December 09, 2018

“Baseball been berry, berry good to me!” – the famous SNL catchphrase of Garrett Morris as Chico Escuela…

If you’re old enough to have been watching Saturday Night Live in the late Seventies you might have been watching Episode 5 of Season 4 when it first aired on November 11, 1978. (I am and I was.)

Buck Henry was the host. The Grateful Dead were the musical guests. And, there were several classic skits — including one at the end that introduced what would become a famous TV catchphrase.

The sketch takes place at a meeting of the St. Mickey’s Knights of Columbus.

After dealing with a few business items, the organization’s leader, played by SNL cast member John Belushi, announces that the club would have a special guest speaker that night.

Dan Aykroyd, playing the Knights’ treasurer, notes that the group had to go into debt to pay the speaker’s steep $900 fee.

Belushi then introduces this special guest: “the immortal” Chico Escuela, a former all-star baseball player for the Chicago Cubs who came to the US from the Dominican Republic.

After being introduced, Chico — portrayed by SNL cast member Garrett Morris — gets up, stands at the podium and says in a thick Hispanic accent:

“Thank you berry much. Baseball been berry, berry good to me. Thank you. God bless you. Gracias!”

Then he sits down.

Astonished by the brevity of this $900 “speech,” Belushi’s character asks: “Is that it Chico?”

Chico thinks about it a second, gets up again and adds: “Keep you eye...keep you eyes...on de ball.”

After which, he sits down again.

Belushi says sardonically: “Thank you, Chico. You’ve been an inspiration to all of us.”

Three weeks later, during the December 9, 1978 episode of SNL, Morris’s Chico made a second appearance and repeated his line “Baseball been berry, berry good to me!” several times — making this the night on which it gained official catchphrase status. 

In that episode (Season 4, Episode 8), the host was Monty Python star Eric idle. Kate Bush was the musical guest. Dan Aykroyd performed the insanely funny skit in which he plays a frantic Julia Child, who bleeds to death after cutting her finger. And, Don Novello showed up as Father Guido Sarducci.

Chico was in the Weekend Update segment with Jane Curtin, who announced that he had been hired as the Weekend Update sports commentator. After being introduced by Jane (this time as a former New York Mets ballplayer), Chico says:

“Thank you. Thank you, berry, berry much. Baseball been berry, berry good to me. Thank you, Hane.

[A photo of major league player Pete Rose, who had recently signed a four year, 3.2 million dollar deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, appears behind Chico.]

Pete-ee Rose...Baseball been berry, berry good to Pete Rose. Three-point-two-million-dollar para Pete Rose. Charlie Hustle, you bet. Thank you berry, berry much.

In foot-ball... I don’t know football. In Dominican Republic, football is — how you say, Hane? Um, Oh! Soccer! Your football... I don’t know.

In National Hockey League... I don’t know hockey.

In baseball… Baseball been berry, berry good to me! Thank you berry much. Thank you. Thank you berry much. Hane? Thank you, Hane.”

Hearing Chico’s fact-challenged report, Jane responds sarcastically: “Great job, Chico. I’m glad that we haven’t hired just another stupid ex-jock sportscaster.”

Morris went on to appear as Chico Escuela eight more times before leaving the Saturday Night Live cast in the summer of 1980.

Each time, he repeated “Baseball been berry, berry good to me!” (sometimes written as “Beisbol been bery, bery good to me!” and in various other ways). It remains one of the most famous of the many memorable catchphrases created by SNL.

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November 21, 2018

“Coffee, Tea or Me?” – the catchphrase popularized by a hoax based on a joke...

Back in the 1960s, when air travel was more pleasant and our culture was less politically correct, airline stewardesses were hot – at least in terms of their popular image.

Most stewardesses were young and single. In the media, they were often portrayed as both desirable and attainable – as women who liked to fool around with pilots, passengers and lucky local citizens at stops along their routes.

The airlines tried to cash in on and promote this image in the mid-Sixties with ads that featured beautiful stewardesses and taglines like “I’m Cheryl. Fly Me.”

Then, on November 21, 1967, the Bantam paperback edition of the book Coffee, Tea or Me? was published, about a month after the hardcover edition had been released by Bartholomew House.

Subtitled The Uninhibited Memoirs of Two Airline Stewardesses, this widely-distributed, wildly successful paperback further popularized the stereotypical image of fun-loving, promiscuous stewardesses.

It also made the sexually provocative phrase “Coffee, Tea or Me?” a familiar saying.

The book was portrayed as a humorous but fact-based memoir co-written by two stewardesses named Rachel Jones and Trudy Baker.

When it was published, two young women using those names went on a media tour to promote it.

Soon, Coffee, Tea or Me? became a national best seller, then an international best seller. 

Three sequels were published and credited to Rachel and Trudy.

In 1973, Coffee, Tea or Me? was even made into a TV movie starring Karen Valentine and Louise Lasser.

Decades later, it was revealed that the real author of the Coffee, Tea or Me? books was Donald Bain.

Bain was working as a public relations man for American Airlines when he wrote Coffee, Tea or Me?  

Thanks to its success, he went on to become a prolific full-time novelist and ghostwriter who has since penned dozens of popular books (including many of the Murder She Wrote novels).

“Trudy Baker” and “Rachel Jones” never existed.

The women who went on the book tour were two actual Eastern Airlines stewardesses, but they were hired by the publisher’s publicity agent to pose as Trudy and Rachel.

It was a supremely well-executed hoax that generated a ton of money for Bain and a memorable phrase that’s still used and lampooned today.

In the introduction to later reprints of the book, Bain wrote that the title Coffee, Tea or Me? came to him halfway through writing it after he heard someone recite an old airline joke that used the phrase.

If you’re old enough, you might remember the joke: A stewardess enters the cockpit of a commercial airplane and asks the pilot, “Coffee, tea or me?” The pilot says, “Whichever is easier to make.”

Bain says in his intro:

"Little did I know in 1967 that the book I was writing with a title lifted from a lame old joke would go on, along with its three sequels, to sell more than five million copies, be translated into a dozen languages, cause anxious mothers to forbid their daughters from becoming stewardesses, spawn airline protest groups, have its title inducted into the public vocabulary and be republished thirty-six years later, branding me the oldest, tallest, bearded airline stewardess."

Speaking of lame jokes, there’s a funny coincidence about the illustrations used on the covers and interior pages of the Coffee, Tea or Me? series. They were drawn by Bill Wenzel, one of the greatest of all adult cartoon artists.

Cartoons featuring Wenzel’s bosomy, airheaded babes, typically accompanied by classically lame and sexist captions, appeared in countless men’s girlie and humor magazines from the late 1940s into the early 1980s. He also did many paperback covers.

You can read more about Wenzel in the excellent book about him that was published in 2000 and in the authoritative posts done about him by vintage paperback and magazine maven Lynn Munroe. You can also see scores of his cartoons in this Google image search.

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November 16, 2018

“To crush your enemies...”

For readers of this website who may not know about my other quotation site,, here’s a post that will give you an idea of what you’ll find there. Basically, each post on features background information on a famous quotation followed by a set of quotes that are interesting or humorous uses, variations and take-offs on the main quotation. It’s easier to show you what that means than explain it, so below is an example based on a famous movie quote. If you like this post, click here to see more. If want to subscribe to future posts, click on one of the subscription options at the top of the right sidebar. Cheers! 

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Conan The Barbarian, What is best in life quote QC wm


Barbarian General (actor Akio Mitamura): “Conan, what is best in life?”
Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger): “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!”

       From the film Conan the Barbarian (released in the US on May 14, 1982)
       Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “crush your enemies” line in Conan the Barbarian became the first of his many famous movie quotations as an actor. It’s also the first line he speaks in the film after a full twenty minutes of backstory recounting how Conan was captured as a boy by brutal barbarian raiders, used as a slave, then trained to be a vicious pit fighter and a warrior for his captors. Here’s the dialog from that scene (which you can watch on YouTube):             
         Barbarian General: “We won again. This is good! But what is best in life?”
         Warrior: “The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, wind in your hair!”
         General: “Wrong! Conan, what is best in life?”
         Conan (Arnold): “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!”
         Barbarian General: “That is good.”

      Conan’s last seven words are sometimes quoted as “to hear the lamentation of the women,” because Arnold’s Austrian accent makes the word “their” sound like “deh.” But I’m pretty sure it’s “their women” given the inspiration for the movie quote.
      John Milius, who directed Conan the Barbarian and co-wrote the screenplay with Oliver Stone, didn’t create Arnold’s famed catchphrase from whole cloth. It’s not in the Conan stories written by the creator of the character, Robert Howard. But it’s based on a passage in a book by one of Howard’s favorite writers, Harold Lamb.             
       In Lamb’s classic 1927 biography, Genghis Kahn: the Emperor of All Men, he gives his version of a legendary quotation by the great conqueror at the end of Chapter 11. Lamb wrote:             
          One day in the pavilion at Karakorum he asked an officer of the Mongol guard what, in all the world, could bring the greatest happiness.             
          “The open steppe, a clear day, and a swift horse under you,” responded the officer after a little thought, “and a falcon on your wrist to start up hares.”             
          “Nay,” responded the Khan, “to crush your enemies, to see them fall at your feet—to take their horses and goods and hear the lamentation of their women. That is best.”

       The version of Khan’s words crafted by Milius (and/or Stone) for Conan the Barbarian became a popular catchphrase that has since been cited and adapted many times. Some of my favorite examples are below...

Conan cartoon, Peter Kuper, New Yorker


“I said, ‘Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women,’ but the media took that totally out of context.”
       Peter Kuper
       American illustrator and cartoonist               
       His caption for a cartoon spoofing Conan and the frequent lament of politicians, published in The New Yorker, January 2017

Portrait of Cohen the Barbarian by Paul Kidby


[Nomad]: “What is it that a man may call the greatest things in life?”
[Cohen the Barbarian] “Hot water, good dentishtry and shoft lavatory paper.”
       From the Discworld novel The Light Fantastic (1986) by Terry Pratchett            
       This quote by the Cohen character (aka Ghenghiz Cohen) is a is a favorite of Discworld fans. Cohen is an aging, toothless barbarian who speaks with a lisp when he’s not wearing the special dentures he has made from the diamond teeth of the troll Old Grandad.
       (Portrait of Cohen with his diamond dentures by Paul Kidby.)

John Ortberg


“The heroic figure in Conan the Barbarian was actually paraphrasing Genghis Khan when he gave his famous answer to the question ‘What is best in life?'... An alternative idea came from Galilee: What is best in life is to love your enemies and see them reconciled to you.”
       John Ortberg
       Evangelical Christian author, speaker, and senior pastor of the ECO Presbyterian Menlo Church in Menlo Park, California
       In his book Who Is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus (2012)

Internet troll Conan meme


       An internet meme seen on            

Boo Cocky Robot Chicken Conan


[Conan singing]: “What is best in life? That is hard to say, for each man is unique in his own way.
As a boy, I liked gumdrops and puppies, sailboats and frogs, and my best friend little Ricky Maebius!
But when I became a young man, what was best in life began to change just like my body.
I liked pretty Stacy Lyon with her long blonde hair and eyes that were blue as the ocean!
But now that I’m grown, my thoughts have changed, and it’s pretty clear to me.
The answer to the question, ‘What is best in life?’ is plain enough for all to see.
Crush your enemies! Crush your enemies! And see them driven before you!
Crush your enemies! Crush your enemies! And see them driven before you!
And hear the lamentations of the women!”

       A hilarious parody song sung by an animated Conan action figure in the “Boo Cocky” episode of the Comedy Channel’s “Adult Swim” cartoon series Robot Chicken (Season 3, Episode 16; first aired September 7, 2008)

Crush my enemies Christmas t-shirt


“All I want for Christmas is

       Slogan printed on t-shirts and other clothes sold by            

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October 29, 2018

The Timothy Leary political campaign slogan that became a famous Beatles song…

The best-known slogan coined by Sixties counterculture celebrity Timothy Leary is the one he created to promote the use of LSD and other psychedelic drugs: “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”

He first began popularizing this saying in his public lectures and comments around 1966 and used it as the title of a spoken word album released that year.

In 1969, Leary came up with another slogan that was eventually made famous, though not by him.

Leary seems to have figured that if a Hollywood celebrity like Ronald Reagan could run for Governor and get elected, maybe the times were right for a Hippie celebrity to take a shot at it.

Besides, he loved publicity.

So, he threw his mushroom cap into the ring and announced that he planned to run against Reagan in the 1970 gubernatorial election.

Leary came up with the tongue-in-cheek campaign slogan, “Come together, join the party.”

In June of 1969, while visiting John Lennon and Yoko Ono at their legendary Montreal “Bed-In,” Leary asked Lennon to write a campaign song to go with his slogan.

Lennon agreed. And, during the Montreal Bed-In days, in addition to writing and recording “Give Peace a Chance,” Lennon wrote an initial version of the song “Come Together.”

Although the melody was basically like the Beatles song we know today, the original chorus was different.

It went: “Come together, right now. / Don’t come tomorrow. / Don’t come alone.”

Lennon made a demo tape of the campaign song for Leary. Leary gave copies to local underground radio stations in California and the song got some limited airplay.

Shortly thereafter, Leary’s campaign was derailed by his mounting legal troubles from a past marijuana bust, and he was forced to, er, drop out of the Governor’s race. (Lucky for Ronnie, eh?)

But Lennon liked the song and took it to his bandmates, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, when the Beatles were recording their Abbey Road album.

Together, they reworked it a bit and changed the lyrics to those all true Beatles fans are familiar with:

“Here come old flattop, he come groovin’ up slowly
He got ju-ju eyeballs, he one holy roller
He got hair down to his knees
Got to be a joker, he just do what he please
He wear no shoeshine, he got toe-jam football
He got monkey finger, he shoot Coca-Cola
He say, I know you, you know me
One thing I can tell you is you got to be free
Come together, right now, over me.”

The first line of the “Come Together” was Lennon’s homage to a similar line from Chuck Berry’s classic 1956 rock ‘n’ roll song “You Can’t Catch Me.” 

Berry’s song was inspired by an informal car race he once had with some young crew-cut haired dude on the New Jersey Turnpike, who he immortalized with the words: “Up come a flattop, he was movin' up with me.”

Lennon’s variation on that and the chorus of his song — “Come together, right now, over me” — both became well-known pop culture quotations.

“Come Together” was released as a single in the U.S. on October 6, 1970 and reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart on November 29, 1969 — which is how, by a trippy route, Tim Leary’s gubernatorial campaign slogan became the subject of posts for those dates on

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September 23, 2018

The story, the man – and the dog – behind the phrase “man’s best friend”

September 23rd is the anniversary of what is said to be the origin of a dog-related saying that’s as or more famous than “Love me, love my dog.”

The saying is generally heard in the form “A dog is a man’s best friend.”

Sometimes it’s given as “A man’s best friend is his dog.”

Either way, almost everyone knows the phrase “man’s best friend.”

The origin of those familiar words is traditionally credited to the closing arguments made by lawyer George Graham Vest in a trial at the Johnson County Courthouse in Warrensburg, Missouri on September 23, 1870.

The case was about a dog named Old Drum.

Old Drum was an unlucky foxhound who crossed paths with a sheep farmer named Leonidas Hornsby in the fall of 1869.

Hornsby had lost some sheep to dogs and had recently vowed to his neighbors that he’d kill any canine he saw on his land. When Old Drum set paw on Hornsby’s property, the farmer kept his vow.

The next morning, Drum’s owner, Charles Burden, went looking for his missing hound dog.

He found him shot dead and figured he knew who did it. So, he filed a lawsuit against Hornsby, asking for compensation.

George Vest served as Burden’s attorney. In his final summation, Vest brought the jury to tears and won the case with these words:

“The best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith…The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.”

The first six words of that paragraph, combined with the last three — “The best friend a man his dog” — is said to be the origin of the dog-lovers’ saying we know today.

It’s likely that “A man’s best friend is his dog” was in use before Vest gave his famous closing arguments in 1870. But the folks who live in the nice little city of Warrensburg, Missouri (population 16,000) have their own opinion.

On September 23, 1958, the 88th anniversary of Vest’s memorable words, a statue of Old Drum was placed with great ceremony in front of the Johnson County Courthouse in Warrensburg, where it can still be seen today.

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August 05, 2018

“Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,” the song that made a pioneering Black songwriter famous — and infamous…

How will Rap and Hip Hop songs by Black musicians that use the N-word and seemingly glorify the “thug life” be viewed 140 years from now?

I don’t know for sure, of course.

But I’m willing to guess there will be various conflicting views among people who are both Black and White.

That’s certainly the case for the 140-year-old old song “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,” which was written by the pioneering African American musician James A. Bland (1854-1911) and copyrighted on August 5, 1878.

Bland was in his early twenties at the time. He’d written other songs and was a popular performer in one of the minstrel shows that were common entertainment for both Blacks and Whites at the time.

But “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” carried Bland to a new level.

It became a megahit and made Bland the first Black international music superstar.

Thanks to that fame, he broke many color barriers in the decades after the Civil War, such as having some of his music published under his own name.

He also helped pave the way for Black musicians and performers who followed him.

However, because Bland wrote and performed minstrel show music, originally sung in blackface makeup by white performers and later by black musicians (including Bland before he became famous), and because some of Bland’s songs romanticized the lives of American slaves, his legacy is mixed.

The controversy over “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” is the most notable case in point.

You have probably heard the phrase “carry me back to old Virginny,” which Bland’s song popularized (though it was borrowed from an older one).

You may also be familiar with the melody of Bland’s song.

However, few people know much about James Bland or know the full lyrics of the song.

And, unless you live in Virginia, you’re probably unaware of the modern political controversy about the song.

You’ll understand why it became controversial when you read the lyrics.

They’re written in the voice of a former slave who misses his life on the plantation and loved his “Massa” (i.e., the slave-owning master of the plantation).

Here they are, in their original colloquial form:

       [Chorus] “Carry me back to old Virginny.
       James Bland sheet music cover WMThere’s where the cotton and the corn and ‘taters grow.
       There’s where the birds warble sweet in the spring-time.
       There’s where this old darkey’s heart am long’d to go.

       There’s where I labored so hard for old Massa,
       Day after day in the field of yellow corn;
       No place on earth do I love more sincerely
       Than old Virginny, the state where I was born.

       [Chorus repeats]

       Carry me back to old Virginny,
       There let me live till I wither and decay.
       Long by the old Dismal Swamp have I wandered,
       There’s where this old darkey’s life will pass away.

       Massa and Missis have long since gone before me,
       Soon we will meet on that bright and golden shore.
       There we’ll be happy and free from all sorrow,
       There’s where we’ll meet and we’ll never part no more.

       [Chorus repeats]

Bland himself was never a slave and wasn’t from Virginia. He was the son of a highly-educated, free Black man and was born in New York. His father, Allen Bland, moved the family to Philadelphia after graduating from Wilberforce College.

James attended Howard University but didn’t graduate. As a teenager, he’d fallen in love with the banjo and the minstrel music that was popular in the 1870s. By age 14 he was performing it.

By his early 20s, he was a featured member of a local minstrel show and writing songs for himself and other musicians. Among the notable songs he wrote during the ‘70s, in addition to his ode to Virginia, is “Oh! Dem Golden Slippers.” It became and still is the theme song for the famed Philadelphia Mummers Parade.

Bland’s talent and the huge success of “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,” “Oh! Dem Golden Slippers” and other songs he wrote led him to be billed as “The World’s Greatest Minstrel Man” and “The Prince of Negro Songwriters.”

In 1881, after touring the United States, he spent 20 years performing to wide acclaim in Great Britain and Europe, where he gave command performances for Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales and other dignitaries.

At his peak, Bland earned the equivalent of hundreds of thousands per year in today’s dollars. By the end of the century, the popularity of minstrel style music had declined and his expensive, proto-rock star lifestyle had drained his resources. (One of his legendary purchases was a 4.75 carat diamond, the largest diamond ever worn by a Black performer at the time.)

In 1901, he returned to the U.S. After that, he wrote songs for one unsuccessful musical, then faded into obscurity.

Bland died of tuberculosis in 1911 in Philadelphia. He was buried in an unmarked grave at Merion Memorial Park in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.

James Bland’s story might have ended there if not for James Francis Cooke, editor of a magazine for musicians titled The Etude.

In 1938, Cooke became interested in Bland’s work. With the help of Bland’s sister, Cooke — or, according to some accounts, the Lions Club of Virginia or the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) — found Bland’s grave and eventually had a monument placed on it.

In 1939, Cooke published the first notable biography of Bland in The Etude. It was written by Dr. Kelly Miller, a noted African American scholar and professor at Howard University, who called Bland “The Negro Stephen Foster.”

James A. Bland's headstoneThe publicity this generated led the Virginia state legislature to designate Bland’s song about Virginia as the official state song in 1940, though “Virginny” was changed to “Virginia” in the title and lyrics.

The other lyrics remained as Bland wrote them, complete with the nostalgic “darkey” thinking fondly of his “Massa.”

As the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s gained traction, the song became a target of critics who (understandably) viewed it as racist and demeaning to African Americans.

In 1970, Douglas Wilder became the first African American elected to the Virginia Senate since Reconstruction. That same year, he proposed legislation to have the song retired and replaced.

The majority of White legislators, many of whom liked the rosy picture of slavery the song’s lyrics portrayed, rejected that bill and similar ones for years, including bills introduced after Wilder became the first African American to be elected Governor of Virginia — or any other state — in 1990.

Finally, in 1997, there was a compromise of sorts. The Virginia Senate voted to retire “Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” as the official state song, but designated it as the “State Song Emeritus” and authorized a study committee to create a contest to find and select a new state song.

To make a long story short, that approach continued to generate controversy for the next two decades.

It wasn’t until 2015 that a new state song was selected, based partly on the results of an online poll.

In fact, the legislature approved two songs as the new official state songs.

“Our Great Virginia,” a 19th Century ballad, was designated as the official “Traditional State Song.”

The song “Sweet Virginia Breeze” was named the official “Popular State Song.” It was written in 1978 by Richmond, Virginia musicians and Robbin Thompson and Steve Bassett, who included it on their 1978 album Robbin Thompson & Steve Bassett – Together.

Meanwhile, “Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” is still the “State Song Emeritus.” And, although many people can’t listen to the song without having a negative reaction, music scholars now consider James A. Bland to be not only “The World’s Greatest Minstrel Man,” as he was billed during his lifetime, but also one of the greatest black writers of American folk or popular songs.

In 1970, Bland was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Every year since 1948, the Lions Clubs of Virginia has sponsored the annual Bland Music Scholarships Program’s “Bland Contest.” This program is designed is to promote cultural and educational opportunities for musically talented young people in Virginia by providing scholarships for college tuition, music lessons, summer music programs and other music education endeavors.

I watched YouTube videos of some of the young people who have performed in the Bland Contest in recent years. The music they played or sang tended to be more classical than popular.

But who knows? Maybe someday one of them could become as famous as James Bland was in his day, or write a song that becomes as revered — or reviled — as “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny.”

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