Backtalk: Summer Music Fests

This week, Dahlia and Amy talk about summer music fests, Beychella, and the dismal treatment of sexual harassment at festivals. This year’s Coachella was a moment with Beyoncé being the first Black woman artist headlining and featuring a very pregnant Cardi B. doing her thing. But it wasn’t without concerns, as outlined in a Teen Vogue piece where a writer documented all of the times she was sexually harassed—and make sure you check out this interactive map that shows the real impact of Coachella. Plus we’ve got a literal Petty Political Pminute!


WATCH: Amy is loving the classic Golden Girls. Outstanding writing, pitch-perfect acting, and timelessly hilarious.

READ: Dahlia is obsessing over the forthcoming essay collection Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin.

LISTEN: We’re loving the new Cardi B album and this track featuring Dahlia’s friend, Bad Bunny, “I Like It.”


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TRANSCRIPT

DAHLIA: This episode of Backtalk is sponsored by Luna Pads. 

[theme music] 

DAHLIA: Welcome to Backtalk. This is the feminist response to pop culture podcast. I’m Dahlia Grossman-Heinze, Senior Engagement Editor at Bitch Media. 

AMY: And I’m Amy Lam, Contributing Editor at Bitch Media. 

DAHLIA: We start every episode of Backtalk by talking about a pop culture moment. Amy, what’s yours? 

AMY: Well, my pop culture moment is to close out April, which was I think it’s called National Poetry Month. And I actually have an interview with a poet Hieu Minh Nguyen at the PoetryFoundation.org. The interview was called Haunted By Survival, and it’s about Hieu’s latest collection called Not Here. And it’s just one of those moments where I cannot believe now I have a Poetry Foundation byline. [laughs] I feel kind of sketchy putting on my bios, but I think I will from now on. Because people might assume that I had written a poem that was published by the Poetry Foundation. 

DAHLIA: [laughs] 

AMY: But I don’t care! Because the Poetry Foundation’s a big deal, and I feel so fortunate and lucky that I was able to interview Hieu for them and about Hieu’s latest collection, which is so gorgeous and haunting and beautiful. So this is my very self-promotion-y fave pop culture moment is to please head over to the Poetry Foundation. Close out National Poetry Month with reading this interview and buying a bunch of different poetry collections. And you’ll thank me for it, for sure. 

DAHLIA: My pop culture moment, Amy, I think is like the opposite as much opposite as yours could be. My cousin told me about this game called Plague Inc. And I just stored that information in the back of my head for a little while, and then I started playing this week. And it’s phone game in which you are a plague, and your goal is to kill all humans before they cure you. 

AMY: [laughs] 

DAHLIA: And it is so fun, and I stayed up—the first night I played it—I stayed up until like 12:30 playing it without even realizing it. And I never thought I’d be— It gives you these little notifications where they’re like, “Good job! You’re more contagious than tuberculosis!” I’m like. All right! I’m more contagious than tuberculosis! I’m very obsessed with this game, and it’s really fun. And it involves real science because you evolve your plague, and you’re making it more antibiotic-resistant or you make it more contagious or you make the symptoms worse. And it’s, in this morbid way, so fun. [chuckles] 

AMY: I’m actually gonna check this game out ‘cause it sounds like up my alley and a really good time-waster and having to do with infectious diseases. [laughs] 

DAHLIA: You can even play as real diseases. For example, I played as the Black Death, and I won. I killed everybody. 

AMY: [laughs] Congrats, Dahlia. Good job. 

DAHLIA: Thank you. [laughs] 

[cutesy bells ring] 

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[cutesy bells ring] 

Amy and I have had some scheduling snafus, and so it’s been a little while since we’ve had an episode of Backtalk. And it’s been too long since we’re able to release the results of our last Amy Versus Dahlia, which is maybe the most contentious we’ve ever had. Our most recent Amy Versus Dahlia argument was about who is the worst bro. Amy believes that it’s Martin Shkreli, and I believe that it’s Milo Yiannopoulos. And we have 308 votes from Backtalk listeners. And we got 143 votes for Martin Shkreli and 165 for Milo Yiannopoulos. So, very, very close because in fact, they are both terrible bros. But the Backtalk community has spoken, and the worst bro, by 20 votes, is Milo Yiannopoulos. 

AMY: Wah wah. Well, I still think Martin Shkreli has a raisin for heart, so he will all be the worst bro to me. 

DAHLIA: [laughs] 

AMY: And I feel bad saying that ‘cause I love raisins. 

DAHLIA: That’s such a good insult: a raisin for a heart. Oh, so visual. You are a poet, Amy! 

BOTH: [laugh] 

AMY: But thanks for voting. I mean I really love that we kind of made a worse thing to vote thing that people were into it. And it was actually super fun to see what people were saying about why this person was the worst or not the worst. But they are both very worse, like the worstest. [laughs] 

DAHLIA: Yes. Yes. You can see how close it is, so close.  

Amy and I love to read our iTunes reviews, and if you haven’t left us a review yet, I highly encourage you to because we will definitely read it and laugh and smile, and it’ll light up our whole day. But here, I wanna read one that Amy and I both really, really loved. This is a review from Siesta Queen, and Siesta Queen writes, “Thank you, Dahlia and Amy, for helping me stay connected and informed. I live as an American abroad, and I’m often the only person of color in my various friendship circles. Your podcast feels so necessary for my well-being and helps me feel validated in my—and now I’m gonna say a German word that means “enraged”—fuchsteufelswild. There you go. [laughs] The Siesta Queen also says, “There’s a word I learned that I thought you appreciate. It literally translates to “a face that needs to be slapped” or more commonly, “a punchable face,” perhaps a good description for your worst bros. And here’s the word: “backpfeifengesicht.” 

BOTH: [laugh] 

AMY: That sounds right. That sounds so punchable. 

DAHLIA: And so I mean on top of the fact that these reviews totally make our day, they also help us show up in more people’s feeds. So, leave us a note. We’d love it. And thanks so much for your nice words, Siesta and also for teaching us some useful German. Like “backpfeifengesicht.” [laughs] Can you tell I don’t speak German? 

AMY: [laughs] Yeah, if you wanna give us a five-star rating and helpful, useful terms and talk about how people have punchable faces, we are totally here for it. I wanna read that day and night. 

Actually, this helps to parlay into talking about how you can become a Pollinator. Pollinators are a special group of Bitch supporters who contribute just $8 a month, which gets you a subscription to our beautifully, newly-redesigned magazine. Shout out to our design team. I just feel like the physical magazine just gets more and more gorgeous every issue we do it. And the summer issue that’s coming up, the travel issue, Dahlia snuck me a sneak peek of the cover. It’s literally breathtaking. It’s so amazing. So, for $8, you get a subscription to the magazine, you get a Bitch mug, and you get a delightful little sticker for your laptop. 

I always try to think about what cost $8, and I was like $8 is less than one ticket to go see a movie. So, if you wanna treat either Dahlia or me, ‘cause $8 a month, or we can switch off to go see a movie, you could do that. We love gonna the theater! Sitting in a dark room doing nothing but watching a movie. So, you can do that by joining at bitchmedia.org/pollinators for just $8/month. 

[cutesy bells ring] 

DAHLIA: We’re gonna try something new for our petty political p-minute. I think you all know, I can ramble on and on about my petty thoughts about Donald Trump, but we’re gonna try to see how many petty thoughts about Donald Trump I can get out in actually one minute. So, I am setting my timer right now for one minute, zero seconds. 

AMY: [laughs] 

DAHLIA: OK. And it’s gonna let me know when I’ve gone over. All right. And I’m pressing start…now. 

Over the weekend was Barbara Bush’s funeral, and Donald Trump was too scared to go because, at the funeral was the Clintons and the Bushes and the Obamas. So, he sent Melania as his tribute while he stayed in Florida and went golfing and sent a lot of petty tweets about James Comey and other various things. On the Internet, there was circulating a photo of Melania smiling at something that Barack was saying to her. And not that I think that it caused any twinge of jealousy at all in Donald Trump’s heart because he doesn’t have one, but— Oh my god. I hardly have any time left at all to talk. OK, I have to keep going! Trump nominated his personal doctor to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs. But in the time since he has been nominated, it’s come out that he’s been accused of overprescribing drugs, running a hostile work environment, and drinking on the job. Oh god. I just got a text message. It confused me. [phone timer chimes] 

AMY: [laughs] 

DAHLIA: UGH! You know what happened to me is that I was trying to read this—and this is such a good segue—I got a text message, and I got distracted. I got a text message from my friend, and it said, “Ever since I watched Beychella on Saturday I only want to listen to Lemonade. And I guess that is useful text, but it distracted me from reading all the other things I had to say. But oh well. That’s all I had. That’s all I had in one minute. 

AMY: I think this just really goes to show how our pettiness and how the administration is so garbage that it’s really kind of impossible to contain it to a one-minute rant. 

DAHLIA: Yeah. 

AMY: I don’t think it’s any fault of yours if you couldn’t speak any faster. 

DAHLIA: [laughs] 

AMY: It’s just like there’s just an abundance of fuckery going on over there. I don’t know how you could possibly have condensed that to a minute. 

DAHLIA: Thank you! 

AMY: But I’m giving you a blue ribbon for trying. 

DAHLIA: Thank you. 

AMY: That was really good. [chuckles] 

DAHLIA: Speaking of Beychella and warm weather on the horizon, amazingly, it’s springtime; it’s almost summer. It’s festival season, and these past two weekends were Coachella. And so, we have lots to talk about including Beyoncé and also just a little bit about music festivals and the many problems that they have. 

AMY: Yeah, I was really excited to talk about this because summer music festival season is something that a lot of us partake in and enjoy going to, but I think that we don’t often talk about it in the context of what does it mean to take your body there and to experience it? And how it becomes this Instagramable moment, but we don’t talk about all of the moments surrounding it and one’s experience there. Personally, I find music festivals to be really annoying. 

BOTH: [laugh] 

AMY: Having gone to bunch when I was much younger and I had the stamina for it, I mean I think that they’re really fun and you get to go and see a bunch of acts that maybe would be kind of cost prohibitive or impossible to see all just over a day or two or three. And I think they’re a fun way to just get out and to see so many of your favorite performers and not have to break it up throughout the year or whatever. But I’m also super interested in talking about what these summer music festivals mean to our popular culture zeitgeist. 

And so, in terms of Coachella, I think I’d be great if we just started by talking about some of our favorite moments. And one of my biggest favorite moments about it was—I mean besides Beychella— 

DAHLIA: Yeah!! 

AMY: —was seeing Cardi B perform. Yes! Because wow. I think I didn’t know how much I desired and how much pleasure I took from seeing a very pregnant woman onstage rapping and twerking and just owning her own body and putting the work in. It looked kind of exhausting. I mean she’s very pregnant, but she’s still doing her job. And it just made me think that any success that Cardi B has, she deserves. She’s working her fucking butt off, and she’s on that stage and just doing her work. And I honestly got misty-eyed watching her perform ‘cause I was just like, man, when do we ever see a sexual pregnant body in this way? And I’m not saying we need to see those things, but it means something that this is the first time I’m actually seeing it under these lights. And it just made me think. 

I think that often when we think about pregnant bodies, we think of it a body that needs to stay at home and be restful and to be taken care of and to be very fragile. But it was really empowering to see somebody like Cardi B up on stage and being like well, yeah, I’m pregnant, but I’m also a fucking hip hop star. And I’m here to perform my songs, and I’m doing a fucking amazing job at it too. I often think about when rappers have to physically do the act of rapping and having to do their breath control and getting all their verses out and in an even, measured way, like she was doing that. And as she was doing it while exerting a lot of energy. So I just have mad props to her, and it was so amazing to watch her do that onstage. 

DAHLIA: Yeah, of course, Amy, you and I are such huge Cardi B fans. So many people. Everyone at Bitch is. And I feel this pride for her ,like she’s doing so well and she’s so young and she’s so successful. And it’s just like it’s exciting to be at the beginning of what’s gonna be hopefully a really long career for her. And that it’s starting out with such a big bang.  

And I mean of course, we can’t talk about Coachella without talking about how Beyoncé owns Coachella now, forever. Beyoncé was performing, headlining for two weekends, and she’s the first Black woman to headline Coachella. And only her first performance was livestreamed, but it was very obviously drawing on visual and musical references of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. So, there were lots of people in marching band costumes, and the performance itself as a whole was like a Black music history lesson for the masses.  And even though Coachella is, in many ways, a very white experience, Coachella is in Southern California. And in, fact the city Coachella’s the school district is 99% Latino, but the audience at Coachella itself is largely white. And Beyoncé does not care. Beyoncé performed this very Black musical history and just history lesson because it was for the people who were there live in person. But it was also being livestreamed. And so, she did this history lesson for the world, and everyone loved it. 

AMY: And you know who loved it the most was her mother, Tina Lawson. 

BOTH: [laugh] 

AMY: And Miss Tina had such a really great Instagram post about it where she posted a picture of Beyoncé, and the caption was really interesting. Because the caption, I think, speaks to what you’re talking about how she brought a very unapologetically Black show to a very white space. And in the caption, Tina wrote, “I told Beyoncé that I was afraid that the predominantly white audience at Coachella would be confused by all of the Black culture and Black college culture because it was something that they may not get. But Beyoncé’s brave response to my concerns made me feel a bit selfish and ashamed.” She said, “I have worked very hard to get to the point where I have a true voice, and at this point in my life and my career, I have a responsibility to do what’s best for the world and not what is most popular.” And I think that that’s so touching for for Tina. 

DAHLIA: Hell, yeah. 

AMY: For Miss Tina to say out loud to the world like, I was actually skeptical of my what my daughter was doing, but then she’s the one that taught me something. And I think also, what’s poignant about what Beyoncé said to her was that she has a responsibility to do what’s best for the world and not what is most popular. Which is stunning because whatever Beyoncé does becomes popular. She has the culture capital to turn anything into something amazingly popular. So, props to that show. That show was so incredible. And how I talked about how Cardi B was working so hard onstage, Beyoncé was onstage for two hours, just busting her butt and performing and singing and hitting every note and just looking amazing and hitting the choreography. I just can’t. 

DAHLIA: [laughs] 

AMY: I was just watching that being like, I don’t know what Beyoncé eats to give her this much energy and this much strength and power. 

DAHLIA: You know she goes vegan for a month before. Just to let you know, she’s vegan a month before Coachella. 

AMY: Wow. I wonder if that’s the secret! But Big Beef won’t tell us, won’t let us know. 

BOTH: [laugh] 

AMY: Oh my gosh. 

DAHLIA: I wanna recommend this multimedia piece called In The Valley of Coachella. The novelist Susan Straight and photographer Douglas McCulloh worked on it together, and it uses digital geography to sort of put— It’s kind of like a moving infographic that sort of shows you the effect that Coachella has on the Indio Valley and California and who actually lives in Coachella, what their demographics are, and that interplay of this massive influx of wealth and whiteness that happens for a few weeks in the spring and what that does to Coachella and to the town there. So, that is called In The Valley of Coachella. We’ll link to it in the post, but it’s at storymaps. 

I also wanna recommend a piece over at Teen Vogue. It’s called Sexual Harassment Was Rampant At Coachella 2018. It’s by Vera Popisova, and let me just read you this one sentence from it. “During the 10 hours I was reporting on this story, I was groped 22 times. Of the 54 young women who spoke to Teen Vogue for this piece during the weekend long event, all of them had a story of sexual assault or harassment that occurred this year at Coachella.” 

So, Coachella launched first in 1999, and it draws now almost 100,000 people per day. And I think that sexual assault and music festivals, that’s a story that keeps coming back into the news. And when I read this headline, I was thinking I remember when the Beastie Boys were giving a speech about something, an acceptance speech, and they started talking about the sexual harassment and assault that was happening at Woodstock. And I was like, when was that? I looked it up. In 1999, the Beastie Boys were like, hey, there’s massive sexual assaults and harassment at music festivals, and we have to do something about it. And now, it’s like 20 years later. And I’m just like, I shouldn’t be surprised, but this reporter says that she was groped 22 times in 10 hours of just being at a music festival. 

AMY: And I mean I don’t know what this says about these spaces, but in a way, when I read that, I was at once unsurprised and surprised. I was unsurprised that this happened to her. And part of me was just surprised that she had the fortitude to keep counting after five times or something. But I think that in these types of spaces, often people feel like they are able to have access to anybody’s bodies. Because I think that in part of this Teen Vogue piece, the writer talks about in one of the situations it’s like, you’re in a space especially if you’re about to watch a show and you’re really just squished in a compact space where bodies are up against each other. And I’ve definitely been in spaces like that, going to shows. And it’s so shitty to say, but it just happens. And I just remember feeling like this is just a part of it. You just have to fend it off. And I remember having friends, especially guy friends, who would be like, OK I’m gonna stand, like they would have to stand strategically by me to keep people from groping me. 

DAHLIA: Yeah, totally. 

AMY: And it’s awful, but to think that we can’t even go into these spaces just to enjoy a show without the threat of being groped or expecting to be groped and then having to think of defenses for it.  

I think that a piece like this is important to highlight that, to say just the sheer number of times that people touched her body without permission, like unwanted touches, and that when she’s talked to other festival goers, they all had very similar experiences. I mean really, I don’t know. Like you’re saying, you brought up that Beastie Boys speech about what happened at Woodstock. And at Woodstock, I think that there were even cases of sexual assault that was even more impactful. But it’s like, man, stop touching people that did not invite you to touch them!!! Period! I don’t know why that’s so hard to do! 

I feel as if this is something that we literally learned in kindergarten, you know? We learned to share our toys, to be kind to one another, and to not touch one another if we don’t have permission. And it’s just mindboggling that we have to be on our toes when we’re trying to just relax and hang out with our friends to enjoy a festival. 

DAHLIA: And it’s like another another case of if there is a problem, it’s on the the victim or the survivor to sort of handle it. You’re talking about these strategies of having friends being around you so that you won’t get hurt. 

This Teen Vogue piece also talks about women strategizing about traveling everywhere in groups and women being oh yeah, I wear a backpack when I’m in a crowd so that physically, people have to be further away from me. I certainly have countless memories of doing things like that so that men wouldn’t be, actually have the ability to be close enough to harm me in some way. But there’s no way that Coachella doesn’t know that things like this are happening. Coachella has existed for almost 20 years, and it’s not like music festivals didn’t have a history of being sites of extreme sexual harassment before. 

This writer over at Teen Vogue points out that on the Coachella website, there are no results for a search for sexual assault. Even in the FAQ section, there’s no information about what to do if you’ve been assaulted. And that includes in your box of materials when you—I wish that I’ve been to Coachella—but when you go to Coachella apparently, you get a box in the mail of stuff to prepare, including a pamphlet about the festival. Which also had no information about what to do if you need help after sexual assault or sexual harassment. And so, it’s so grossly irresponsible, obviously, for this corporation, Golden Voice, who operates and runs Coachella, to create this environment: massive amounts of people with money and drugs and alcohol and in a small amount of space, and then provide no resources for people who have been harmed because of those circumstances. 

[cutesy bells ring] 

DAHLIA: At the end of every episode of Backtalk we share something we’re reading, watching, and listening to. I have a read recommendation. It won’t be out for another month, but I am over the moon for the book Dead Girls by Alice Bolin. It is a collection of essays. It is about moving to Los Angeles, living in Los Angeles, and it’s also about sort of the trope of the dead girl and how she permeates culture. So, the collection touches on Twin Peaks, but then somehow, a variety of things that I thought no one but me liked come up in this essay. I’ve never had an experience so much of reading a book and being like, did I write this in a fever dream? 

AMY: [laughs] 

DAHLIA: Like why is this person my twin? But she talks about Shirley Jackson, Helen Oyeyemi, who are two sort of witchy writers that I am obsessed with. Even Amy, you’re very Helen Oyeyemi, right? 

AMY: Yes! Uh-huh. 

DAHLIA: And she talks also about the reality show Pretty Wild, which some members of the Bling Ring were in, which also I love. And she even talks about the book Teen Witch, which is a Wicca handbook for teen witches, for would-be teen witches that I myself read when I was in 4th grade. And when she talks about reading it in 4th grade, you know, I almost lost it. So, it’s such a fit for Bitch and everything we’re into. And then specifically, I think she might be my twin. [chuckles] 

AMY: [laughs] Well, my watch recommendation is not very twinny to me at all. But I think it is a throwback must, and I don’t know why I slept on this for so long. But I just started to watch Golden Girls. 

DAHLIA: Ahhhh! [laughs] 

AMY: And it is a-mazing!! I can’t overstate how good it is! Wait. Have you watched it, Dahlia? 

DAHLIA: Of course. Yeah, yeah. 

AMY: Yeah, I didn’t know. ‘Cause I don’t know. As a kid, I just wasn’t interested in it. I think I was just like, oh gosh. It’s a show about old white ladies. How could this possibly be interesting to me? I just think that I wasn’t old enough or sophisticated enough to appreciate the humor. But this show fucking slaps. [laughing] It’s so good! The writing is so amazing. The acting is great. Just jokes after jokes after jokes, and really good jokes. And the show is very feminist without being over your head feminist, I guess. I’m actually simultaneously disappointed in myself that I didn’t watch the show sooner but also very excited that I found it at this point in my life. And I feel so grateful to whoever our higher being me is that I have seven seasons of the show to watch. 

DAHLIA: Yes, that’s what I was just gonna say. You have so much to go! [laughs] 

AMY: Yes! I’m so lucky. The show was amazing! And the show was about four older white ladies who are living together in Miami and about their relationships with each other, about their relationships outside of each other, about in the end, being friends for each other. I’m learning the theme song. I’m gonna learn some to sing at karaoke. 

DAHLIA: [laughs] 

AMY: It is so good! I cannot suggest highly enough how amazing Golden Girls is. 

DAHLIA: Maybe our next Amy Versus Dahlia should be best Golden Girl. 

AMY: Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! 

DAHLIA: Do we have divisive opinions about that? Just think about it. I totally grew up on the Golden Girls, and so I’m so happy for you that you love them also now. 

AMY: Yes. 

DAHLIA: I’ve definitely seen every episode. 

AMY: Give me maybe like, I have to watch the entire season, and then I can decide which is the best Golden Girl. 

DAHLIA: OK. OK. Well, stay tuned for that then. 

BOTH: [laugh] 

DAHLIA: And my listen pick, since we were talking about Coachella and Cardi B, I wanna highly recommend a song from her new debut album Invasion Of Privacy. It’s so good. But one of my favorite songs is I Like It. It’s Cardi B, and it’s the Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny and J Balvin who is behind that song Mi Gente that was all over the place over the summer. This song is just so fun, and I love, love, love so much that Cardi B brought some Latin pop artists into it. Because Bad Bunny and Jay Balvin are stars, and it makes me so happy that they’re all in a song together. And so this is I Like It by Cardi B, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin bad. 

AMY: Thanks for listening. 

DAHLIA: Thanks for listening. 

[I Like It plays] 

♪ Now I like dollars, I like diamonds 

I like stunting, I like shining 

I like million dollar deals 

Where’s my pen, bitch I’m signin’ 

I like those Balenciagas 

The ones that look like socks 

I like going to the jeweler 

I put rocks all in my watch 

I like texts from my exes 

When they want a second chance 

I like proving niggas wrong 

I do what they say I can’t 

They call me Cardi Bardi, banging body 

Spicy mami, hot tamale 

Hotter than a Somali 

Fur coat, Ferrari 

Hop out the stu, jump in the coupe 

They trippin’ on top of the roof 

Flexing on bitches as hard as I can 

Eating halal, driving the Lam’ 

Told that bitch I’m sorry, though 

‘Bout my coins like Mario 

Yeah they call me Cardi B 

I run this shit like cardio 

Oh, damn ♪ 

DAHLIA: Thanks for listening to Backtalk. This episode was produced by Alex Ward. Bitch Media is a reader- and listener-supported feminist nonprofit. If you wanna support the show and our work, please head over to bitchmedia.org and donate now. 

♪ I said I like it like that 

Oh I need the dollars 

I said I like it like that 

Beat it up like piñatas 

I said I like it like that 

Tell the driver, close the curtains 

I said I like it like that 

Bad bitch make him nervous 

I said I like it like that 

Cardi B! 

Chambean, chambean, pero no jalan (¡jalan!) ♪ 

by Amy Lam
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Amy Lam is Bitch Media’s contributing editor. Find her at @amyadoyzie.

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