Claims to fame: Title tells all: Hack commercial “artist” & Christian hypocrite, who died April 6, 2012, at the age of 54.
Moral apex: After careful consideration, we have to choose the time he took a leak on a Winnie the Pooh statue. FBI investigations and other charges of fraud aside, you really can’t get much lower than peeing on Christopher Robin’s best friend… unless it’s getting busted on a DUI… or grabbing a woman’s boob… or hawking mass-produced, crassly commercial, perspective-crippled “art,” in which the windows of tightly-sealed gingerbread cottages glow with the hellish intensity of a nuclear bomb at the exact moment of fission, and blaming the result on God.
Of course,there are lots of other reasons Thomas Kinkade has earned a spot in Conservative Babylon, not the least of which are his crimes against art. Since others have documented his most un-Christian shenanigans at far greater length and depth than we could ever hope to, we’ll just point you in their direction…
What Thomas Kinkade wanted you to believe (and his legion of worshippers still do):
Kinkade said he was placing emphasis on the value of simple pleasures and that his intent was to communicate inspirational, life-affirming messages through his work. A self-described “devout Christian” (all of his children have the middle name “Christian”), Kinkade said he gained his inspiration from his religious beliefs and that his work was intended to contain a larger moral dimension. He has also said that his goal as an artist was to touch people of all faiths, to bring peace and joy into their lives through the images he creates. Many pictures contain specific chapter-and-verse allusions to certain Bible passages.
In the 1980′s he had two life-shaping experiences. The first was becoming a born-again Christian. The second involved his direction in the art world. Perturbed by what he saw as the elitism of modern art, which he eventually blamed for everything from “South Park” to gangsta rap, he decided to bypass the gallery system and go retail, publishing cheap prints of his work and, later, opening his own galleries.
Mr. Kinkade, a big man, speaks in big, polished paragraphs. His paintings, he said, while not overtly Christian are intended as ministry. “I view art as an inspirational tool,” he said. “People who put my paintings on their walls are putting their values on their walls: faith, family, home, a simpler way of living, the beauty of nature, quiet, tranquillity, peace, joy, hope. They beckon you into this world that provides an alternative to your nightly news broadcast. It’s compelling to people. People are reminded that it’s not all ugliness in the world.” …
In the 13 minutes he granted for an interview, Mr. Kinkade used the word “family” 17 times.
— John Leland
“Subdivided and Licensed, There’s No Place Like Art”
New York Times, October 4, 2001
A devout Christian who calls himself the “Painter of Light,” Kinkade trades heavily on his beliefs and says God has guided his brush — and his life — for the last 20 years.
“When I got saved, God became my art agent,” he said in a 2004 video biography, genteel in tone and rich in the themes of faith and family values that have helped win him legions of fans, albeit few among art critics. …
Although Kinkade has said he does not market specifically to Christians, his limited-edition canvas prints bear the familiar Christian fish symbol and are inscribed with a biblical reference, “John 3:16.” He also is fond of quoting Matthew 5:16 — “Let your light shine before men” — at times sounding more evangelist than artist.
“I love to talk about my faith,” he said in a deposition. “I try to embrace people with love, unconditional love, like Christ did.”
“My wife and I do pray over these paintings. Thank you,” says Kinkade. “And we do believe that God can speak through beauty.”
— Rebecca Leung
“Thomas Kinkade: A Success”
CBS News/”60 Minutes,” December 5, 2007
NPR informs me that Kinkade says that the light that flows from his paintings is the light of Jesus.
— Trey Givens
“I Hate Thomas Kinkade”
November 30, 2010
“Putting Thomas Kinkade in an art-historical context is like trying to put Jack Chick in the context of the illustrated comic strip,” says Peter Frank, associate editor of The Magazine Los Angeles and senior curator at the Riverside Art Museum. “In the age of Photoshop, anybody can do this kind of crap.”
— Paul Cullum
“Thomas Kinkade’s 16 Guidelines
for Making Stuff Suck”
Vanity Fair, November 14, 2008
What Thomas Kinkade (and his legion of worshippers) wish(ed) you wouldn’t know:
Crimes Against Art
A Kinkade painting was typically rendered in slightly surreal pastels. It typically featured a cottage or a house of such insistent coziness as to seem actually sinister, suggestive of a trap designed to attract Hansel and Gretel. Every window was lit, to lurid effect, as if the interior of the structure might be on fire.
— Joan Didion, Where I Was From (2003)
This is classic Kinkade. Note the typical interior lighting that must be caused by some kind of atom splitting experiment in an open ark of the covenant. The same light is in every single room, putting out so much candlepower that the windows glow brightly in broad daylight. The light reflects in every possible surface, such as the non-reflective dirt pathway and the stream, despite the angle being blocked by the cobblestone bridge. …
— “A Few Words About Thomas Kinkade”
Dan’s Page (undated)
One recent sultry afternoon, inside the Bridgewater Commons mall, in central New Jersey, across from The Limited, down the hall from a Starbucks, next door to the Colorado Pen Company, and just below Everything Yogurt, a woman named Glenda Parker was making a priceless family heirloom for a young couple and their kid. … The young couple were from a moderately priced gated community not far from the mall, and they were bashful and pleased because they had never bought a family heirloom before. Also, they had never bought a painting before. Actually, they still hadn’t bought a painting, since what they were buying was not a painting per se but a fifteen-hundred-dollar lithographic reproduction of a Thomas Kinkade painting, printed on textured-brushstroke canvas with an auto-pen Kinkade signature in the lower right-hand corner. …
What Thomas Kinkade’s fans will tell you about his paintings is that they are much more than just paintings — overlooking, of course, the irony that they are also much less than paintings, since they are really just reproductions. Anyway, they will tell you that Kinkade pictures are an emotional experience. … [When Janice Schafer] talked about Kinkade she was as animated as a jumping bean. “We actually met him!” she exclaimed. “It was such an absolutely amazing thing! He’s even better than the way he is on QVC! …”
— Susan Orlean
“Art for Everybody”
The New Yorker, October 15, 2001
Nearly 500 paintings emerge daily from this immaculate place…
Today, workers squeegee, peel, glue, dry and highlight The Light of Freedom, which depicts the Stars and Stripes fluttering before a World Trade Center-less Manhattan skyline. The sea of prints boasts a dizzying sameness that would make a Xerox machine jealous. …
Kinkade’s divine yet technical inspiration was the perfection of a process by which an original oil painting — he creates a dozen new images a year — is digitally photographed, transferred onto a plastic-like surface and glued onto canvas. Each print visits “highlight artists,” mostly Hispanic and Asian hourly workers. In a paint-by-number style, they add a dot of red to a tree here, a dash of white to an interior light there. …
There are nine versions of each reproduced image, from Standard Numbered editions, for a few hundred dollars, to Studio Proofs that feature a textured canvas, more highlighting and Kinkade’s machine-etched signature — compete with his DNA, courtesy of mixing the ink with the painter’s hair and blood. …
— Marco R. della Cava
“Thomas Kinkade: Profit of light”
USA Today, March 11, 2002
It’s art and the power of marketing and multiplication. Craig Fleming, the CEO of Kinkade’s company, explained the unique Kinkade cloning process.
It just takes a few dabs of paint, and presto, each canvas — worth $1,000 to $50,000 — is framed. The operation is huge. More than 400 employees work in the vast garret, where forklifts, power tools and assembly lines push the artist’s vision out the door to more than 350 Kinkade galleries in the United States and overseas. More than 600 others are being planned.
“Tom paints every single painting that we produce,” says Fleming. “It’s still an original Kinkade as far as we’re concerned.” …
When a canvas has felt the touch of Kinkade’s brush, it may be worth $50,000. But since he can’t do it all, he has dozens of hired hands to help. Their touch of the brush is less expensive, but regardless, product must be moved.
And at QVC, The Home Shopping Channel, Kinkade says his art has “sold upwards of $1 million an hour.” …
— Rebecca Leung
“Thomas Kinkade: A Success”
CBS News/”60 Minutes,” December 5, 2007
Oh, let’s see…
• Every window is a different height.
• The front door is designed for a midget.
• Each room has a huge fireplace smack in the middle of it.
• That attic room is going to be hot as hell right next to the chimney
• The surrounding trees all have straight branches, but the ones used to make the fence are all bent
• What the f*ck kind of tree is the tall one on the far left? Looks like a cross between a willow and an oak.
• There’s a 50 foot tall lilac tree on the far right.
• It’s fall (according to the tree in back of the right fireplace) but spring flowers are out.
• It’s broad daylight. Why is the place lit up like a porn set?
• It’s not winter – why are both fireplaces going full blast?
in response to the question, “What’s not to like?”
about one of Kinkade’s cottage paintings
Democratic Underground, November 17, 2009
Sentimentality, as literary critic Alan Jacobs says in a recent interview with Mars Hill Journal, encourages us to “suspend judgment and reflection in order to indulge deliberately in emotion for its own sake.” Reflection reinforces and strengthens true emotions while exposing those feelings that are shallow and disingenuous. Sentimentalists, however, try to avoid this experience of reality and try to keep people from asking questions by giving them pleasing emotions they have not earned. The shameless manipulation of our emotions, says Jacobs, is the ultimate act of cynicism.
Kinkade’s cottage fantasies offer this sort of emotional manipulation. The cottages are self-contained emotional safehouses in which the viewer can shut himself off from true emotions earned through a real encounter with reality, from the rough and sometimes harsh realities of creation, and — most importantly — from other people.
— Joe Carter
“Thomas Kinkade’s Cottage Fantasy”
First Things, June 16, 2010
The world of Thomas Kinkade is almost completely devoid of productive living. There’s no work really involved to live there because even the snow is snuggly, one imagines none of the bushes have thorns, the stones are all nice and smooth so they won’t hurt your feet, and even the light that streams through and over everything isn’t too bright so it doesn’t hurt your eyes even if it is a bit too vivid. There is no conflict in that world, no struggle, no work, no effort. One needn’t think to live there; one simply needs to cuddle.
If you were in a movie and you found yourself in such a world, you would bet that some alien was using mind control to lull you into a false sense of security so that it could continue feeding on your brain.
Kinkade’s work is the painting equivalent of baby food and I feel an insult to my capacities as a grown human being when I consider the universe he’s portraying because his universe is so vapid, childish, and insipid.
It doesn’t surprise me to hear that he thinks he’s painting the light of Jesus in his work. That sort of effortless existence is encouraged by the mysticism within Christianity. It should annoy folks to have paintings that pander to that sort of wishful thinking, but it doesn’t surprise me that they sell very well.
So, that’s why Thomas Kinkade’s paintings disgust and annoy me.
— Trey Givens
“I Hate Thomas Kinkade”
November 30, 2010
By showing light in the form of exaggerated highlights, fuzzy halos, and a hyperluminescent shine on everything, regardless of where they are in the composition, he isn’t revealing the true nature of — anything. It’s a bafflingly incoherent mish-mosh of light: an orange sunset here, a pearly mid-morning sheen there, a crystal-clear reflection in one spot, a hazy mist in the other — all impossibly coexisting in the same scene. This picture [Candlelight Cottage] makes sense only as a depiction of an oncoming storm, with heavy smog in some spots and total visibility just inches away (blown by what wind, when the chimney smoke rises undisturbed?), several cordless Klieg lights, possibly a partial eclipse, and that most cheerful of pastoral daydreams: a robust house fire. This is a lovely fantasy in the same way as it makes lovely music when all of your favorite instruments play as loudly as they can at the same time. Listen, and go mad. …
Kinkade-style light doesn’t show an affection for natural beauty — it shows his disdain for it. His light doesn’t reveal, it distorts. His paintings aren’t merely trivial, they’re a statement of contempt for the world.
His vision of the world isn’t just tacky, it’s anti-Incarnational.
— Simcha Fisher
“What’s So Bad About Thomas Kinkade?”
National Catholic Register, August 25, 2011
It is the pervasive acceptance of and clamor for the materialistic manifestations of Kinkade’s rather limited artistic vision … that serves to only increase the hair-lifting horror that lurks beneath his sun-dappled streams and glowing rustic manses.
Yes, horror. Horror of the worst kind, the horror wrought from juxtaposing innocuous items or idyllic surroundings with sudden ghastly consequences. The kind of thought-erasing horror that comes from watching a huge cylindrical brush used in an automatic car wash smash through your windshield. The kind of throat-parching, temple-pounding, sweaty-knees horror that comes from watching the stitched simpleton’s smile on a Raggedy Ann doll suddenly gape open into a bloody drooling leer.
Do not misunderstand me, here. Kinkade’s art does not evoke Clown Fear, or Marionette Fear, or Dick Cheney Fear, or Disney Audio-Animatronic Fear — I’m talking about that Mother of All Fears: When Paradise Turns into Hell. …
For this Halloween, if you want to scare the dickens out of discerning adults and impressionable children, forget about the works of Poe, King, or Koontz.
Just take a good look at the artwork of Thomas Kinkade. …
— KNS Maré
“A Critical Review of the Art of Thomas Kinkade”
Mountain Area Information Network (undated)
Crimes Against Propriety
In 2006 John Dandois, Media Arts Group executive, recounted a story that on one occasion … Kinkade became drunk at a Siegfried & Roy magic show in Las Vegas and began shouting “Codpiece! Codpiece!” at the performers. Eventually he was calmed by his mother. Dandois also said of Kinkade, “Thom would be fine, he would be drinking, and then all of a sudden, you couldn’t tell where the boundary was, and then he became very incoherent, and he would start cursing and doing a lot of weird stuff like touching himself.”
And then there is Kinkade’s proclivity for “ritual territory marking,” as he called it, which allegedly manifested itself in the late 1990s outside the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.
“This one’s for you, Walt,” the artist quipped late one night as he urinated on a Winnie the Pooh figure, said Terry Sheppard, a former vice president for Kinkade’s company …
In a deposition, the artist alluded to his practice of urinating outdoors, saying he “grew up in the country” where it was common. When pressed about allegedly relieving himself in a hotel elevator in Las Vegas, Kinkade said it might have happened.
“There may have been some ritual territory marking going on, but I don’t recall it,” he said.
In sworn testimony and interviews with The Times, some ex-dealers have accused Kinkade — whose dreamily inspirational limited-edition prints are steeped in Christian-oriented themes of faith and family values — of ruining them financially while enriching himself and his business associates.
They and others also described incidents in which an allegedly drunken Kinkade heckled illusionists Siegfried and Roy; cursed a former employee’s wife who came to his side when he fell off a barstool; fondled a startled woman’s breasts at a signing party…
— Kim Christensen
“Kinkade Defends Self but Says ‘Sorry’”
Los Angeles Times, March 9, 2006
Grappling with a man whose politics are right-wing and who is unabashedly Born Again is not necessarily easy going for the liberal-spirited or politically correct academics who have contributed to this volume [Thomas Kinkade: The Artist in the Mall]. … Kinkade, although a churchgoer and father of four, also has his wild-man side, which may have a sort of voyeuristic appeal for well-behaved professors. He has been accused of driving business associates into bankruptcy, and reports of his bad behavior have included “public drunkenness, strip club and bar hopping, public urination” — on a statue of Winnie the Pooh at Disneyland, no less — “lewd conduct, and at least one case of probable sexual harassment.” The man is catnip for the psychopathologists. …
My own feeling, after contemplating the Kinkade industry, is that, so far as the Painter of Light is concerned, we are all a bunch of Winnie the Poohs and he has urinated on us all.
— Jed Perl
The New Republic, July 14, 2011
Crimes Against Nature
The Village at Hiddenbrooke, A Thomas Kinkade Painter of Light™ Community … just over the hill from Vallejo … is a 2-year-old development of 10 planned communities clustered together on 1,300 acres, with a golf course at the center. Thomas Kinkade’s village is its most recent, and most high-profile, addition. …
The village is, according to its marketing material, a “vision of simpler times,” a “neighborhood of extraordinary design and detail” with “cottage-style homes that are filled with warmth and personality” and “garden-style landscaping with meandering pathways, benches, water features and secret places.” The covers of the promotional pamphlets feature a Thomas Kinkade painting of a charming, rain-dappled village — complete with church steeple, families out walking the pet Dalmatian and thickets of flowers. …
— Janelle Brown
“Ticky-tacky houses from ‘The Painter of Light™’”
Salon.com, March 18, 2002
Criminally Pathetic — And Just Criminal
In litigation and interviews with the Los Angeles Times, some former gallery owners depict Kinkade, 48, as a ruthless businessman who drove them to financial ruin at the same time he was fattening his business associates’ bank accounts and feathering his nest with tens of millions of dollars. …
Last month … a three-member panel of the American Arbitration Assn. ordered his company to pay $860,000 for defrauding the former owners of two failed Virginia galleries. That decision marks the first major legal setback for Kinkade, who won three previous arbitration claims. Five more are pending.
It’s not just Kinkade’s business practices that have been called into question. Former gallery owners, ex-employees and others say his personal behavior also belies the wholesome image on which he’s built his empire. …
“They really knew how to bait the hook,” said one ex-dealer who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They certainly used the Christian hook.”
— Kim Christensen
“Thomas Kinkade FBI Investigation”
Los Angeles Times, August 31, 2006
“Painter of Light” Thomas Kinkade is being accused of hoodwinking investors and leaving them in the dark. While arbiters awarded two former Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery owners $860,000 this year, other former dealers have claims pending that accuse Kinkade of using his Christian faith to defraud them.
“I take no pleasure in being the one to cast the first stone,” said Norman Yatooma, the attorney representing 25 former dealers from seven states. “But fraud is a terrible thing. It is horrifying when it is done in the name of God. The bottom line is Kinkade has used God for profit.”
Now the FBI is apparently investigating. …
— Brad A. Greenberg
“Gallery of Accusations”
Christianity Today, October 19, 2006
A federal appeals court has some dark news for the self-described “Painter of Light,” Thomas Kinkade — it has restored an arbitration panel’s $2.1 million award to two former gallery owners who say Kinkade’s company duped them into investing their life’s savings in a doomed enterprise.
A federal judge in San Francisco overturned the panel’s decision in 2007, finding that the arbitrators had failed to give Kinkade’s company a fair chance to dispute the accusations of fraud and had awarded damages that were barred by the gallery owners’ contract. …
— Bob Egelko
“Artist’s firm on hook for $2.1 million”
San Francisco Chronicle, June 18, 2009
One of Thomas Kinkade’s companies filed for bankruptcy protection Wednesday, a day after a $1-million payment was due to former gallery owners who have tried for four years to collect on a judgment they won against the self-styled “painter of light.” …
From 1997 through May 2005, as many of the galleries failed, Kinkade reaped more than $50 million from his prints and licensed product lines, according to testimony in the case. …
— Kim Christensen
“Thomas Kinkade firm seeks bankruptcy protection”
Los Angeles Times, June 3, 2010
Thomas Kinkade, the artist known for his light-filled paintings of cottages, churches and country gardens, spent a night in jail after being arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. …
— “Artist Thomas Kinkade arrested for drunken driving”
USA Today, June 16, 2010
According to police reports and the Monterey Herald, Kinkade, 52, was stopped by a sheriff’s deputy shortly after 9 p.m. because his 2006 Mercedes-Benz didn’t have a front license plate. The deputy detected the smell of alcohol, and requested the assistance of a California Highway Patrol officer. …
Kinkade’s arrest occurred less than two weeks after one of his companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. …
— Thomas Kinkade arrested for DUI”
Orange County Register, June 17, 2010
It’s part of a pervasive pattern of self-destructive behavior for Kinkade, whose innocuous, assembly-line images of peaceful cottages, Jesuses, and snow scenes have made him the nation’s self-described “most collected artist,” which is sort of like Velveeta bragging that it’s “America’s most sought-after cheese.”
— Sean O’Neal
“‘Painter Of Light’ Thomas Kinkade arrested for DUI, escapes conviction yet again for crimes against art”
A.V. Club, June 16, 2010
The best thing Thomas Kinkade ever did: He inspired many, far more enjoyable parodies of his “art”…
• “Paintings of Light,” Something Awful, 2004
• “Painter Thomas Kinkade, in a wilder light,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 17, 2009
• “Reviewing With Light: An Analysis of the Thomas Kinkade Calendar for January,” The Awl, January 19, 2012
So, where’s the hypocrisy?
Kinkade touts his Christian faith as the reason behind his artistic creativity. Still, the array of Kinkade merchandise, including his art prints with accompanying Bible verses, seems to suck in buyers looking for fulfillment through ‘wholesome’ objects. Such gimmicks encourage materialism, the exact opposite of the Biblical teaching, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 5:16, 21). Of course, gestures like donating a portion of the profit from the painting Hometown Pride to Habitat for Humanity make for good Kinkade publicity. At the heart of the matter, though, is Kinkade’s seemingly comfortable position at the height of wealth and prestige. This, above all else, makes him appears more successful at serving the master of Money rather than God, as emphasized in Luke 16:13.
— Inga Zornes
“Thomas Kinkade: Making more than just a ‘light’ profit”
Washington State University (undated)
…Fox launched a line of loungewear “inspired” by “Ally McBeal”… Sony is about to release an entire line of Britney Spears “inspired” make-up, shoes and clothes. …
But there is something more insidious about the Thomas Kinkade lifestyle brand. No one in their right mind believes that Ally McBeal is a real person, or that Britney Spears is anything except an entertainer. However, people do believe in Kinkade — they buy his art because they believe in his message. People believe in his “aura,” his realness as a Christian artist. They believe him when he says that his paintings are “silent messengers in the home relaying messages of peace, hope, and joy.”
What they don’t know, of course, is that all of these warm, fuzzy feelings are the product of cold manipulation by MAGI [Media Arts Group, Inc.], and it is this uncritical belief in the “realness” of Kinkade that MAGI then uses for its own corporate benefits. MAGI’s chairman, Kenneth Raasch, boasts in a letter to investors that his company’s success rests on the sleight-of-hand interplay between the “lifestyle brand” (personality) and MAGI’s strategic vision…
— Clay Risen
Flak Magazine (undated)
You might liken Thomas Kinkade paintings to a Joel Osteen book (Your Best Life Now). They both tend to give people what they want to hear or see. It comes from the hope that God will bless you with all of the things that you want, food and drink, house and home, friends and family if you just believe strongly enough or think positively.
Well, we only need to look around this world to see that this is not the case. The world is a broken mess. Denial of this is a delusion. What then is Joel Osteen-esque answer if you are not receiving all the blessings or are not happy? Well, there must be something wrong with what you are doing. If you have not achieved the peace and tranquility of a Thomas Kinkade home, you need to change something. This is the danger in this mindset. …
— Matthew Rosebrock
“Thomas Kinkade Meets the Theology of the Cross”
Eyes of Faith, March 18, 2011
On this blog and in right wing watch circles in general, we spend a lot of time tracking the religious right’s assault on human rights and secular democracy. But it’s also important to think about how they financially exploit their own followers, who are lured in with Jesus and fetuses and fears of dudes kissing, and told to open their wallets. You can usually tell what’s going on with the wingnuts by what they claim The Left is doing … [it's] classic projection, a way to push their own angst about the way they really do financially exploit the everyday follower. As this Kinkade lawsuit shows, the exploitation is endemic, and reaches way past just the televangelist begging. Amway is the most obvious example of this problem, since they have meetings that ape evangelical prayer groups, and then use people’s vulnerable state and the group dynamics of the situation to strong-arm people into becoming Amyway salespeople, which means, for most of them, going into debt buying a bunch of products they can’t sell. Much like Kinkade did to these dealers.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this sort of thing is all over the evangelical community, because they do have their own economy of Jesus gear and half-baked entrepreneurial projects. In the past, I tended to think most of the Jesus gear stuff, from Jesus T-shirts to Christian rock, was pretty harmless, but now I’m not so sure.
— Amanda Marcotte
“The broken ethics of the evangelical economy”
Pandagon, June 21, 2009
He clearly defined his market, conservative Christians, and he “delivered” (no pun intended) a unique … So Thomas Kinkade scattered lots of graphic symbols throughout his paintings to celebrate this group’s values. Little hearts signify the sanctity of marriage and the “Painter of Light”, a not so subtle reference to the light of Christ, used an over abundance of artistic devices to convey light. …
Recently an arbitrator awarded franchise owners a $2.1 million judgment. And on Friday, the “Painter of Light” was arrested and jailed in Monterey for driving while under the influence. We’re reminded again that integrity is the cornerstone to any lasting and prosperous enterprise, whether its oil and gas, banking, or art.
— Ann Rea
“The Painter of Light files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy”
Artists Who Thrive, June 20, 2010
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