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Well-being

Part 2: Life Lessons From Prince: Four Things I Learned After Four Days At Paisley Park.

Chanhassen-Prince-Mural-1I found myself asking this morning why I chose to break this blog up into 4 pieces instead of just pulling it all together in one sitting and throwing it out there. I told myself it was for reasons related to practicality like the fact that people don’t like to read long blogs and that I want time to get each piece perfect. I also thought it was just good old fashioned procrastination but that If i committed to the piece I would get it all done in a timely manner.

All that said what I realized as I was writing this second lesson today was that stretching this process out is allowing me to live with a meditation that I am not yet ready to part with. The time I spent at Paisley Park really did open up a door in my consciousness that I had started closing – but that allowed light into my life that I needed to remind me what’s out there. It reminded me of my own journey and to get out (and stay out) there and unapologetically let my own light shine.

With that in mind, here is lesson #2 of 4 that I will be carrying with me – and hopefully you will as well:

2. Life is an audition – so make sure you are always you and always shine

Certainly, Prince surrounded himself by talent notorious for being the best in the business at whatever their craft or profession. But a significant portion of his professional family were not found in the most traditional ways. One stand out story was from Mark Brown of Prince’s band, The Revolution (also now a producer in his own right) who once happened to make Prince a bad-ass plate of pancakes at the diner where he was working when he was 15. He also happened to play guitar and sing – and wound up with an invitation that turned in to a dream career.

Several band members and dancers have similar stories. They were somewhere being the best of themselves and found they had caught the attention of a muse who would both be inspired by them and inspire them to live their calling.

What I take from this is the opportunity for all of us to be who we are full time. That may sound ridiculous as many of us feel that we are ourselves full time. But the thing is, what we do for a living, the places we go, the people we hang out with, the hobbies and interests we have aren’t who we are. We try on all sorts of roles to either express or stifle the love and purpose that we know ourselves to be on the inside.

I think the mistake is that when we play these parts we tend to piece together
a character based on what we think the audience wants to see. The trick is to
play the part while wholeheartedly taking on the character your possess
inside yourself, regardless of what you feel the expectations of onlookers are.

Prince did it everyday. He knew who he was , for better or worse, and never put in less than everything he had into every moment. Because of that commitment and dedication (and trust me, it’s hard work no matter how much of a superstar you become) he was able to recognize that energy in others and chose to surround himself by other radiating examples of authenticity . That is where he saw potential and decided to give those people a place on the stage that was his magical world so they could shine while they were with him and then find their own spotlight in the world, with Paisley Park forever in their hearts

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Categories: Art and culture, Culture, Uncategorized, Well-being | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Perils of Adulthood Part 1: Making New Friends

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The other day I was in my car listening to an episode of one of my favorite podcasts , This American Life.  The theme was related to the concept of human intimacy and all of the anxiety it causes. The second story was the one that really got to me. It was about how hard it is as an adult to make new friends; and not necessarily just the type you casually hang out with but close friends that you can have a bond with.

It’s a situation that has become fairly acute for me recently. I’ll be 40 in just over a year. My wife (although she appears as youthful as the summer days are long) is also in that “grown folks” age range. Life and time has us in a place now where we are being mindful about the energy we keep around us. We are scrutinizing old friendships, appreciating strong friendships and starting to “date” new friends we’ve met as a couple (as opposed to the ones we individually brought “with” us) . I’m preparing to say goodbye to my longtime “best” friend whom life is taking on a new adventures away from the city we call home and clear across the country. And it’s freaking me out a bit.

Yes I know there are all kinds of technology as well as things like airplanes that can help keep people connected and even be party to the development of long-term relationships. I’m all too well aware. My best friend is moving for a woman she is in love with, who she has been internationally dating for nearly two years and whom she met on Tumblr (that’s a whole other blog).   But the fact is, it’s not “the same”.

We crave intimate connections with other humans that come in many forms: paternal/maternal, fraternal, romantic, and platonic and any other nuance you can think of. It’s our basic social instinct. We are social creatures. And most of us like to have other creatures we relate to in close proximity to use. We want to feel like we belong. And we want to literally feel love.

These are basic hierarchy of needs foundations. It’s why the two previously mentioned long-distance lovers are both ripping themselves away from the comforts of home to be together instead of sustaining a Skype-based romance. And it’s why sustaining and making new friendships as an adult is so important to our productive human functioning.

But making friends as an adult is so much harder then when we were younger. As a matter of fact, making friends gets progressively more difficult as we age. This is both a sociological as well as psychological fact. See this helpful visual aid on Erikson’s Stages of Psychological Development from a creative Glogster Educational Blog poster.

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When we’re in our youngest years, we are selfish little “watery moles” it’s all about us and getting what we need to survive and knowing where our bread is buttered. Then we start figuring out that behavior has consequences and we have choices and we start seeking approval for our choices, including gaining a sense of self worth by starting to collect people who approve of us: friends.

But then we start becoming adolescents and young adults and as we learn more about who we are as individuals we start to get picky….until suddenly we aren’t in a daily pool of human’s representative of the relevant general population to choose from (e.g. school) and if our job is not an extension of our passions and personal identity (which I realize is a very common reality albeit very different from my own) then the people we see at work every day are not necessarily eligible for the type of intimate, growth-inspiring relationship we need as adult humans.

When middle age sets in and we are driven to re-assess our meaning and the meaning of the people in our lives and realize the pool of potentials has now become woefully thin. Of course, as you get much older you begin to once again get less picky and find social groups that will help you remain feeling human and productive despite the realities of your degenerating physical self. My parents are in that stage right now – just having moved from a very isolated environment to a thriving community of humans in a mature life-stage, where they are thriving as they make new friends every day and stay socially and physically active.

I suppose the dilemma I am speaking of comes from my very acute sense of entering middle adulthood and wondering how I am going to find the time and energy to forge new intimate friendships while working so hard to leave my mark on the world.   There isn’t really an online “friendly, casual dating” site to turn to. You have to make a point to get out in the world and start new conversations.

I think that’s why places like upscale, intimate music venues, brewpubs, whiskey and wine bars and “casual” fine dining concepts with eat-at-the-bar and communal tables have become so popular. They are places where people who have an interest outside of finding a “hookup” for the night can stumble upon people with similar interests and strike up a non-committal exploratory conversation.   They are places where gender and mating aren’t the top priority, in favor of connecting via an appreciation of an aesthetic.

But those kinds of places are only great friend-finding solutions in places where there are lots of people with disposable income like urban and suburban areas. What about folks who live in spread out rural areas or small towns or in places that lack the economic infrastructure to create economic mobility, urban development and general means to escape to a greener pasture?   How do you figure out how to find meaningful relationships with a limited pool of prospects to choose from?

As I write this I am reminded of the thing I tell myself and whomever will listen to me on a regular basis: It’s all about giving yourself permission to belong to everyone and have everyone belong to you.  It’s about the love.  I need to remember to follow my own advice sometimes.

Maybe the lesson we forget as we age is that we are all in this thing called life and the human experience together. We are of one unbroken mind and spirit. If we make a point to open ourselves up and be vulnerable to our fellow humans we have an opportunity to see inside to our deepest selves and realize that we are all the exact same thing.

We are all love. We all have that in common – we just tell ourselves that this thing we call our “self” has all kinds of rules about what we can be an who we can let in.   And the older we get the more rules we accumulate until our wall of rules is stacked to the sky and utterly impenetrable.   But I think many of the brave ones among us learn that we find friends from unlikely places when we let them through that wall.

I suppose what I am saying about this first peril of adulthood – making new friends – is that it’s about more than finding people in a similar life stage and / or with similar interests who have a schedule that matches yours so you can find the time to hang out and do constructive things together. Perhaps it’s also about making a choice to open yourself up and practice random acts of connection.

What if we decided to start selection with the basics (Are they kind? Are they fun?) as opposed to the limiting specifics (Do run marathons like I do? Are they vegan?). Sure – the love everyone method isn’t fool proof. You will likely get disappointed sometimes. But maybe in those situations where you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you also give yourself the opportunity to be uncomfortable and grow as a result and have the same effect on someone else.

For example, start up a conversation with a random stranger that maybe doesn’t look like you or come from your “world”.   Not only might you enhance your human experience by stepping outside your comfort zone a bit an expanding both the degree you are willing to accept the influence of others and have an influence on others based on your differences, but you will most likely find the most basic of commonalities which, if you choose to be a little fearless every now and then, can be the foundation for creation of a truly intimate human bond.

Just imagine how much better adulthood would be if we all, rather than choosing to narrow our circle of friends, choose to widen it. What if we gave more people the opportunity to “play” as opposed to setting such rigid criteria for even getting on the team? As in anything in life, practice makes perfect. So lets not get so rigid in our middle age that we feel like we don’t need to practice making friends and getting along anymore like we did when we were kids.

After all, you weren’t so picky as a child, bonding with whomever was thrust upon you by virtue of proximity at home or school.   It’s the basis of family bonding, really – you love whom you are born in to.   And I bet there are lots of you out there who still have a lifetime friend from when you were young or remain incredibly close with your siblings…despite growing in different directions.

It’s because you made a conscious decision to maintain your connection to your family (given or chosen) because you know it is the right thing to do as a human

So let’s remember we were all born in to this world together and practice making even bigger families as we mature. Let’s combat the perils of Adulthood by remaining ever vigilant that we make ourselves stronger when we give ourselves permission to make it easier to make friends.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Anthropology, sociology, Uncategorized, Well-being | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Loneliest Generation?

This article poses an interesting paradox: how is it that the most socially networked generation in history is also potentially the loneliest? I suppose the idea here is that in the era of being able to carefully curate your public facing identity we are missing the ability to make more intimate human connections and thus limiting our self actualization ability.
I am not sure I buy it – honestly. I think the social network environment actually opens up more opportunity for human intimacy – introducing us to people with similar ideas and ideas that we may never have met otherwise – allowing us to have friends wherever we go and thus giving us more possibilities to connect with one another and further our pursuit of “who am I and what am I doing here”.
Interested in thoughts out there. Are Millennials really that lonely?

So-Called Millennial

Recently a clever video went viral called The Innovention of Loneliness which illustrates some of the modern problems that have been introduced because of the Internet and technology. If you’re a millennial, most of what the video talks about will feel familiar, like the ability to “self-edit” and constantly be plugged-in to our communication platforms. Mark-Anthony Smith of Entitled Millennial wrote about his personal experience of growing up with social media starting with AOL Instant Messenger all the way back in 1998! His experience should also be very familiar to the average millennial. It correlated with my experience as well, and acknowledges that the internet (for good or ill) is an integral part of how millennials grew up.

I thought I would follow up by talking about the video, and some of my thoughts on the impact the internet has had on our ability to relate with each other.

The…

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Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Generation Y, Millennials, pop culture, sociology, Technology, Uncategorized, Well-being | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some Context for Restoring Faith In Humanity: A Little Bit of Kindness Can Make a Huge Impact

I thought this one was worth the share. It made me tear up, anyway. I think too often we look at people as “us” versus “them”. It’s basic Sociology: Conflict Theory. It states that in order for society to function in an orderly fashion, we need to have a common enemy. A bit misguided perhaps but based on observed scientific fact.

Lately I feel like we have been to focused on conflict and not focused enough on having the conversations we need to create solutions.

I believe and have observed that when we draw our “us” circle just a bit bigger, the world changes for the better. It may start small: on your block, in your community or on a walk home from work – but the impact can be beyond measure.

I really enjoyed this video I got to via a friend’s Facebook page today. I didn’t necessarily need my faith in humanity restored, but it is sure nice to be affirmed sometimes.

Pass it on….

“real, honest good”….

 

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, pop culture, sociology, Uncategorized, Well-being | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Embrace Your Pain

I really enjoyed this Millenial-perspective on embracing the power of personal growth. Yet another affirmation that this generation is going to do something good for themselves and the world…

Categories: American Culture, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Corporate Culture, Culture, Generation Y, Millennials, Uncategorized, Well-being | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Brain Candy: An Exercise in Knowing Thy Context in The Check-Out Aisle

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Checking out at the Whole Foods on my way to a Father’s Day lunch I spied (and purchased) this parent-trap: Sharkies Kids Sports Chews.

As with most things in life, brand and product positioning (the mindspace a company would like their product to occupy in the mind of the consumer) is all about context. In this case, this item’s value is rooted entirely in its marketing.

Somehow, this product- which is at best a “fruit snack” / glorified candy: slightly better than Sour Patch Kids but slightly worse than Annie’s Gummy Bunnies on a nutritional scale) is not a sweet- but-minimally/harmful snack. Rather, it a functional-yet-fun nutrition supplement.

Let’s break it down a bit:

Ingredients: organic sugar, organic tapioca syrup, organic white grape juice concentrate, pectin, citric acid, ascribing acid, color. The important words here are “sugar” and “syrup”. You will find less euphemistic versions of all these ingredients (AKA high fructose corn syrup) in most fruit-snacks with potentially a few extra added dyes and preservatives.

Marketing messages: notice the list of badges on the package advertising all the “bad” things the product DOESN’T have: high fructose corn syrup, trans- fats, wheat, gluten and nuts. Aside from the corn syrup – there is nothing among the listed evils that you would find in ANY fruit snack or candy. These buzzwords are evoked to enable quick editing and validation in the “impulse aisle” so Mom or Dad can have an easy reason to say yes to their nagging toddler.

Then throw in the tagline: “Clean Fuel for Active Kids” and you’ve got an instant win for a parent who is inevitably stopping at the organic food store on their way to, from or the day before / after a soccer game, tee ball practice, gymnastics or junior hip-hop dance class.

Why is it “clean?” Flip it over and look at the ingredients list – only about 8. Fits the “not processed” bill for most over-achieving label-readers.

Finally, it’s not called a “snack” or a “gummy” anything – even though from consuming the entire bag I can tell you it has the same consistency as most gummy candy. It’s a “chew”. Other things that are called “chews” in Mom-and-Dad land are typically kid’s vitamins- gummy and chewy I consistency to trick kids into getting their essentials by making then think it’s candy.

So, at the end of the day, this sugar-rush-in-a-bag passes as chewy Gatorade instead of gummy bears because of clever marketing and because its organic.

Context is everything indeed. I simply recommend that every now and then we all remind ourselves to take the time to put the pieces together more objectively so our consumer choices are made in the right frame of reference and frame of mind. Otherwise we are destined to become slaves to our cultural context rather than being a part of its evolution.

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Food, Health and Beauty, Marketing, Social food movements, Trends, Uncategorized, Well-being | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

This Is Water

I think this is a great video / speech.  Not just because of it’s practical messages to young adults entering the American work force, but for it’s art at articulating the truth and consequences of our choices as we participate in American consumer culture as adults.  Because the truth of the matter is we all tend to get somewhat self centered as we get caught up in the day-to-day routine of our commercially-driven existence.   So, as my friend said when she posted it on facebook:  “choose to watch this video” and click on the “This is Water” link below….

This Is Water.

Categories: American Culture, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Rituals, Well-being | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Conversations About Masculinity: Who Is The American Male?

About once a year for the past several years I have had projects come across my desk that involve taking a closer look at the American Male consumer to help with one marketing, product development or otherwise strategic initiative or another.   In most cases of work designed to unearth consumer insights, the focus is typically pretty narrow:  help us sell more of these pants, or as Startifacts quotes “develop a more appealing package”, etc.  However, when doing Consumer Anthropology research, which is the more deep contextual kind of work I do, you can’t avoid gaining a very broad and deep understanding of the tides that sway the consumer groups you are studying.

To that end, I have been rather deeply moved and simultaneously perplexed by what seems to be the conundrum of the American male.  On the one hand, American consumer history and marketing both have traditionally told them that they are to be the literal embodiment of strength, ruggedness and aggression, while the evolving mating choice-model of the American female has told them they also need to be polished and sensitive and emotionally available.  Then throw in the fact that the evolution of our economy has elevated the appeal of the once-needing-to-seek-revenge nerdy guys.

But if you take a close look at the products that are marketed to males, you still see the majority of them, especially in the consumer packaged goods, food and beverage, alcohol and automotive space, vomiting out hyper-masculinity messages.  In theory, these are messages that are waning in relevance – but the sh%t still sells.  And  the kicker is, there is still a ton of what we brand strategy types call “white space” out there – niches and categories where there is a distinct need not being met because nobody understands how to effectively meet them.  Why?  Because as the dialogue has been getting so muddied by mixed messages that nobody can filter through the noise and get deep enough into the dialogue to understand which way the tide is turning.  But that’s why they hire folks like me.  😉  Right now I am beginning a project around men and healthy food.

And that’s why I try to digest a good amount of content like this blog right here: American Males.  I came across this experiment in sparking an introspective / reflective dialogue about masculinity because the author “liked” one of my recent blogs.  See – Narcissism can actually lead to broadened horizons.  😉   In it, he seeks to:

“redefine the trends, challenge the naysayer, and up root generational ideologies to cultivate a new concept of the American Male. With relevant, thought-provoking, documentary, editorial content, American Male hopes to stand at the forefront and reflect the cultural diversity of the American Male.”

I am deeply interested in what seems to be a Creative Class-driven conversation about the experience of masculinity in America, attempting to re-frame our conceptions of the masculine aesthetic.  I am interested to hear / see other content like this and understand exactly what kind of momentum is happening around this perspective.

So I ask for some direction from my readers and to hear your perspective.  Do you know of a great blog / website / brand that is trying to get people talking / changing the conversation?  Are you an American male?  Do you happen to know a few?  What is your point of view on trends in the culture and sociology of “maleness” in America – where it’s been, where it’s heading, etc.

Don’t hold back.  Real men aren’t afraid to share their opinions.

Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Gender, Health and Beauty, Marketing, pop culture, sociology, Uncategorized, Well-being | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Food Allergy Critical Mass Creates Commerce

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The other night I was out to dinner with a friend who works for Atlanta Parent, having just briefed my waiter on the table’s allergy and intolerance restrictions (gluten =wife, Soy= me, MSG= both of us) and joked that they should really do a Top Chef “allergy edition” if they wanted to really be on trend and do something challenging. The topic of conversation quickly turned to how the kids she deals with at work deal with allergy free lunch times.

I kid but seriously – this allergy thing has become quite a “thing” here in the U.S. It would appear that the earth has rebelled to keep us from eating it’s spoils by making our bodies reject them. From wheat / gluten to nuts , dairy, soybeans and beyond.

You used to be lucky not to have to bake your own bread or eat all your food made at home from scratch if you had these “issues”. Now not only are there whole grocery aisles dedicated to gluten free baked goods, but there are apparently now full scale retail operations (and even summer camps!) dedicated to serving this increasing minority.

It makes me wonder how long until this consumer subculture starts influencing the mainstream. It would stand to reason, for example, that if one person in a family has restrictions it would eventually just get easier to only do shopping once and get the thing that doesn’t have the allergen for everyone! Or perhaps the more health conscious will start opting for a “less is more” philosophy and trend toward buying the allergen free foods because they also have less of the rest of the bad stuff.

In any case it will be one trend I keep my anthropological eye one…until I grow intolerant of it, anyhow. Here’s hoping my readers don’t become allergic to my bad puns.

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Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Food, Social food movements, Uncategorized, Well-being | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Sociology of Style on The Procreation Debate

The topic of procreation is one that , as a woman in her thirties, has been a front and center in my world the last several years.  Friends having babies, my wife feeling like, even though she would have loved to have children, that she is too old and has too many potential health risks to do so and gets all weepy every time she sees a toddler.

We talk about how, maybe, I could carry a child (if you are “new” to the blog – it’s time to catch up – your narcissistic anthropologist is also a narcissistic lesbian) if we really wanted to have a family. We have even talked to near and dear male friends about the idea of insemination and co-parenting.

It brings up all kinds of issues, however: the physical trauma, the impact in my / our career, the change in lifestyle (for better or worse or just plain different), the lifetime commitment to another human being and on and on.   And the more friends of ours (gay and straight couples) that have kids the more we think we should “get on it” so our child can have an instant peer group and we can have that support group.   And the more we talk instead of doing, the older we get and the panic sets in and we revert back to planning a beach vacation and buying a new car and vowing to “talk about it later”.

I really appreciate this article from the sociology of style on the modern debate around procreation: the physical, psychological and sociological implications. And I think many of my friends and readers will appreciate the perspective as well.

Your Bumpin’ Body:
The Procreation Debate

 

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Samantha: Frankly, I think it’s sad, the way she’s using a child to validate her existence.

Carrie: Exactly. Why can’t she just use sex and a nice cocktail like the rest of us?

–Sex and the City

I don’t currently have children, but I hope to someday.  I have several female friends, however, who don’t have and/or don’t want children. Marie Claire recently did an article on Jen Kirkman, a happily child-free comedian who wrote a book on the topic, and whose decision is often greeted with antagonism (and answered with humor: her response to strangers who ask who will take care of her when she’s old? Servants!)

Why do people care so much about the reproductive lives of others? Why are the childless guilted about their decision?  When a single woman “decides” not to have a child, it is sometimes socially “forgiven,” but when a couple decides to forgo pregnancy, they are often looked at with suspicion.  What’s wrong with them? Why don’t they want ‘more’? (And are/will same-sex couples be looked at with equal suspicion?)

Just as there’s a strong argument for having children (i.e. difficult-yet-rewarding, companionship-building, a biological urge), many women choose not to have children for equally compelling reasons: Some simply don’t want the responsibility or lifestyle adjustments (newsflash: they’re expensive and time-consuming); others prefer to focus on their careers; some make the “decision” by default, due to timing and partnerships; still others may make a more political statement with their reproductive choices — avoiding childbirth in an effort not to contribute to our growing global population crisis.

One other looming factor many women consider (perhaps less openly) involves the major transformation of their bodies, not just during pregnancy, but after: Large, full breasts due to the milk production (this may seem like a dream for some, but can also be uncomfortable), an expanded uterus (that should shrink back after about 6 weeks), a larger belly that doesn’t bounce back as easily, especially after multiple pregnancies, and (most devastatingly?) no longer fitting into your coveted footwear (this can be permanent). As Susie Orbach puts it in Bodies, the post-pregnant body is marketed as a body “in need of restoration, conveying a sense that the body is damaged by reproduction.” An ironic image for a life-giving process.

While we like to think that once you make the choice to have a child, EVERYTHING becomes about the child, many women feel that until they lose their “baby weight” and look “normal” again, they aren’t really themselves — which can have significant psychological and emotional consequences. (Fortunately, our bodies are pretty amazing: breastfeeding can be a near miraculous weight-loss plan, not only while you’re actively breastfeeding, but residually, for decades to come.)

Not every woman laments the body transformations of pregnancy.  Some women actually become addicted to pregnancy as a means of seeking attention, feelings of insecurity, or to compensate for parental abandonment. Being pregnant can literally fill a void. It’s even been dubbed the “Octomom syndrome” after the infamous, eponymous example.

FOR MORE on this, including tips on dealing with the physical and mental ramifications of the pregnancy topic or to share your experience (as well as other great content from Sociology of Style click here

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, sociology, Uncategorized, Well-being | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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