An overdue bit of praise for French band Wildpath


 

 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam CO2Wildpath are called “orchestral thrash”, “symphonic power”, etc. and these are hardly adequate descriptions. This is one of the most genuinely interesting bands I’ve heard in years.

Tired beyond words of idea-less, cookie cutter rock bands as much as I loathe rap and 50 year old plodding wave forms, I accidentally found Wildpath on YouTube. A prog-rock fan since forever, the no-think version of rock has long since been obsolete for me, and I suddenly found myself listening to a real ideas band. I now work out to some of this band’s songs, and listen to them just about every day.

However, let’s leave my epiphanies aside for a minute. This band does nothing the easy way. Their arrangements and songs are poised, very tight, and highly charged. They typically put multiple lines in to every song, and usually add a few layers where required to build a good, interesting mix of ideas.

That’s hard work, particularly for a band which isn’t doing simple, hook-driven stuff. Sounds to me like everyone in the band gets an effective word in, because the sheer scope of some of these arrangement is much more demanding than most bands would bother trying, let alone doing.

The band, similarly, doesn’t do the flashy, easy stuff:

  • The first and very striking thing I noticed was that the current singer, Marjolaine Bernard, tends to sing the more difficult options. That’s pretty gutsy for any female rock singer. Female singers are typically under far more pressure to “present” than male rock singers. She has a good strong middle range, and could take it easy with that range. She doesn’t. She sings in a much more difficult choral range which usually only choirboys can hit. It’s not easy to sing, and can stuff up with a single misplaced note.  She does it flawlessly, and creates a single entity with these vocals, making them stand out. Pretty good for anyone who also has that melodic but powerful Sonja Kristina-like edge to her voice.
  • They’re technical realists, in many ways, and you simply don’t hear musical doodling or “noise babble”, just good, coherent, thoughtful pieces of music. I get the impression that “tech” isn’t the awe-inspiring thing for Wildpath as it is for some other bands who should know better. The benefit for listeners is a total lack of tedium, which many rock and particularly metal bands should learn from, preferably ASAP.
  • They’re unpredictable. From The Raven to When Legends Come Back To Life, Crystallized and Ice Rose, something is always happening. Not since Curved Air in its maniacal mode, peak-era Cream and cool era Traffic have I been able to say that about any band with any degree of conviction. (I really do have to like any band which will stick in a bit of gritty 12 bar in to what is basically an orchestral arrangement, and do it well, on the song Crystallized. Status Quo, eat your hearts out.)
  • The guitar is hard and often powerful, but you’re not listening to “shit, we need another meaningless, endless, solo here” with these guys . If anything, the guitar is usually a bit understated and sometimes downright taciturn, very odd for a supposedly “metal” band. Having said which, it works, too. More is not better, and this is proof. (About time some guitarists realized that the “solo is me” stuff is really just a growing phase, a sort of musical puberty, nothing like the whole story)
  • The bass is sometimes tough, but always consistent, tensile, and fast. No “quaint” bass stuff here, the bass is always on the same page as the songs, never lazy or taking the dumb. thudding options. Seriously, bass can do so much more than just use up a lot of signal and woofer time. You’d think someone would have noticed that by now, and Wildpath obviously have.
  • Keyboards are pretty much anything and everything, and they sometimes sail off on interesting journeys. Generally, the keyboards add weight, scope and melodic range. It should also be noted that keyboard players often have the unenviable task of “playing along” with underachieving bits and pieces thrown in, a problem Wildpath obviously doesn’t have.
  • The drums are surprisingly polite for a band which can do rampaging full power and do it well. Drummers all have their own preferences, as well as style, and if Wildpath doesn’t bang/crash as much as other bands, the drums deliver some real structure and range in these sometimes complex arrangements.
  • Creatively, they have a lot of depth. The acoustic arrangements of their better known songs are real rethinks, and work well. Not many bands can rethink themselves, a good character reference.
  • Musical and commercial context: The world doesn’t need yet another bit of packaging pretending to play music. The great bands are all DIY, and Wildpath is a bit overqualified in that respect. Good luck to them for doing things their way, and it’s easy to see. Musically they have an excellent standalone presence.Don’t tell them how to be themselves, and there shouldn’t be any problems.
  • Mixes are very good, if open to a few very minor, trivial nitpicking issues in some cases. To my taste, (and my taste is no guide to anything), a bit more emphasis on some parts of arrangements would be a good move.
  • Criticism, such as it is: I’d just like to see them be a bit more emphatic with some of their great lines, melodies, and hooks. This is the ultra–fiddly option, it’s time consuming and often irritating to do finicky mixes, and if they’re not doing that, I do get it. It’s just that I also hear so many choices in their stuff. (This is technically like saying the Mona Lisa should be more colourful, and about as useful, but I’m sitting here barracking for this band, and wishing for more, not less.)

To synopsize:

I’d love to see this band take off and fly as they do so often and so well. They have real off the scale moments, flying free, and I’d like to see them do that as much as possible. They have nothing to learn from the hackneyed “metal” environment, and are so far above the standard modern rock band in so many ways it’s ridiculous.

I don’t know what they’re doing currently, which I hope is an indicator of another album. They release tracks spasmodically, so it’s hard to tell, but with any luck….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

Site still long overdue a full makeover, but also have this damn spam thing to manage. 

Are Creative Arts Supporting Oppression?


 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam CO2You’d think that the arts were purely humanistic, purely idealistic, or purely devoted to human wellbeing. Not necessarily so, in practice. Unintentionally or otherwise, the arts may provide the breeding grounds for oppression.

I’ve spent a lot of time criticising the sciences for not seeing the possible risks of new technologies and not creating safeguards for potentially high risk technologies. I think it’s only fair that I should also criticise my own line of work, for exactly the same reason.

Basic premise of creative arts supporting oppression

The problem is that whatever is put into a human mind can become a monster. Creative media of all kinds are fully plugged into human consciousness as never before. I’m not talking about visual propaganda, media propaganda, or other banal, mediocre forms of the arts. I’m talking about ideas. Creative arts, by nature, are based on a range of ideas, half arse or otherwise. Some of these ideas include direct depictions of ideologies, mentalities, insanities, and other human hobbies.

There is a long-standing theory in media psychology which is basically “monkey see, monkey do”. This means essentially that people will imitate anything and everything. Unfortunately, that also includes oppression.

If you take a look at the oppressive regimes in history, you will see that they all have direct antecedent dating back thousands of years. Even the Inquisition wasn’t a particularly original idea, it was based on ancient forms of oppression. The Holocaust, in turn, was based on ideas of racism, systematic oppression, and above all, a highly efficient, murderous method of controlling the public. Media was used as a primary form of control, involving all the arts in some form, from Wagner to posters and slogans.

Where do these ideas come from? Some of them come from history, but a lot of creative art is actually based on history and historical themes. George Orwell’s Animal Farm was based on actual history at the time, incorporating the rise of oligarchies and other obscenities in supposedly socialist states.

Orwell can be accused of nothing more than factual reporting, but Animal Farm is a particularly good example of mentalities. If you have also read The Gulag Archipelago, you may see some unsettling parallels between the two books. The problem is that one book was fiction, and the other was facts, and they have so much in common.

The psychological effects of creative media can be extremely powerful. They are even more powerful when aimed at semiliterate or illiterate people. For example, the whole idea of Western society as it is now is based largely on historical clichés. The society which produced those clichés no longer exists, but the stench lingers. Humanity is now habituated to what was really a series of depictions of daily life, originally intended to be fiction, but now turned into hideous fact.

The immortal Celts in EnglandOkay, so much for the basics. The question is whether or not a dramatic depiction of something or someone actively encourages oppression. On the same basis as “monkey see monkey do”, how many people have been inspired to become history’s leading bastards by creative media? How many people have wittingly or unwittingly written books which have become how-to manuals for oppression? How many musicians have created theme songs for tyrants?

Visual arts, in particular, are front and centre at the moment in terms of propaganda value. Whether it’s memes, photo shopped images, or “fake news” imagery, the visual arts are currently the heavy lifters for propaganda of all kinds. Some of it is intentional, some of it is unintentional, but the likely ramifications could be anything.

The problem is that they created that are now essentially carrying and supporting various types of oppression. This cannot be considered to be a harmless process. Actively supporting prejudice, injustice, and in some cases downright insanity doesn’t help anybody.

When criticising the sciences, I simply said that providing proven nut cases with advanced technologies isn’t and couldn’t be a good idea. The theory is that you can simply not provide the science to these raving lunatics. That may be more than a bit optimistic, but you can also see why that would be a good working solution.

In the case of the arts, the situation is a bit more complex. You can’t tell artists to stop producing art, any more than you can tell scientists to stop producing science. Unlike science, however, the arts are very portable, very easy to produce in any quantity in any form, and easily adapted to just about any situation. Arguably, the creative arts can potentially do much more damage to humanity than science.

Consider some of the all-too-familiar stereotypes of media:

  • The criminal genius
  • The mad scientist
  • The archetypal tyrant, real or imaginary
  • The criminal businessman
  • The fanatic(s) of all kinds
  • The psychotic manager
  • The basic sleazebag
  • The serial killer

It’s quite a list, but you can see how familiar all these characters are in real life. The question is, how many of these morons would have considered becoming these people without a bit of encouragement from creative media? Will they have had the slightest idea how to become what they became?

Answer those questions, and you will solve the problem of creative arts supporting oppression. Until then, be careful what you create, because it may come walking through the door one day.

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

When insanity was interesting and useful


 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam CO2Readers please note: This is a long one. Haul up a few psychoses and something else nice to eat or drink, and settle in. Anyone living today could be forgiven for thinking insanity is just boring. In its modern form, it is. It’s usually a tangle of human issues, packaged by the psych sector in to various sorts of smug categorization, medicated, and otherwise largely ignored.

Modern insanity, in fact, leaves a lot to be desired. It’s not as interesting as it was, and it’s almost invariably related to the most banal, easily classified, types. It’s the modern equivalent of a cold, just longer lasting and occasionally fatal.

Insanity itself can equally easily be categorized in to anything which doesn’t have a rationale acceptable to others. All human thought has some sort of rationale, however unlikely, but in the case of insanity, you have to convince someone else that your rationale is acceptable, not to you, but to them.

3D flooring, picture of bed above blue sky and clouds

Source: Beddinginn.com In the past, this perspective would have been considered insane. Now it’s decor. interesting how sanity becomes dated, but insanity doesn’t, isn’t it?

In fact, insanity is having a hard time even being noticed in this society. Having forced itself in to the current repulsive environment it now inhabits, humanity is too “busy” to notice, or care, that it’s insane.  All this activity, being busy to the point of being clearly futile on any objective or personal basis, is how it happened.

Instead of dreaming of a better world, humans now visualize whole classes of mediocrities and clichés to which they aspire. Instead of being a genius, a leader in great things, or even a contributor to something worthwhile, you can now aspire to pay your phone bill, or something equally majestic. Instead of inventing a cure for anything, including yourself, you can hope one day to buy a new phone.

If you go insane, part of the problem will be that you’re not obsessed with these rationales. Why don’t you want to be some anonymous moron in a series of interminable Instagram photos?

You pervert, you.

Why aren’t you fixated on:

  • Cars and other things you can kill yourself with
  • Expensive things, however hideous and utterly pointless
  • Sex, however fictional
  • Appliances, however lethal
  • Fake financial schemes to support a delusion of wealth
  • Admiring criminals and other parasites
  • Wishing you were a serial killer being interviewed by a vegetable
  • Identifying with a high fructose street culture you know nothing about
  • Power over others, however uninteresting those others may be

If you’re not 2000% committed to aspiring to these things, you’re insane, in this society. Every single useless, anti-human idiocy is now compulsory as part of a rationale.

For example:

I bought an expensive car to improve my sex life and have a place to plug in my appliances. I then started a fake securities scam to help me meet criminals and become a serial killer who identifies with two dimensional media-created street thugs and has power over bores.

Inspiring, isn’t it? Those two sentences would have you classified as being far too sane to be worth talking to, ever again. You lucky sod.

That said – What happens when you suddenly find yourself mentally more than four years old, and need to have a life, or something? Modern insanity, alas, has no answers. It’s too shallow.

It may be able to turn you in to a gibbering lunatic, but it’s not too helpful otherwise. It may be able to deliver a sort of intellectual squalor that even a modern politician would envy, but it can’t be interesting on any level. It’s simply too samey.

To clarify:

What’s the point of being a homicidal maniac, if it’s just another day at the office, wading around with the chainsaw, as usual? Even being a pathological liar, profitable as it is, can get dull, and very unchallenging.

Worse, you can’t even generate much self-respect from all this internal psycho-laundering of your emotions and thoughts. This type of insanity goes nowhere but from A-B. C is unlikely, and the rest of the alphabet is quite out of the question because the modern form of insanity is so limiting. You need a better type of insanity, preferably the traditional type.

Please be aware: You may be forced in to hypocrisy, that lowest of pseudo-life modes, simply to convince yourself that your insanity is worth having. At this point, you’re doing all the work, and the insanity is just being lazy. That’s not where you want to be, is it?

Traditional insanity

Insanity, you say? Here’s a pretty good analysis.

First, a bit of background – Traditional insanity, unlike the modern form, wasn’t restricted to standardized formats. You could be considered, and actually be, insane, on any subject. Actual raving madness wasn’t too popular, but you could be pleasantly mad and tolerated simply because you talked about something other than sex, money, and other people.

This kept people’s vocabularies nice and moist, and allowed them to pretend they understood things. Then they could go back to their caves and laugh about those stupid wheel things and why making fire shouldn’t be invented.

In the 20th century, talking about other subjects was also qualified and supported by the fact that nobody had a clue what you were talking about, or why you were talking about it. It was a matter of personal pride to be as pig-ignorant as possible, while continuing to be classified as a vertebrate.

Suburban Instant Senility allowed people to admit they knew nothing about anything, too, which made life so much easier for everyone. Feeling secure in your ignorance, and being able to prove it so easily, enabled much of the 20th century’s most endearing atrocities.

Hence World War 1, World War 2, Vietnam, Korea, The Cultural Revolution, and a virtual horde of utterly futile world leaders who by rights should have been fed to the ants. This wasn’t insanity, in its pure form. It was stupidity, insanity’s most famous hanger-on, at work behind the scenes.

Stupidity, however, is also insanity’s most prolific hanger-on. Stupidity breeds stupidity. For instance, it’s only relatively recently that total ignoramuses have actually been able to accuse everyone else of being insane. Understanding of anything is now considered a crime, and proven idiots are permitted to talk about things they know nothing about.

OK, enough background. Assuming you’ve lived through the narrative to this point, you can now finally be put to rest and told the truth about old-style traditional insanity. Isn’t that nice?

Traditional insanity involved:

Actual intelligence: One of the most tedious hacks said about genius is that people were “either brilliant or mad”. Why not be both? In fact, how could you avoid it? Why in the name of freshly incinerated pedants would you want to be brilliant and dull as modern media or some other cultural handicap? Traditional insanity was rarely conducted to the extent of any degree of inconvenience to oneself.

Reassuringly vague: Unlike the drab, murderously verbose thesauri of modern nutters, traditionally insane people didn’t have fixed issues. They would ponder about places in the garden, for example, which they assigned totally different spectra of meaning and relevance. Their “spirit world” didn’t come with a lot of expensive merchandise, either.

Insightful: Traditional madness, oddly enough given the people who recorded it, would have flashes of real, accurate insight. These insights were often respected as actual intellectual achievements, like Archimedes, etc. Seems the ancients weren’t all that fussed about insanity, if whatever it discovered worked. Yes, that does mean that it was also interesting, in severe contrast to the trundling logic of modern “insanity”.

Beautiful: You can call modern insanity anything, but you certainly can’t call it beautiful. It’s typically trite, very narrow focused, and usually pretty forgettable. In the past, visionaries may have been insane, but had far superior aesthetics. (Actually, you have to question whether the word “beautiful” has any possible relationship at all with insanity.)

Quick: One of the most unforgivable issues with calling anyone insane is the failure to note how fast and how complex some “insane” thinking can be. It’s a matter of opinion whether you can be insane and so mentally thorough at the same time. Theoretically, and only according to his contemporary underachieving plodders in his discipline, Tesla was insane, but look how well his brief life anticipated so much future technology. (In fact, the Tesla mythos is a good indicator of the start of the practice of calling anyone who contests current norms as insane, and precious little good that thinking has ever done anyone.)

Out of the frames of reference: Traditional madness routinely goes outside all the boxes. It may refer to things nobody has ever even considered, or tried to define before. This is far too big a subject to address in adequate depth here, but just read a few bios, and watch the “insane” at work on ideas. They never put limits on themselves, and chased their ideas as far as they could go. Some might call it courage, others might call it honest intelligence.

One of the reasons for this article is that over the years I’ve done a lot of advisory work. My routine advice now is “Go mad. It saves time.”

How and why do I give this advice, you ask, perched on your throne of dazzling gems and innuendo?

Easy.

Going visibly insane gives you an excuse to do whatever you want to do without much interference from others. They’ll leave you in peace when they realise they’re hopelessly out of their depth anyway, and your insanity will be their built-in excuse.

  1. Going insane according to others drastically improves your ability to communicate with those who have also decided they no longer want to communicate with this “world”, i.e., real thinkers.
  2. People don’t argue with the insane. You’ll be spared any amount of thunderous ignorance and slow thinking.
  3. The lingering, respected image of traditional insanity means that you’ll always have that threat of possibly being right to throw at people.
  4. It’s so much more fun than waiting to go happily insane and missing out on all your options.

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

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Joys of a sociopathic society


 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam CO2“Sociopathic” basically means antisocial. What price, then, a society which is antisocial? There must have been societies in the past which turned against themselves, but it’s a matter of opinion whether any society has ever been as totally opposed to itself, and its own best interests, as this.

Comparing this society to the postwar society of the past, which if nothing else was glad the war was over, and looking forward to some peace, is a truly bizarre experience. The comparison is grotesque:

  1. Belief in a good future: In the 50s and 60s, everything was going to be wonderful by the year 2000.
  2. A firm belief in the rights of everybody, which sparked the basic tenets of civil rights, feminism, environmentalism and a much more inclusive society.
  3. Much stronger criticism and social inputs of the general public, largely through drastically improved education. These inputs acted as a further reinforcement, if somewhat patchy, to basic democracy.
  4. Excellent general health, brought about by science, research, and a properly equipped health sector with sane cost structures for treatments and medical management.
  5. Genuine prosperity, economic growth, and continuously improving standards of living.
  6. Improved opportunities for everybody, simply because the society was functioning well, despite the distractions.
  7. A relatively harmless crime environment, perhaps nasty, but not prevalent.
  8. Lower levels of corruption, caused by better management and proper oversight.

You’ll notice that this view of the society doesn’t include events and factors like the Cold War, political assassinations, etc. Those issues were very important, but the society as a whole was healthy enough to fight them and deal with them to the point they didn’t impede social wellbeing.

OK, so how did society become sociopathic?

Brave New World is about a stagnant,, class-based society which does nothing and goes nowhere. You may be an Alpha, but that’s compared to idiots. This is about as sociopathic as any society needs to be.

As far as I can tell, from extensive reading of history from Ssuma Chien and Herodotus to contemporary history, the sociopathic element is always present in all societies. Its influence comes and goes, according to historical events, social groupings, and in many cases economic factors.

Sociopathic elements are generally not very influential in healthy societies, which can resist and even negate their influences effectively. The sociopaths are sidelined by crises, major forms of social and technological progress, and new ideas of all kinds. In crises, the competent take over, so the sociopaths and their irrational behaviours are irrelevant to managing these issues. Social progress simply bulldozes the sociopaths, who usually don’t know how to interpret, let alone manage, that progress. Technological progress, particularly fast progress, requires learning, and the sociopaths can’t interfere until they’ve learned how.

Economically, however, the story is a bit different. The sociopaths, like everyone else in the society, benefit from prosperity. The problem is that as they accumulate wealth, they also accumulate economic power. In what can only be called an unkind habit of history, this is when the sociopaths arise as a factor in derailing societies.

The sociopathic idiom

Sociopaths are unusual in a way which also tends to bring them together. Unlike normal people, they effectively build sociopathic social structures, like societies for the dismantling of societies, as political parties. If this seems a bit unimaginative, not to say misanthropic, that’s what sociopathy is all about.

The logic is strange enough:

  • There’s a “we” who are superior to everyone else. This is what might be called bogus child psychology, rewarding oneself with a fake, promotional image. Most liars, con men, and politicians are very good at it.
  • Devaluing everyone else adds status to the sociopaths, who tend to be underachievers on just about every personal and professional level, and need to compensate.
  • Doing actual injury to others in any range of forms proves power and status, reinforcing the “we are superior” motif and adding more compensation.
  • Because politics is largely fictional in terms of everything including its own ideologies, fiction becomes a tool for advancement. Enemies are fabricated, for example, to create threats which the sociopaths then “cure” by more extreme forms of political position.
  • Other rewards, notably money, and lots of it, also follow, proving the rightness and moral virtues of being sociopathic.

These are the basics. The problem with sociopathic behaviour is that it never seems to reduce in scale. The next move must be more dramatic, more rewarding to the ego, and of course profitable. New enemies are fabricated, new issues become proof of the sociopaths’ infallibility, etc.

You may well ask:

  • Don’t they see the mistakes? Even the word “mistake” undermines the theory of superiority, which is out of the question.
  • Don’t they see the damage? It wouldn’t matter if they did. The sociopaths exist in a thematic bubble, in which damage is their weapon against their enemies.
  • Why are sociopathic societies always authoritarian? Because the authoritarian structure gives the sociopaths added status. You can be Grand Marshal of the Sewers, for example. The fact that authoritarian societies are invariably sociopathic and invariably fail, usually miserably and at horrendous human cost, isn’t an issue, either.
  • What’s the prognosis for a sociopathic society? Failure, caused by total incompetence. Failing to understand real issues, and lacking even the basic skills to deal with issues, the sociopathic society cannot manage the issues at all. Every move, without exception, will be the wrong move, until collapse.
  • What happens to people in a sociopathic society? Nothing good, for sure. A range of negatives, from difficulties simply living to a virtual horror story of oppression, neglect, and in many cases, drastically increased risks through various mechanisms of sociopathic societies, from fight clubs to stormtroopers, death squads, etc.

From my days working in the employment sector, as sociopathic an environment as you could ever wish to see

All these patterns are pretty well known, but not usually considered as being what they are, sociopathic. History and contemporary thinking often make the basic mistake of believing sociopaths to be rational, or assessing them on a rational basis. They aren’t, and can’t be rational, on any level, because the personal and group psychoses simply can’t permit rational thinking.

Rational thought, in fact, is the antithesis, of sociopathic logic. Where you may see a future, the sociopaths see an enemy, quite literally a gun pointed at them, and firing. Where you find something interesting, they find it a threat. Even logic, a skill sociopaths invariably lack, particularly multi-step logic, is a danger to them. Other people are enemies by definition. The logic of the sociopath is to fight these other people, and do as much damage as possible.

So – Are sociopathic societies insane?

 

Only to the extent that the sociopaths can penetrate it, and there is a limit. A huge irony of sociopathic societies is that the sociopaths exclude themselves from the real society. They need nominal enemies and fictional foes to vanquish. The reward system is so primitive it can’t function otherwise.

Paul Wallis books, sydney media jam

The 21st century Stone Age can be creatively counteracted. Creating solutions, creating better options, you name it; this is the way out of the sewer. Interestingly most sociopaths fear creativity, because it adds unknown elements to their environment.

Remember that sanity is a very convenient, easily misused and abused, term. It’s nothing if not untrustworthy, in many cases. One of the less well defined expressions of a human state of mind, it presumes a rationale. Sociopaths do have a rationale, irrational as it may be to others. Their logic, based on their mindset and perceptions as sane logic is supposed to be, is sane, according to their values. You see why sanity is such a mixed blessing as a description of any human behaviour.

The fact that their sanity rarely if ever has anything at all to do with objective reality, of course, isn’t an issue for them. Like Humpty Dumpty, everything means what they say it means, and if an omelette is the result, it proves them right. Everything, in fact, proves them right. Call that sanity?

Sociopathic societies destroy themselves, usually completely. The good news is that sociopathic societies are inevitably replaced by a non-sociopathic cleanup crew. The behaviours which caused the problems can’t be used to clean them up. The problem is that the totally unnecessary digressions from social advancement which sociopaths cause can go on for decades. It’s an expensive hobby humanity should learn to avoid.

 

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