Magnolia with Greg Sahadachny


It’s been a year — a strange, roller-coaster of a year — but Making the Scene has finally returned with an episode recorded before we went on hiatus. This is the first of three episodes we still have for you, and they’re all fantastic.

This episode is special. Though our guest is Greg Sahadachny, he’s actually the host of this episode. Envious of his guests getting to discuss their favorite scenes, your regular host (that’s me!) asked the lord and master of the Debatable Podcast to stop by and allow the tables to be turned. Today, I, Eric Sipple, bring you a scene from one of my all-time favorite films, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. It’s a film following the intersecting stories of a number of Los Angelenos on a very, very weird day in their lives. A day that reaches its apex in a scene where frogs rain down from the sky, forcing our characters’ unravelling lives into new, and sometimes better, places.

You can watch most of the here:

Listen to Greg Sahadachny’s fantastic Debatable Podcast here:

And be sure to follow Greg on Twitter:

I don’t want to promise when we’ll get our final two episodes out, but I promise they’ll be worth the wait!

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To a Dear Friend, Farewell

I lost a friend this weekend. Laura Wilkinson, who I’ve known since the long-ago days of Jr. High, who was born only a day before I came into this world, is gone.

Like many childhood friends, we saw too little of each other in adulthood. Staying in touch after your lives have changed and diverged can be difficult, and I’m worse than most in that regard. If not for the miracle of technology, we might have lost touch entirely. I am so glad that didn’t happen.

The weight of a friendship isn’t measured only in the number of words exchanged, though. It is a connection that survives distance and time, that can seem invisible in our daily lives while remaining a vital, essential part of who we are. By that measure, Laura was as true a friend as I’ve had.

I’ve known Laura since 7th grade. Our relationship did what many do in adolescence: it waxed, and it waned. It sometimes seemed to vanish entirely before a sudden sharing of homeroom period revived it. There were people I spent more time with than Laura, friendships that were more active, more more a part of my daily life. But as I said: friendships are more than the sum of days spent. What matters is that my friendship with Laura lasted. It endured. And it affected me deeply.

When senior year came, and the two of us, both single, wanted to go to prom without being tied to a capital-D Date, we found a safe choice in each other. We dressed up, posed together for pictures, ate dinner, then went our mostly separate ways for the rest of the party. It’s not how we’re told a great prom is supposed to go, but a great prom it was.

If you’ve read my first novel, Laura might sound familiar. Broken Magic‘s queen of the theater shares her name and appearance — though not her personality; writing from real life inspiration is a mixed up and strange thing. And though that character is the most obvious mark Laura left, it’s far from the most important.

Laura (left) on the night of Senior Prom.

Before we parted ways on prom night, we congregated with the other non-conformist types who’d holed up the hotel’s large, open cube of pay phones. There, I met one of Laura’s friends. Someone who’d later adopt me into her own clan: the theater kids. Without Laura’s friendship, without her trust — and what is friendship, really, but trust? — that we could safely go to prom together while still having our own experiences, an important part of my life would not have happened.

Quite simply, without that friendship, there is no Broken Magic, because the person who wrote that novel would have never come to be.

I am who I am because of my friendship with Laura Wilkinson.

Though we grew in different directions, though Laura and I hadn’t crossed paths in far too long, Laura was a dear and important friend. I cannot express how much I’ll miss her, how much it hurts to no longer know she’s there. To have lost the hope that fate would, once again, allow us time together. Even briefly.

When we lose someone, we say they’ll be remembered. But there is something deeper than memory that Laura leaves behind. The person she was, and the life she led, bettered those of us who knew her.

Laura, you will be missed, and you will be remembered. But more importantly, your soul lives on through the lives you touched. May we all find a way to be worthy of that honor.

Farewell, dear friend.

To those who knew Laura or would simply like to help, her family is accepting donations to cover the cost of her funeral.

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New Fiction and An Awesome Sale!

CoverHello, friends and readers! I bring exciting news! The Deli Counter of Justice is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by offering our most excellent anthology on Kindle for the low, low price of $0.99! Why is a superhero anthology celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? Well…you know…like, corned beef and…stuff? Look, don’t think too deeply about this. There’s a book you can get for cheap and the book is awesome! And to kick things off, we’ll be posting new Justice Deli fiction for you to take in free through your ocular cavities! So, enjoy my new short-short story, “St. Paddy’s Day”, starring my character from the anthology, Tabitha Cook! Enjoy, and don’t forget: Get The Deli Counter of Justice for SUPERCHEAP and spread the word!

It was Tabitha’s third beer in less than an hour, and she still wasn’t buzzed. Why had she ordered beer, anyway? Anything would’ve been a better choice. Vodka. Whiskey. That gross-looking bacon moonshine in a mason jar the bartender kept forcing people to smell. But no, she had to go with green pissbeer because most of her paycheck got eaten by rent, and green pissbeer was on special. Tabitha was the queen of bad decisions.

She reached for her wallet to see if she had enough for another drink, resting her left elbow on the bar for support as she did, and choked back a wail of pain. Right. Still not healed. She couldn’t even be angry at the nanoscopic jerks in her bloodstream for not getting her fixed up yet, not after the night they’d had. More victims of Tabitha’s shitty choices. She just had to get St. Patrick’s Day off to patrol the Row, unable to resist the opportunity to pummel a few sloshed frat boys looking for trouble. Only tonight had turned into one of those “more than she bargained for” deals and now she was doing something she’d sworn she never would: spending St. Paddy’s Day in a bar that served green fucking beer.

The night wasn’t looking up. Her wallet was empty save for a years-old losing raffle ticket. Tabitha was out of cash, nursing a shattered-into-dozens-of-bone-fragments arm, and was stone cold sober. All because what she thought was a simple gang of thieves knocking over an armored car was her crew. The one people’d been whispering fearfully about for weeks. Cadence, they called her.

“Hey, you, uh…you with the…um…hey.”

Tabitha turned. Standing beside her was a gawky kid in a black Caliburn U. t-shirt and a pork pie hat who didn’t look old enough to smoke. If Tabitha’s arm wasn’t screaming in agony, she’d have punched him on principle.

“Hey, I was…” he trailed off and swayed back and forth for a second before continuing. “Do you want a drink?”

“For fuck’s sake.”

The kid leaned past her and slammed a ten-dollar bill on the bar. “Get this fine lady a bacon moonshine! A big, fat bacon. Get it for her!”

“I don’t want a drink, dude. I want you to—“

“A double, fine sir! A double bacon!”

The bartender dropped a glass of smoky liquid ass in front of Tabitha and swiped the cash. The boy looked at the drink, then at Tabitha, and grinned. Before Tabitha could tell him to fuck off, he stumbled and fell into the arms of a girl that looked even younger than him. She held the boy steady and smiled apologetically. “He likes to buy people drinks when he’s hammered. He’s not hitting on you, promise.”

“Oh,” Tabitha replied. The girl dragged the boy away and into the crowd. In that case… She spun back to the bar, lifted the glass, and shotgunned it before the chemical pork flavor had a chance to make her gag.

That’s when it hit her. Not the alcohol (she wasn’t that lucky) but why she was sober. There was only one explanation. Look, boys. I got my ass kicked and my arm is in pieces. Keep your hands off my booze. The Pixels couldn’t be hungry. She’d nabbed three Italian hoagies from the deli while Dad was too busy with customers to know she was there. If her turncoat nanobot friends were eating her booze, they were doing it on purpose. To hell with this, Tabitha thought. Even her Pixels hated her.

Things had been going so well, too. People knew who she was. Criminal types were afraid of her before she broke their jaws. Tabitha had even stopped hating it when people called her The Pixel. Four awesome months living the dream, but apparently that’s all it had been. It was bound to happen eventually. She hadn’t gone up against anyone serious since her first night out. Tabitha had taken down her share of superpowered assholes, but no one really dangerous. This was the first challenge Tabitha’d faced in months, and here she was. Beaten to hell.

God, did she wish she was drunk.

Wait, hold up. Are you… no. No way. The Pixels didn’t care what Tabitha did so long as she kept them fed. They didn’t talk to her, and they definitely didn’t teach her object lessons. Unless… you aren’t growing up on me, are you?

Maybe they were right. Was this all it took to put her down? One thief with some kind of… well, “sound” was a weird word for the vibrations that turned her ulna into gravel, but that’s all it was. Sound. It would take a day for her arm to heal, but that didn’t mean she had to waste the night moping in a bar. She’d need to shake some people down if she was going to learn enough to be ready for her rematch with Cadence. Plus she was broke and the next guy who wanted to buy her a drink probably would be hitting on her. Fine, boys. Message received.

Tabitha stood up and kicked the stool under the bar. She’d planned on spending St. Paddy’s as The Pixel and that was what she was going to do. She pushed through the door (with her right shoulder, obviously, since her left arm still hurt so much she wanted to cry) and made for the first patch of shadows where she could change. By the time her army of tiny robots was done forming Tabitha’s costume, she was ready. She bolted up a fire escape, across the bar’s rooftop, and leapt to the nearest building.

A wave of lightheaded euphoria washed over her as she landed on the opposite side, knocking her so off-balance that she almost face-planted onto the cement roof. Three green pissbeers and a double bacon moonshine hitting her all at once.

Had Tabitha just made up that whole Pixels-were-teaching-her-a-lesson thing? Or had they quit booze-hoarding now that the message was received? Either way, it was fucking typical of them.

You’re the worst, you little assholes.

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The Great #CodeSongs Challenge

HTML & CSS tags

I was screwing around on Twitter today, making bad jokes (as I do), and I stumbled into a fun idea. But it’s an idea I need your help with. I was translating pop songs into code, because, hey, you’ve got to use this goofy programming knowledge for something, right?

Stuff like:

[“whiskey”, “vodka”, “lager”, “cider”].each do |drink|


1 IF animal = “sheep” THEN
2 GOTO 6
3 if animal = “goat” THEN
4 GOTO 8
6 PRINT “heaven”
7 NEXT animal
8 PRINT “hell”
9 NEXT animal

If you don’t recognize those songs, let me give you some help.

Yeah, yeah. Silly, nerdy, and kinda dumb. It’s how I roll.

Anyway, I made a joke about putting together a chapbook of these #CodeSongs, when @ArreoTheCynic gave me a great idea: get other people involved. But if I did that, I needed a cause. A purpose. A call to arms.

So I thought: What if I got all the best #CodeSongs people could throw at me, sold them in an ebook, and donated every cent of the proceeds to a worthy organization. Like, say, The Ada Initiative.

The Ada Initiative is doing fantastic, amazing work supporting women in the often ugly world of technology. We have a serious problem with diversity in Code Land, and The Ada Initiative is fighting the good fight to make things better.

You submit, I collect them, and we raise some money For Great Social Justice. Cool, yeah?

Here are the rules:

  • Any song is up for grabs, but try to choose one people might recognize.
  • Translate a piece of it (the chorus is often easiest, but hey, go for a verse if it suits you) into code.
  • Any programming language is cool. In fact, I want to see as many languages as possible. Be creative! Give me some Python, some Haskell, some SQL. Write me some valid C!
  • Your #CodeSong has to fit into a tweet, which means 140 characters. Restrictions are good, trust me! Creativity flourishes within limits!
  • Try to make it valid code, but know that there’s some room for artistic license considering the format. But really try to make it valid!
  • Post the #CodeSongs here, or tweet me @saalon, or just tweet with the hashtag #CodeSongs.

If you tweet me, comment, or #CodeSong it, I’ll consider it a submission, so either get me a way to contact you so I can confirm how you’d like to be credited (anonymous is okay!), or leave me how you’d like to be credited in the comment. As long as I have a way of getting in touch with you, I’ll also confirm it’s okay to use it.

I can only go ahead with this idea if you submit, so help! HELP! HELP US RAISE MONEY FOR THE ADA INITIATIVE! Make those songs into code!

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Boogie Nights with Joseph Lewis


December is a special month for Making the Scene. Not only is it your fond host’s birthday, but one of my favorite directors, Paul Thomas Anderson, is releasing a new film. So, before Inherent Vice has a chance to hit your eyeballs, Making the Scene will be coming at you with scenes from two of PTA’s best films.

First up, we’re joined by filmmaker and podcaster Joseph William Lewis, who’s brought with him what might be the single strangest scene in an already strange movie: Boogie Nights. After filling itself full of oddball characters, Boogie Nights wraps up by trapping us in a room with a coke-addled, mix-tape making drug dealer who really just wants a friendly audience while he plays Russian Roulette. It’s the perfect scene to dig into Anderson’s style — from extreme close-ups to use of music to the emotional high notes he allows his actors to hit, this is Anderson through and through.

The scene is available here:

You can watch Joseph’s film Nowheresville here

And find Joseph on Twitter here:

And we’ll be back before the end of the year with a very special episode. How special? I’m-the-guest-on-my-own-show special, that’s how special! Greg Sahadachny returns to guest host so that I can talk about one of my favorite scenes from perhaps my favorite film: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia.

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Blade Runner with Paul Smith


Hello, fond listeners! Making the Scene is back with a brand new invention! Today, we are joined by Gobbledygeek co-host and The Deli Counter of Justice co-editor/author Paul Smith! He’s chosen one of my favorite scenes of all time, the famous “Tears in the Rain” sequence from Blade Runner.

It’s the conclusion to a long chase sequence, as our hero Rick Deckard is pursued onto a rain-soaked rooftop by the replicant he was sent to “retire”, Roy Batty. Just as Deckard is about to fall to his death, Batty rescues him, and in his dying moments, recounts the wonders he’s seen in his too-short life. The entire film can be boiled down to this scene, from the art design and still-top of the line effects work on a futuristic Los Angeles, to the philosophical musings of what it means to be human, and the cruelty of mortality.

We pick up the scene at about 1:42, and end at 1:48. I couldn’t find the whole scene online, but I did find a clip that picks up just before the most important part:

You can find Paul’s podcasting work on Gobbledygeek at

And, remember, The Deli Counter of Justice is on sale now at Amazon:

We’ll be on a slightly accelerated release schedule this month, so get ready next week for my talk with Joseph Lewis. We’re bringing the Paul Thomas Anderson to Making the Scene with Boogie Nights!


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I’ve Been Dreaming of the Things I Learned About Myself (From About a Boy)


This summer, I did one of those things you get used to when you’re being treated for a mental health thingie. I tweaked the dosage of the pills that keep my head on a bit straighter. Like I have every time my shrink suggested I shove some extra milligrams of medication into myself, I told them they were full of crap and I was just fine thank you very much and I’d take the bonus pills when I needed them and not a moment sooner.

Then my brain cycled and chucked me into another depression and my friends asked why exactly I’d refused the med-bump and I got sick of everyone yelling at me and crawled back to my doctor to beg them for the thing they’d begged me to do a few months prior.

That bump — the summer dosage bump — was the best thing I’ve done for my brain since I went and got help in the first place. It helped so much that it made me feel stupid for having put it off for so long.

Why would I do that to myself? Why fight against something that would probably do good when I already knew there are parts of my brain that could use the help?

I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a boat before, but if not, hang with me. When you first get onboard, you really feel the waves. Every time the boat shifts, you have to think which way do I lean where do I put my feet should I stop walking or keep going and hope the dozen little corrections your body has to make will keep you upright. And then, after a day or two, it’s over. The waves are still there, but all those adjustments you have to make are so second nature that you don’t need to think about them anymore. Walking straight while the ground moves beneath you is still harder — it still takes more strength, more energy, more focus — it’s just happening so automatically that you’ve stopped noticing.

See where I’m going with this?

Slightly Medicated Eric wasn’t on entirely stable ground, but the waves of my bipolar cycling were…well, normal. Part of daily life. Why screw with my medication if things were normal, y’know?

The problem, of course, is that there was another time when what I thought what I was going through was Normal Daily Life: Before I got help in the first place. The reason it took me forever to get treatment was because I’d gotten so used to living with whatever was happening in my brain that I figured that was just me. Even when things got worse, they slid down in inches, so I’d only realize I was pitching back and forth for a little while before my subconscious got back to compensating.

And I went on compensating until something screamed loudly enough for me to notice. This summer, what broke through was the (quite literal) shouting of friends. That wasn’t what worked the first time, though. The first time, I ignored everyone’s concern, even Erin’s. No, see, when this all got started, what woke me up was About a Boy.

I’ve been a fan of About a Boy since it hit cable (which was like 10 years ago but let’s not talk about that, okay?). It’s one of my favorite films. E. and I watch it constantly. Watching it was how I celebrated finishing Broken Magic. I quote it incessantly. I’m sure I’ve annoyed everyone I know, is what I’m saying. I wasn’t looking at it for life lessons, though. It was just a breezy, funny little gem that boosted my mood.

When things started going to crap for me back in the summer of 2011, it started with High Anxiety, moved into Insomnia, dipped into The Rage (Carrie 2), then bottomed out into seemingly random bouts of Secret Tears. Running to the work bathroom to vent some sad became a very familiar thing. It went on for a while, but my denial remained intact. Strong. Impenetrable.

Until one day I was driving home, and the tears started in the car, which had never happened before. Not when I was driving. Out of nowhere, a quote from the beginning of About a Boy hit.

The crying had started again, and it scared me. Because now it was in the mornings. She’d never done that before.

Marcus (the Boy it’s About) is in the kitchen watching his mom try to make him a bowl of cereal, and she’s forcing herself through the breakdown, and there’s this point when she tries to pour milk and misses the bowl and the crying just gets harder and more desperate, and this all slammed into me at once and I realized…oh crap, I’m in trouble, aren’t I?

Worse, I suddenly understood what the people around me (especially Erin) were seeing, and why they were worried, and what I was probably doing to them.

Because the thing that followed the crying in the morning for Fiona, Marcus’ mom, was a suicide attempt.

And so, faced with a scene I’d watched a couple dozen times that I finally really got, I decided to ask for help.

When I watch About a Boy these days, it’s a completely different experience. Sure, it’s still hilarious and delightful and a seriously good time. It’s just got another layer to it now. I’m not seeing Fiona distantly, through Marcus’ worry and Will’s annoyance, but through her own eyes. When Marcus comes home to find his mom crying and she can’t even explain why, I feel what it was I was holding in and denying for so long.

I probably would have gotten help one way or another. I probably didn’t need About a Boy to kick my denial in half. But who knows how much louder, and more painful, that wake-up call would have had to be before I finally heard it. Who knows how much crappier I’d have let my life become.

Thank you, Nick Hornby. Thank you, Chris and Paul Weitz. Thank you, Toni Collette. You all reminded me that even the fluffiest and silliest of art can be exactly what we need, can be the thing that we let through the armor because our defenses don’t see it as a threat, can be the very force that bonds with our own heart and shows us where to go.

Also, now I get to make people feel really guilty when they complain that I quote About a Boy too much. Suckers.

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Inglourious Basterds with Arlo J. Wiley

Inglorious Basterds 2009 Movie Trailer Movie Scenes


Welcome back to Making the Scene! Today we’re joined by (one of) my partner(s) in Anthology Crime, Arlo J. Wiley, head editor of The Deli Counter of Justice and one half of the nerderific podcast Gobbledygeek. Since Gobbledygeek was the very first podcast to host me — and interview me about my then-new book Broken Magic at that! — there was no way I could miss getting the GGeeks on my show.

For today’s scene, AJ has chosen the (in my absolutely correct opinion) hands-down best scene in all of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds: the tavern scene. Four of our heroic Basterds in a basement tavern, meeting an actress-turned-spy, and facing off against a suspicious Gestapo agent. What does that get you? One of the best tension builds and releases you’re ever going to find.

Someone has thankfully made the scene available on Vimeo, so you can check it out here:

You can find Arlo J. Wiley’s podcasts — both Gobbledygeek and the Mad Men-centric Smoke Gets In Your Ears — right here:

And finally, if you haven’t already, check out the amazing superhero anthology that bears AJ’s name on the cover, The Deli Counter of Justice, right here:

Next time, we’ll be joined by the other half of Gobbledygeek and the third member of the Deli Triumvirate, Paul Smith. We’ll be talking Blade Runner! Don’t miss it!

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Hello friends and readers! I bring you the best of news: I’ve got a new book out! The Deli Counter of Justice, an anthology I co-edited and wrote a story for has just landed, and you can read it immediately!

Which you totally should do. If you just want to trust me on this one (and you should) or if you’ve been anxiously awaiting the release (and why wouldn’t you have been?), click on the cover below to grab your copy! If you need to know why you should want to read Deli Counter (what, my participation alone wasn’t enough? jeeeez), keep reading. Hell, keep reading anyway. I like when you read my posts.



So what is The Deli Counter of Justice, you ask? It’s a collection of short stories and poems that explore the world around an aging superhero who, realizing years of hiding behind his secret identity have made a mess of his Actual Life, retires and opens a deli. Not a SuperDeli, not a deli that serves as a secret base, but an actual, stocked-with-mortadella-and-provolone delicatessen. As Carl tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter, comfort his now unemployed sidekick, and rejoin the day to day life he’s spent decades ignoring, it’s just possible that Carl might change the world more than he ever did as a Big Time Hero.

Deli Counter brings you the excellent and moving writing of nine (9!) authors. Besides myself and my partners in crime Arlo J. Wiley and Paul Smith, you’ll find works by Rahne Ehtar, Amorak Huey, Thomas Dorton, Kitty Chandler, C. Gayle Seaman, and Alyssa Herron.

What I’m saying is this is a really awesome book and even if you wouldn’t normally be into superheroes, I think you’re going to find things you love in Deli Counter.

And if this still isn’t enough to get you excited, check out the Meet My Character post I wrote about Tabitha Cook, daughter of deli owner Carl, and burgeoning hero in her own right. She’s the star of my short story “Pixelated” and I think you just might enjoy reading about her as much as I did getting her story down on paper.

We started work on The Deli Counter of Justice in March of 2013, and though the process has been long and it’s been crapload of work, this has been one of the most satisfying artistic projects I’ve ever had the honor of being a part. All of our authors were fabulous collaborators, and my fellow editors’ enthusiasm and dedication to seeing this Deli get built was something to behold.

So: check out The Deli Counter of Justice. It’s available in paperback and Kindle formats on Amazon.

If you don’t dig the Giant A, you can also get ebooks in Many Formats on Smashwords.

One last thing. One last awesome thing.

On Saturday, December 13th at 2pm, I’ll be reading and signing copies of The Deli Counter of Justice at the unmatched indie book store, Rickert & Beagle in Pittsburgh, PA. And I won’t be alone! The entire editing staff of Deli will be reading, too, and authors Alyssa Herron and Thomas Dorton will also be joining us for the fun. I’ll write a bit more about what to expect at the reading later this month, but for now…


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Pan’s Labyrinth with Kitty Chandler


Hello, listeners! Making the Scene’s Month of Guillermo del Toro concludes with a special treat for Halloween. We’re back today discussing del Toro’s horror masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth with author and critic Kitty Chandler!

Kitty chose for us what is, perhaps, the film’s most terrifying scene: Ofelia’s second trial, and her confrontation with the Pale Man. It’s a sequence full of unsettling set design, atmosphere that alternates between the oppressive and inviting, and some of the best practical monster effects work you’ll find anywhere. This is the first and only time this season I had to re-watch the scene three times just to stop being scared so I could get into the actual analysis.

The full sequence isn’t on YouTube, but very nearly all of it is, and can be found here: For those watching at home, the scene begins about 56 minutes in and concludes just before the 1:03 mark.

Kitty is the author of Black Ice, a fantastic urban fantasy braided novel. You can get a copy of Black Ice here: She’s also partners with Anna Williams, our previous del Toro Month guest, at the critical review site Murderboarding. Check it out at Kitty’s personal blog, Kitty Ipsup, can be found at

Enjoy this fantastic discussion, and remember that we’ll be back in two weeks to talk Inglorious Basterds with Arlo J. Wiley.

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