Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Notes from the Austin City Limits Music Festival

There’s only one way to describe the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Big, hot, and fucking dusty. Most of the time you think you’re smack dab in the middle of Texas cattle drive, with 30,000 head kicking up the dust so it just chokes your throat and burns your nostrils. Thank God Lone Star beer is cheap and not very potent so you can just suck it down and wash the grit out of your mouth.

With eight stages spread out over I don’t know how many acres, everything is a lot farther away than it seems. Like a mirage floating over the desert, that stage that you think you can get to in a minute or two to catch a couple of songs from some band you’ve always wanted to check out is pretty much out of reach. Once you arrive at the stage you find you’re miles away from the one act you really want to see. We spent a lot of time walking and just waiting sometimes. Time and space are real things at ACL.

The heat is frightful. It just bakes down on the ground and people huddle in the shade, just inside the perimeter where the sunshine ends and the shadow begins like cattle around a almost dry waterhole. (The analogy of cattle is an easy one to make there. It’s Texas, it’s the home of the Longhorns, it just fits.) Lots of people wear these distressed straw cowboy hats. To me, they look like something you’d put on a scarecrow. As much as it felt like my brain was just stewing in its own juices, pride just wouldn’t let me buy one, much less put one on my head. Yee-haw. Look at me, ma, I’m a cowboy. Why did I think that half these people had never even been near a horse, much less on one?

Texans are the friendliest bunch of people you can imagine. They love to talk. And talk and talk and talk…even when the music is playing. They just stand around in groups talking like they’re standing in their own backyards around the barbecue. Texans got this accent—we’ve all heard it—and it’s a particular way of talking that cuts through the loudest sound. The accent itself isn’t loud. It’s not even piercing. It’s real flat so it can sneak in under just about anything including a Jack White guitar solo and make its presence known. It’s sort of flat and clipped so if you’re not paying attention to the words being said the sound of it really does seem to be saying, yakkity, yakkity, yakkity, yakkity, yak, yak, yak.

And did I say these Texans love to talk? At the Patty Griffith set, who seems as sweet and wonderful as I could have imagined, a young woman and two of her friends plopped down on the ground near me and commenced to yakkity-yak. She didn’t give Patty as much as a minute’s notice although she must have said about five times how much Patty Griffith was her favorite artist. She kept referring to her as an artist, but I got the impression this particular woman wouldn’t know an artist if one fell right in her substantial lap.

Anyway, I was giving her my best East Coast glare to shut her the hell up and she saw me and just looked up at me and, not missing a beat gave me a big ole Texas smile and said, “How y’all doin’?” I think she meant it, too.

The end of life as we know it...

Well, we knew this was all coming, didn’t we? Are we surprised? Shocked?

What in the heck do we call this thing? A financial debacle? Wall Street crisis? Credit card cave-in? Home mortgage wreckage? The end of life as we know it?

Whatever it’s called it’s long overdue, as inevitable as the rising sun. But what I’m finding rather despicable about the whole thing is the finger pointing. Who’s to blame for this mess? Last night, meandering through the Memphis airport, I caught a quick glimpse of a TV screen, and some jamoke was blaming this whole mess on some law that was passed back in the eighties that, he was postulating, twisted banks’ arms and forced them to loan money to poor people who couldn’t get loans in the first place. Nice try. Blame it on poor people. Especially, in this case, poor non-whites.

I think we’re all to blame in this one, don’t you think? We’re talking greed on a colossal level. Biblical proportions.

American’s standard of living was off the map. Sure, people were taking out home loans that they couldn’t afford. Or maybe they thought they could afford. Variable interest loans, balloon loans, all those financial instruments all those wizards on Wall Street were throwing together gave people some hope. Maybe times weren’t good for people at the time, but in five years they threw the dice hoping things being better. Anyone who bought a house in the inflated housing market in the last fifteen years knows darn well at some point the real estate agent they were working with would say that their financial guy could “make this work,”—this being the deal, closing on the house. So people were overextending themselves, and they shouldn’t have put themselves in that position. But at the bottom of all that wasn’t so much greed as it was just wanting a piece of the American dream. A home they could call their own.

While it seems there were those who were just hoping to hang onto their homes—these were the poor the guy on the TV was blaming—there also were those who had homes with plenty of equity in them and the owners just drilled that equity like they were drilling for oil, double and triple-mortgaging their homes so they could buy all the stuff to fill that big MacMansion and bankroll a lifestyle that was way beyond their means.

In the housing market though, a good solid amount of that blame goes on the banks, who were supposed to evaluate and manage risk. You can’t tell me there’s a bank in this world that would risk the way they did if it weren’t for Wall Street coming up with all these ways to package all this bad debt and unload it on someone else.

It seems to me from what I’ve seen of the people in my own life, the blame for the credit card debt seems to fall the same way. There are people who just spent, spent, spent, laying down the plastic for the big-ass flat screen TV or vacation to Cancun, and there were people who actually needed the plastic to get buy, paying utility bills and gas and groceries, just getting by month to month. For both types of people, they just robbed Peter to pay Paul, maxing out one credit card, then applying for another and either transferring the debt to a card with a lower rate, or just filling that one up, too.

To me, it seems the farther up the ladder you go the greater the blame until you reach Wall Street and the halls of government. Wall Street—the experts who knew this all was bogus, were reaping the benefits on a level that none of us could imagine. And Washington, meaning Congress and the Fed and President Bush himself, who was joining the us all by borrowing money from China to play out his war in Iraq, knew this was destroying the country but didn’t nothing.

I, like most people, am scared out of my mind. I’ve been working for the past two years to completely eliminate any debt I have. I’m close. It’s a good feeling. I live within my means, and if I don’t have the money in my pocket to buy something, well, it simply means I can’t afford it and I go without.

Yes, right now I’m typing these words on a plane, coming home from a trip that we saved for. There was a lot of things we did without to finance this trip, and we did a lot of it on a shoestring. I don’t feel an ounce of guilt enjoying something that we worked damn hard to have. We like to travel, and that’s what we put our money towards.

And what’s ironic is that we flew to Austin on Northwest that was hurting and realigned its business and one way it did that was buying smaller, more fuel-efficient planes. And all four planes we flew on on this trip were built, not in Seattle by Boeing or Lockheed but in Brazil. When did Brazil pass up the United States in airplane manufacturing? I’ll tell you: It was right about the time the United States tried making money by selling bad debt instead of making good products, that’s when.

There was a point in my life where things were tough, and I was using my credit cards simply to live. Pay the oil bill. Pay for the phone. Pay for the Internet connection that I used for work. Pay for groceries. I pulled a lot of money out of my 401k, figuring the substantial hit I paid in penalties was still better than stretching out payments with high interest rates. I lived on a lot of rice and Ramon. That’s what I’m still paying off now, and I’ll tell you, Citibank, Amex, and all the rest weren’t sympathetic to me. They didn’t bail me out. Nor would they negotiate a lower rate even as I showed progress paying off the debt.

And I don’t want to go back to that. I’m worried right now that the money we make won’t be worth anything. That a bag of groceries will cost $100. Jobs will be scarce. Life will get so hard that people will start taking it out on each other. And maybe in the end, that’s the lesson learned here. We’re all to blame for this, some more, some less.

Another Angry Town Moment

Well, it took us all of five minutes to be back on the ground in Boston to get the full flavor of what it's like to live here in Boston. We missed our connection last night in Memphis, so when our Northwest flight landed this early afternoon at Logan we made our way to NW's baggage claim office. I picked up my bag off the floor of the tiny office and headed out the door when a tour guide from Collette Vacations barged in right, pushing past me as if I wasn't even there.

No big deal, I know. At least around here it isn't. But we just came from spending five days in a city--Austin, and for a lot of people around here that's in Texas and yes, that's also in the United States--where people were so polite, so friendly, so accommodating, that it makes you achingly aware of just how rude people are to each other around here.

We were just in a city where total strangers talk like friends on the bus, on the street, in restaurants. Bus drivers are actually friendly and give advice and information with a smile. Yeah, people on the bus and on the street look at each other in the eye and actually smile at each other. Once I blogged about doing that in Boston and how people looked away when you looked at them on the street and got a load of comments including that they probably thought I was crazy. No, Boston, you're the crazy one. Or rather, you're the rude, inhospitable city, and I'm not the first one to say it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Austin vs. Boston? Austin, hands-down

I think one of the most pleasant surprises about this trip is seeing just how friendly people are here. Boston is Angry Town, and living there you just live with it, and a lot of times you just think it's you. There's something wrong with you because when the stranger who yells at you, the jerk who cuts you off and gives you the finger on the highway, the T driver or cab driver or shop clerk just gives you a cold shoulder and you think it's you, and you were raised differently and maybe there was some class in worldliness that you just slept through.

Then you come to someplace like Austin, or anywhere else besides Boston, for that matter, and it's just one of those things where you think, no, I was right all along. Boston is Angry Town and Bostonians are, on the whole, a bunch of stiff-necked assholes.

Bus drivers here in Austin, are friendly and helpful. (And the bus costs 50 cents!) Imagine asking a T driver directions. They may tell you, but you won't get a smile for their trouble. People on the street actually stop and engage in conversation. Last night we were turned around and stopped a group of people who just happened to be African American. They stopped everything, we talked, we laughed, and they actually stopped other people who they didn't know to ask them the directions we were looking for. That never would have happened on the streets of Boston.

And the music scene is so prevalent here. I've never understood why you can't walk along the streets in some place like Harvard Square or Central Square and hear music coming out of every other door. I mean, you'd think a hip, trendy place like Boston would have a great music scene, wouldn't you? Well, maybe here's the big secret: Maybe Boston isn't that hip or trendy.

We sat in Stubbs yesterday talking to the Andy, the bartender, as if we were old friends. He was helpful and just so happy to talk about music and I felt like I did when I was a little kid riding in the back seat of my parent's car with my head out the window. I was just gulping in all in to the point where I almost foundered. Here there are people who really know music and are passionate about it and just love to talk about it and enjoy and just take it all in.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Austin City Limits and beyond...

The long-awaited trip to Austin is on, and I can feel the pressures of everyday life just dropping off already, and I haven’t even had my first Bloody Mary on the plane yet. I asked C yesterday at work if ordering a beer on a 6:20 a.m. flight would be inappropriate. I think it might be, even though my favorite Sunday morning breakfast is pancakes and beer.

We—wait a minute, what do you mean, “we”, white man?—forget in Boston that there’s a whole ‘nuther country out there. There’s 3,000 miles between Boston/New York and San Francisco, and most people on the East Coast don’t comprehend what’s out there. I grew up there. Long ago I stopped trying to explain it to my liberal friends in Boston. It’s like pissing in the wind.

We’re not in Kansas anymore—well, Boston, and it’s such a nice feeling. We just flew over the Mississipi River. I grew up in a river city, where the depth of the river was reported nightly on the news. It was a live thing, that people looked at and admired. There was commerce going up and down the river, barges filled with goal and fuel. A thoroughfare that preceded the Interstate system and airplanes and even the railroad, and it looks like it’s still working pretty well still. I saw two big barges churning up the water as we flew over. There’s squared-off farmland on the flood plain, of course. I say of course because that’s what I’d expect to see along a big river if there isn’t a city built there. Even with the Charles River flowing through the middle of the city, my friends back in Boston wouldn’t understand that.

I said in the Memphis airport during a layover, These are the people who scare the Espedrille’s off Europeans. Bubbas everywhere. Fireplug bodies with baseball caps pulled low over beady eyes, the brim rolled, and copious amounts of facial hair, mostly thick goatees. Ill-fitting blue jeans—relaxed fit, I guess is the best way to describe them, scuffing along in boots.

Reading the New York Times at 30,000 feet, the financial crisis is still so real. There’s no forgetting it. No putting your head in the sand. This crisis is so real and there’s a good chance that this country is over, I think. Really over.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Does anyone even get this financial crisis?

Does anybody really get this? I mean, any of us here in our cubes, down on the street, driving around in our cars, sucking up that expensive gasoline?

Or has the world really spun out of control? People swapping debt? Bad mortgage payments? No one in their right in the real world would pay good money for something that wasn't worth something. Would you buy and old beat-to-shit car for $20,000?

It such a grand scale--hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars--and excuse me, but previously, these kinds of numbers were only bandied about in terms of the universe and light years--we are now putting a dollar sign in front of them and we're all supposed to just not blink?

People are scared, and our government and the governments around the world are scrambling. No sorry, this is the government's fault. Don't tell me it's the person who took on the bad mortgage then defaulted. Don't tell me it's the poor person who just wanted a house. Nobody forced that person to sign that loan. Oh, please. Some poor schmuck just wanted a house. The bank never should have agreed to that mortgage in the first place. What ever happened to the bank managing risk? There's where the failure in responsibility took place. But they sold zillions (I guess we can start using that word without a lot of hyperbole, can't we?) of crap mortgages then they sold those mortgages (who would buy that shit??) to insurance companies and banks and investment houses.

What the hell ever happened to investing in strong industries? In something you can actually pick up with your hands and look at and say, hey, that's pretty good?

And banks are raising their hands telling people not to pull their money out of the bank, like they did during the great crash of '29. Anybody remember that? No, I don't either. I'm not that fucking old, but I did and do read history so I know about it. Doesn't anyone else read?

It won't make any difference if you pull that money out, because then all you'll have is green paper in your hands. Soon, a can of beans will be worth more than the money in your hands. You'll be able to barter what you've got for awhile. See, that paper is just a loan, too...a pretty piece of paper that we trust the U.S. Treasury will honor if we go up to the U.S. Treasury and say I want to cash this in for gold.

So the U.S. Government is spreading dollars around the world, and I don't quite get what that will do, but in essence it's $247 billion--$247,000,000,000 just so you can take a good look at that. If you really want to have some fun, subtract your yearly income from that number, and you'll start getting an idea of the scale we're talking about. This ain't comparable to some young kid overextending a few credit cards or a family of four double mortgaging a house that ain't worth it's value, although oddly, deep down, this is the cause.

The cause is greed on a worldwide scale. It's some middle-class family living way beyond its means to finance SUVs and big screen TVs. It's lower-middle class families stretching themselves too thin to buy a piece of the American dream and waking up one day to find out it's an American nightmare. It's the fattest cats of all feeding at the hog trough of Wall Street.

We're all in this together, and funny, it's so obvious that neither of the presidential candidates understand a fig of what's happening. Maybe Sarah Palin can hop on her snowmobile figure this out for us.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Polar Bears spotted in NYC

Some polar bears were spotted in NYC. But they're not looking too good.

Rowland Scherman's "Wasn't That A Time" Show and Sale Opens September 25 in SoHo

Acclaimed photographer Rowland Scherman will unveil “Wasn’t That A Time” a riveting collection of photographs of some of the world’s most influential political and pop culture figures spanning over four decades at the Morrison Hotel Gallery’s SoHo Loft on Sept. 25.

This exhibit marks a departure for Morrison as it includes subjects mostly outside of the musical realm. Scherman’s photographs captured with a hand-held Leica camera take a close and intimate look at a pivotal time in US history. In this current election season weighted with history and significance these photos take on an added resonance. A chilling shot of Jimmy Hoffa after his conviction in 1964, photos of Robert F. Kennedy strategizing with campaign advisers in 1968, and pictures of Bob Dylan at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival are all featured in the exhibit.

In 1961 Scherman became the first photographer for the newly formed Peace Corps, he traveled the world to help shape the agency’s image. He shot editorial, fashion and covers for LIFE, Look, Time, National Geographic, Paris Match and Playboy among others. He won a Grammy Award for Best Album Cover in 1968 for ‘Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits,’ as well as the Washington DC Art Director’s Award for Photographer of the year. Now living on Cape Cod, Rowland Scherman has returned to his first love: portraiture and is continually inspired, as so many artists are, by the majestic Cape light.

The Boys of Winter: Review is good

We close this weekend. It's been a long haul. The rehearsal process was brutal. We were scheduled Monday through Friday 6:00 to 11:00, but most nights we got out between 10:30 and 11:00. The last hour was usually just a sleep-deprived shuffle across the stage, the actors just trying not to fall over and remember some semblance of our blocking. Despite the schedule, we took the stage on opening night with about a week and a half of rehearsal.

But then the production takes off, and the magic starts to work on the stage.

The Jewish Advocate gave us a good review.

I wish there was more to say. I wish I had some dirt on the backstage goings on of the cast or something like that, but it's pretty much cut and dried. We all meet at the theater, usually I'm the first one there, and then the rest trickle in. The stage manager gives us the remaining time notice...thank you, fifteen...and he's learned to look for me in the darkest recesses of the back hallway where I go over my opening lines and just think and feel the character for a bit until it's places and I watch the lights go down through a crack in a door and creep onto stage for the top of both acts. Then it's an emotional roller coaster ride that depends so much--for me, at least--on the reaction and the energy from the audience. Theater is not a spectator sport. The tacit agreement I always walk onto stage with is this: You give me energy, and I'll take it and do my darndest to move you. And this is especially so in this play. Without tipping too much of my hand, the Narrator comes out at Act I, Scene I and kicks the fourth wall down. Just obliterates it.

Sarah Palin: sportscaster

hey, i'm not saying there's anything wrong with being a sportscaster...hell, it ranks above weather reporter...but is this what sarah palin was doing with her life to prepare her for the white house?...this is really what the republicans are proposing for the white house??...have our standards fallen this far??...i mean, is this really the very best we or the republicans can come up with?...really???

Way cool commercial by Pfizer

a real tear-jerker...but a nice story that's memorable...

Graffiti - Pfizer Commercial - The best video clips are right here

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Peter Callesen--artist

I'm not sure how you classify this guy, except that his work is all the kind of stuff that is curious...different...

A big part of this collective work is paper cutouts, but it's like an origami dream...not necessarily a nightmare, but the kind of dream that makes you scratch your head and stare in your morning coffee afterwards.

Footprints in the snow...snowballs gaining size as they roll towards a house...a waterfall that pours, roars over a tabletop, but it's delicate, too...

The selected works of Peter Callesen can be seen here.

From Very Short List.

Monday, September 8, 2008

We have more time, and what do we do with it?

Here's the idea from Clay Skirky:

"Starting after the second world war, a whole host of factors, like rising GDP, rising educational attainment, and rising life-span, forced the industrialized world to grapple with something new: free time. Lots and lots of free time. The amount of unstructured time among the educated population ballooned, accounting for billions of hours a year. And what did we do with that time? Mostly, we watched TV.

Society never really knows what do do with any surplus at first. (That's what makes it a surplus.) In this case, we had to find something to do with the sudden spike in surplus hours. The sitcom was our gin, a ready-made response to the crisis of free time. TV has become a half-time job for most citizens of the industrialized world, at an average of 20 hours a week, every week, for decades.

Now, though, for the first time in its history, young people are watching less TV than their elders, and the cause of the decline is competition for their free time from media that allow for active and social participation, not just passive and individual consumption."

Watch it.

But the bigger kick is the comments on Edge. People, real intellectuals, are out there thinking, observing, figuring out how technology and the world are working. And the place they're discussing them is on the Web. It's a powerful place, and it's a place those two politicians running for U.S. president (or the four of them, as a collective) don't seem to understand in the slightest.

Well, what the fuck do you expect from a right-wing hockey mom?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

What makes a small town?

Right in line with my belief that you have to watch the left as much as you watch the right, that both sides talk out of both sides of their mouths, and that the Democrats are just as dumb as the Republicans...

When it comes to politics, I've learned that it's like shooting fish in a barrel.

Well, after listening to those poor slobs in West Virgina during the Democratic primary, now it's the Republican's turn to look ignorant and uneducated...

Sunday morning, Quincy, Mass.

It's almost 10:00 on a Sunday morning. Hannah poured through last night, and now we have the start of the beautiful weather that comes after a hurricane or tropical storm.

Sue's out on a call, and no she doesn't have a map but she knew where she was going thanks to the fact that Comcast was up last night, even during the storm. Had to put that in so the tweakers over on UniversalHub don't get their panties in a twist.

Was going to put on some music--I know there's some Dead and some Whiskeytown queued up, but then I heard the church bells from the Congregational church one block over playing, and thought it would be nice to just sit here by the open window and feel the steady breeze blowing in and listen to the church bells instead.

Boys opened Friday night. It was a shaky opening, thanks to the theater tradition of good dress/bad opening, but we made up for it last night and got a good review today on EDGE Boston.

I can hear the Red Line rattling by, always a comforting sound to anyone who lives in an urban area. You live a love/hate relationship with the T here in Boston. Well, sort of. I happen to love the the T. I love that it's so cheap, I love that it gets me where I need to go, and I love watching all my fellow Bostonians. It's a free--and sometimes freak--show, and it makes me feel like I'm a part of something.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sarah Palin, sexism, and Jon Stewart

They all talk out of both sides of their mouths...this just happens to be the Republicans...but God bless Jon Stewart...he's a national treasure, equal to Mark Twain...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

RNC08: Sarah Palin — Babies, Lies

It just seemed like a lot of image last night (or rather, this a.m. when I watched her speech; yes, I have an Internet connection--at least today I do. We'll see what kind of shitty service Comcast brings in the future.)

But I tell you, I don't think I saw one non-white person in that audience. And all that hockey mom hoopla and nice white American values....they just poured it on like sugar on cereal, didn't they?

It's all image, isn't it? That's really what it's all come down to.

Found this on Jack and Jill Politics. It's just more food for thought.

I, frankly, am having a real hard time cutting through all the bullshit on both sides.

RNC08: Sarah Palin — Babies, Lies & Scandal

Posted using ShareThis

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

When I grow up, I want to work in advertising...

When the Internet is about life and death...forget Comcast

It's one thing when your Internet connection is down and you can't shop on eBay. It's quite another when it affects a life and death situation. And it's maddening when you're dealing with Comcast.

Sue works for the state of Massachusetts in child protection. There are times when she'll get a call in the middle of the night and she has to go to an emergency. By emergency, I mean a 911 call where she'll meet the police and there could be alcohol, drugs, and guns involved. When this happens, the first thing she does is map Google the location where she has to go. As you can guess, most of these emergencies don't take place in the best of neighborhoods-- neighborhoods where you don't want to be driving around in the middle of the night asking for directions. Also, if she doesn't pull the location off the Internet, she has to drive to the local police department and get directions, which amounts to a significant loss of response time.

So try explaining this to Comcast.

Friday night that's exactly what happened. She got a call and when she Googled the Internet was down. A woman had been severely beaten and there were four children involved. The situation was so dangerous that at one point the responding officer considered drawing his firearm.

Today is Tuesday, and after about five lengthy phone calls to Comcast's customer service center in South Texas (Loredo) and after guarantees that the service would be fixed in 24 hours, we have is occasional uptime with the Internet that is obvious isn't a result of any work on Comcast's part. Even after I explained that lives were at risk.

All we kept getting were a lot of I'm sorries and I understand your frustration, responses that the customer service reps are taught to say.

What's worse is that the technicians in the Boston area lied about their response. I was told on Saturday night by a supervisor in Loredo that a technician would be at the house between noon and 4 o'clock. It's a Saturday on Labor Day weekend. Sue and I had things to do but we cancelled everything to be at the apartment when the technician arrived. No technician arrived and later than night during the number of phone calls I had with Loredo they said the technician posted that they called us and no one answered. No one called. My phone logs all my calls, both incoming and outgoing, and no one called from Comcast.

During one conversation with Loredo, a customer service rep told me that the Boston center said not to escalate the problem unless the situation changes. In other words, even though I clearly explained a number of times that this could be considered a life and death situation, the Boston office clearly didn't think so.


What Comcast, and I suspect other Internet providers don't understand is the nature of the Internet. Forget Sue's need for it, it is completely entwined in the fabric of people's lives.

Sue and I don't have a television. We get almost all of our news from the Internet. We follow the presidential elections on the Internet. We streamed Obama's speech the other night.

The Internet, for most of us, has replaced the post office, the bank, the telephone company--just about every service you can think of. We email and IM instead of writing letters. It's how we keep in touch. The old AT&T company never let phone connections go down. I can barely think of a time going without phone service unless under emergencies like the Blizzard of '78. The post office delivered mail through rain and sleet and snow. That's the attitude Comcast should take, but they don't.

And I am so opposed to government intervention into anything, but rather than worry about what Roger Clemens shot into his hiney, shouldn't Congress worry more about the business practices of something like Comcast and how it is negatively affecting our lives? There is a side of degregulation that is a wonderful thing. But there is also a part of it that allows organizations (financial institutions and communication companies come to mind) to engage in shoddy and unethical business practices.
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