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I had no idea Gillian Laub’s new HBO documentary, Southern Rites, would be as challenging for me to watch as it was. On Monday, I attended a screening at the Sunshine Cinema where Laub appeared in a panel moderated by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The film’s executive producer, John Legend, made a brief appearance at the beginning of the film. In a very well fitting suit. Whew. Okay, focus, Michael. Chrissy Teigen could be reading this. As he mentions here, it’s very painful to see a woman have to deal with the loss of her son, particularly in this fashion.

And as someone from the South, there were some parts of the film immediately familiar to me.

Say, a white southerner dawning the confederate flag on her back explaining, “It’s not racist. It’s just the southern way.” That’s kind like saying, “You say cross burning, I say light show” but if you say so (actually: stop saying so). And there are other parts in the film which you hear Mount Vernon, Georgia white residents complain of mixed race children by making quips like “it had a read head and a blue ass.” Country folk are amazing.

Racism rarely makes sense, but when it comes to Julian Patterson’s death, which largely dominates the narrative of the film, Laub illustrated just how complicated it can be. Patterson’s killer, Norman Neesmith, is unique in that he raised his half-Black niece as his own daughter. Norman was alienated by many of his family members and neighbors as a result of this selfless choice, so to count him among the unabashed racists of the world feels unfair. Even so, as you watch the film and hear Norman’s story in his own words, you understand that even someone of good intentions can harbor ignorance.

As the story goes, Jason Patterson along with his brother, were invited by Norman’s daughter and another friend to come over – unbeknownst to Norman. There is a confrontation and the end result is Jason Patterson died far too early. Norman expresses both grief over his role in that and anger in response to the condemnation he’s received as a result of his actions. As much as we hear stories of older white men shooting and killing young Black men and women, very rarely do we hear from someone who conveys even a nominal level of remorse.

Also, I did wince when I heard the excuse “kids will be kids” over the idea of an 18-year-old (not Patterson) sneaking over to a 14-year-old’s house to smoke, drink, and have sex. It in no way excuses Neesmith’s behavior. The same goes for it not altering certain realities. Norman Neesmith wouldn’t have gotten as light a sentence as he did had he shot and killed a young white man. Meanwhile, for all his talk of not thinking of color, we hear Norma say on the 911 call about shooting Jason Patterson, “It’s just a Black boy.”

During the conversation, Laub said she initially thought to name the movie It’s Just A Black Boy, only she feared that as a white woman, such a title may come across as offensive to some. I appreciate her sensitivity there and throughout Southern Rites. She makes no one a devil on either side and whoever manages to look bad, it is of their own doing.

The racial politics are pronounced throughout the movie in the bluntest of terms. Case in point, the separate story of one Black man’s quest to be the first Black Sherriff of Montgomery town. And yes, the first desegregated prom, which I noted in a previous post.

What I enjoyed most during the conversation was Laub’s own thoughts about Norman Neesmith. Was Patterson’s shooting Patterson a racist act? Like many in the audience, Laub suspected his perception of two Black men did play some role in his behavior that tragic night. That is a racist act, but even in his anger, Norman Neesmith is a complicated figure.

That said, I’m so tired of seeing Black mothers in tears feel defeated over a system that devalues the life they brought into this world. But I did enjoy this documentary greatly. It truly is a stunning piece of work, and if nothing else, made me think.

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Should a camera crew be following someone in rehab? My instinct says, “fuck no,” but if we’re being fair to all parties involved with Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, I’d rather watch Stevie J recite Instagram inspirational word memes he learned in group therapy than deal with most of the other men on this show. So would you.

The episode launched with the sight of Stevie J strumming his guitar as he awaited a visit from Joseline. Stevie J informs the Puerto Rican Princess that he has to dedicate his next year to sobriety, which means she can’t be smoking weed anymore. Joseline astutely noted that she shouldn’t have to give up her love of the grass cause his piss in a cup keeps setting off alarms within law enforcement. I know that when you love someone, you’re supposed to sacrifice for them because that’s what people in a relationship do, blah, blah, bullshit, but no weed? No thank you.

Joseline would go on to inform Stevie J that her and Mimi won’t be braiding Ava’s hair together, so he can kindly stop asking him to make amends with that broken woman still upset that he no longer wants a relationship with her. Speaking of people who won’t be kicking it anytime soon, Karlie Redd and Rasheeda had a confrontation over the confrontation at Karlie’s store opening that took place a week ago. You know, I don’t really feel any strong way about Rasheeda on this show besides her looking like the female version of Superfly Jimmy Snucka, but I will say she was dead wrong last night.

Listen, Rasheeda, you did not have good intentions when you brought Erica to Karlie’s store opening. You did not want them to make amends because if you did, you would’ve organized a dinner with no food at a later date like a real neutral ass reality show cast member would have. What you did was go to fuck shit up. So be it, but own it. 

Rasheeda did not, opting instead to bash Karlie Redd. At one point, Karlie said, “K. Michelle was right about you.” Well, she did not tell a lie there based on that scene. The two then had a Sheree and NeNe type verbal exchange. I’m going to go with Karlie for this round given she told Rasheeda, “CNN was at my motherfucking event. Name the last time CNN been at yo’ shit.” And outside, Karlie yelled, “Get in the fucking car cause you ain’t shit.”

All Rasheeda did was call Karlie messy, lame, and made an AARP reference. Girl, you’re messy for what you did last week; you’re still married to Kirk Frost and you bite Shawty Lo’s flow so how’s all that for lame; as for age, umm, you’re not exactly the freshest peach in the pile either, beloved.

In related delusional lame news, Nikko is back despite my prayers that all footage with him will be lost in the editing bay. Nikko’s estranged wife, Margeaux, has moved to Atlanta—in the same building as Nikko. During a conversation, Nikko claims he made a “blood pact” with Mimi to lie about the origins of their porn. Margeaux believes him because she seems gullible as hell. Lift that sucker in prayer, y’all.

Read the rest at Complex.

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There are some public figures who make you wonder why you ever bothered learning how to read.

I let out an audible sigh when I read the New York Post’s Page Six report that ABC executives were “desperate” to sign actress-turned-foot-in-mouth-disease-victim Raven-Symoné as a co-host for The View before their up-front presentation. A described “ABC source” explained, “She was interesting and provocative. Raven would be great as a regular host.” I imagine similar logic was employed to justify giving Don Lemon and Stacey Dash cushy positions at CNN and Fox News, respectively. How well is that going for anyone who doesn’t benefit from the ratings their asininity generates?

Frankly, a spare brick on the sidewalk can be just as “interesting” and “provocative”—except a brick has more to contribute to meaningful conversation than any of the aforementioned three.

Raven-Symoné is talented, but if the last couple of months have taught us anything, it is that she is not remotely thoughtful. Our first glimpse into that reality took place last fall on an episode of OWN’s Oprah: Where Are They Now? where she decried labels and described herself, not as gay but, rather, as a “human who loves humans” (which could also be described as pansexual, but I read books, so pardon me) as well as a  “colorless person.”

Months later she would declare, “I am from every continent in Africa except for one. and I’m from every continent in Europe except for one. We are a melting pot of beauty.”

My eyes are rolling harder than a Prancing Elite at a parade.

Sure, she misspoke, but the problem isn’t so much the phrasing as it is the overall sheer lack of intellectual curiosity. She, like Lemon and Dash, is simply loud and wrong. Naturally, she is being rewarded for it and, of course, is clueless as to why some aren’t pleased about it.

In a new Daily Beast profile titled “The Reinvention of Raven-Symoné,” Raven-Symoné touches on the backlash she’s received on occasion, saying, “I’ve gotten anger from other people because I’m not taking one side or the other, or I’m not taking the side they think I should take. Or that I’m being someone I’m not. But I’m just trying my best to look at it objectively before I bash someone.”

I don’t have a problem with a difference of opinion. However, there is something grating about an uninformed opinion. For all her talents as an actress and singer, Raven-Symoné could use some prep in this new role she finds herself in.

Read the rest at The Root.

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urlCiara’s inconsistency fascinates me. On one end, you want to cheer any artist willing to forgo formula for the sake of innovation. However, sometimes trying new things feels more rooted in cynicism than creativity. Like they’re simply trying whatever, hoping something sticks. Whatever the case, where you land on Ciara’s sixth new album, Jackie, likely depends on what kind of artist you think Ciara should be at this stage in her career.

For some, her very well done but commercially underappreciatedeponymous fifth album is her sweet spot. I quite enjoy that album, which was led by the fantastic “Body Party” but perhaps fizzled under the better-seen-on-stage-than-heard-on-the-radio “I’m On” with Nicki Minaj. That was the Georgia peach I remember from the days she kept her goodies locked in the jar. Sonically, that is the Ciara I prefer to hear.

If you are in agreement with me, then you may not enjoy Jackie as much as other fans since it doesn’t offer much of that Ciara. The album gives a mishmash of sounds found on a So So Def Bass All-Stars compilation album, hints of electro, and one too many slower numbers to my liking. Some songs somewhat harken back to the Ciara of yore. There is the track “Fly,” which is like the offspring of “1, 2 Step” and one of those inspirational songs R. Kelly used to do in the 1990s. It’s a track for the club, only not the kind I’d go to.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Last night’s episode of Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta was basically the equivalent of a watered down well drink. You don’t love it and know you deserve better, but it’s right there in front of you so you may as well finish it since another round’s coming. A whole lot did happen, but only some of it was worth discussing.

Let’s begin with Erica and Lil’ Scrappy and their reminder of why it’s very, very important you plan ahead when it comes to procreation. As we’ve learned in the last two episodes, Scrappy has not been paying child support. According to Erica, Scrappy owes her close to $50,000 in back child support. Fed up, Erica spoke with an attorney who made it be known that if he doesn’t pay his fair share, he’ll be appearing on another reality show: Lockdown.

Unfortunately, Scrappy’s legal counsel is Momma Dee, Not Esquire who approached Erica to complain about her son being served while they were at the strip club. Let’s pause right here. You’ve heard that your son isn’t paying child support. You speak to your son about the mother of you granddaughter’s claims. You join your son at the strip club—no judgment, they do live in Atlanta—and he is served papers over back child support. You’ve been given a back-story, you’ve tried to step in and help rectify the situation only to discover that the problem has not been solved. And yet, you’re mad at the person asking for back child support versus the motherfucker allegedly not paying it?

Momma Dee, I like you and your trap Anita Baker musical leanings, but you’ve got to get the fuck on with that bullshit. Remove your nipple from Scrappy’s mouth and tell him to stop tipping strippers and put some of that money in the hand of the woman who birthed his child.

Meanwhile, Erica finds herself at odds with Karlie Redd after she finds out that Karlie Reddwent behind her back and started a clothing store without her despite them planning to open one together for months. Rasheeda was the one who shared the news to Erica and the two rolled up toKarlie Redd’s store opening to shade her. That’s where Erica and Rasheeda—who wore matching coats for some reason—met Jessica Dimepiece, who obviously watches the show and was ready to pounce. On Love & Hip Hop Afterparty, Dimepiecesays her issues with them are rooted in their disdain for fellow Memphis native K. Michelle.

No offense to Dimepiece, but I just met you and you’re already trying to beef with people who’ve been here longer than you and you don’t even know them? Girl, have a sip of water and settle your ass down. You’ve got all season to argue for no good reason for our amusement.

By the way, only in Atlanta will a store in the mall have a red carpet with its opening. It’s probably next to a Panda’s Express, too.

Oh, and since I brought her up, I should note that K. Michelle made an appearance on the show. Remember when that used to be a big deal? It’s not so much now because she has no real attachment to anyone on the show. Sure, she has her industry friendship with Joseline and her seemingly forced good rapport with Karlie Redd, but eh. I’d love to see K. Michelle and Mimi Faust have a conversation, though.

Mimi, who continues to be the fly that needs swatting, met up with Deb Antney to discuss her stupid business arrangement with Nikko. Deb, who is hilariously the spiritual advisor of this show, told her exactly what to do: write some bullshit ass sentences and tell Nikko that’s their book deal and to fuck off. However, once Deb learned that Mimi is now in business with Stevie J, she shook her head with the rest of us. Deb asked if Mimi was still in love with Stevie J and she refused to answer. So that means yes, which means hell no, fool, to those of us watching who know better.

Read the rest at Complex.

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On the series premiere of Oxygen’s The Prancing Elites Project, a woman posed a well-meaning but otherwise stupid question to Adrian Clemons, Kentrell Collins, Kareem Davis, Jerel Maddox and Tim Smith, who make up the dance team known as The Prancing Elites. The woman, spotting the group standing as attendants rather than performers, wondered, “Why aren’t y’all out there?” Kentrell, the stern, no nonsense captain of the dance squad, was blunt: “GIRL, YOU KNOW WHY!”

She sure did, only sometimes people want to assume the best even when their worst fears are right in front of them. The new series chronicles the gender-bending group’s attempts to simply do what they love without ridicule from residents of their native Mobile, Ala. For anyone who’s frequented a gay club in the south primarily attended by other Black people, you are familiar with the sight of a group congregating at some point to J-Set. J-Setting, is a style of dance popularized by the Jackson State University marching band dance team, the Prancing J-Settes.

I’ve seen plenty of men do the moves of majorettes inside of gay clubs. I know for a fact that on many a Friday or Saturday night at a gay club, this is their chance to do what makes them happiest in peace. Many of them practice for it during the week to make sure the moment counts. No matter if they’re wearing sequins, dancing in a way that reads as “feminine,” and bearing faces that are “painted for the gawds,” be clear that it takes a lot of balls to step out of your comfort zone to do something you know will tick other people off.

And if we’re being completely honest, I, too, used to be obsessed with the way majorettes in marching bands danced. I have copied those moves before, only in the secrecy of my own room. Even if I’ve come to accept my homosexuality, I’ve had struggles with reconciling sexual preference with my sense of masculinity. These five individuals are far more secure than many of their critics and supporters.

Yes, they’ve netted some notoriety by way of a retweet from Shaquille O’Neal, numerous national television appearances, and on the premiere, an on-air fan out starring NeNe Leakes. Even so, when it comes to those within their community, their remains much resentment— which curbs them from performing at local parades. They’re open to opportunities outside of that, but they’ve modeled themselves after marching band dancers. Clearly, they want to be able to dance and march in parades.

Despite being met with rejection, we see Kentrell convince them to put on their uniforms and perform albeit on the sidelines. In response, they’re greeted with boos and hisses from parade goers. As their agent explains to them, they are rejected primarily under the pretense that they are not “family friendly.”

Because many idiots continue to conflate sexual orientation immediately with sex. Because men and women who do not behave as they are socialized to are perceived as seedy. At one point, Adrian cries, explaining, “I just feel like I have this disease that no one wants to be around.” Fortunately, some of the people cry with them, pushing them to keep going. This includes a mom, a very young girl, and a dad who reminds me of the Brawny man.

Read the rest at The Urban Daily.

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Note: Though Bruce Jenner has now identified as a woman, he has not yet elected to be identified under a new name or by female pronouns, so as a result, I’ve used male pronouns.

Even if some of Diane Sawyer’s questions to Bruce Jenner seemed banal to those already familiar with the facts that gender identity and sexual orientation are not mutually exclusive or the notion that our rigid definitions of gender are damaging, the reality is the general public remains largely ignorant. We don’t talk about gender enough; we don’t talk about sexuality enough; we don’t acknowledge the complexity in either.

This is why television remains such a powerful medium in familiarizing the masses with issues foreign to them and why pop cultural icons like Jenner make for the perfect ambassadors. What Jenner did was powerful and when his reality series premieres this summer, he will be using his platform to make meaningful contributions.

These are all good things, and yet, some have since expressed that it’s not good enough. Over the weekend, I saw various people on my social media feeds try to challenge the notion that Jenner was “brave,” arguing instead that he’s “privileged.” I think it’s cute when people learn new terms and phrases and proceed to use and abuse them. It’s on trend.

You don’t quantify someone’s level or bravery. Having access and excess does not negate consequences with being vulnerable. At one point in his life, Jenner represented the height of masculinity, and in an interview he didn’t owe anyone, told the world that he privately loathed it because it’s not who he was. Saying that was brave.

Not only was he adamant about his story being just that, he took a minute to acknowledge the very marginalized groups often ignored — namely Black trans women. Bruce’s interview was about Bruce, but he decided to use that space to speak out for those who don’t command such level of celebrity.

Jenner elected to publicly discuss a deeply personal issue that has followed him throughout his life at a time when the issues of the trans community are only now being brought to the forefront – mostly thanks to the work of actressLaverne Cox, writer and television host Janet Mock, and collegiate athlete turned activist Kye Allums. Jenner’s interview with Sawyer now takes those efforts one-step further.

A celebrated Olympian and actor turned patriarch in a hugely popular reality TV show phenomenon, Jenner is in a unique position in that his generational appeal is varied, thus making his decision to reveal that he is a transgender woman all the more powerful. He didn’t owe us any of that, and while there is work to be done, let’s not taint this contribution.

Read the rest at VH1.

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If I could describe Blackbird in three words, I would choose “protect your neck.” The movie is a little over 90 minutes long, but has a miniseries’ worth of materials to work though within that minuscule amount of time. The film is an adaptation of the novel by the same name, penned by Larry Duplechan.

There is a kidnapping, an unplanned teenage pregnancy, and subsequently, an abortion. There is the issue of interracial dating, statutory rape, and a suicide attempt. However, of those myriad of issues, the driving force of the story (helmed by director Patrik-Ian Polk) is Randy Rousseau, and his struggles to embrace his homosexuality and his devout Christian faith. If that wasn’t enough, all of this is set in a small town in Mississippi. Because life is not hard enough for these people.

Polk has Rousseau, played by Julian Walker, introduce this conflict in a way that is vulgar as it is hilarious. During a dream sequence, Randy the choir boy is performing and suddenly joined by his crush. There are hints of homoeroticism in their exchange, but the hints turn into screams as Randy’s crush disrobes himself and Randy and the two proceed to make out inside of the church for all of the congregation to see. Ultimately Randy wakes up from his wet dream that we are made abundantly clear is wet by his ejaculation.

It is a common sleep pattern for Randy, and while depicted provocatively, likely resonates with many a Jesus-loving gay boy who knows what it’s like to awaken “soaked in sin”—present company included.

Academy Award-winning actress Mo’Nique portrays Randy’s mother, Claire Rousseau, grief-stricken and haunted by the kidnapping of her daughter. Upon learning of Randy’s sexuality – again, in especially blunt fashion – Claire condemns her son and faults him for his sister’s disappearance. Having your Christian mama fault your biology for some unforeseen circumstance is another aspect of this film that’ll likely resonate with select moviegoers.

While there is surely a lot going on, and arguably, too much in a short amount of time, there are lot of aspects of this movie that make for interesting watching. It’s always hilarious to see closeted gay men deny themselves. Say, Randy quipping defiantly, “I’m not bitchy. I’m in the choir.” Whatever you say, sis. The same goes for Randy trying in vain to be ‘delivert’ from his sexuality by way of his equally virginal friend, Crystal.

Likewise, Blackbird does remind you of what a gifted dramatic actress Mo’Nique is. More often than not, unapproving parents, and in particular, mothers, are portrayed, and thus, judged harshly for not simply falling in line with their children’s homosexuality. Even if wrong in their position, it is often rooted in this notion of a child’s soul being more important than the life they lead on Earth.

Read more at EBONY.

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Who in the fuck does Mimi Faust think she’s fooling?

Mere seconds into the season premiere of Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, I was already over Mimi and her bullshit. After all of the embarrassment Stevie J put her through, she decides to start a business with him? A management company at that! She can’t manage to stop playing herself, and he can’t manage to stay sober. Watch out, Roc Nation. The Diddy and Kim Porter of the South got next.

Mimi is obviously still in love with Stevie J, which explains why she has found a way to be with him intimately even if it is under the pretense of a business venture. Mimi, you are another sad love song wrecking my brain like crazy.

Mimi Faust Management’s first potential client is rapper Tiffany Foxx. Some of you might recall her from an awful song and video featuring a Lil’ Kim sing-songy verse I try to forget out of respect for a legend. If you are keeping score, Tiffany Foxx worked with Lil’ Kim and now wants Mimi Faust and Stevie J to handle her career. I’m laughing.

In between trying to manage artists, Mimi unveiled plans to release a book. It’s shit like this that makes me question why I even bother learning how to read. Do I have to have sex with Nikko to get a book deal? Pass me the shower rod. Wait, I’d sooner lick a New York City sidewalk on the mustiest day of the year than screw slime.

Speaking of Nikko, he may no longer be with Mimi, but he is still trying to leech off of her. He pops up at the photo shoot for her book cover to inform her that she signed a contract giving him 25 percent of her book royalties. In response, Mimi says she was not in her right mind when she signed that, thus refuses to honor the deal. Uh, that is not how contracts work, beloved. This woman made a baby with someone who worked with Puffy in the 1990s. How does she not know to read her contracts? Why is she so hopeless?

I bet half of the book is going to be about Joseline. I understand why Mimi doesn’t fancy the Puerto Rican Princess, but at what point will this woman realize that Stevie J was not in the studio working on tracks with Jesus before Joseline entered his life? Mimi, if you think a scoundrel like Stevie J needed Joseline to introduce him to drugs and bad behavior, you are crazier than you swear Joseline is.

Sadly, last night Joseline was discussed often but not seen. Joseline’s whereabouts are unclear, but Mimi and her cast mates remain thirsty as hell about her.

We also got insinuations that Joseline is being shady to her old pals. Enter some new girl named Diamond who, like Joseline, is getting off the pole for good in order to pursue her rap dreams. Dawn, the booking agent who has half of Traci Braxton’s face, tells Diamond that her old co-worker is probably ignoring her texts because she doesn’t want the competition. Dawn needs to go find herself some business and better wigs.

As for Joseline’s reunion show behavior, Stevie J and Benzino were responsible for that brawl. Joseline was basically siding with her man, and ever the hood girl, could not be stopped once she popped off. 100 emoji.

Read the rest at Complex Music.

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I’m often weary of criticizing Scandal for two reasons: I love Shonda Rhimes and I fear Shonda Rhimes. Shonda’s clap back is one of the smoothest in all the land. She will get you together in 140 characters or less as she sells ABC her billionth TV show all while writing and producing the other 200 shows she currently has on air. And I really, truly adore Kerry Washington.

With the niceties out of the way, I can now get to the question at hand: How much longer can Scandal go on? I was excited about the start of season four, but as I complained for weeks, I hated the kidnapping storyline. It was cute for maybe one episode — the midseason premiere — but it dragged on and on and on to the point where I called out to God and Beyoncé to give me the power to reach through the screen and save her my damn self.

Thankfully, that ended, but now we are back to Rowan Pope’s return and a battle for the future of B613. Doesn’t that feel a bit like deja vu only without Jay Z and an awkward dance break in the middle of nowhere? I’m all for tying up loose ends, but this show needs a lot of conflict resolution. As in, Olivia needs to find out that her father killed her BFF. Liv has to make up her mind about Jake so he can either stay or truly run off into the sunset.

Then there is Fitz and that eternal “will they or won’t they” angle — that’ll likely always be a part of the show so we will have to just roll our eyes together. But the rest can be fixed. Speaking of fixing, Scandal could probably go on forever if it returned to its original vision as Olivia Pope the fixer. Maybe it’s too far gone at this point, but I have enjoyed Olivia fixing people’s problems in the midst of the other bizarreness. I’d rather Liv fix my life than Iyanla.

Insert 100 emoji here.

And maybe, just maybe it’s time for a major cast shakeup. Bring in some new OPA associates. Let Huck’s crazy ass go be crazy as s–t in suburbia. Let Quinn get herself a new life and an advanced degree. My girl may be a killer, but perhaps she could utilize those skills as a lobbyist or something. Same skill set, to be honest.

Read the rest at VH1.

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