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Author Topic: Is the pace of software development killing virtuosity?  (Read 8462 times)
RSL
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« Reply #40 on: February 23, 2010, 09:07:37 AM »
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Quote from: fredjeang
And this one is for Russ,

Fred, Thanks. That's my baby. Used to fly it off skis in the winter too -- just like that.
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #41 on: February 23, 2010, 11:59:39 AM »
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Quote from: jhmaw
For the last few years I have been updating most of my software, including Photoshop about as often as updates were available. It occurred to me the other day that most of what I do on a routine basis (including my work with Photoshop) could be performed equally well on older versions of the software. I have been updating for several reasons. Firstly in order to find out exactly what the newer version could do. Secondly out of a feeling of not wanting to be left out (I think I am freeing myself of that one) and lastly for reasons of compatibility with other software and the hardware on which the programs sit (and other new hardware such as cameras).

I mentioned this to a friend over lunch the other day. She agreed and pointed to the fact that in the past, most people who achieving virtuosity in a particular field did so with tools that remained largely unchanged over long periods. In one sense rapid development of software helps more people to become virtuosi. On the other is may stop just as many from ever attaining that status.

It brought to mind Ansel Adams. As a virtuoso with both camera and piano it would have been interesting to have his opinion on the subject. Unfortunately that isn't going to happen (unless future technology makes it possible   )

I would be interested in the reactions of others to this.

John

This is a great topic for conversation. I do find it more than a little annoying when a favorite tool is "updated", as it means another slog up the learning curve; but more often than not there are worthwhile benefits. ACR is a far, far better tool for starting the process of interpreting a digital capture nowadays compared to its original form.

There's a critical level of familiarity with our tools required to produce really excellent work. Beyond that it's easy to reach a point of rapidly diminishing returns, where ever greater expertise with the software/hardware is not rewarded with any commensurate improvement in the resulting art. I'm betting we've all met Photoshop "Jedi masters" whose software skills are incredible...and whose images, well, suck.

And finally, Ansel Adams wasn't using a single technique carved in stone. Over the course of his career he migrated from glass plate negatives to sheet film; his darkroom techniques and printing materials likewise evolved greatly over time. The pace of change with digital capture/printing has been faster, but really it's the same process. We learn and master a set of tools with the goal of producing some really excellent prints. When the tools improve enough to provide a real benefit, it's worth moving up the ladder...or running a little faster on the hamster wheel.
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Chris_T
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« Reply #42 on: February 23, 2010, 12:09:33 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
Chris, I'm sure Jerry and Maggie would disagree, but then, I have a hard time calling what Jerry and Maggie do "photography."
Ah, I think that we have finally arrived at the gist of this debate.  Perhaps we should have started out by establishing what is and isn't photography. (That should take another century, if we ever get there.)

Approaching the debate with different, fundamental, and unstated beliefs, it's no surprise that we can't agree whether "virtuosity" and "genius" reside only, or more in the score or in the performance, or in both equally. By embracing photographic genres and practices of all kinds, I contend that each practitioner is entitled to his/her own take, and not dictated by those with a narrow view.
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Rob C
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« Reply #43 on: February 23, 2010, 12:36:26 PM »
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I wrote a post for this thread a day ago, but the power supply went dead on me and I lost everything I'd scribbled. Your sigh of relief is premature: I'll try again now.

The Huntington article is far from funny, amusing or anything other than damn well bang on target.

Several fellow posters have espoused musical analogies which, unfortunately for me, fall upon musically impaired ears and so I shall refrain from taking part on that score; sorry about that. However, I don't think there is any basis for such a comparison at all, any more than for flying (another thing I can't do) or film-making.

There is a sort of divide line that I think exists within the spectrum of photographers represented here; there's the kind with landscape interests where, I'd imagine, there is little need for the mass processing of a couple of hundred images at a pop; then there is the commercial type with such a possibility, accompanied by the wedding and photoreporter who will both undoubtedly have hundreds if not thousands of clicks to sift through at the end of each shoot.

I fall into a different category these days, where I shoot ever less and seem to be doing not a lot more than closeups of small painted areas. If I shoot four exposures in pursuit of the 'right' side of the histo then that's overkill! So what does software mean to me? As long as I can do curves, layers and some cropping, then that's about as important as software is to me. The only thing PS6 fails to deliver is correction of verticals, which though I have done it on later versions of the system, I still find 6 a far more instinctive process. I don't really have to think about using 6; I didn't really have to think about printing in a wet darkroom either.

There is nonsense spoken and/or written about the relationship between photographer and printer. During my early years in the business as an employee, I learned how to pring b/w to a very high level - we were an industrial unit and accurate b/w related to engineering information that was vital to purpose, exactly as was the case with colour, where jet engine flame tubes and their colours provided highly important info to the engineers who needed the unit's services. You had to learn to print colour damn accurately. I ended up doing the colour printing for quite a while. So I think I knew something about it at the time.

Now, we come to the commercial world where we meet the thing about photographers farming out their printing. This has, in my personal experience of that world, little to do with the photographer's ability and much to do with cost, time and turnover of quantity. From the start, I was determined to be a one-man band and do the whole thing myself. I was absolutely convinced that my pre-self-employed experience had made me as good a printer as any I'd find outside my own work space. I did all my stuff myself except for two types: large blow-ups on paper roll that I hadn't the space to produce; colour prints of any size other than some Cibas that I had to do once in a while. Why not do pos/neg colour printing when I was pretty good at it? Scale. Too expensive to keep a system going for the relatively low volume of throughput. My experience of both outside services was pretty bad and much as I had feared it would be. Why? Cost. No lab was willing to go that one test more to get the colour print exactly on target, citing commercially acceptable as their matra; even the b/w were seldom close to matching the guide prints I supplied, though I can accept that prints don't scale up to such extremes very well - I was doing shop and exhibition display shots for fashion stores and manufacturers as extensions to normal usage, which was press ads. and publicity prints. Thank goodness most of my later work was limited to Kodachrome! Color transparencies were really a liberation; how simple it was to collect the slides, stick 'em on the lightbox and edit it all in a very short time.

Whether digital capture has turned us into lesser or greater snappers is not really a true topic for debate: those raised on the tit of a pixel will be totally comfortable with it; those of us raised on milk will perhaps not be as assured for much of the time, possibly not even because of technical doubts but from frustration born of an earlier, more straightforward and gut experience now lost to us.

If you bring press shooters into the discussion, their needs are all about speed and, in the old days, the newspapers had their own darkrooms. Why would (or could) you do your own printing in a normal day's work when staff were employed to do it for you? In my opinion, that's the main reason many 'stars' didn't often print their own work - neither time nor opportunity.

One can debate the idea of whether a great printer can make a greater print than can a great photographer; this depends, I'd suggest, on how close a supervision the photographer can or is permitted to apply to the printer. I would, though, accept that a pro printer will always be able to produce better prints from a dud photographer than will that photographer himself; but, unless he prints his own stuff, how does he know where he has being going wrong before he reaches the printing stage? Having said that, I do not believe that a good photographer will ever accept another printer's version of his work with anything but reluctance.

We can only be honest when we are being subjective in matters such as this.

Off to fry up some old spuds and a new egg.

Rob C

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fredjeang
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« Reply #44 on: February 23, 2010, 01:30:44 PM »
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Quote from: Rob C
I wrote a post for this thread a day ago, but the power supply went dead on me and I lost everything I'd scribbled. Your sigh of relief is premature: I'll try again now.

The Huntington article is far from funny, amusing or anything other than damn well bang on target.

Several fellow posters have espoused musical analogies which, unfortunately for me, fall upon musically impaired ears and so I shall refrain from taking part on that score; sorry about that. However, I don't think there is any basis for such a comparison at all, any more than for flying (another thing I can't do) or film-making.

There is a sort of divide line that I think exists within the spectrum of photographers represented here; there's the kind with landscape interests where, I'd imagine, there is little need for the mass processing of a couple of hundred images at a pop; then there is the commercial type with such a possibility, accompanied by the wedding and photoreporter who will both undoubtedly have hundreds if not thousands of clicks to sift through at the end of each shoot.

I fall into a different category these days, where I shoot ever less and seem to be doing not a lot more than closeups of small painted areas. If I shoot four exposures in pursuit of the 'right' side of the histo then that's overkill! So what does software mean to me? As long as I can do curves, layers and some cropping, then that's about as important as software is to me. The only thing PS6 fails to deliver is correction of verticals, which though I have done it on later versions of the system, I still find 6 a far more instinctive process. I don't really have to think about using 6; I didn't really have to think about printing in a wet darkroom either.

There is nonsense spoken and/or written about the relationship between photographer and printer. During my early years in the business as an employee, I learned how to pring b/w to a very high level - we were an industrial unit and accurate b/w related to engineering information that was vital to purpose, exactly as was the case with colour, where jet engine flame tubes and their colours provided highly important info to the engineers who needed the unit's services. You had to learn to print colour damn accurately. I ended up doing the colour printing for quite a while. So I think I knew something about it at the time.

Now, we come to the commercial world where we meet the thing about photographers farming out their printing. This has, in my personal experience of that world, little to do with the photographer's ability and much to do with cost, time and turnover of quantity. From the start, I was determined to be a one-man band and do the whole thing myself. I was absolutely convinced that my pre-self-employed experience had made me as good a printer as any I'd find outside my own work space. I did all my stuff myself except for two types: large blow-ups on paper roll that I hadn't the space to produce; colour prints of any size other than some Cibas that I had to do once in a while. Why not do pos/neg colour printing when I was pretty good at it? Scale. Too expensive to keep a system going for the relatively low volume of throughput. My experience of both outside services was pretty bad and much as I had feared it would be. Why? Cost. No lab was willing to go that one test more to get the colour print exactly on target, citing commercially acceptable as their matra; even the b/w were seldom close to matching the guide prints I supplied, though I can accept that prints don't scale up to such extremes very well - I was doing shop and exhibition display shots for fashion stores and manufacturers as extensions to normal usage, which was press ads. and publicity prints. Thank goodness most of my later work was limited to Kodachrome! Color transparencies were really a liberation; how simple it was to collect the slides, stick 'em on the lightbox and edit it all in a very short time.

Whether digital capture has turned us into lesser or greater snappers is not really a true topic for debate: those raised on the tit of a pixel will be totally comfortable with it; those of us raised on milk will perhaps not be as assured for much of the time, possibly not even because of technical doubts but from frustration born of an earlier, more straightforward and gut experience now lost to us.

If you bring press shooters into the discussion, their needs are all about speed and, in the old days, the newspapers had their own darkrooms. Why would (or could) you do your own printing in a normal day's work when staff were employed to do it for you? In my opinion, that's the main reason many 'stars' didn't often print their own work - neither time nor opportunity.

One can debate the idea of whether a great printer can make a greater print than can a great photographer; this depends, I'd suggest, on how close a supervision the photographer can or is permitted to apply to the printer. I would, though, accept that a pro printer will always be able to produce better prints from a dud photographer than will that photographer himself; but, unless he prints his own stuff, how does he know where he has being going wrong before he reaches the printing stage? Having said that, I do not believe that a good photographer will ever accept another printer's version of his work with anything but reluctance.

We can only be honest when we are being subjective in matters such as this.

Off to fry up some old spuds and a new egg.

Rob C
Rob,
I think your post ad a really interesting focus. I agree in most of the parts and may disagree in others.
There is no doubt that photographers can acheive very good printings and consider that this step is an all part of the artistic process where they want to have the perfect control over. That is absolutely fine. It can happens for deep artistic reasons or for economical reasons, depending each case.
You also have artists who are more "sofware" orientated and others more "photography" orientated and it's fine, nothing to say about that.
There are people who take a lot of inspiration in learning how to master the latest software availables, and it is part of their work.
There is no rule, no one has the magic clew, neither is right or wrong. Everyone has the right to work in the way he wants.

But what is involved in this topic and in Huntington (I found it well written and agree 100%), is in what kind of wheel are we "obliged", in other words, the relevance of such a frecuency of relearning. When I'm complaining about that, saying that it is not normal at all, that there is something else behind the scene, I do it from a point of view and training of someone who was born with these tools. I'm trained to updating all the time...but I've decided to move away from this crazy and no-sense race. Again, it is not the evolution, it is the speed and the "short-life" products we are inundated.
The amount of time spending in updating, but also looking for the correct information, is ENORMOUS. I think that this rate of changings have reached a point where it distract more than it helps, it is like a good meal, you know, an overdose and instead of enjoying you get sick and vomite.
Well, if onces think that all these tools are made to make us a better life, more creative, more artistic, more exiting...I can't avoid to think it is very romantic and naive feeling. These are made to make maximum profits to the companies, regardeless of the healph impact among users.

The relation photographer-printer make all sense to me because we are more and more "independant" or we beleive so, but we are manipulated.
I work in advertising you know, people are manipulated to a point they do not imagine. We studdy them, we know their minds, we have tricks against anti(s).
Very very precised studdies about mass mind, individual groups etc...The most easy to manipulate, (to force them to consume) are the youngest. Because they tend to have a very strong but very immature relation with their tools.
We put them pressure in order to make them beleive that they need the lastest, that they will have the best and if not they will be out of race. Of course it is not true. I'm one of these guys, I'm from this side so I know what I'm talking about. And I will leave soon this job because it goes more and more against my values.
Are updating good? Of course, but in fact, in 5 time updates, only one is a real step (more or less). All the rest are unsignificant updates that we can call garbages but they look so. Then, the big ones every 4 years, the revolution promised. Another 6 months of headaches...and again in little updates etc...
People think they live in an happy world with these wonderful new tools...yes, a lot are wonderfull it is true, but what they do not want to accept, is that they have not increased virtuosity at all. They just make things easier, more accurate, more reliable...but there is a cost. If you see it, if you understand where it really is, you can avoid it keeping the benefits of technology, if not...you just spend your time and money with no rest to increments bank accounts of others that manipulate you. And you are not a new Amsel Adams...either.

I do not play this stupid race any more. If some wants to, all my respect, they are free to do it.

Fred.







 









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Rob C
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« Reply #45 on: February 23, 2010, 05:31:36 PM »
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Fred, it takes courage to drop out; it can be the making of one but also the destruction, so be very sure about what you intend to do before you do it. As long as there is a viable alternative that keeps you eating well, then that's okay; if you are just fed up with the reality of a cynical world, then take comfort from the fact that unless people see it for themselves then they do not feel they are being exploited and would probably think you mad to believe it about them.

There is no mileage in losing sleep about the minds of others; as you say, some people need all the latest things and others manage perfectly well with much less. The difference between really needing something and just wanting something for its own sake, for the mere possession of it, is quite wide a chasm and represents different things to different people. I suppose that in photography, unless it is simply a business treated as such, then scope for ownership of many things is vast but hardly necessary in the greater scheme of things. Some just want to make pictures but others enjoy playing with the toys and don't actually mind if they don't really achieve much with them once they have them - and that's okay too. In fact, it could well be that there is more satisfaction to be found playing than doing, which can be a real pain in the ass at times, particularly when your living depends on it.

It's no ideal world, but finding your personal solution to how you cope with it is the best you get. I've been looking for a very long time but am as far from any truth as I was when I began to realise that I should be looking for something. Maybe that's what drives writers; and all they need is what we've got: a keyboard and a dumb box.

And I didn't get my old potatoes and new egg: I wanted to catch The Big Chill and there was time only for making some rice pudding.

Rob C
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jhmaw
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« Reply #46 on: February 23, 2010, 06:04:09 PM »
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Fred.

You make lots of very good points (and make them very well). The one part of your replies that has me a bit uneasy is a feeling that we are somehow victims of this process. I think that we are in fact partners. If we buy the product (I intentionally didn't call it software on this occasion as I feel this same point applies in almost any sphere of a market economy) we encourage the manufacturer to make more. If we buy another when a new version comes out we encourage them to update. If we slow down in our consumption of a product we make it very hard for them to keep developing it as such a fast pace.

I hope you don't feel like a victim, and that wasn't my intention when suggesting the topic in the first place. I simply feel that it is useful for each of us to reflect on how often we each need to upgrade (both hardware and software), and to reassess this from time to time. I think that this is a truly exciting time to be a photographer, even though it is quite a tough time economically. Let's not loose sight of the wonderful things that are available to us, just as we should not loose sight of the fact that we don't need everything that is offered up before us.

John
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fredjeang
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« Reply #47 on: February 24, 2010, 03:46:19 AM »
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My posts may had a kind of an old-communist-complain touch, I admit so  
But, I do not feel like a victim of a nasty conspiracy. I'm a born consumer, I like technology, advanced products, new ways of communication.
I think that the tools we have now are really exiting, interesting and open virgen lands that has to be explored. In that sense it is a very positive
balance. This wheel is a wheel I want to be in, not out. But not at any price.
Really, I think that the wheel has reached a point where it start clearly to be out of our control.  Making analogies or images:
We can see that our global economical world is giving signs of hillness and decadence. The machine is more and more out of control.
There is a crazy race, that the richest countries have to exploit with no care 2/3 of the planet in order to maintain the consuming into posositive
numbers. It is all about more and more for less and less people. Well, something happened the same way with tools. We are inundated with a volume
of new stuff, new needs, etc...but to such a frequency that, in my understanding, is not going to lead us to nice lands.

The problem, is that onces have to spend an impressive amount of time in order to update constantly, it is like eating constantely, BUT onces has to digest.
You need to have ALSO the time to digest, to integrate. What is happening is that the time to necessary digestion (integration) is more and more reduced while the time and frecuency spent in eating and eating is each time bigger...what do you think it will happen? One day, the string breaks.
The time onces spend in that process might be very exiting, in fact, it is made in such a way that you feel excitement. But the reality is that in most of the case, you do not reach neither better pics, nor new virgen lands.


Don't you think it is very eye-catching that we now have incredible tools, in production and diffusion, that were unthinkable some years ago. Half of the planet is doing photography, the volume of pictures produced has never been as high. Anyone can control the all process from his home and send it to the world. There is no more time lost in darkrooms etc...
So, we should see proporcionally more Amsel Adams, more Winogrand. And that is exactly the opposite.

Other phenomenon catch my attention: 90 or more % of the photographs we see are classic style. Why is so?? if we have really powerfull tools to make crazy images that could not be acheived before? That means that we all have these tools, we upgrade them constantely, but in fact we use 5% of their real power just to reproduced more easily, (with no fatigue), the kind of photography that were making our ancestors, but very few really use their tools at their full power. That can happen because of our hunger of consuming whatever we can. If onces really slow-down for awhile, and star to think about "what do I really need in order to acheive the pictures I want to acheive, I'm pretty sure you'll find a lot of garbage, distractions and useless tools, without talking of the amount of time spent (lost) to play with these. That phenomenon is new, it could not happened before at this scale, and I do think it is a real social problem.

My last analogy: Do you watch Formula 1 ? I remember the duels Prost/Senna. Now it is a world of pure technology. The races have been such boring that they need to compensate with a superdosis of publicity and polemics in order to maintain the audience. The contain is empty, extremely boring, but the enveloppe is more golden than ever and need to be so. I better watch a good rugby 6th nations game! Still authentic.

I do think that these bombings of constant changes, produsts and updates at the level we are inundated, kills virtuosity.
Of course that is a personal view and I respect every single point of view as well.

Cheers,

Fred.


 



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RSL
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« Reply #48 on: February 24, 2010, 06:59:49 AM »
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Quote from: Chris_T
Ah, I think that we have finally arrived at the gist of this debate.  Perhaps we should have started out by establishing what is and isn't photography. (That should take another century, if we ever get there.)

Approaching the debate with different, fundamental, and unstated beliefs, it's no surprise that we can't agree whether "virtuosity" and "genius" reside only, or more in the score or in the performance, or in both equally. By embracing photographic genres and practices of all kinds, I contend that each practitioner is entitled to his/her own take, and not dictated by those with a narrow view.

Chris, I certainly agree that each practitioner is entitled to his own "take," but I don't agree that each practitioner is entitled to his own definitions. Do you call a collage a "painting?" The reason we have a term like "collage" is that a collage is different from a painting. The collage may contain elements from paintings, but, in the end, it's a different "product" with a different name. What Jerry and Maggie do are photographic collages. They're unusual collages because they end up as single negatives or digital files. Another term for that kind of construction is "assemblage." They use photographs to create their collages or assemblages, but the end product isn't a "photograph" any more than the end product of a collage put together with paintings is a "painting."
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Jeremy Payne
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« Reply #49 on: February 24, 2010, 07:35:32 AM »
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Quote from: fredjeang
Still authentic

I think we need to ditch the rose-tinted view of past 'authenticity'.  Nothing has changed.  The world today is the same as it was 2,000 years ago.


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richard laughlin
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« Reply #50 on: February 27, 2010, 04:58:50 PM »
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<blockquote>A collage isn't anything but a collage. </blockquote><p>The material is immaterial he would say, it is the process that defines, delimits the artists circle. And if this is your own argument, then are you eliminated from being a photographer if you use a digital record-output process. So says the silver print, film is photography, lens & camera are photography mannered photographers. Those who wear large pocketed khaki vests are photographers type of photographers.</p><p>I ask you, as a reminder too, do you use asphalt or bitumen? Do you use ferric salts without a lense? Do you photograph anything other than dead flowers, distant mountains, or demure maidens? If the answer isn't YES, YES, SOME, then you are not an original photographer. You are undefined. So very sorry to hear you fading away... like a whisp, a whispering, a whimper.</p>
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RSL
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« Reply #51 on: February 27, 2010, 06:59:03 PM »
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Eh?
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