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Meet Harper Goff, the legendary set designer behind Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory

“This is where all my dreams become realities, and some of my realities become dreams.” American artist and banjo player Harper Goff (1911-1993) was a man of many talents with an extraordinary imagination. He set the standard for camouflage colors during WWII, laid the foundation for the Steampunk revolution, conceptualized Disneyland alongside Walt Disney, and created the unforgettable set for Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. However, due to issues with his union card Harper remains uncredited for nearly his entire life’s work.

Living in New York City, Harper Goff worked as a magazine illustrator for Collier’s, Esquire, and National Geographic. Harper’s techniques as well his imagination were groundbreaking even early on. In his paintings, he often refused to use modeling talent but instead incorporated real life village citizens into the details of his colorful works. Friends, family, and neighbors traveled to exotic beachfront estates and vacation spots around the world courtesy of Harper Goff, half of them never even realizing it. During his service in WWII while Harper was working on a do-it-yourself painters kit he was approached by the U.S. Army to develop a set of paint colors that would become the new standard for camouflage. Near the end of the war, he was transferred to the U.S. Navy where his razzle dazzle technique helped confuse the silhouettes of ships taking the idea of camouflage to a whole new level.

When Harper moved to California to work for Warner Brothers Studios he became a set designer on films such as Casablanca, Sergeant York, Charge of the Light Brigade, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the Errol Flynn classic Captain Blood. It was while working as an Art Director on Kirk Douglas’ The Vikings that director William Wyler saw in Goff a “character type” and began casting him as an actor. “I showed up wearing a beard, they figured I’d make a good Nordic,” said Harper, who would end up heaving a battle axe at his blonde viking wife in the film. Harper made dozens of appearances in film and television as an actor much to the amusement of his real life blonde wife Flossie. In 1951, while shopping in a London model railroad shoppe Harper had a chance encounter with Walt Disney when they both expressed a mutual interest in purchasing the same model train.

“He turned to me and said, ‘I’m Walt Disney. Are you the man that wanted to buy this engine?’ Well, I almost fell over. He asked me what I do for a living, and I told him that I was an artist. Walt said, ‘I’ve heard of you, but I can’t recall where.’” It turned out Walt Disney had seen some of Harper’s illustrations in Esquire magazine and had always admired them. Disney said, “Give me a call me when you get back to the States.” Ultimately Walt bought the locomotive and hired Harper to illustrate the earliest concept artwork and renderings for his proposed “Mickey Mouse Park” (originally intended to be constructed in Burbank). “I liked the idea of working with Walt Disney, and when I called him he began to explain his idea for a kiddie-land near the Studio — perhaps with a steam train connected to Traveland across the L.A. River. He wanted to build something adults could enjoy along with their children.”

Walt sent Harper on a three-month “information gathering” journey to amusement parks all across the United States. “They were dirty places and it was hard to imagine what Walt had in mind creating. I said to him when I got back, ‘Walt, I don’t think this type of environment is what you want,’ and he replied, ‘Mine will be immaculate and the staff will be young and polite,’ then I realized he could do it.” Orange County was eventually chosen as the site for Disneyland and Harper, who was dubbed the “Second Imagineer” envisioned the look and feel of the theme park. Harper used his hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado as the main influence for Disneyland’s City Hall, and his Art Director experience on the film Calamity Jane to design the Golden Horseshoe Saloon.

Harper Goff’s influence on the Adventureland portion of the theme park cannot be overstated, particularly on the ride the Jungle Cruise. In Harper’s own words: “We began to think of hippos and other animals which could be operated without wires and still have animated elements. We brought in Bob Matte, who later created the shark for Jaws to engineer the original animals. I also worked with Bill and Jack Evans on buying expeditions for the landscaping. We would call cities to see if they were tearing out trees for improvements and go and buy them — we got many that way.” While making trips back and forth between Burbank and the Evans and Reeves Nursery in West L.A. they’d pass a house in Beverly Hills that had spectacular tree in the front yard. Harper and Jack believed it’d be the perfect finishing touch to the Jungle Cruise ride. “Finally, I thought what have we got to lose, and I had Jack Evans stop while I went in to ask the people if they would consider selling it. I told the owner we would replace it with a flowerbed or anything they wanted and surprisingly enough the owner told me yes — it was blocking the sunlight and view coming through his windows and we could just come and take it away… it was the tree that went around the original Burmese Temple, and we got it for nothing.”
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
Iron Butterfly and Grand Funk Railroad shot a double feature in a pirate-themed amusement park

Many treasures from Something Weird Video recently turned up on Night Flight Plus ($2.99 cheap!). Among them is Musical Mutiny, a 1970 feature directed by former RAF pilot and Nazi prison camp escapee Barry Mahon, who got into the movie business by taking a job as Errol Flynn’s personal pilot after the war. Mahon’s 1969 film Fanny Hill Meets Dr. Erotico can claim the single greatest plot summary on IMDb:

Dr. Erotico, a reputable urologist, becomes a hard core sex maniac.

Musical Mutiny was filmed for like zero dollars at Pirates World in Dania, Florida, Mahon’s headquarters during the late 60s. An enterprising fellow, he shot the bands he booked to play at the theme park and then created movies around the footage. Iron Butterfly’s performances in Musical Mutiny were padded with an original plot involving a pirate who comes out of the ocean so that the youth may rock (or something). Mahon released it as a double feature with Weekend Rebellion, a movie he created by splicing his footage of Grand Funk Railroad and others playing at Pirates World into a print of Mondo Daytona.

If it sounds like these pictures are astonishingly cheap, it looks that way too. By comparison, the comic segments in Good to See You, Alice Cooper are Lawrence of Arabia. The Something Weird catalog quotes the director to the effect that he didn’t get where he was by paying top dollar:

“l took over the studio at Pirates World, a bit north of Miami, and made Jack and the Beanstalk and Thumbelina and a bunch of pictures like that” remembered Mahon in 1994. “Pirates World’s biggest claim to fame was the rock concerts we held there. I hired Michael Jackson and The Jackson Five for $10,000! And Grand Funk Railroad and Iron Butterfly. Got all those for around ten thousand bucks. And we made a lot of money doing that.”

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘American Honey’: Cruising the highways of a broken America

I think many us have been there: broke and looking for any kind of gig that will get us enough money to make it from one day to another. I did phone sales of subscriptions to a right wing Orange County newspaper. I was 16 and living on the streets of L.A. and needed money… badly. I worked with a dozen or so runaway kids sitting in a miserable loft dialing numbers all day and spewing made up stories of how the subscription revenue was going to help our high school build a new gym (I was a high school dropout) or help Vietnam vets get back on their feet (if they still had any). I lied all day, every day. And for all my bullshitting, I rarely walked with any money. The lying was easy. I read from a script. When I got really bored, I’d improvise.  Back then people were polite on the phone. A lot of them bought into my rap. I couldn’t stand myself. I didn’t last a week. Selling beat drugs on Sunset to weekend hippies seemed like a slightly better karmic option.

Andrea Arnold’s powerful, poetic and liberating new movie American Honey deals with “mag crews,” young people going door to door in mostly affluent neighborhoods selling magazine subscriptions, using lies and artful scams to make a few bucks. For every subscription sold, the magazine clearing houses and publishers get a percentage and the rest is split between crew leaders and the kids doing the selling. Whatever hook it takes to sell a subscription—school projects, charities, scholarships, etc.—is used to separate a customer from their money. Selling magazine subscriptions in the digital age is hardly a ticket to the big time. But desperate times require desperate measures… even when they’re stupid.

Director Arnold (Fish Tank, Red Road) first discovered the mag crew world when she read Ian Urbina’s article on the subject in the New York Times. She decided to make a movie based on the article. She flew from England to America, rented a car, and drove alone along 1000s of miles of America’s highways. She saw all of the things that make America beautiful, wretched, intimidating and heartbreaking. She encountered hopelessness in a lot of small towns that have gone to hell because of poverty and drugs—the kind of drugs that become intertwined with a sense of there being no future.

American Honey follows a mag crew as they make the kind of trip that Arnold made. A small family of lost souls traveling across America getting stoned, singing along to rap, rock and country songs, living in the moment while the quiet dread of the unknown permeates the air like invisible thunderclouds. At times exhilarating, often tense and foreboding, American Honey subverts most of the viewer’s expectations at every turn. The film seems bleak on the surface but rays of light are constantly breaking through the darkness. Underneath the hardened exterior of these kids are layers of softness, sweetness and pain. Cuddling and sleeping together in sleazy motel rooms they appear as they are: children.

Blue Diamond Sales is typical of the kind of companies that use mag crews to generate revenue. Their website paints a rosy picture of the road to success:

Blue diamond subscriptions sells door to door subscriptions to magazines and books. Blue diamond travels the entire country helping young adults who wish to earn experience in the sales industry.

But their YouTube channel gets closer to reality:

The mag crews are tight knit bands with an almost cult-like devotion to their crew leaders—very much like a hooker’s relationship to their pimp. They travel in small groups in battered vans, crisscrossing America desperate to grab hold of the lowest rung of the American dream. From hustling truckers at truck stops to millionaire good ol’ boy ranchers and lonely, extremely horny guys working the oil fields of Oklahoma, the girls in American Honey go to where the money and easy marks are. These scenes are filled with tension, effectively tapping into the audience’s horror flick presumptions. But this is not a slasher film. The knives are psychological and go deeper beyond bone and flesh into the seat of the soul. A scene where a little girl in an Iron Maiden t-shirt sings The Dead Kennedys’ “I Kill Children” while her crackhead mother lies comatose in the background makes the torture porn of “Human Centipede” seem like “Happy Days” with hemorrhoidal itch. Reality has now entered a zone that even horror movies struggle to find resonant metaphors.

The mag crews aren’t much different than many of the kids who ended up in The Haight in 1968, the year after the Summer Of Love. They weren’t looking for an Aquarian age, they were looking to get out of bad situations back home. Many had suffered abuses of every nature. They came to the Haight to hook up with kindred spirits and forge communities. They weren’t hippies but they were open to anything that might give them a sense of better days. A sense of love. Ten years later on New York’s Lower East Side there was a similar influx of suburban kids looking to get away from the soul-deadening schools, shopping malls, and apathy that gutted whatever feelings of freedom they felt entitled to. The crews are a slightly better dressed version of the crusty punks I see camping in the woods behind my store in Austin.

Unlike the hippies or punks, the mag crews haven’t turned their backs on capitalism or the American Dream. The kids in American Honey see Wal-Mart as an oasis in the tattered streets of Crack Town. They want money. And they want it now. Bling is their thing and the rap songs on the movies soundtrack set the tone. These kids are white but their frame of reference is Black. Together they create a sense of mattering. They matter to each other.

Comparisons will be made to the films of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine, but American Honey is more lyrical and less cynical than Kids or Spring Breakers. Clark’s Ken Park has moments of the kind of tenderness and bittersweetness of Arnold’s film. Both movies celebrate humanity over complete despair. And in each film, sex is threatening as well as liberating. Arnold’s point of view is that of a woman who knows from day to day experience that men are unpredictable animals and American Honey is suffused with an atmosphere of sexual peril without being gratuitous or exploitative.

American Honey is three hours long and it rambles and careens like the crews bouncing from state to state in their Econoline van. The length of the film never seems overlong. Its length actually gives the viewer the sense of being along for the ride. There are no big dramatic moments – except for the ones in the audience’s heads. The movie constantly subverts expectations.  The drama comes in the small observations and the occasional emotional explosions. All of it moving along to a soundtrack composed of 24 wildly eclectic songs ranging from Kevin Gates to The Raveonettes, Springsteen, Steve Earle, E-40 and Mazzy Star. It all works sublimely and for every moment of suffocating emptiness there’s an epiphany fueled by music, a bottle of cheap whiskey and lots of pot.

American Honey won awards at this year’s Cannes Film Festival including best actress for Sasha Lane. This is her film debut. Shia LaBeouf is perfectly cast as a cocky hustler. Sporting a Confederate flag bikini, Riley Keough (Elvis Presley’s granddaughter) is the cold-hearted crew leader and she’s amazing. The entire cast of non-professional actors ARE the real thing. Robbie Ryan’s cinematography is glorious, capturing the American landscape in a fugue-like state between night, day and what lays in between.

American Honey is opening this Friday in a few major cities and then nationwide on October 7. It’s an important movie. One that gets almost everything right about what’s bad and what’s good about America in the era of Trump. Being bombarded by dark prophecies from a sociopath running for President plays into the deeply pessimistic view young people already have of their future. American Honey hints at a way out: love  

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu gets the anime treatment
01:07 pm


H.P. Lovecraft

The year 2018 will see the release of an omnibus anime feature film based on Force of Will, a fantasy trading card game first launched in 2012 in Japan—the project sounds vaguely similar to 2003’s The Animatrix based on the Matrix universe. Excitingly, one of the six movies is called “Cthulhu” and is based on H.P. Lovecraft‘s famous monster. Other narratives in the movie are called “Pinocchio,” “Monkey King,” and “Zombie.”

In his 1926 story “The Call of Cthulhu,” Lovecraft described his most famous creation, Cthulhu, as “a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind.”

See the trailer after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Blindman’: Ringo Starr’s white slavery spaghetti western
10:30 am


Ringo Starr

I’ve spent some serious quality time steeped in Beatle lore, so it’s not often that something of which I’ve never heard crosses my radar, and yet, here’s Blindman. It’s a 1971 Ferdinando Baldi spaghetti western that featured Starr second-billed after the redundantly-named genre mainstay Tony Anthony, and it’s really quite good.

Anthony is the titular Blindman, a man-with-no-name figure (everyone just calls him “blind man”) who’s tasked with escorting 50 mail-order brides to a group of miners in Texas. He’s double-crossed when an associate sells the women to a Mexican criminal named Domingo (Lloyd Battista). Starr plays Domingo’s semi-sympathetic brother Candy (absolutely nothing to do with the 1968 film Candy in which Starr also had a role—as a Mexican gardener), who shows very little interest in the family’s slave/brothel business, and who’s undone by his forlorn love for a rancher’s daughter.

Despite his eponymous handicap, the Zatoichi-like Blindman fights and shoots with eyerollingly improbable Book of Eli-ish canniness, but when the plot demands a clumsy blind guy who knocks things off of tables and breaks stuff, he obliges. His penchant for dynamite abuse is amusing, as is his (I’m not even fucking kidding) seeing-eye horse. But though his part is smaller, Starr is quite fine here. This isn’t just celebrity stunt casting, he actually gives the rather limited role of “lovesick bandito” some heft. There’s been much said lately—and justifiably—about the casting of white actors in non-white roles, but since the film is 45 years old, I’ll leave that be, as he plays the part so well. (And now I’ll be earwormed with Ringo’s version of “Act Naturally” for a few hours.)

Besides, casting isn’t even Blindman’s most notable values dissonance between its time and the present. The movie—as is to be expected from a western about mail-order brides and sex traffickers—is rapey as all hell, and all of its Mexican characters are villainous or cartoonishly lecherous. Even Candy, who we’re supposed to kind of like, is forcing himself on the rancher’s daughter Pilar, who’s mighty upfront about her disinclination to having him around, which is the only personality trait with which that character was written, making her the second most rounded female character in the film after Domingo and Candy’s one-dimensionally corrupt sister. Try drinking a shot every time Blindman says “I want my fifty women” and YOU’LL end up blind. But this being a western, just desserts are meted out quite unequivocally to the abusers. Mostly.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
That time Werner Herzog lost a bet and had to eat his shoe

You’re only as good as your word. That’s what I was always told when I was young. Never say something unless you mean it. That was another. Both taught me that words had meaning, purpose, importance—their own intrinsic value—a kind of verbal contract.

(I believe you lovely Americans phrase it “Don’t let your mouth write a check your ass can’t cash.”)

German film director Werner Herzog is a man of his word. You can trust him. You know if he says he is going to do something—well, hell, he’s going to do it. Or at least try his damnedest. And here’s the proof…

Sometime in the late 1970s, Werner Herzog made a bet with a young filmmaker named Errol Morris. Herzog said he would he eat his shoes if Morris ever got round to making a film. Herzog had listened to this young wannabe filmmaker go on and on and on about the kind of films he was going to make—one day. Of course he did, but no one knew that then. Anyway, somehow all Morris’s talk about his great big movie plans never seemed to come to fruition. It was this seeming lack of purpose that irked Herzog and led to his now legendary bet.

Herzog met Morris at Pacific Film Archive (PFA) on the University of California, Berkeley campus. Morris was studying philosophy but ditched it in order to spend time hanging out with all the other filmmakers congregating round the PFA. It was here Morris first met and became friends with Herzog.

Morris was movie buff—he particularly liked film noir. He also had a great interest in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and the true exploits of killer Ed Gein upon which the film was based. Herzog shared this macabre interest.

In 1975, Morris and Herzog hatched a plan inspired by their joint fascination with Gein. The pair agreed to travel to Gein’s home in Plainfield, Wisconsin, where they would disinter the killer’s mother to find out if it was at all possible for Gein to have dug her up. Of course, being a man of his word, Herzog traveled to the location and waited patiently for Morris to arrive. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Morris was a no-show. This led Herzog to abandon their joint venture.
Herzog on his way to eat his shoes.
In 1976, Herzog returned to Plainfield during filming of his movie Stroszek. Here he found Morris living in a small apartment next to Gein’s house. Morris had spent almost a year interviewing residents about the cannibal killer.

Herzog offered Morris work on his latest feature. He also gave Morris an envelope crammed with $2,000 in cash to go and finally start making a film. Morris rejected the money, tossing the envelope out of a window into a parking lot. Herzog went out to the lot, retrieved the money, and told Morris never to do that again. This time Morris took the money.

He used it to research a new film idea about a particularly “gruesome form of insurance fraud” where individuals have a limb amputated in an accident to claim megabucks insurance money. Morris visited “Nub City”—the place where all these fraudsters lived. But he gave up on the idea after receiving death threats. Instead, he decided to make another documentary, this time about a pet cemetery in Napa Valley. This was Gates of Heaven.

When Herzog heard Morris had given up on his amputation film and was now talking about some new idea about dead animals, he wagered Morris that he would eat his shoes if Gates of Heaven was ever made. Whether this was meant as a joke, or a bit of encouragement, or was in fact a genuine bet is a moot point: Herzog (as we know) is a man of his word. He made the bet. Morris had made his first film.

Now Herzog would eat his shoes.

Watch Werner Herzog eat his shoe, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Inexpensive ‘Planet of the Apes’ masks and costumes for Halloween
09:57 am


Planet of the Apes

Dr. Zaius
Since at least the early 90s I’ve always told myself that one day I’d be Dr. Zaius for Halloween. Sadly, each Halloween would come and go and I was never Dr. Zaius. I guess it’s because I never really knew how to go about getting his look down exactly. I wanted it to be perfect. It would be pointless otherwise and everyone would just mistake it for Donald Trump. It seemed like a lot of prosthetics would be involved and that I’d have to hire a professional makeup artist to get it just right. So in other words, something really expensive I couldn’t convince myself to do.

Halloween is soon upon us, and I, now an adult women, still want to be Dr. Zaius. It’s weird, I know, but I just gotta do this at some point in my life. So I got curious and started searching on the Internet if my childish 90s dream was still possible in 2016. And it is. That’s where the website Ape Mania comes in. They sell perfectly expensive latex Planet of the Apes masks but they also have a section called “Economy Masks.” Holy shit I finally struck Planet of the Apes gold, right?! 

Each mask is handmade of durable, high quality latex and a blend of human and synthetic hair. The prices for the masks vary, but they average for about $145 each. That’s not too shabby considering it would probably end up costing you thousands it you wanted to go the prosthetic route and hire a Hollywood makeup artist. And who’s got time for that?

Now if you’re worried about the costume and accessories aspect you can score one of those “Made in China” discontinued Donald Trump suits pretty cheaply these days—just kidding—there’s a whole section on Ape Mania that supplies ape outfits, too. You can click here to view the accessaries.


More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Johnny Thunders stars in rarely seen French movie ‘Mona et Moi’
09:00 am


Johnny Thunders
Mona et Moi

Johnny Thunders as “Johnny Valentine.”
Mona et Moi directed by Patrick Grandperret in 1989 is mainly notable for Johnny Thunders’ performance as a character—clearly based on himself—named “Johnny Valentine.” The film’s storyline is bare bones: Valentine flies to Paris to headline a concert organized by some low-level rock promoters/fans who are in Valentines’ thrall. Nothing much happens but Thunders is given plenty of screen time and actually does a pretty good job of acting. But given that his character is described as “a beautiful loser, a junkie, busted but unbowed,” there’s not exactly a shitload of acting required of him.

There are some brief scenes with Heartbreakers Billy Rath and Jerry Nolan and some live performances of Heartbreaker tunes including “Born To Lose.” In addition to rock and roll, there’s a smattering of sex, drugs, existential angst and Thunders appearing now and then to keep things interesting.

Denis Lavant, the lead actor in Mona et Moi, should be recognizable to anyone who’s paid attention to French films of the past three decades, having starred in films by Leos Carax, Clair Denis and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. He doesn’t have much to do in Mona et Moi except to look forlorn while Thunders/Valentine steals his girlfriend Mona, the dramatic highlight of the film.

France has always been friendly turf for American rockers who struggled to make it back in America, including Thunders, Stiv Bators and Willy DeVille. Perhaps they were seen as later day Rimbauds and Artauds—Genet Vincents—vulnerable bad boys in black leather.

Video after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Bizarre Japanese TV commercial for dog-shaped speakers starring Quentin Tarantino
01:03 pm


Quentin Tarantino

Americans have long found Japanese advertisements peculiar—the “Mr. Sparkle” commercial parody from The Simpsons (“I am disrespectful to dirt!”) is certainly an excellent representation of why we regard them as so strange.

In this 2009 commercial for a Japanese telecom named SoftBank, renowned director and would-be actor Quentin Tarantino makes his best pitch at being the Mickey Rooney of his generation (watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s if you don’t get that reference) when he dons a kimono, waves his hands around martial arts-style, and says a few words in Japanese.

The product in the commercial is a cell phone speaker shaped like a dog, which is SoftBank’s mascot. The dog is actually the patriarch of the family featured in SoftBank’s commercials. They are known as “the White Family,” and as David Griner observes, the family consists of “the most popular recurring commercial characters in Japan” in which “the father is a human in a dog’s body ... the son is a black American, and their maid is an alien incarnation of Tommy Lee Jones.” Hooo-kay! But then again, try summarizing any Geico commercial and you end up in Weird Town pretty fast.

See it for yourself, after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Damn fine teeny-tiny ‘Twin Peaks’ dioramas

A diorama based on Agent Dale Cooper’s dream about the ‘Red-Room’ from David Lynch’s 1990 television series ‘Twin Peaks.’
An artist based in Babenhausen, Germany named “Kristina” is currently selling her super-small DIY Twin Peaks diorama sets that come in three different versions based on scenes from the original television series that made its debut over 25 years ago.

A tiny David Lynch is included with this version of ‘Red-Room’ diorama.
Available in her Etsy store Boxartig you can pick up what Kristina refers to as “Dodos” of Agent Dale Cooper’s dream about the Red-Room, a scene from Lydecker Veterinary Clinic that features Agent Cooper and a Llama getting acquainted; and a grim miniature recreation of the body of Laura Palmer resting on the beach wrapped in plastic. While they are pricey ($58-$94 bucks a pop) they are really well done and it’s my hope that the talented German artist will continue to create others as I’m quite sure the one’s currently available at Boxartig will quickly disappear (the Lydecker’s Vet diorama already has).

Images of Kristina’s tiny homages to Twin Peaks follow.

A diorama based on the Lydecker Veterinary Clinic in ‘Twin Peaks.’

More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
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