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Original Essays | August 18, 2014

Ian Leslie: IMG Empathic Curiosity

Today, we wonder anxiously if digital media is changing our brains. But if there's any time in history when our mental operations changed... Continue »
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The Contemporary Reader

The Contemporary Reader Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

This collection offers over 70 current, well-written, provocative readings that everyone can relate to—readings that stimulate  discussion, critical thinking, and writing.  Over 90% of the readings were written within the last five years—more than any other popular culture reader on the market.  The text's ten tightly focused thematic chapters provide balanced readings with multiple perspectives on current issues.

Table of Contents


Rhetorical Contents xvii

Preface xxi

Introduction: How to Read and Write Critically 1

What Is Critical Thinking? 1

Why Read Critically? 2

How to Read Critically 3

Now Cut That Out! 3

John Leo 3

Keep a Journal on What You Read 4

Annotate What You Read 6

Outline What You Read 9

Summarize What You Read 10

Question What You Read 11

Analyze What You Read 13

What Is Critical Thinking? 21

Developing Ideas 22

Brainstorming 22

Narrowing the Topic 25

Identifying Your Audience 25

Developing a Thesis 25

Understanding Your Paper’s Objective 26

Researching 27

Selecting Sources for Your Paper 27

Documenting Sources 28

Organizing Your Paper 28

Drafting Your Essay 28

Writing Your Introduction 28

Developing Paragraphs and Making Transitions 29

Concluding Well 31

Editing and Revising 32

Using Active Voice 32

Grammar and Punctuation 33

Proofreading Effectively 33

Approaching Visuals Critically 34

Images and Advertising 35

Altoids Ad 36

Deciphering Editorial Cartoons 38

Graduation Cartoon 39


CHAPTER: 1 Fashion and Flesh: The Images We Project 41

What I Think About the Fashion World 43

Liz Jones

“We decided to publish two covers for the same edition [of Marie Claire]–one

featuring Sophie Dahl, a size 12; the other, Pamela Anderson, a minute size

6–and we asked readers to choose. . . . You would think that we had declared war.”

Culture Shock: Get Real Ad 49

Out-of-Body Image 50

Caroline Heldman

“What would disappear from our lives if we stopped seeing ourselves as objects?

Painful high heels? Body hatred? Constant dieting? Liposuction? It’s hard to know.”

The Natural Beauty Myth 54

Garance Franke-Ruta

“Only in America do we think that beauty is a purely natural attribute, rather than

a type of artistry requiring effort.”

My Hips, My Caderas 57

Alisa Valdes

“In Spanish, the word for hips is caderas–a broad term used to denote everything

a real woman carries from her waist to her thighs, and the bigger, the better.

In English, hips are something women try to be rid of.”

Weight of the World 61

Niranjana Iyer

“In India, I’d been above average in height. In the States, I was short (so said

the Gap). From a tall, thin Women’s, I had morphed into a petite, plump

Misses’–without gaining or losing a smidgen of flesh.”

How Men Really Feel About Their Bodies 63

Ted Spiker

“I’m not the only man who wishes his body looked more like Michael Jordan’s

and less like a vat of pudding.”

Culture Shock: Mr. Olympia 67

Never Too Buff 68

John Cloud

“New studies reveal that something awful has happened to American men over

the past few decades. They have become obsessed with their bodies.”

Why I Rue My Tattoo 73

Beth Janes

“A few months [after I got my tattoo], I started seeing girls everywhere

with them. My plan had backfired. Not only might people get the wrong

idea about me, they might actually get the worst idea: that I was yet another

too-trendy girl who thought tattoos were just, like, so cool.”

Tattoo Me Again and Again 75

Stephanie Dolgoff

“But like I’ve never regretted having my twin girls, I’ve never regretted

getting my tats or looked back and thought, What was I thinking?”

Perspectives: Dress to Please 78


CHAPTER: 2 Consumer Nation: Wanting It, Selling It 79

Targeting a New World 81

Joseph Turow

With budgets that add up to hundreds of billions of dollars, the advertising

industry exceeds the church and the school in the ability to promote images about

our place in society–where we belong, why, and how we should act.

Will Your Recession Be Tall, Grande, or Venti? 86

Daniel Gross

“I propose the Starbucks theory of international economics. The higher the

concentration of expensive, nautically themed, faux-Italian-branded Frappuccino

joints in a country’s financial capital, the more likely the country is to have

suffered catastrophic financial losses.”

Just a Little Princess? 89

Peggy Orenstein

“Diana may be dead and Masako disgraced, but here in America, we are in the

midst of a royal moment. To call princesses a ‘trend’ among girls is like calling

Harry Potter a book.”

Perspectives: Vital Signs 100

Culture Shock: A Portfolio of Advertisements


Boys and Girls Clubs



Kenneth Cole

Apple iPod Nano


United Colors of Bennetton

Which One of These Sneakers Is Me? 101

Douglas Rushkoff

“I was in one of those sports ‘superstores’ the other day, hoping to find a pair of trainers

for myself. As I faced the giant wall of shoes, I noticed a young boy standing next

to me, maybe 13 years old, in even greater awe of the towering selection of footwear.

His jaw was dropped and his eyes were glazed over–a psycho-physical response to

the overwhelming sensory data in a self-contained consumer environment.”

The Allure of Luxury 107

James B. Twitchell

“We’ve developed a powerful desire to associate with recognized objects of little

intrinsic but high positional value. . . . “Luxury for all” is an oxymoron, all right, the

aspirational goal of modern culture, and the death knell of the real thing.”

With These Words, I Can Sell You Anything 112

William Lutz

“Advertisers use weasel words to appear to be making a claim for a product

when in fact they are making no claim at all.”

The Language of Advertising 123

Charles A. O’Neill

“At best, we view advertising as distracting. At worst, we view it as dangerous

to our health and a pernicious threat to our social values.”


CHAPTER: 3 Generation Debt: The Financial Challenges

We Face 133

Generation Debt 135

Anna Kamenetz

“Young people are falling behind first of all because of money. College tuition

has grown faster than inflation for three decades, and faster than family income

for the past fifteen years. Even as the price has risen, more young people than

ever aspire to college. Yet the inadequacy of aid shoots down their hopes.”

Grow Up? Not So Fast 140

Lev Grossman

“Today there is a new, intermediate phase along the way [between adolescence

and adulthood]. The years from 18 until 25 and even beyond have become a

distinct and separate life stage . . . in which people stall for a few extra years,

putting off the iron cage of adult responsibility that constantly threatens to crash

down on them. They’re betwixt and between. You could call them twixters.”

Culture Shock: Boomerang Statistics 151

Maxed Out 153

James D. Scurlock

“As they carried [her son] Sean’s belongings across campus, [his mother] noticed

a number of tables advertising credit cards. ‘But I didn’t worry,’ she recalls. ‘Sean

was 18, he didn’t have a job. Who would give him a credit card?’ Not only would

they give him a credit card, they would practically shove it down his throat.”

Strapped 156

Tamara Draut

“About a quarter of students report using their credit cards to pay for tuition and

books. What about the other three quarters? Visa and MasterCard have no doubt

funded a great many pizzas, kegs, and spring breaks. The problem is that after graduation,

the need for credit often morphs into a whole new category: survival debt.”

Debtor’s Prism 161

Margaret Atwood

“The hidden metaphors [of debt] are revealing: We get ‘into’ debt, as if into a

prison, swamp, or well, or possibly a bed; we get ‘out’ of it, as if coming into the

open air or climbing out of a hole. If we are ‘overwhelmed’ by debt, the image is

possibly that of a foundering ship, with the sea and the waves pouring inexorably

in on top of us as we flail and choke.”

Investigating the Nation’s Exploding Credit Squeeze 166

Danny Schechter

“There is a credit divide in America that fuels our economic divide. Put another

way, the globalization of our economy is about more than the outsourcing of jobs.

There is a deeper shift underway from a society based around production, with

the factory as the symbol of American economic prowess, to a culture driven by

consumption, with the mall as its dominant icon.”

Perspectives: Empty-nesters 171

Twentysomething: Be Responsible, Go Back Home

After College 172

Ryan Healy

“When you look closely, it is glaringly apparent that moving back in

with parents is one of the most responsible things a new college grad can

do. By sucking it up at home for a year or two, young people give themselves

the opportunity to take control of their career, take control of their

finances, and transition from the care-free college fantasy world to the

real-world of work, marriage, kids, mortgages, and car payments.”

The “Responsible” Child 174

Florinda Vasquez

“I‘m not sure letting [college graduates] back into the nest really does help.

I tend to think that moving back home after college has a lot more advantages

for the child than the parents. [And] if the parent is encouraging the

child to return home, I wonder if that speaks more to the parent’s needs

than what’s best for the young-adult child in the long run.”


CHAPTER: 4 Carbon Footprints: It’s Not Easy Being Green 179

Nobel Lecture on Global Warming 181

Al Gore

“The earth has a fever. And the fever is rising. The experts have told us it is not a

passing affliction that will heal by itself. We asked for a second opinion. And a

third. And a fourth. And the consistent conclusion, restated with increasing alarm,

is that something basic is wrong. We are what is wrong, and we must make it


Culture Shock: Earth’s Before and After Pics 188

Global Warming: Who Loses–and Who Wins? 190

Gregg Easterbrook

“To date, the greenhouse-effect debate has been largely carried out in abstractions–

arguments about the distant past (what do those 100,000-year-old ice cores in

Greenland really tell us about ancient temperatures, anyway?) coupled with

computer-model conjecture regarding the twenty-second century with the occasional

Hollywood disaster movie thrown in.”

Culture Shock: The House We All Build 201

Big Foot 202

Michael Specter

“A person’s carbon footprint is simply a measure of his contribution to global

warming. (CO2 is the best known of the gases that trap heat in the atmosphere,

but others–including water vapor, methane, and nitrous oxide–also play a role.)

Virtually every human activity–from watching television to buying a quart of

milk–has some carbon cost associated with it.”

Six Products, Six Carbon Footprints 215

Jeffrey Ball

“Here’s a number that will help you put all those carbon footprints in perspective. The

U.S. emits the equivalent of about 118 pounds of carbon dioxide per resident every

day, a figure that includes emissions from industry. Annually, that’s nearly 20 metric

tons per American–about five times the number per citizen of the world at large.”

Perspectives: It’s Not Easy Being Green! 224

My Carbon Footprint: A Documentary, a Daughter,

and All That Is Dear 225

Jennifer Davidson

“Recently I had the opportunity to watch Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, documenting

the state of Earth’s global-warming condition due to greenhouse gases. Educated

as a scientist, I appreciated the wealth of hard data Gore had compiled, but what

brought me to weep, as if I had lost someone I loved, was the manner in which he

gave meaning to the data. Everything I love, everything that is dear to me, is at stake.”

Are Cows Worse than Cars? 228

Ben Adler

“Now should be environmental vegetarianism’s big moment. Global warming

is the single biggest threat to the health of the planet, and meat consumption

plays a bigger role in greenhouse-gas emissions than even many

environmentalists realize.”

Can Cities Save the Planet? 235

Witold Rybczynski

In cities, people can walk rather than drive. They share more resources and

take up less space. Is living in a city a more ecofriendly choice than living

amongst rural pastures?


CHAPTER: 5 Look at Me!: Celebrity and Our Fifteen Minutes

of Fame 239

The Culture of Celebrity 241

Joseph Epstein

“Celebrity at this moment in America is epidemic, and it’s spreading fast, sometimes

seeming as if nearly everyone has got it. Television provides celebrity

dance contests, celebrities take part in reality shows, perfumes carry the names

not merely of designers but of actors and singers. Without celebrities, whole sections

of the New York Times and the Washington Post would have to close down.”

Death to the Film Critics! Hail the CelebCult! 252

Roger Ebert

“The CelebCult virus is eating our culture alive, and newspapers voluntarily expose

themselves to it. It teaches shabby values to young people, festers unwholesome

curiosity, violates privacy, and is indifferent to meaningful achievement.”

Perspectives: Public Library 256

Return of the Brainless Hussies 257

Rebecca Traister

“To hear media watchdogs tell it, dumbness–authentic or put on–is rampant in

pop-culture products being consumed by kids; it gets transmitted through their

downy skin and into their bloodstreams through the books and magazines they

read, the television they watch, the trends they analyze like stock reports, and the

celebrities they aspire to be.”

Mirror, Mirror, on the Web 264

Lakshmi Chaudry

“We now live in the era of micro-celebrity, which offers endless opportunities to celebrate

that most special person in your life, i.e., you–who not coincidentally is also

Time magazine’s widely derided Person of the Year for 2006. An honor once reserved

for world leaders, pop icons, and high-profile CEOs now belongs to ‘you’.”

Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism 271

Christine Rosen

“Today, our self-portraits are democratic and digital; they are crafted from pixels

rather than paint. On social networking websites like MySpace and Facebook our

modern self-portraits invite viewers not merely to look at, but to respond to the

life online.”

Crafting Your Image for Your 1,000 Friends on Facebook 279

Stuart Wolpert

“Relationships now may be more fleeting and more distant. People are relating to

others trying to promote themselves and seeing how you compare with them.

People are comparing themselves against idealized self-presentations.”

The Case for Reality TV 284

Michael Hirschorn

“The current boom may be a product of the changing economics of the television

business, but reality TV is also the liveliest genre on the set right now.

It has engaged hot-button cultural issues–class, sex, race–that respectable

television, including the august CBS Evening News, rarely touches.”

Reality TV: Should We Really Watch? 288

Elizabeth Larkin

“These reality TV shows wouldn’t be made if we didn’t watch them, so

why do we watch them? Either we find them entertaining or we find them

so shocking that we are simply unable to turn away. I’m not sure that the

latter is an entirely defensible reason for supporting such programming;

turning away is as easy as hitting a button on the remote control.”

The Strange Life and Impending Death of Jade Goody 292

Meredith Blacke

Did Jade Goody’s decision to air her life–and death–in front of the cameras

take reality television too far?


CHAPTER: 6 Perspectives on Gender: Bridging the Gap 297

My Most Attractive Adversary 299

Madeleine Begun Kane

“Despite our progress in the battle against workplace discrimination, the fact of

being a female is almost always an issue. It may not be blatant, but it usually lurks

just below the surface. We are not lawyers, executives, and managers. We are female

lawyers, female executives, and female managers.”

Perspectives: What She Wore 302

Has Male Bashing Gone Too Far? 303

Jake Brennan

“The backlash against male domination in our society has reached the point

where we expect a father in a sitcom or TV commercial to be an oafish, grunting

Neanderthal, as in Tim Allen’s famous caricature of the “typical” male. Take the

male leads in Everybody Loves Raymond or The King of Queens, for example:

blundering nitwits, most of the time.”

The New Girl Order 307

Kay S. Hymowitz

“Carrie Bradshaw is alive and well and living in Warsaw. Well, not just Warsaw.

Today you can find her in cities across Europe, Asia, and North America. Seek

out the trendy shoe stores in Shanghai, Berlin, Singapore, Seoul, and Dublin, and

you’ll see crowds of single young females (SYFs) in their twenties and thirties,

who spend their hours working their abs and their careers, sipping cocktails,

dancing at clubs, and (yawn) talking about relationships.”

The Men We Carry in Our Minds 316

Scott Russell Sanders

“When the women I met at college thought about the joys and privileges of men,

they did not carry in their minds the sort of men I had known in my childhood.”

The Science of Difference 320

Steven Pinker

“The belief, still popular among some academics (particularly outside the biological

sciences), that children are born unisex and are molded into male and female

roles by their parents and society, is becoming less credible.”

Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes 326

Byron Hurt

“When you think about American society, the notion of violent masculinity is at

the heart of American identity.” From the outlaw cowboy in American history to

the hypermasculine thug of gangster rap, violent masculinity is an enduring symbol

of American manhood itself.”

Culture Shock: 50 Cent 329

He’s a Laker; She’s a “Looker” 330

Jennifer L. Knight and Traci A. Giuliano

“Coverage of women’s sport is inferior to that of men’s not only in quantity

but in quality. Sport commentators and writers often allude or explicitly

refer to a female athlete’s attractiveness, emotionality, femininity, and

heterosexuality (all of which effectively convey to the audience that her

stereotypical gender role is more salient than her athletic role).”


Why Men Don’t Watch Women’s Sports 337

Graham Hays

Why don’t men tune into women’s sports? The author has a few ideas.

Gender Inequality 339

E. M. Swift

“Look, Title IX was needed in 1972. And it worked brilliantly. But the

world has changed. Thank God and Title IX. But because of Title IX’s

unintended consequences, in 2006 the law is causing more harm than

good. Women’s sports are no longer on life support. They can be taken

off the endangered-species list.”

Culture Shock: Annika Sorenstam Has Another Remarkable

Year For A Lady 344


CHAPTER: 7 Race and Racism: Can We Be Color-Blind? 347

Inequality, Race, and Remedy 349

Alan Jenkins

“We cannot solve the problem of poverty–or, indeed, be the country that we aspire

to be–unless we honestly unravel the complex and continuing connection between

poverty and race.”

Leaving Race Behind 355

Amitai Etzioni

“Racial characterizations have trumped the achievement ideal; people born into a

nonwhite race, whatever their accomplishments have been unable to change their

racial status. Worse, race has often been their most defining characteristic, affecting

most, if not all, aspects of their being.”

People Like Us 366

David Brooks

“Maybe it’s time to admit the obvious. We don’t really care about diversity all

that much in America, even though we talk about it a great deal. What I have seen

all around the country is people making strenuous efforts to group themselves

with people who are basically like themselves.”

Perspectives: History Marches On 372

Are You a Terrorist, or Do You Play One on TV? 373

Laura Fokkena

“Racial profiling and ethnic stereotyping are nothing new to Americans of Middle

Eastern descent. Hollywood has long used images of bumbling, accented Arabs

and Iranians as shorthand for ‘vile enemy’.”

Culture Shock: Which Man Looks Guilty? 378

Why I’m Black, Not African American 379

John H. McWhorter

“We need a way of sounding those notes with a term that, first, makes some sense and,

second, does not insult the actual African Americans taking their place in our country.”

Black vs. “Black” 381

Gary Kamiya

“People whose race or ethnicity defines their identity, or at least makes up a major

part of it, are what I think of as quotation-mark people. They are not only mixedrace,

they are “mixed-race.”

Our Biracial President 387

James Hannaham

“Obama has cleared a path for fairness. . . . Still, privilege is no Death Star, and

one Luke Skywalker can’t obliterate it with a couple of lasers, no matter how

well-placed. It did not vaporize last night, so in the Obama presidency we can

look forward to some amusing and possibly infuriating contretemps that will arise

from an African-American family leading the country.”

The End of White America? 391

Hua Hsu

“Today, the picture is far more complex. To take the most obvious example,

whiteness is no longer a precondition for entry into the highest levels

of public office. The son of Indian immigrants doesn’t have to become

‘white’ in order to be elected governor of Louisiana. A half-Kenyan, half-

Kansan politician can self-identify as black and be elected president of the

United States.”

The End of the Black American Narrative 399

Charles Johnson

“My point is not that black Americans don’t have social and cultural

problems in 2008. But these are problems based more on the inequities

of class. It simply is no longer the case that the essence of black American

life is racial victimization and disenfranchisement, a curse and a condemnation,

a destiny based on color in which the meaning of one’s life is

thinghood, created even before one is born.”


CHAPTER: 8 The American University System: Still Making

the Grade? 409

How to Get a College Education 411

Jeffrey Hart

“I launched into an impromptu oral quiz. Could anyone (in that class of 25 students)

say anything about the Mayflower Compact. . . . The Magna Carta? The


Spanish Armada? The Battle of Yorktown? The Bull Moose party? Don Giovanni?

William James? The Tenth Amendment? Zero. Zilch. Forget it.”

A’s for Everyone! 417

Alicia C. Shepard

“Many students believe that simply working hard–though not necessarily doing

excellent work–entitles them to an A. ‘I can’t tell you how many times I’ve

heard a student dispute a grade, not on the basis of in-class performance . . . but

on the basis of how hard they tried’.”

Culture Shock: The College Track Onward and Upward 424

The Disadvantages of an Elite Education 427

William Deresiewicz

“When students get to college, they hear a couple of speeches telling them to ask

the big questions, and when they graduate, they hear a couple more speeches

telling them to ask the big questions. And in between, they spend four years taking

courses that train them to ask the little questions–specialized courses, taught

by specialized professors, aimed at specialized students.”

Higher Ed, Inc. 437

James Twitchell

“Elite schools are no longer in the traditional education business. . . . What they

offer just one more thing that you shop for, one more thing you consume, one

more story you tell and are told. It’s no accident that you hear students talking

about how much the degree costs and how much it’s worth.”

Just Let Go Already 449

Joe Queenan

Are helicopter parents too connected to their college-age offspring? This writer

thinks so, but that doesn’t keep him from calling his kids daily.

Welcome to the Fun-Free University 453

David Weigel

“College students will drink, despair, play loose with hygiene, make dirty

jokes. Before in loco parentis made its comeback, they were thriving.

Meanwhile, the changes that really worried academics in the 1970–

demands for new disciplines, shrinking core curricula–are settling into


Animal House at 30: O Bluto, Where Art Thou? 460

Eric Hoover

Animal House, the most infamous movie ever made about college, first hit

theaters in the summer of 1978. Since then it has inspired three decades of

big-screen imitations soaked in booze, rebellion, and sophomoric gags. It

remains a keg of cultural references.”

Perspectives: Binge Drinking 468


CHAPTER: 9 Domestic Affairs: The Family in Flux 469

Family: Idea, Institution, and Controversy 471

Betty G. Farrell

“Fundamental changes in the expectations, meanings, and practices defining American

family life have characterized much of the twentieth century. . . . Consequently,

concern about the family has moved to the center of the political arena.”

Perspectives: The New American Family 480

Numbers Drop for the Married-with-Children 481

Blaine Harden

“As marriage with children becomes an exception rather than the norm, social scientists

say it is also becoming the self-selected province of the college-educated

and the affluent.”

Culture Shock: Marriage Trends in the United States 489

On Not Saying “I Do” 490

Dorian Solot

“Share my life with this wonderful man, absolutely. But walk down the aisle and

exchange rings–the tradition baffles me. I didn’t expect my small refusal to matter

much to anyone. But I have quickly learned that in a society in which

90 percent of people get married sometime in their lives, lacking the desire to do

so appears in the ‘barely acceptable’ category.”

Five Non-Religious Arguments for Marriage 493

Dennis Prager

“Words matter. They deeply affect us and others. Living with your ‘boyfriend’

is not the same as living with your ‘husband.’ . . . Likewise, when you introduce

that person as your wife or husband to people, you are making a far

more important statement of that person’s role in your life than you are with

any other title.”

For Better, For Worse 496

Stephanie Coontz

“[A]lthough some people hope to turn back the tide by promoting traditional

values, making divorce harder, or outlawing gay marriage, they are having to confront

a startling irony: The very factors that have made marriage more satisfying

in modern times have also made it more optional.”

Did I Miss Something? 500

Lowell Putnam

“Growing up in a ‘broken home,’ I am always shocked to be treated as a victim of

some social disease. . . . ‘The divorce of my parents’ . . . has either saturated every

last pore of my developmental epidermis to a point where I cannot sense it or has

not affected me at all.”

How Getting Married Made Me an Activist 505

David Jeffers

“In October 2008, when it looked like the gay marriage ban was winning

support here in my home state, I turned to my partner of 7 years and told

him we’d better say ‘I do’ before California voters told us “you can’t.”

Less Shouting, More Talking 509

Richard Mouw

“As an evangelical, I subscribe to the ‘traditional’ definition of a marriage,

and I do not want to see the definition changed. Does that mean I want to

impose my personal convictions on the broader population? No. I celebrate

the fact that we live in a pluralistic society, with many different worldviews

and lifestyles.”

Why I’m Not Getting Married . . . Again 510

David Shneer

“I recoiled at the suggestion that my husband and I should come to California

to get married. ‘We’ve been married for 12 years.’ ‘Yeah, I know David,

but it’s legal now. You can take advantage of all of the benefits.”


Credits 515

Index 521\n


Product Details

Report writing
Goshgarian, Gary
Goshgarian, Gary J
English language -- Rhetoric.
Composition & Creative Writing - General
Composition & Creative Writing
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
January 2010
Grade Level:
College/higher education:
9 x 6 x 0.8 in 612 gr

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The Contemporary Reader
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