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February 29, 2008

Judge to river: stoneskipping is right

Citizens! It turns out that loving the river may be right after all -- i.e., any signs posted by the river stating “No Trespassing according to LAMC 41.22" might be on the wrong side of the law. Rough rephrasing: vagrancy and vandalism are not okay down by the river, but fishing, skipping stones and wandering are dandy because the aforesaid activities are not "loitering" as defined in LAMC 41.22.

Nature Trumps reports that a judge has thrown out the "loitering" ticket issued to a guy who was fishing.

According to Nature Trumps:

The courts have now ruled twice that walkers, fishermen, stoneskippers, duckfeeders, and so on are not vagrants, by definition, and thus those activities are not prohibited by LAMC 41.22.
If LAMC 41.22 has any legal bearing on what goes on in the River, and that’s questionable given the overlapping jurisdictions (city, county, state, federal) and lack of governing authority, it is to do with what’s been called the “spirit and intent” of the law, which is to outlaw vagrancy and vandalism in the area.

And now the other questions: Does vagrancy means homelessness? And if loitering isn't walking or fishing, then what is it? Can you only sit on one spot for so many minutes before you have to move your bottom and then resettle?

For some nice video views of the river, see "Medea" on Nature Trumps.

February 27, 2008

Yes orangutan

OrangutanYesterday, while Rosie the dog and I were ambling down Echo Park Avenue in search of the orangutan, whom we never saw, my neighbor Anne Soon Choi did see the primate. It was 10:30 a.m., Anne wrote to me in an email. It's all a question of timing with orangutans -- and all other things and people.

Anne says:

I saw him(?) I assume it is a him...[The orangutan] was in a t-shirt and pants and a cap of some was at the bus stop bench [near] the House of Spirits...I nearly rear ended the person in front of me.

Poor thing [orangutan] was trying to sell Levis.

Well, as we now know, shortly after Anne nearly rear-ended the driver in front of her, the orangutan boarded a bus for a working ride around the neighborhood. Sometime after that, Rosie the dog and I arrive on the scene, where we find a young man seated on the blue cooler, the bus bench, trash in the street and a beautfiul day. But no orangutan. Anne has gone off to do Anne things. Rosie and I turn around and head back for home and everything in between.

February 26, 2008

No orangutan

Generally, notifications of intention to film are dull reading, even the ones that promise explosions and weapons. But the Levi's film notice caught my eye because of the primate.

Models against scenery sitting on bus bench. Stationary picture bus in curb lane. Camera and equipment on street and sidewalk. One orangutan with trainer.

"One orangutan with trainer." Was that just any orangutan with trainer? I wondered. I thought great, my daughter would love to see the orangutan on a bus bench in her neighborhood. But then today -- orangutan day -- she went to preschool, and it turned out to be me who wanted to see the creature.

(Recently, I had a very interesting conversation -- a real conversation -- with an orangutan at the Washington D.C. zoo, and so I thought I might have something to say to the Levi's primate, if he/she wasn't too preoccupied with their work.) The notice said filming was skedded for 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. At 10:30 I leashed Rosie the dog, and instead of walking in Elysian Park, we headed for the intersection of Douglas Fairbanks Place and Echo Park Avenue. They say the journey is the real destination, and when we got to Fairbanks and EP Ave. all we found was a young man sitting on a blue cooler, and a single white van. No orangutan. No sign even of any orangutan -- with or without trainer -- ever having graced the corner. Just clear skies, trash in the street, the young man. "Are you with Levi's?" I asked. Why, yes, he was. He told me that the orangutan had already done his work -- he had sat for the camera at the street bench right there at the corner. He said they were done at this location, and now the crew was roaming the neighborhood in a bus, looking for spot locations. I asked about the orangutan. On the bus, was the answer. Sigh. Orangutan is on the bus. On the way back home, Rosie and I passed some of the things that had been of interest (to me) on our way to the orangutan: a once domestic white dove trying to eat a tortilla in the street at Scott Ave., a new mural of hummingbirds (!) replacing the skull-themed garage-door mural (in the 1500 block of EP Ave.) that replaced the previous hummingbird. We saw fruit trees with their first blossoms of the year, and coffee society at Chango's outdoor tables. A dog I call Circles because he turns in fast, tight circles when we get close. The Lonely Surprise dog. We saw no for-sale signs on any of the properties. We saw a lot of things we've seen before, things we'll see again, too, without taking note.

February 25, 2008

In the garden of Echo Park

The first I heard of the online literary magazine Gambara came in a link emailed to me a few days ago. The email promised a "gallery" of photographs by Aleida Rodriguez, whose poetry I admire and read for pleasure. Literary writers, like Aleida, are the quiet artists of Echo Park, like ferns. You don't know they're here the way you do the musicians, who make noise, carry around amps and guitar cases and plant themselves at tables at Chango, or the visual artists, who sometimes paint on exterior walls. I went to Gambara's site, and the first thing I learned was that it has ceased "publication." But the photographic series was posted, and it is beautiful -- ordinary pieces of a household defamiliarized, stripped in ribbons and regarded with awe. The site also has an essay by Aleida, "Messages From the Elysian Garden", that is a companion to the pictures. In it Aleida remembers a recent conversation with Mrs. Loredo, an 85-year-old Echo Park neighbor whose pianist daughter once took lessons with Mrs. Joos, a silent films pianist (who lived in EP) and whose first husband, (who lived in EP) Mr Nevarez, was a professional musician for the studios. You get the feeling that it's all silence now for those two individuals, except in the sudden note of their existence in "Elysian Garden," which is, itself, a garden.

February 22, 2008

Citizens to river: If loving you is wrong, I don't want to be right

Lewis MacAdams said it recently: people want to use the river as parkland. They want to, and they will. It's inevitable that a transition from disuse to use will be rocky because the river literally is not made to be enjoyed -- at least insofar as the river as built environment goes. The cement-lined channels makes the water move unnaturally fast; the exotic fish are said to be toxic as human meals; the cement walls are steep, in some places vertical. Bit by bit the river itself has undone some of the damage: unauthorized trees grow in the riverbed and lots of other plants, depositing even more silt and rocks and other natural material. In some places it's beautiful. And people have mitigated some of the cement, too, Friends of the L.A. River, for one.

In the last couple of weeks, Nature Trumps has been reporting on people getting tickets for being at the river near Elysian Park. The site points to Eric Garcetti as a foe of river use, supporter of tickets. I emailed Garcetti's office about this, and Julie Wong replied:

On the LA River question, the public has not been allowed to go into the channel for any reason (including fishing) for decades because of public safety concerns. For safety reasons, Council President Garcetti (along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, LAPD, the LA Fire Department, and others) does not support changes to this policy.

Well, Chicken Corner supports changes to the policy of allowing the river to be unsafe. Because, yes, after a storm, it can be VERY unsafe down there. How about signs warning of the dangers instead of signs declaring the river off-limits? Like we do at the ocean? How about removing the concrete?

Meanwhile, Jay Babcock of Nature Trumps is looking to help ticketed river users fight the power. Because they will enjoy the river.

February 21, 2008

Obama for Texas


Poster by the Date Farmers

Not since Eugene McCarthy have political posters in the U.S. been so grand -- which is where we hope comparisons between Obama and McCarthy stop, in terms of electability. This one landed in my mail box this morning. Designed by an art pair called the Date Farmers (Carlos Ramirez and Armando Lerma) -- their parents were date farmers, according to the press release -- it's intended for special eyes in Cali, but everyone's eyes in Texas. All proceeds from poster sales will go to make posters for Texas. Sort of like a self-fertilizing plum tree, once you get beyond the signed edition. (They're $200.) So buy more make more! Si se puede.

According to the Date Farmers' pr company, Evolutionary Media, which also is handling Shepard Fairey's Obama poster campaign:

The Date Farmers, an amazing duo of artists and sons of date farmers, have produced a limited-edition set of 300 campaign posters, to be sold via Upper Playground ( in support of Barack Obama. All proceeds from the sales of the Date Farmers' Obama 2008 screen print will go directly to creating more campaign posters that will be distributed throughout Texas. The hand made, limited-edition, signed and numbered campaign posters go on-sale Thursday, February 20th, 2008.

The press release says that Upper Playground commissioned the Date Farmers to create the poster.

February 20, 2008

To protect and serve and scoot around


Photo: Feb. 2008, (c) by Martin Cox

Martin Cox spotted LAPD buggy police at Echo Park Lake, with electric T3 vehicles that can do 50 miles per charge. They even have blue and red flashing lights. Beep beep.

Ecomorons hands the T3 vehicles a "greenwash award" -- something about electric power not really being all that green due to coal and whatnot. The site has cheesecake of the T3 -- on a red carpet.

Meanwhile, back at the lake, Martin and the birdwatchers also have been keeping an eye on the lake -- albeit on foot. Martin notes that the lesser scaup now are back for the season, looking very lively. The wild ducks are "definitely more lively" than the ring neck ducks, which they resemble (in that both species are black and white). On Sunday a bird count event was held at the lake (yours truly had the flu and didn't go). We're waiting for results, hoping the T3 scooters didn't skew the count in ways it will take us decades to fathom. Count: 400 pigeons, 300 American coots, 2 T3 scooters.

February 13, 2008

Downbeat low key

First day of the end of the strike, and I was wondering how the Downbeat Cafe would look. I've had friends tell me they won't go there any more because of all the laptops. And, yes, recently the place has been transformed. The vibe at the Downbeat for all these weeks and months has been keyed up. All of the tables taken (sometimes by friends of mine), the air crackling with tension, which is fed by the quiet. Fed by all the bodies in the room. Catering to the clientele, I assume, the staff has turned the jazz ballads and swing down way low. No blues, I noticed. It's no one's fault -- at least not anyone's here. And, person by person, it looked like a perfect world: so much health and intelligence, a wide range of ages, a wide range of ethnicity, a wide range of noses, cool clothing, square clothing, earnest faces, a sense of purpose and effort. And it added up to crackle-split in the air. Nothing bohemian about it.

So, today it's over. The strike is over. I wondered how things would look at the Downbeat but didn't know if I'd get a chance to stop and see. The first part of the day didn't go well. My driver's license is expired, and I drove out to the Santa Monica DMV because it's a good DMV, and that's the part of town I know well from years when I worked on 11th Street. These days Santa Monica is a trip out of town in literal, not just geographic, terms, and when I get to the DMV, weirdly pleased with the familiarity of the plain, wide room, I'm told the computers are down, statewide. "DMV isn't happening today, people!" a woman shouts from the reception desk. But I won't give up. I make a plan to kill one hour--if I can focus elsewhere, the computers will come back online, I can get the license, and forget about it for four more years. My hour: a visit to Craig Krull Gallery at Bergamot Station, where there is an incredible show of Masao Yamamoto's tiny romantic photographs, and then, in counterbalance, an awful trip to the Verizon shop, where I decide I don't need a new phone badly enough to stay there for another twenty minutes (despite the fact I have not been able to find my cell phone for several days now). It's more than an hour when I get back to DMV, but the computers are still down. One look at the nearly empty room tells me. So I'm back in my car, and, not soon enough (because we're creeping in traffic), I'm at the Downbeat.

And then my day gets a little better. It's 1:30. Almost all of the tables are taken. There are still plenty of laptops. But the vibe has changed. Overnight. The static is gone. Backs are a bit more slouched. There's a bit more air to breathe. The music is audible enough to enjoy. The overhead fans aren't whirring on high. At the register, I ask the owner if things have been quieter today, and he says yes...but not that much. He's the owner -- what's he going to say? Getting his vibe back is not necessarily good for business, or is it? So it's back to the dreamers...and the writers who didn't have a show, and a young lawyer in blue jeans (who took his office call outside), a couple of friends talking quietly. For the first time today I feel what I have always come to the Downbeat to feel -- that there's lots of time. Isn't that what personal cool is about? The sense, however illusory, that you have time? I plop onto the couch near the register, sip the good coffee, at home for the moment.

February 12, 2008

Islands land bank

In regard to the Glendale Boulevard "island makeover," Kevin Kuzma takes the long view -- in both directions. Kevin, who is president of the Echo Park Historical Society, points out that the traffic islands in question once held streetcar tracks.


You know, [the Glendale Blvd.] medians were not dramatically reconfigured during this last round of work. Yes, left turn lanes were added, as well as some great clusters of poppies, but the medians are basically as they were after the Pacific Electric's Edendale/Glendale/Burbank line tracks were ripped out.

Glendale Blvd's median, like most landscaped medians in Los Angeles, originally held streetcar tracks. Maybe, one day, these landscaped medians will be reused as right-of-way for future light rail lines. If that happens, today's landscaping projects might seem like enlightened land-banking.

In the meantime, maybe we can leave it the way it is--a very particular kind of wilderness.

Leo Politi

Funny how the chroniclers/interpreters become historical items of interest themselves. Yes. The Echo Park Historical Society is having its quarterly meeting tomorrow (Wednesday), and the entertainment/education portion of the meeting will be a presentation on Leo Politi, an artist who not only once lived in Angeleno Heights but drew pictures and told stories of the neighborhood as well as of Bunker Hill, Olvera Street and other locations on the east side.

According to EPHS:

Politi's son, Paul Politi, will discuss his father's life and creativity as part of a year-long series of events to celebrate the centennial of Leo Politi's birth. The presentation on Politi will be preceded by the annual EPHS board elections in addition to news and updates.
Meeting Date & Time: Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. Location: Williams Hall at Barlow Hospital, 2000 Stadium Way.

Politi has a secluded park area within Elysian Park named for him, as well as a public elementary school. Later this year the corner of Sunset and Echo Park Ave. will be named Leo Politi square.

February 11, 2008


Hexodus looks deeper than its own reflection in an interesting post about the causes of gentrification, specifically in Echo Park, though the writer's personal experiences with unsavory landlords certainly are not unique.

Unfortunately, Hexodus is not able to tell the writer's own story due to lawsuit constraints, but the outlines are this: landlord buys building in Echo Park, wants lower-rent tenants out, digs into a bag of dirty tricks to achieve his goal.

Hexodus makes an important distinction between investors and speculators and how the difference plays out in shaping a neighborhood. One problem with speculators, the blog says: the intimidation and harassment of the rent-controlled tenant in order to turn a profit. Whether or not we like rent control, it is the law. ... Essentially [speculators] are trying to make up the difference on a bad investment by hassling tenants. They do it because most of the time it works.

Meanwhile, in related news, the L.A. Times ran a story recently about rent control laws themselves under siege.

Flowers don't keep wheels rolling

Not everyone loves having a national park in the middle of the street. Echo Park resident (and dove rescuer) Chuck DeRosa wrote to me with the following:

What I'd like to why the new Glendale Blvd street islands got constructed at all? As far as I can tell, the city constructed that island on Glendale Ave. for no purpose. The traffic pattern is almost exactly the same. I watched as they were doing the construction -- wondering if they were going to add another lane or do something to aid the congestion (which, is still awful by the way)-- then, when they finished, there was almost nothing different, except possibly a place to grow flowers and a left turn lane into the drugstore (hardly a necessary improvement). If that whole project was undertaken specifically as a way to grow plants in the middle of Glendale Blvd. I'll be appalled. Any idea of the original intent of the traffic project?

Well, these are some good points, with which I disagree.

Not to (try to) be the Dear Abby of civic master plans here...but, what to do with the Glendale Blvd. corridor is one of the major planning issues for Echo Park. Basically, what most local residents want is a plan that will take a bad traffic situation and not make it worse for the neighborhood. What through-commuters seem to want is an all-out freeway so they can get to their own green, quiet (dare I say foothill?) neighborhoods (and vice-versa) more quickly. One point where we all come together: EP residents would like commuters to get to and from their homes more quickly, too. How is the fateful question. Maybe some of those commuters could take the bus. Or they could pressure their bosses to give them flex-time. Maybe the city could do the same. I do wish Upton Sinclair had won his race for governor. He advocated a three-hour work week, because he knew that we don't need to make so much stuff. And he would have known we don't need to drive so much. Can he be elected posthumously?

Chicken Corner, for one, is delighted that in the midst of this traffic dilemma a few patches of green space were created, because Glendale Boulevard is part of the community. It's not just a passageway, and we shouldn't let it become one.

Monday morning lupine

Raven and lupines

These now-wild flowers were planted in Elysian Park, near Sargent Place, by Scott Fajack and Mary-Austin Klein. The dog is Mary and Scott's Raven, who died Friday at age 14. Raven was one of those creatures who were tightly wound into the dog-walker-park-visitor-path-trotter social helix of Echo Park.

February 8, 2008

Day of the lupine

There's more. I heard from Lili Singer, horticulture journalist and expert. She once had a KCRW radio show I used to listen to regularly when I drove to work (nowadays I just walk to my office/dining room to work, and I only listen to the radio briefly during the commute. I leave dust-bunny sock-prints, not carbon prints). In any case, Lili Singer emailed me about lupines and the troubles I had with them in my own yard:

Regarding your un-success with lupine seed, don’t blame yourself – and please try again! Lupines can be tricky from seed but – as your photo shows – they’re well worth the effort and much appreciated by native butterflies whose larvae (caterpillars) depend on native lupines as a food source. To soften a lupine’s rock-hard seed coat, a boiling water bath and day-long soak are recommended before sowing. Even with this treatment, germination may be spotty and seedlings are vulnerable to snails and birds. Good drainage is key, and uneven watering (too wet or too dry) can be deadly.

All the more reason to make an exception and not kill the flowering plants on the Glendale Blvd. bridge.

Singer continues:

In nature, lupines produce plenty of seed, but only a few will germinate and mature. A suggestion that mimics nature’s way: sow plenty of seed to increase your chances. There’s still time to start lupines and other California wildflowers from seed, and [the Theodore Payne Foundation] is well-stocked.

Singer is Special Projects Coordinator for the heodore Payne Foundation. She says the nonprofit native plants organization "is now at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market at Selma and Ivar, Sundays from 8am-1pm, selling plants and imparting information." She used to live in Echo Park.

It's duckling season

It's duckling season, which is why my friend Martin Cox says he has been avoiding walking around Echo Park Lake. But he made an exception the other day, and Martin, Madeleine, Rosie and I walked the park, checking in on the wild ducks -- seasonal visitors who this year include northern shovelers, ruddy ducks, American widgeons, ring-necked ducks and Canada geese. And there are the year-rounders, which include the spotty-speckly odd-colored mix-breeds, the muscovy ducks, mallards, domestic (restaurant) ducks, many, many geese et al. Recently, the muscovies' ducklings hatched and were doing fine until they weren't. Their nest was just off the main path near the playground, in some bushes. Martin had the unfortunate experience of watching a small boy chase and scatter the ducklings, which were then eaten by sea gulls taking advantage of their being separated from their protectors. (I've seen the sea gulls massacre baby ducks, too.) As the ducklings scattered with the boy in chase, the child's parents laughed. No more muscovy ducklings.

The island used to be a sanctuary where some of the nests were protected from small children and laughing parents, but, for the past few months, the gate to the bridge has been open every time I have visited the park. Ordinarily, I'd say an island like the one on Echo Park Lake should be open for the public to stroll. But in this case, I think we all get a lot more out of the tiny patch of ground by letting the birds have itin peace.

Lupine Express

A reader named Peter McFerrin was appalled -- and rightly so -- that Chicken Corner failed to mention (or know about) Monty Python's Lupine Express robbery in our discussion of the fightin' lupines on the Glendale Blvd. bridge. Cluck! This is a blog, not a comedy lesson. Cluck! Click here.

February 7, 2008

Nature wins one

In the longstanding battle between L.A. city steet maintenance crews and nature, the violet-blue lupines are reported to be holding their own this week. According to one reliable person who posted on the Echo-Elysian list serve:

Every year, Street Maintenance does its best to extirpate the Lupines that volunteer on the Glendale bridge over the LA River, and every year, the Lupines come back. Go see them--they are just starting to be in full bloom.

I have tried to grow my own lupines, with seeds I bought at the Theodore Payne Foundation, but they don't seem to like my y soil, or the way I water, or the company of the non-native plants plants in the yard, or something. Only one of them ever sprouted and made to it flower.

Photo: Unembattled lupines in a country field. Geo-Images, Berkeley, CA.

February 6, 2008

Brown dog


A dog newly named Mama was posted today on the Echo Park Animal Alliance list. The emaciated Mama is at Lacy Street shelter, where she was brought with her puppies, some of whom have since died, basically starved because their mother is emaciated herself, though she has gained some weight at the pound. According to an unsigned description:

She is as sweet as they come. But even Mama's forehead is indented she is so skinny. ... Mama was so grateful to have us enter her cage. ... She tenderly bowed her head towards [one visitor]. She let us pick up her pups. ... I am more worried even about Mama then the pups--she is not a beauty, she is not a pup, she is not tiny....she is just another neglected brown dog...who may die at the shelter.

Mama impound: A914457 North Central shelter; phone: (213)485-8855 or 5767

$500 donation to qualified rescue only. Contact

I had a friend who, some years ago, went to the pound looking for one dog, and he came home with something like seven or eight -- he had made eye contact with a pregnant dog "who just looked like she needed help." That was one lucky dog. Not many people would have looked at her. I hope Mama catches the right person's eye, too.


February 5, 2008

Ballot box is broken

Elysian Heights Elementary--Superbowl Sunday behind us, it's Super Tuesday now. 9:30 a.m. It's not crowded at the poll, but people are coming and going, parking and pulling out of spaces, strolling to vote at the school, where handwritten arrows on 11x8 sheets of white point the way. Rosie the dog gets hitched to a school bench, and we go inside the classroom that's now a vote station. My neighbor Albert, who has been a worker at every election I've participated in, for the past ten or so years, is a noticeably absence. He died a few months ago at Echo Park Lake. It may be Super Tuesday, but on the classroom whiteboard there's neat, fancy lettering announcing "No Fun Friday" and below it some names of children scheduled to have no fun on Friday. (Better have fun today, then, kids.) So I go to the wobbly half booth and mark my vote for Obama and some of the ballot measures. Then I carry out the ballot. A woman standing next to the box reaches for my ballot, and unthinkingly I hand it to her. She puts it somewhere near her feet, presumably in a different, informal box. I look at the slot where the ballots are really supposed to go, and she says, "Oh, it's broken." I feel uneasy about the ballot being dropped near her feet, but I accept the "I voted" sticker she hands me as well as my vote stub. My daughter takes the "I voted" sticker. To her it's something special.

February 3, 2008


So glad I asked. All signs point to the traffic islands on Glendale still being called a national park. And, what's more, the Jamaican restaurant I've been looking for turns out to be TiGeorge's, and it's Haitian, not Jamaican. A reader named Sue wrote:

Take heart! The Islands of LA National Park sign is now on the tiny triangular island at the intersection where Allessandro angles to the right off of Glendale Blvd. southbound, by the motorcycle shop, before you get to Berkeley.
Re: the Jamaican restaurant. Are you talking about TiGeorge's? If so, it's way down... [south] past the 101, on the right hand side as you go south (in the middle of a bunch of other stuff). They make a fine bbq chicken on a fire right there, as well as a few other Carib. dishes. Yummy plantains. Goat, allegedly, on weekends.

Then, according to Pat Saperstein, a senior editor at Variety and an L.A. food blogger who describes herself as someone who "enjoys little tiny crunchy fish with sparkly eyes, mango drinks with frog ovary sacs":

You mentioned a Jamaican restaurant...are you thinking of TiGeorge's? It's farther south, at 309 Glendale Blvd., and it's Haitian. The chicken is definitely good, and so are some of the sides.

And, again, the national park: a reader named Peter gave these directions to the sign:

I've recently seen the sign (or another sign) at the little island where Allesandro breaks off of Glendale (just south of Effie St.). Jamaican food in Echo Park?

Now I know where to find TiGeorge's, and I'm looking forward to trying it. But why the sign moved, that one swims in the national pond of the unknown.

February 1, 2008

Move over Victorian

More tales from the weird but happy: Curbed L.A. reports that a Neutra house once offered for free on Ebay will move from Brentwood to Angeleno Heights. The Heights is distinguished, for one thing, as the first L.A. neighborhood to enjoy the protections of being named officially a historic neighborhood, because of its Victorian architecture. But apparently there's room for modern, too. (HPOZ owners: don't get any ideas about post-and-beaming your Queen Anne cottages.) A few years ago, some friends of mine, Kevin Kuzma and Darienne Heatherman, moved a craftsman fourplex to Marion Street in Angeleno Heights from the western edge of Echo Park. When the move actually happened there was dancing in the street in front of the house as it made its way slowly down Sunset Boulevard on truckback. Mariachis ran out of a bar and played. For Neutra? Maybe there will be a string quintet and The Rite of Spring, for right of way.

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