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Upheaval wrestles with tradition in Korean art of the 1960s and ’70s at the Hammer Museum



Upheaval wrestles with tradition in Korean art of the 1960s and ’70s at the Hammer Museum

Seoul is the latest major city to establish itself as a significant international hub for new art. With that distinction comes the expected propagation of ambitious museum exhibitions seeking to articulate, illuminate and cogitate over its local history of modern art, which is little known.

“Only the Young: Experimental Art in Korea, 1960s-1970s” is the latest. It follows “The Space Between: The Modern in Korean Art,” which a year ago covered 1897 to 1965 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

“Only the Young,” organized last year by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, working with Korea’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, is at the UCLA Hammer Museum in Westwood through May 12. It’s the first show of its kind in North America. With 29 artists and nine artist groups, the exhibition is anchored by varieties of Conceptual art, which became the leading form internationally in the decades under review. The result is work that feels at once recognizable and unfamiliar, which sometimes makes for a bit of a tough haul, if also a nicely curious experience.

The history of the participating Korean museum suggests some of what you’ll find explored in the show. The institution, founded in 1969, smack in the middle of the exhibition timeline, has now branched out into four satellites — Gwacheon, Deoksugung, Cheongju and Seoul, most of them in and around the nation’s capital. Those sites represent shifting centers of power, influence and reigning cultural philosophy within the country, beginning with the isolationist Joseon dynasty that ruled for half a millennium, before the tumultuous modern era.

Of the 29 artists, all but two, Jung Kangja and Lee Hyangmi, are men. That’s one indication of the deep social conservatism of an era of rebuilding after the Korean War, which was led by strongman Park Chung Hee. His tenure — Park took power in a 1961 military coup and was assassinated while still in office in 1979 — brackets the show’s “experimental” era.


A timeline of Korean performance art leads to Song Burnsoo’s “Take Cover I-V,” five silkscreen images.

(Christopher Knight / Los Angeles Times)

Jung’s participation in a satirical 1968 performance stands out. In a happening that parodied academic female nudes painted by men, her male colleagues, Chung Chanseung and Kang Kukjin, attached transparent balloons to her semi-naked body. The balloons then were popped, one by one, to fully expose the 26-year-old artist.

A hit with their avant-garde coterie, partly for its virtually unprecedented feminist insistence on a living, breathing woman’s centrality to the project, the event didn’t go down well everywhere, including in a scandalized Korean popular press. (Police were also on hand to observe.) Two years later, annoyed authorities shuttered a survey exhibition of Jung’s work.


Jung, Chung and Kang had all been students in the department of Western painting at Seoul’s Hongik University. That such a department existed shows where certain official Asian ambitions lay: The Western establishment was the standard for what “modern” meant. Many young Korean artists worked in groups, affiliated formally or loosely, which may suggest just how minimized experimentation was. (There’s strength in numbers.) Amid churning local political controversies around national identity, the students surely were looking to developments in Europe and the United States for artistic inspiration, with contemporary art magazines as a guide.

At the Hammer, “Transparent Balloons and Nude” is represented by a slightly blurry photograph, displayed with other still and video images of performance art in a helpful timeline that spreads across a wall. The performance indicates obvious debts to slightly earlier Western works.

Among them are Yves Klein’s 1960 performance in Paris, “Anthropometry of the Blue Period,” in which nude women were slathered in blue paint and then imprinted their bodies on canvas; and Yoko Ono’s 1964 “Cut Piece,” first performed in Tokyo and then London and New York (at Carnegie Hall, no less), where she sat alone on a stage while members of the audience were invited to come up and cut off pieces of her clothing. Neither of these cutting-edge Western precedents required police to be in attendance, which yields dramatic — and courageous — resonance for the Koreans’ performance.

A television monitor sits on top of a stack of hefty stones, surrounded by additional scattered rocks.

Park Hyunki, “Untitled (TV Stone Tower),” 1982, mixed media.

(Hammer Museum)


L.A. is home to the largest Korean diaspora, but the country’s history, which may or may not be familiar to Hammer visitors, illuminates what artists were up to. It was not always to profound effect. For instance, Andy Warhol is an obvious marker for Song Burnsoo’s “Take Cover I-V,” five silkscreen images that repeat a gas-masked face, its sequence of solid colors representing coded government alarms related to threats from North Korea. The work’s Pop social commentary is pretty thin.

More intriguing is Park Hyunki’s “Untitled (TV Stone Tower),” which inserts a television monitor within a short stack of hefty stones, surrounded by additional scattered rocks. (Here the show fudges a bit, since the work is dated 1982.) In this Brancusi-inflected “endless column,” commercially produced and ephemeral mass imagery is juxtaposed with an actual, if abbreviated, mass drawn from nature, creating an oddly poignant sense of loss. The effect is only enhanced by learning from the show’s excellent catalog that Park’s composition refers to traditional Korean doltap, stone piles erected at temples to drive away evil spirits.

Two of the show’s simplest works are among its most hauntingly beautiful. Lee Seung-taek’s “Tied Ceramic” and Ha Chong-Hyun’s “Work 73-13” both date from the early 1970s, a time of serious national distress that included ramifications from participation in the Vietnam War.

“Tied Ceramic” leaves the tracks of a rope that, before firing in a kiln, were wound around a white porcelain moon jar, an exquisite traditional form highly revered during the premodern Joseon dynasty. The wrapping marks, cut into the clay like a memory made concrete, oscillate between signs of painful bondage and a warm embrace, a tension both social and artistic in 1970s Korean culture.

A white porcelain moon jar with indentations left by rope wrapped around it.

Lee Seung-taek, “Tied Ceramic,” 1975, porcelain.

(Christopher Knight / Los Angeles Times)


“Work 73-13” is a large, earthy, monochrome abstraction, its mottled muddy color achieved by pushing brown oil paint through rough jute from behind. Almost 4 feet tall and nearly 8 feet wide, the plane is wrapped in a strict grid of barbed wire. The aesthetic effect is of nature, tradition, human effort and modernity imprisoned but unstoppable. It will all ooze out.

A kind of exclamation point marks the final room, where a tall, severed tree stump rises from a big, precisely carved cube made of soil, gravel and concrete. Lee Kun-Yong’s sculpture “Corporal Term,” which sits atop a wooden pallet, is remade whenever it is shown, its natural elements scavenged from local sources. (A Hammer label is careful to note that this particular tangled stump was found as is; no trees were harmed to make the art.) The title “Corporal Term” describes the bodily lifespan of the sculpture, the human effort to fabricate the form, the viewer’s experience of it — even, perhaps, the long arc of Korean history that has brought the object here. The work is a lovely meditation on mortality and endurance.

Kim Kulim, who worked in Los Angeles in the 1990s, emerges from “Only the Young” as an essential artist for the experimental activity that erupted in 1960s Korea. At the show’s entrance, his painting “Death of the Sun II” (1964) is a scarred, all-black panel, made from paint covered with a petroleum-doused vinyl sheet that was set on fire and then smothered. The battered panel — painting as performance art — takes a cue from Shōzō Shimamoto, Saburō Murakami and other Gutai aesthetics of 1950s Japan, which emerged from the apocalyptic ruins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

A large, horizontal, mixed-media, mud-colored monochrome abstraction wrapped in a strict grid of barbed wire.

Ha Chong-Hyun, “Work 73-13,” 1973, mixed media.

(Ariel Ione Williams)


“Death of the Sun II” metaphorically destroys both the revered Korean tradition of black ink painting and modern Western abstraction, whose epitome was said to be the structural void represented by the all-black paintings of 1950s American artists Robert Rauschenberg, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko and Frank Stella. As the show unfolds, Kim turns up in several disparate guises — making films, producing happenings, wiring a big electrified panel of dancing lights — leaving one to wonder what a full solo retrospective might reveal.

Conceptual art was both an extension and a critique of modernism. A common though mistaken assumption is that varieties of Conceptual art erupted in New York and eventually spread out to cover the art globe, as Abstract Expressionist, Pop, Minimal and street art are often erroneously claimed to have done. Rather than representing a cultural center and its periphery, however, the artistic shift in the 20th century’s second half had multiple points of origin all over the globe. Seoul and its environs formed one of them. “Only the Young” does an admirable job of presenting the Korean dialect of Conceptual art’s emergent international language.

‘Only the Young: Experimental Art in Korea, 1960s-1970s’

Where: UCLA Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood
When: Through May 12. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays; closed Mondays
Admission: Free
Info:, (310) 443-7000

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Movie Reviews

Movie Review: “Abigail” Now Playing at Boone Regal



Movie Review: “Abigail” Now Playing at Boone Regal
April 22, 2024 “After last week’s heavy, serious, ultraviolent “Civil War,” I needed a movie like the lighter, sillier, also ultraviolent “Abigail.” Is this film as intelligent and thought-provoking as last week’s offering – a film that still rules the box office, by the way? No. Is this film going to leave much of an impact on popular culture? Probably not – it doesn’t do much to stand out from similar movies, some from the same people that made this movie. But would I pick “Abigail” over “Civil War” to watch in my free time because it’s much more fun? Oh, yes.  Read more
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David Ellison's journey from trust fund kid to media mogul vying to buy Paramount



David Ellison's journey from trust fund kid to media mogul vying to buy Paramount

When David Ellison, the mega-rich aerobatic pilot and Ferrari-driving son of multibillionaire Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison landed in Hollywood, he was viewed as yet another trust fund scion with Klieg lights in his eyes and an enviable bank account.

Unlike most Hollywood neophytes of his ilk, however, Ellison did not flame out in ignominy or retreat much poorer for his efforts. Rather, Ellison (after a few hiccups) launched Skydance Media, a successful Santa Monica-based production company that has bankrolled a slew of massive box office and television hits such as “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Star Trek” and “Grace and Frankie,” and more recently, expanded into animation, sports and gaming. Two years ago, the company secured $400 million in funding, giving Skydance a valuation at more than $4 billion, and it now has 1,300 employees.

Today, Ellison’s Skydance Media is a strong contender to acquire Paramount Global in a deal that would give the 41-year-old control of the storied movie studio behind “The Godfather” and “Chinatown,” as well as a sprawling portfolio of assets including CBS Entertainment, the BET, MTV and Nickelodeon cable channels and a national movie theater chain — recasting Ellison from mega-rich Hollywood financier to even richer media mogul.

The proposed deal — it would see Skydance acquire National Amusements (the company that owns nearly 80% of Paramount Global’s voting shares) for $2 billion in cash, followed by Paramount Global buying Skydance in an all-stock deal worth $5 billion — has been backed by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s powerful nonexecutive chairwoman, but it is far from assured.

Shareholders have pushed back, saying the transaction would primarily benefit Redstone at the expense of regular investors. Earlier this month, in the midst of negotiations, four of the company’s board directors resigned over the planned merger.


“The last thing the company shareholders need is yet another silver-spooned movie enthusiast to run our entertainment company into the ground,” shareholder Blackwood Capital Management wrote in a blistering letter to Paramount’s board.

And Ellison’s bid faces some formidable competition: Sony Pictures Entertainment is in talks to join Apollo Global Management in its $26-billion offer for Paramount Global. Sony and Apollo must wait for an exclusive 30-day negotiation period that Paramount’s independent board of directors has extended to Ellison.

A spokesperson for Ellison and Skydance declined to comment.

Despite the shareholder opposition, Ellison remains confident that his deal will prevail, although it’s likely negotiations will continue beyond the 30-day period, said a source familiar with negotiations who was not authorized to comment.

If Skydance prevails in the Paramount takeover, it would represent a significant victory for Ellison and the latest consolidation in an industry still struggling from the upheaval caused by streaming and last summer’s labor unrest.


At the same time, it would bring some fresh challenges for the rising Hollywood player. Chief among them: Can Ellison transform Paramount, which is weighted down in debt and facing many of the same headwinds as other legacy companies with aging linear TV and cable assets, into a new and successful future?

“David has an institutional knowledge and an appreciation for the studio’s history and a real love of movies,” said Adam Goodman, former president of Paramount Pictures. “I don’t know his plan, but I would bet on that kid any day of the week.”

More than a trust fund kid

David Ellison was born in 1983, the first and only son of Larry Ellison and Barbara Boothe, the third of the tech tycoon’s four wives. When he was 3 and his sister Megan was 3 months old, their mother filed for divorce.

Ellison and his sister grew up with their mother on a horse farm in Woodside, in the Bay Area. Their father owned multiple properties, including, an 8,100-square-foot home nearby, modeled after a 16th century Japanese emperor’s palace.

When David Ellison was 10, his father had an estimated net worth of $1.6 billion and was named to Forbes’ billionaire’s list for the first time. As of this month, Larry Ellison’s fortune has morphed into $131 billion, making him the world’s 10th-richest man, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.


During school breaks, David Ellison and his sister spent time with their father sailing around the world on his super yacht, Ronin.

By most accounts, it was Ellison’s mother who provided him with a grounding, steady influence. In exchange for doing chores, he received a $5 allowance, as he told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Ellison’s mother also nurtured his love of film. They went to movie openings every weekend. At home, she kept a collection of 2,000 VHS titles. Ellison and his sister would binge watch blockbuster franchises like “Star Wars,” “Jurassic Park” and the original “Terminator” movie.

When Ellison was 13, he and his father took flying lessons together. Thinking it would instill a sense of responsibility in his son, he bought him a German two-seat aerobatic monoplane, and on weekends the pair — alongside an instructor — staged mock dogfights over the Pacific, according to one of the elder Ellison’s biographers.

Although acutely aware of his extreme wealth, Larry Ellison took a rather pragmatic view on the effect it might have on his children.


“The sooner my kids get experience dealing with the pluses and minuses of having a lot of money, the better,” he told Matthew Symonds, author of the Larry Ellison biography “Softwar.”

Early on, the tech entrepreneur set up trusts for his children with large tranches of stock in Oracle, the company he co-founded in 1977 that went public in 1986; and later NetSuite, an enterprise software company he helped finance, that went public in 2007. Over time, the trusts, in addition to their independent holdings, have made David and his sister phenomenally wealthy.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is said to be supporting his son’s bid to acquire Paramount.

(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)


Ellison initially gave his children 90,000 shares of Oracle, according to Forbes. By 2013, the stock had split 10 times, increasing the trust to 29.2 million shares, then worth nearly $1 billion. Two years later, Forbes reported that Ellison’s heirs owned 2.8% of Oracle stock valued at more than $4.8 billion.

During high school, Ellison spent a pair of summers working at Oracle, but the tech universe held little interest for him.

After transferring from Pepperdine to USC’s film school, he dropped out in 2005 during his senior year to make his first film, “Flyboys.” (Megan was the boom operator on his senior thesis film. She later founded Annapurna Pictures, maker of critically acclaimed films including “Zero Dark Thirty.”)

Ellison co-starred with James Franco in the World War I aerial combat film, about a group of young Americans who volunteered for the French military. Ellison also put up 30% of the movie’s $60-million budget, in a deal brokered with then-ICM agent Jim Berg.

Tony Bill, the movie’s director, recalled Ellison as modest, well-mannered and someone who became popular with the other young cast members during filming. Bill, who won a best picture Oscar for producing “The Sting,” found Ellison’s demeanor “extraordinary.”


“He never said or behaved or implied in any way who he was behind the scenes.” When the rest of the cast did find out, Bill said, they were in shock. “It was like are you … kidding me? I can’t imagine anyone I’ve ever known who was famous or rich who didn’t find a way to drop it in along the way.”

“Flyboys” bombed, earning just $18 million at the box office worldwide.

Undeterred, Ellison stayed in the game. In 2010, he founded his production company, Skydance Media. He continued to act, appearing in a number of small roles, such as the best friend of a college golfer in the comedy “Hole in One.”

After “Twilight” star Taylor Lautner dropped out of Ellison’s movie “Northern Lights,” a film that he co-wrote and planned to co-star in, he abandoned acting.

“When that movie didn’t come together, it was a turning point,” Ellison told The Times in 2011. “Everything I’ve done has helped me to realize producing is all that I want to do.”


Around town, however, the episode bolstered the idea that Ellison was just a rich kid with what Hollywood likes to call dumb money.

While he had money, Ellison wasn’t dumb.

In addition to wealth, Larry Ellison provided his son with a cadre of his influential and powerful friends who made important introductions and advised him on the finer points of deal-making and negotiating.

Along with Jim Berg, who also sits on Oracle’s board, David Geffen became an early guide. Entertainment lawyer Skip Brittenham helped set up Skydance’s business plan.

But it was his father’s close friend, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who also built Animation Studios, that had a profound influence on Ellison.


Jobs offered to listen to hear Ellison’s pitch for Skydance, but he was skeptical.

“ ‘I want you to come back up here and talk about how you guys are going to aspire to make movies and tell stories better than anybody else, because that’s what we did at Pixar,’ ” Ellison told the “Sway” podcast, noting, “It very much changed the trajectory of the company.”

In 2010, Skydance raised $350 million to co-finance movies with Paramount Pictures. Ellison’s father put up a portion of the company’s $150-million equity and JPMorgan Chase & Co. provided a $200-million credit line. Last year, the company closed a five-year, $1-billion credit led by JPMorgan.

Skydance’s current stakeholders include the Ellison family, private equity firms RedBird Capital Partners and KKR and Chinese conglomerate Tencent Holdings.

The funds gave Ellison a venture in a slate of the studio’s big-budget, triple-A titles such as “Mission: Impossible,” “World War Z,” “Star Trek” and “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.”


Hitting it big with ‘Mission: Impossible’

Ellison got a taste of success right out of the gate. The first film released as part of the arrangement was “True Grit,” the Coen brothers’ western. Made for $38 million, it went on to gross more than $252 million globally while garnering 10 Oscar nominations, including a nod for best picture.

Attempting a rescue, one man is holding the foot of a man who is hanging upside down out of a high-rise, in a movie scene

One of the first films released as part of a financing deal between Paramount and David Ellison’s Skydance was “Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol” in 2011, starring Tom Cruise and Jeremy Renner. The movie has grossed nearly $700 million.

(Moviestore / Shutterstock / Paramount Pictures)

In 2011 came the release of “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” which has grossed nearly $700 million, launching a slate of profitable popcorn fare. Ellison also married Sandra Lynn Modic, an actress he met on the set of “Hole in One.”

Despite his youth and relative inexperience, Ellison impressed those around him. “He was a very young person, but he was wise beyond his years, Goodman said.


“He stands by what he loves, said another producer who was has worked with Ellison. “He fought for the original construction of projects when the easy thing to do was to let the studio make choices.”

Skydance expects to generate about $1 billion in revenue this year and more than double that amount in 2025, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Yet, Skydance has had its share of setbacks. Both “Gemini Man” and the “Terminator: Dark Fate” reboot failed to connect with either audiences or critics, or both.

Its investment in animation has yet to match the kind of success as its film and television productions. In 2019, Ellison hired former Pixar creative chief John Lasseter to head the unit to an onslaught of criticism. It was just six months after Lasseter’s ouster from the Walt Disney Co.-owned Pixar following allegations that he‘d engaged in inappropriate workplace behavior. The famous director acknowledged unspecified “missteps” in his dealings with employees. Emma Thompson withdrew from the company’s first animated feature, “Luck.”

“He’s had some hits and misses. But he’s been bold and aggressive and built a solid production company in Skydance,” one industry executive said of Ellison.


Goodman recalled how Ellison proved his mettle during the troubled production of “World War Z.” The movie’s delays, ballooning budget (it eventually cost $200 million) and clashes over whether it was a summer blockbuster or a geo-political allegory threatened to sink the film.

“We made a movie where some parts worked well and others were unwatchable,” Goodman said. “We had two choices: put a Band-Aid on it or go deep and make real creative and financial investments. David and his partners went all in. It was a real test of our partnership and testament to their ability to put their money where their mouth was.”

The film has grossed $540 million at the box office.

The Paramount Global acquisition would propel Ellison into a different stratosphere — with formidable challenges. Ellison and his partners would have to decide whether to continue to invest in Paramount+, its money-losing streaming service that has more than 67 million subscribers; as well the fate of the CBS broadcast network and the company’s many struggling cable channels, like MTV.

The Melrose Gate of Paramount Pictures Studio

The Melrose Gate of Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. Skydance is seeking to buy the studio.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)


More urgently, Ellison must contend with Paramount’s restless shareholders and board members who have objected to the Skydance deal on offer.

The viability of the Skydance deal depends on whether shareholders are willing to believe that the bid — and Ellison’s leadership — will pay future dividends that will exceed the current dilution of their shares, said Nelson Granados, executive director for the Institute for Entertainment‚ Media‚ and Sports at Pepperdine University.

But Ellison’s father’s tech connections — and deep pockets — could help bolster Paramount, particularly if there are new advancements in artificial intelligence, digital production or distribution, he said.

“Can they bring Paramount to the 21st century basically is the big question,” said Granados.


Times staff writers Samantha Masunaga and Meg James contributed to this report.

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Movie Reviews

‘Abigail’ is a Delightfully Gory Addition to Vampire Movies – Review



‘Abigail’ is a Delightfully Gory Addition to Vampire Movies – Review

Becky checked out Abigail to see how it stacks up to other vampire movies.

I need to start off with a bit of blunt honesty: I initially thought it was a mistake for the trailers to give away that Abigail is a vampire. It would’ve been an immensely satisfying twist had the audience gone in completely blind to the truth of what Abigail really is.

That being said, having seen the film, I can now admit that it wasn’t a mistake at all. In fact everything given away in the trailer only serves to whet the appetite, so to speak, for what’s to come in the rest of the film.

Abigail, an extremely loose re-interpretation of Dracula’s Daughter (1936), follows a group of kidnappers as they snatch a wealthy mogul’s daughter, the titular Abigail, to hold her for ransom. It seems like a simple job: hold the girl until her father coughs up the ransom, everyone gets paid, everyone is happy. There’s just one little detail the kidnappers don’t know: Abigail is actually a vampire, and she’s very hungry.

The story does take a bit of time to properly get going, with a major chunk of time passing before anything remotely supernatural happens. However, once the creepy vampire activities start happening, the story kicks into a whole new gear. The basic set up is frightening, as these criminals find themselves locked in a house with a vampire and no exits. The thing is, the story also comes across as funny at times, in a weird and twisted sort of way.


For instance, there’s a scene revealed in one of the trailers where the group debates how they’re going to take the vampire down and they list off the different kinds of vampires known in fiction (citing Anne Rice, True Blood, and Twilight among other things). It makes sense that this is how most people would have any information about vampires, yet the way it’s presented you can’t help but laugh a little when it comes up.

The cast is one detail that makes Abigail a very good film. Alisha Weir almost completely steals the show with her performance as Abigail and proves she has a bright future in movies. Kathryn Newton also rocks as Sammy the hacker. This is the second horror film I’ve seen her in this year and she is rapidly becoming one of my favorite actresses. However, all praise needs to be given to Melissa Barrera’s performance as Joey. She absolutely killed it throughout the film and it’s mesmerizing to watch her interactions with Abigail shift throughout the story.

One thing that needs to be noted is that Abigail is a very gory film. It’s not constant, but when it does happen, it’s a lot. The filmmakers definitely played these moments up for maximum effect and it works.

Something that worked unexpectedly well is the theme of ballet that is woven throughout the film. That is one detail I wasn’t sure would work, but if anything it serves to make Abigail even more terrifying. To be followed throughout the mansion by a vampiric ballerina is quite unsettling and definitely makes Abigail one of the more memorable additions to the lore of vampiric cinema.

In conclusion, Abigail is equal parts scary, gory, and believe it or not, fun. It likely won’t win any awards, but I truly feel that most people who go in to see it will leave feeling satisfied. Abigail is the very definition of a good ‘popcorn movie’ and one I wouldn’t mind seeing again.


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