Pharyngula

There goes my appetite

Not that I’m any fan of fast food anyway, but these photos of what the stuff really looks like has me cured. I may have to become a vegetarian, which wouldn’t be too bad. Or at least swear off cheese.

(via Greg Laden)

Comments

  1. #1 robb
    October 28, 2007

    Seems unfair to take it home first to photograph it. Of course the cheese will melt all over the place if you don’t shoot it immediately.

    Most of them didn’t look bad to me….but not good marketing photographs, obviously.

  2. #2 Matt in Singapore
    October 28, 2007

    Yeah, that photographer has yet to master flash photography. I’d hate to see how he/she would render me…

  3. #3 Prillotashekta
    October 28, 2007

    The observation that food advertising picture =/= what it really looks like is not exactly a big secret…

  4. #4 Epistaxis
    October 28, 2007

    Supposedly, advertisers fill food with inedible chemicals to make it look nice for photos.

    This just reinforces my thesis that meat is inherently disgusting.

  5. #5 John
    October 28, 2007

    There’s a reason food photographers are actually well-paid, as photographers go.

  6. #6 Meng Bomin
    October 28, 2007

    Because minimum wage workers will carefully stack the components as to mirror the commercials, which of course use the exact same components of the item prepared the exact same way and without any image touch-up.

    This isn’t exactly news.

  7. #7 Ron Sullivan
    October 28, 2007

    News, schmews; it’s funny. Is there an epidemic of caledonitis going on?

    If you’re not already informed enough to click on the Alli link there, serves ya right.

  8. #8 Pete
    October 28, 2007

    I’m disappointed — I thought you were going to link to a page where you showed food under a microscope, where we could gawp at all the nematodes and mites and bacteria.
    Maybe I’ll do that one…=)

  9. #9 foldedpath
    October 28, 2007

    Supposedly, advertisers fill food with inedible chemicals to make it look nice for photos.

    It’s not quite that simple. I spent part of my life as an advertising photographer. You’re allowed to SERIOUSLY mess with the appearance of the food, if it’s not the main thing being promoted in an ad. For example, a shot of a buffet table on a cruise ship or resort, if it’s the travel destination in the ad, and not the food.

    At least in the U.S., there are false advertising laws if you do that in a food shot that’s actually selling the end-user food product.

    Yes, you can work with a food stylist (high-paid professionals, worth every penny), but they have to use the actual ingredients with no hanky-panky. It has to represent sort of a best case scenario… what you might receive if everything goes just right… which it never does, in the reality of the local fast food joint.

  10. #10 Dahan
    October 28, 2007

    Is it just me that thinks it’s weird that on the same page showing this are links to Subway, Wendy’s, and McDonalds for promo stuff and offers? What the hell?

  11. #11 wnelson
    October 29, 2007

    Mechanically reclaimed meat. What fun.

  12. #12 BlockStacker
    October 29, 2007

    I already tend to look at my food before I eat it. Is this website for people who have never eaten fast food but are thinking about starting?

  13. #13 Ichthyic
    October 29, 2007

    Yes, you can work with a food stylist (high-paid professionals, worth every penny)

    wait… not only is there a career called “food stylist”, but it’s a high paying one???

    fuck me.

  14. #14 Hank Fox
    October 29, 2007

    Years back, I had a Croissanwich from … was it McDonalds? Jack in the Box? … that I couldn’t eat right away. It was a croissant filled with bacon, egg, and cheese, maybe a little mayo. I loved the things.

    Anyway, this one time, I couldn’t get to it for about half an hour, and it had cooled completely off. It was as if it had turned into a movie special effect — it looked exactly the same, but it was almost completely odorless and tasteless.

    I wondered at the time if there was some kind of flavoring and smell artifically added to it, so that it tasted and smelled good only while it was hot. At lower temperatures, maybe the chemical enhancers were no longer volatile, and you were left with the true cardboard-y, artificially-fabricated nature of the sandwich.

    It was the gustatorial equivalent of seeing Paris Hilton without her makeup — she turns into flat-chested, homely Lola Zamboni from your 9th grade English class.

  15. #15 foldedpath
    October 29, 2007

    wait… not only is there a career called “food stylist”, but it’s a high paying one???

    fuck me.

    Sure, why not? Photographers who shoot food for a living have more to worry about with lighting and props than actually cooking and prepping the stuff. It’s no different than having an “animal wrangler” on a movie set. And yah, it pays well.. but only in the major markets like NYC, LA, etc. It’s more of a part-time job in the secondary market (Miami) where I used to work.

  16. #16 Ichthyic
    October 29, 2007

    Sure, why not?

    because 4 years of grad school only enables me to be able to compete with a zillion other biologists for jobs that pay middle-low income?

    that clearer?

  17. #17 soteos
    October 29, 2007

    As a vegetarian (and thus, morally superior to the rest of you in every way), none of the pictures on the left look appetizing either. However, the pics on the right don’t look gross… just lazy.

  18. #18 Epistaxis
    October 29, 2007

    4 years of grad school only enables me to be able to compete with a zillion other biologists

    Then maybe you should have stuck around for two or three more years to finish your Ph.D. instead of leaving early. 🙂

  19. #19 Ichthyic
    October 29, 2007

    Then maybe you should have stuck around for two or three more years to finish your Ph.D. instead of leaving early. 🙂

    bullshit.

    took you 7 years to finish, did it?

    last job I applied for had no less than 60 other PhDs competing for it.

    …and it payed about 48K/yr.

    you’re either lying, or you’re not in biology.

    from your blog:

    Random drippings of a leaky mind.

    indeed.

  20. #20 raindogzilla
    October 29, 2007

    Mmmm…burgers….

  21. #21 PZ Myers
    October 29, 2007

    Now, now, Ichthyic. Epistaxis was making a joke.

    But your numbers are on the generous side. $40K/year jobs in biology will attract at least a hundred applicants. And that’s very common.

  22. #22 foldedpath
    October 29, 2007

    @ #16:

    Sure, why not?

    because 4 years of grad school only enables me to be able to compete with a zillion other biologists for jobs that pay middle-low income?

    that clearer?

    Not really, it just comes off sounding like sour grapes. You knew you’d be making a trade-off in that career to do what you want, yes?

    Also, anyone who works in an “artistic” field, whether it’s fine art or commercial art, is paying a price in job security and income compared to someone studying to be a lawyer or a banker. That’s the name of the game, just like choosing a career in science.

    There’s no tenure or any other form of long-term job security in commercial art. You’re only as good as your last hire, and the contacts you make. People flame out pretty fast in that field, except for the very best ones (or the ones who learn how to play the game the best) and there’s no safety net.

  23. #23 raindogzilla
    October 29, 2007

    My chosen field often pays no more than free beer, gas money if we’re lucky, and a roll in the hay- depending on the amount of free beer involved. That’s why I also have a real job…

  24. #24 foxfire
    October 29, 2007

    Seriously… Did no one see “Supersize Me??

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0390521/

    The extras on the DVD… I will never touch a Mc’D french fry with my bare hands (or mouth, or anything else) ever again. Or any other faux-simile of real food they sell.

  25. #25 Amit
    October 29, 2007

    but these photos of what the stuff really looks like has me cured.

    And you had to look at these photos to realize this??? I guess one can’t excel in all fields – clearly you have been spending too much mental energy fighting with the ID crowd. 😉
    I’d suggest putting some recent books regarding food on your reading list, if you haven’t already.
    -The Omnivore’s Dilemma/Michael Pollan
    -The Way We Eat/Peter Singer
    -Food Politics/Marion Nestle
    to start with.

  26. #26 Ichthyic
    October 29, 2007

    Now, now, Ichthyic. Epistaxis was making a joke.

    But your numbers are on the generous side. $40K/year jobs in biology will attract at least a hundred applicants. And that’s very common.

    indeed. you get slightly more money on the West Coast, but the same numbers generally apply.

    exactly why I didn’t get the humor in that joke.

    go figure.

    I’ve had to spend time in IT management, database programming, even professional photography myself to make ends meet in between bio gigs. I recall meeting people when I was working IT who made 70K a year for managing a company’s EMAIL SERVER for fuck’s sake.

    not that way NOW, since the bottom dropped out of the internet economy in 99/2000, but it still galls me that someone can make way more money doing something I can learn to do in a single afternoon than all the years I spent studying to be a zoologist.

    I understand it, to some extent, economic priorities being what they are and all, but it still pisses me off.

    pardon me if I miss a few jokes from time to time.

    :p

  27. #27 Ichthyic
    October 29, 2007

    Not really, it just comes off sounding like sour grapes.

    well, that’s because that’s exactly what it is.

    However, it is “justified” sour grapes.

  28. #28 foldedpath
    October 29, 2007

    -The Omnivore’s Dilemma/Michael Pollan

    I’ve just started reading that, and I’ve enjoyed his articles in the Times.

    Fast Food Nation is good on this subject too, but I wouldn’t recommend the film. Apart from a great cameo by Bruce Willis defending a “little shit” in the burgers, it was pretty bad (IMO).

  29. #29 Michael Ralston
    October 29, 2007

    For all that fast food has issues, taking the burgers home and sitting on them before the shot (I mean, seriously. Several of those were crushed in ways you don’t see unless you the customer do it!) is still … deceptive.

    As for Ichthyic: If you could make 30k/year more for doing a job you could learn to do in a single afternoon… what precisely is keeping you from learning it and going to do it, mm?

  30. #30 autumn
    October 29, 2007

    To all the meat eaters out there, I’m on a low-cholesterol diet (due, inexplicably, to my mysteriously high cholesterol), and EVERY SINGLE DISGUSTING PILE OF PSEUDO-FOOD LOOKED GOOD. You have no idea what it is like to try and live on the rabbit diet. I steam broccoli when I get hungry at night. I actually eat fucking broccoli when I get a craving. This is worse than death. I have cooked pork ribs for my family (I don’t have a proper smoker, so I use a twelve hour spice rub and a “slow as they let me” grill) and sat by, eating my salad while they ate food.

    To Quote my favorite father figure, Red Foreman,
    “This isn’t food! This is what food eats!”

  31. #31 Ichthyic
    October 29, 2007

    As for Ichthyic: If you could make 30k/year more for doing a job you could learn to do in a single afternoon… what precisely is keeping you from learning it and going to do it, mm?

    um, I did. hence the IT management i mentioned, where I was making 80K/yr.

    things change though (like the bottom dropping out of the internet economy), and it certainly was never what i studied most of my life to do.

    i suppose you think nobody should get paid for doing something they actually want to do?

    that biologists should get paid less and have to compete for scraps because they enjoy what they do?

    hmm.

    sure you want to go in that direction with your argument?

  32. #32 autumn
    October 29, 2007

    At Ichthyic,

    Dude, what’s wrong with capital letters at the beginning of sentences? You use capitals in other situations, and I can’t think of any reason you fail to use them as they are expected in written speech.
    I’m not trying to insult or belittle you, but I want to know why some internet users are not concerned with the consistancy or style of their writing.

  33. #33 Bride of Shrek
    October 29, 2007

    First the foetal mouse wine, then the natto, now the KFC famous bowl. Thanks PZ, you’ve now put me off the only three things Mr Shrek can cook.

    Seriously though, you’ve had your laugh at our Australian politicians and muftis but now it is our turn because we don’t have junk food in Australia. We all eat organically grown, non GM, macrobiotic, vegan wholegrains. So who is laughing now huh PZ??

  34. #34 autumn
    October 29, 2007

    I Iz spart@cuz.
    w00t

  35. #35 Ichthyic
    October 29, 2007

    but I want to know why some internet users are not concerned with the consistancy[sic] or style of their writing.

    sounds like you already know.

  36. #36 Ichthyic
    October 29, 2007

    We all eat organically grown, non GM, macrobiotic, vegan wholegrains.

    so THAT’s what vegemite is.

  37. #37 Epistaxis
    October 29, 2007

    took you 7 years to finish, did it?

    you’re either lying, or you’re not in biology.

    THe attempted humor in that joke was about the amount of time it took you to complete grad school, not the pay of a research job. ACtually, it turns out I’m not lying and I am in biology – a grad student, no less, but not in my seventh year yet. THat’s why I know Ph.D.’s usually take far more than four years. BUt as for the pay, people set out on a career in science with specific goals in mind, and money is not among those goals. AFter we make that “lifestyle choice,” it’s not surprising the world isn’t more sympathetic when we remind them how essential we are.

    (To be fair, I should pick on “autumn” too: consistency consistency consistency consistancy! But yes, it’s usually not until someone stops enforcing them that we realize why ancient rules have persisted so long.)

    The Omnivore’s Dilemma/Michael Pollan

    Great book, well worth reading and evangelizing to your friends. Sometimes it seemed like the copyeditor was asleep at the wheel, but it’s full of surprising (to me) findings about a big issue that affects everyone several times a day. The only thing that bothered me was how superficially and impatiently – how typically – Pollan treated vegetarianism at the very end of the book, as if he was coming close to a deadline, even though he corresponded with Peter Singer himself. Oh well, more tofu for me.

  38. #38 wildcardjack
    October 29, 2007

    There are two places locally that I frequently eat out at.

    One is a little mexican run taqueria where you can see then prepping ingredients from whole product, except the tortillas which are made in a little factory a few blocks away.

    The other place is a regional hamburger chain. How regional? I know where all five of their restaurants are. The meat is ground fresh on site, and the whole kitchen is there for you to see behind the counter.

    Neither place has pictures of their food. More confidence in your food can be found in seeing the kitchen than any image.

    These places also cost moderately more than normal fast food, and aren’t as quick, but if you are going to be eating stuff that isn’t healthy, take time and make sure you ENJOY IT. I normally read the BBC on my smartphone while waiting and eating.

    And I don’t do either place more than 2 or 3 times a month. Good is good, but I can’t afford it too much, either fiscally or nutritionally.

  39. #39 Ichthyic
    October 29, 2007

    yes, sorry for not grasping the humor, but I thought you were implying something else.

    BUt as for the pay, people set out on a career in science with specific goals in mind, and money is not among those goals.

    *sigh*

    How many times have I had extended conversations with various colleagues where we always lamented this catch 22.

    I’ve always wondered what would happen if all of a sudden biology students started EXPECTING to make a decent living being a scientist.

    would the pay rates start going up?

    many other people doing jobs that pay far more ALSO didn’t necessarily go into their professions with cash being the primary motivator.

    the problem is mostly due to public vs. private sector, and most public sector jobs typically being far less in salary.
    one reason so many scientists (me included) jumped ship to actually make a living in the private sector.

    the only thing that keeps our level of science in this country competitive at all any more is that there are simply so many scientists with degrees to begin with that they can flood the market.

    the entire “science” economy is a complete mess.

    bottom line:

    I always have considered the idea that a scientist becomes a scientist only because of a love of doing science to be a crock. There is absolutely no reason a budding scientist should have to look forward to a life of near poverty. It just shouldn’t be that way, and in the end, it’s holding the advancement of many (all, really) fields of science back.

    funding is ALWAYS a matter of setting priorities, and the priorities for the public sector in this country are completely fubar.

    That said, the years haven’t had a chance to wear at you yet, so I hope you get a great job as soon as you finish your thesis, so you never really have to think about this shit much.

  40. #40 Bride of Shrek
    October 29, 2007

    Ichthyic

    I’ll have you know Vegemite is the food of the Gods, Ambrosia, Black Gold. It is the only known thing on the planet that possibly deomnstrably supports ID. ..well, beer also.

    Don’t mess with the Mite!!!!!

    On another note I truly sympathise with you regarding pay rates in science. It’s pretty shit too here in Aus and understandably it results in a “brain drain” of good scientists leaving for overseas and an income they can live on. I was a microclimatologist (didn’t do PhD,only Masters) but to get to that point would have entailed the better part of 11-12 years of study- for $40K. I changed professions after a few years (dramatically actually- went and did Law) but science is always my first love and its only only blogs such as this that I can keep up with the intelligensia ( as opposed to speaking to bastard lawyers all day but thats another matter).

  41. #41 Peter Ashby
    October 29, 2007

    Um PZ I’ll let you in on a secret, you can make your own burgers!! I have made two for my trophy wife and myself recently. The first was a lamburger with chopped goats cheese and green pesto in the burger built with freshly sliced tomato and freshly shredded lettuce and served with homemade low fat oven chips flavoured with lemon pepper and herbs. It was tender and deeply delicious.

    Last night I made beefburgers, In these I use extra lean beef mince (ground beef) put finely chopped onion, tomato paste and dried marjoram in. The burger buns were toasted in the oven with the chips and the burgers built with cheddar cheese (real not processed) on the bottom topped by fried mushrooms (in the pan with the burgers), meat, topped with tomatoes and lettuce again. This time the chips were done with just dried mixed herbs, we use about a tablespoon of peanut oil, get it really hot in the oven. parboil the chipped potatoes, drain then tip into the hot oil, turn to cover, add herbs, turn again add more herbs, cook.

    BTW the meat was bound together with egg white and a few breadrumbs. Took about 40min all up.

  42. #42 Marcus Ranum
    October 29, 2007

    Everyone looks worse without their make-up on in the morning. But the professional fast food shots are well-lit and in focus. That makes a big difference.

  43. #43 Ken Shabby
    October 29, 2007

    The disturbing part is that people see the ads on TV, whetting their appetites, and then when they go to the fast food joint and buy the stuff, they seem oblivious to the huge disparity.

  44. #44 John Marley
    October 29, 2007

    The comparison is almost meaningless.

    The shots on the left are all advertising shots. The food items are carefully prepared and well lit. The shots are taken immediately after preparation.

    The shots on the left are actual purchases. The food is not carefully prepared (Fast food employees are rated on speed, neatness is only an issue if a customer complains), the lighting is bad, and the shots were taken some time after the food was purchased. The melted cheese is one of the biggest differences. The squashed look comes from ordinary handling and transportation.

    Anyway, there’s a lot more wrong with fast food than appearence.

  45. #45 Deepsix
    October 29, 2007

    Glamour Shots for food.

  46. #46 Kerlyssa
    October 29, 2007

    It’s not that big a disparity, speaking as someone who used to work in a couple of the big burger chains. The tomatoes are a hell of a lot larger in the commercials than in the restaraunt, but that’s it for ingredients. The biggest thing is time- cheese melts, lettuce wilts, bun becomes either soggy or stale. Which is why we were not allowed to hand out burgers that were more than 3 minutes from preparation. Waiting until they got home and taking poor quality photos is defintitely cheating.

    But fries are satan’s own handiwork. For the love of all that is good and true, get some real potatos and fry them up in some olive oil. Takes only a few minutes.

  47. #47 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 29, 2007

    Ph.D.’s usually take far more than four years.

    Depends on the country. In France, after 3 years, you can (!) apply for a fourth year, but then it’s over, and you run into trouble. In Austria, 2 (!) years is the minimum, and there is no maximum.

    Inevitably, US theses tend to be more work than French ones and not necessarily comparable…

  48. #48 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 29, 2007

    Ph.D.’s usually take far more than four years.

    Depends on the country. In France, after 3 years, you can (!) apply for a fourth year, but then it’s over, and you run into trouble. In Austria, 2 (!) years is the minimum, and there is no maximum.

    Inevitably, US theses tend to be more work than French ones and not necessarily comparable…

  49. #49 Inoculated Mind
    October 29, 2007

    I could never market my Garlic Beef & Eggplant stir fry (with or without Bok Choy), because it looks absolutely disgusting. But it is absolutely delicious. Go figure.

  50. #50 Jon H
    October 29, 2007

    Y’know, I bet that if you took a meal hand-prepared by Wolfgang Puck with oodles of concern for proper presentation, wrapped it up in paper and foil, and drove home, it would look pretty crappy when you opened it back up again.

  51. #51 Jon H
    October 29, 2007

    “The disturbing part is that people see the ads on TV, whetting their appetites, and then when they go to the fast food joint and buy the stuff, they seem oblivious to the huge disparity.”

    Whether it starts out looking nice or nasty, it’s all going to look the same a few minutes later after it’s been chewed and swallowed.

    By the way people talk, you’d think they’d gladly eat a turd so long as it was presented nicely.

  52. #52 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    October 29, 2007

    Who sat on the Beef ‘n’ Cheddar?

    And I agree with some of the other posters – if you’re going to go to the trouble to take these sandwiches home to take pictures, at least use some decent lighting.

  53. #53 Barn Owl
    October 29, 2007

    Or at least swear off cheese.

    Don’t worry-that’s not cheese in the fast food photos.

    It’s cheez.

    The “food awareness” book that I’ve enjoyed reading most recently is Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Highly recommended…and there are recipes!

  54. #54 amancay
    October 29, 2007

    I used to style food for photography. Most stylists are freelance (unless they’re employed by a large food company), so you’ve got to love the work because you won’t get rich. For advertising (as opposed to editorial) work, the food is mostly supplied by the company (McDonalds, General Foods, whatever) but the stylist will shop for some ingredients, such as lettuce and tomatoes (because it helps if the tomatoes are actually red). If you’re shooting a hamburger, an entire pallet of buns will be supplied and the stylist will sort thru hundreds of buns to find maybe half a dozen that look good enough for photography. A single burger is cooked in a saute pan, grill marks are applied afterwards and the whole thing is meticulously assembled, taking the camera angle into consideration. Then it’s placed under the lights that the photographer has spent hours arranging. One hamburger shot is an entire day’s work. That’s why it doesn’t look like the burgers you buy. And contrary to a popular misconception, it is edible (provided you don’t mind eating something that’s been sitting around for a few hours and been extensively poked and prodded). And to the person who thought food styling was a skill set that could be learned in an afternoon, most stylists are trained chefs. It would be impossible to do the job successfully without a solid culinary background. Anyone who’s ever tried a recipe and been disappointed can relate to that.

  55. #55 Fatboy
    October 29, 2007

    I see the humor in comparing the ads to reality, but every single one of those pictures has made me hungry. In some cases (especially the whopper – I don’t like hamburgers with too many veggies), the actual product is more appetizing than the glamour shot.

  56. #56 Anonymous Prime
    October 29, 2007

    Several of those “sandwiches” remind me of an old Sam Kinison routine. It involves Dr. Ruth, and a… particular… part of her anatomy, and that’s probably all I’m allowed to say about it.

  57. #57 Fentwin
    October 29, 2007

    Reminds me of the following.

    We were heading home after an afternoon gig. I knew of an excellent Indian restaurant nearby. After suggesting to the drummer ( and driver) that we eat there he replied “Nasty people and their nasty food” (not the most tolerant of people eh). He then proceeded to pull into a McDonalds. Blech.

  58. #58 Jimi
    October 29, 2007

    fast food = poison.

    I decided at the beginning of 2007 (well 12/31/2006 to be precise) that I was sick of being fat and all the problems associated with it. I lost nearly 60 lbs (which on my 5’7″ slight build was a lot). 80% of that weight loss came from eliminating all fast food and regular pop. I had a bite of one of my kids McDonald’s cheeseburgers recently and nearly retched. So I have to agree with the vegetarian commenter who said neither column of pictures looks particularly appetizing

    fast food = poison.

  59. Uh…I can’t believe all the focus on the way the stuff *looks.* Do you know what is actually in it? As Eric Shlosser said in Fast Food Nation, “There’s shit in the meat.” And he wasn’t talking metaphorically.

    There are a zillion reasons to avoid fast food – including your own health and the fact that factory farms and slaughterhouses not only wreak environmental devastation but are notorious labor/human rights abusers. see my essay for citations:

    http://www.lifelongactivist.com/goveg

    If the appearance of the stuff is so disgusting, what about its composition and ethics? They are even more disgusting.

    Hillary

  60. #60 pablo
    October 29, 2007

    The Way We Eat/Peter Singer

    Isn’t that the guy who says it’s wrong to kill animals but just fine to kill disabled humans?

  61. Actually, he’s the guy who very logically points out that most of our justification for killing animals don’t hold. For instance, we argue that they’re less intelligent or otherwise able than we are – but don’t use that same logic to justify killing less intelligent or able humans.

    I don’t pretend to be an expert on philosophy or Singer’s views, but I do know you are vastly oversimplifying. Even most of Singer’s opponents and enemies – and there are many – acknowledge that his views are fundamentally thoughtful and well reasoned, even if they dispute the premises they are founded on.

  62. #62 junk science
    October 30, 2007

    That food looks delicious. No joke.

  63. #63 Alex
    October 30, 2007

    Read the “Baconator” post. Money quote/first paragraph:

    It was like I was 18 again, and buying rubbers at the hometown Rite-Aid. I felt the same mixture of exhilaration, panic, and shame as I walked to the counter. I was terrified somebody might see me, a neighbor or a family friend, and adrenaline was pumping… wherever adrenaline pumps.

    Some of those pictures do make you want to become a vegetarian, huh?

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