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THE BIGGEST NEWS I'VE EVER HAD

Working in entertainment, you learn to quickly and easily change hats, at least, you do if you want to succeed.  In a massive bit of hat switching, my theater technology career has led me into another field, photography.

It was Oprah Winfrey who told me to take photos of my work, so I could have a record of my achievements.  That comment led me to start EPS - Entertainment Photography Specialists.  Which led to my project, Dance Across the USA.  Which led to the book that is about to launch!  You can read all about the project here. Dance Across the USA Website I am still heavily committed to rigging, fabrication, and entertainment technology, I just get to put on a fancy hat sometimes.  Now, it's the hat of Author.  Woohoo!

DATUSA front only.jpg

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Safety - it's still the most important thing!

Working as a rigger and an educator in rigging safety, I get to see all kinds of rigs, some great, many more not so much.  If I am involved in the system, I will do everything I can to make it the safest system it can be.  There is no show or class that is worth actually injuring yourself over.  The thrill is in the skill of the performer, and the implied danger.  Sure, aerial has risk, but there are many ways we can mitigate that peril.  Rated equipment.  Proper techniques.  Adequate training.  Sound supporting structures.

What really chaps my hide is when a school, a place that is supposed to be teaching proper technique, asks for my assistance and opinion, and then summarily ignores it because it would be expensive.  Such is the case with a school here in South Florida.  I was brought in to give an estimate on rigging several points in a facility, and after giving my figure they decided to just put some points up on their own.  "That's too expensive," I was told.  

How expensive will it be when someone DOES get hurt?  Quite a bit more than the cost of some rigging gear and a bit of math.  Whatever kind of point you have in your space, make sure it is rated.  There should be quantifiable numbers behind the equipment and the building as well.  And insurance - does your school have it?  Does it actually cover aerial?  And what sort of training do your teachers have?  Is there an emergency plan in place?  Don't assume that because aerial is taught there that everything is fine, ask questions.  Ask to see the documentation about the equipment, rigging, and who is maintaining the gear.  And if they can't or won't provide that for you, walk away.  "But he has done circus and circus shows for years!"  Not good enough.  "No one has ever fallen here before!"  Uh-uh.  "But the school down the street has the same rigging!"  Doesn't make any of it right!

Aerial arts are challenging, beautiful, and dangerous.  Do not take them lightly.  Make sure that your rigging is safe, the teachers are trained to teach (not just good aerialists, that is NOT the same thing), and the facility is adequately equipped.  Take photos, ask questions.  And don't take anything for granted.  There are lots of folks who will do the bare minimum they have to so they can make a buck.  And then there are those who work hard to make sure everything is done right.  Find the latter - I promise, it will be worth your while.  

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American Circus Educators Safety Consultant Program

Safety is Job One!!!

In the United States, there is a group that is meant to support anyone who teaches circus.  That group is called the American Circus Educators, or ACE.  Very recently, they have begin a program for providing safety consultations to schools, teachers, and more.  I have been honored to be selected as one of these safety consultants.  Along with Jonathan Deull, Delbert Hall and others, we will be assisting organizations in making their training techniques and facilities as safe as is possible, to protect our young performers and provide encouragement in keeping safety as a top priority.  To learn more about the ACE and the consultants program, read below.

Photography by EPS - Entertainment Photography Specialists

Photography by EPS - Entertainment Photography Specialists

 

The ACE Story

The American Circus Educators Association was formed in 2014 as a branch of the American Youth Circus Organization(AYCO) and is dedicated to supporting circus educators. ACE is the trusted authority when it comes to all things circus education and is the primary source for professional development, networking, and information about circus education for anyone identifying as a circus parent, teacher, educator, coach, program director, or administrator.

ACE currently offers the following:

Membership
Events
Safety Program
Resources and Networking
Blog
Monthly Newsletter

 

ACE and AYCO

AYCO, the parent organization of ACE, has been serving circus educators since it’s founding in 1998, when the main form of circus education in the USA was catered towards youth. Since 1998, circus has gained in popularity and students range in age from toddlers to elders and everything in between. As a result, AYCO formed ACE in order to better serve the emerging circus education community.  AYCO is now dedicated to distinctly serving young people and their supporters through a variety of youth focused programs.

For those of you who know and love AYCO, it’s important to assure you that all of the programs and opportunities that AYCO has been providing for the past 15 years are still alive and well!

Although AYCO has “youth” in it’s title, the only direct services we have been offering to youth are our youth circus festivals. The direct service offered to adults and educators have been much more substantial. Our online network, professional development opportunities, magazine, social media, and newsletter have all been catered towards adults.

It’s become clear that the best way to serve youth and educators is by doing so distinctly. We’ve shifted all of the community and networking programs that you know and love for adults to be housed appropriately under ACE, and made a strong commitment to serving the diversity of circus educators under that branch. As a result, we are now able to truly serve youth through AYCO—which means new services catered towards young artists and practitioners and their supporters. AYCO has been re-imagined to include a circus swag box membership perk, youth authored e-newsletter and blog, a new website that is youth friendly, increased showcase opportunities, and all of the national and regional events we’ve always produced. For more information about the distinction between AYCO and ACE programs visit our FAQ. To visit our AYCO website, click here.

 

Circus Education

Circus education has evolved over the centuries. Traditionally skills were passed down through family lineage or bestowed through an apprenticeship model. The past 100 years has seen the development of pedagogy and training techniques offered to students through circus schools, organizations, performing companies, and individual coaches and educators.  The present day circus student can be virtually anyone- from toddlers to elders and everyone in between.  From students with a recreational focus to those hoping to go pro, circus education is inclusive of a diversity of access points. Some of the many approaches included are: youth circus, circus as a tool for social change and therapy, health and well being for adults, professional career development, and artistic expression for all. It is our aim to support the diversity of circus educators through our professional development offerings, safety project, and community network.

Overview of the Safety Consultant Group

ACE’s Safety Program is made possible by the ACE Safety Consultants Group. The SCG is made up of industry professionals with a passion for the continuing evolution of best practices in the circus arts. They come from a variety of backgrounds and with a variety of experiences, but share a set of values that include the following:

  1. No single person has all the answers when it comes to best practices; in fact, there are no final answers in how we deal collectively with risk management as it relates to circus arts
  2. Education, not exclusion, is the key to improving practices in the circus arts in the US
  3. Experts should be paid for their expertise and improving the safety practices in our sector is an urgent need.

ACE Safety Consultants are paid on a freelance basis when they take on an application, perform a site-visit or consult on their area of experience, but not all of the work of the group is paid. Every consultant must apply and be approved by the Board of Directors, based on many factors, including:

  1. A deep familiarity with the ACE Safety Program, either through an intensive course (offered at national and regional Edcons), or through specialized orientation (in special cases only)
  2. Must have a wealth of professional experience in some facet of risk management as it pertains to circus: rigging, curriculum or policy
  3. Excellent communication and technology skills
  4. A history within the community or ACE as an organization (attending Educator or Youth Conferences) and accompanying references.

This list is by no means exclusive or exhaustive; if you are new to our community but have a wealth of experience and a passion for safety, please send in your application so we can get to know you.

Becoming an ACE Saftey Consultant

If you are interested in becoming an ACE Safety Consultant, please download the ACE Safety Consultant Application.

In the process of filling out the application, you’ll also need to reference the ACE Teacher Training Program Guidelines.

Applications are reviewed on a bi-monthly basis by the Board of Directors; you will hear about the status of your application after it has been reviewed.

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Custom Circus and Burlesque Props

Here are a few more of the pieces that I build for performers.  I custom design pieces based off of your needs - travel requirements, weight, capacity, size, etc.  If you are looking to have something created for you, reach out, and let's see what we can create!

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IATSE Local 479 (Georgia) will offer Introduction to Rigging class

I recently taught a Rigging 101 class in Florida, sponsored by IATSE Local 477, with members from both 477 and IATSE Local 500 attending.  After this class was so well received, I have been asked to teach this class in Atlanta for IATSE Local 479.  This class will be Saturday Nov 1, 2014 at their home office at 140 Charles W. Grant Pkwy, Atlanta, Georgia 30354.  For more information, or to register for the class, you may contact them at 404-361-5676, or by email at training@iatse479.org.  Hope to see you there!

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My freestanding lyra shows up in some great places!

One of the popular circus props I build is a freestanding lyra.  I make several versions of this apparatus, ranging from a basic version built on top of an X-pole, to completely custom units.  The basic premise is simple - mount a lyra on top of a pole.  I made several of these over the years, and I wanted to share where one is being used.

Coco Austin is an actress, dancer and model.  She recently created a company / production called Coco and the Vanity Vixens.  As part of this amazing production, they incorporated my freestanding lyra, performed on by the beautiful and talented Sarah Kaye.  Here is a clip from the promo video from their show - 

 

If you want to know more about Coco and the Vanity Vixens, or see the entire promo video, visit their website here - http://www.thevanityvixens.com

For this production, we made a shorter pole height (to accommodate the low ceilings) as well as set to pole to static, so it did not spin.  The X-Pole is a great base for the freestanding lyra, as it is incredibly stable, and can be used in a variety of ways.  So if you are looking for something designed especially for you, or the X-Pole version, drop me a line, or give me a call.  I'm happy to help you create something amazing!

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IATSE Local 477 to offer Introduction to Rigging Class

Saturday, September 27, 2015, IATSE Local 477 will be offering a beginning rigging class.

Rigging for the non-riggers. Learn how to stand under your work, not just behind it.  

I will be teaching this class.  It is meant as a basic rigging primer, to expose attendees to many of the aspects that go into rigging.  

Register for the class-  dataclerk@ia477.org  

$25.00 assesment for no show, less than 48 hour cancelation.  

Local 477 Training Center 3780 SW 30th Ave.  Ft. Lauderdale

 

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Indulgence wins Gold at the Magellan Awards!!!

Every year, the publication Travel Weekly holds judging for their Magellan Awards.  From their website - Leveraging our expert knowledge of the travel industry, Travel Weekly is proud to present the Travel Weekly Magellan Awards. From design to marketing to services, The Travel Weekly Magellan Awards honors the best in travel and salutes the outstanding travel professionals behind it all. Winners are featured in an issue of Travel Weekly in October that will include a section dedicated to this year's winners. Winners will also receive a custom produced statuette made by the same company that produces the Oscar® and Emmy® awards. 

Honoring a broad range of industry segments including Hotels and Resorts, Travel Destinations, Cruise Lines, Online Travel Services, Airlines and Airports, Travel Agents and Agencies, Tour Operators and Car Rental Companies, the Magellan is the award to win if you are in the business of travel.

As I spoke about in a previous post, I recently designed and build several elements for Indulgence, which is currently on both the Celebrity Reflection and the Summit.  This event won Gold at the Magellan Awards, the highest award possible.  I am proud to have been a part of this, along with Marguerite Scott Entertainment and Folson Creative.  Look for more exciting events coming up in 2015!

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Celebrity Cruise Lines to open new production studio

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Celebrity Cruise Lines to open new production studio

 

Artist rendering of what the new studio will look like.

Artist rendering of what the new studio will look like.

Opening in January 2015, a new entertainment facility for Celebrity Cruise Lines will open for the creation and maintenance of their production shows, interactive events, and other entertainment programs.  This new facility, will have dance studios, a 300 seat theater, and aerial training studio, wardrobe space, and administrative offices.  Nearby, there are dorms which are being completely refurbished for the casts to stay while in rehearsal.  

 

Chicago Flyhouse is designing the rigging system for Celebrity, which will allow performers to rehearse on the same gear in studio which will be on the ships as well.  It is very exciting to see a new facility like this being built in South Florida.  Celebrity is also hiring for positions at this location, some of which will require travel around the world.  You can find the place to apply at this link - 

http://celebritycorporatecareers.com/pages/search_jobs/florida

Good luck, should you choose to apply!

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Indulgence on the high seas!

I recently completed a project for Celebrity Cruise Lines - a design and build for new events onboard several of their ships.  On four of their ships, we have launched Liquid - an ultra-lounge event involving circus acts, mermaids, pulsating music and beautiful people.  I designed and built a custom ground-supported lyra, with a setup time of about 60 seconds.  This event takes place in the Solarium on four ships.

Building upon the framework of Liquid, Celebrity commissioned me to create props for another event - Indulgence.  An immersive two hour event, Indulgence is a combination of burlesque, fantastic food, circus, imaginative drinks and colorful characters who sing and entertain guests.  Using the base from the lyra, i created a spinning swing, a "gilded cage" which includes aerial points for any single or dual point apparatus, a LED illuminated serving dress, a champagne skirt (with 112 glass capacity), a pop-up stage (complete with proscenium, curtains, lights, and sound) and custom built draperies to surround guests in plush red velvet.  See the gallery below for images from Indulgence! 

Champagne dress

Gilded Cage - designed to be set at multiple heights, with pullout stage in front.

Swing - using lyra base from Liquid

LED serving skirt - internally lit by LED, worn around waist by performer.

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At clubs in Miami, my work hangs high above the rest!

Another project for the same company as the moon (see the previous post) was an aerial cage.  This is an all  stainless steel constructed cage, with a transparent floor.  At almost 9' tall and 5' wide, this cage is large and in charge, just like the club. With five LED strips lining the inside of the cage, the performer inside is illuminated at all angles, from any height.  The cage is designed to fly, and can even have a point mounted on the inside to use this for a ground supported rig.  This is not a fragile, delicate piece, but a unit made to hold up to the rigours of aerial performance and stand the test of time.  Suitable for indoor or outdoor use, order one for yourself, or we can design one modified to your specifications.  Everything I design like this is completely custom.  Looking for something amazing for your act or venue?  Give me a call!

Aerial Cage

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Keeping it safe out there...

As entertainment professionals, it is up to us to be sure that whatever we do, we are taking the utmost care to keep us and those around us safe.  This includes our co-workers, the audience, passers-by who happen upon our location, whatever.  Safety comes from education, thoughtfulness, being aware of our surroundings, and education.  Did I mention education?  

Learning what keeps us safe and why is paramount to our industry.  We hear more and more about truss structures falling over, people falling out of lifts, fires being started by careless acts, and so much more.  So many of these incidents could have been avoided if people knew more than they did about what they were working on.  Accidents happed, things fail, stuff breaks.  But, if someone is taught how to back up their work, and have safety protocols in place, nine times out of ten these accidents can at least be made less severe, if not avoided all together.  

Whatever your craft is, learn as much as you can.  Take the time to do things the right way.  Work quickly and efficiently, but do it properly.  Protect yourself.  WEAR PROTECTIVE GEAR!!!  Don't work under the influence.  If you don't know something, ask!  And then go double-check the answer.  After all, education only works if you are learning the right stuff.   

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Custom creations for circus folk!

I build a great many things for people.  most recently, I was comissioned to build an extremely stable, portable, ground supported circus rig.  This company is called Flying Arrow Productions, and the piece was a Lollypop Lyra.  In many locations where they are asked to provide high quality entertainment, they are not able to rig from the existing structure.  Sometimes this is due to the fragile or historical nature of the venue, or sometimes it's just that there is no place to rig from!  So, after a few creative meetings, I created this - 

Vinyl.jpg

AT 11' tall, this steel and aluminum structure breaks down into small, easy to manage bags.  This image shows the lyra with one of the scenic treatments we use for the piece.  The pole and lyra rotate, which bring an additional dimension to the piece.  Setup takes less than 10 minutes, and the entire unit fits easily in the trunk of a hybrid sedan!  Contact me if you would like to create your own custom creation.

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Many projects, lots of great people!

Part of the fun of being a freelance technician is all of the random gigs that come your way.  I spent all of August rigging for Univision, building out their new Studio One for Mira Quien Baila (Spanish Language Dancing with the Stars).  As an added bonus, I was asked to do a special aerial flying effect, flying in the secret 10th star for the opening performance.  This star was María Antonieta de las Nieves, also known as Chilindrina.  Born in 1950, she has been portraying the character Chilindrina since 1973.  I had the great pleasure of working with her, and a pleasure it truly was.  Here's a clip of the moment from the broadcast - 

 

Coming up, we have a feature film, a few special events with flying performers, a trip to Europe for more flying fun, and outfitting a couple studios for aerial rigging points.  Wahoo!

Me and Chilindrina. She's very nice, and very short! 

 

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Summertime Slow Down - how are you improving yourself?

During the hot and humid summer months here in South Florida, it is not a busy time in the Entertainment Industry.  Having just come off a busy spring, and plenty of work coming up in the fall, this is a time to collect.  Clean your tools, fix a couple things here and there, and most importantly, improve your knowledge.  Signing up for classes, reading new publications, attending shows and conventions, all of this is beneficial for increasing one's knowledge.  

I believe that it is important to always improve - to learn and grow as a technician.  There are always things to improve upon, and I strive to gain as much knowledge as I can.  It makes you more competent and safer, which helps everyone around you stay safe as well.  You cannot just watch out for yourself, you must always watch out for those around you.  Speak up (in a courteous way) - your co-workers will thank you for it!

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Working hard really is fun!

Today is a day off, which I do appreciate.  However, when I am at work, it is a lot of fun!  I am working on a feature film at the moment, and the pace is hectic.  Moving at light speed, setting things up for a shot before the sun goes away, making sure not to run over anyone in the process... it's really cool.  And when there are 100 of your co-workers all blasting around the set the same way - it's really something to see.  Chatting with my crew yesterday, we all agreed it is just not in our nature to stand around or be lazy at work.  Drives us nuts!  I'd much rather be under the gun doing a project.  There is a small minority in the industry who feel that slowing down will make you more money.  I respectfully disagree - you make more money by doing a great job quickly and safely, which will then motivate people to hire you to do that great job for them again.  It's not just a paycheck, it's a labor of love.  How about you - is your job a labor of love as well?  If not, why not?  You will get so much more out of life doing what you are passionate about.  Give it a try!

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It takes a lot of peanuts to feed an elephant

Aside from being an entertainment technician, I am also a photographer.  I own a small studio called Entertainment Photography Specialists.  It is definitely a labor of love, and something I greatly enjoy doing.  Being a designer and rigger, it helps me to create images that that other photographers can only dream of.  Here's a link to my page, check it out!

 

 

 

 

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Theater - A useless Degree?

Today on Yahoo there was an article on "Useless Degrees" one could earn.  You can read the whole article here.  Coming in at number three on the list, was a degree in theater.  Following is the Theater section of the article.

Useless Degree #3 - Theater

Number of Students Awarded Degree in 2008-2009: 89,140
Typical courseworkTheater, acting, directing, design, playwriting, communications, dramatic literature

Here's the good news: Sign up for theater as a major and at least you'll be really good at acting like you have a job.

Here's the bad news: Actors endure long periods of unemployment and frequent rejection, says the U.S. Department of Labor. The Department goes on to say that because earnings are erratic for actors, producers, and directors, many hold second jobs. In other words, how do you feel about waiting tables?

Of course, says Shatkin, "People go into this with such a love for it you can't stop them."

Total Number of Actors/Producers/Directors in 2008: 155,100
Projected Change in Number of Jobs 2008-2018: +16,900
Percent Change: +11

 

My first question is, where did they get their facts?  How can they come up with a number like 155,100 as being the total number of actors, producers, directors?  Let's look at the actual facts.

According to Actor's Equity, (a union of which I am a member of) they have a membership of over 49,000. (source)

SAG, the Screen Actor's Guild, has a combined membership with AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) of 44,000 (source)

DGA, The Directors Guild of America, has approximately 14,500 members (source)

IATSE, the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees (again, I am a member), has a membership of over 150,000 (source)

Just there are 257,500 members.  Now, let's assume some of these members overlap, as I do.  I'll be generous and say remove a third of that number.  That leaves around 172,000 people who are members of a theatrical union.  Now how many people out there are NOT a member of a union, and are working as a theater person?  From my lay perspective (26 years in the industry), it is at LEAST 3 to 1.  So there are an additional 500,000 non-union people in the US who work in theater , making our grand total come to 700,000 jobs, give or take a few.  That seems like a pretty big job market.

The article also said that there are long periods of unemployment, erratic earning potential, and frequent rejection.  So many have second jobs.  As they put it, "How do you feel about waiting tables?"  While there are theater people who have service jobs, several also have a multi-faceted career in the industry.  Actors who are also stage managers, designers who are technicians, singers who are stitchers.  But this can be said about many an industry.  This is hardly something relegated only to those who have gotten a degree in theater.

While I do not think that a degree in theater is necessary, (I never went to college), I also do not think it is a useless degree.  Like any other program, it is both the quality of the instruction and experience, as well as the effort one puts into their own education.  A person can learn in a variety of ways, from a variety of sources.  Myself, I learned by surrounding myself with people who knew more than I did, and were more experienced.  I continue to do so on a daily basis.  In fact, I just signed up for a class.  I love to learn.  It keeps me sharp, and relevant.

Mr. Terance Loose, who wrote this article, has a few errors to be held accountable for.  He lists as the source of his article a story published by The Daily Beast.com, an online wing of Newsweek.  (source) For whatever reason, he wanted to change the order from the original story.  Here is how they broke it down.

TOP 20 USELESS DEGREES

1 - Journalism

2 - Horticulture

3 - Agriculture

4 - Advertising

5 - Fashion Design

6 - Child and Family Studies

7 - Music

8 - Mechanical Engineering Technology

9 - Chemistry

10 - Nutrition

11 - Human Resources

12 - Theater

13 - Art History

14 - Photography

15 - Literature

16 - Art

17 - Fine Arts

18 - Psychology

19 - English

20 - Animal Science 

It would seem that the biggest waste of education dollars (According to the Daily Beast) would be IN HIS OWN FIELD - that of journalism.  And yet he does not even include that in his story.  Funny... truth in journalism is something he should have learned in school.  Unless he didn't, in which case his degree is worthless, as they did not teach him the basics of fair reporting.  Or he did not go to school, in which case he would have benefited from learning that lesson.

I do not believe that any education is ever useless.  Perhaps you are not working in the area you studied.  Maybe you are not working at all.  However, everyone is better for having the opportunity to learn.  And therefore, no degree is useless.  Not even theater.  

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Would you sign your work?

I heard a comment the other day - if everyone were to sign their name on what they did, the quality would be better. There is a large amount of apathy when it comes to work. Many people only want to do the bare minimum to get by. Phrases like , "It looks good from my house" or "Good enough for government work" abound. Why is that? The past few days I was building the sets for a theater in Coral Gables called the Area Stage Company. They are doing a production of Snoopy. It was my first time working for them, and it was a lovely experience. Very cool people, which makes for a great working environment!

When I had finished building everything (which really was only a few items - cubes, a dog house, some funky pyramid shapes) they told me that they had never had someone who had put as much care into their work. I really appreciated that comment. I love what I do, and take a lot of pride in what I build. I just don't understand why that is so unusual. Isn't a job well done a really great feeling? Standing back and looking at what you did with pride, there is something really wonderful about that. So, would you sign your work? I would, every time.

 

 

 

 

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