Exciting Rares in Ixalan

Exciting Rares in Ixalan

Some cards in Ixalan are just too fun to pass up.

Exciting Rares in Ixalan

I was absolutely correct in hoping that Ixalan would be able to impress me; I’ve been absolutely blown out of the waters by some of the rares in the upcoming set. This article is going to focus more on the fun side of things instead of the strictly good, so don’t expect to see the poor-man’s Gaia’s Cradle on here. While some of these cards are in fact good, I’m specifically looking for things that are fun. Wizards has a good habit of making good and fun archetypes collide!

Sunbird’s Invocation

This card had me grinning before I even started to think of ways to abuse it. Wizards are very careful about wording cards that let you cast things for free, but I think that being an Enchantment that costs 6 saved this. With removal being a staple for the format, (generally) three other players to worry about, and enough mana to scrap the rest of your turn for non-green decks, this card definitely makes up for it in power. When running this alongside another color:

Green: If you’re running green, more likely than not you’re already running big creatures, so there’s almost no harm in running this card. Ramp may or may not nab you another ramp spell or removal, but hard casting Kozilek can probably dig deep enough to grab a second finisher.

Blue: Casting a counter spell will shift your deck a bit; be prepared to work a little more on-the-fly than usual. Since the ability is a ‘may’, you can dump everything to the bottom. Do remember that this trigger will clear the stack before everything else on it; if you really want to counter something, you can grab one using this ability and your opponents will be forced to counter both of your counters if they want their spell to clear.

Black: This color is a bit more wonky; decks generally use black as either a removal toolkit or for finishers like Sheoldred. Depending on what the rest of your shell looks like, you’ll have to judge for yourself whether this will help or hinder you.

White: Unfortunately, White gets the short end of the stick. Because White likes to stay in the CMC five or less range, you won’t be getting a real bang for your buck out of this. Casting a five drop will get you a five-or-less, which isn’t terrible, but could also end in a whiff more often than not.

Please do remember that this is a cast trigger, so even if your spell is countered, you still get the trigger. This card will leave grins on the lips of whoever is playing it, and groans on everyone else’s.

Search for Azcanta/Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin

Do I think this card is flawless? No. Do I think it’s playable? Yes! It’s pseudo-scry for two mana, which is fantastic. I really appreciate the fact that as Delirium moves out, more graveyard-centric cards are able to move in, with this being one of them. It’s a very sensibly costed, with the drawback being you lose the card to the graveyard instead of the bottom of your deck, but still offers it every turn until you ultimately flip it. The backside continues the theme of sensibly costed. Pay three, filter, get a card. I think the beauty of the card comes in how ‘meh’ it is. Veteran players will look at this and think that it’s alright and pass it by, but newer players will love it. If you’re building a new player a beginner EDH deck, this would be a beautiful card to give them. It teaches them about the difference between what to put in the graveyard and what not to, and how important filtering is. For that reason alone, it’s really hard to hate the card. Not only that, but the rare symbol is in the middle of the card, which looks like the perfect place for it. At the time of writing, the red flip enchantment hasn’t been spoiled yet, and I’m very excited to see it.

Revel in Riches

This card is just plain funny, and very exciting. Mechanized Production was cute, Approach of the Second Sun was interesting, and this card gives me a very good feeling that we’re going to see a ‘you win the game’ card every block from here on out. I hope that this assumption is correct, because this right here is what makes me want to play EDH. At the moment, I only have one deck to use, and that deck is Approach of the Second Sun. In my personal opinion, which is one from someone who plays Approach of the Second Sun competitively, I think Mechanized Production/Revel in Riches/Hellkite Tyrant could become an insanely viable deck. There is so much support for this already; Mycosynth Lattice, March of the Machines, etc. It’s very hard for me to pass up this card. Grixis token duplication is something I’m very, very interested in building in the coming months.

Settle the Wreckage

This is a card that makes me think ‘this is so terrible, I have to play it’. It’s so hard to say this card is good, but I want to try it and see it in action. Because it says ‘player’, you can target yourself, which can lead to some interesting arguments about it. Some may say giving your opponents more lands is too risky while also say nuking your own field to get lands is equally bad. The problem with these arguments is that you’re the one who gets to decide how much you’re committing. You get to choose when to demolish your opponent’s field in favor of the lands, and you also get to decide how many creatures you want to remove off your own side of the field when you’re using it on yourself. It’s the pickiest Path to Exile we’ll ever see. It’s just really hard for me to judge this right now, but I already know it’s going to lead to something funny in the future. All I know at the moment is that I’d probably want an exile effect for the original Eldrazi Titans, and this card gives them their effects before it can even clear the stack.

Primal Amulet/Primal Wellspring

While Search for Azcanta was for new players, this card is definitely looking to be broken open by experienced players. Right off the bat, the number of charge counters is just the right number to make it feel like there will be an equal number of games where it either flips or gets destroyed. I already know for a fact that as soon as I get my hands on one, it’s going into my Approach deck (Note: It’s not for Approach itself, but for cards like Expropriate and Diabolic Revelation to help me get the chance to cast it). Casting something twice is usually a good thing, and casting things cheaper is never a bad thing. At this moment, I have yet to come up with a good way to absolutely break this card (Copying Time Stretch for no extra cost is amazing, but not completely broken), but I’m sure it’ll come to me eventually. Copying a Howl of the Horde with a Raid trigger into something cheat like Glimpse the Unthinkable would be absolutely hilarious, especially if you throw Strionic Resonator into the mix to copy the Primal Wellspring trigger (The end result of these four cards would be Strionic doubling Primal Wellspring, giving you three Howls, giving you six copies of Glimpse plus the original, milling 70 for 7 mana). Having this happen is outlandish and improbable, but we’re talking fun, not logistics!

Hostage Taker

While Primal Amulet doesn’t bring a combo to mind for me, this one certainly does. It always feels good to make a combo better, and this does it perfectly. Great Whale and Deadeye Navigator is already a powerful combo, but tossing in this card makes it even better. Personally, I use Duplicant with Whale/Deadeye to board wipe, but Hostage Taker makes it a permanent steal! On the surface, this card is just plain funny. It’s an Oblivion Ring with a little Psychic Intrusion tossed in, which is amazing on its own, but it also has a combo to slide right into! I already know I’m going to hate seeing this card in EDH, but it’s just like Sunbird’s Invocation; as bad as it feels to get your stuff stolen, it’s just as fun to steal it yourself.

I hope everything that did make it on the list sees play in a few decks, even if it’s just for newer players like in the case of Search for Azcanta. I’m not seeing a lot of hype for these cards, even though Sunbird’s Invocation and Primal Amulet are playable cards. Right now 138 of the 279 cards have been spoiled, which means we’re exactly half way to the end of spoilers. Unfortunately, with 13 of the mythics spoiled, we won’t be seeing more than a handful more of them, but I do hope to get a chance to put the light on some more fun cards for EDH instead of just the strong ones. Prerelease is right around the corner, and I can’t wait to start cracking packs! Until then, I’ll just be happy knowing Ixalan is looking pretty good.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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What I Learned About Love From My Parents.

Warning, this isn't what you think it might be.

There's a lot of things your parents are meant to teach you as you start this long journey into life. Some of those things are the basics: Walking, Talking... Using the bathroom properly, Cooking, Work Ethic. And then there's some things that they teach you without ever meaning to. Faith, Patience, Empathy.... Some of those things I got. Some of those things... Well, I may have missed a lesson or two on. I'm writing this because I feel like children of divorce don't say it often enough, we have two worlds to live in. One we talk about, and one we never do.

I blame my parents divorce on both parties equally. My father was an alcoholic, abusive. Verbally, mentally and sometimes physically. And I think that was due to the fact that no one ever told him no, no one ever slowed him down. I wish someone had though, because I hear so often that I'm just like him but all of my memories are skewed by vodka fueled arguments, my brother being thrown and getting his head split open. Sometimes I think to the point that I last saw him and wonder if maybe I had pleaded just right that he would've stuck around.

My mother, God bless her, is always defending herself. Even when she doesn't have to. She's always waiting for someone to attack her in some way shape or form. Because a lot of the things she's done in her life, people have frowned upon. Including me. I'm fairly guilty of having no filter and telling people exactly what I think, cutting them wide open with words I never really meant to let loose in moments of stress. But I think that's what makes me feel a little bit better about the whole thing. Despite hurting her, I don't tell her much that she doesn't know. Does that make me a bad kid?

But with all of these things combined, I learned a lot of things about love. You can love many people in your life, deeply as you did the one before, truly as the very first. My mother is a prime example, having given her heart over and over. And over again. She's never really given her all to someone long enough for them to stick around, but she's quietly left a piece of herself with each individual. And that in of itself has made its mark on a number of fools. She's fierce each time, giving, caring. Until she's just not. Until she decides it's time to move on and start over.

My mother also taught me an invaluable lesson about fidelity. That it's not finite no matter how much you love someone. You could be madly in love and still be swayed by the desire to romantically involve yourself with someone who intrigues you and entices your nervous system. The brain, and the heart combined with your libido makes you do some honestly silly things. I've watched my mother do this.... well a handful of times in my life. Each time explaining that she just needed to be sure. Although I'm not entirely positive she ever got the answer to that.

My father taught me that no matter how much you love someone, you still will leave them if you just don't feel like being there. To really love and to stay in love you have to stay involved. It's work, and work was just something he could hang with. I remember one time asking why he couldn't just stop drinking. He said that the alcohol was the only thing that loved him exactly the way that he was, no questions asked. Failing to realize that despite the alcohol and everything else, I loved him like that, too.

Being an addict makes you harder to love because you have to be willing to commit yourself to getting better. Another thing my father just didn't have it in him to do, and he died because of complications from alcoholism, Hep C, cirrhosis. Part of me wonders if he even had a liver left when he went. I wouldn't know, I didn't show up to say goodbye even after the tearful invitation from a step-mother I never wanted to meet because I feared the things I would say about the man who raised me would forever stain her memory of him.

Watching my parents, as I grew older, taught me a lot of things. But one thing for certain. We are our parents, in our own little ways. I am ferocious with words, like my mother. And I love hard, just like her. I give everything to the people I care for, but instead of expecting things like respect and company in return, all I ever expect is for people to love me just as much. I have my father's smile. I hear that so often it could really be the truth. I also have my father's ability to bury my feelings and subject someone else to my anger when they all bottle up.

And what all of this taught me about love is that we cannot seek it. I watched them both fumble for it in some obscene search for stability in forms that they both craved desperately. My father, until his death. My mother, choosing to settle on my stepfather who kept her locked under his thumb. It took me a long time to learn that I needed to just let love in, in all of its forms and let the people who were going to love me exactly as I was find their way to me, not the other way around. I know it's such a cliche that you find it when you least expect, but honest to God, it's the truth. 

Love is not a commodity you pick up on the street, it is not this thing you can just grasp in your hand to hold like a gift from santa, these ideas that people teach us that love is this uplifting thing is so out of tune with what it really is. Love is a blessing, something to be cared for. Love is compromise, and learning to accept that the one you care for the most is going to do things to disappoint you and accepting that that is okay. Love is staying up all night, even when it's making your brain numb, to care for someone else when they aren't feeling lovable. Love is a duty, a responsibility as much as it is a joy and an honor.

If I have anything to thank my parents for teaching me, it is that I will never settle for anything less that a relationship where two people give it their all and never let eac 

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Laughing Girls

Women have domineered the world of comedy television despite a variety of obstacles.

In life, as in media, people have to pretend to be so many things that they may not understand what’s really happening in the world around them. In the terms of comedy, women have transcended a medium that previously was dominated by males. In the beginning, there were the few people who leaped from vaudeville into standup, then came the league of extraordinary ladies.

Names such as Joan Rivers, Betty White, Phyllis Diller, and Carol Burnett shattered the glass ceiling. Women are now a pioneering force in the world of comedy.

From shows such as I Love Lucy bringing the scent of a woman’s perspective to the then-new medium of television to Mary Tyler Moore giving a single woman’s views on the world and the workforce, to the series All-American Girl with Margaret Cho bringing diversity to the center stage to the comedic misadventures of Issa Rae in the HBO series, Insecure; women have made a triumphant rise in the field of comedy.

The Early Days

Comedy television in the early days relied heavily on the idea of a woman exclusively playing wife. Armed with either advice or in the case of two of the early greats, Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph, a dry wit to keep their husband’s personalities at bay. These two women were relegated to portraying the housewife with great wit for their husbands poorly conceived get rich quick schemes. These characters were not very common and were brought back to the world of comedy only after women really established that they had a position of power in their marriages.

However, other characters at the time were the happy housewife that never really had issues with their lifestyle or their husband. These can be shown through three different women in comedy television. The first is the ever-memorable Donna Reed.

After making a name for herself as Mary Bailey in the hit film, It’s a Wonderful Life, Donna Reed took on the role of Donna Stone. She was the happy homemaker whose work was more or less playing gracious hostess and helping to organize community events. This is the traditional housewife of the 1950s and much of these characters were prominent.

Shows such as Leave It to Beaver, Father Knows Best and The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet were recognized for their similarities in that they were more conservative versions of women. While some characters managed to defy the stereotypical stay at home mother, others came to prominence as the zany housewife that couldn’t leave well enough alone, or that has something else in her life working against her. Enter Lucille Ball.

Lucille Ball made a name for herself starring alongside her then-husband, Desi Arnaz on the show, I Love Lucy. I Love Lucy became a cultural icon for the simple fact that it was Lucille Ball in an unfiltered setting. She was able to play zany, the mother, the housewife and every avenue in between.

Armed with a sharp wit and a physically comic style that had people laughing until it hurt, she made the show everything she wanted. After I Love Lucy, though, she and Desi divorced and moved on. However, Lucy found herself still in the light of the small screen.

After the success of I Love Lucy came the hit series, The Lucy Show, and following that was the third hit series, Here’s Lucy. These shows took a woman and the issues of her life as well as some of the issues in being a woman and pushed them into their rightful place in pop culture. One thing to say about these shows is that despite Lucille Ball being divorced from Desi Arnaz, none of her characters ever tackled the angle of being a divorcee. She was always a widower, as many single women in television were but soon that changed.

Lucy, however, took control on the show. Mentor and friend, Carol Burnett, spoke about how Lucy had to take charge after her husband was no longer dealing with the writers. Burnett said that when Ball stepped up and took control is when the “s” was added to the end of her last name (Burnett). However, much like a great deal of women, Lucy took the reins and began to use the shows they were on as a platform for the issues they wanted to see portrayed.

Comedy television really opened up for women with the series, Hollywood on Television. Betty White was one of the producers, creators and starred in the series. This made her the first woman to create, produce, and star in her own series. Others would make this similar feat but White was a catalyst for women taking the center stage in the world of comedy.

Others to follow would be Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Carol Burnett and the like. Though rivers, made a name for herself as a standup comedian her work on the small screen will never be forgotten. Phyllis Diller, however, has more than little recognition for her debut on the small screen.

Based on the novel, House Party by Patrick Dennis, The Pruitt’s of Southampton was a series that perfectly captured the eccentric essence of the starring comedienne Phyllis Diller. The series centered on the life of Phyllis Pruitt, a wealthy widow, who discovers that she owes the IRS ten-million dollars in backed taxes.

Though the show garnered Diller a Golden Globe nomination, the show was a ratings flop and was retooled halfway through to become The Phyllis Diller Show. This plan didn’t work either and the entire series was canceled. However, another female comedian was going to make great strides in one aspect of the comedy genre.

Carol Burnett came to prominence from starring on The Gary Moore Show, which is where she originated her iconic charwoman character. However, she left the series in 1962 and had a ten-year contract with CBS. She had a clause that she could exercise that allowed her to do a thirty week, one-hour variety show.

She exercised the clause but was met with a great deal of resistance from the Mike Dann, the head of CBS at the time, said that sketch comedy was a man’s genre (Burnett). However, Burnett proved what all female comedians have been proving to the world for years, women are funny and gender doesn’t matter.

The Days of Diversity

Women have often been held back in all aspects of life but in the world of comedy, women have been a triumph. They have persevered despite the want by men to have comedy remain a boy’s club. Some ethnic groups have come into their own with women being the catalyst for this type of change. One example of this is the show Julia, starring Diahann Carrol.

Julia was a show about a single mother and a nurse. This show ran from 1968 to 1971, but it began only a few years after the Civil Rights Bill became law. However, Carrol was concerned about just what the show should have been in terms of racial activism. Carrol said, “The racial involvement was very minuscule on all television shows. It was absolutely let’s stay away from that. That’s too controversial, so we knew that going in. First, you make the success, and then you have other steps. (Carroll)”

Julia really started an ongoing sequence of shows that would ultimately use an African American man, woman or couple. Other racial groups, however, have faced suppression but slowly were able to rise to prominence. One example of this is Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl. Usually, when shows tackle a diversity angle they have a focus on the assimilation of the traditional idea from the character's culture and incorporate the ideas of the country they are living in.

Margaret Cho created and starred in All American Girl and broke the racial divide, but a growing amount of tension about her being the face of the series made it difficult to really have the show be what it could have been. On the PBS series, Pioneers of Television, Cho discussed some of the problems that occurred with the production of All American Girl.

She said, “I didn’t have these attributes they think of when they think of a female star of a show. I wasn’t thin, I wasn’t white. I think because I wasn’t white they had to somehow make me conform in other ways that would make me palatable to an audience. When you're the first person to cross over this racial barrier, you're scrutinized for all these other things that have nothing to do with race, but they have everything to do with race—it’s a very strange thing."

After a while, networks do come around to the idea of diversity and make room for the exploration of issues surrounding some a specific culture. One show that made this possible was Cristela on ABC. Created, written, produced by and starring Cristela Alonzo the show featured her as a woman who has taken a lot of time out of her life to take care of the family. Now she is finishing her college career and is slowly becoming a lawyer. The show really delves into issues of family, masculinity and, especially, racism. One episode that covered the gender hierarchy in terms of salary was aptly titled Equal Pay.

In the episode, Cristela has to represent a bank that is being sued for not allowing women to make as much as men do. At home, her brother-in-law, Felix is bragging about how men should make more than women so they can be the breadwinners of the house. It turns out that her sister, Daniella makes way more than Felix does and she doesn’t tell him because she likes him to feel “manly”.

Many of the episodes also dealt with her boss Trent Culpepper being a hardcore racist towards Cristela. Though, this was a reality that is true for many cultures. More often than not this wasn’t only positive for women but also for the culture and this is something that many shows featuring women have in common.

New York City is a common setting for many sitcoms and in terms of 1990’s television, it took center stage as an additional character in shows. However, the idea of gentrification has followed New York City in being a character.

One major example of this are the two shows Fox’s Living Single, and NBC’s FRIENDS. Both shows are about a group of men and women in their twenties and early thirties navigating life, work and the pursuit of romance. An article from the online news site, City Lab, compared both shows from the viewpoint of how each set of characters carried themselves, and the café’s they frequented.

Writer Brentin Mock expanded the idea that the café setting wasn’t ideal and essential to the series, Living Single because these were people with real lives and real jobs. Mock wrote, “The characters—executives and service workers, the self-employed and the full-salariedwere a continuance of the movin’ on up theme of economic advancement found consistently throughout the evolution of black television, from “The Jeffersons” to “Blackish.” The suggestion was that black urban mobility remained limited despite good financial footing. Coffee beans were not the essence of social life in the city for the black characters: They had to go to work.”

The newest show exploring diversity with women in comedy is the Netflix’s remake of the 1970’s sitcom, One Day at a Time. This show centers on veteran Penelope Alvarez, portrayed by Justina Machado, a single mother of two kids, who is learning to deal with new situations all around her. Some of these include her daughter coming out as a lesbian, dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with anti-depressants, and her mother almost dying. The show has many different aspects that play into it aside from the idea of cultural assimilation.

Unlike the original series, which focused on the struggles of single motherhood, the new show is multi-faceted, with storylines delving into the citizenship struggle of Penelope’s mother Lydia, as well as the issues of Penelope wanting to become a nurse practitioner, as well as her dating again.

Comedy without Comediennes

Throughout the world of both sitcoms and network, comedy has trickled a drama actress whose talents in the craft have made them comedy idols. One major example of this comes from the show, Cybill. This show starred acclaimed drama actress Cybill Shepherd in a sitcom that was about Cybill Sheridan, a twice-divorced actress who is still working on making her mark in Hollywood.

The show has also been described as what Cybill Shepherd’s life could have been like if the series, Moonlighting, or the film The Last Picture Show hadn’t been successful.

Prior to the series, Shepherd had been more of a dramatic actress, but part of the 90s was spent trying to find the perfect female duo to have a copycat of the British series, Absolutely Fabulous. Cybill is one show that came close thanks more to the comedy sense of co-star, Christine Baranski.

Baranski has since become a well-known actress for her roles in shows like The Good Wife and the sequel series, The Good Fight, as well as her role in How the Grinch Stole Christmas with Jim Carrey. Her portrayal of divorced socialite Maryann Thorpe on Cybill garnered her an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1995.

Despite the great chemistry among the characters, the series was not renewed for a fifth season and left on a cliffhanger ending. Comedy has not always been motivated by comediennes and many great drama actresses discover a challenge in the works of comedy. One such example can be found through the women of the sitcom, NewsRadio.

Headlined with great male comedians like Phil Hartman, Dave Foley, Andy Dick, Joe Rogan, and later Jon Lovitz; the women of NewsRadio had roots in being dramatic actors and in choreography. Maura Tierney, who portrayed the intelligent reporter, Lisa Miller has made a name for herself in the world of drama with her time on NewsRadio being a speed bump in her career.

Vicki Lewis, who played bubbly if not off-color, office assistant Beth, did more comedy but in guest roles in comedy shows. However, one of the most intriguing characters in the show is Catherine Duke portrayed by Khandi Alexander.

Catherine Duke was the only character that wasn’t white and managed to give the show a different vibe. Prior to this, Alexander was a choreographer for Whitney Houston. She left NewsRadio during season four to pursue more dramatic roles. Indeed, she ended up with a long-standing role on CSI: Miami as a medical examiner, Alexx Woods, and a powerful guest role on the Shonda Rhimes political soap-opera, Scandal. Her quick style of the show was both memorable and unique.

Her reason for leaving NewsRadio was because she wasn’t being used enough on the show. Drama actors have never been eliminated from the comedy category but they certainly have done things in a style that puts them on par with comedies great’s.

The Life after Public Life

Older women have been a force in the field of comedy and the series, The Golden Girls was the proof that this was true. This show had women in it that were, according to comedian Cristela Alonzo, “They’re not young, they’re not attractive, and they had real problems.” This show really delved into the idea of life after life and the way it was done made it so much better.

Comedic actresses Betty White, Rue McClanahan, Beatrice “Bea” Arthur, and Estelle Getty had a great deal of fame in other roles during their careers in acting. All four women had satisfying careers and women would go on to do another version of The Golden Girls, but would center on the new definition of old.

Age is but a number, but in Los Angeles, aging can often be a horrifying realization. As the concept of old has been pushed back, so has the idea of what aging means for both men and women. In old age, men become distinguished, while women are considered well beyond their years and are thought of as haggard.

Then came the series, Hot in Cleveland. This show, much like The Golden Girls, brought a series of older women together under one roof and explored just what went on in life after life. However, the idea of old in Hot in Cleveland is the early to late fifties and early sixties.

The Golden Girls had more or less the early sixties, and early seventies defined as old. White’s character on Hot in Cleveland, Elka Ostrovsky, was what really defines old as White celebrated her ninetieth birthday while on the series. Much like Estelle Getty, White became a sharp-witted grandmotherly type for the women in the house.

In the end, women have transcended a medium that was so male-oriented that they were relegated to just being the housewife. As women have evolved in the real world and have made strides in media. However, many women’s issues are still being explored but are not explicitly as inclusive as older shows.

One example of this is the sitcom Maude when she finds out that she is pregnant again and must decide whether or not she is going to have the baby or not. She and her husband Walter actually have a talk about whether or not Maude should have an abortion, a controversial conversation at the time, since Roe v. Wade had not been made into law yet.

Women’s issues revolve around the idea of a standard, but in these mediums, unlike real life. The standards they have faced since the earliest days are still around but as characters evolve and more is revealed about them, women have become so much more than anyone could have imagined. Aside from breaking the glass ceiling they have pioneered the genre of comedy and managed to mold it into the modern shows we see today.

Cover Image Credit: Edwin J. Viera

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