; his Facundo is a masterwork. But if I were forced to choose one name, I would have to say Borges, because the world he creates seems to me to be absolutely original. Aside from his enormous originality, he is also endowed with a tremendous imagination and culture that are expressly his own. And then of course there is the language of Borges, which in a sense broke with our tradition and opened a new one. Spanish is a language that tends toward exuberance, proliferation, profusion. Our great writers have all been prolix, from Cervantes to Ortega y Gasset, Valle-Inclán, or Alfonso Reyes. Borges is the opposite—all concision, economy, and precision. He is the only writer in the Spanish language who has almost as many ideas as he has words. He’s one of the great writers of our time." [That's just a snip. There's lots more inside.]
mariovargasllosa  latinamerica  literature  borges  sarmiento  facundo  interviews  fscottfitzgerald  dospassos  writing  reading  perú  victorhugo  floratristan  guimarãesrosa  sartre  dostoyevsky  balzac  flaubert  tolstoy  nathanielhawthorne  charlesdickens  hermanmelville  gabrielgarcíamárquez  gabo  cervantes  spain  spanish  español  language  history  politics  ideology  happiness  unhappiness  parisreview  depression  josélezamalima  hemingway  joãoguimarãesrosa  españa  williamfaulkner  jean-paulsartre 
october 2010 by robertogreco
The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook [via: http://twitter.com/genmon/status/20415848302]
"We have recently been lucky enough to discover several previously lost diaries of French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre stuck in between the cushions of our office sofa. These diaries reveal a young Sartre obsessed not with the void, but with food. Aparently Sartre, before discovering philosophy, had hoped to write "a cookbook that will put to rest all notions of flavor forever.'' The diaries are excerpted here for your perusal."
jean-paulsartre  sartre  humor  existentialism  philosophy  parody  cooking  satire  recipes  food  literature  classideas 
august 2010 by robertogreco

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