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IMAGINATION

    Florida, Orlando, TRAVEL, Walt Disney World

    Renovation Review: Disney’s Pop Century Resort with Video Walk Through

    NEW + EXCITING INSIDER INFO

    This year, Disney surprised us Disnerds by announcing plans to build the SKLYINER gondola transportation system in Walt Disney World, Orlando. This system will link the Caribbean Beach, Pop Century, Art of Animation, and the new Riviera Resorts with both Hollywood Studios and Epcot.

    The Riviera promises to be mostly high-end, Disney Vacation Club (DVC) property with a rooftop lounge for fireworks viewing, a la Top of the World in Bay Lake Tower. But besides Riviera the choices on the SKYLINER route seemed curious at first, until other WDW Magic board insiders announced this was the first phase by Disney to blur the lines between hotel categories and do away with the “value,” “moderate,” and “deluxe” labels altogether.  Of course, by doing away with the tiered  labels, this would open the door for Disney to charge more for their prominent value resorts—Pop Century and Art of Animation.

    Disney Pop Century Renovation

    HISTORY

    With this first phase out underway, Disney has begun a total renovation of the Pop Century rooms. For those unfamiliar with Pop Century, it was Disney’s second foray into the value resort category, after the huge (over 6,000 rooms) and sprawling All Star Resorts opened on the western end of the property.

    The first section of the resort, “The Classic Years,” opened in late 2003. It consisted of approximately 2,800 rooms in basic motel style buildings that my mother-in-law described as Russian prison chic.

    To get away from the prison chic, Disney themed these building with huge, colorful, pop culture icons representing the last five decades of the 20th century. Initially, The Classic Years were to be followed by The Legendary Years representing the first five decades of the 20th century. Due to the economic downturn of the early 2000s that followed 9/11, this section sat  as partial cinder block buildings until in 2010 when Disney decided to finish these as the Art of Animation Resort, their third value resort.

    Ok, Amy said that’s enough history.

    IS IT WORTH IT?

    You want to know are the renovations to Pop Century successful– enough so to justify any increase in price Disney may charge in the near future?

    YES…with a few caveats.

    OUTSIDE
    The first two buildings renovated are the 1980s and 1990s. Outside, the look is exactly the same. Our building was a basic motel building painted teal blue and themed with rollerblade icons, sans balcony, with outside corridors. Inside, however, almost everything has changed!

    INSIDE

    Disney Pop Century Renovation

    No More Carpet:   I immediately noticed the absence of carpet. All flooring is now laminate wood, in a kind of golden oak (pun may or may not be intended) color, with modern white moulding. The wood tones dominate along with the colors of orange and white; everything looks very modern, very IKEA-like. In fact, the new interior design is somewhat reminiscent of Universal Studio Orlando’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort mid-century modern, which ironically was Universal’s answer to Pop Century.

    Transforming Furniture:  The rooms are far more attractive than in their previous iteration. The small tables previously in the room have been replaced by Murphy bed furniture of sorts; the the second bed in the room, when not in use, can be folded into the wall cabinet to form a large rectangular new table.

    Major Caveat No.1:  My wife and I loved this configuration as a couple. However, this may make for a very crowded room with a family of four. Also, when folded down you effectively lose the table, which I always use as a catch all when returning from the parks. Even though the rooms are better designed, more functional, and much more attractive, they are still only approximately 260 sq. ft.– still a tight squeeze.

    Killer Artwork (and TV):  The artwork in the room has been replaced by a Warhol-esque Mickey Mouse light box above the bed. This, along with the other fixtures, provided more than adequate lighting. The TV is massive for a room of this size, I would estimate 50-55 inch. For perspective, it looked to be about double the size of the TV in my brother-in-law’s room in Bay Lake Tower.

    Super Storage:  On to the bathroom/vanity area where the changes are both extreme and extremely successful. This area, like the rest of the room, has ample new cabinet and storage space. In addition, the curtain that separated the room from the vanity area has been replaced by a sliding door—a huge upgrade, as now you can get ready early without disturbing others in the room. The bathroom also has a sliding door, an automatic fan and the shower now has a rain fixture with a sliding glass door replacing the previous curtain.

    Major Caveat No. 2:  The bath/ vanity area remodel caveat is once again—space. With only one sink, my wife and I found we were getting in each other’s way while getting ready. Other than that, the remodel in this area is a huge upgrade. Also, upscale Disney H2O+ soaps and shampoos were provided.

    Other Amenities:  The new mattress and bedding are a huge step up from the previous; both are super comfortable. There is still a fridge in the room; this new version has a clear door, which helps to see what’s inside and looks nice, but I found I missed the door storage. There is also a microwave and for the first time—a coffee maker. The pantry area has plenty of shelves for storage, especially great for snacks, fruit and other beverages you bring yourself. Again, this area is much better than before.

    Disney Pop Century Renovation

    FINAL THOUGHTS
    So, is the room remodel a big enough upgrade that Disney can charge more? YES.

    The room is still very small, but the upgrades have helped enormously. The problem, however, lies with the resort itself. The amenities at Pop Century Resort are spartan to say the least compared to other Disney resorts:   Minimal theming. No sit down restaurant or lounge in the main building. Pools that are basically unthemed, with no slides. Unless these things improve as well, Disney is going to have a hard time raising the price of this resort, SKYLINER or not.  

    Perhaps there are plans, as there is a current rumour of a sit down restaurant planned for the All Stars Resort, but until then, Universal Studio Orlando’s Cabana Bay will set the standard for value resorts in Orlando.

    PROS:

    > Upgraded and updated rooms far more attractive and functional than the previous iterations

    > SKYLINER transportation coming soon, providing upgraded access to Hollywood Studios and Epcot parks

    CONS:

    > Rooms are still small with no balconies and only one small window

    > Hotel outside retains its Russian prison chic minimal theming

    > Spartan amenities

    Watch my walk through
    Please keep in mind, this is my FIRST video walk through.
    Yes, I know now NOT to flip the camera.



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    Film, IMAGINATION

    My Movie Recommendations: Part One

    Art imitates life and life imitates art and art imitates life and life imitates art…  These movies will MAKE. YOU. THINK. And perhaps forever change how your brain.

    Good. Then they did their job.
    Enjoy!


    “Art of the Steal” (2009)

    A gripping tale of intrigue and mystery in the art world, this film traces the history of the Barnes collection of Post-Impressionist paintings, which was worth billions and became the subject of a power struggle after the 1951 death of the owner.  Dr. Albert Barnes collected 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes, 59 Matisses, 46 Picassos and many other valuable paintings. But the political wrangling over the collection eventually led to its division.

    “Valley Girl” (1983)

    A punk named Randy (Nicolas Cage) from the wrong side of the Hollywood Hills falls for Julie (Deborah Foreman), a mall-dwelling Valley Girl, and they begin a Romeo-and-Juliet-like romance … that is, until peer pressure gets to Julie and she cuts off their relationship. But love-struck Randy refuses to give up on Julie. Will he convince her that they’re meant to be together?

    “Lost in Translation”(2003)

    A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo.

    “Outsourced” (2006)

    When his department is outsourced to India, customer call center manager Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton) heads to Mumbai to train his successor (Asif Basra), and amusing culture clashes ensue as Anderson tries to explain American business practices to the befuddled new employees. In the process, he learns important lessons about globalization — and life. Ayesha Dharker and Matt Smith also star in director John Jeffcoat‘s cross-cultural comedy.

    “Bananas” (1971)

    Neurotic nebbish Fielding Mellish (Woody Allen) follows his dream girl (Louise Lasser) to the fictitious Latin American nation of San Marcos, where he unintentionally becomes a freedom fighter for a revolutionary leader. But shortly after taking the reins of power, the new strongman goes — you guessed it — bananas, leaving Fielding in command to bargain with the United States. Watch for Sylvester Stallone in a microscopic role.

    “What Would Jesus Buy?” (2007)

    Taking on rampant American consumerism with a focus on Christmas shopping, the Rev. Billy (Bill Talen) and the Church of Stop Shopping go on a cross-country journey to save citizens from the Shopocalypse in this hilarious documentary produced by Morgan Spurlock. Reminding shoppers of the true meaning of Christmas, Reverend Billy exorcises demons at Wal-Mart’s headquarters and preaches his message at the Mall of America and Disneyland.

    “Confessions of a Superhero” (2007)

    On Hollywood Boulevard, wannabe movie stars dress up as superheroes and pose for photos with tourists. Matt Ogens‘s documentary follows four of these quirky dreamers, who are just killing time until they’re discovered. You’ll get to know a Superman who takes his role to heart, an Incredible Hulk who sold his prized video game system for a ticket to Tinseltown, a Midwestern beauty queen-turned-Wonder Woman and a Batman in need of a little therapy.

    “Paris:  Je T’aime” (2006)

    Paris comes to life in this whimsical patchwork of 18 five-minute shorts united by a common theme — love in the City of Lights — and helmed by an international cast of filmmakers, including Gus Van Sant, Olivier Assayas and Alexander Payne. Natalie Portman plays an American actress who captures the heart of a blind student; Juliette Binoche is visited by a ghostly Willem Dafoe; Bob Hoskins solicits a prostitute’s advice on pleasing his wife.

    “Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?” (2006)

    When brash trailer park resident Teri Horton bought a secondhand painting for five bucks, little did she know it could be a genuine Jackson Pollock worth millions. This film documents Horton’s volatile 15-year journey into the heart of the art world’s elitist establishment to have the painting authenticated. The clash between stuffy art dealers and the cussin’, beer-drinkin’ Horton is funny, eye-opening and utterly unforgettable.

    “My Kid Could Paint That” (2007)

    Amir Bar-Lev directs this thought-provoking documentary about a precocious 4-year-old artist whose abstract works have drawn critical comparisons with modernist greats such as Kandinsky, Picasso and Pollack. Her talents have already profited her and her parents hundreds of thousands of dollars. But is she truly an artistic visionary trapped in the body of a preschooler, or is her gift with a paintbrush mere illusion?

    “Loose Change” (2009)

    Informed by footage from Sept. 11, interviews with experts and new evidence, filmmaker Dylan Avery argues that the world hasn’t heard the full truth behind the terrorist attacks and urges citizens to demand accountability from the U.S. government. In this provocative documentary, Avery also takes a sobering walk through other infamous historical events, such as the Vietnam War, and what role politicians have had in their creation.

    “A Crude Awakening:  The Oil Crash” (2006)

    Award-winning filmmakers Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack examine the world’s dependency on oil and the impending chaos that’s sure to follow when the resource is dry in this straight-from-the-headlines documentary. Through expert interviews on a hot-button topic that might represent the world’s most dire crisis, the film underscores our desperate need for alternative energy and spells out in startling detail the challenge we face in finding it.

    “An American in Paris” (1951)

    Once a struggling painter, opportunistic American artist Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) now lives in the City of Light, enjoying the patronage of a well-heeled, amorous American gallery owner (Nina Foch) — and swiftly falling for a willowy French street urchin (Leslie Caron). Trouble is, the object of Mulligan’s affection also happens to be engaged to a famous French singer (Georges Guétary). This tour de force movie musical nabbed seven Oscars.

    “Vanilla Sky” (2001)

    David Aames (Tom Cruise) has it all: wealth, good looks and a gorgeous woman (Cameron Diaz) on his arm. But just when he’s found true love with warmhearted Sofia (Penélope Cruz), his face is horribly disfigured in a car accident, and he loses everything … or does he? Director Cameron Crowe delivers a bizarre yet beautiful take on love, beauty and morality inspired by Alejandro Amenábar’s Spanish-language film Open Your Eyes, also starring Cruz.

    “White Christmas” (1954)

    Having left the Army following W.W.II, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis team up to become a top song-and-dance act. Davis plays matchmaker and introduces Wallace to a pair of beautiful sisters (Betty and Judy) who also have a song-and-dance act. When Betty and Judy travel to a Vermont lodge to perform a Christmas show, Wallace and Davis follow, only to find their former commander, General Waverly, as the lodge owner. A series of romantic mix-ups ensue as the performers try to help the General.

    “Breakin’” (1984)

    ‘Breakin’: A struggling young jazz dancer (Lucinda Dickey) meets up with two break-dancers. Together they become the sensation of the street crowds. Features ICE-T in his film debut as a club MC.

    “Whip It” (2009)

    In a town near Austin, Bliss Cavendar’s strong-willed mom believes Bliss, at 17, can win pageants – the key to a happy life. Bliss isn’t the beauty pageant type: she’s shy, quiet, and has just one friend, Pash, her fellow waitress at a diner. Things change for Bliss when she discovers a women’s roller derby league in Austin, tries out, proves to be whip fast, and makes a team. Now she needs to become someone tough on the rink, keep her parents from finding out where she goes twice a week, and do something about a first crush, on a musician she meets at the derby. Meanwhile, mom still sees Bliss as Miss Bluebonnet. Things are on a collision course; will everyone get banged up?

     

     



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    Film, IMAGINATION

    It’s Not You, It’s Me – The movie. Not my relationship nightmares.

    It's Not You, It's Me

    MV5BMTUwNTcxNjI1Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDgzNjcwMDE@._V1_SX214_AL_No, this isn’t another one of my dating stories, believe it or not, it’s about a “brutally humorous” independent film, its’ writer/director, and his pick-up truck.

    nathanives

    Nathan Ives :: Writer / Director

    I was asked by filmmaker Nathan Ives to watch, review and socially spread the word about his latest star-packed film, It’s Not You, It’s Me (2013).  I was honored to be asked to participate in not only this movie viewing, but this movie movement (more of that to follow).

    This super-edgy comedy revolves around commitment-phobe Dave (played by Band of Brothers’ star, Ross McCall) battling his inner voices (literally personified by actors such as Erick Avari) over his recent break up with long-time girlfriend, Carrie (played by High Fidelity’s Joelle Carter), who is battling her own inner insecurities (also literally personified by actors such as super star Vivica A. Fox and The Daily Show with John Stewart’s Beth Littleford).

    Ives’ internal and external dialogues are raw exchanges leaving the viewer laughing in their hilarity, while sobbing simultaneously in their reality — maybe this is about my relationship nightmares.  Ives brilliantly captures the ever-looming female psyche’s fear of actually becoming the never-married, crazy cat lady and the seemingly will-never-move-past-the-frat-keg-party-emotionally male pysche.

    Ives is not only making independent film waves by writing, directing, and producing his own film, It’s Not You, It’s Me is gaining recognition because of its’ unique distribution approach – a pick-up truck.

    Gaining entry into your local Cineplex down the street is more complicated – and more costly – than any movie go-er can imagine.  In addition to basically signing away “all rights,” many times small, independent filmmakers are left to pay a $50,000 marketing fee, upwards of 15% commissions, and signing a minimum 15-year contract – just for the maybe, cross your fingers, possibility to show in theaters next to the big, mega-producing, Hollywood conglomerates such as 20th Century Fox, Universal and MGM Studios.

    Ives’ solution? To follow the business model pioneered in the music industry – bypass the label and distribute yourself. With today’s technology, patterning the path of success music stars and his pick-up truck, Ives hit the road in a high-tech, grassroots cross-country campaign to promote his movie one town and one click at a time.

    Nathan Ives

    A man, a film and his pick-up truck. | Photo courtesy of FilmIndependent.org

    Ives’s goal is not only to promote and show his film, but to create a sustainable business model for other small indie hopefuls to follow, implement and share, all with the aid of the world wide web.  Just as in the music industry, current success – both monetary and in popularity – is no longer centered around distribution units; whether it is music or film, content can be distributed by mere “access” alone.  Ives, just like artists Radiohead, The Hold Steady, Beyonce, and many more others, believes in mobile, digital content that can be easily viewed and shared through such channels as iTunes, Amazon.com, Hulu,  individual websites and social media by the simple step of viewers paying per view or per download.

    In the spirit of independent film and the new, film eDistribution model, please visit, pay-per-view/download and, of course, share Nathan Ives’ humor, film, and story.

    ***

    Watch the Trailer :: It’s Not You, It’s Me (2013)

     

    Like the INYITM Facebook page, here.

    Read more about INYITM on IMDb, here.
    Watch and buy on iTunes and Amazon.com.

    Read more about Mule Films, here.

    Read more about Nathan Ives and his adventures on the road in this pick-up truck, here.

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    IMAGINATION

    80s Movie STAT!

    Every now and then, I need a break the proverbial hamster wheel of design, selling, blogging, teaching, never-ending dieting and answering emails from shirtless men holding fish claiming they are far younger than they clearly are, to recharge. I’m pretty sure I am in need of an immediate creativity defibrillation as I have felt over the past few weeks as if  the imagination and inspiration from the right-side of my brain has been oozing out my ears.

    How do I recharge, you ask? With an 80s movie, of course.
    Life always needs an 80s movie. I mean, I feel like I am a walking 80s movie most of the time.

    You know, the female lead, trying to break away from the pack to stand out and be different as constant wacky, slap-stick events keep tripping her up from her unacquainted love for the older, college all-star as high school’s nerdiest outcast keeps trying to make her regret ever turning him down … but that’s another story for another time.

    80s’ film  hold such classics as:
    Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)
    Valley Girl (1983) — an ALL-TIME fav
    Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985)  — another ALL-TIME fav, I mean it stars SJP. Need I say more?
    Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
    The Breakfast Club (1985)
    • The Lost Boys (1987) — the beginning of my Kiefer Sutherland obsession
    Pretty in Pink (1986)
    • Breakin‘ (1984)

    Growing up in the 80s, I have great fondness and severe nostalgia for such things as neon clothing and excessive accessorizing.
    Coincidently, Netflix delivered, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984), for this weekend’s viewing. PERFECT.

    I loved every minute. The stunning asymmetry of this past decade’s fashion made me gasp with elation.  I had forgotten about wearing one big earring in one ear and one small earring in the other, wearing one cuffed earring, wearing one glove – either  sequenced or lace, all while wearing one bandana tied around your ankle of choice. It was breathtaking.

    Everything back in the 80s was excessive – especially the accessories. Everyone sported multiple versions of the same accessory and wore them all at once. SWATCH watches (of which, I had three), hand-cuff toggle belts, different colored socks – tucked over the pants, of course. It all brought a tear to my eye.

    As the credits rolled, I felt the pulse of my creativity start to beat again. Although, faint, the 80s once again has revived my mojo.

    Now to resurrect my love life; i’s acute and in need of a full transfusion. An IV of foreign films, perhaps.
    In the meantime, I’m wishing for a Sixteen Candles (1984) type of 40th birthday, sharing my cake with my own Jake Ryan.
    Like, that would be pretty rad fur sure.

    ***
    Please enjoy watching Breakin’ (1984) in its entirety above.

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    IMAGINATION, Life of Josie M.

    Setting. Development. Resolution.

    Life of Josie M

    I could hear the inner wheels of Henry’s mind grinding as he lay silently next to me, both of us facing opposite directions with only the smalls of our backs touching.
    I sat up holding the comforter up to my chest as if to shield me from the vulnerability ahead. I turned and spoke to his back, “I knew this would happen the minute I saw the back of your head.”
    He picked up his head and rested his chin on his shoulder. “What?”
    “Well, actually… I knew this would happen when I first saw your back…in your fabulously sexy, dark-navy suit with the silver pinstripes…then I saw the back of your head. But, still, I knew.”
    Still confused, Henry now swiveled his body counter-clockwise to lie facing me on his side. “You knew what?…From what…my head? All I heard was you think I’m fabulously sexy,” he let the last word trail off slowly like he used to do while teaching, using sarcasm to get his point across, only this time, it was  seductive, luring me back down next to him.
    I let go of my death grip on the comforter and slid back down on my side  into his open arms and nestled up close to his chest. We were now looking into each other’s eyes.
    “When I walked into Albert Hall, while I was focused on finding Room Six, you were hunched over at the water bubbler. I couldn’t help but say to myself, ‘Wow. Who is this with the phenomenal taste? He’s a student here?’ You then stood up straight and walked into the next room. I only saw the back of you head. But, I knew. The salt-and-pepper hair was a dead giveaway.”
    As he kissed my forehead, he muttered, “I still have no idea what you are talking about. Are you calling me fabulously sexy again?”

    ***

    Eventually, we had to pull ourselves away from each other and the seclusion of my bedroom as it was Monday morning and we both had classes to teach.  As Henry showered, I got up and started the coffee.
    “Ugh. Rain again,” I muttered to myself as I opened the window blinds. Opening the blinds was painful, not because of the light hitting my un-ready pupils, but because I felt each one of those horizontal lines of light shattering the cocoon the weekend in bed had just built around me and Henry.
    Reality was rearing its’ ugly head with the possibility for sheer and utter disappointment when Henry leaves, as he had not responded to any of my feeble attempts to convey the true breadth and depth of my feelings. I had tried several times during the course of the past two days to gather the thoughts, feelings and emotions rushing through me for the past year into what needed to be the perfect combination of words to tell to this man, the most wonderful man I had ever met, I was in love with him.
    I could still hear the shower running. I started to prepare myself for the worst. I started running scenarios of our departure through my head.
    “Thanks for an amazing weekend. But…I’ve already told you…I’m happy in my current situation…”
    “East or west coast?”
    Henry startled me. While I was preparing myself for the dreaded “You’re a Great Friend” speech staring out the window, he had gotten out of the shower, gotten dressed and poured our coffee. He was standing at the edge of the kitchen holding in one hand my “I ‘heart’ LA” mug and in the other, my “I ‘heart’ New York” mug.
    “LA or New York,” he clarified.
    “Oh…New York, please. Thank you.”

    ***

    I stood frozen in anticipation as I watched Henry gather his belongings from around the apartment. I was still in my bathrobe, still gripping my “I ‘heart’ NY” mug and still unable to breathe.
    “Well…” Again, his words rolled off his tongue with great seduction.
    We were now walking towards each other. When Henry reached me, he took the mug out of my hand, placed it down and began kissing my neck.
    “Stunning, sexy, and irresistible,” he kept kissing me as he spoke.
    “What?” My mind was preoccupied with his lips, not conversation.
    “Turquoise, strappy high heels and your refute of Georg Hegel’s theory of the Absolute.”
    “What?” I repeated, still preoccupied.
    “That’s when I knew I had fallen in love with you.”

    ***

    *fin*



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    IMAGINATION, Tips + Advice

    When life gives you lemons, grab tequila.

    When life gives you lemons, grab tequila.As Labor Day approaches, the looming clouds of family cookouts lay overhead.

    Ah, yes. A time when every single girl is reminded just how single one’s life may be.

    No. Really people, relatives no less, will leap out of lawn chairs to ask if you have “found anyone” yet.

    ***

    Me:  “No, but I cured cancer.”

    Auntie Insane:   “That’s nice, dear. You know, my coworker’s son is about your age. He still lives at home, but that just means he’s saving money.”

    Even the cure for cancer couldn’t save me from this annual scene – and, yeah, he’s “saving money.” Let me guess, his “apartment” is located in the basement?

    And, you thought of me for this loser. Gee. Thanks.

    ***

    Ah, yes. I have heard it all for the “finding someone” advice:

    • “Some Saturday, go and hang out in Home Depot for an hour or two. I bet you would find someone there.”When life gives you lemons...
    • “What about that guy Chris?” (PLEASE NOTE_I dated Chris in high school, SIXTEEN YEARS AGO.)
    • “So what if he is thirty-three and living at home. He’s saving money.”
    • “I REALLLLLY wish I knew someone single.” (PLEASE NOTE_ I am single, not terminal. Don’t call in Make-a-Wish yet.)
    • “He’s a Greek god. You’ll love him. He’s perfect for you.” (PLEASE NOTE_ Greek gods do not have uni-brows.)
    • “You should go on a single’s cruise. That’s how my friends met. You know, they had some ice breaker…he got ‘Frank’ and she got ‘beans.’ The rest is history.”

    Enjoy your Labor Day weekend. And, don’t forget to pack the tequila.

     

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