not all Asians are blonde

In 1704, George Psalmanazar was strolling the streets of London and claiming to be the first Formosan to do so.

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Born in the South of France, sometime between 1679 and 1684, he traveled to Germany, took on the persona of an uncivilized Japanese–who spoke fluent Latin–and joined a regiment in the service of the Dutch. Psalmanazar recounted colorful stories of his past life to his fellow soldiers and when his regiment was posted to the Netherlands, he came to the attention of the Rev. Alexander Innes, who served as chaplain to a Scottish regiment.

(un) civilised Japanese and his harem found here

Innes soon discovered Psalmanazar’s fraud and became his confederate, as a means to better his own fortune. He baptized Psalmanazar a Christian and persuaded him to change his putative birthplace from Japan to the even more exotic Formosa (now known as Taiwan), which at the time was largely unknown in Europe. It was Innes who brought him to England to entertain audiences with his alleged adventures in Formosa.

Formosan push-car found here

It mattered little that he didn’t look in the least bit Asian as almost nobody in Europe, least of all blonde George himself, knew what an actual Asian looked like. But  George’s deception was almost revealed when he attended a meeting of London’s Royal Society at which a Jesuit missionary recently returned from China was also present.

click here for tutorial on styling blond Asian hair

The evening began with the usual matters natural and unnatural, with the examination of some ovarian cysts and a possum penis topping the list. George cheerfully spoke his invented language to the Society as Father Fountaney accused him of fraud. The astronomer Sir Edmund Halley also suspected trickery but George would not budge from his story.

possum found here

Psalmanazar quickly became a celebrity in London and was persuaded to write an account of his native country. In the space of two months he produced a 288 page book including dozens of illustrations. With its lurid descriptions of polygamy, human sacrifice, cannibalism, infanticide, and other grisly activities, the book was a sensation.

read first hand account of American polygamy here

He added a translation from Formosan to English of The Lord’s Prayer buttressed by fold out plates of the Formosan language and a chart of its numerical system. These he followed with botany, zoology, gastronomy and an account of the island’s history and a sensational account of religious practices. He wrote all of this while he was only 19 years old.

A French translation appeared in Amsterdam in 1705 and interest in the book was high enough a decade later to prompt a German version, which was published in Frankfurt in 1716. By this time, however, Psalamanazar’s fraud had been revealed in England and he lapsed into relative obscurity.

images from his book found here

He worked at a variety of jobs, the most successful of which, ironically, involved writing. He became a respected man of letters and enjoyed the friendship of Samuel Johnson and others. Eventually, a repentant Psalmanazar wrote his memoirs and arranged to have them published posthumously. Accordingly, a year after his death in 1763, Psalmanazar’s Memoirs of ****: a Reputed Native of Formosa (1764) was published. In the Memoirs, Psalmanazar chronicled his fraudulent past; however, he never revealed his true name which remains unknown today.

clutching at conspiratorial straws

Maureen Guinness was one of the three beautiful Guinness sisters who were heirs to the brewing company fortune.

Oonagh, Maureen and Aileen found here

Her every move was noted: when she stayed at Longleat for Henry Bath’s coming of age party in July 1926, it was worthy of remark that her current nickname was “Teapot”.

Teapot found here

The novelist Evelyn Waugh nicknamed Maureen “Mannerless”, probably after she boxed Randolph Churchill’s ears in public for not sending a letter of condolence on the death of her husband during the war. This was quite a change from the shy debutante who spent her coming-out season hiding in the lavatories of assorted stately homes. On one occasion, the plumber was called as the staff assumed the lady’s failure to emerge was on account of her being “compromised by the plumbing“.


Maureen Dufferin was remarkably attractive, animated, personable, and possessed of a forthright manner. She appeared to relish her part in the BBC2 “expose” film, Guinnesty, in which she was interviewed at length and spoke with candour about her relations. She had a penis obsession and, ever the practical joker, attended parties with a fake one on her nose and a hidden fart device between her legs. Even in her nineties she was still throwing lively annual dinner parties for the Queen Mother at her home in Knightsbridge, at which the likes of Sir Alec Guinness and Barry Humphries could be found.

image found here

She was truly a survivor from another era. At a book launch in 1996, she wore an exaggerated black oilskin sou’wester, a 1940s-style fur coat with padded shoulders, platform shoes and pale blue and multicoloured rhinestone spectacles. In a conversation with Noel Coward’s biographer, she remarked, “What a pity they didn’t have sperm banks in those days” – the word “sperm” rang out loud and clear through the reverent hush of Hatchards: “we could do with more Noel Cowards.”

Connery & Coward found here

One of her nephews was her sister Oonagh’s son, Tara Browne, who died at the age of 21 when he crashed his Lotus Elan while speeding in London. Tara was the inspiration for The Beatles’ song A Day in the Life. This website seems to think there is a link between Tara Browne and the “Paul is Dead” rumours that have been circulating since 1969

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One crackpot theory suggested that McCartney had been buried in secret and his features transposed onto a body double . . . Tara Browne. But by that time Browne had himself been killed in a real road accident. Suki Potier, his girlfriend, who was travelling in the passenger seat, escaped with bruises and shock.

Suki (third from left) found here

It was this tragedy that led her to Rolling Stones musician Brian Jones. Suki said, “He gave me a shoulder to cry on and he picked up the pieces and made me feel a woman again.”

Suki moved with 27-year-old Brian to a fifteenth century farmhouse, which was once the home of AA Milne, creator of the Winnie the Pooh stories. It was there in the swimming pool that Brian, who had by then left the Rolling Stones, drowned mysteriously.

Brian Jones found here

Now we have three different public figures (Paul McCartney, Tara Browne, and Brian Jones), who all knew each other, and who all either died, or were replaced, or both, within a pretty short span of time.

1. *Something* happened to McCartney earlier in 1966 — maybe even a car crash on 9/11. He wasn’t killed, but was disfigured in some way, requiring a replacement for the Beatles.

2. A few months later, Brian Jones is murdered in Tara Browne’s car, but it is set up to make it appear as if Tara Browne died in a car “accident”. Suki was NOT in the car during the crash, but she is placed at the scene AFTER the fact in order to identify the body to the Police, who only see a shattered young man with shaggy blond hair.

3. Tara Browne replaces Brian Jones, but in appearance only. Musically, he is replaced by the disfigured McCartney, who despite his physical appearance, is still a genius multi-instrumentalist, who, like Brian Jones, can play just about any instrument you hand to him.

4. Suki begins dating Brian Jones, and eventually moves in with him. This makes a lot of sense now, as Brian is really Tara, who she was seeing when he “died”.

5. At some point in 1969, it’s determined that there’s no longer a need for a Brian Jones character at all, so he is either literally murdered, or his death/murder is faked in order to make him disappear…..

druid doings

The origins of the Ancient Order of Druids are largely mysterious. However, it is known that it was founded in 1781 in London, and it arose at a time when voluntary societies and clubs were becoming particularly popular….

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During the latter part of the reign of Queen Victoria, there was a Welsh archdruid, Owen Morgan, who believed and publicly taught that Jesus Christ was a phallic symbol.

Queen Victoria’s wedding shoes found here

To do him justice, Morgan was anything but coy about the matter. He began his book with a note warning the incautious reader to expect explicit talk about phallic worship. He devoted pages to the task of exposing the Ark of the Covenant as the symbolic vulva of the earth goddess.

image found here

A full chapter expounds the solar and sexual mysteries of the Tabernacle erected by the Israelites in the wilderness. Another interprets the ritual of the Day of Atonement as a symbolic orgy of astronomy and sex, in which the High Priest enters the Holy Place and is reborn from it, or, in Morgan’s own inimitable prose, experiences a new birth “through the hairy eastern outlet of the Virgin of Israel“.

click for more photos of very long hair

It may seem strange from a modern perspective to use a label such as “phallic religion” to describe Morgan’s theory, but it’s a thoroughly Victorian oddity. The most widely respected medical textbook on human sexuality published in England during Queen Victoria’s reign, Dr. William Acton’s massive tome The Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs (1857), mentions women twice and vaginas not at all. For Acton, as for most male Victorians, “reproductive organs” meant penises and testicles. Vaginas were utterly taboo – a taboo so rarely breached that when the avant-garde French painter Gustave Courbet painted a woman’s genitals and titled the painting L’Origine du Monde (“The Origin of the World,” 1866), the rich private collector who commissioned it kept it in his dressing room with a veil hanging in front of it.**

Nude With Veil found here

**original article found here

Published in: on February 23, 2011 at 6:55 am  Comments (42)  
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the pyjama girl mystery

We love an unsolved mystery here at the Gimcrack, and Australia has plenty of them. In 1934 there was the famous case of the Dead Girl in the Silk Pyjamas. Her partially burnt body was discovered lying beside a culvert in the road.

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The dead woman was in her 20s, she was about 5’1″ and she had bluish eyes. An X-ray revealed that she had been shot below the right eye. But the most probable cause of her death were around eight really horrific blows to her face. It was very hard to work out who she was; a problem the police had to solve first.

Artists drew their impressions, police made masks. Photographs of each were published but without result. The police then took an unusual step and had her body preserved in a formalin bath at Sydney University. She would remain there for 10 years.

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In the 1930s, pyjamas were exotic, the sort of thing worn by young flappers. These so-called ‘new women’ dressed in skimpy clothes, they smoked, they drank, they partied and they laughed at convention. The straitlaced moral guardians of the day held up the Pyjama Girl as an example, a warning of what happens to young women who go astray.

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The press leapt on this bandwagon and began to use the unsolved Pyjama Girl case to put pressure on the police commissioner, Bill Mackay. The police had a list of young women who had disappeared at the time. High on their list was Linda Agostini. She was a young English woman who’d married an Italian with fascist leanings named Antonio Agostini. Police questioned Agostini; he claimed that Linda had deserted him and that he had no idea of her whereabouts. They suspected Agostini but were faced with the fact that his wife Linda physically looked very different from the Pyjama Girl. Linda Agostini was full-breasted and she had brown eyes but the Pyjama Girl had small breasts and blue eyes. And the dental records didn’t match. Linda’s dentist had given her two porcelain fillings and these were not found in the corpse of the Pyjama Girl. So she was crossed off the list, which makes what happened 10 years later all the more incredible.

Not this Linda

Commissioner Bill Mackay was a regular at a posh Sydney restaurant called Romanos. Antonio Agostini just happened to be a waiter there. One day in the restaurant, so the story goes, Mackay noticed that Agostini seemed unusually sad. The commissioner asked him why and Agostini explained that he was a widower, indeed, widowed by his own hand. He confessed that 10 years before he had killed his wife, Linda. Suddenly, the police commissioner himself, Bill Mackay, single-handedly had identified the Pyjama Girl and had solved Australia’s greatest murder mystery.

Richard Evans, who wrote a book about this mystery thinks that the official explanation, the one police put forward at the inquest in 1944 and at the trial of Antonio Agostini later that year was fabricated and false.

What previously undiscovered documents appear to reveal is that Mackay, driven to solve a case that just wouldn’t go away, may actually have set up Agostini as the Pyjama Girl murderer. First, there is the question of the teeth. In February 1944, Mackay arranged for leading Sydney dentist Professor Everett Magnus to re-examine the corpse’s teeth, to look once again for the missing porcelain fillings that by now three experts had failed to find. Astonishingly, he found them and the evidence of the other experts was ignored.

Oops, wrong Linda again

And then there was the question of the eyes. Linda Agostini had brown eyes. An autopsy performed by Professor Arthur Burkitt showed that the Pyjama Girl had blue eyes. But at the coronial inquest, police called two expert witnesses who both gave evidence that the colour of the eyes must have changed from brown to blue after death. Medically, this is highly improbable but the coroner accepted it.

learn how to permanently change your eye colour here

And then there’s the matter of the confession. Agostini’s story was that Linda had become neurotic and an alcoholic. He said one morning he woke to find her holding a gun to his head. There was a struggle, the gun went off and Linda died. Panic-stricken, he put her in his car and drove off, finally dumping her body in a culvert and setting it alight with spare petrol he kept in a can. And, this is crucial, he used the rest of the petrol to fill the tank to get back to Melbourne. Yet Police Sergeant Kelly, the first policeman on the crime scene 10 years before, was very clear indeed – he smelled kerosene, not petrol.

By the time of the coronial inquest, Kelly had changed his story to say it was either kerosene or petrol, which smell nothing alike. And in Agostini’s confession there is no mention of the extensive injuries to the head. Eventually, he makes a ridiculous story of the body having fallen down a flight of stairs and hitting a flowerpot.

flower pot ring found here

Agostini said later that Mackay gave him whiskey and helped him to confess. Evans suspects that the confession is a fabrication – an attempt to make the events of one crime fit another. Agostini confessed to killing his wife, but she was not the Pyjama Girl. Evens also thinks Mackay had made a threat and a promise. The threat was that “If you don’t confess, you’ll be convicted anyway and you’ll be convicted of murder.”

At his trial, Agostini did get off with only manslaughter. He was sentenced to six years jail, but served just three years and nine months before being deported back to Italy.

Puglia, Italy

There’s a postscript to this. A suitcase of police evidence has turned up which contains a microscope slide with a tiny slither of the iris from the eye of the Pyjama Girl. A DNA test matched against one of Linda Agostini’s relatives might just solve the mystery. We’ve asked the police if they’re prepared to do it. But the situation is an historian’s nightmare, because the test would probably destroy the iris, which is the evidence.

Nancy’s ray guns

French physicist, Prosper-René Blondlot, was working at the University of Nancy, France, when he thought he’d discovered a new form of radiation.

image found here

He had perceived changes in the brightness of an electric spark in a spark gap placed in an X-ray beam which he photographed and attributed to the novel form of radiation, naming it the N-ray for the University of Nancy.

Cathedral, Nancy, France found here

The “discovery” excited international interest and many physicists worked to replicate the effects.

Dr J Stetson Hooker described his experiments on rays given off by humans thus: I have conducted during odd moments some 300 experiments to test this question of the human-ray spectrum and the extraordinary unanimity of the results is astounding…. rays emanating from a very passionate man have a deep red hue… the ambitious man emits orange rays;

Triumphant orange found here

the deep thinker, deep blue;

read about blue Paul here

the lover of art and refined surroundings, yellow; the anxious, depressed person, grey;

The Grey Man of the Merrick found here

and he who leads a low debased life throws off muddy-brown rays.”

American physicist Robert Wood was one who failed to replicate the experiments. Wood was a mischievious fellow – he’d gone on a joyride on the Trans-Siberian Railway while it was still being built, had swooped about in a glider before its design was remotely safe to life and limb, and had written a loony spoof of nature manuals titled How to Tell the Birds from the Flowers.

image found here

He had a reputation as a popular “debunker” in the period, and was prevailed upon by the journal Nature to travel to Blondlot’s laboratory in France to investigate further. In the darkened room, Wood secretly removed an essential prism from the experimental apparatus, yet the experimenters still said that they observed N-rays. He also secretly replaced a large file that was supposed to be giving off N-rays with an inert piece of wood, yet the N-rays were still “observed”. By 1905 no one outside Nancy believed in N-rays even as Blondlot himself is reported to have still been convinced of their existence in 1926.

image found here

A park in downtown Nancy is named after Blondlot. He left his house and garden to the city which transformed it into a public park. This can be seen as appropriate since he made significant contributions to physics before the N-ray debacle. James Randi reported that citizens of Nancy and members of the faculty at the university did not remember ever having heard about N-rays or Blondlot.


the jewel in the box

Long long before Priscilla Queen of the Desert there was the Jewel Box Revue

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During the 1940s warmer months, the Jewel Box Revue was a travelling showcase for the art form of female impersonation. In the winter months, the revue performed out of a nightclub in Miami called the Jewel Box Lounge.

There was always one male impersonator featured, a genetic female creating the illusion of a man. These early day drag kings would often MC the show, and sing in a tenor or baritone voice. The most notable male impersonators of the Jewel Box Revue were Miss Tommy Williams, Miss Mickey Mercer, and Miss Storme De Larverie. The latter is often reported as being the person who threw the first punch at Stonewall.

Storme DeLarverie by Diane Arbus found here

Terry Noel was one of the female impersonators who toured with the Jewel Box Revue. You can read the full interview this excerpt is from here

Terry Noel

I remember some of Hollywood’s elite being in the audience. I’ve seen Judy Garland, Liza Minelli, Jim Hutton, Natalie Wood, Warren Beatty, Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Lauren Bacall and Lorne Greene. I recall that Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty had just finished the movie “Splendor in the Grass.” They referred to it as “Splendor up my Ass.”

Warren and Natalie found here

Frankie Valli, of The Four Seasons, was one who was intrigued by my impersonation. He was nice to talk with. Unfortunately, he was there with a date. Enough said. I did date Jim Hutton several times. If you can’t remember who he was, just Google him, girls. I suppose to the younger ones, he is best known for being Tim Hutton’s father. He was sweet man. I enjoyed his company.

Jim Hutton

The decision to leave show biz was made the moment I decided to have my sex reassignment surgery in 1963. Unfortunately, there were complications which showed up after the surgery. I had a bad urethral stricture and had to carry around a small catheter to empty my bladder whenever I took in too much liquid. That went on for three years until 1968 when I had another surgery in Yonkers, NY. The Yonkers surgery was the successful one, although the hardest, because I had to have a skin graft taken from my right hip to allow the construction of an adequately deep and wide vagina. Recovery from that surgery took months. Today the place where the skin was taken is not noticeable at all and my vagina is fully functional and very cute!

In 1969, I moved to Virginia Beach, VA. There I met and married a military man (Navy). We were together a total of 14 years. He brought his son from his first marriage to live with us when the boy was nine years old. We bought a home and lived a normal life until 1985 when we were divorced. He, to this day, knows nothing of my past nor does my son who is now 38 years old.


It is hard to name all the things that make me happy. I guess now that I’ve reached retirement and have found contentment and peace, just having the free time to do as I please is my greatest joy.

Algie

Algernon Swinburne (1837-1909) was a talented writer, remembered best perhaps for his poetry. According to Colin Wilson’s The Misfits, he was also a sexual pervert, although of a fairly harmless variety.

Swinburne by Rossetti

“Ever since he was a child he had an obsession with being flogged. Most biographers assume that this began at Eton, which was notorious for its ‘swishings’ – one headmaster was said to be more familiar with his pupil’s behinds than their faces – but it was almost certainly an inborn tendency.

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At the age of twelve, Swinburne was sent to Eton where he lived with his tutor, James Joynes, and his wife. Joynes would prepare the flogging room with burnt scent or make Swinburne put Eau de Cologne on his face before being beaten, which Swinburne found greatly increased his pleasure.

In later life he expressed nostalgia for the ‘glorious Eton beatings’ and said he would ‘give anything for a photo taken at the right moment on the flogging block – say the tenth cut or so.’

Eton flogging block found here

In 1866, with the publication of Poems and Ballads, Victorian England realised with horror that their neo-classical poet was an advocate of vice and profligacy, and a disciple of that unspeakable Frenchman, Baudelaire. Swinburne’s response to this was to become more defiant and to increase his intake of brandy. At the Arts Club in Hanover Square, he drank himself unconscious with dreary frequency, usually passing through a stage in which he talked in a loud voice about lesbianism, sodomy and sadism, or shrieked obscenities while he performed an impromptu dance like a demented puppet.

Baudelaire

In 1867, American actress Adah Mencken knocked at his door. She had been asked by Swinburne’s friends to seduce the poet, one rumour asserting that Rossetti had paid her £10.00 to do so. She spent that night, and many subsequent nights, in Swinburne’s rooms but is said to have returned the fee to Rossetti, admitting that she could not ‘get the poet up to scratch’ or convince him that biting was no real substitute for intercourse.

Adah

Below: an extract from Swinburne’s Atlanta in Calydon (1865)

For winter’s rains and ruins are over,

And all the season of snows and sins;

The days dividing lover and lover,

The light that loses, the night that wins;

And time remembered is grief forgotten,

And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,

And in green underwood and cover

Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

Published in: on February 16, 2011 at 8:49 pm  Comments (39)  
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sticky fauna

After enduring a heatwave last week, the weather turned cool and overcast as soon as Queenwilly, The King and I went to Hardys Bay for a long weekend. So no swimming but lots of mah jongg and spotting of kookaburras, galahs, parrots and bush turkeys. And this fellow with his magnificent camouflage

We also completed a rather rude jigsaw of a very happy cat. If you have both fish and cats in the same house I would advise you to keep a lid on the aquarium.

One other thing we did was play a few rounds of “If…. Questions for the Game of Life”. Your mission (should you decide to accept it) is to decide which two famous people you would sleep with simultaneously. Queenwilly chose Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons (though ten years younger than he is now).

image found here

The King picked the girls from Chronicles of Riddick, a film I’ve never seen. They appear to be Thandie Newton and Alexa Davalos, unless he has such a thing for older women that he meant Judi Dench…..

image found here

I picked Jemaine and Bret,  from Flight of the Conchords. Originally I’d selected Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen but The King told me they’d probably spend the entire night just talking about music to each other and that wouldn’t do at all

image found here

Published in: on February 15, 2011 at 8:21 am  Comments (40)  
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just a tiny slither please

Ever since I read Stolen World by Jennie Erin Smith I’ve become fascinated by the people who are fascinated with snakes. There is even a religion devoted to the slithery creatures.

Snake (or serpent) handling in Alabama is practiced primarily by the members of the Church of God with Signs Following. The eccentricities and inherent danger of the church’s practices have made it an attractive subject for social scientists.

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In addition to handling serpents, members of the sect also engage in glossolalia (speaking in tongues) and “laying on of hands” (a belief that illnesses and wounds can be healed with the mind) and drink the deadly poison strychnine. It is difficult to estimate the exact number of serpent handlers who live in Alabama—or nationwide for that matter—because the sect is not public or open in its practices.


image found here

One of the most recognized names in Alabama’s Church of God with Signs Following is Glenn Summerford of Scottsboro. Summerford had risen to a high level of church hierarchy as a preacher when his wife, Darlene, accused him of attempted murder in 1991. She was hospitalized with a series of snake bites and accused Summerford of forcing her hand into a box full of snakes. He was convicted and sentenced to 99 years in jail.

The highlight of the trial was when wife Darlene was on the stand. When asked if the congregation kept snakes, she replied “Yes, sir.” Then asked if they fed the snakes Darlene replied “Yes, sir.” Then when asked if they bred the snakes Darlene—without a pause—replied, “Oh no, sir…they do that all by themselves.” The court broke into hysterics. Darlene was a hit.

image found here

By the way, if you’re planning a visit to Israel, please stop off at Barak’s Snake Spa. Apparently snake massage has therapeutic value…

image found here

Published in: on February 14, 2011 at 9:26 am  Comments (38)  
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give me a break

The real nursemyra (as opposed to the I’m-not-a-nurse Myra) has had her fill of faeces and crazy patients. I’m taking a short vacation so here’s some homework for you to do in my absence. If you score over 12 points, don’t come crying to me. I’ve been telling you for years to eat more fibre

While you’re evacuating and weighing your floaters I’ll be soaking up some sun, sea and sand in Hardys Bay. There’ll be cooking, eating, mah jongg, crosswords, reading, jigsaws, kookaburras and pedicures. If you ask queenwilly nicely, she may take photos. I’m leaving my camera at home.

(My rosella Woody in busy mode on the left, nursemyra’s recently refreshed red streaks on the right)

Published in: on February 10, 2011 at 7:24 am  Comments (43)  
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