Friday, February 26, 2010

Most of you know I have a lust for lists. I begin each day making a list of things to do and I begin each year with a list of aspirations. I even make lists of clothes I want.

This is currently at the top of that list:

The book Listography: Your Life in Lists is a guided journal that's meant to help you create your autobiography through lists. I turn to this book whenever I'm faced with a bad case of writer's block and recently I came across this writing prompt: List the things you're glad you did.

It's easy to list things like:

- Married my best friend

- Got a college education

- Embraced my curly hair (so I can buy cool t-shirts about it)

But these are all things I did knowing I'd end up a better person with a better life. But what about the so-called mistakes? What about the things people warned me not to do, but I did anyway? What about the things I did even though my insides were spasming every step of the way?

That list would read something like this:

- Fell for the guy I knew would break my heart

 Moved nearly 3,000 miles away from everyone I loved to get a master's degree I wasn't sure I even wanted

- Gave up a cool writing gig to move back Birmingham and teach teenagers

Yes, my fling with the guy with the big muscles and fast car left me coiled in a ball in my dorm room crying my eyes out, but I don't regret one second I spent with him. How could I? We had too much fun. Plus, hurtful relationships always teach you a lesson and make the moment you find Mr. Right even sweeter. 

My first few months in California taught me the true meaning of homesickness. I missed my friends and family so much I was actually sick to my stomach most days. But I left the West Coast a stronger, more well-rounded person and a better writer. Best of all, the distance showed Mr. Right and me just how strong our love was. 

Sometimes I wonder if I made a mistake giving up writing full time. Yes, I love teaching and I work with an amazing group of kids, but I miss writing almost as much as I missed Edd on those lonely Bay Area nights. Nonetheless, I'm confident that one day I'll know why this "mistake" was the right choice indeed. 

What are your favorite mistakes?
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Posted by in  on 7:00 AM 2 comments

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Corinne Bailey Rae
The Sea (released January 26, 2010)

A couple of years ago, I remember reading an interview with Mary J. Blige in which she gushed over then-rising star Amy Winehouse. This was back when Amy Winehouse was known as a talented crackhead, and not just simply a crackhead.

Anyway, Mary attributed Amy's ascent to her use of live instruments, giving her a more emotional, mature sound than the tinny, manufactured beats most of today's R&B artists wail over.

Of course Mary then goes and releases that annoying, run-of-the mill single from the AT&T commercial that sounds like every other song on the radio right now. It even had a tacked-on rap from your hero Drake.

Thank the Lord for Corinne Bailey Rae.

The Sea, her sophomore effort following her 2006 self-titled debut, comes on the heels of the tragic loss of her husband, who died of a suspected drug overdose. As you can guess, The Sea becomes her outlet to vent.

But all she needs is her guitar and some sparse drums. No synths, no 808s, nobody yelling AYYYYYYE in the chorus. It's refreshing.

At first glance, the gentle first single, "I'd Do It All Again" sounds like typical relationship drama but look deeper:

So weary, someone to love is bigger than your pride's worth

Is bigger than the pain you got for it hurts

And out runs all the sadness

It's terrifying, life, through the darkness

And I'd do it all again

Despite that pain, she's going to soldier on. That's grown-folks love right there. And all she needed was her guitar. This track, stripped to the bare essentials, shows her vulnerability.

Her smooth delivery picks up slightly for the infectious "Closer" and "Feels Like The First Time" two of the album's standouts. But once you hit the second half of the album, the music gets a little less accessible. The peppy "Paper Dolls" sounds oddly out of place, especially among subdued tracks like "The Sea" and "Diving For Hearts." Don't get me wrong - while Rae can't yell and scream like Keyshia Cole (and let's be glad she doesn't) her vocals are sometimes too light and airy. So when she drops meaningful jewels on the title track - "the sea...breaks everything, crushes everything/cleans everything, takes everything/from me" it's easy to tune them out.

That's what makes The Sea a frustrating album. I'll happily admit that it's full of tremendous creativity and substance but by the album's end there seems to be a lack of energy that hurts the flow of the album. Maybe it's the heavy subject matter. Or maybe it needs a verse from Drake.

Scratch that - actually, that's exactly what this album doesn't need. And I hope more artists follow suit. Instead of singing over flavor-of-the-month beats with a verse from Gucci Mane, just get a guitar, a couple of drums and bare your soul. It worked for Corinne.

Best tracks: "Closer," "Feels Like The First Time," "I'd Do It Again"

3.5 stars out of 5

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The South isn't known as being the most tolerant region of the world. But after moving back to the Alabama several months ago I've found myself surrounded by people and a culture that accepts, and even celebrates body types that may be upbraided in other areas. 

Growing up I was a pretty skinny girl, and I was constantly told by family members that I needed to "put some meat on my bones." I've mentioned before that when I left Alabama for California in 2003 I wore a size 4. I could even get into a 2 depending on the designer. Nowadays, I can wear an 8, but my body is most comfortable in a size 10. My family thinks my new curvy body is beautiful. Some days I agree with them. Some days, I don't. The question is, however, does size really matter?

Last night ABC's "Nightline" aired a very interesting debate on the issue of "Is It OK to Be Fat?" and touched on the issue of whether or not size determines health.

The debate featured Marianne Kirby, a leader of the Fat Acceptance Movement and author of "Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere," a book in which she argues that fat can be beautiful and healthy.

Crystal Renn, the world's highest-paid plus-size model, and author of "Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves" was also a part of the forum.  As revealed in her memoir,  when Renn started modeling she was a size zero, and she dieted her way to an eating disorder and a slew of health problems.

"I actually suffered from an eating disorder, anorexia, for three years, and it nearly took my life," Renn told ABC reporters. "And today, I can speak about health at any size because I really lived it through life experience."
On the other side of the debate were Kim Benson and MeMe Roth. Benson, a former obese woman who spent a lifetime yo-yo dieting and finally dropped the weight after tipping the scales at 347 pounds, is author of the book "Finally Thin!: How I Lost More Than 200 Pounds and Kept Them Off -- And How You Can, Too."
Roth is one of the most outspoken members of the ant-obesity movement and the head of National Action Against Obesity (NAAO). Roth does not believe that a person can be fat and healthy. She also believes that obesity bears a major financial burden to taxpayers.
The debate got pretty heated (Renn even called Roth "fat-phobic") and raised very important questions such as Can you be overweight and healthy? and Is dieting worth the trouble? 
Benson shared the story of how even breathing was difficult for her when she was obese. She believes that dieting saved her life. Kirby, however, believes that dieting for a decade and not accepting her body as is actually damaged her health.   
Renn pointed out our tendency to judge people based on their weight and noted that the assumptions we make about an overweight person's diet and exercise habits can be wrong. Just because a woman is a size 18, 20, or 22, she said, doesn't mean she's not working out regularly and eating a balanced diet. Meanwhile, a woman who is thin could very well be eating fast food three times a day. 
Roth maintained, however, that your size is a true testament to how you're treating your body. 
What do you think? 
If you missed last night's special check out this clip and click here to watch the full debate. 

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Posted by in ,  on 7:00 AM 4 comments

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I haven't done one of these in forever! GeorgiaMae is long overdue for a good fight.

As much as I love music, most of you can tell from reading my columns that I rarely find much joy in today's artists. Everyone and everything is insultingly dumbed down. Don't believe me? Check out this guy. And this guy. And this guy. And this guy.

I can go on all day.

Instead, I'd rather introduce you to Jay Electronica. Check out the lyrical gymnastics of "Exhibit C" and you'll see why I LOVE what this guy is doing.

Apparently I'm not the only one - right now Jay might be best known as Erykah Badu's babydaddy. Their child Mars Merkaba should be about a year old by now.

Mars ... ugh. I said Jay was good at rapping, not naming children.

I'll say one thing for Badu, she has good taste. She's been known to hitch her wagon (so to speak...) to some of the best rappers in the game - and turn them into weirdos in the process. Let's see how two of her most well-known exes measure up.

Album covers: Common's Be isn't bad, it just looks like "Generic Neo-Soul Photo Shoot #234." All he needs on the back cover is a shot of himself sitting on a rock with his head in his hands to complete the look. It's kinda blah for such a forward-thinking artist. Although it's miles ahead of this...

It's like Rick Ross ate too many Smurfs. But I blame Badu for the Blue Man Group look. But more on that later...

Now if you were to ask Andre, I'm sure he could break down the meaning of his album cover and delve into how "deep" it is. All I see is a shirtless crossing guard wielding a pink gun, which looks like those $2 water pistols you could buy at the grocery store in the '80s. It might be ridiculous but at least it's not boring.

Common 0, Andre 3000 1

Album quality: Common had a lot to prove on 2005's Be. After his previous album Electric Circus left many scratching their heads (and some scratching their CDs so they wouldn't have to listen to that album again) Common had to prove to listeners that he hadn't gone off the deep end.

He recruited Kanye West and with a little help from J Dilla, they crafted what would be Common's best album. "The Corner" was conscious without being preachy; "Go!" was seductive without being nasty; and "Faithful" was tender without being sappy. Add on the ferocious wordplay of tracks like "The Food" and Common easily regained his position as one of hip-hop's shining stars.

The Love Below, Andre's contribution to OutKast's 2003 Speakerboxxx/The Love Below project, is as close as we've gotten to a solo Andre album - which is a shame. Jay-Z recently called him the "male Lauryn Hill," and that's a pretty accurate description. A brilliant concept album exploring love and its consequences, The Love Below flourishes thanks to its meshing of musical genres. "Prototype" has its roots in contemporary R&B, "She Lives In My Lap" is straight from Prince's funky playbook, "A Day In the Life of Andre Benjamin" boasts the lyricism that make OutKast famous, and the blockbuster "Hey Ya" was a pop masterpiece.

It's funny because this album SHOULDN'T have worked. Dre can't sing a lick and half the time his ad-libs sound absolutely ridiculous. But the fact that it does is a testament to Dre's skill and creativity.

This is a really, REALLY close one, but I'll go with:

Common 1, Andre 3000 1

Sales: Be is Common's best-selling album, ringing up a little under a million copies. That's pretty good for an artist who usually has pretty modest sales.

Speakerboxxx/The Love Below has sold 11 million copies stateside. You read that right. 11 million - making it the best selling hip-hop album in U.S. history. No contest here.

Common 1, Andre 3000 2

Least embarrassing Badu makeover: Oh, now the fun part. Badu is known for "turning her men out" - for the ghetto impaired, that means she brainwashes her beaus, often leading them to release bizarre music while wearing even more bizarre clothes.

Don't ask me what's going on here - I have no idea. I think Common wants to trade his crochet-knit cap (?!) for Erykah's Scrooge McDuck hat. It does match his patchwork pirate jacket better.

And since we're talking about tophats, do you think Badu sank her teeth into this guy?

Nah...she only goes after the talented rappers. And somebody tell that fool that there isn't chocolate under that gold plating.

It ain't the Olsen Twins, it's Andre Benjamin, right, and Gwen Stefani. When a woman who wears her bra outside her shirt looks better than you, it's time to try again.

Ugh, neither of these dudes get love. Badu should be ashamed.


Common 1, Andre 3000 2

Songs for Erykah: Common got all sensitive as he professed his love for Ms. Badu in 2000's "The Light," which was featured on the excellent Like Water For Chocolate. Badu even showed up in the video. Not long after, she had him wearing crochet-stitched pants and those Adebisi hats.

Love is a dangerous thing.

While Common was trying to set the mood, Andre got moody. Around the same time "The Light" hit, OutKast released one of their biggest songs to date, "Ms. Jackson." Erykah herself has gone on record saying that the Ms. Jackson is in fact her mother. I guess Mama Badu was meddling in her daughter's business too much.

Although I'd mettle too if my grandson's father dressed like he's from Dragon Ball Z.

Common 2, Andre 3000 2

Film career: Common is actually building quite the film career for himself. With roles in "Wanted," "American Gangster" and "Smoking Aces," he might be the closest thing hip-hop has to an action star. And he's very good at it. If he can successfully branch out into more dramatic roles he could become a serious Hollywood player.

Ol' Ice Cold's filmography isn't as hefty as Common's but he has been credited with quite a few roles - the most prominent being "Four Brothers" and OutKast's own "Idlewild." He does a good job in the "aww, shucks" shy guy roles but he really needs to diversify.

Common 3, Andre 3000 2

Legacy: Ask any hip hop fan over the age of 26 to name the 10 best rappers of all time and I bet most of those lists will include Common. With a resume filled with classic albums and tracks and a reputation for thought-provoking lyrics, Common stands head and shoulders above most of today's drek. The only blemishes on his record come from slight inconsistency (the Badu years of "Electric Circus," 2008's lazy "Universal Mind Control").

Ask any hip-hop fan over the age of 26 to name the 10 best rappers of all time and I bet most of the lists will include Andre Benjamin. Strip away the goofy clothes and his recluse-like behavior and you'll find a true musical genius. He's not afraid to forsake current musical trends to find his own lane. And each and every time he embarks on a new journey we gladly tag along, hanging on every word.

Yet another close one, but:

Common 3, Andre 3000 3

These two battle to a stalemate. I considered having these two go head-to-head in a Badu fashion showcase for a tiebreaker, but then we'd ALL be losers.

Let's just be glad they escaped Badu's bohemian clutches.
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Monday, February 22, 2010

Editor's Note: At the end of each month Progressive Soul Mondays will spotlight slept-on artists. These musicians have briefly flirted with fame but have much more to offer.

Rahsaan Patterson got his start as "The Kid" on the popular '80s children's television show Kids Incorporated. As an adult, he began singing background and writing songs for other artists and then in 1997 he released his self-titled debut album. He has had four more releases including a Christmas album. Enjoy!

-- Desiree

Patterson performs "The One for Me"

Also check out "Stop Breaking My Heart."
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Posted by in ,  on 7:00 AM 2 comments

Friday, February 19, 2010

Editor's Note: Tara Walker continues to share with us her natural hair journey.

I took out my baby locs! Choosing to loc one’s hair is not a choice for the faint of heart; it truly is a journey for which one needs to be completely ready. Some women can’t deal with the frizzy, baby stage where their locs have a mind of their own. You take your locs left, they go right; you try to make them lay down flat, they stick straight up like you’ve been electrocuted. Some just can’t wait for it to completely lock so impatience leads to frustration and resentment. Me? I mostly just missed my loose hair, plain and simple.

One of the pictures I shared in my last post showed how some of my locs would constantly unravel, so I ended up braiding those locs, which held up much better. So one day I’d combed out a loose loc to braid, and what had shriveled up to maybe a 1 ½ of hair actually stretched out to almost six inches! I couldn’t believe how much my hair had grown in just a few short months, but I tried pushing thoughts of the luscious fro I could have to a far back corner of my mind. I was determined to see this journey all the way through. However, restraint failed the day a fellow natural at church walked into Sunday morning service rocking a gorgeous fro-hawk (a natural afro styled into a Mohawk). I had to keep my jaw from dropping since I was sitting in the choir stand. That day it was official that my locs were coming down soon.

Now let me clear something up for y’all—locs do not need to be cut or shaved off to be removed. Yes, this is much easier but with patience and care, they can be combed or picked out, which is what I did over the course of a weekend. Since I’d only had my locs in for five months and they had not yet matured, I had a pretty easy time getting them out. Had my hair been completely locked it would’ve taken much longer because the hair that creates a mature loc is very compacted, meshed together and firm. Remember the pictures of my twists that had ‘buds’ in the last post? A mature loc is the same concept. So I followed the advice of several former lockers and sprayed some water on my hair then saturated it with a creamy, moisturizing conditioner, which helped my hair soften up. After letting the conditioner set in my locs for about 45 minutes, I went to work combing those babies out.

It’s easy to think that while combing locs out that you’re losing a great deal of hair, but if you’re taking your time and not ripping through the loc, all you're really losing is hair that has naturally shedded. I did a quick Google search on how much human hair sheds daily, and found that we shed anywhere from 50-125 hairs a day. So just imagine all that shed hair being trapped in the loc, which is basically the point. But remember that the hair isn’t falling out from your scalp—that is what you don’t want, and trust me you’d feel it if that was the case. 

After getting all the locs out, I detangled my hair then went through my wash routine. My naps are free! I should’ve taken some pictures to share, but since they would’ve been less than flattering, I decided against that option. What I can do, though, is show you my hair now:

I’m still natural and still loving it. I’m also excited because I finally have a good length to work with and to have fun styling! As much I’d like to get carried away, I actually don’t plan to wear my hair completely loose too often until late spring or summer, because this harsh winter we’re experiencing can wreak major havoc on my ends if not careful. So here is the style I attempted this past weekend:

Not too shabby! So my natural journey continues =)
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

I was all ready to hate the new version of "We Are The World."

Sure, the first one was for a great cause and since the project was guided by Michael Jackson it's now deified, but admit it - the song was embarrassingly cheesy. The bar wasn't set very high for this new version. And considering the dwindling of artistic talent since 1985, I was ready for a colossal train wreck.

But you know what? For the most part it ain't half bad. I couldn't tell if Wyclef was singing or gargling Listerine and, yeah, I expected Toni "Baritone" Braxton to say "Merry Christmas, from the Temmmmp-tations" but besides that things went OK.

Until your favorite rappers showed up.

Please tell me WHO thought it was a good idea to let the auto-tune singers in the studio?! I thought Lil Wayne was supposed to be in jail. Why is he still free? Tell him to take T-Pain with him. And why is Akon still around? 2007 was three years ago - you are no longer needed!

Remove the auto-tune nonsense and that ridiculously bad rap at the end (LL Cool J, hang your head in shame) and you have a perfect serviceable remake of an overrated 80s song.

These days, that's the most you can ask for.

What do you think of We Are The World 25 For Haiti?

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Posted by in ,  on 7:00 AM 2 comments

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Solider of Love
(Released February 9, 2010)

Guess what Sade and Rihanna have in common? Besides their hat size?

OK, OK, I'll behave. I'll go easy on the forehead jokes.

Anyway, it's amazing that Sade's newest single, "Soldier of Love," has been added to rotation on our local hip-hop radio station, along with Rih-Rih and the other goons.

Most veterans in this stage of their careers never make that sort of headway. But, Sade fans, don't worry your pretty little heads about your girl selling out. The album is pretty much classic Sade - for better and for worse.

I've always had a hard time wrapping my head around the band. I'll be the first to admit their talent and the fact that they churn out quality music ("Your Love Is King" is played regularly at GeorgiaMae headquarters) but they also have the innate ability to make every single one of their songs depressing.

Just dive headfirst into the album and you'll see what I mean. The opening track, "The Moon and the Sky," is an awesome track about a negligent lover. The wailing guitar licks just add to Sade's agony. The downward spiral continues with the poetic "Morning Bird." With lyrics like "The ghost of my joy/won't let me be/if you set me free I will not run/I will not run," Sade sounds like she's headed to the psych ward.

"Babyfather," an ode to fatherhood, lightens the mood a bit before we head back to pity city. By the time you reach the second half of the disc, tracks like "Bring Me Home" and "In Another Time" start running together thanks to the similar themes and arrangements. I can handle a little depression but sheesh, sometimes Sade makes you wanna go shopping for a casket and headstone.

But that's nothing new for the band. Even when they're at their cheeriest, like 1993's classic "Cherish the Day," they still sound down in the dumps. Maybe that's just how they operate. In the words of the great Headrick, ahem, Fredrick Douglass, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Sade has always been an acquired taste. Newer fans expecting to bob their heads to a bunch of tracks like "Soldier of Love" will probably just end up scratching their heads in confusion. Old school fans, however, can hold hold their heads high and rejoice - the decade-long wait for this album was worth it.

As for me, while there are some really good tracks here, all the sadness gives me a headache. I'll stick with what I know.

Now where's my Heather Headley CD?

Best tracks: "The Moon And The Sky," "Babyfather," "Solider of Love"

3.5 stars out of 5

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Posted by in  on 7:00 AM 2 comments

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

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Vanity Fair's March 2010 cover story is all about the rising female stars of film. The cover blurb reads "A New Hollywood," but a look at the photo spread suggests that this new Hollywood has no room for women who aren't waif-like and white. 

Sure, quality roles for actresses of color continue to be scarce, but did we forget about the buzz surrounding Gabourey Sidibe for her work in the film Precious?

Independent filmmaker Nijla Mumin, who blogs at Sweet Potato Pie Press, also pointed out the success of actresses like Zoe Saldana (who starred in Avatar and Star Trek) and Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson. 

"Where are they?" Mumin asks. "Are they not a part of the 'new' Hollywood?"

What do you think? 
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Posted by in , ,  on 7:00 AM 2 comments

Monday, February 15, 2010

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Contributed by Karie

Picture "Sex and the City" meets "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" and you'll get the latest edition to VH-1's primetime lineup, "Let's Talk about Pep". Pep is a "Bigless Carrie”, minus the writing. “Kitty”, shares traits of Samantha and Nee-Nee. “Joumana” is a recent divorcee of a professional ball player and plays the Cougar. “Jackie”, most memorable as the broadcaster from the now defunct BET Nightly News,” resembles the “Charlotte” character. She is very vocal about her ticking clock and wish list for Mr. Right, which includes him wanting two kids, the pickett fence, etc. 

All four women are looking for the perfect mate, or at least a great date. Each week presents new challenges, shows highlights of new dates, and gives the ladies’ perspective. This show is a must-see for all singles, men and women alike. Online dating, dating men with a criminal past, dating your ex’s best friend, being a Cougar, interracial dating, gold-digging, popular hangouts for men, being stood up … this show has it all. 

It’s refreshing to see that even those in the spotlight have the same problems as everyday people. “Let’s Talk about Pep” runs Monday nights on VH-1. If you haven't been watching, no worries. Visit Vh1's website to view full episodes and get caught up. 

Karie in DC

About the contributor: Karie (pronounced like Marie with a “K) is a single, 20-something living in the DC Metropolitan area. Professionally, she works as a technical writer. Outside of the office, she enjoys graphic design, creative writing, reading, and tennis. Please contact her at
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Despite the fact that Twilight star Robert Pattinson covers the tenth anniversary issue of Details with his head nestled between a woman's legs, he tells the magazine he hates vagina, he's allergic to them even. 

The Huffington Post has more.
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Posted by in ,  on 4:32 PM 1 comment
The Foreign Exchange consists of Dutch producer Nicolay and American singer/MC/songwriter Phonte Coleman (also of the hip hop group Little Brother). They have released two albums. Their first release, titled Connected, was completed before they ever met in person. Their sound is best described as an "inventive mix of hip-hop, R&B, and electronica." Enjoy! 

-- Desiree

"House of Cards," The Foreign Exchange, ft. Muhsinah

"Take off the Blues," The Foreign Exchange, ft. Darien Brockington

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Posted by in ,  on 8:31 AM 1 comment

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Award-winning poet Lucille Clifton has died at the age of 73. I was in graduate school working, writing and performing with the June Jordan Poetry for the People program when I fell in love with Clifton's poetry. Here, Clifton reads her poem, "Homage To My Hips," one of my favorites.  

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Posted by in  on 9:51 PM 2 comments
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