Archive for the ‘In an Ideal World…’ Category

The Golden Age of Travel

Posted by Winifred on June 27th, 2014  •  No Comments »

Though we plead guilty to the sin of on flight yoga attire, we are nostalgic for the Golden Age of air travel, particularly in the 1950s and 60s. We love the idea of an in flight show of gloves, hats, heels and dresses and the sky high club aspect of an open bar and cigarettes. And we had such plans for a tour on the Orient Express, which though still offering select legs of the 7 country Paris-Istanbul trip, is no longer in service. What we imagined was a cross-country treasure hunt ending on Safari in Tanzania, all, of course, with Globe Trotter luggage, Sylvain Le Guen hand fans and Perrin gloves.

The truth is, the Golden Age was not all glamorous. The chairs were not so plush, no on-flight entertainment, though we much prefer to read, and despite our semi-annual indulgence of an outfit paired Fantasia, we would never manage a 6 hour flight in a cloud of cigarettes and ash. We came close to experiencing Golden Age air travel glamour however, on an Emirates Airlines Airbus 380 from New York to Dubai. The flight attendants immaculate in their suits and full make-up, round the clock meals plated and served with silverware, seats upholstered to true transatlantic levels of comfort and service the likes of which we are too young to have ever previously seen.

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We did not know that the Emirates Business Class bar scene though rivaling that of 1950s as a gathering spot and unparalleled service, evidently outdoes the 50s in unbridled debauchery and scandal…But we digress,

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Luxury travel now is no longer confined to just the jets but extends to airport lounges as well – Dubai’s filled with Chanel, Escada, and Gucci retail experiences among others. We dare say that air travel of the past is now just that. The past. The future is substantially more glamorous; Our air travel wardrobe is too…

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Images Via NY Times, Ralph Lauren, Socorpos, Fast Company, Pinterest

Posted in : Head wear, In an Ideal World..., On Style, Travel, Vintage Fashion  •  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Should TCM still show films with blackface?

Posted by Winifred on June 19th, 2014  •  No Comments »

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We love William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man series and are always pleased when we run across an episode on TCM. As Mr. K has recently started to enjoy the work of William Powell, we thought we would introduce him to the series as well, inviting him to join us for Shadow of the Thin Man. It was mere seconds in when we lost him. All it took to ruin Mr. K’s rare interest in a classic film was the appearance of Louise Beavers as the Charles’ maid, wide eyed with open mouth as she struggles to pronounce the word telepathy. This is a frequent routine for us in our efforts to bring Mr. K into our love for classic film. Mr. K starts off open, is soon offended with the appearance of a black actor in a subservient role, and closes the door on TCM until we slowly, weeks or months later can lure him back with the proper star, story or action, preferably along the lines of Bullitt.

A few days after Mr. K sulked through The Thin Man, we saw Barry Cunningham question with disgust why TCM (the Turner Classic Movie Channel) continues to broadcast films depicting blackface. Mr. K understood the question – he would just as soon scrub a number of titles from TCM’s lineup and not just those showing blackface. We no more enjoy Louise Beavers’ eyes popping out of her head than Mr. K does. We just finally experienced an exquisite moment of elegance with Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Belle, an image of a black woman still so rare in media, some 80 years after The Thin Man. We too would prefer to not, each time we turn to TCM, be confronted with only the most racist, unflattering imagery of black men and women, or feel the greatest regret that the 1930s and 40s had no black Gene Tierney, Carol Lombard, or Bette Davis.

Barry Cunningham offers that TCM at least start with a warning label to films depicting blackface, allowing parents, for instance, to determine if such imagery is something they would allow their children to see. We second that, but also wonder if this label would not be appropriate for just about every film with a black cast member say, pre-1970? Let’s look at In The Heat Of The Night. How hard is it to stomach the gallant, debonair, gem that is Sidney Poitier being called “boy” throughout the film? Would a warning label be placed on that? And if Mr. K had his way and we scrubbed TCM’s lineup clean of such offending films, would In The Heat Of The Night, an important film in the history of Black Hollywood, not be one to be edited out?

We have previously written about the difficulty of loving the early 20th century and the disappointments that come with that for a black woman. But we persist in these films because after we close our eyes for the humiliation of actresses like Louise Beavers, we are left with film that is beautiful, that is art, that shows Myrna Loy making 3 outfit changes within a day, that tells of the social norms of that time, the language, the mannerisms. We get a view of history. We saw Barry Cunningham scoff at this concept a bit, and we do not blame him. But as an immigrant we truly appreciate the opportunity to look back.

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We want to know even the unpleasant parts of America. Fortunately on TCM they are served with a side of refinement and style we wished had better endured. We want to know that in 1929 Nina Mae McKinney starred in Hallelujah, the first sound film with an all black cast. We can see for ourselves that despite all efforts to deglamourize her, Nina Mae would have outDietriched Dietrich, outlgamoured Lombard, outposed Garbo.

We would certainly have appreciated a warning for Showboat, letting us know Irene Dunne, who we had just enjoyed in several films including A Guy Named Joe, was going to appear in blackface. Shame on Irene Dunne, but thank you TCM for airing the film and her dirty laundry in effect. Had it not been for TCM, we might not have known and would foolishly have given her a place not deserved. The upside was not missing the opportunity to enjoy the voice of Paul Robeson.

Old Hollywood was for black actors an unbearable time and continuing to show these films is a reminder of a great shame that should not be forgotten. In a small way we feel that not suppressing these works also honors those who had this shame to bear. We quietly do so every time we tune in…

Posted in : Classic Films, In an Ideal World..., On Style, Vintage Fashion  •  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dido Elizabeth Belle

Posted by Winifred on June 5th, 2014  •  No Comments »

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We had waited patiently, knowing that what was in our minds would one day come to fruition. We had waited patiently for nowhere had we ever been portrayed in the way we know us to be. Not any of our models, actresses, icons, or role-models anywhere, had ever been captured the way we knew they should have been. None had ever received the treatment, that of adoration, that which captivates, that which brings to life the delicate and rare flower that resides within. Of course there had been the ordinary. Patronizing and often condescending portrayals of sexiness, glamour, power, strength, some better than others. But we had never been able to find the words for what was missing, until they were said by Amma Asante, Director of the film Belle.

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Asante said, “I wanted to put a woman of colour on screen with visual value, with mental and psychological value, and not have anything that would take away from that…” Value, mental and psychological, is what Asante gave us in her film about Dido Elizabeth Belle. Greater still, in creating Belle, Asante also gave us, long suffering women of color who have been consistently disappointed in our portrayal, a portrait of ladylike elegance, refinement and grace heretofore unseen in cinema or mediums of any kind. She gave to us an era, a time and place – eighteenth century aristocracy – from which we had always presumed to have been excluded. This may be the next important event to have occurred for us since Michelle Obama became First Lady.

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Belle is a gorgeous film with all the storybook details of Jane Austen, except it tells the more important story of the British slave trade, by way of the Zong Massacre trial. The trial was presided over by Lord Mansfield, in which 142 diseased African slaves were thrown off a ship, the Zong, in 1781 – worth more dead, with an insurance payout, than alive. The insurers refused to pay. Lord Mansfield meanwhile, is also the guardian of his niece Dido, a mixed race child who’s mother was a slave. For the most part she is raised with the same education, introduction to society and status as her cousin who Lord Mansfield also cares for. We would have been more than pleased simply leaving this film with visuals of the beautiful Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dido.

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But sometimes the camera and the story telling serve as vehicles to draw out the exquisite beauty, of its subject the way artists in other mediums do. The camera was there to draw out the character’s full value, as Asante said. And so she did. From Dido’s regal stride, the arch in her back, the length of her neck, the softness of her curls, the delicacy of her complexion, her cultured ways, her refinement, her essence as a lady, no detail was spared in conveying, lineage, status, breeding. But more remarkable, was Dido’s strong sense of pride in her African lineage and a desire for the life and privilege she was awarded to be shared by the African slaves from which she came. As she starts to question the laws that allow her privilege, yet limit her future, the Zong Massacre Trial, serves as an opportunity to change the world. Lord Mansfield was instrumental in bringing about the end of the British slave trade, an act one cannot help but attribute to his own black bloodline.

Once Asante offers us the rewards of Dido’s refinement and grace, she does not allow it to be snatched away with a romance not befitting Dido’s status. Her husband-to-be is an abolitionist lawyer and their romance also becomes her political awakening.

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Belle is a very satisfying film and for us vindication. We knew the need was urgent, for a black woman to show up in this way and it turns out that desire was not ours alone. In addition to our own gushing, proud and elevated response to the film, we witnessed that of other black movie goers as well. Gugu Mbatha-Raw has said to have experienced the same from fans who have thanked her for what she has given them.

Amma and Gugu, the breadth of our gratitude is infinite, your service indescribable. The best we may do for you is to share everywhere we can the gift of Belle….

Posted in : Beauty Refined, Classic Films, In an Ideal World..., Vintage Fashion  •  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What to play on our guitar today…

Posted by Winifred on May 23rd, 2014  •  No Comments »

The well curated Brain pickings took an excerpt of a 1991 interview for Paul Zollo’s book Songwriters on Songwriting of Bob Dylan, in which he says that environment is important to him, in his writing. The right environment, for Dylan, also comes from “…getting the thoughts out of your mind.”

He explains, “First of all, there’s two kinds of thoughts in your mind: there’s good thoughts and evil thoughts. Both come through your mind. Some people are more loaded down with one than another. Nevertheless, they come through. And you have to be able to sort them out, if you want to be a songwriter, if you want to be a song singer. You must get rid of all that baggage. You ought to be able to sort out those thoughts, because they don’t mean anything, they’re just pulling you around, too. It’s important to get rid of them thoughts.”

“Then you can do something from some kind of surveillance of the situation. You have some kind of place where you can see it but it can’t affect you. Where you can bring something to the matter, besides just take, take, take, take, take. As so many situations in life are today. Take, take, take, that’s all that it is. What’s in it for me? That syndrome which started in the Me Decade, whenever that was. We’re still in that. It’s still happening.”

We love those words – surveillance of a situation, the place where you can see it but it can’t affect you. It struck us that Dylan’s suggestion would do well for things other than songwriting. This place he refers to is a place of no resistance that replaces suffering with joy and struggle with ease. It’s what we meditate for. From that place we will strum a tune today. Maybe this one, Dylan always does good words…

Posted in : In an Ideal World..., Music, We digress  •  Tags: , , , , , ,

Nina Mae McKinney, superstar…

Posted by Winifred on May 16th, 2014  •  No Comments »

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It was totally by accident that the TV was turned off and left on TCM and that we at the right moment would turn it back on to find ourselves stopped short at what looked like a very early film with an all black cast. It was from 1929 no less! The film was Hallelujah, directed by King Vidor featuring a beautiful, magnetic, sassy, raspy voiced star named Nina Mae McKinney. She jumps off the screen immediately, with her doe eyes, her pouty lips, her decisive but feminine moves. Who was she? Why had we never heard of her before and why was she not on our Pinterest boards?

Nina Mae, (pronounced Nine-ah) was born in Lancaster, South Carolina. She had moved to New York as part of the great migration and was discovered on Broadway in the musical Blackbirds of 1928 by Director King Vidor. What is so remarkable is that Nina Mae was only 16 when she starred in Hallelujah, thus she had everything ahead of her. She had beauty, energy, playfulness, she had sexy, spunk and glamour. She should have had it all.

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She was the first black actress to star in a sound film, and was even signed to a 5 year contract with MGM after the success of Hallelujah which included an Oscar nomination for best writing. This, however, never led to any significant roles and she soon left for Europe where she starred in several British films and also performed in cabarets. In Europe they called her the black Garbo. And that she was.

That there are not many photos or even all of her films in the American archives serves us well. That way, we will not mourn for what could have been and not question why she was not a ultra glamorous, divine and richly chronicled star. Without the interference of less flattering photographs and unflattering film roles to mar the thrill of our discovery, we can construct the image of her that we prefer. A great beauty and enduring star.

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In our view of her, Nina Mae McKinney has her hair perfectly set and waved, ultra thin long silky lashes make her already large eyes, sparkle. Her lips are ruby red, a shade of russian red just for her. She is in an Orry-Kelly gown, very low in the back, semi low in front, sequins lighting up her tiny frame and curves. Her nails, also red, holding a long cigarette of course, like all elegant ladies of the 1930s should. And in her photographs, shadows play up her beautiful skin against dark backgrounds, her eyes the stars that mesmerize and seduce. Her days would look like this and her glamour shook up the world…

Images Via pocinclassicfilm

Posted in : Beauty Refined, Classic Films, In an Ideal World...  •  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hudson Valley Wine Tasting…Who Knew?

Posted by Winifred on May 8th, 2014  •  No Comments »

There was a time, one we hardly recognize now, many lifetimes past, when we lived in San Francisco. The guitar playing, nature loving, hemp milk drinking, reiki practitioner in us that we have fiercely protected and stayed committed to even while in New York, often yearns for the beauty of California and the many experiences it offered us. The ability to travel up or down the coast and within a 1 to 2 hour drive be in the most stunning surroundings – Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur, Sonoma, Point Reyes. On a moment’s notice, as you leisurely roll out of bed on a Saturday morning, one could pick a glorious getaway that required little advance planning or time. Any direction guaranteed traveling along mesmerizing scenic beauty, making the specific destination irrelevant.

We always crave California; there is an empty space waiting to be fulfilled by the unparalleled beauty of its coast line and a way of life that melds health, fitness, purpose and meaning. Rest and inner harmony instead of busyness, repetition, uninventive and even harmful ways of avoiding oneself. So on days when we tire of living a life parallel to the one we were meant to, we try to merge what we have with that which is to come. California by way of New York. Runs along the East River, imagining it as Santa Monica, store bought hemp in lieu of the fresh milk of Brentwood Market, and drives up the Hudson that will eventually lead to Napa.

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Mr. K and us began our tour of the Hudson Valley in Millbrook, at the Millbrook Vineyards and Winery.

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The tasting was rather quick and since we had not eaten much before our drinking, we were happy to spend more of our time at the picnic area by the water.

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As the restaurant was not yet open, we were relieved to have brought along our own snacks. Mr. K is slowly coming around to our port infused chicken liver pate, and was hungry enough to even go along with the pumpkin, oat, chia bread.

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The smoked Gouda made him a bit happier – honestly, we wish stores would carry aged Gouda instead. Its sharpness cannot be anymore of an acquired taste than the unnatural smoked version. Smoked Gouda is a bit like sweet and sour chicken.

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A complete fabrication, a perversion of a cuisine that the natives it is attributed to, do not claim. We never once ate smoked Gouda in Spijkenisse….

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But as this is our parallel life, we nevertheless were happy to coat our stomachs and to venture to Glorie Vineyards next.

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A rustic, unassuming barn with the tasting room situated to take perfect advantage of sweeping views of the Valley. We immediately felt calm and peaceful. Fully focused on wine and valley views, even the toddler allowed to run around in circles, stomping his feet and giggling loudly, over and over and over, could not break our zen. This was not the case for the poor host.

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We were most proud of Mr. K for while we were traveling along rolling hills and admiring this unusual situation of a water fall running through a house, he not only avoided the turtle crossing the road,

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But he picked it up with a shovel and gently carried it to the other side.

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Our most fun was had at Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery, the first New York distillery since 1933. We were so impressed with this marvelous story of a climber who wanted to buy property near the Shawangunk Mountains for a resting place after climbing. The distillery was an old mill where grains were ground and after his request for a bed and breakfast was turned down by the zoning board, he cleverly decided to open a distillery instead.

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With a fantastic tour guide telling a great American story of entrepreneurship and innovation, a band playing early Appalachian Folk music, and an introduction to our first Manhattan, we fully expect to return to Tuthilltown quite a few times…Us checking a newly hand filled, hand labeled, and hand topped bottle of bourbon for sediment and perfect filtering!

Posted in : Dimensions, In an Ideal World..., Travel  •  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How we came to love the hat….

Posted by Winifred on April 28th, 2014  •  No Comments »

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It seems timely to go over what it means for a little girl to discover her first role model and how the very existence thereof forever informs her life…

We were probably 7, maybe 8. Born and raised in the Netherlands, we also lived in Spain and then spent several years in Suriname, where our parents were born. After Suriname, we returned to the Netherlands. It was still an innocent time, few outside influences, a culture of little television, few magazines and we were too young for peer pressure. No outside world telling you you weren’t good enough. In fact, in our house, being an outsider was what we celebrated. Our parents spoke Surinaams, we ate Surinaams, we adhered to our culture of respect for elders, family values, entertaining big and celebrating big. Oen mek presirie, always. Dutch culture was for us often a bit of a joke. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be Surinaams, even as we recognized the greater opportunities for education and earnings potential of Holland.

Then, already cocooned by our Surinaams family, we allowed one snippet of influence to come into our home. That snippet was our first glimpse of Miss Diana Ross on Dutch Television. At that time, it took quite a while for American imports to reach Europe. We had never heard of ‘Mahogany,’ and were too young to know the Supremes. So our first introduction to Miss Diana Ross was in the much later part of her career. There she was, thin, brown, with big eyes and big hair. She was beautiful, she was famous, she was glamorous, she was rich. She was a big star and everybody loved her. And she looked like us. And in that instant we were programmed. To be thin, brown, have big eyes and big hair was the ultimate in beauty, fame and possibilities. We would never want to be anything else, but what we were: the Surinaams version of that very image.

It seems so timely to share this now, as we notice how often attempts are made to shake that programming. Whether in the media, or sometimes closer to home. And we feel bad for the many people impacted, young girls especially. It reminds us how lucky we are to have received the gift of Miss Ross, but also of our parents. First, the gift of parents who gave us so solid a foundation and connection to our roots that in a time when the Netherlands was not so multicultural, we never questioned the richness of who we were. And second, that before society was able to work on us, in came Miss Ross to forever sear in our minds, an image of beauty, glamour, elegance and style that ’till this day continues to inform, inspire and guide us.

When asked how she manages the negativity of the press, Venus Williams responded that she had from her birth been brainwashed by parents who only told her she was amazing and could achieve anything she wanted. She has no ability to think anything else. We could not be more grateful for being brainwashed…

Vintage

Image Via Villagevoice

Posted in : Beauty Refined, Head wear, In an Ideal World..., We digress  •  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dar al Masyaf

Posted by Winifred on October 16th, 2013  •  No Comments »

As we start to ponder Winter destinations, already prepared for that time of year when the city will be overrun by tourists, 5th Avenue will be a claustrophobic sea of shopping bags and we will invariably have to point someone toward Serendipity, we naturally think of where we might replicate our time at Dar al Masyaf, the Jumeirah resort in Dubai. Essentially meaning, Summer Houses, Dar al Masyaf is a luxurious yet authentic Arab Courtyard inspired hideaway.

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The stand alone two story houses overlooking the waterways are quiet and serene and offer the kind of privacy incomparable to the standard hotel style of rooms stacked on rooms towering into the sky. Even when you just have to leave the comforts of your peaceful nest for other parts of the resort, gondolas can be found at all times gliding along the waterways, still offering serenity, a quiet courtyard tour.

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Of course there is great service, private butlers for the house, attendants everywhere, golf carts ferrying the lazy (that would be us) to any area of the resort. A staff hailing from 21 different countries each with their own story of leaving home, family and children, for Dubai to make a better life. Each more gentle, kind and more courteous than the next and willing to steer the unknowing to a most delightfully simple and flavorful breakfast called fools medames.

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Every detail hit the highest note. What we could do to improve upon perfection; being armed with the proper essentials. Leather goods for organization,

Valextra Passport Holder

Valextra Passport Holder

Quiet poolside moments with an epic Persian poem,

Shahnameh (The Book of Kings)

Shahnameh (The Book of Kings)

The scent of sandalwood and rose,

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Always a hand fan,

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And loose silhouettes for balmy desert nights….

Donna Karan SS14

Donna Karan SS14

Images via Dar Al Masyaf, WSJ, Design Sponge, Basenotes, Barneys, Fashionology

Posted in : In an Ideal World..., On Style, Travel  •  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In Search of Halston…

Posted by Winifred on July 9th, 2012  •  No Comments »

Halston + Bianca Jagger

Photo by Ron Galella / WireImage

We were always a fan.  Who can adore the 70s and not adore Halston?  The jersey dress, the flowey, wearable sheaths.  The hats.  We admit to pangs of “era envy!”  Ahhh to be a Halstonette…Who was he, that owned this time of glitter, decadence, sexiness, glamour and style?  Finally there were answers.  Finally we saw the film.  Of course, we loved it.  Every moment such a scene.

Halston at his home

He, always in a black turtleneck.  The cigarette forever dangling in his hand.  And the casual genius with which he created beauty.  His aesthetic so glamorous yet effortless.

At least for a spell we were there, transported, diaphanous in white, dancing the night away.  Oh what a night…

Photo credit: Nikolas Koenig

Posted in : In an Ideal World...  • 

The Book of Job – II

Posted by Winifred on August 19th, 2011  •  No Comments »

Job is like a coach to us, one who sometimes drives us to distress, but always pushes us to take a step further and improve the quality of our work.  Sometimes it seems like he…won’t accept limitations. -Jan Tichelaar

Still Life by Studio Job

via Unicahome

We like that – a coach, pushing, no boundaries.  Always questioning: what would be possible if…We like vision, seeing what no one else can see, knowing what is truly there.  We like the big, bold ones, the shiny Robber Baron pieces.  But then we like re-discovering the quiet ones; pressed porcelain.  Porcelain re-imagined, so that we can love it again.  Still life, transformed life,  authentic life…

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