Wednesday, February 27, 2013

ウェストバージニア - Wild and Wonderful.

4"x6" Post Card Template

I don't check the Charleston Daily Mail often enough, it seems, because I missed this article from the beginning of the month. It's about a West Virginian web developer's "fascination with Japan" and his then-upcoming trip for personal and professional reasons. I was struck by the postcard Jamie Summers-Brown made for the trip.
Giving gifts is traditional in Japan, and the exchange of business cards is a serious matter.

"I wanted to give something about West Virginia," he said. "So I designed a postcard in Japanese."

The front features a colorful picture of the gristmill at Babcock State Park and an outline of the state. Next to the outline, in Japanese, is "West Virginia." At the bottom right there's a line in Japanese that identifies the photo.
Summers-Brown also says "There are 21 Japanese companies operating in West Virginia and thousands of Japanese nationals working here."

Monday, February 25, 2013

"Relational Visuality, or, What's the Point of Studying Anime?", February 28.

The conclusion of the 2013 Pittsburgh Anime Film Series is a lecture by Dr. Steven Ridgely on February 28, "Relational Visuality, or, What's the Point of Studying Anime?" The talk begins at 7 pm at the Frick Fine Arts Building in Oakland (map) and is free and open to the public. It ends at the Frick Fine Arts Building, too.

Dr. Ridgely is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Nom Nom Nippon at CMU, March 1.

Japanese food CMU

If you're around the Carnegie Mellon campus on Friday afternoon, there will be Japanese food for sale at the University Student Center, courtesy of the Japanese Student Association at CMU. They'll be in the Wean Commons on the first floor from 11:30 to 3:30. More details on the event's Facebook page shortly.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Flying Horse Chinese Dance Performance, March 2.

Pittsburgh Flying Horse

The Yanlai Dance Academy will present "Flying Horse" at the August Wilson Center downtown (map) on March 2. "It is a great opportunity for Pittsburghers to appreciate a variety of Chinese cultures through Chinese dance", says the academy. The show begins at 5:30 and tickets start at $15.

Everyday Noodles to open February 27.

Everyday Noodles Pittsburgh

Everyday Noodles will open its doors for the first time on February 27 at 5 pm. It's located at 5875 Forbes Ave. in Squirrel Hill (map) and advertises "Traditional Handmade Noodles and Soup Dumplings".


Construction started in October in what used to be an art gallery. Follow its Facebook page for updates and for pictures of the new place.

Update: Menu added to their Facebook page:

Everyday Noodles menu

Friday, February 22, 2013

George Aratani: Japanese-American business leader, community icon, Pittsburgh Pirates prospect.

San Pedro Skippers
San Pedro Skippers.

A line in the obituary for George Aratani, the prominent Japanese-American businessman and community leader who died Tuesday at the age of 95, caught my eye. Los Angeles' Rafu Shinpo on Aratani's youth:
A handsome and talented athlete, he was even being scouted by the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team in high school, but a football injury derailed his aspirations for a possible professional sports career.
Unsurprisingly, Pirates scouting reports from 1933 are scarce, but Aratani's Pittsburgh connection turns up in a few other places. The Japanese American National Museum writes about baseball among second-generation Japanese-Americans (Nisei):
The 1920s and 1930s were the golden age of Nisei baseball. Teams could be found in practically every community. Semipro teams were formed. The San Pedro Skippers, a Southern California semipro Nisei team averaged 14 runs a game in the late 1930s. Stars emerged and sometimes even were invited to play with professional teams. Shortstop George Aratani was invited to practice with the visiting Pittsburg Pirates in Santa Maria in the 1930s where his coaches were Hall of Famers Honus Wagner, Paul and Lloyd Waner.
In spite of how good, and how underrated, some of these Japanese teams were, an article from 2003 about Pirates' spring training in Paso Robles, though, may make you wonder how much of a prospect Aratani was:
You've got to wonder what the Pirates and Cubs did for competition in those springs of the '20s. They were the only big league teams that came to California. The answer is the played a lot of intra-squad games that usually pitted the veterans against the rookies. But local players also got into the act according to Brian Milne, sports editor of the North County Tribune, Paso Robles' newspaper. The Chamber of Commerce put together teams that were only to happy to try their skills against the big leaguers. Semipro teams from around San Luis Obispo County and even high school teams got to try their luck. Pacific Coast minor league teams also provided competition for the Buccaneers.

Some of the better local players were even looked at seriously as prospects. But the talent bar was sometimes set pretty low. Milne writes of Bud Sheely, a student at Paso Robles High School, getting to play against his father, Pirate first baseman Earl Sheely. The older Sheely's only year with Pittsburgh was 1929, when Bud, who eventually made it to the majors himself, was 11 years old.
The Pirates wouldn't get their first Japanese player until they signed veteran pitcher Masumi Kuwata in 2007, and have never had an Asian-American on their roster.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Japanese coffee roasters visit Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes today about a group of Japanese coffee professionals visiting Pittsburgh to learn a little more about the specialty coffee business.
In Japan, it's been a challenge to convince customers that some coffees are worth more than others, with a slowing economy hitting the industry hard.
More on the visit halfway down this Specialty Coffee Chronicle article from last month.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Colloquium "Chinese Social Media as Laboratory: What We Can Learn about China from Research into Sina Weibo", February 22.

If you're near the University of Pittsburgh on Friday, Jason Ng will host an hour-long colloquium "Chinese Social Media as Laboratory: What We Can Learn about China from Research into Sina Weibo". Ng is an Interdisciplinary Master's candidate in Pitt's Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures.

In November he presented "Blocked on Weibo: Content Regulation in Chinese Social Media" during Pitt's "Asia Over Lunch" series. You can learn more about the topic from his "Blocked on Weibo" tumblr.

Pittsburgh City Council proclaims "OCA Year of the Snake Day".

OCA Year of the Snake Day

Pittsburgh City Council proclaimed February 19 "OCA Year of the Snake Day". OCA is the Organization of Chinese Americans.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Japanese film Summer Wars at Pitt, February 25.

Summer Wars

The final installment of this month's Pittsburgh Anime Film Series is 2009's Summer Wars (サマーウォーズ). A plot summary from the film's North American site:
Kenji is your typical teenage misfit. He’s good at math, bad with girls, and spends most of his time hanging out in the all-powerful, online community known as OZ. His second life is the only life he has – until the girl of his dreams, Natsuki, hijacks him for a starring role as a fake fiancée at her family reunion. Things only get stranger from there. A late-night email containing a cryptic mathematic riddle leads to the unleashing of a rogue AI intent on using the virtual word of OZ to destroy the real world, literarily. As Armageddon looms on the horizon, Kenji and his new “family” set aside their differences and band together to save the worlds they inhabit in this “near-perfect blend of social satire and science fiction.”
The movie starts at 7 pm at the Frick Fine Arts Building in Oakland (map). It's free and open to the public.

Sister City Haiyang.

Reading about a Lunar Near Year event in Cranberry that already took place we learned that Cranberry Township has a sister city in China. Haiyang is a coastal city with a population of 716,060 and an under-developed Wikipedia page. Other Asian places with local ties are Wuhan, China and Saitama prefecture, Japan, both of which are Sister Cities to Pittsburgh.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Three Asian films at "13 Hours of Grindhouse", February 23.

Taiwan's Wolf-Devil Woman (狼女白魔) is one offering next Saturday.

I turned to the South Hills Almanac for news of the "13 Hours of Grindhouse" at Dormont's Hollywood Theater on February 23. (And I turned to Wikipedia for an explanation of the grindhouse genre.) Local gem The Hollywood Theater (map), which is showing a Japanese anime film on the 24th, will include in the series, according to the Almanac:
“Savage!” (aka “Back Valor,” 1973, Philippines), “Angels from Hell” (1968, USA), “Wolf-Devil Woman” (1982, Taiwan), “The Killing Machine” (1976, Japan), “Weapons of Death” (1977, Italy), “Massacre Time” (aka “The Brute and the Beast,” 1966, Italy), “Pieces” (1982, Spain), “The Big Bust Out” (1972, Italy/West Germany) and “Ilsa, the Tigress of Siberia” (1977, Canada).
The "festival" of domestic and international exploitation films runs from 11 am to 1 am the following day, and includes, again according to the Almanac,
a select number of vendors on hand in the theater’s lobby and lower level, selling a wide range of movie-related items such as DVDs, books, records, magazines, posters, T-shirts and original works of art.
Each movie is $5, and you can get an all-day pass for $15.

Japanese film Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror, February 24.

Oblivion Island

The Japanese animated film Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror (ホッタラケの島 〜遥と魔法の鏡〜 Hottarake no Shima: Haruka to Mahō no Kagami) will play at Dormont's Hollywood Theater (map) on February 24.

The Hollywood Theater shows the occasional Japanese or anime film, and is about the only theater around town to do so outside of an annual film series. Last year the theater showed the animes Summer Wars and Madoka Magica, and the live-action I Wish and Battle Royale. It is currently in jeopardy of closing and is in the middle of a fundraising campaign to buy a digital projector.

Tibetan film Old Dog at IUP's Foreign Film and Music Series.

2013 IUP Foreign Film Series

I'll post about this again in April, but the Tibetan film Old Dog will run on April 10 as part of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania 2013 Foreign Film and Music Series. From the series' website:
A family on the Himalayan plains discovers their dog is worth a fortune, but selling it comes at a terrible price. Old Dog is both a humorous and tragic allegory and a sober depiction of life among the impoverished rural Tibetan community.
There are two showings, at 5:30 pm and 8:00 pm, in Sprawls Hall. The shows are free and are funded in part by the IUP Student Activity Fee. Before I repost in April I will ask if there is a way for non-students to chip in a little money to the Office of International Education, which is putting on the series. IUP student SiLu Jia will be the evening's musical guest.

I bring up the series now for three reasons. I noticed, four days late, that a Chinese film was included in this year's series on February 10. Additionally, Indiana is within reasonable driving distance to Pittsburgh at roughly 90 minutes away, and may be of interest to people on this side of the state. Finally, the campus puts on good international films. The best film series I've seen in western PA was a Korean festival nearly a decade ago, which had Chunhyang; Spring Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring; Chihwaseon; Wakiki Brothers; and a few others.

Sushi: The Global Catch at Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival.

Sushi The Global Catch

Advance notice for this, but Carnegie Mellon will show the documentary Sushi: The Global Catch as part of its 2013 International Film Festival on April 10. Details to follow, but the festival will run from March 21 through April 14 (the website gives multiple variations on this range) and hopes---according to festival organizers---to include various cultural activities and presentations to promote Japanese culture in general and Japanese community in the area.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Memories at Carnegie Mellon, February 18.

Memories Katsuhiro Otomo

The third installment in the 2013 Pittsburgh Anime Film Series is 1995's Memories, a film comprised of three episodes based on Otomo Katsuhiro's manga. Writes the film series' website:
In “Magnetic Rose,” an abandoned spaceship contains a world created by one woman’s memories; a young lab assistant accidentally transforms himself into a human biological weapon in “Stink Bomb”; and “Cannon Fodder” depicts a city whose entire purpose is firing cannons at an unseen enemy.
The movie begins at 7 pm in the McConomy Auditorium in the University Student Center (you'll find it on Google Maps; it's behind the Forbes Ave opp Morewood Ave. bus stop). Admission is free.

Tehching Hsieh lecture at CMU School of Art, February 19.

Hsieh Gwangju
At the 2010 Gwangju Biennale, from DesignBoom. Hsieh photographed himself once an hour for one year, and has the timecards and prints to prove it.

Carnegie Mellon University School of Art will host Tehching Hsieh on February 19 as part of the Spring 2013 Lecture Series. Hsieh
was born in Taiwan in 1950. He did his first performance “Jump Piece” in 1973 and broke both ankles. Trained as a sailor, he arrived in Philadelphia in 1974, jumped ship, and stayed in the states as an illegal immigrant for fourteen years until granted amnesty in 1988. From 1978 to 1999, Hsieh did five One Year Performances and the Thirteen Year Plan in New York City. The first four One Year Performances made him a regular name in the art scene; the last two, in which he intentionally retreated from the art world, set a tone of sustained invisibility. Since 2000, Hsieh—released from the restriction of not showing work during the Thirteen Year Plan—has lectured and exhibited worldwide, including MoMA, the Guggenheim, the Liverpool Biennial, the Gwangju Biennial, and the Sao Paulo Biennial. He received the United States Artists award in 2008.
Google will be your friend for more on the artist. Pictured above is an exhibit at the 2010 Gwangju Biennale in South Korea from DesignBoom, which has more photographs on and information about on Hsieh's work.

All in This Tea at Winchester Thurston School, February 23.

All in This Tea Pittsburgh

As part of the annual Asia Unreeled series, Winchester Thurston School in Shadyside (map) will show the 2007 documentary All in This Tea on Saturday, February 23, at 2 pm.

Japanese plays, "Seinendan Theater Company – Robot / Android - Human Theater" in Pittsburgh, March 8 and 9.

Sayonara Pittsburgh

Two Japanese one-act plays will be performed at the Andy Warhol Museum (map) on March 8 and 9. The Seinendan Theater Company + Osaka University Robot Theater Project, sponsored by the Japan Foundation and Japan Society, present "I, Worker" and "Sayonara", which star two robots and "an incredibly human-like android who consoles the human actor dealing with a fatal illness", respectively. An introduction from the Japan Society website:
Imagine a time when "robot maids" are commonly found in family households. That's the much-anticipated setting of these two heartrending short plays by Oriza Hirata, founder of Japan's celebrated Seinendan Theater Company. In Sayonara (android and human actors), an android is bought to console a girl suffering from a fatal illness, but when its mechanics go awry, the meaning of life and death to humans and robots comes into question. In I, Worker (robots and human actors), a husband's struggle to cope with the loss of his child is juxtaposed with the malaise of one of his robots, which has lost all motivation to work. This double bill was developed in collaboration with Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, a leading international researcher on robotics and Director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University. Sayonara will be performed in English and Japanese with English subtitles. I, Worker will be performed in Japanese with English subtitles.
The Verge has a review from last week's New York shows.

The performances are at 8:00 pm on both days, and tickets are available at the Warhol Museum website.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Friends don't let friends write bad poetry. The Post-Gazette gives us "Learn to Speak Chinese" at the start of the Lunar New Year.

Learn to Speak Chinese Pittsburgh

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

5 Centimeters Per Second (秒速5センチメートル) at Frick Fine Arts, February 11.

5 Centimeters Per Second Pittsburgh

The second installment in February's Pittsburgh Anime Series is 2007's 5 Centimeters Per Second (Byōsoku Go Senchimētoru, 秒速5センチメートル), which plays at the Frick Fine Arts Building in Oakland (map) on February 11. A plot summary from Anime News Network:
A tale of two people, Tono Takaki and Shinohara Akari, who were close friends but gradually grow farther and farther apart as time moves on. They become separated because of their families yet continue to exchange contact in the form of letters. Yet as time continues to trudge on, their contact with one another begins to cease. Years pass and the rift between them grows ever larger. However, Takaki remembers the times they have shared together, but as life continues to unfold for him, he wonders if he would be given the chance to meet Akari again as the tale embarks on Takaki's realization of the world and people around him.
The works of Makoto Shinkai, of which this is a prominent example, are especially well known for their exceptional animation and attention to detail. His 2002 short film Voices of a Distant Star is among my favorites.

The film starts at 7:00 and admission is free.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Make Your Own Peppero, February 13.

PePero, Lateral View
Peppero, by ThisDeliciousLife.

On February 13th is an event for Pitt undergraduates: Make Your Own Peppero. This is done by the Korean Culture Association and will be held at 7:30 on the 6th floor of the William Pitt Union. And on Valentine's Day:
We will also be tabling in Towers lobby on the following days to sell Peppero! 1 bag for $2.00 and 2 bags for $3.00. Come out and get some goodies for yourself or your hunny :)
Valentine's Day is one of the bigger couples' holidays in South Korea, a day when, for a change, a girlfriend or wife gives something to the special man in her life. On March 14th, White Day, he returns the favor. If you're alone, you have Black Day on April 14th. Actually, each 14th of the month is a consumer holiday: January has Diary Day, May has Rose Day, June has Kiss Day, with Silver Day, Green Day, Photo Day, Wine Day, Movie Day, and Hug Day rounding out the year.

If you prefer to wait for Peppero Day (November 11) to do your cooking, or if you are not a Pitt undergrad, you can find plenty of Peppero recipes online.

MEPPI Japan Lecture Series: Counter-Culture in Japan, February 21.

Dr. Gabbi Lukacs, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh, will be giving a talk on February 21 in Oakland called "Counter-Culture in Japan".. This is one of several events this spring sponsored by Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, Inc., which has an office in Warrendale. An overview from the Japan-American Society of Pennsylvania:
Dr. Gabbi Lukacs, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, will examine new labor subjectivities such as the net idols that become famous by posting their photos and diaries on the web, cell phone novelists whose novels have recently come to dominate literary bestseller lists, and entrepreneurial homemakers who conjure wealth from day trading. The subjects of mass culture theory, digital media theory, work and play, consumer culture, and Japan in the twentieth century are also topics for discussion. There will be a cash bar and light refreshments.
The talk is from 5:30 to 7:00 at the Pittsburgh Athletic Association on Fifth Ave (map).

Dr. Lukacs gave a lecture in October 2012 at Pitt titled "The Labor of Cute: Net Idols, Cute Culture, and the Social Factory in Contemporary Japan", a lecture that had been going around for about a year at that point. In 2010 Dr. Lukacs presented on similar topics, "The Net Idols: Cute Culture, Social Factory, and Neoliberal Governmentality in New Millennial Japan" at Pitt:
In this presentation, I analyze a recent Japanese phenomenon, what is called the net idols—young women who produce their own websites featuring personal photos and diaries. Many net idols earn an income from maintaining these websites, thus I understand them as new labor subjectivities that have evolved in late 1990s Japan in response to the deregulation of labor markets and unprecedented developments in new information technologies. Mastering cute looks and embracing cute behavior are key to the popularity of net idols. While the culture of cute has drawn considerable scholarly attention in recent years, it has been dominantly understood as a form of resistance to work-oriented adult society, a retreat to childhood—a space within which young women find redemption indulging in infantile play and passive behavior. By contrast, I draw on the Italian autonomists’ theory of the social factory to analyze the net idols’ production of cute culture as symptomatic of the ways in which the meanings, forms, and conditions of work have changed as intangible commodities (such as cute) have become the new center of economic gravity in the wake of growing economic volatility. Equally important, by analyzing the net idol phenomenon I also aim to theorize an emerging form of rationality (the foundational logic of neoliberal governmentality) within which individuals accept and even celebrate the end of job security as a marker of a shift from the postwar order of “working to find pleasure” to the neoliberal imperative to “find pleasure in work.”

Monday, February 4, 2013

Lunar New Year celebrations in western Pennsylvania.

This year the Lunar New Year falls on February 10, and there are several celebrations in the area over the next month. A couple have already taken place, but you'll notice there are quite a few others this weekend and next. Many are free and open to the public.

CSSA Spring Festival Celebration - February 9.

CSSA 2013 Spring Festival Celebration

The Chinese Students & Scholars Association will be holding a celebration on Saturday, February 9, from 2:00 pm through the evening at the University of Pittsburgh's William Pitt Union. From the group's website:
Tea House and Chinese Culture Exhibition, 2 pm to 5 pm, WPU Main Floor Lower Lounge There will be games and prizes. Every year, a lot of people participate to appreciate Chinese culture, have fun and enjoy the atmosphere of the festival.

Dinner (free for students with registration), 5:30 pm to 7 pm, WPU Main Floor The website for registration is Hurry up, the deadline for registration is Feb. 3rd 6pm.

Spring Festival Stage Show (Chun Wan), 7:30 pm and after, Alumni Hall 7th Floor Auditorium Audiences can enjoy Kong Fu, singing, dancing, stand-up comedy, and many other wonderful performances.

Lion Dancing in the Strip - February 9.
From 11 am to 2 pm in the Strip District, Gong Lung Kung Fu and Lion and Dragon Dance will be, says the Facebook event page,
starting at Lin's Hair Studio at 1627 Penn, going to Shanghai Restaurant next door, and then heading out to Wing Fat Hong Grocery at 2227 Penn Ave, our lions will travel through the strip stopping at shops to bring New Years blessings. People on the street may also feed the lions for their own blessing as the lions drive out any malevolent spirits and bring good fortunate for the new year.

Chinese American Students' Association at Pitt Annual Chinese New Years Festival - February 16.
The Chinese American Students' Association [CASA] will host its annual Chinese New Years Festival on Saturday, February 16, in the O'Hara Student Center (map) from 5 pm. From CASA's site:
Its that time of year again! This year we will be ringing out the year of the Dragon and welcoming the year of the Snake! Come celebrate with us for a spectacular night! Guest performances will include students of the Yanlai Dance Academy, Steel Dragon of Pittsburgh, as well as students from PITT showing off their talents! Best of all, the annual Fashion Show will be bigger and better than ever!

Chinese New Year Celebration at Children's Museum of Pittsburgh - February 17
Held at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh on the North Side (map) from 12 - 4 pm. From the museum's website:
Celebrate the Year of the Water Snake! Make culturally-themed art with Silk Screen Asian Arts and Culture Organization, enjoy a live performance by the Steel Dragon Lion Dance Team and join a parade through the Museum for the finale! Visit our Studio to learn how to paint the Chinese symbols for luck, joy or auspiciousness at the painting easels. Hand-make paper or silk-screens today in red and gold, colors that symbolize good luck, fortune and happiness in Chinese culture.

Lunar New Year Celebration Hosted by the Vietnamese American Community of Pittsburgh - February 17.

Pittsburgh Vietnamese Lunar New Year Festival

On Sunday, February 17, from 4:00 pm at the Dormont Rec Center (map). Attractions include food and a performance by Steel Dragon Kung Fu & Lion Dance.

OCA Pittsburgh Lunar New Year Banquet - February 23.
By the Organization of Chinese Americans Pittsburgh and held at Syria Shriners Center in Cheswick, PA (map). The priciest and most formal of the season, the cost is $50 for members and $60 for non-members, and includes dinner and performances by local ensembles. Reservations required.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Pace yourself with "Modern Japan", "Introduction to Asian Studies" online.

A few days ago the Japan American Society of Greater Philadelphia posted that a free online course "Intro to Japanese Culture" through the Massechusetts Institute of Technology [MIT] was now available. Navigating the MIT website you'll see a syllabus, a list of readings, and downloadable materials that direct back to the website. I noted on their Facebook page that this particular site was a useful guide but that it lacked any lectures or uploaded materials, so it wasn't exactly a "course" but rather a checklist. This and the numerous other Asia-related courses available from MIT---including Japanese Literature and Cinema, Smashing the Iron Rice Bowl, and Race and Gender in Asian America---are useful for enthusiastic learners wanting to pace themselves with previously-offered university courses, but are incomplete in that readings, lectures, assignments, and films are, because of logistical and copyright concerns, unavailable. It wasn't my goal to bicker with somebody behind an excellent resource for Japanophiles in Philadelphia, just to look more closely at what's actually available.

However, some university professors put their course sylabii and more online, allowing people to follow along at home. Dr. Alan Baumler at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, for an example in western Pennsylvania, teaches "Modern Japan" and has posted not only a syllabus but also the articles his students can choose to read. As he explains on this Frog in the Well blog post last month, students choose among several optional readings in order to customize the course a bit to their own interests.
I could give them a whole graduate seminar of readings, but that would not work, in part because undergraduates mostly need the ‘lecture’ part of lecture-discussion: someone leading them through the major themes of the period rather than assuming they already know them.

The way I have been approaching this is giving them a set of “optional” readings. Each week they need to do whatever common readings we have, and also at least one of the optional readings, usually an article or a book chapter. The idea here is that they can tailor the class to fit their own interests. More interested in economics, or women? Then pick the optional readings that fit your interests.
Dr. Baumler also teaches "Introduction to Asian Studies", for which there is also a syllabus and selected readings online.

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