Tag Archives: writing

Change, Please

Nerdly shut down last month due to some Google Adsense bobbins that is far too dumb and arbitrary to go into here. Short version is…don’t feature pictures from gory horror movies on your horror/genre blog, I guess?

The first review I wrote for them was a review of Warren Ellis’ novel Gun MachineThe last was a piece on the Criterion edition of It Happened One Night. Technically I started writing for the site in 2009 when it was Blogomatic 3000, but I don’t have access to the archives so you’ll just have to use your imagination until I get my hands on those old (maybe terrible?) pieces.

I’m considering starting a side-blog exclusively for my writing on film. This place has been cluttered with stray notions and cobwebs for a while now, and I might even be able to maintain something with a single focus far better than this brain dump.

[Though, of course, now I’ve mentioned that it may be doomed never to happen.]

A panel from Plutona #5, written by Jeff Lemire & illustrated by Emi Lenox

In the meantime, like any good scavenger I went looking for other places to ply my wares and found Flickering Myth, where I’m doing comic and movie reviews for the foreseeable future.

So far I’ve covered new issues of East of West, Cry Havoc, the brutal finale of Plutona and the promising first installment of conspiracy thriller Throwaways. The pay is peanuts and I know that “hey, free comics and movies isn’t a bad deal” is a chump’s line, but deadlines keep me working and – for now – it’s far better than not writing.

In other news, my dad died two months ago today. I wrote something about that on Medium; grief and learning and realising he was probably not the man he presented to me for 25 years.

I turned 26 two weeks ago. I just connected those dots and realised I’m now in a post-dad era. Numerically speaking, anyway. Well, I had him for a quarter century. My guess is that people who get a hundred years tell you it’s still not enough time.

Speaking of time constraints, I and my friends Dave & Alice went on a [THOUGHT BUBBLES] hiatus almost a year ago. Yesterday our first new episode since September 2015 went live, and it’s a doozy. This one’s a departure in many ways that I’ll go into in a later post, but I’m pretty thrilled with how it turned out (but mostly just that we’re making these things again. I’d recommend short bursts of creation to absolutely everyone) so yeah, go and watch it.

Alice, the musical side of the project, creates beautiful, dreamy synth pop under the name Mayshe-Mayshe. You can listen to one of her tracks above. I’m biased but I think Alice is great; she’s putting out two EPs and going on tour in the next couple of months so you’ll have plenty of chances to judge for yourself.

I’m going to update this blog more frequently. I know I say that every time and then you don’t hear from me for three months but I’m trying out this whole “discipline” thing and I think it might stick.

The current state of British politics

Oh, and my country’s about to collapse under the weight of its own apathy and xenophobia, the economy’s in freefall and the British political arena is looking more and more like Thunderdome every day.

Plus I’m quitting my job and leaving my flat within the span of two days in August so I might have some spare time on my hands. Gulp.

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What’s in a Thought Bubble?

I helped launch an art project on Tuesday. Well, I don’t know if you’d call it art, exactly, but it does have a manifesto; that’s got to count for something, right? Anyway, this venture of dubious worth is called [THOUGHT BUBBLES], and it’s all about impulsive creative expression.  You might want to go check out our first post before reading any further. I promise you it won’t take more than two minutes of your time. Go on. I’ll wait. Welcome back! See? That didn’t take so long. As you can see, [THOUGHT BUBBLES] is all about brevity: we’ll be putting out videos of one minute (or shorter) in length once a week for as long as we can keep it up. There are certain other rules that apply – as seen in the aforementioned manifesto – but we can go into those another time, particularly as we’ll start breaking them pretty early on. But who is this “we”, you ask? Am I not the sole architect of the project, filming, composing and creating every atom of beauty that makes up the very being of [THOUGHT BUBBLES]? Of course not; don’t be ridiculous. I make up one third of a creative trio I am perpetually humbled to be a welcome part of. My fellow bubblenauts are none other than musician Alice Rowan and filmmaker Dave Beveridge. They’re both much more than that, obviously, being dear friends of mine, but for the purposes of this introduction that’s your key to understanding the basis of a Bubble’s creation. Here are a couple of brilliant things they made:



I know, right? I’m sure you now want to see and hear a lot more from them. Rest assured – you will. Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

  • Dave films something that speaks to him. He shoots a single shot for however long he feels is necessary, then cuts the resulting video to a minute or under.
  • He then shares the video with Alice and myself. Crucially, this is the first time we’ll have ever been aware of this footage or the context in which it was created so that we can proceed unbiased.
  • Alice composes a piece of frustratingly marvellous music, records live as quickly as possible and adds it to the video.
  • Then your humble narrator takes one look at the piece and declares it finished, stating that any contribution he made would only lessen its stupendous value.

…Just kidding.

  • I look at the video and add one final layer of interpretation – a spoken word recording. It could be overwrought narration, a clutch of whispered dialogue or even field recordings of overheard conversations in retirement home cafeterias.
  • All of this is put together, mixed ever so slightly so that one element does not drown out another (any more than intended, at least) and put into a digital box to await its release.

And really, that’s about it. Oh, except that it almost never occurs in that order. Everyone takes turns beginning new bubbles and contributing at different stages to make for ever more interesting interpretations; there’s no single authorial presence pulling the strings, which is exactly how we like it. I have no idea how a bubble I initiated is going to end up, how it’ll be interpreted, if a joke I wrote will be turned into a tragic note or a heartfelt declaration turned into a punchline. That’s really scratching the surface of what happens with the finished products, but I’m sure you get the picture. And this isn’t a project that benefits from over-explanation, anyhow. Which is mainly why I’ve chosen to write this here and not on our shiny new official site – [THOUGHT BUBBLES] is about short, spontaneous creative expression and, above all, not overthinking things. If you’re a long time (or an anytime) reader of this blog, you’ll know how hilarious it is that I’m a part of something like that and how crucial that these two outlets never collide. [Of course, there’s nothing to say I can’t dot a few links here and there.]

I think that’s all I have to say for the moment. Part of the reason I wrote this was to have something to direct people toward when they ask what the project’s about, at least in the early days before the (fingers crossed) vast library of content speaks for itself. The site’s a little austere at the moment, and I get itchy when I think people might be confused about something I’ve done. Another part is that I like to ramble about myself and my talented friends, but you already knew that. Oh, one other thing – we launched the site and the first video on 21st April 2015, which is exactly a year after Dave, Alice and I conceived the project. A lot of things happened in the interim – some good, others not so good – and the effects of those will likely (in some cases, will most definitely) be shown in future bubbles. It’s personal and epic and tiny and heartbreaking and life-affirming and ultra-camp. Mostly, though, [THOUGHT BUBBLES] is indefinable. Stay tuned to find out what the hell that means.

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Miscalculations In Shipping Costs

Around this time last year, I was part of a comic writers’ group in York. Its members would critique one another’s scripts and submit communally to pitch submissions at independent publishers when the opportunity arose. I hadn’t produced a single page of comics back then, despite several foolhardy attempts at creating a post-apocalyptic epic the depths and ambition of which the world has never seen AND I WILL GET ROUND TO THAT ONE DAY DAMMIT.

But a lot can change in a year (or a decade, or a month or a day or a second or okay things are changing all the time all right). Now I’m living in London after having moved town twice, switched jobs five times and lived in no fewer than seven different homes (I’m working on my eighth). I was about to list my romantic exploits but then I remembered this is kind of supposed to be about my creative and professional development.

I now physically own copies of the first comic I’ve ever had published. It’s called Miscalculations in Time Travel, and it’s a three-page story that I wrote for an anthology book published by GrayHaven Comics. You can look at the cover and add it to an invisible basket here if you like.

Technically the comic was released in December but I only received my first copies in the last week of March, due to reasons I won’t go into to save certain parties from embarrassment or blame. While I would have liked to hold the thing in my hands a lot sooner I’m frankly still surprised I got to make anything at all – and I’d already seen the proofs months ago, so that anticipation was somewhat lessened.

Still, it’s a lovely caress of the ego to see your name printed on a blackboard behind a character you thought up in a glossy, staple-bound sheaf of paper. Lovelier still is the art, drawn by the terrific Donal Delay who you can and should follow on Twitter. I was very lucky to have Donal assigned to my script – I love his cartoonish, exaggerated but still detailed style and it fit the comedic tone I was going for perfectly. You can check out his Flash Gordon-influenced webcomic Daring Adventures to see what I mean.

I’d love to be able to post Miscalculations on here some time – I think I co-own it now, so there probably wouldn’t be a problem – but I should really check with Donal and GrayHaven first. It’d be great to show it to as many people as possible, though, so I’ll get right on that. Or you could just buy the comic, but I’m not going to force you (particularly as you’d have to pay shipping from the U.S. and I don’t want anyone to have to pay close to a tenner just to read a funny little story of mine).

That said, I’m considering buying a few more copies to give to friends and family so if you’d like to get your grubby mitts on my thing before it hits the internet like a (slow-moving, abandoned) freight train, hit me up and we can share the burden of trans-continental shipping.

Man. I’d really like to do more comics now. I’m supposed to have another story coming out through the same publisher some time this year, but I haven’t been given a date (or even an artist) yet so don’t hold your breath. It’s a page longer and a much more personal story, so I’ll do that for you.

Well, that’s my self-congratulation over. I need to sleep so I can wake up and feel bad that I wrote this instead of the review I was supposed to finish tonight. See you around. And thanks.


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Cohle’s hand gripped Hart’s gun as tightly as misanthropy had a hold on him

Hey guys, sorry about my lack of blogs lately. I’ve just been working really hard on my True Detective slash fiction, but the fifth volume is almost done so I’ll be able to start putting out content here soon enough.

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Dawn of the Reds – An I Am Tim Commentary

I’d really love to write a longer post about this (and probably will), including interviews with the various people involved in this episode since its conception years ago, but right now it’s somewhat more prudent to just get the thing in front of your eyes. Not a part of the original Season 2 line-up (which is a whole other story altogether; in fact, the fidgety, dysfunctional nature of I Am Tim as its own entity would make a great post all on its own), this “very special” episode of Tim likely exists in a slightly different universe to that of the series for the cast and crew most familiar with it due to the many attempts to figure out the right approach and its fluid, increasingly mythical status as…well, not so much “unfilmable” as “filmable when we get around to it”.

Hell, you should just watch the damn thing before I waffle on too much. Part Battle Royale, part Running Man and all nonsense, here’s Dawn of the Reds:

And there you have it. Since my fingers are flying and I haven’t posted much of anything in almost a week, I might as well carry on while there’s still gas in the tank.

This is an odd episode to think about having a hand in, especially since it existed in some form or another (like the bulk of Tim which I’m anachronistically credited in) about two years before I had even met creator Jamie McKeller. This is an educated guess so take it with a pinch of salt (and am happy to be corrected by anyone with the pertinent info) but I believe the first draft/outline of DotR came about in 2010, around the time when Season 1 was being made on no budget by a crew of two who (by Jamie’s own confession) had no idea what they were doing. I met Jamie in late 2011 on the set of the yet-to-be-released microbudget feature Nothing Man,
in which he was appearing and showing bits of Season 2 to the cast and crew during lunch breaks.

The rest is nostalgia fodder for some other time, but by spring 2013 I was writing Season 3 with Jamie & James, and Dawn was still a seldom-whispered notion to me and a twinkle in Jamie’s eye. I couldn’t tell you exactly how many drafts there had been before I was asked to have a crack at the script, but it’s not modesty that leads me to say that what I received was pretty damn close to the finished product, and most definitely an object of McKeller’s invention. Mostly I just added some jokes, trimmed some dialogue and tried to sprinkle some added character depth here and there, so I wouldn’t have been surprised or hurt if I ultimately got an “additional material” credit or even just a “special thanks”, but Jamie’s a generous guy.

I’ve occasionally beaten myself up for not trying to overhaul the script in order to make it as good as it could have possibly been, but to do that would have been to alter its essence and turn it into something not inherently I Am Tim (especially with the ideas I had and still have for new episodes…), and that would have been a mistake.

It seems odd to talk about the “essence” of a Youtube video in which young people in uniform try to dig bombs out of each others’ scalps and the most heartfelt line reading comes from a mass-murderer who really wants a Twix, but when you spend a while with this stuff you kind of get attached to it. Which is in itself weird because I almost feel like as much of an audience member as anyone else, despite having a not in/significant (delete as appropriate) hand in its creation, and yet I can’t watch the episode with any kind of objective eye.

I suspect that’s a similar feeling for a few people who’ve been involved with Tim generally and DotR specifically over the years, who wonder how much their contribution mattered in the long run, if at all. I’m kind of an optimist in that regard, insofar as that a Dawn of the Reds made four years ago would probably have been a far inferior product, for countless reasons.

It occurs to me that I’ve been talking about appropriate credit this whole time despite there not actually being a credits list for this episode yet, at least not on the credits page of the I Am Tim site where they live (there are never credits on an episode of Tim, in keeping with its mockumentary nature), as it’s been due for an update since episode 2.10.

[Not that I’m suggesting anyone needs to buck their ideas up and GIVE ME A DAMN WRITING CREDIT ALREADY.]

So I could be way off. Maybe everyone who’s ever suggested a fun death scene or supportively asked, “So how’s that Dawn of the Reds thingy going?” might end up getting a healthy mention. Not that the inclusion of something like that would change or legitimise their involvement in any way. I mean, does anyone beside me actually read the credits of web series anyway?

I thought not. Anyway, all this has made me think of a quote attributed to Harry S. Truman: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” I’ve applied it to projects I’ve been on and think it’s a pretty pragmatic mantra for anyone wanting to get into the screenwriting business, but it’s especially pertinent when talking about no-budget productions and web series, in which the chief satisfaction comes from actually having made something, rather than having someone know you made something.

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Reasons to be Blearful

It’s been a little quiet here the past couple of days largely because

a) other things required my attention, and

b) I’ve been trying to solve the medical conundrums that are my inconsistent deafness and impending death.

Okay, that might sound a little dramatic, but you try coughing your lungs up every other day for three months and see how optimistic you are about your chances. It’s not really that bad, but I have been feeling more and more run down as the days go on, which makes it harder to keep up with the things that require effort (like this blog) , and there doesn’t seem to be a concrete reason why. I’ve had my ears syringed twice this week – a procedure not unlike brush-scrubbing your forearms for so long and so hard that you start scraping the skin off, except with your eardrum – and came out of the session with the reasonably certain knowledge that a bunch of wax  wasn’t the problem in the first place.

Yeah, I know nobody likes a blog where someone just complains about their shit – especially when I don’t even have things especially bad – but I figure a (possibly) entertaining explanation of my recent silence is better than said silence.

But I could be wrong.

If you want an example of someone who’s way worse off than me, and a beautiful response to their problems, then you should check out this post from comics writer Matt Fraction’s blog in which he replies to a question from a fan contemplating suicide, incorporating his own experiences with it and depression in general. It’s pretty moving, inspiring and will likely make you cry if you value human life, and the section on “reasons to live” was especially potent.

So, um, yeah. Sorry about the emo post. I’ll try and make the next one bright and sparkly, and possibly incorporate unicorns and rainbows of some variety.

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Flaws Are Sexy

A few friends on the media social were linking to this piece on “strong” female characters and it’s well worth checking out. It discusses the notion that what’s more interesting and three-dimensional are female characters with flaws and personalities and, you know, those things that humans have.

The author links to this other piece from the New Statesman that inspired her. It’s somewhat more substantial, especially for its notion of the “Strong Male Character” and the potentially few examples of such a narrow-minded concept, like so:

Batman’s insistence that he can, must, will get into the Strong Male Character box comes close to hysteria, but there’s no room in there for his bat ears and cape and he won’t take them off.

As you can tell it’s also pretty funny so I’d heartily recommend that too.

As a guy who writes women (as well as men of my own gender) and worries that he’s making them too flawed, that people won’t get that I’m making a statement with a character or just trying to give them enough depth to be interesting and seem real, it’s somewhat comforting to read pieces like this and know that I really am just overthinking things.

Wait. It’s comforting to know that I’m just neurotic?

Um. Yeah, I guess.

I kind of wish I’d been able to read something like this a couple of years ago when I started working on Scars, that horror/drama/comedy screenplay I occasionally blather about that has a female protagonist and a reasonably diverse supporting cast of characters. I won’t spoil the story for you but it concerns a young woman named Laura who comes back to her hometown after an extended absence and starts to fall into old patterns that aren’t necessarily too healthy for her. Naturally, this meant she had a few problems, and I was terrified that I’d be crucified for making her seem like a “bitch” or a “slut” or any number of other derogatory, reductive stereotypes.

This was, of course, pretty dumb.

I’d bash my head against the wall trying to make sure Laura didn’t come across as the kind of character who would offend anyone when really I should have been more concerned with ensuring her motivation made sense and that I cared about her enough to get other people to care about her too. That kind of second-guessing can drive you mad, so I’m glad I gave it up before long.

Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t think critically about your work as a writer or an artist of some description. That’d be pretty dumb. But you can’t let the guiding principle to any work be “who might be offended by this portrayal of so-and-so?” – that’s the death knell of creativity. Instead, I’d suggest the advice that’s been given a million times before: just get it written. Beat that first draft out without giving it too much thought and then look back on it to see if the result matches up with your intentions. If there are a few glaring contradictions and howling errors in what you’ve done then congratulations – it’s definitely a first draft and deserves rewriting to within an inch of its life. And hey, if you’re so mired in the intricacies of the story that you can’t see your characters for the plot, just get your nemesis to read it. They won’t be shy about telling you if your characters suck, believe me.

Okay, I think that’s all I have to say about that. I’m starting to do that overthinking thing again.


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Here’s an excerpt from the first of my recently reborn In Defence of the Reboot columns at Nerdly, in which I wax lyrical about the art of the spin-off:

Let’s keep it in the television family for now. Sitcoms were probably the first to truly capitalise on the spin-off dollar – and I mean capitalise in the most literal term. Happy Days spawned no fewer than five(!) other shows – Joanie Loves ChachiLaverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy among them – and was itself kind of a spin-off from LoveAmerican StyleCheers spawned the incredibly successful and well- loved Frasier, which actually ran an equal number of seasons to its predecessor, and made everyone involved rather a lot of money. I’m not saying that’s an indicator of quality by any means, but we all love Frasier, right?

I could go on, but the list really is staggering.

You can read the rest here if you like.

I intend on making the column a weekly affair, assuming there’s proof that anyone actually reads the damn thing, and intend to keep it up a good while longer than the last time I attempted it (I think I got as far as #6 – let’s just call it a miniseries). It might take a few attempts to get an authorial groove going, however, as I’m still trying to figure out the best approach for making one-sided discussions of pop culture ephemera in any way entertaining, so you’ll forgive me if I waffle on a bit.

Mind you, if you’re reading this then you’re probably used to that sort of thing by now.

But then why should I have a column at all when I’ve got this? Surely there’s even more free reign on my own personal blog than an entertainment news site? Well, less than you’d think – at least on Nerdly, which is why I enjoy writing for it so much – and it’s the self-imposed limitations to working on something for another site that are most appealing, as they force me to get to the point, i.e. actually have a point, and practice the kind of writing that can be easily digested by a wider audience than I usually get.

I mean, writing on here is always practice…in the same sense that taking a casual bike ride with no destination counts as training for the Tour de France. There’s just not the same sense of discipline as when you’re meant to be being judged by everyone else. But yeah, hopefully it won’t suck and you’ll enjoy reading (and commenting on – hint hint -) it.

On a related note, this post marks the first five days in a row I’ve written a post since March, which is both surprising and a little depressing. I’m not asking for a parade or anything – though it wouldn’t be totally uncalled for – and don’t anybody actually get used to this malarkey lest you jinx it, but it seems pretty safe to say that I’ve gotten over my recent slump for the time being.

Um, yeah. Hooray?

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Face Down In The Sand

I know there all these cool Scandinavian shows around and detective serials are the lifeblood of television, but this epidemic of having the murder victim be a 15-25 year-old girl has really got to stop, if for no other reason than that it’s gotten fucking boring.

While surfing the AV Club I came across a teaser for The Bridge, a new show with a fairly interesting conceit about solving crimes committed on or around the US/Mexican border (well, that’s what I think it’s about. I only watched it once, but potential plot accuracy isn’t really the point here. I stopped being interested as soon as I saw the still image that served as the banner for the ad: a young woman’s topless body, face down in the ground. Words cannot properly do justice to the body-quaking yawn that emanated from my entire being, and I decided that the show probably wasn’t for me.

Which is a shame, because it might well be a fine piece of television, but if you’ve seen Twin Peaks (and I’d hope that was most of us by now, but I’ll not judge if that ain’t the case) you’ll have witnessed a pretty thorough examination of how far a story about dead girls can be pushed. The last word, if you will, the exception that proves the rule and probably the reason that there’s no faster way to turn me off a new series (or movie, or novel, or comic, ad nauseum) than by showing painted nails covered in seaweed and long hair face down on a beach. I just don’t believe that I’m going to see anything new.

I’m not saying revolutionise the whole format. Every show can’t have Lynchian non-sequiturs (frankly, if every one did television would be interminable), but mixing up the formula even a little can be incredibly potent. Just look at Awake – Jason Isaacs solves crimes in two alternate realities; one where his wife survived a car accident and his son died and another where the reverse is true – or Jane Campion’s recent astounding mini-series Top of the Lake, which utilises detective show tropes but uses them to focus on character relationships and a plot more about making sure people don’t die than finding out who killed them.

[Seriously, even if you don’t like crime fiction, watch Top of the Lake. It’s got pathos, sex, disturbing revelations and killer performances from Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss and the ever-compelling Peter Mullan.]

One of the things that connected with me about that last show was its feminist agenda, but I’m not even asking for something as ideological as that. Solving someone’s murder in a story means reliving their life and discovering who they were, and I want to see stories about everyone, not just university-age white girls. Middle-aged men, elderly women, little children, even teenage boys would brings something new to the plate. This isn’t a conversation about women dying in art. That’s been going on a long time, and I’ve nothing to add to it just now. Over-egging even the most important topics can make them marginal given the apathy of most people, so I’ve no eggs today. This is about surprising people.

There’s something really quite morbid about the fact that police procedurals and casually amusing murder serials (Midsomer MurdersMurder She Wrote) are so popular, I find. But if people insist on telling those stories, why not tell them about someone else for a change?

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Breaking Radio Silence

I’ve been reworking the battleplan for my third draft of Scars lately- really breaking its back in the past couple of days and having minor epiphanies every other minute – and attempting to stay in a consistently productive zone is a difficult task for me under most circumstances so if I start writing a blog, chances are my brain’ll switch gears in the middle of it and I won’t know what I’m doing once I get back in screenplay mode.

Not that I ever did in the first place, mind.

I’m going to start the actual rewriting process in the next couple of days – my prep involves a complicated process of general and specific notes that have to be transferred and diluted into several different formats and media like some complex, award-winning cappuccino before they’re of any use to me when Courier’s onscreen – so I’ll get posting more then.

You’d think if I don’t post when I’m only planning on writing that it’d be impossible when I am, but my preparation occurs in so many different places and largely off-computer that I’m rarely looking at a screen for more than ten minutes at a time. With working on the actual script I’m at my desk for the long haul, and it’s easier to stay in that committed headspace of writing something longer than a tweet.

It’s nice to be back in work mode. I’ve been somewhat listless lately, and part of that was probably to do with reluctance to dive back into Scars, but now I’m here and the water’s just above tepid I wonder what I was so worried about in the first place.

Oh? Fucking it up? Yeah, that’s right. Thanks a lot.

Anyway, I’ll put up some more stuff as the week goes on. There are interesting things happening right now, both on the micro and the macro scale, so I figure I might have something to say for once. I also saw World War Z the other day and thought I might like to start putting non-Nerdly reviews up on here again, if for no other reason than to flex my critical muscles (and maybe snag a few extra views from the Brad Pitt tags).

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