13 Reasons Why…This show hit close to home (Ok. Not actually 13)

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I haven’t written anything in over 3 years. I made the mistake of watching this Netflix original series. Maybe it wasn’t a mistake. Maybe I chose to watch this because I was curious. Whatever the reason I haven’t been able to shake the content or unsee or feel what I saw and what I now feel.

So what is the connection? I think on some level the angst of a preteen/tween/teen is something that is inexplicably perplexing, uncomfortable and volatile. For me Middle School was a mixture of happiness, loneliness, sadness, joy  and a great deal of confusion. This was the time I was beginning to learn to be become a chameleon. In Sunday school I was taught that I needed to be all things to all men. I’m a pretty literal person and I took this to heart. I also learned in Elementary School that being an individual was only important as long as it was mainstream and understandable.

I was a happy kid. I loved riding my bike. My sister and the other neighborhood kids would ride for miles and miles until the street lights came on and then we booked it back home. I loved musicals; Singing in the Rain, The Sound of Music etc. Saturday morning cartoon, bowling, Monopoly, Risk and my Sega Genesis. Music was already beginning to shape the canvas of my life.

I was a lonely kid. Not because there weren’t plenty of people around but because there was something different about me. There were things happening in my home that no one could know. There were things happening to me that no one would know about until I would get to High School.

I was sad because I wanted to protect my mom and couldn’t. I wanted to win the respect of my dad but I wasn’t the “typical boy.” I struggled in school and I always felt like I was in competition academically with my sister. In 1993 two of my friends, one of whom was a girl I dated committed suicide. Our cat Mel died of feline leukemia. My Great Granny Mattie died and my Uncle Jerry died after not surviving his wounds from a fire.

I was a joyful kid. There was one time in Middle School I attempted to set a Guinness Book of World Records for the most hugs given. Yes, I tried to do that before any YouTube hotty. I knew that sometimes the only thing people wanted was a hug because most of the time that’s all I really wanted but never knew how to say that. So making a game out of it was my way of getting and giving what I needed. I loved being in band. Concert, Jazz and Marching.

The confusion, well that would take until almost 1997 before I would be able to admit or even acknowledge the most confusing thing. I loved going to church and I loved the people I went with. I had girlfriends who I had “real feelings” for. If you had asked me then I loved them and every single one of them I would have married. When we broke up we remained friends.

In 13 Reasons Why, the dynamic of all of the relationships on some level I could relate to. I couldn’t stop watching. I waited until June to see this because I knew from what I had heard on the radio and what people were talking about that this was something I didn’t need to see. At best I didn’t need to see it alone and yet I did.

The definition of bullying has transformed in today’s standard. Cyber bullying didn’t even exist. What they called it was teasing. What they said was it was boys being boys. You didn’t tell the teacher because the only thing that was said was that you needed tougher skin or if they didn’t hit you there wasn’t anything they could do. Just stay away from them. We all sung “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words may never hurt me. Even today we say what people think of me is none of my concern. While the last statement may be 90% true, what people say to others about someone else and they say to someone else is exactly the premise of 13 Reasons Why.

Rumors, gossip and half-truths cause people, who at one point were beginning to form relationships, to back away. The person gets excluded from things. The phone calls stop. The half-hearted smiles, the surface, “how are ya doing.” I see the way people look, I feel their withdrawal. I hear the comments that people who have no connection to me make based on what they have been told by others. I know what paranoia is and this isn’t that. It’s exactly the type treatment Hannah Baker went through. So sure I’m not in school anymore. We’re all adults right and yet the same type of behavior exists.

At some point the person being treated this way withdraws. Maybe they get a glimpse of hope again and find new friends and they start over. A renewed hope given. After all it is the nature of all living things to exists despite all odds it chooses to live against all odds. They continue to fight because they’ve been through so much worse that “this” isn’t any where near as bad. But what happens when even the strongest runs out of strength. What happens when the loneliness becomes great enough.

Recently, I had the idea that I wanted to go camping…alone for a weekend. To get away from all of civilization. My therapist says it’s my body’s call to get back to nature. Unplug and regroup. That may be true but I have also wanted to just pack up and go.

I have had thoughts that I didn’t want to exist anymore, or that people would be better off if I wasn’t here.  The world was dark, sometimes it still is. Even today I wonder how many more times will I stand up after being brought to my knees. Even more so if I were to just disappear how long before anyone would notice.

Here’s what I find perplexing and sick about 13 Reasons Why. I’m perplexed as to why people need to know why someone would commit suicide. We always want to know, “did they leave a note, did they say why.” Why does knowing why mean so much. For whatever reason that person was in enough pain that not only did it overcome them but they also didn’t feel like there was anyone in their handful of friends that if you have you should be lucky for. Those closest didn’t see through the smiles, the going through life as if and then when it was all over everyone wonders why.

The sick thing about this show was the making of the tape and having them pass it around. Sure she told her story of being bullied, stalked, neglected, shamed, teased and party to things that a kid shouldn’t have to be a part of. To inflict the same level of pain if not worse on 13 other people is just as cruel and sadistic as what was originally done. In theory does it bring to light that we all play a part in each others lives and we could all do something like give an unsolicited hug, listen when no one else will listen, hear the cry for help that is deafened by judgement?

Ultimately all that Hannah did was cause more discord, distrust, retribution, another suicide and from what I will infer from the ending the beginnings of what will be the story of Columbine.

Be careful when you engage in gossip, think about how someone else may feel when you shun them. I heard a woman once say, ” Just because I love you doesn’t mean I have to invite you over for tea.” The problem with that line of thinking is that until you get to know someone that type of judgement can’t be made. Especially when it’s made based on the opinions of someone else. Yes, not everyone is safe and yes not everyone deserves to be allowed into your inner circle.

But an inauthentic, disingenuous, “I love you. It’s so good to see you! How are you doing? We missed you.” Is just as hurtful as having not said anything at all. The person hearing these things won’t be tricked for long when your words don’t match the action that typically comes with them. The people who say those things reach out. The people who say those things are apart of the person’s life to whom they are saying to.

Sticks and Stone will break your bones and words can break soul and a heart.

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The Nest …Why you should have it. From the Books of Mark

As we approach winter many may think to themselves why would I need to invest hundreds ($250 to be exact) for a thermostat? I have heard some say ” well I can just buy one that is programmable.” Well this is not your typical programmable thermostat and if your wallet is looking a little empty you might want to then this might want to be something you consider. In the article (http://www.cnet.com/products/nest-learning-thermostat/) they talk about the features of the nest. It learns over time your patterns, knows the weather and adjusts accordingly, and best of all can be controlled from anywhere.

You will not have to reprogram it every season change. The Nest allows you to program the temps for both seasons and either run them simultaneously (heat cold swing) or separately. With the traditional programmable thermostats you have to remember to reprogram it every season. Now be honest how many of you take the time to do that? How many times have you had a programmed thermostat where it was supposed to come on but did not? I am not an employee or stock holder in the company so I have no investment other than passing along great savings to friends and family. nest_learning_thermostat_3

Now for the cool part(yes it gets better). The Nest partners with GA Power (and several other power ompanies) and you could get an additional discount for purchasing the device on top of the already hundreds of dollars you could save per year. https://nest.com/thermostat/saving-energy/. Not only that but the Nest connects to several devices in the home. 

Some of you might say, ” What if my phone gets stolen?” You can control the nest from any computer by logging into the device. It’s as simple as changing your password to prevent your stolen device from accessing your thermostat. “What if the power goes out,” other might say? The HVAC unit won’t work if the power is out so independently of Nest you’re still in the same position. If you like the idea of saving money then this is a worth while investment that I highly recommend.

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Chapter 1 – The Beginning From The Books of Mark

ImageMy name is Mark. I am many things much more complex than my name but that’s always a good place to start. I was born at a Naval Hospital in Charleston, SC to Bridgette and Mark. They were high school sweethearts. My dad served in the Navy, my mom an aspiring respiratory therapist.

The story I’ve been told is that the 2 families knew each other for some time. As they graduated from high school “Summer loving happened so fast…” and 9 months later I was born. I don’t mean to cheapen the experience as i’m told they were soul mates. December of 1980 I was born. My grandparents used to have a small house on their farm and that’s where the 3 of us lived for a short time.

Before my third birthday, in September, my sister was born. We moved down the road. We had a black lab named sweet pea. The house was a 1 story and brick. I went to the preschool down the street. I don’t remember the name. I do remember that my parents got into fights.

Nothing specific but I remember yelling. I got caught “playing” with the neighbor behind the couch in the living room. It couldn’t have been anything more than touching or comparing. I do remember having a conversation that wasn’t what little boys did.  I’m sure we were the same age but I’m not sure how it all started. Sweet pea got pegnant had puppies and was later hit by a car. That would be the 1st time I can remember experiencing death. It didn’t make sense at the time. I just knew that my dog was gone.

My parents got separated and we moved to Columbia, SC. My dad would follow. Living at an apartment right down the road. I went to Timmerman Elementary. Because of my late birthday I should have started school at 6 almost 7 but my mom had me tested and I think…or maybe since Timmerman was a private school they just didn’t care…either way I entered First Grade at 5.

The house we lived in was 3 stories. From the street it looked like 2. My bedroom was up stairs to the left straight back. My sisters was just to the right of mine, the bathroom in the center of the stairs and their bedroom off to the right. The sitting room was to the left once you opened the door the kitchen and dining room directly behind that.

Off of the kitchen was a stairwell that had a twist which led to the basement. Sliding glass doors led to the backyard. This would be the room we would play video games…I don’t remember watching TV during this time. My dad had a punching bag for my size, a basketball hoop that hung over the doorway that led to the garage where the washer and dryer was. My mom drove a yellow Nissan Sentra, my dad drove a dark gold Honda Accord. I don’t remember whether they used the garage for the cars.

That’s all for now. There will be more to come.

 

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The “F” Bomb – Is it effective? – From the Books of Mark

The other day I was driving to work and my local morning show played a commercial of little girls using the “F” bomb to talk about the reasons why women should have equality. Theare was so much discussion about it that it made my hour commute seem really really short.

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For the purpose that FCKH8.com is tryng to get across this is perfect. Their whole marketing scheme is on saying and doing the outrageous to grab the attention of anyone who is listening and or watching. These girls make excellent points. The problem is not that they use the “F” word, it’s that we have attached a negative conotation on the word.

I went to a a retreat where it was explained that there is no “good” or “bad” energy. It’s just energy. We assign value words and the learned behavior of what is good and bad passed on. I think there is also another theme going on here that is interesting to be broken. These girls are dressed as princesses, yet they are using one of the most foul words in the English language. I can hear my granny saying, “That’s not very lady like” or Girls don’t behave that way. But who made that rule that girls had to be dainty and demour? Watch the video for yourself what do you think?

Final thoughts, we live in a world where sensationalism is the only way to get the attention of the viewer (or that’s what they think). With all of our distractions the media teases us with plays on words  half-truths or lies just to get our attention. The only way to stop that is to demand better. Sadly, I doubt there is any going back from the place we are in now.

http://vimeo.com/109731596

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Chapter 3 – From the Books of Mark

chapter3The year was 1989. We live in a small suburban (almost rural at the time) town called Irmo. Sometimes I find it amazing what the brain chooses to remember and what it doesn’t or wont’. As a whole I do not remember anything from 1st grade to 4th grade which is where we ended up. My mom and dad had gotten back together again.

She loved him, southern tradition and her religious upbringing said she needed to stay with him. Maybe she didn’t want to be like her mother who continued to have children with men and either put them up for adp[tion or treat them like crap. Jessie put her 2 boys up for adoptions and while she didn’t actually put my mom up for adoption she did give my mom up to Anna, her grandmother, without even a second thought. Those are things I’ll never know. We moved shortly before Hurricane Hugo. I remember this because it was the 1st time I ever saw snow. However little it was and it didn’t stick but I saw snow. I remember driving by our old house in Columbia and seeing the big oak tree that used to hover over the back of the house now pressed against it. The red screen door laying in the driveway. The yard was a mess.

By this time I’m in 4th grade. I was in a new school. My sister, Lauren and I would spend a majority of our schooling at the same school. I don’t remember that being an inconvenience or an annoyance but maybe it was since it felt appropriate to say it. Our relationship was as it should be for a brother and sister. I loved her but she got on my nerves sometimes. I was mamma’s boy and she was daddy’s girl. Or at least that’s how I remember it. Lauren would get in trouble from my mom for not cleaning her room, I would get in trouble with my dad for playing with Barbie.

I did relatively well in school but Lauren was always the smarter one…or maybe she applied herself better…either way she got the better grades. I had friends in school classes were small and I think I got the attention I needed. I remember sitting in class and learning to read lips as the girls talked about the boys in class that they liked. I was kind of shy but got a long with most of my class mates. I remember some of the  picking on me because I was “gay.”

Again, I didn’t know what that was or what that even meant but  I had heard it before and I was very self-conscious. I remember this kid named Joey and he had the new Reebok Pump High Top basketball shoes. They were white  and blue and the pump was a basketball and orange. I begged to get these shoes. I needed to have them to be cool (every kid says this at some point). They were $100 and neither of my parents were having it. They bought me the L.A. Gears. They guys called me L.A. Queer. I got British Knights. They moved on to something new. I remember being really trusting or gullible however you see it. There were two boys named Josh and I wanted to be their friend so bad I got into all sorts of trouble. One example was when they convinced me that if I went into the boy’s room and climbed up into the ceiling I could skip school. Now mind you they weren’t going to be skipping school and coming with me they just said that it could be done and I said that I would do it. Needless to say that I pulled all the tiles down before I could even hoist myself up. Huge trouble.

The first time I was ever called the “N” word was by one of the boys named Josh. I remember being really upset and when I got home it was explained to me that no one should use that word again and if it happened I should tell the teacher. I don’t remember if I did. I had a girlfriend. Her name was Erica. That seemed to quiet things down for a bit. In elementary school holding hands was enough. She would be the first of many to help “save” me.

The next couple years are probably the best I can remember. My parents seemed not to fight as much. We were still going to the same church, I had lots of friends from there some of which lived in the neighborhood. My sister and I would ride bikes every where. We played with the neighbor kids. Mom threw backyard carnivals where people face painted and there were games.

I think the first time we went to Disney was during this time. I remember having a Mickey Doll and Lauren having a Mini Doll that we used to toss back up and down the stair like they were Olympic Gymnast. We would get in out sleeping bags and slide down the stairs in the summers, take the cushions off the couch to build cubbies and sit on the springs while we ate our cereal and watched cartoons. My dad worked for the cable company so we had free cable. We were the best of friends most of the time. Our rooms were upstairs, separated by a big play space. We had our own bathroom to share. The house was Brick 2 stories, much like the one before. No garage though. 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. A huge backyard, big enough for us to ride our bikes around and it had a tree house.

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Standing Up For Your Children – From The Books Of Mark

1278769_642341699132155_7335429_oThis morning a local radio station, The Bert Show( www.thebertshow.com)  read and discussed a letter(click on it to go to the original post) that was posted by www.FCKH8.com where a grandfather gives his daughter a piece of his mind for kicking out/disowning her son(his grandson) because he is gay. There are many who feel that the grandfather did the right thing and then there are those who don’t agree with the way he did it because he is essentially doing to the mother what she did to they son. Here are my thoughts on this…

First, I’m gay. I have had an attraction to other guys since I was at least in 1st grade. If you read the rest of my blog there are tons of my mishaps as a child and this exploration and how my parents attempted to deal with this in the mid to late 80’s and early 90’s. So after several years of substance and alcohol abuse I finally came out to my Aunt and Uncle. Let me say my sexuality was not the main reason I partied hard but I sure felt a lot more comfortable with myself when I was trashed.

My Aunt and Uncle told me that all they wanted for me was to be happy and after having watched me almost completely destroy myself I can see how that response is appropriate. 1 of my sisters already knew cause I came out to her in High School. Her response was I thought you were bi. This response was because we would watch Saved By The Bell I had a huge crush on Zack, Lisa, & Kelly, and we would fight over Zack almost every show. I wonder if we would have fought over AC Slater if we had been able to foresee that the S-curl would go away and he would turn into the yummy-licious Mario Lopez….but I digress( SQUIRRELL!!) I’m sure my Aunt and Uncle in the midwest knew because I came out to my cousin  when I visited them one summer.

The suggestion was not to mention this to my grandparents because they were from an old school and our family is very religious and fairly spiritual ( I would later learn that it is the other way around). I told my Aunt in the Northeast and her response was “honey is that all you had to tell me? I’ve known since you were 3. and the rest of the Aunts and Uncles all had pretty much the same reaction. While it was a struggle for me to say the words to the people I loved the most that I was gay this was not news to them for the most part. If anything they were g;ad that I had finally realized it as one of my cousins put it, “we knew but you had to figure that out for yourself we couldn’t tell you.”

SO as the radio station read this letter the calls started coming in and one of the personalities said something to the effect good for the grandfather even though he did the same thing to the mom by disowning her as the mom had done to the son. And the posts come in

“Really not impressed. You don’t disown family members for any reason.. ever. And you don’t’ call your daughter a bitch. Wonder where Mom learned her behavior from?”

“So basically if I read that correctly it’s perfectly ok for the grandfather to “disown his daughter” for her decision but not ok for her to do the same to her son? I personally couldn’t disown my child but this is hypocritical at best”

“He is kinda doing the same his daughter did.. I think this should be a teachable moment for him and love her even when he strongly disagrees with her decision.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

“Nobody is born gay. Its a choice, a lifestyle. Its like people saying God made me have to temptations. God doesn’t temp us.” (THIS ONE IS MY FAVORITE)

I get that there are 2 sides to every coin and one wrong doesn’t constitute another but here’s my response to those…

I disowned my mom’s side of the family (excluding the Minors and the Waring’s) for being bitches and bastards. When people treat you or the ones you love like shit (excuse my language) and no matter what you do i.e. make amends and try to repair the relationship by keeping your side of th street clean and loving unconditionally and they STILL act like assholes and treat you the same if not worse…then you disown them for the greater good. For my sanity. When and if they are able to realize how much pain and hurt they inflicted and sincerely come and want to clean their side of the street then open communications can happen. We don’t know the rest of this back story nor the amount of trauma the son was put through before finally being put out. I don’t hate them but if they were walking across the street I would give them no more attention that I would a stranger. If I’d had an adult stand up for me like this when I was younger maybe I wouldn’t have had to be sexually abused by my great grandmothers husband. If I’d had an adult stand up and tell my grandmother that she was being a bitch and that it was wrong to take her hate out on me just because I had my dad’s name and I was the only boy and I looked more like my dad than the girls then maybe I wouldn’t be so insecure. I think this grandfather did EXACTLY what adults should do when another adult is harming a child. You stand up and you guard that child because he/she isn’t strong enough to do it themselves. And when  no one does it that child learns that no one cares or will care and then has to make a decision…do I live the rest of my life believing that no one will ever truly care for me and kill myself or will I fight on b/c the best revenge is a life well lived? What if Chad had committed suicide and the grandfather said nothing. Cause that’s where I was. I have a lot of other pieces to my story but this was one of the factors in my upbringing and let me tell you it was the hardest decision I had to make …to live. At a time when all seemed hopeless and like the world was never going to give me a break (and this was also well before my personal indiscretions). For many years the only reason I chose to live was because I felt it my responsibility to be there for my sisters. I was content that way until they didn’t depend on me as much because they were growing up. Then I had to decide again was there anything worth living for.

I do not want to diminish the path I had to walk to get to be the person and man who I am today but I will tell you that I think often about what my life would have been like if the adults whose care I was in back then had protected my sisters and I where we would have been.

If you are an adult and there are children around you whether they be 5 days, 5 months, 5 years, or 15 you have a right to be their voice because as much as they are coming into their own and talk back and might be disrespectful their true voice still isn’t developed and it’s hard to say that someone is hurting me because all they want is to be loved and all the deserve is to be taken care of and that’s why when we have kids we don’t just push them out of the nest upon birth. If we as adults don’t defend our children they will never feel safe. EVER.

AND THE CHURCH SAID….Amen Amen and Amen.

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Chapter 2 – From The Books of Mark

chapter-2-banner I’m not exactly sure when my dad moved back in but it was all as if nothing happened. Maybe they didn’t think that we were aware or old enough to know or remember. My sister, Lauren, doesn’t really remember much of this part so I guess it is feasible that our parents would suspect that I too was not going to remember. Our favorite thing to do was play Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Master System. We would ride bikes through the neighborhood.

There weren’t a lot of kids on our street. The Middle Eastern family next door had a son who was my age and there was a red headed kid who lived across the street. He was a couple years older than I. My dad’s side of the family had always been really close. At one point my cousin came to live with us and her daughter was born there. My other cousin also told me that he stayed with us a little while but I don’t remember that. My Uncle Wendell came to stay with us also. He was my mom’s brother. My mom’s side of the family has a lot of issues. Wendell had the most that were visible. Definite drinking and anger issues. He and his wife Rhonda were fighting. They are divorced now. This wouldn’t be the first time he would stay with us because she put him out. She kept taking him back though. Guess that ran in the family.

We wanted for nothing. Lots of laughter. I remember us playing  together with the Cabbage Patch kids. At the time I collected Garbage Pail Kids cards and baseball cards. I remember one day my sister and I playing tag inside the house. When I went to tag her she hit her head right in the corner of the wall. She had to get stitches later.

My mom found a church she really really liked called the Columbia Church of Christ. The people were great, I had lots of friends. It was an interracial church. Looking back in the early 80’s in the south this was not common. I remember being really upset one Sunday because I had taken my entire Trapper keeper full of baseball cards to church and someone stole them. I would never collect baseball cards again.

School was going ok. Even at a young age I was already being teased for being gay. I remember coming home and crying because the kids would call me gay on the playground. I think my mom told me that gay meant happy. I believed her even though I was confused why it also meant that no one wanted to play with me and they laughed as they said it. This was also the time that I began to be self-conscious of how dark I was.

The kids would  say all sorts of things. I guess it made since I was the only black kid in my class. I stayed to myself a lot. It was ok because I had my mom and my sister and school didn’t last that long. I’m not sure why but even from a young age I was always over protective of my sister and my mom. Even at a young I remember being over protective of my sister and my mom.

There was this kid in class and he kept saying “your momma” I’m not sure why that was so offensive. Maybe it was because I had had enough of the kids picking on me in general. He sat behind me and kept saying it, “your momma.” That couldn’t have been all that he said but that’s all I can remember. I grabbed him by the sides of his head and pounded his head into the wall behind him. I remember saying to stop talking about my mom. He was fine.

I was sent the principal’s office where I was paddled. When my mom got to school I got a good spanking for fighting. When my dad came home we had a talk. He said that it was not right to hit someone but if you are protecting your sister then you do what you need to do.

I’m not sure which came first being touched or playing with the neighbor from the Middle East. I think it started in 2nd grade though. Everyone assumed it was harmless. We were the same age and we were caught touching each other. That was it. It happened more than once. Then there was Anna’s husband Robert. Anna was my mom’s grandmother. Anna raised my mom because my mom’s mother, Jessie,and  my granddad Chris were young. This became a pattern for Jessie…having children, not getting married and dumping them off on someone else. I’m not sure how it started. We went to Charleston as a family to go see Anna and her boyfriend at the time. They lived together for years before they got married. Every time we went something happened. Every time it happened I never said anything. He paid attention to me, I needed someone to pay attention to me. I never said anything even when I was asked if there was anything going on I lied and said no. This would go on until I turned 15.

One of the biggest fights I remember between my mom and dad is where he broke her jaw. He pushed her down the steps of the house. I can’t remember which cousin was there but someone was…thank god they were. I didn’t see it. I heard the arguing and screaming. I remember seeing blood then everything after that is gone. I don’t remember seeing her swollen or going to stay with someone else, the police or an ambulance being called…nothing. Maybe I saw more than I care to remember. My dad moved out again.

It was about this time that I started having this recurring dream, I’m in a room tied to a chair completely naked. There are 2 men on either side of me who are also naked. Before anything happens I wake up…

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