Tag Archives: Don Draper

How Betty Got Her Groove Back and other Mad Men Musings

2 Jun

A few week’s ago I was joined by Kerensa Cadenas to talk about season 6 of Mad Men and specifically Don Draper losing his charismatic sheen. I thought it was time to catch up with Kerensa and see if these feelings towards Don have changed. So come join us to find out what we think of Don, those Megan/Bob Benson conspiracy theories and how Betty became the smartest person on the show.

MM_609_MY_0221_0189Emma: We have so much to talk about from the most recent episode (which was terrific) including; the state of Don, Peggy’s love/work life, all things Bob Benson (are his intentions honourable? Plus those short shorts), how Betty got her groove back and what the merger has added to this season.

First I want to mention the last discussion we had which came after episode 4 (“To Have and to Hold“) and this is when both of us were having some very strong, negative Don feelings and I was wondering how you feel about Don now that we are episode 9? It was funny that after we raged about Don so much after the start of the season, episode 5 showed Don in a pretty good light; he got to have a good father/son moment with Bobby (this Bobby is a lot of fun) and the lack of Sylvia made him seem less reprehensible. They also showed a great Don pitch moment, not to a client but Ted as he proposed the merger.

So Don’s great again, right? Not so much as he tried to assert his dominance with Sylvia in the bedroom and then thanks to her rejection he was reduced to a creepy hallway lurker. He’s probably never looked as pathetic as he did in his drugged up state desperately reaching for the woman he can’t have. This was coupled with some rather on the nose flashbacks (the prostitute who nursed him back to health was also the first woman he slept with – yep possibly the most overt Madonna/whore complex on TV in flashback form) and my sympathy with Don is pretty low all over again.

The merger has led to some interesting conflicts and comparisons as Ted and Don have been dick swinging with each other and it looks like Peggy is caught between the two men. In the last episode Peggy told Don that Ted “never makes me feel this way” as Don has a tendency to unload on Peggy and take all of his frustration out on her. Don’s response is that Ted “doesn’t know you” and it feels like he is using his knowledge of her past over her. In a way Ted doesn’t know her and this is clear when he rejects Peggy at the end of the episode when she tells him what happened with Abe (leaving out the part where she was the one who stabbed him). Ted is all fake smiles and doesn’t act like he knows her at all so maybe Don had a point. Peggy is caught between two bosses; one that she has romantic feelings for and one that treats her like shit. In a moment like this I want her to head to one of three places; for a cigarette with Joan, for a joint with Stan (so we can get another moment like this) or for cocktails with Megan.

MM_609_MY_0225_0800Speaking of the latter, I just really want something good to happen with Megan; we both spoke before about how much we like this character and it sucks that she is caught up in this Don Draper cycle. The marriage has felt doomed since the premiere (or really from the S5 finale) when they showed that Don isn’t listening to what she is saying. This has been repeated throughout the season and Megan has confessed these feelings of loneliness to her mother (who told her to make Don think of sex) and her co-star Arlene, who tried to kiss her. As you mentioned in an earlier email THAT Betty line summed up Don amazingly well:

“That poor girl. She doesn’t know that loving you is the worst way to get to you.”

I want to talk Betty, because somehow they have made this character likeable again (and she was definitely this episode’s MVP) but first I would like to hear your Don thoughts.

Kerensa: Since the last time we discussed Mad Men, my feelings for Don haven’t really changed. I’m continually frustrated by his actions, his lack of respect for basically everyone, all the “dick swinging” as you said and those flashbacks so over the top. Basically, every time Don’t onscreen, I’m doing this. And like we’ve talked about I like having irredeemable characters but for whatever reason as of late, I just don’t enjoy Don.

And that hall scene with Sylvia was one of the lowest, I think that we’ve seen Don, but that SONG. I feel like at the end of this week’s episode, we are yet again led to believe that maybe Don will try to commit to Megan again. But I doubt it.

And we must talk Betty because that line about Don–maybe was the most accurate description of him in the whole series.

MM_609_MY_0221_0540Emma: Yeah Betty got her groove back and she totally owned every scene with Don (and every scene she was in really). When we last talked about Betty I mentioned that this season was the first time in a long time that I liked this character and she’s continued to be this way this season. I find it interesting that we haven’t seen how Betty lost the weight (and I’m sure it isn’t through the Weight Watchers group she was attending) but I’m glad she’s not the punching bag that she’s been reduced to in past seasons. She was the one who seduced Don, she was the one who held all the power during their post-coital chat (Don likes to hug apparently and sex isn’t intimate, hmm). She delivered THE line that perfectly sums him up and the next day she’s gone, back to the life she loves while Don watches on alone.

I’m also glad that we got to see Betty being a good mother as this is another area where she’s been cold in the past. Though she does neglect to mention Gene (and like Don even considers Gene if what he said to Megan about Bobby is any indication), poor Gene. One day you will mean something. And thankfully they’ve given Bobby a personality this year.

What are your Betty thoughts?

Also the Mad Men conspiracy theories are going through the roof this week – first Bob continues to throw up major question marks (while looking totally cute in his short shorts) and now the links between Megan and Sharon Tate are in the mix after Megan wore this T-shirt. Is Megan doomed?

MM_609_MY_0221_1015Kerensa: It was really great to see Betty in that power position with Don because I feel like he made her feel less than that all the time while they were married.  And it does seem that she is happy with Henry because I feel like Henry treats her with respect that Don never did. And also, Betty will be an AMAZING politicians wife, like she’s gonna be running the show. Guaranteed.

That line is the most perfect thing this show has ever done. And I think was probably so telling to Don–who likes to think he’s this enigma–that there are people there who DO see through all his shit. I also wonder if hearing all that #realtalk from Betty will change things for him? I’m guessing not, but we can hope I guess.

Also, Don Draper likes spooning? Really? Like that’s a scenario I can’t imagine. I feel like he’d be one of those guys that you’d assume would just leave right after sex and then there he is being big spoon and you’d be supremely confused. And you KNOW he always has to be big spoon.

On to the conspiracies!

Yeah, what is going on with Bob? I’ve heard so many weird things–he’s Don’s son, the smoke monster (jk) or my favorite was that he’s actually Joan’s new gay BFF. Whatever is going on with Bob, as long as they keep putting James Wolk in short shorts, I won’t complain about Don. I swear.

Now, the Megan/Sharon Tate theory was super compelling to me. I just watched Robert Hendrickson’s documentary Manson (1973) at a local theater, so Sharon Tate and the Manson killings have been at the forefront of my mind. I feel like everything that’s been going on with Megan this season, despite her acting success, has at least for me been accompanied by this sense of dread and doom. I can’t pinpoint it, but every time I see her onscreen I just have this terrible feeling. And I really like Megan–as I know you do–so I really, really don’t want that to be the case.

What do you think about all the conspiracies?

MM_609_MY_0225_0493Emma: I just did a spit take at the image of Don wanting to be the big spoon. He really doesn’t seem to be the snuggling type.

The thing about Don is that he says he wants to change but I don’t know if he really does and it’s something they’ve repeated throughout. I think he likes the idea of being saved, but not the results. What happens if he can’t save the one he is with? And this brings me to the recent Mad Men conspiracy theories and I love all of this chatter, even if they are somewhat outlandish. Like you there’s something about Megan’s scenes this year that have this doom and gloom feeling. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s so alone and we know that Don will never love her the way he did before the orange sherbet incident and when she was still at SCDP or perhaps it’s something more sinister.

I was going to ask you about that documentary as the Manson Family murders are often mentioned when people discuss the end of the 60s and how this was the really dark side of the flower power era. Is this something that was discussed in this documentary?

On one hand I really don’t want Megan to die (because I like her) but in terms of the story I think a loss like this would have a huge impact on Don and how he behaves. Or it could send him into a destruction spiral. My other thought was with last year’s suicide clues everyone figured it might be Pete, but instead it was Lane – could the same happen this year? Instead of Megan it could be her co-star Arlene who is pretty relaxed about how safe it is to walk through Central Park at night? The impact from Arlene’s death would be small so it’s unlikely to be her. Other potentials could be Betty, who we’ve also seen head into the city without thinking of her surroundings and they’ve also done the classic trick of making the audience like her again. I know Matt Weiner loves Betty and so I also think this won’t happen as the political storyline is too juicy. So we swing back to Megan. I love most of these theories come from a t-shirt and sirens.

Now to our favourite short shorts wearing enigma and Bob Benson. The brilliance of this character is how much my opinion changes as to whether he is doing these things for good or bad (to put it simply) throughout an episode. I was so happy to see that he was with Joan (though things didn’t seem romantic adding credence to the gay theory) but then I was sure he was going to tell Pete about Roger’s stop. Instead he told a story about his father (he told Ken his father is dead, Ken is crazy suspicious of Bob) and showed concern for Pete’s predicament. He’s been hitching his wagon to Pete all season and his concern seems genuine but why? Pete’s mother mentioned that Pete’s father had affairs so maybe he’s Pete’s illegitimate half brother?!?! And it’s not as crazy as the Don relation and this show does love illegitimate children.

One non conspiracy relating question – what do you think of Pete and Joan’s conversations of late? Is he trying to hit on her? It’s also interesting that Joan holds Pete in such high regard (she claims that he’s the only one who hasn’t broken a promise to her) even though he set up the Jaguar business.

MM_609_MY_0225_1137Kerensa: Yeah, that was something that was mentioned in the Manson documentary. I also recently saw The Source Family–about another cult but one on the more “happy” end of the spectrum if you will. And both discussed the ways in which that time era–with all its upheaval–was a time that these things could be formed.

I agree with that. Megan could totally be a red herring. And I don’t think it’s Arlene because like you said there would be little to no impact on the world of our characters. I don’t want it to be Betty either, but could you imagine the fallout from that? I mean I think that would destroy Don.

I really don’t want Bob to be a bad guy. I think basically everyone on this show is a bad person–so it would be refreshing to have a character that doesn’t have any sort of agenda. And I really hope him and Joan are together together! I dunno about this theory of him as Pete’s half brother. I see where you are coming from with it, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen. And if it does (or Bob as Don’s son) that’s really pushing Mad Men into major soap opera territory.

With Pete and Joan, I feel like he’s just lonely. His life’s a mess and he doesn’t have anyone to talk to. He really has no one he can confide in at the office and Joan, if I was Pete, would be the person I would go to because she’s the most levelheaded one there.

Emma: Yes the brother theory is totally soapy and so I expect they won’t go this far. I hope you’re right about Bob being a good person, this show sure needs one of those.

Will we find out more about Bob tonight?

Kerensa Cadenas is a writer living in Los Angeles. She is a staff writer for Women and Hollywood. She also writes for This Was TelevisionForever Young Adult, and Bitch magazine. She was the Research Editor for Tomorrow magazine. You can follow her on Twitter and read her ridiculous thoughts about teen television at her website.

Mad Men Music Monday

20 May

The Crash” is a surreal episode of Mad Men and this song choice further emphasizes Don’s mental state as he becomes a creepy hallway stalker. Don makes several attempts to get Sylvia’s attention this week after she broke off their affair in the previous episode, by attempts I mean he stood in her hallway smoking while listening to her conversations with Arnold. In a scene that could have been part of his drug taking hallucination (it seemed more real than not), Don presses his face against their service entrance door and listens to the song that plays on the radio. The song is “Going Out of my Head” by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 and the lyrics fit Don’s Sylvia obsession. The way the camera stays on Don as he listens in is unnerving, as is much of the episode that has an underlying menacing tone throughout.

Falling Out of Love with Don Draper

28 Apr

Today I am joined by Kerensa Cadenas to discuss what has been happening so far on season 6 of Mad Men and specifically with Don Draper. Don has become problematic this season, even though his actions are pretty much in tune with everything we have seen before and so we wanted to talk about why our reactions and sympathy for this character has changed. Other factors that we consider include what makes unlikeable characters appealing and I explain why I used to be a Pete Campbell defender. We also discuss what aspects of the show we have been enjoying and who we want to see of more this year. And yes Matthew Weiner probably doesn’t care that we don’t like Don so far this year.

MM_603_MY_1128_0111a

Emma: There have been various comments on both Twitter and in longer articles that I have seen that discuss whether Don Draper has become increasingly dislikeable and I wanted to expand upon this further as I have definitely been feeling this way. We’re only four episodes into season 6 and while I still think the show is one of the best on TV, it’s becoming increasingly hard to sympathize with Mr Draper. Previously this hasn’t been the case and while his pattern of lying and cheating is nothing new, it also feels very different this year. Season 5 showed that Don could remain faithful, until the final scene when he is asked “Are you alone?” and it is apparent that the Don we have previously watched for five years is back.

It always seemed unlikely that Don and Megan’s relationship would go the distance; they started sleeping together when he was seeing someone else and the engagement and subsequent marriage was rushed. There is the age/generational difference and Don clearly likes the idea of Megan more than the reality of Megan. When Megan goes against this ideal to pursue her acting career, this is when their relationship really started to falter. With Betty, she quit her job when they got married and became the dutiful housewife and mother; this was never going to happen with Megan. I know other viewers have their issues with Megan and while she’s definitely naive, I also find her really compelling to watch (also from a style point of view she’s also the best dressed cast member and I love seeing what Janie Bryant conjures up for her).

The other point is that a lead character doesn’t have to be likeable (see Walter White) but there also has to be some kind of character progression and the affair storyline with Don just feels like regression. It’s different in one respect because this time it’s with a woman who lives in the same building, but is also bears all the hallmarks of his previous affairs with women like Midge, Rachel Menken, and Suzanne Farrell; dark haired beauties, who are smart, challenging and who give him something that his current wife can’t. It’s a lot more fun watching Don get stoned in a windowless room with Stan (and his magnificent beard) and debating ketchup vs. mustard as a hot dog condiment than see him admonish his wife and go straight to his mistress.

Perhaps this is what has led me to loathing Don Draper this season; his moral superiority (which is also not a new trait) has become tiresome and all the aspects that previously made him sympathetic just feel like hollow excuses (see childhood brothel flashbacks).

What are you thinking of this season? What about Don has made you adjust your feelings towards this character?

MM_604_JA_1210_0476Kerensa: I really liked the last episode. But I feel like everything other than Don is more compelling to me because he’s just in this constant state of progressing and then regressing. As of late it’s clearly the latter, but I think the thing that’s frustrating and while it’s much more subtext than text is that it seems that Don believes there’s nothing he can do to change. But it feels like he doesn’t ever ACTUALLY try to change.

I agree with you completely that it never seemed like Don and Megan would make it without Don going back into his old patterns. But a part of me last season remained optimistic about it. While I was sad that Don just completely screwed over the wonderful Dr. Faye, Megan to me still seemed like the interesting, complex, intelligent women Don favors to have his affairs with. She’s independent, challenges Don and apparently (well used to be) a very compatible sexual partner in the Don Draper kink department. Don’s needs, frankly, are completely annoying, unrealistic and completely contradictory.  He appears to want a challenging, interesting woman but then when she’s unwilling to compromise what she wants for him, he wants to go back to, I think the model of the dutiful housewife, mostly because it’s someone who is dependent on him. But then he’ll eventually resent that too.

Basically, I don’t think Don Draper wants a woman. He wants the idea of a woman–a vessel that he can project his latest desires upon and discard when he’s done with. I mean this is clearly how I think he operates romantically–his relationships with Peggy and Anna are much different.

I appreciate an unlikeable character, but just Don’s complete inability to even try to look at himself critically–even though I believe we are meant to think he is through his philosophical readings and one-liner emotional thoughts. In the last episode when Sylvia tells Don she prays he finds peace, I felt pretty done. Don has no interest in finding peace and I’ve discovered I don’t really care if he does either.

MM_RJ_603_1129_0088Emma: I agree with what you say about Don wanting the idea of woman, as opposed to an actual romantic relationship is right and I think that the purpose of the flashbacks are meant to show that the kind of women he grew up with might have given him a very skewed opinion of women. What I think would be an interesting idea for a flashback would be to see the kind of women Dick dated before he went to war and came home as Don. We’ve seen what he was like when he started dating Betty, but he was already Don at this point. Also as you mention his relationships with Anna and Peggy are very different, I might even include Joan in this category as despite flirtation this has never developed into anything more. This could be why he was so protective over Joan and the Jaguar seediness that went on at the end of last season. Has Don got the ultimate Madonna/Whore complex?

I’m going to move on to the point that I teased yesterday with the admission that I used to be big Pete Campbell defender and my feelings about Don this season kind of match how I feel about Pete now. Pete has always wanted to be Don and so I think that there is a comparison to be made, especially when Pete got everything that Don had (the fancy office, the beautiful wife, child and house in the suburbs) and it ended up making Pete more miserable.

Now my sympathy for Pete and subsequent defending started at the start of season 2 when his father died and he didn’t know how to respond. Pete’s parents are also awful in that lack of emotion way and so it became easier to understand some of Pete’s less desirable character traits. The scene at the end of this season when Peggy reveals that she had his baby is also heartbreaking and added further fuel to this sympathy. Moments of whining like “Why can’t I have everything that I want all at once?” are incredibly bratty and might be a sign of how awful Pete is (and why people like to punch him) but I still persevered. Then there’s Trudy and the marvellous Alison Brie and yes it was awful when he threw the roast out of the window that she had prepared (“Hell’s bells Trudy!” is still one of my favorite lines from Mad Men), but then they danced the Charleston and all seemed well. The moment with the German au pair was a low, low point and it was at this point that I started to reconsider my Pete Campbell feelings. After this Trudy and Pete’s relationship improved and so once again I started to like him and his involvement in the whole SCDP caper only made me like him more.

Bit by bit Pete has returned to his slimy, weasel like ways and now that he lives life like Don Draper, he also doesn’t respect Don all that much anymore. The affair last season, his involvement with Joan and his punch up with Lane all made me see why people loathe this character, with the final straw coming a couple of weeks ago. In this moment I was cheering on Trudy Campbell as she yelled at her awful husband along with every other viewer and the spell has been well and truly broken.

So what’s the point of this long Pete Campbell diversion? It’s as you say we can like an unlikeable character but there has to be something compelling in their flaws. Don is still charming and Pete is a weasel, but at this point I’m probably more interested in Pete’s story. I think one aspect in this comparison that I’ve used is that Don is the lead character, whereas Pete is part of a large ensemble but the lead needs to remain the one we want to see. At this point it’s every other story that I want to watch and I’m pretty sure that’s not how it should be. Obviously we’re only a handful of episodes in and I can never predict what direction Mad Men will go in (which is half the fun), I just hope it isn’t a season of seeing Don back in this old routine.

I feel like I went off on a bit of a tangent there! So Don is the least compelling part of the season so far, but whose storyline are you enjoying the most/want to see more of?

MM_604_JA_1204_1170Kerensa: I’ve never been a Pete defender, but I totally agree with your point. Although I think Pete is a total weasel, his storyline is more compelling to me than Don’s (also having my girl Alison Brie around always helps). And it’s fine having the your lead unlikeable, I mean there are so many examples of that, but when I’m watching Walter White or Hannah Horvath even if I am currently despising them or can’t stand their choices, I’m still interested in what they are doing. Right now, I don’t have that for Don at all. I completely agree with you that I hope this season isn’t all about Don’s old routine.

I mean my girl, Peggy obviously. I’d be so happy if the show was just about her and Joan. I was really happy to see a storyline developing for Dawn last week and I’m hoping that we get more about her. I’m curious about James Wolk’s character, mostly because he’s my ideal man, but also because we know nothing about his character. TV.com just did a really funny piece about that exact thing.

I also want more angry tween Sally Draper storylines. What about you?

MM_RJ_602_1119_0095.SizedEmma: I’m with you on both Peggy and Joan as even though they’ve both progressed professionally within this world they are both still facing struggles at work; Peggy’s is less to do with her gender but how she can manage the staff below her and well, Joan has Harry to contend with and the feeling that she’s just a better paid secretary with a fancy title. I’m so glad that they’ve expanded Dawn’s role too and her assessment of SCDP being an office full of sad people was spot on. The mysterious Bob Benson and subsequent speculation is also hilarious and I’d definitely like to see him hook-up with Trudy (can you imagine Pete’s reaction?!). More Stan and Ginsberg with their fabulous facial hair would also be appreciated.

I’d also like to spend time in the Betty Francis household and whereas before this would have been purely to see Sally get progressively more snarky with her mother, I’m actually interested in Betty’s storyline too. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Betty’s role in the season 6 premiere and by how much I liked this character (probably the first time since she confronted Don with the knowledge of his Dick Whitman past in season 3). While it’s harder to find room for Betty in an episode, I hope that we get to see her and her new brunette hair soon. Plus I want to see how much screen time both Bobby and Gene get this year.

Also have you seen how Kiernan Shipka has been killing it on the red carpet this week? I’m always impressed that she dresses age appropriate (ok most 13 year old girls don’t get to wear Chanel, but you get my point) and she never comes across as precocious. Yep a 13 year old dresses much better than me.

Kerensa: Kiernan Shipka is probably the most fashionable 13 year old ever.

How are you finding this season of Mad Men? Have you fallen out of love with Don Draper?

Kerensa Cadenas is a writer living in Los Angeles. She is a staff writer for Women and Hollywood. She also writes for This Was TelevisionForever Young Adult, and Bitch magazine. She was the Research Editor for Tomorrow magazine. You can follow her on Twitter and read her ridiculous thoughts about teen television at her website.

The Dress

24 Apr

Here is something I wrote a while back and it was for a writing competition that was called “The ____ That Changed My Life” with the focus on something important in your wardrobe. I didn’t win, but I still like the piece I wrote and it’s got a pop culture theme so here is is:

A photograph from my first trip to New York City perfectly showcases the dress that means the most to me; the item of clothing in question is a simple French Connection floral jersey dress and the photo is a typically touristy one (hey, it was my first time). I’m standing on a shut-down Madison Avenue with the buildings looming above and the dress has a subtle pop of color that separates it from the mostly neutral tones of the people in the background and I somehow standout in this grand city, just for a moment.*

photo

There are dresses for a multitude of big moments in our lives; prom, weddings, a first date, an interview, so why would I pick this one that you wouldn’t necessarily notice amongst all the other ones that hang in my closet? For one thing it holds the power that only a favorite item of clothing can possess; to make you feel confident.

Growing up you would be more likely to find me in jeans, with a dress possibly making an appearance but only as worn over the jeans (it was the late 90s after all). As I got older and high school parties turned into university ones and the odd fancypants soiree was thrown, my collection of formal wear grew, but I still didn’t really have any dresses for everyday affairs. A few were added to my collection after I graduated that could be dressed up or down and my favorite was one I referred to as the Brokeback dress; not because it looked cowboy-esque but as it was a less frumpy version of Michelle Williams’ costuming in this movie . It wasn’t until later when I purchased ‘the dress’ that my collection really began to grow and I finally mastered the non-formal dress.

This is around the time that Mad Men first aired and it soon became apparent that it would influence what we would see on the catwalk and in stores. As someone who writes about TV now, and was in the process of getting a Masters in Film and TV at that time, this show had (and still has) a huge impact on my wardrobe. Prior to Mad Men there was Sex and the City which spawned just as much attention from the fashion world but there is something about the updated 60s style that appealed to my sensibilities. I could never pull off Carrie’s wonderfully daring approach but the influx of dresses taking their cues from Betty Draper was an instant win.

So pop culture is one place where I take my style cues from and New York City is one of the most filmed/sung about/photographed cities, so of course I wanted to look my best when I first visited and this dress makes me feel both super comfortable and stylish. It hugs all the right places and flatters the rest, it allows me to reveal my legs without being too self conscious and it works perfectly in both the summer and winter (just add tights and boots). Clothes can serve a multitude of functions and the most uncomfortable item can look stunning and you just have to hide the pain. I prefer the least amount of discomfort route; which is why at any event that requires me to wear a heel you will find me with my shoes in hand after a few hours (classy I know).

I now have other dresses in the same style from French Connection in an array of patterns and colors and now on days off from being stuck behind my computer you will likely find me in one of my growing collection. Instead of looking to Betty Draper, now it is Don’s new wife Megan that clothing stores seem to be emulating, there will probably be a hint of this evolution with my own dress choices.

Back to the dress in question and another reason why it continues to inspired me. The photo of me on Madison Avenue (home to Don Draper) holds a special place for me. There is something about me standing in that dress on such an iconic road, in such an iconic city that epitomizes how confident this dress makes me. It seems like there are endless possibilities and this dress makes me feel like Superman.

* The quality of the photo isn’t the best as it was taken with a disposable camera (yes I still use disposable cameras, I like the surprise element) and I can’t locate the disc that has these photos on them, so it is a photograph of a photograph. The colors are duller than they are in the original copy and for some reason it makes it look like I’ve used a filter to give a 70s vibe. I still like the picture even if I look a little dorky. 

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