Dan Lopata

Live, Love, Listen

Archive for the tag “politics”

Retraction, not voting 3rd party, but kind of am…

Really short

I have taken closer looks at platforms, campaign methods and candidates, and even though I live in NY and want more than two parties, I want to vote for a Third Party I believe in. Right now the Working Families Platform most reflects my beliefs… IT IS NOT PERFECT. I will be voting on that line, because their platform more closely conforms to my beliefs. So yes, it is kind of a Third-Party vote, but you find that all of the candidates on that line are also Democrats, so it isn’t a Third-Party vote. I’d welcome more independent candidates endorsed by WFP, so there’s that.

UPDATED: Why I am voting for a 3rd party presidential candidate and why you may or may not consider doing so yourself.

Go Here for Retraction : Retraction

 

“But you’re wasting your vote,” “Voting third party is a vote for Trump.”

Nope, I live in New York State. Right now Hillary is polling at 50.3% to Trump’s 33.6% in NYS. I can check these polls up to October, and if it changes to the point that Donald is within 5 points of Hillary, I will vote for Hillary. But as it stands, me voting for Hillary now works against my/our best interests of breaking the two-party system.

Now I have a lot of friends saying that if every Democrat in NYS did this then Trump would win NY. First, if we go with that actual hyperbole, if every Democrat voted Green in NYS then Jill Stein would win NY getting all of the Electoral votes in NY and preventing both Trump and Hillary from getting 270. That would be fun! Secondly, what kind of reach and influence do you think I really have? But if that is how you feel, okay, that assures me that my reach and opinion holds little sway and therefore Hillary will win NYS because too many people feel this way. Look, there is a 3 million vote buffer in NYS, do you really think that many democrats understand what getting a third party to 5% of the vote means? I didn’t think so.

But, to appease my friends in Blue States, let me then make the pitch to ALL Democrats and independents in Red States:  ID, MT, ND, SD, WY, UT, KS, TX (Primarily Texas), OK, MO, AR. AK, LA, MS, AL, TN, KY, IN, SC. Look, your vote for Hillary isn’t amounting to a hill(ary) of beans, you’re not beating Trump in those states. All Democrats voting Green in TX, TN, and IN alone would get the Greens to a 5% threshold. Your third party vote wouldn’t be a vote for Trump because you wouldn’t win anyhow; it would be a vote FOR breaking the two-party gridlock. GO OUT AND DO IT!

What about Battleground States? By all means, if you live in NV, AZ, CO, MN, IA, NE, WI, MI, OH, ME, NH, PA, VA, NC, GA, FL vote for Hillary, We can’t afford a Trump Presidency. Particularly if you live in PA, OH, MI, FL. Your third party vote in those states are a vote for Trump, this is bad.

“So you keep talking about this 5% Threshold Dan, what is that all about?”  The Federal Election Commission offers great perks for Political Parties that break this threshold. These include:

Since no third-party candidate received 5% of the vote in the 2008 presidential election, only the Republican and Democratic parties were eligible for 2012 convention grants, and only their nominees were eligible to receive grants for the general election once they were nominated. Third-party candidates could qualify for public funds retroactively if they received 5% or more of the vote in the general election.

So, this is NOT a protest vote. This is not a vote for Trump, and it is not a wasted vote for me. A write in becomes a wasted vote because unless the name is recognized by the federal commission it is discarded (A Bernie write in is a horrendous vote, it means NOTHING). This vote is a vote FOR something, not AGAINST something. This is a vote for viable alternatives to the two-party system which frankly has become a party on the right and another party on the far right.

I think we all can say that we are really fed up with politics as they are. I’ve heard many say that they will stay home because their vote “doesn’t matter” and in non-battleground states this is true for the Presidential election if you only vote Dem or Rep (Not so true about down ticket elections). So here is an opportunity to take on status-quo politics and make your vote matter.

Furthermore, many have said, and I agree, that third parties need to start at the local level then grow. This is true, third parties will be taken more seriously when you see them with records in government from Dog Catcher to Mayor to State Senator to Governor to Congressperson, but part of the effort to get those names and policies seen by voters come from funding at the federal level. This is why getting that national ticket to 5% helps the grass-roots effort of building a viable third party. So yes, I will be also voting down-ticket for people and policies I believe in. To be honest the Greens that have run locally are not good candidates, nor are they always better alternatives to the traditional parties, so I will vote my conscience in these local elections. That does not mean I won’t get involved and not have discussions with the local Greens. I would hope they would run some better candidates because I like their platform.

Also, I’ve heard that Jill Stein is not the best candidate. Let me be clear, I am not voting for the candidate, I am voting for the platform and I am voting for MORE DEMOCRACY by getting more voices in the public square. I do not agree 100% with the Green platform, but I believe it is better than the Democrat’s and the Republican’s platforms, and I believe it is important to have more voices in the process.

The final objection I’ll address is that having a Green Party just distills the Democrats and assures Republicans a win. Not so, It becomes an opportunity for Democrats to adopt planks in the Green Platform thereby eliminating the need for a Green Party. The same can be said on the other side of the equation with a socially liberal Libertarian Party forcing the GOP to adopt its planks. More voices = more democracy and greater representation, no matter how it happens.

So, when you fill out that card in November, I ask you to take a moment to think. Will my vote really matter in stopping Trump, or will I and the nation be better served by voting FOR more  voices in our democracy? The answer will be different for each person based on what you believe and more importantly by geography. I for one would like my NYS vote to mean something for a change.

 

TransParenting Intro

I battled with the idea to make this an entirely separate blog focusing on being the Dad of a transgender son, but decided that Live, Love, Listen is the appropriate place. This blog is about the things that are important to me, and the self-centered person I am, or maybe a the person I am who wants to see a better world for all thinks it should be important to you. So it remains here among my music, running, and humanist posts.

We recently came out publicly about our son, and now I find myself in a time of Listening. I’ve been overwhelmed since he came out to us, then to the family, then to his school, and now us coming out to everyone, and overwhelming expresses itself in form of depression for me. It has been a struggle, I’ve been overeating, not exercising, buying pop tarts and birthday cake fudge stripes. I’ve been binge-ing on Netflix, and distant. Fortunately I had to go to the ADK with Amy and that got me hiking.  And, fortunately, I am now in a place that I recognize my depression and the things I do to myself. So currently I’m engaging in running again, took a couple of my kids hiking at Stony Brook State Park, and getting to sleep a little earlier by only watching one Netflix episode of the many shows I’m following. I’ve got some gigs coming up too that I’m excited about. So I am engaging in taking care of myself. This is the result of learning how to listen, listen to others, my therapist, and my body/mind (sorry about the dualism there).

Other things I’m listening to are the responses to our coming out. (Names omitted):


– Sky is very lucky to have been born into such a kickass family. And hopefully the world is changing quickly enough that he won’t have to experience the hate and fear that his predecessors endured.

– I liked this post. If i could like it numerous times without it actaully unliking it i would..sending my love and support

– I have learned over the years that it is the most important thing to be yourself, and be true to yourself no matter what. Sky has done one of the best things for himself.

– Dan & Amy, I’ve yet to meet Sky, but I already adore him because he is your child & I do so appreciate the 2 of you. And I admire all 3 of you even more now. Count me among the legion surrounding you all with love and support. Bravo!

– I am truly impressed by you as parents stepping out into YOUR Authenticity. Many parents of a TrueGender child are not willing to join their child on the frontlines of their life in such a way

For those of us who are living in our Truegender, our actions are acutely tied to the support system that embraces or expels us. We have known who we are for a longer time than those in the ever widening circle of our lives and our choice to Reveal and live our True Life should be as simple as pulling back the curtain. Sadly, that is not possible in every community. Sky will benefit from your continued Unconditional Love and he will also thrive in the local LGBTQ community and the larger public community of Upstate NY, which is exceptional in its acceptance of gender diversity. Sadly, locality and environment really do impact our progress and future success in realizing our intentions. I honor you, Dan and Amy, for YOUR commitment to transition in YOUR life as Sky approaches a fuller understanding of his own challenges.

For my part, I can attest to experiencing no external pushback which has been instrumental in my own measure of Self Confidence in processing what I need to and proceeding to actualize my hopes, dreams and ambitions. Continued therapeutic guidance has been essential for me to staying on track, but I am sure you and Sky are well aware of its benefits, judging by the strong United front you present.

My sister is an active board member of PFLAG in Chicago and force of nature in the LGBTQ community there. If you haven’t already, I invite you to join PFLAG and add your energy to its mission. We are also blessed by having the Gay Alliance of Greater Rochester and The Empty Closet as such a strong resources locally.

The timing of this announcement could not be better timed, coming just before our annual Pride Celebration. I will not soon forget being a Pride Parade participant months after I initiated my full disclosure and experiencing the love and affirmation radiating from the sidewalks 2 years ago. For me, after decades of self-imposed suppression it was a triumphant tear-filled coming home at last. I can only hope Sky feels the same welcome I experienced and banks that joyous validation.

Please accept my offer of availability to you and Sky, should you need counsel, confirmation and companionship on your journey. We are all pioneers, representatives of a larger Global initiative that invites every Human Being on the planet to live Out Loud, Unapologetically as who we really are and embrace the opportunity to evolve to a new level of Human Understanding and in the process, Change the World.

– I don’t often love facebook posts, but, when I do, I love facebook posts.

– He is so lucky to have you. You must have created a loving and supportive environment for him to be so brave, so young. Congratulations.

– Congratulaions on the freedom this will bring for him. You should be so proud of him. And what great parents to be so supportive (as it should be).

– His ability to be comfortable in his own skin and willingness to share this with others stems from your acceptance of who your children are and allowing them to be themselves. And loving them all the same. I hope my girls will feel this love from us too as this is the most important job as parents. Nice work, Dan. And your Sky is a little brighter today.

These fill me with hope. But I still get stuck and look for the bad; like digging to see who hasn’t “liked” our post, and routing out all of the anti-LBGTQ news, and recognizing that the Pope believes the Church should ask for forgiveness but refuses to change doctrine. Still, even with all the negative, I look at court cases, I look at responses to my post, I look at the great State of NY (We are fortunate to live in the Greater Rochester Area which has been called the San Francisco of the East), I look at the rest of the country, and I am convinced at times that the war has been won. What we are witnessing is the last, desperate dying cries of bigoted people hiding behind their “Holy Books” while the majority of us see right through their thin veneer.

Yes, Trump, the GOP, and Religion are still extremely dangerous to the health and safety of the LGBTQ community, but the courts are ruling with us, public sentiment is on our side and we will win. Remember that vitriol was just as intense during the Civil Rights fight, and even though we still live in a racist society, the laws were changed and the Civil Rights war is won with constant changes to make things better, and we all know who the bad guys were. We are witnessing this again, and if I believe the arc of the universe curves toward justice, “We Shall Overcome” again.

But this doesn’t happen by declaring “victory” and sitting on our laurels, we must continue and take the fight to them. It is time to stop playing defense and start asserting our rights, our strongly held beliefs that are in line with human rights, not religious rights. And demand that others’ rights to discriminate end at the boundaries of the church yard.

 

Coming Out

Today I follow the lead of my most amazing child, and with his permission, share some news. My son Sky, who you may have previously known as Shira, chose the brave path of coming out to our family as transgendered at his 13th birthday party.  Following the sharing with family, he again chose to do something no other student in his district has done, and courageously individually addressed each of his classes to share his new name and respectfully request that going forward his classmates and teachers use his name and the pronouns “he, him, his”.  Saddened by a world that makes it so that my child needs to be brave simply to be who he is, we hope that by our love and support, and continued efforts to use empathy and kindness for ALL human beings, things will get better.  We chose this method of communication so that we could begin important dialogue if needed and because we do not feel the need to “come out” to each person we encounter individually. We understand that there are risks associated and are fully willing to handle whatever comes next in support of him.
A few things our family (including Sky) would like you to know:
1. If you’ve met him, you already know that Sky is an amazing, bright human being with incredible gifts of empathy, humor, and kindness. Most recently he has found joy in supporting dramatic performance as a back stage crew, having supported the high school production while just in 7th grade.  Being transgendered male is only one part of his identity and we all ask that you do not lose sight of the WHOLE awesome human he is.  If you have not met him, you are in for a treat when you do.  We also ask that you use the name Sky, and the male pronouns.  Sky understands that this may be difficult at first because of what you may be used to.
2. We will try to answer whatever appropriate questions we can. Note, we are not experts in this field and won’t have all of the answers to questions you may have. I would recommend utilizing resources at The Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley (GAGV), Genesee Valley Gender Variants (GVGV, or GV2), or a library as we also won’t have time to be your personal researchers on this topic. We respectfully ask that you use validated sources and not just rely on what someone randomly tells you about what transgender is or isn’t. A few places to start: 
3. We will NOT answer personal questions about transitioning (hormones, surgeries, etc).  This is not anyone else’s business. 
4. Please do not “feel sorry” for us if you think this is an affliction, if your personal beliefs tell you this is “wrong”, that someone of his age couldn’t know, etc.  All of these sentiments represent a lack of acceptance for a fellow human being. You may feel sorry for us if you are sorry that we have to live in a decidedly LGBTQ-phobic society. I would ask that rather than feeling sorry, you actively participate in making our society more LGBTQ affirmative and accepting.
Thanks in advance for your love and acceptance.
-Dan and Amy

LISTEN, LOVE, LIVE, RANT

Let’s start with LIVE:
I cannot fathom the idea of taking another person’s life. Yet we see this happen on a daily basis, and if you are LBGTQ the chances of having a violent crime perpetrated against you up to and including murder is much higher than the general public. The Extraordinarily Common Violence Against LGBTQ People in America.
How can we let people LIVE? There is a common phrase and it is emphasized in 12-step groups, “Live and Let Live.” It is probably the most important message I learned when I attended 12-step meetings. Today I struggle with it because of the number of people and organizations who seem to ignore this principle, or change it to, “Live and Let Live, but only if you’re living exactly the lifestyle I believe you should live.”
LOVE:
I think people change that principle because they lack empathy, they lack love. Yes they will say they are only giving, “Tough Love” or that they only are trying to get people to change their ways out of “Love”. But I’m going to cry foul on this. How is it loving to not allow someone the same rights as you because you don’t accept their particular lifestyle even though it has ZERO effect on your life? Because that is essence what you have done when you vote in people who block legislation that affords equal rights to the LGBTQ Community… NOT SPECIAL RIGHTS; EQUAL RIGHTS – The same rights every cis gendered white male have in this country (Notice I singled out the most privileged group that systemically and socially have the most rights in this country). Giving someone else the same rights that you have is NOT taking your rights away.
LISTEN:
Please listen to me. By not granting the LGBTQ community equal rights in hiring, housing, benefits, etc. you put this entire community into a class that is less than. This idea that classes of people are less human than you is exactly what has enabled genocides from the Holocaust, to Pol Pot’s exterminations, to Serbia/Croatia, Armenia, The Kurds, etc. etc. etc. I mean, if these people aren’t human, then killing them is no worse than killing animals we consider scourges like the passenger pigeon.
Look, I know the argument, “But what about my strongly held Religious beliefs?” What about them? People who claim this as an excuse for discrimination, which is by its very nature dehumanization, are typically from a monotheistic, Abrahamic Religion. All of these religions prescribe a death sentence for people who don’t conform:
New Testament:
Romans 1:27-32 New International Version (NIV)
27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Old Testament/Torah:
Leviticus 20:30 (NIV)
“‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
Quran:
Quran (7:80-84) – “…For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds…. And we rained down on them a shower (of brimstone)”
More Islam:
Abu Dawud (4462) – The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Whoever you find doing the action of the people of Loot, execute the one who does it and the one to whom it is done.”.

Abu Dawud (4448) – “If a man who is not married is seized committing sodomy, he will be stoned to death.” (Note the implicit approval of sodomizing one’s wife).

Bukhari (72:774) – “The Prophet cursed effeminate men (those men who are in the similitude (assume the manners of women) and those women who assume the manners of men, and he said, ‘Turn them out of your houses .’ The Prophet turned out such-and-such man, and ‘Umar turned out such-and-such woman.”

al-Tirmidhi, Sunan 1:152 – [Muhammad said] “Whoever is found conducting himself in the manner of the people of Lot, kill the doer and the receiver.

So do we allow people to kill homosexuals because the source documents of their “Strongly held beliefs” tell them to do so? I mean where is the line? And, is it so hard for you to see that any action you take against another class of people dehumanizes them? Upon review, it is not surprising at all that we see acts of violence against the LBGTQ community, we basically allow it and encourage it by giving legal shelter to the institutions that encourage, even proscribe it.
If we indeed believe what our Constitution says, that ‘All … are created equal’ Why do we write laws that allow some people to be more equal than others as Orwell said?
LISTEN again, I am not saying that you aren’t free to practice your religion, the First Amendment grants you that right. What I’m saying is that your rights end where someone else’s begin. No, even if your Religion says so, you do not have the right to discriminate against someone else in this country based on race, religion, gender, or gender identity, because at that point you have impeded on someone else’s EQUAL rights. If you say that your religion allows it, then it is you who are asking for SPECIAL RIGHTS under our rule of law. Yes there is a separation of Church and State, but understand that it doesn’t mean your Religion, or any Religion is its own sovereign state within our country. The only Sovereign Nations within our borders, other than the U.S.A. belong to those we stole this nation from, Native Americans. It is high time we all understand this so we can allow ALL to
LIVE
LOVE
LISTEN

 

The Mountain Moves for No One

You don’t climb mountains without a team, you don’t climb mountains without being fit, you don’t climb mountains without being prepared and you don’t climb mountains without balancing the risks and rewards. And you never climb a mountain on accident – it has to be intentional

~ Mark Udall

mass trail

13 years ago, filled with piss and vinegar, running away from a failed marriage, behaving in unseemly ways that contradict my morals and ethics (which are socially, not religiously bound) I arrived at a mountain certain that I would finish a 103.7 mile footrace on it…

I failed.

Fast forward to May 16th-17th this year, I arrived at the same mountain, with the intention of finishing the 103.7 mile footrace on it. Spoiler alert, I made it just under 70 miles in 24 hours before being pulled from the course…

I succeeded.

Yes, I covered fewer miles this year. Yes, I didn’t achieve the intended outcome. Yes, I still don’t have a buckle from Massanutten Mountain 100 Miler. But I still succeeded.

On May 15th at 6:00 AM Amy and I headed to Massanutten Mountain for my return engagement with Virginia Happy Trails Running Club’s (VHTRC) premiere event. This return engagement was a long time in the making and made possible by a generous scholarship from #TrailsROC, the running club I belong to in Rochester. I don’t just mention #TrailsROC because it is my obligation to as a result of the scholarship, it is because this group and its members are indicative of the larger reason why I consider this outing a success.

Mountain

Yeah, that thing out there that looks like a race profile? That’s where I’m going to run!

Sunshine Road Trip

Amy was coming along because she wanted to crew for me. This alone is a new experience for me, I was nervous because I have never had a crew before, I have always just relied on aid stations and drop bags in the past. This change in behavior was going to be different, I was worried about feeling responsible for my crew, I was worried that Amy was going to take my gruffness the wrong way, I was worried about a change in routine. Some of this was founded and some not. It took some getting used to as I was expecting bottles to be handed to me right as I passed through the first aid station, but waited for them to be brought out of the cooler. Also, I ran right by where Amy had set up shop going into the Elizabeth Furnace aid station because it was before the aid station and I was concerned about getting to the aid station and having my number recorded so I had to walk about 50 yards back to Amy’s set up. And then there was the little dispute about a buff vs. a bandanna. All of that was minor… the actuality of the situation is that I have never had better care and attention through aid stations in my entire ultra career. Amy knows me, she knows when I’m feeling good, and when the wheels are off. She made sure that anything I needed or asked for was at the ready. She got me coffee, chicken broth, socks, shirts, shoes, bandannas, buffs, headlamps, batteries, pepperoni jerky, ginger root, ginger ale, tailwind, trekking poles, mountain dew, turkey sandwiches, pierogis, quesadillas, bacon, water, bag balm, chocolate covered espresso beans, and she made sure that officials knew I was on the course still when they thought everyone had come through……. Just amazing!

Crew

Some Crew tools and supplies

May 16th.

3 AM is an early wakeup call, but it happened, I threw on my #trailsROC shirt, my sleeves, my Northface Nearly Naked Long Haul shorts (which elicited some great comments later as I was pulling little bottles out of hidden pockets all over the place at an aid station), 2-Toms chafing solution (which doesn’t work well if you’re wearing cotton underwear… there’s a lesson learned) SmartWool Socks, NB MT110v2 shoes, Ultimate Directions AK Race Vest with bottles, and a buff. I headed down to the start to check in and they were cranking “Get up, Get on Up” James Brown J Hanging out I got to see fellow #trailsROC runner Yoshi and get his picture with me. The scene is surreal, you have a PVC pipe made start/finish line with a clock counting down to 4:00 AM and tons of people just leisurely sitting in seats under a tent. It wasn’t until 3 minutes of 4:00 that anyone got up to get near the start line, and then promptly at 4:00 AM Kevin Sayers says “go” in the most unassuming start for one of the most epic races ever. I have seen the cannon shot and start at Kona, I have seen the Boston and NYC marathon start, I have felt the immense power of the understated simple “go” at the MMT 100 mile footrace, and it is no less spectacular than any of those others.

Mass Start

OLD SKOOL

Yoshi

Me with the Super-Human Yoshi

Start

and… “go”

I don’t want to get into a play by play here, but I just want to mention that the first four miles of this race is a gentle uphill (600ft) of road. A guy I was running with quipped, “This is Bullshit!” which became quite the code for, “Yup, this is what I signed up for, let’s have fun with it.” Heard it while climbing Short Mountain, heard it while climbing Kern’s Mountain, heard it while descending into Elizabeth Furnace (Where I saw fellow #trailsROC runner and now VHTRC runner Angie K.), even said it while not being able to run the ridge at the top of the climb out of Elizabeth furnace. A bunch of us were having fun with this as we went along.

Angie

Angie K.

We also had a ton more in common, I wish I could count the number of times I heard people talk about that reason we were out there was to grapple with our demons. Not that I actually believe in demons, but I do have issues in my life and my psyche that I grapple with: alcoholism (in remission for 23 years), chronic depression, crippling self-doubt, and anxiety. These come out at the worst times, dealing with work, family, bands, household economics, marriage relationship, socially, politically, etc. One of the things about an ultra of this magnitude is that it is a tangible experience that reveals how wrong I am on so many counts when these “demons” rent space in my head. Part of the reason for this is that they show up during the event, and that happens usually at about 4.5 miles in a stretch of 9 miles without an aid station. What am I going to do? Sit down in the middle of the trail and cry/die because no one is going to lift me out? No, I put one foot in front of the other until I reach the next aid station. Usually around 6 or 7 miles in that stretch I realize that I continued to move forward even when I thought I couldn’t, and realize that my worry, self-doubt demon was just a false thought.

“Tired is not an injury”

Gap Creek

Gap Creek 4:00 AM 5/17. 24 hours and done.

While I had the intention of going the distance, I also realistically knew that it might not happen. I told Ron Herkeens Jr. before the race that the only way to get my off of the course was to pull me off, even if it meant crawling. Mile 54, Habron Gap Aid Station, I was greeted by a volunteer who asked how I was doing, and if I was okay (must have looked dazed after 4 miles of exposed road running from the last aid station (that had guacamole). I just looked at him said, “Yeah, I’m okay, tired is not an injury.” He laughed and said that was the best quote he had heard all day. I had beat the cut-off by about an hour at this point and was told to sit and fuel up for a while because the next climb, Kern’s Mountain, was 2.5 miles and 1300+ feet of climb. So I took some time, changed my shoes, socks and shirt, got a buff, ate some broth, got my trekking poles and set off. Kern’s is really tough, not just because it’s huge but because that four miles of road traversed before climbing it, affords a daunting view of the mountain to stare at. It’s breath taking, not just because of the beauty and anticipation/fear of the climb, but because breath is already gone from traversing 50 miles to this point. But tired is not an injury, and with numerous rest breaks I climbed this thing through the night and traversed this section to Camp Roosevelt with 15 minutes to spare before the cut-off. I didn’t dilly-dally, but I didn’t know that I had another 1000 ft of climb ahead of me, and a steep descent. I missed the next cut off at Gap Creek by 45 minutes, happy, grateful, sad, disappointed, proud, humbled, basically every emotion I own except one, the one that is my truest demon, the one that dogs my every step every day… Anger. There was no anger. THIS IS THE SUCCESS.

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.

~ Sir Edmund Hillary

What did me in? My feet which were blistered pretty badly and in pain with each step. I was exhausted, there was no gas left in my tank, even though I fueled and hydrated really well. Basically out of the quote at the beginning of this piece, I was not fit. I can blame all sorts of things for this: long cold winter, rolled ankle in October that never completely properly healed, job/family constraints, new medication… but those are just excuses, the real reason is that I didn’t devote enough time to my fitness. I am 20 lbs heavier than I was last year when I ran Cayuga Trails 50. I have not been paying any attention to diet, which I never do. I have rationalized all of my missed workouts away. But as Steve Prefontaine said, “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.” I have myself to blame for not finishing.

But of my success the reality is because I have so many incredible people around me, my life is completely different than it was 13 years ago, I am not finished with this event by any stretch of the imagination, I did not quit.

Rock

My demon is not the DNF, nor the rock that goes with it, my demon was/is my anger that does not allow me to see the beauty. The voice that says I’m not fast enough, I’m not good enough, nobody likes me, I’m a second-rate bass player, I’m not an asset to ROCSPOT… this is the voice that obscures the vision that sees: the community of #trailsROC, and Oven Door Runners, the community of my Soul Matters group at First Unitarian, the community of ex-drunks and druggies that infiltrate all areas of my life (work, music, First U, running), the community of my family, my kids, my incredible ultra-babe wife, the community of like-minded scientists and activists in ROCSPOT. This is the voice that obscures the vision of the beauty of the trail, the vista at the top of the climb and during the climb, the ridiculous finds of neat notes buried in old books at Sibley Music Library, the thrill of being a part of helping Rochester out of energy poverty and hopefully economic poverty, the smile in my wife’s face, the achievements of my oldest, youngest and in-between children. For a moment, for 24 hours, this demon was slayed.

And that is the magic of the mountain. It doesn’t care, it is just going to stand in my way and everyone else’s way and knock us down until we find a way up and over in order to see that incredible vista of all the things surrounding us and supporting us.

I’ll be back. Will I finish? I hope so. Does it matter? Yes, but not as much as all of the things I find along the way, and hopefully give back.

I owe so much to this one:

ultrababe

ULTRABABE (Yeah, I’m with her!)

A few more pics, all pics are courtesy of Amy Lopata:

Yoshi run

YOSHI!

First Aid

Edinburg Gap 12.1 miles in

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Furnace about 50K into the race

Stats and splits can be found here at Strava.

Training Derailed – The Trail to MMT 100

Yeah, so two posts ago I mentioned, “training plans are basically suggestions.” To prove my point, I threw mine out the window this week. Last week I was on target, running my 6 miles on Tuesday, 5 on Wednesday, another 6 on Thursday then gearing up for 14 on Saturday. But, I got a sinus infection and a really nasty head cold. Combined with that, the kids had to be everyway, everywhere, everytime over the weekend and I had three gigs from Friday night through Saturday night. Thus my weekend long run plans were screwed.

Justifying my lack of getting out there I tallied up my time on feet playing gigs from Friday to Saturday and it totaled 10.5 hours, enough in my mind to equal the 20 miles I was supposed to cover from Saturday to Sunday.

Sunday I was laid up, Monday I was laid up, Tuesday I intended to go 14 trying to play catch up and I chickened out, but this morning I regrouped with the Wed AM trailsroc crew, and plugged in a nice and easy 5K.

So this is what happens frequently to me, I miss some time due to circumstances, I look at my plan and I formulate ways to play catch-up. This is a BAD idea. So I missed some mileage, does that make it necessary for me to get an injury? The next thing that happens is I take my idea for making up the mileage and say “I’m going to run 14 on Tuesday,” Tuesday rolls around, it’s raining and I’m scared that I don’t have the fitness level needed to go 14, and think “what if I hurt myself?” I then opt to watch TV and get another big fat 0 in the books (not even the 7 planned on my schedule). So I think, “Yes, Wed AM trailsroc crew is running from the start of the 0 SPF course, I’ll meet up with them and then when they turn at 1.5 miles I’ll run to the 7 mile turnaround and get my 14! This plan is AWESOME!”

Wednesday morning rolls around, and it’s 5 AM, and I think, “what am I, stupid?” But because I told Ben Murphy that I’d see him in the morning, I’m committed to at least showing up. So I go, get my 3.3 miles in (.8 miles short of 1500 miles for the year, so maybe I’ll go out later… I say knowingly that I won’t) and feel great. I realize that my fitness level (which is still at a low point) after 5 days off, has not really suffered, that I can plug some more miles in later today possibly and get my 7 in tomorrow then be ready for 16 on Saturday, and it’s all really okay that I didn’t get the miles in. I don’t need to make them up. I have over five and a half months to get ready for this event and this is no big deal. It would be a big deal if I continued to talk myself out of running by continuing to talk myself into some stupid plan to make up lost time. And, this is where the importance of groups, training partners and accountability come into play for me.

Sunrise

If it weren’t for trailsroc’s Wed AM crew and my word saying that I’d be there, I might have just slept in this morning and taken another goose egg for the day. But it’s these people that carry me when I can’t carry myself, and they do it because I have committed myself to them; to be there to lead or co-lead when Ben has another obligation, to share in the sunrises (when they come back, hopefully in three or so weeks), to review our races, and share in each other’s running and personal victories and failures. These are my people, and when I’m running with them it is less about training and more about community, and yet it IS ultimately about training, because they get me back on track.

I love long solo runs, I think I am an introvert with a vocal exterior that I use as a shield. But I also love group runs, as they remind me that I’m not the only one who enjoys long solo runs. There is a spirit amongst like-minded people, people whom I may not agree with politically, or musically, or religiously, but the like-minded love of the outdoors, of using our bodies to move through the environment and become part of it, and the sheer enjoyment of our surroundings pulls us together. Something about the base simplicity of foot against dirt levels the playing field and makes all of the other things of life insignificant. We are all just humans moving from point A to point B in the simplest, purest way, and that reduces us all to being nothing greater or less than being human.

I like it, and suspect you do too.

A big shout out to trailsROC for being the community that keeps me and many others moving with relentless forward progress.

Parallels and Paradoxes (review)

Parallels and Paradoxes

(a review)

 Every society has conflicts in it between justice and injustice, ignorance and knowledge, freedom and oppression. The point is not simply to belong to one side or the other because one is told to, but to choose carefully and to make judgments that render what is just and due to every aspect of the situation. The purpose of education is not to accumulate facts or memorize the “correct” answer, but rather to learn how to think critically for oneself

-Edward W. Said from the article Barenboim and the Wagner Taboo reprinted in Parallels and Paradoxes p. 182

Patriotism can flourish only where racism and nationalism are given no quarter. We should never mistake patriotism for nationalism. A patriot is one who loves his homeland. A nationalist is one who scorns the homelands of others.

-Daniel Barenboim from the article Germans, Jews, and Music reprinted in Parallels and Paradoxes p.172

ParallelsParadoxes

Parallels and Paradoxes is a book that was on a reading list for a class I never got to take while in Graduate School at SUNY UB. I finally got back to read it and was blown away. Expecting the book to be purely about music and the discourses and polemic between great German composers of the past I was surprised and happy to discover a polemic between two contemporaries regarding the great composers. A particular focus was Beethoven and Wagner, and they used this discussion as a springboard for more contemporary issues including those dealing with complexities in Palestinian, Israeli, and Germanic thought and then expanding this toward a discourse on more global issues. I say contemporary, but in hindsight, I realize that the contemporary is rooted in history, a point not lost on these two gentleman.

The book, with the exception of two essays at the end, is a transcription of dialogues between the noted conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim and intellectual/author Edward W. Said.

Barenboim is Russian Jew born in Argentina, immigrated to Israel in 1947 has lived in London, Paris, Jerusalem, Chicago and currently in Berlin residing as conductor of the Staatskapelle Orchestra. He was the first conductor to break the unwritten ban on performing Wagner in Israel and did it while touring with the Staatskapelle. He has conducted the entire Wagner Ring Cycle in Bayreuth where Wagner’s grandson still controls the music festival.

Said was born into a  Palestinian in Jerusalem, and raised in Cairo when he was removed from his birthplace. He was a Christian Arab, and because of being a Christian in a predominantly Muslim community he became displaced again to become a U.S. citizen. He was an intellectual and great commentator on culture’s relationship to society. He pioneered the field of study examining questions of Orientalism, which is frequently reflected as “other” and “taboo” in music, the opera Lakme is fine example of this. He was one of the leading commentators of the complex conflicts in the Middle East. He was also a musicologist, writing many essays and accomplished pianist, but in neither realm was he a professional musician nor musicologist.

The discussions are dynamic starting from the time these men put together an Israeli/Palestinian children’s orchestra, where kids from each background started out by being amazed that others had “classical” musical knowledge, to kids refusing to be stand partners, and eventually creating an orchestra where background, culture and tradition took “second fiddle” to working together to make music. Barenboim and Said then discuss the nature of music and sound creation, the idea that the score is not a piece of music, that that is only realized by the actual performance. They discuss the ownership of music, does it belong to the composer after the final pen stroke or does it then belong to world when it is heard. Furthermore what happens when the performance is over and the sound disappears?

They get into issues of nationality, i.e. the German Sound, and how it is German, yet it is universal. I may not know how to speak German, but as a musician, I can play German music, as well as Italian, French, English, etc etc. So there may be a German music, a German tradition that speaks through Bach to Beethoven to Wagner to Schoenberg, but it is accessible universally. Anyone can hear it.

They get into authenticity, the conservative notion of playing period instruments and how that can be disingenuous because the music itself is fluid, transcending time and able to be played according the reception’s ears and knowledge of today.

All of these things are then expanded into ideas of society, addressing patriotism vs nationalism, history as it relates to fundamental harmony both vertically and horizontally, immigration, taboos, reclamation of sound, prejudice, otherness, enlightenment, mysticism, etc. I have never seen so much intellectual, deep, musical and philosophical ground covered in 186 pages.

This is a book, that while short, takes a long time to read because every word is gold, and the ideas are dense and require unpacking. Although it is presented in musical terms and therefore can be rather inaccessible to those without formal musical training (which they also address as a major concern in this book)  I think it worthwhile for non-musicians to read to begin/continue the critical awareness of the great issues challenging our world.

The following are selected quotes (some with my annotations):

Because the score is not the truth. The score is not the piece. The piece is when you actually bring it into sound.
Barenboim (DB) p. 33

At the beginning tremolo of the Bruckner Fourth or Seventh Symphony, you create the illusion that it starts out of nowhere and that sound creeps out of silence, like some beast coming out of the sea and making itself felt before it is seen. This may sound very poetic and metaphysical, but it is a defiance. In order to defy physical law, you have to understand that physical law and to understand how it is that things sound a certain way and why
DB p. 35

This is an important idea both in music and life. You need the understanding in order to create and/or perceive. You must know how it works if you are to know how you fit.

I don’t think that we have any right to have a sort of generalized criticism, if not hatred, of the people who hated us, because then we descend to the level of those people who persecuted us for so many years.
DB pp. 109-110

Whether it’s Jews hating Germans, Palestinians hating Israelis, United States hating Muslims. The minute we hate others for hating us, we descend to the thought and actions of what we hate, we in essence become what we hate. I said something similar about people celbrating the death of Osama bin Laden. I didn’t celebrate, because I celebrate someone’s life, and his life was not worth celebrating. If I were to celebrate death, I would be no better than what I despise.

The moment a composer like Beethoven has actually finished writing a piece, that piece becomes independent of him. It becomes part of the world. The qualities that he has put in don’t necessarily stay there. So, they can be interpreted or misinterpreted, used or abused, as we have seen in the different political trends too.
DB p. 143

I love this. Music is innocent, composer’s intentions are damned. Example, Reagan using a New York, Gay, socialist Jew’s composition for his “Morning in America” commercials. Reagan stood against almost every ideal Aaron Copland stood for. But Copland’s music became independent of Copland the second he finished composing it. Another example is Kubrick’s use of Ode to Joy in a Clockwork Orange, it no longer is a rapturous piece once you’ve sen the movie. Therefore, the music does not necessarily reflect nor represent his ideas. The Same could be said of Wagner, whose ideas were reprehensible, but does that make his music reprehensible?

That was really hard for me to watch and upload.

THIS one is long but important:

DB: The combination of these two factors – the attitude to the profession beyond the professional and the fact that they have such a thorough musical education – makes each one of them play from the score and not from their part. By this I mean that wherever they play, they are perfectly and consciously aware of what this note that they are playing at that moment actually means in the context. In other words, what is the place of that note: what is the place of that note in the chord; and what is it both vertically and horizontally. And this is a very important factor in music-making, what one would call the vertical pressure of the horizontal discourse. This means the melodic line and rhythm go in a horizontal direction, but there is always a vertical pressure of the chording, of the harmonies, that is constantly there. In this respect, music is exactly like history, which has to be lived both simultaneously and subsequently.

EWS: … this structural wholeness, as you described it, the education of musicians and the way they play in the case of the Staatskapelle, and particularly in Beethoven, is disappearing throughout our society. If you think of the major pressures, intellectual and social, that exist, they are toward greater pragmatism – in other words, specialization of knowledge, so that only fellow experts can understand each other. The moment you step out of a particular field, you can no longer communicate with anyone else… The idea of a common discourse doesn’t exist anymore because, first of all, our training is extremely specialized, and then, the whole funding apparatus is geared toward the fragmentation of knowledge, so that people do more and more about less and less. … there is a certain kind of ideological indoctrination that more or less says, “Well it’s not your problem; someone else will solve it for you; you are no longer responsible for that.” There is a sense, particularly in the United States, that we don’t need to know about the rest of the world. The awareness of the overall society and the destiny of where we are going, whether it concerns the environment, the arts, or history is diminished. For example, in America, history is considered to be what is forgotten, When you say to someone “you’re history,” it doesn’t mean that you’re a part of it; it means that you’re obliterated. That’s what history means. …People are no longer educated that way in music, and certainly not in literature. I know because I’ve been teaching for forty years, and I realize now that young students know less and less. You could take for granted, when I began, that students had been educated… As a teacher, you could assume that they knew there was a body of literature… which began in such and such a way that included great figures like Milton and Shakespeare and Wordsworth and Yeats, and so on. You can’t assume that anymore. There’s a kind of a pursuit of the narrow, the particular, and the specialized. And the result is that there’s a kind of overall battle where it’s very difficult, in discourse or in intellectual exchange, to have …illuminating and liberating moments.
pp. 148-150

I truncated this a bit for brevity, but what Barenboim is getting at is the value of the note and how it fits. The note does not exist in a vacuum, it is necessary for the vertical pressure or harmony, it is there because of what came before and it informs what comes next. I can replace the ‘note’ with the ‘individual’ in relation to that individual’s culture, history, context. We do not exist in a vacuum and we only become useful when we understand how we fit, right now, in context with what came before and what is to come. I’ve actually heard this as the true definition of humility.

Said takes this concept and adds to it a concept that was given a name I heard in a lecture last night. This concept is Moral Malpractice. This idea that once we specialize in something, and we don’t follow up, don’t change if we see our specialized actions not being effective in context, that we unaware of context or rely on someone else to take care of, this is moral malpractice. Said goes on to state that if we continue to live this way, in narrow intellectual bubbles, we end up having no meaningful discourse, and our world becomes more and more fragmented. He, like I, sees that things like common core curriculum and standardized tests are actually not the goal of education, it is teaching people critical thought for themselves that is important, and we can really only get this through the humanities/music.

Either everything is absorbed into this one kind of monochromatic, homogeneous, mindless whole or there’s an active sense of the classic civilization threatened by new forces, the response to which is often, “We have to be careful about the other; the other is dangerous.” And I think that the real problem today is that there’s no mediation between these two extremes. Either there’s homogenization or there is xenophobia, but not the sense of exchange. It’s taking place in many parts of the world. Hence the need to return to origins: you know, people who say, “Let us go back to roots”; the need to find a German past, the Jewish past, the Arab past, the American past. There is a need to find a past that is uncontaminated by anything, even though it’s completely unhistorical, because the past is very much like the present.
EWS pp. 152-153

Yup, fear, the other, the “good old days” myth, fear…. Did I say fear. Xenophobia or assimilate to the Borg.

I believe that when all things are right on the stage – when the playing, the expression, everything becomes permanently, constantly interdependent – it becomes indivisible. And this is the mystical, because this is the same idea of religion, of God: that there’s suddenly something that you cannot divide anymore. The experience of music-making is that, in a way. It’s not religious in the sense that one prays to it, but it’s comparable to religion in the sense that it cannot be divided. And when that actually happens, I believe that the active listener, who is sensitive, can communicate with that. This is what I mean by the mystical.
DB p. 156

Just Beautifully Stated. As close to believing or understanding God as I will ever get.

The attitudes of many Germans who are hostile to foreigners seem to me to derive from the fact that the last two or three generations of Germans have not adequately learned what immigration means. They fail to understand that it is possible to have more than one identity at the same time and to accept that people of foreign origin, with foreign customs and a foreign culture, can become part of one’s own land without their threatening one’s identity as German.
DB p. 172

I challenge anyone to replace the word German with American and deny that it is the truth about Americans who are hostile to immigrants as well.

This was hard to watch too.

If you wish to learn how to live in a democratic society, then you would do well to play in an orchestra. For when you do so, you know when to lead and when to follow. You leave space for others and at the same time you have no inhibitions about claiming a space for yourself. And despite this, or maybe precisely because of it, music is the best means of escape from the problems of human existence.
DB p. 173

Music for the most part is transnational; it goes beyond the boundaries of a nation or a nationality and language. You don’t have to know German to appreciate Mozart, and you don’t have to be French to read a score by Berlioz. You have to know music, which is a very specialized technique acquired with painstaking care quite apart from subjects like history or literature, although I would argue that the context and traditions of individual works of music have to be understood for purposes of true comprehension and interpretation.
EWS pp. 179-180

Politicians can talk their usual nonsense and do what they want, and so can professional demagogues. But for intellectuals, artists and free citizens, there must always be room for dissent, for alternative views, for ways and possibilities to challenge the tyranny of the majority and, at the same time and most importantly, to advance human enlightenment and liberty.
EWS p. 181

Was it dissent?

In the Israeli case about anger and Barenboim, how many writers, musicians, poets, painters would remain before the public if their art was judged by their moral behavior? And who is to decide what level of ugliness and turpitude can be tolerated in the artistic production of any given artist? For a mature mind it should be possible to hold together in one’s mind two contradictory facts: that Wagner was a great artist, and second, that Wagner was a disgusting human being. Unfortunately one cannot have one fact without the other. This is not to say that artists shouldn’t be morally judged for their immorality or evil practices; it is to say that an artit’s work cannot be judged solely on those grounds and banned accordingly.
EWS p. 182

I have, probably insensitively, on many occasions, compared the Wagner conundrum to Michael Jackson, and Phil Spector. Both despicable human beings whom without popular music would not be what it is.

But what about the children?

Yup, direct from a murderer

If you watch nothing else, watch these Israelis and Palestinians play the music of one of the most notorious anti-semites the world has known.

…but the main point has to be that real life cannot be ruled by taboos and prohibitions against critical understanding and emancipatory experience. Those must always be given the highest priority. Ignorance and avoidance cannot be adequate guides for the present.
EWS p. 184

If you have made it this far, you will see why I’m so astounded with this book. It can be found on Amazon or possibly in a library near you. I suggest that you go look it up in WorldCat under the ISBN number of 978-1-4000-7515-7. Worldcat will then direct you to the closest library that has it, or maybe you can access it through your own local library through their inter library loan program (ILL).

Happy Reading

Happy Thinking

Happy Listening

Live, Love, Listen

Live More, Love More, Listen More

I make no promises about keeping up the blog, it’s nice to have the receptacle but, as you can see, last year I went like gang-busters writing about running, until I stopped. I would blame it on the stress-fracture, but the writing stopped before that happened so I can only blame it on me. This year I hope to write more, and I hope what I write is of interest to people. I will do my best to tag things and categorize things correctly so people won’t get stuck weeding through Ultramarathon training logs if what they are interested in is musings on music, nor do I want people who are interested in my politicoreligiophilosophizing to get bogged down in the Ramones (although this will be harder as when I write about the Ramones it tends to relate to politicoreligiophilosophizing.)

So here it is in a nutshell. 2014:

Live More:Image

Running Plans last year were cut short when I came up injured following (or probably prior to) the BPAC 6 hour run on asphalt. Lessons learned, I’ve cut way back on my schedule and am currently only entered in two races/events: June –  Cayuga Trails 50 which is the USATF 50 mile National Trail Championship; and August: 0 SPF ½ Trail Marathon which is the USATF Niagara Trail Championship. Thinking about some Autumn Possibilities, but leaving those plans until I accomplish at least the first goal. I will widget my workout stuff through this blog.

In addition to my regular Saturday gig with Orange Sky at First Unitarian of Rochester, I am working on a band idea with an old friend/excellent vocalist. This project is in the vein of 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s blues/swing/jazz/rockabilly music. Currently it is a hodgepodge of great musicians getting together and feeling each other out, but I envision a band with moveable parts to accompany the vocal styling of aforementioned friend. I’m not naming names as of yet because I want it solid enough to gig before letting go of that information. I will however drop hints as I have a sax player affiliated with Rochester’s best “worldbeat” group, a guitarist who basically built the 90’s post-post-punk scene in Rochester, and a vocalist who plays saw and banjo and who has performed blues, rock-a-billy, and americana. Hold on to you hats, this is one dynamite group in the works.

Love More:

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2013 was a year of fighting – fighting before I even entered the ring. I approached everyone and everything as a conflict and approached life in metaphorical plate mail. While I was protected from “harm” there was no room for any good to come in, nor room for any good to go out. This year the journey began back in September when I reconnected with the organization largely responsible for my ability to be chemical free for 22 years now; I was also invited to play with Orange Sky, the house band for Saturday Evening services at first Unitarian Church of Rochester. This particular institution, First U,  allows me to remain the skeptic/atheist/humanist that I am but also provides a community to interact with. In this blog specifics will remain vague as the groups I’m involved with require trust, so the insights presented will be only those things that apply to me and names will be omitted or changed to protect the innocent J. How does this fall into “Love More”? My belief in a power greater than myself is that everything is interconnected; I am part of a power greater than myself and that power is part of me as well. The way I garner a relationship with it is through relationships with other people. I believe the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and the more I am in communion with that whole the more I have to offer, and the more comes back. So these relationships are built on me being open, vulnerable, connecting at points of commonality, giving the benefit of the doubt, and understanding that I will get hurt but that’s better than living in isolated fear. I believe these things can be done while holding onto principals that are dear to me, and knowing that when I fight on divisive principals that I am less likely to change others’ hearts and perspective (or my own for that matter) than if I meet others at a place of commonality. This is partly what I mean by “Love More”. It has to do with relationships.

Note: I love running, and I love music, so these things will be included as well.

Listen More:

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Being an ensemble musician, listening is the most important thing I can do. I need to know where I fit; I need to understand the style, the mechanics, the pocket, the groove, the aesthetic, the interpretation etc. in order for me to be most effective for the benefit of the whole.

“Listen More” extends beyond music, it is understanding what I’m reading when I’m reading; it is listening to the aches and pains of my body and acting appropriately; it is watching my son have trouble getting up in the morning and determining what it is he’s really saying; it is hearing the needs, anxieties, joys, triumphs, and failures of my wife and understanding when I only need to listen or when I can offer assistance; it is carving out time to listen to a whole Opera or Symphony, not just the greatest hits (Actually thinking about sitting down with Wagner’s Ring Cycle this year).

“Listen More” requires being PRESENT. It is mindfulness; it is sitting – here – now.

So there it is – no real specific resolutions. No weight loss target; no goal time for races/events; no going to get a specific job (although I am still working on my business, and looking for work); no quitting coffee or going vegetarian… If those things occur, they will merely be fringe benefits of living, loving, and listening more this year.

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