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Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Plain Dealer: Brown’s Town

It’s typical Roger Brown fare (read: mindless dreck) until page two, when he drops this bomb on us:

The Indians’ season, already a downer, reached a disgraceful low Friday night when team legend Bob Feller, doing a guest stint on the team’s radio broadcast, said Indians catcher Victor Martinez reminded him of Stepin Fetchit — the shuffling black entertainer of the 1920s and ‘30s (a figure viewed by most blacks as an insulting, degrading symbol).

 

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: August 27, 2006 at 04:46 PM | 100 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: indians, media

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   1. Dr. Vaux Posted: August 27, 2006 at 05:03 PM (#2158502)
Well, Bob Feller is viewed by most reasonable human beings as an insulting, degrading symbol, too.

But honestly, when you put an elderly, jealous, right-wing reactionary in the booth, what do you expect?
   2. TVerik - Dr. Velocity Posted: August 27, 2006 at 05:06 PM (#2158504)
I could see that as a smack at V-Mart, or as a smack on Feller. I guess it depends on context.

Must have been fun to listen to. Anyone got an audio clip? I'm imagining the regular broadcasters were trying desperately to get Feller away from that topic.
   3. rLr Is King Of The Romans And Above Grammar Posted: August 27, 2006 at 05:09 PM (#2158507)
Does Feller not realize that you can't say stuff like that or does he just not care?
   4. Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: August 27, 2006 at 05:11 PM (#2158508)
Anyone got an audio clip?

Working on it.
   5. E., Hinske Posted: August 27, 2006 at 05:20 PM (#2158510)
A lot of these old guys, they walk a pretty fine line. Or, in the case of Feller, don't. I remember watching Ted Williams on Conan a few years back and Williams was treading a thin line too - Conan had to steer him out of deep water.
   6. Bernal Diaz has an angel on his shoulder Posted: August 27, 2006 at 07:46 PM (#2158558)
I can totally see Feller dropping the N-bomb live on tv.
   7. rLr Is King Of The Romans And Above Grammar Posted: August 27, 2006 at 07:52 PM (#2158563)
I can totally see Feller dropping the N-bomb live on tv.

No-hitter? I think he's old school and would respect the superstition. He's no Michael Kay.
   8. MM1f Posted: August 27, 2006 at 07:52 PM (#2158564)
"But honestly, when you put an elderly, jealous, right-wing reactionary in the booth, what do you expect?"

Probably nothing different than if you put a young, immature, arrogant, self-righteous left-wing reactionary in one...
   9. PanRains Posted: August 27, 2006 at 08:24 PM (#2158594)
I don't know if we want to restrict this to only Feller bashing, but I really reacted to this:

But here's the big difference: The Blue Jays have a legitimate bullpen closer (B.J. Ryan) and the Indians don't. And the Indians should and could have had Ryan — if they hadn't been paralyzed with fear about giving him too much money and too many years.


If I read that correctly, Brown is advocating that the Indians should have topped the offer that Ryan received from Ricciardi!

That's insane.

And from the "Figures Lie and Liars Figure" Department, the top note (realize it's not baseball related) is that Ken Dorsey sucks, and the evidence provided to support this hypothesis is....

He has the 2nd lowest career winning percentage of any NFL QB.

Never mind that this was compiled while starting as a rookie 7th round pick on an awful, awful team (and then a few games as a second year player on a slightly less awful team) pretty much devoid of offensive weapons.

I don't disagree with his hypothesis, but a) sample size, b) other circumstances, and c) how does Dorsey's performance as a rookie in 04 have any relevance to the 2006 version?

I'm sure every paper has someone like this, but this is Cleveland's version.
   10. Miko Supports Shane's Spam Habit Posted: August 27, 2006 at 09:07 PM (#2158645)
"But honestly, when you put an elderly, jealous, right-wing reactionary in the booth, what do you expect?"

Probably nothing different than if you put a young, immature, arrogant, self-righteous left-wing reactionary in one...


So...you had to add a couple extra character flaws to make the comparison work?
   11. MM1f Posted: August 27, 2006 at 09:11 PM (#2158651)
Ok, fine, delete a couple of em and it works the same way
   12. baudib Posted: August 27, 2006 at 09:19 PM (#2158663)
We'll all be crude, uncouth geezers one day. I've met Feller, and he's awesome.
   13. bhoov Posted: August 27, 2006 at 09:24 PM (#2158669)
I wonder if you would think he's awesome if you were Black or Hispanic and had been called Stepin Fechit (or I'm sure off TV he has even more explicit names for "colored" boys).
   14. MM1f Posted: August 27, 2006 at 09:28 PM (#2158674)
"
So...you had to add a couple extra character flaws to make the comparison work?"

And i should also note that half the things Vaux intended as character flaws (elderly and right-wing) aren't
   15. Ozzie's gay friend Posted: August 27, 2006 at 10:51 PM (#2158791)
Eh, good baseball player, shitty human being.

Frankly I don't understand what all the fuss is about with Feller.

There are thousands of members of the "greatest generation" or whatever out there who aren't ########, or batshit insane.
   16. Dr. Vaux Posted: August 27, 2006 at 11:00 PM (#2158806)
I didn't say elderly was a character flaw, just that it in his case made it more likely he'd say something that he should have the presence of mind not to say. He doesn't have the same presence of mind, since when he achieved maturity, a lot of things were all right to say that no longer are.

Being right-wing most certainly is a character flaw.
   17. Paul Posted: August 27, 2006 at 11:23 PM (#2158843)
We'll all be crude, uncouth geezers one day. I've met Feller, and he's awesome


I agree that he's much nicer in person than in print or other media. One other point about Feller--he was one of the only star baseball players in World War II who was involved in actual fighting. However, he was very anti Jackie Robinson before Robinson came up, and was not noted for any warmth towards Larry Doby.
   18. Paul Posted: August 27, 2006 at 11:24 PM (#2158845)
We'll all be crude, uncouth geezers one day. I've met Feller, and he's awesome


I agree that he's much nicer in person than in print or other media. One other point about Feller--he was one of the only star baseball players in World War II who was involved in actual fighting. However, he was very anti Jackie Robinson before Robinson came up, and was not noted for any warmth towards Larry Doby.
   19. AndrewJ Posted: August 27, 2006 at 11:28 PM (#2158846)
One other point about Feller--he was one of the only star baseball players in World War II who was involved in actual fighting.

IIRC, Yogi Berra was part of the D-Day invasion...
   20. Flynn Posted: August 27, 2006 at 11:41 PM (#2158849)
IIRC, Yogi Berra was part of the D-Day invasion...

Berra was in the US Navy, so probably not true. He also wasn't yet a Major Leaguer. Feller was a bona-fide superstar.
   21. AndrewJ Posted: August 27, 2006 at 11:59 PM (#2158859)
From Yogi Berra's official website:

World War II was in full swing and Yogi played his part. He participated in the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach, served in North Africa and Italy, and then was finally stationed back in the States.
   22. rLr Is King Of The Romans And Above Grammar Posted: August 28, 2006 at 12:06 AM (#2158862)
Perhaps Yogi's ship provided off-shore support to the invasion, bombarding the cliffs and so forth.
   23. MM1f Posted: August 28, 2006 at 12:25 AM (#2158870)
"
Being right-wing most certainly is a character flaw.:

wow. whatever dude.

im dont particularly like Pat Buchanan but now i want to go donate half my salary to his campaign after that.

and i assume you wouldnt care to elaborate on your "point"...youre just full of #### and trying to stir the pot like the loony jackass id assume you are..correct?
   24. winnipegwhip Posted: August 28, 2006 at 12:27 AM (#2158871)
I think Yogi was involved with OSS in providing disinformation to the enemy. Who needed an enigma machine when the Allies had Yogi.
   25. DCW3 Posted: August 28, 2006 at 12:30 AM (#2158876)
"Nobody invades Normandy anymore; it's too crowded."
   26. danup Posted: August 28, 2006 at 12:38 AM (#2158884)
Surprise, an old guy said something that seems racist in a modern context! Let's all be stunned!

I don't think right wing has anything to do with this, by the way, the guy just has no concept of what is and isn't acceptable in today's culture; I would imagine a lot of people pushing 90 have the same issue.
   27. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 28, 2006 at 01:11 AM (#2158914)
uber-primey for #25
   28. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 28, 2006 at 01:13 AM (#2158918)
I can totally see Feller dropping the N-bomb live on tv.

Not a chance. He's never been associated with that sort of language. He's an opinionated old coot who's put his foot in his mouth off and on for 70 years, but he's no racist in the sense that Ben Chapman or Tom Yawkey were. Feller never said that Jackie Robinson shouldn't get a chance to play in the Majors; he only went along with the obviously mistaken but still fairly common opinion of the time that Robinson wasn't good enough. Since he'd pitched to Robinson in exhibitions, at least he was basing part of his opinion on firsthand knowledge.

And out of curiosity, what exactly did Feller say in that Fetchit quote? I read the link but it doesn't really get into the details. Kind of hard to believe that he thought that Martinez looks like Stepin Fetchit, since there's no physical resemblance at all.
   29. infidel zombie Posted: August 28, 2006 at 01:38 AM (#2158946)
re: comment #8 --
"left-wing" and "reactionary" are antonyms.
   30. RichRifkin Posted: August 28, 2006 at 01:46 AM (#2158955)
Would Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry consider it an insult if someone compared a great young player like Victor Martinez to him? I wouldn't think so.

What's interesting is that in the post-1960s world, a comical character like Stepin Fetchit is considered some sort of evil being. Every subculture I know anything about has comical stereotypes that are not meant to be taken for an elevated representation of that culture. Yet too many self-righteous people take silly characters, like a Stepin Fetchit, and elevate his importance to representing some kind of oppressive super-structure. That's misplaced. Fetchit was a unique character who grew out of the early 20th century black experience. He's completely passe and without context in today's world. But he made a lot of people -- mostly black people -- laught out loud in his day. He should be seen as no more offensive to 21st Century blacks than Groucho Marx or Curly Howard are seen as representations of Jews.

In subsequent years, when unfunny, yet stereotypical hip-hop characters, such as 50 Cent, are taken out of context and looked at as if they were a creation of some white supremacists who wanted to hold down and make fun of black people, some old white ballplayer from today's era will mistakenly compare someone to 50 Cent. And then the self-righteous people living 50 years from now will say something off-base like, "half of all old people are complete racists. I can't believe he could compare anyone to 50 Cent nowadays."
   31. MM1f Posted: August 28, 2006 at 01:52 AM (#2158962)
"
"left-wing" and "reactionary" are antonyms."

In the way they are often used, yes. But i felt the application of reactionary in this context was so retarded to begin with that i didn't even bother thinking of another label to throw on there
   32. rLr Is King Of The Romans And Above Grammar Posted: August 28, 2006 at 01:54 AM (#2158965)
He should be seen as no more offensive to 21st Century blacks than Groucho Marx or Curly Howard are seen as representations of Jews.

I think there are a lot of Jews today who would happily accept a comparison to Groucho or Curly. I've patterned my life after the Stooges, except for the whole show business career and obesity things.
   33. RichRifkin Posted: August 28, 2006 at 02:01 AM (#2158973)
Rated,

Perhaps you know the subject better than I know it (despite the fact that I am in fact a Jew). What Jewish-created comical character from film or literature would be seen today as passe, perhaps insulting and unfunny, yet in its day was a source of big laughs for Jews (and maybe gentiles, too)? All I can think of, in terms of not funny now, but perhaps was funny in its time, is the Milton Berle shtick from early 1950s TV. I never thought Uncle Miltie was funny or talented at all. Yet he was quite popular in his time. The only problem with using him as an example is that his characters, unlike Groucho (and to some extent the Horowitz characters), weren't particulary Jewish, even though Berle created them for the Jewish theater.
   34. J. Michael Neal Posted: August 28, 2006 at 02:20 AM (#2158981)
Rich, I think you misinterpret the role of Stepin Fetchit a lot. He wasn't so much a vehicle for blacks laughing at themselves as for whites laughing at blacks. It was also in the context of an entertainment industry in which blacks weren't permitted roles other than the idiot comic relief, for the most part.

Stepin Fetchit was much more a stereotype of blacks as a group than the Three Stooges or the Marx Brothers were of Jews as a group. The latter group were Jews whose identity was not closely tied to them being Jewish, and for much of whose career, being Jewish was not an integral part of their humor. Stepin Fetchit's identity was very much tied to him being black. The comparison simply doesn't hold.
   35. TerpNats Posted: August 28, 2006 at 02:26 AM (#2158986)
Perhaps a better ethnic analogy to Stepin Fetchit would be El Brendel, who for a brief time (1929-30) was an astonishingly popular comedic performer for reasons unknown to today's audiences (the Rob Schneider of his day?); his shtick was a heavy faux-Swedish accent, and his characters were generally dimwits. His best-known film is probably "Just Imagine" (1930), a sci-fi musical (that's right) that occasionally shows up on Fox cable and doesn't live up to its hype. Brendel continued in character parts in movies and TV up to his death in 1964.
   36. MM1f Posted: August 28, 2006 at 02:33 AM (#2158995)
Between JM Neals post and Rifkins post im imagining Fechit as Dave Chapelle? How valid is that comparison (obviously after "era-adjusting")?
   37. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 28, 2006 at 02:35 AM (#2158997)
Michael has beaten me to this point, but I'll say it anyway....

What's interesting is that in the post-1960s world, a comical character like Stepin Fetchit is considered some sort of evil being. Every subculture I know anything about has comical stereotypes that are not meant to be taken for an elevated representation of that culture. Yet too many self-righteous people take silly characters, like a Stepin Fetchit, and elevate his importance to representing some kind of oppressive super-structure. That's misplaced. Fetchit was a unique character who grew out of the early 20th century black experience. He's completely passe and without context in today's world. But he made a lot of people -- mostly black people -- laught out loud in his day. He should be seen as no more offensive to 21st Century blacks than Groucho Marx or Curly Howard are seen as representations of Jews.

In subsequent years, when unfunny, yet stereotypical hip-hop characters, such as 50 Cent, are taken out of context and looked at as if they were a creation of some white supremacists who wanted to hold down and make fun of black people, some old white ballplayer from today's era will mistakenly compare someone to 50 Cent. And then the self-righteous people living 50 years from now will say something off-base like, "half of all old people are complete racists. I can't believe he could compare anyone to 50 Cent nowadays."


Your general point is well taken, Rich, but there is a big difference between Fetchit and 50 cent which I'm sure you're well aware of.

Stepin Fetchit's ways of exploiting his considerable talents were severely restricted by white mores. As a result he was channeled into the sort of roles which are simply embarrassing to view today. This is completely apart from his innate acting talent, his role in obtaining openings for blacks in Hollywood, or the racial makeup of his audience. And you might note that the major reason his audience was largely black was that many of his movies were marketed solely as "race" movies and never reached a wider audience, and it was in these films that his comic talents were given more leeway. It's a bit (though not completely) like the difference between the characters Redd Foxx could portray on Sanford and Son and the characters Redd Foxx could mimic on the Chitlin Circuit. And it's also true that many blacks protested the Fetchit character at the time. This is not simply a case of modern sensibilities being offended.

OTOH 50 Cent, no matter how stereotyped and offensive his act may be, has always had the modern luxury (for blacks) of being fully in control of his choice of expression. In this, he has the entire repertory to choose from. Nothing is channeling him except his own sense of what he wants to do. Fetchit never had this luxury, which of course most whites have always had.

Another way of putting it might be to say that whereas both Fetchit's and 50 Cent's personae are both fools, 50 Cent is completely his own fool. The embarrassment that Fetchit induces is only partly in the character itself. The greater embarrassment is that Fetchit was so limited in his choice of roles---in many ways forced to be the proverbial half a man. With the talent and the sense, 50 Cent could choose the way of Wesley Snipes. In the Hollywood general releases of Stepin Fetchit's day, Stepin Fetchit could only choose to play Stepin Fetchit.
   38. rLr Is King Of The Romans And Above Grammar Posted: August 28, 2006 at 02:38 AM (#2159001)
We need a new El Brendel. Those Swedes have been getting a free pass in this country for far too long.
   39. RichRifkin Posted: August 28, 2006 at 02:41 AM (#2159002)
"The latter group were Jews whose identity was not closely tied to them being Jewish, and for much of whose career, being Jewish was not an integral part of their humor."

Michael,

Perhaps we'll just have to agree to disagree. But the characters in the Three Stooges and in The Marx Brothers -- both in their movies and earlier in their stage acts -- were very much Jewish. Hence, being Jewish was, I believe, a very integral part of their humor. Not Jewish in a directly religious sense; moreso in the sense of being an important part of Yiddish culture.

Even characters of today's times are drawn heavily from old Jewish culture. George Costanza and Cosmo Kramer are two good examples. George and Kramer, though funny to most gentiles, are complete Jewish stereotypes. George was the ultimate shlimazel; Kramer was the ultimate shlimiel. Almost every word and every action of those two fit those stereotypes. (A shlimiel is usually an uncoordinated, flailing goof, the kind of guy who, if he were a waiter, would spill soup on his customer; a shlimazel is the born loser on whom that soup would spill.)

The characters from The Marx Brothers and from the Stooges also drew directly from characters developed on the Jewish stage, first in Eastern Europe, later in England and the U.S. Each actor gave his own spin on the characters; but they were very much Jewish characters.

I don't profess to be an expert on Stepin Fetchit. However, I do know that the actor who portrayed and created him, Lincoln Perry, was a very bright and literate man who viewed his character simply as comic relief. Fetchit was not the creation of a white writer or white producers. He was invented on the black stage, and was typical of many other comic relief characters invented by black actors/writers. It was only in much later times that people saw Fetchit as insulting to blacks. In his time, he was seen differently -- as someone who could pretend to be obsequious and stupid, yet really knew what was going on.
   40. infidel zombie Posted: August 28, 2006 at 02:49 AM (#2159011)
#37 makes good points ... but i wonder, what is one to
make of a "character" such as rapper-cum-actor
ludacris? his entire rap career has been based on
stereotypes of, presumably, his whole culture, and
not usually in what one might call a "wholesome" manner.
yet in the oscar-winning closer, his character
laments the role hip-hop culture et al. plays in
promoting, presenting and provoking
bad role models for black youth.

that infuriates me, as a fan of hip-hop, a guy who lives
in the ghetto, and a guy who teaches inner-city kids.

WHO the "fool" is and whether it's his/her own choice
is, unfortunately, only a small part of the problem.
it may perhaps be more insidious that our culture as
a whole has managed to invert the syndrome to the point
where the stepin' fetchits cast themselves in the role.

and roger brown? i can't believe that guy has a job.

oh, and to return in some small part to, you know,
baseball, bob feller can still throw a strike
from the mound.

so my mom loves him.
   41. RichRifkin Posted: August 28, 2006 at 02:49 AM (#2159013)
Stepin Fetchit's ways of exploiting his considerable talents were severely restricted by white mores.

Andy,

I fully agree with what you say above. I would only add that your explanation is all the more reason (42 years after the CRA of 1964) to consider Stepin Fetchit in the context of the times he "lived" in. He makes no sense today. He made no sense by the 1950s. But for his time, like a number of other black "comic fool" characters, he was enjoyed by many, many people (though I suppose not all, as you suggest).

I don't know if I really have a larger point other than to say that Stepin Fetchit shouldn't be viewed in today's context. He was a character of his times. And as you say, those were times in which black [removed]particularly in the movies) was completely constrained by whites and white expectations, even though Fetchit was not unique among black fools from the black theater.
   42. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 28, 2006 at 02:53 AM (#2159016)
As to other ethnic stereotypes, pre-war Hollywood had them by the boatload; choose your comic accent, Pancho / Adolf / Oley Olsen / Pierre / Chauncey / African 'native' / Geronimo / Chico / Charlie Chan / etc., etc. Some were comic, some were heroic, some were treacherous. Of course in part this was because many films were set in foreign lands and ethnic neighborhoods, and in the movies everyone (of course) had to speak English, however unlikely that might have been in the real Prague or in a multigenerational 1930's family in Little Italy. And it would have made little sense for a "German" or an "Italian" to speak in unaccented English. The accents were in many ways simply a way to accentuate their "foreignness" within the context of the script. It was often as much laziness as anything else.

But the men and women who played the "white" ethnics could then go home to Beverly Hills after the day's shooting was over. A difference which did not go unnoticed by the non-white actors and audiences, even if it passed under the radar of the whites.
   43. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 28, 2006 at 03:08 AM (#2159034)
30 Seconds,

You're right of course, and I can only offer you the timeless observation that modern culture offers both the best and the worst of human creation. Not everyone is going to take his opportunities and make good social use of them. You can blame it on the eternal quest for money and fame, multiplied by the zillionfold expansion of potential markets and audiences. The lowest common denominator just has a much bigger reach than he used to, and he's much harder to escape. At least if you have children.

Rich,

You might not that in all my verbiage above I never said a word against Stepin Fetchit the person, nor would I. Of course he was a creation of his times, as are the vast majority of all of us in all eras. Even Paul Robeson. And even Bob Feller.

And on this note, I might add that Stepin Fetchit won an NAACP Special Image award in 1976, in recognition that his contributions went far beyond his stereotyped character. He also became a Muslim and taught Muhammed Ali one of his patented punches---or so both of them said.
   44. RichRifkin Posted: August 28, 2006 at 04:23 AM (#2159077)
"I might add that Stepin Fetchit won an NAACP Special Image award in 1976"

Minor, minor correction. Stepin Fetchit was a character, not a person. Lincoln Perry, the man who created and played Fetchit won that award. And though I read on Wikipedia the bit about Perry having taught Ali a punch, I would take that as apocryphal. Perry was an actor, never an athlete, and a fairly old man when Ali came along. I suppose it's possible. But it's about as likely as say, Clint Eastwood (who played a boxing trainer in Million Dollar Baby), teaching Oleg Maskaev a new punch. And for what it's worth, what is a "new punch" in boxing? That suggests that before 1965 no one had considered something like a left hook? Seems to me that every "new punch" in boxing had been discovered by the time of John L. Sullivan, and likely long before that.
   45. Belfry Bob Posted: August 28, 2006 at 04:30 AM (#2159078)
To consider the Marx Brothers or The Three Stooges as 'inherently Jewish humor' is a real head-scratcher. So is, for that matter, the idea of Kramer and Costanza as classic 'Jewish' characters (despite the Jewish origin of their creators.) Other cultures don't have whining losers and hipster dufuses? My wife is Jewish, and she looked at me as if I had lobsters crawling out of my ears when I asked her if those guys represented 'Jewish humor.' Or Jewish stereotypes, even.

Woody Allen is Jewish humor. Mel Brooks is Jewish humor. Billy Crystal, Alan King, Jackie Mason...I have never given one thought to any of the above as 'Jewish humor.'

I appreciate the thoughtful discussion, but let's not push the envelope so far that the contents spill out into the floor.
   46. Belfry Bob Posted: August 28, 2006 at 04:32 AM (#2159081)
When did Jason Johnson become a 'clubhouse cancer'?

He certainly didn't appear to be such when he pitched for the O's. He wasn't all that good, but I never got an inkling that he was troublemaker.
   47. Flynn Posted: August 28, 2006 at 05:15 AM (#2159098)
My wife is Jewish, and she looked at me as if I had lobsters crawling out of my ears when I asked her if those guys represented 'Jewish humor.' Or Jewish stereotypes, even.

I'm actually a little surprised. I've heard it said many a time that Seinfeld is a very Jewish show. If Woody Allen is Jewish humor, then Seinfeld is, since Jerry Seinfeld is very nearly as neurotic as Woody Allen. Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm is sort of like a Seinfeld on steroids, and that show is so nakedly based in Jewish culture that I don't think it can be denied.

I haven't put much thought into Alan King or Billy Crystal, but if you don't think Jackie Mason's schtick (heh) is based on Jewishness, you're meshugge.
   48. Ozzie's gay friend Posted: August 28, 2006 at 05:45 AM (#2159106)
Billy Crystal, Alan King, Jackie Mason

Do people actually consider Jackie Mason to be funny?
   49. NTNgod Posted: August 28, 2006 at 05:53 AM (#2159108)
Jackie Mason

Born in Sheboygan!

Although raised in NYC, that still makes him a Jewish Cheesehead.
   50. infidel zombie Posted: August 28, 2006 at 06:04 AM (#2159109)
the discussions on this site are incredible.

thank you, primates.
   51. Ace the Bat-Hound, not a bumblebee Posted: August 28, 2006 at 06:07 AM (#2159110)
A shlimiel is usually an uncoordinated, flailing goof, the kind of guy who, if he were a waiter, would spill soup on his customer; a shlimazel is the born loser on whom that soup would spill.
Hossenpfeffer Incorporated!

Wow, I finally understand the damn theme song.

Anyway, Feller's an idiot, I don't care if he's old. Why put the buffoon on the air, though?
   52. vortex of dissipation Posted: August 28, 2006 at 07:39 AM (#2159125)
22. rLr: Rated "Long-Lasting And Unpleasant" Posted: August 27, 2006 at 08:06 PM (#2158862)

Perhaps Yogi's ship provided off-shore support to the invasion, bombarding the cliffs and so forth.


Berra was a gunner's mate on USS Bayfield. He was assigned to a landing craft, and for the first ten days of the invasion was stationed on the LCI about 300 feet off the Normandy Coast, firing rockets at German positions. A tough, tough job...
   53. TVerik - Dr. Velocity Posted: August 28, 2006 at 11:29 AM (#2159142)
I'm not a fan of theirs, but will Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Foxworthy be pointed at in this way in sixty years?
   54. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 28, 2006 at 01:00 PM (#2159172)
Rich,

Sorry, I meant to put 'Stepen Fetchit' in quotes. I know that wasn't his name.

And I also doubt that Fetchit / Perry "invented" any punches, either, which is why I added the tag line "or so both of them them both said" to my comment. In the aftermath of that farcial second Liston fight, there were persistent stories going around--usually recounted by Ali fans who were eager to disprove the idea of a dump--of some "new" punch which Ali had used to knock Liston out. Several Ali supporters showed me the punch, which was really nothing more than a quick twist of the wrist at the point of impact. The term they used was a "karate punch," which sounded infinitely more exotic in 1965 than it would today.
   55. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: August 28, 2006 at 03:22 PM (#2159255)
- Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Foxworthy can choose their redneck shtick or not. Not the same as Stepin Fetchit at all. Andy's posts are all dead-nuts on.

- Our culture will pose its own problems. Maybe someday they'll wonder how anyone could make fun of stupid people (they don't choose to be stupid, they have stupidity thrust upon them).

- I don't know if I agree with Stanley Crouch in re hip-hop culture, but he's hard to dismiss and I have to listen to him.

- Anyone who doesn't get the Jewish stereotypes in "Seinfeld" just doesn't care. Why should they, if they laugh, they laugh, that's all anyone needs to do.

- Producers can be idiots (cf. Rick Sutcliffe's drunken ravings). If it were someone else I might say for his own good, he shouldn't be near a microphone, but Feller's what, 110 years old? Why should he care what anyone thinks of him?
   56. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 28, 2006 at 04:17 PM (#2159307)
The whole subject of dated ethnic humor isn't always easy to pin down. The TV version of Amos 'N' Andy was withdrawn from syndication in 1966, and even though the decision was applauded by black leaders, it also provoked a lot of outcry from its many black fans.

I found this out directly when in the early-to-mid 70's, I used to take bootleg 16mm prints of old 50's TV shows around to college campuses. (It beat working for a living.) One night a group of black Carolina students wanted to know if we could get any old Amos N Andy shows, and I took them up on it. And the percentage of blacks at our shows immediately shot up from about 2% to nearly 33%. It was one of those counter-intuitive moments supreme, since I'd always been told that all blacks hated the show.

But then I found out that although many blacks did indeed hate the show, many others distinguished the all-black cast TV version from the older, original radio show which was made up of nothing but white actors. And anyone who gets the two versions can tell right away that while the radio show's implicit subtext is the stupidity of nearly all blacks, the TV show had superbly acted individual characters, portrayed by Tim Moore (the Kingfish) and Spencer Williams (Andy), who were well-known comedians schooled in years on the Chitlin Circuit. They were just flat out funny. In somewhat analogous terms, within the context of the times the TV show was Richard Pryor, and the radio show was like listening to George Costanza trying to pretend he's a homeboy---in a word, painful.

And like Stepin Fetchit, the main reason that many people objected to Amos N Andy (the TV show) wasn't the show itself, but that it was the only TV show in the 50's with black lead characters. It was as if the only show featuring Jewish characters were to be set in a stereotyped ghetto pawn shop, with the main character continually trying to cheat everyone else and little hint of Jewish life beyond that. Which is why over time, as blacks engage modern life on nearly every level of authority, much of the controversy about the show has faded away, above and beyond the passage of time itself.
   57. Moloka'i Three-Finger Brown (Declino DeShields) Posted: August 28, 2006 at 07:22 PM (#2159547)
When did Jason Johnson become a 'clubhouse cancer'?

He certainly didn't appear to be such when he pitched for the O's. He wasn't all that good, but I never got an inkling that he was troublemaker.


He was considered at times a gutless annoyance. Most of that was probably due to the fact that he appeared incredibly inconsistent and unreliable, but he also was known for whining in the papers on more than one occasion. For instance, following this 2003 game, in which Johnson gave up three homers in 4.2 IP and surrendered a lead that turned into a blowout loss, Johnson complained to the press that Enron/Minute Maid (I guess the name change had occurred by then!) was a joke of a park, blah blah blah. Grover basically told the reporters to tell him to shut up and pitch better. (And this was at a time when Johnson was pitching well, although characteristically not going deep into games, though that might speak to Johnson's physical limitations as much as his demeanor on the mound.)

Anyway, I don't know if Johnson was a "troublemaker" while with the O's, but my perception was that he did have many fans in the organization, in the press, or in the fanbase.
   58. RichRifkin Posted: August 28, 2006 at 07:40 PM (#2159560)
While I realize this thought is no defense of Dusty Baker, it seems to me worth asking if any other manager with this group of players, given the injuries to the pitching staff and Derek Lee, could have done markedly better in 2006? Perhaps Dusty deserves to be fired (or let go at the end of the season). I suppose he's made enough mistakes to justify such treatment. However, I think the real blame for the condition of the Cubs falls on Jim Hendry, who has not only drafted very poorly since assuming the GM's job, but he's been the man who signed oodles of second rate and past tense players. Just getting rid of Baker will not cure what ails the Cubs.
   59. RichRifkin Posted: August 28, 2006 at 07:43 PM (#2159564)
re: post #58 -- sorry, I was just reading a Cubs/Baker thread and mistakenly posted the above thought here.
   60. Stately, Plump Buck Mulligan Posted: August 28, 2006 at 07:48 PM (#2159568)
"Why put the buffoon on the air, though?"

Hey, he's famous, and famous people have the G-d-given right to have their opinions heard. Whether it's Reggie White talking to the Wisconsin State Assembly or Meryl Streep testifying before Congress about Alar.
   61. rr Posted: August 28, 2006 at 07:53 PM (#2159573)
Perhaps we'll just have to agree to disagree. But the characters in the Three Stooges and in The Marx Brothers -- both in their movies and earlier in their stage acts -- were very much Jewish. Hence, being Jewish was, I believe, a very integral part of their humor.

I don't know enough about the topic to dispute this, but I will say I don't quite see it. In what sense? The Stooges have always struck me as being gender-based humor, both in terms of appeal and structure, more than ethno-cultural. The Marx Brothers, maybe--but I don't really see where the Jewish angle would be. I always picked up an Italian vibe from them in performance--the names, the accents, the jokes.

It might be an integral part of forming their humor, but I don't see it in the execution.
   62. TerpNats Posted: August 28, 2006 at 07:58 PM (#2159579)
The Marx Brothers, maybe--but I don't really see where the Jewish angle would be. I always picked up an Italian vibe from them in performance--the names, the accents, the jokes.

And at'sa no good, as Chico might say.
   63. JC in DC Posted: August 28, 2006 at 08:00 PM (#2159582)
Chico? Harpo? Groucho? Zeppo? Gummo? While we never confused them for Italians, the routines all seemed of an "Italian vibe" as rr put it.
   64. rr Posted: August 28, 2006 at 08:07 PM (#2159589)
Right. I knew they were Jewish guys in real life, even when I was a kid, but I never picked it up in what they did. If Rich or others have examples and are willing to share, I'd be interested, 'cause I have always loved The Marx Brothers.
   65. HowardMegdal Posted: August 28, 2006 at 08:11 PM (#2159592)
The Marx Brothers were raised Jewish, written for mostly (always? can anyone think of a non-Jew who wrote for them? Perhaps the later films) by Jews, and represent Jewish, verbal humor as thoroughly as anyone I can think of. Nobody would argue that point on Woody Allen, and the Marx Brothers were HUGELY influential in his work, as was S.J. Perelman (who was not Presbyterian, either).

I wouldn't even know where to begin to point this out- Hooray for Captain Spaulding includes the Groucho refrain, "Did someone call me schnorrer?" Outside of their stage names ending in a vowel (picked up from a vaudeville trend of the time, not an attempt to be Italian), it's all Semite, all the time. Chico's accent notwithstanding, of course, but really, that is the worst Italian accent in the history of cinema.

To tie into the earlier thread, Feller is a jerk in the Hank Greenberg documentary. He's arrogant, with nothing nice to say about Greenberg. Wonder how he feels about Jews. Actually, don't really care. Glad the people on the right side of history (like Greenberg, who went out of his way to welcome Robinson into the league) are duly recognized, and vice versa.

Greenberg was the first ballplayer to volunteer for WW II, by the way. And he certainly qualified as a bonifide superstar when he did so.
   66. JC in DC Posted: August 28, 2006 at 08:16 PM (#2159595)
Howard:

If memory serves, very often, if not always, their characters had fully Italian names (I recall one ending in "elli", for instance). I don't deny that they were Jewish, or written by Jews, or even obviously pantomiming "Italian" behavior, but would it be wrong to think the Jewish thing was somewhat latent?
   67. rr Posted: August 28, 2006 at 08:18 PM (#2159599)
verbal humor

OK. This might be my lack of background.
   68. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: August 28, 2006 at 08:29 PM (#2159604)
I would say that the Marx Brothers came out of a Jewish tradition of humorous writing, but the only one of them that affected a classic Jewish character was Groucho. Harpo looked more like an Irish caricature, Chico was clearly not a Jewish character, and Zeppo/Gummo was the WASP straight man.
   69. HowardMegdal Posted: August 28, 2006 at 09:01 PM (#2159626)
"would it be wrong to think the Jewish thing was somewhat latent?"

The characters are so steeped in Jewish humor. I wish I had scripts in front of me- it is an extreme superficial Italian influence (Chico always had a ridiculous Italian name of course). Groucho's names were never out-and-out Jewish, and originally his character was modeled on a German vaudeville character, if I remember correctly. But the essence of their humor, their words, were Jewish.

"Zeppo/Gummo was the WASP straight man."

You need a straight man, even in Jewish humor. Assuming someone who isn't funny is automatically a WASP is a reasonable thing to do, however. :)
   70. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 28, 2006 at 09:18 PM (#2159644)
Groucho's names were never out-and-out Jewish, and originally his character was modeled on a German vaudeville character, if I remember correctly.


Groucho's names were usually out-and-out ridiculous, but you are correct that his character was modeled on a German vaudeville character. The Marx Brothers "Fun in High Skule" - their first comedy show - was derived from the Gus Edwards "school act", in which a German teacher (Groucho) had to deal with a classroom full of students of a variety of stereotypical ethnic/social backgrounds - Gummo, for example, was the "Hebe", Harpo the typical Irish/rural "idiot boy", and Chico (later) the "street tough" Italian immigrant - all staples of the various "school acts" of the era.

-- MWE
   71. HowardMegdal Posted: August 28, 2006 at 09:38 PM (#2159658)
Gummo, for example, was the "Hebe"

The Hebe, of course, is a classic Italian stereotype.

Actually, I just visited the Jewish ghetto in Venice- it's quite possible.
   72. Flynn Posted: August 28, 2006 at 11:01 PM (#2159698)
Greenberg was the first ballplayer to volunteer for WW II, by the way. And he certainly qualified as a bonifide superstar when he did so.

Feller enlisted on the 8th of December, 1941. Greenberg had previously been drafted but was released from the service on the 5th as part of a general discharge for men 28 and over. I'm sure the exact date is floating somewhere but I bet Feller enlisted first.
   73. BDC Posted: August 28, 2006 at 11:07 PM (#2159701)
The Marx Brothers had a very immigrant style, it seems to me: their humor (even to a large degree Harpo's) is based on the characters half-speaking English (the running gag where Chico desperately needs something and Harpo keeps offering him the wrong item; Chico mangling English in conversation with Groucho, Groucho's rapid-fire puns and malapropisms).

What strikes me about the Marx Brothers' film characters is that they are outsiders, marginal, scorned, but succeed through moxie and verbal inventiveness.
   74. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: August 28, 2006 at 11:17 PM (#2159709)
Feller enlisted on the 8th of December, 1941. Greenberg had previously been drafted but was released from the service on the 5th as part of a general discharge for men 28 and over. I'm sure the exact date is floating somewhere but I bet Feller enlisted first.

Greenberg was released on the 5th of December and then re-enlisted on the 9th.
   75. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: August 28, 2006 at 11:19 PM (#2159712)
Also, Baseball Library says that Feller enlisted on the 6th of January, 1942, and specifically says that Feller followed Greenberg.
   76. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: August 28, 2006 at 11:32 PM (#2159716)
OK, after further review... apparently Feller was inducted on 1/6/42, but enlisted on 12/9/41, the same date as listed for Greenberg. All very confusing.

Equally confusing is whether Greenberg saw combat duty... there are reports that Capt. Greenberg flew bomber missions over Burma but he also appears as a Special Service Officer for 20th Bomber Group; I'm not sure he would have done both...
   77. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 29, 2006 at 03:14 AM (#2159890)
I'll bet I'm the only person on earth who once went out with a girl named Feldman and didn't realize she was Jewish, and then later just assumed that Chico Marx was an Italian. Talk about cluelessness cubed.

But once I got Chico's ancestry straightened out, the Marx Brothers' style of humor always seemed quintessentially Jewish: nasty, vicious, and funny as hell, although other than A Night at the Opera and a few assorted scenes like Chico selling Groucho those tout sheets in A Day at the Races, most of their films are distinctly best the first time around. I always found their foils (like Margaret Dumont, Sig Rumann, and Robert O'Connor, who played the house dick Henderson in A Night at the Opera) to be at least as funny as the Marx Brothers themselves, though obviously in a different way.

The best Groucho moment was the famous scene (probably censored, since I've only read about it and never saw it) in You Bet Your Life when he was interviewing a contestant, a 45ish+ woman who told Groucho that she had something like "fifteen" children.

Groucho: <u>Fifteen</u>???!!! Holy----

Contestant: Oh, yes, Groucho, I love children!

Groucho: Well, lady, I like to smoke, but I'll still take my cigar out of my mouth every once in a while---
   78. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: August 29, 2006 at 03:13 PM (#2160201)
If the Marx Brothers don't seem particularly Jewish at this remove, it's because Jewish humor has so thoroughly saturated our cultural landscape; we don't see the trees for the forest.
   79. HowardMegdal Posted: August 29, 2006 at 03:21 PM (#2160208)
I think the Marx Brothers were fantastic in their own right. They were also lucky enough to have in Margaret Dumont, arguably the finest straight man ever, particluarly for Groucho's humor, and the finest comedy writers (Kaufman, Ryskind, etc.) of their time writing for them as well.

The cigar line was censored- it also reportedly got the largest laugh in the history of NBC. louder even than the season finale of "Joey."

On Greenberg/Feller, my money's on Feller- apparently, Greenberg wasn't likely to beat anyone in a footrace.

"What strikes me about the Marx Brothers' film characters is that they are outsiders, marginal, scorned, but succeed through moxie and verbal inventiveness."

You could argue that this is the exact path of the Jewish people in America.
   80. JC in DC Posted: August 29, 2006 at 03:29 PM (#2160219)
Because of this conversation, I cannot wait 'til the next time I see a Marx Brothers movie.
   81. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 29, 2006 at 03:35 PM (#2160228)
One the absolutely weirdest bits of Marx Brothers trivia is that Leo McCarey, who directed Duck Soup, also directed the most crackpot right wing movie of all time, the 1952 Robert Walker film My Son John. It'd be hard to find a movie more anarchistic and screwball than Duck Soup, and it would be impossible to uncover a film this side of Reefer Madness more unintentionally hilarious than My Son John, where American Communists wiretap the FBI instead of vice versa and a suspected Red literally swears to his non-Communism on a Bible to his mother, to the snorting derision of her husband.
   82. HowardMegdal Posted: August 29, 2006 at 03:46 PM (#2160246)
"Because of this conversation, I cannot wait 'til the next time I see a Marx Brothers movie."

Because of this conversation, I think I'm going to need to buy the Marx Brothers' DVD collection. As of now, I've been content to have all of their movies taped off of TCM.
   83. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 29, 2006 at 04:21 PM (#2160301)
Because of this conversation, I think I'm going to need to buy the Marx Brothers' DVD collection. As of now, I've been content to have all of their movies taped off of TCM.

Howie,

I've seen em all many times (as I'm sure you have), but if you want a hot tip, My Son John is funnier than any of them. It's J. Edgar Hoover meets Reefer Madness, and it gets better every time you see it.
   84. HowardMegdal Posted: August 29, 2006 at 04:27 PM (#2160309)
Is your theory that McCarey did it totally tongue in cheek? He also did a fantastic film, The Awful Truth. And according to IMDB, his last film was, "Rally Round The Flag, Boys."

Also, it'd mean a lot to me not to call me Howie. The only one who does is my wife's 91-year-old grandfather. He gets a pass.
   85. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: August 29, 2006 at 04:32 PM (#2160318)
Because of this conversation, I cannot wait 'til the next time I see a Marx Brothers movie.


Seriously. I had planned to go home after class and watch my Simpsons DVDs...but screw it, I'm gonna go watch some Marx Bros. movies. My dad has the two DVD collections so I'm set. I've only yet seen Duck Soup, which is hilarious. As a self-described movie geek, that's a huge hole I've been needing to fill for a while.
   86. Boots Day Posted: August 29, 2006 at 04:54 PM (#2160344)
Contestant: Oh, yes, Groucho, I love children!

The woman's line was supposedly "I love my husband very much," which sets up Groucho's cigar line even better.

Regarding whether or not the Marx Brothers are "Jewish" humor, I never really thought of them that way. For one thing, they do almost everything: Groucho's fast-paced wit, Chico's zany non sequiturs, Harpo's physical comedy, the general anarchistic skirt-chasing and attacks on authority. You can see parts of the Three Stooges in them, and parts of Woody Allen, but I don't think you see a whole lot of crossover between the Stooges and the Woodman.

If they are emblematic of Jewish humor, then Jewish humor encompasses everything short of Robert Benchley drawing-room WASP witticisms.
   87. HowardMegdal Posted: August 29, 2006 at 05:19 PM (#2160380)
"If they are emblematic of Jewish humor, then Jewish humor encompasses everything short of Robert Benchley drawing-room WASP witticisms."

Well, this is more-or-less true. But more importantly, I see what separates the Marx Brothers, aside from the fact that they do all of these things arguably better than any group of their time (or possibly ever), is Groucho's verbal facility. He is quintessentially Jewish humor- and the Marx Brothers are largely forgotten without him, I think.

But Harpo was a FANTASTIC silent comedian in his own right, Chico a fantastic dialect comedian. It's like the comparison I believe Bill James made about in-prime Pedro, in that each of his pitches were a little better than anyone's, making him overall so much better than everyone. Groucho being Pedro's fastball, Harpo his curve, Chico his changeup... Zeppo is probably his hitting ability. Never much cared for Zeppo, though he apparently once went on for Groucho on Broadway and killed.
   88. Boots Day Posted: August 29, 2006 at 05:57 PM (#2160439)
Pedro has also adopted Chico's hairstyle.
   89. TerpNats Posted: August 29, 2006 at 06:23 PM (#2160483)
I always found their foils (like Margaret Dumont, Sig Rumann, and Robert O'Connor, who played the house dick Henderson in A Night at the Opera) to be at least as funny as the Marx Brothers themselves, though obviously in a different way.

Sig Rumann was also in the Ernst Lubitsch classic (and sadly, Carole Lombard's last film), the original "To Be Or Not To Be."
   90. HowardMegdal Posted: August 29, 2006 at 06:31 PM (#2160492)
Sig Rumann was also in the Ernst Lubitsch classic (and sadly, Carole Lombard's last film), the original "To Be Or Not To Be."

There is arguably no bigger Marx Brothers' fan than I am. But To Be or Not to Be may be better than anything they did. Of course, it stars someone who likely was a bigger Marx Brothers' fan than I am- Jack Benny reportedly stopped vaudeville performances with his laughter at their shows, when he played the violin.
   91. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 29, 2006 at 06:36 PM (#2160501)
"So they call me 'Concentration Camp' Erhard, eh?"
   92. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: August 29, 2006 at 06:39 PM (#2160504)
Pedro has also adopted Chico's hairstyle.

If only he could get the Mets to start wearing Tyrolean hats instead of caps -- it could happen on Italian-American Day, if there is such a thing.
   93. HowardMegdal Posted: August 29, 2006 at 06:47 PM (#2160520)
"So they call me 'Concentration Camp' Erhard, eh?"

How is that not my Primer handle?

"If only he could get the Mets to start wearing Tyrolean hats instead of caps -- it could happen on Italian-American Day, if there is such a thing."

I would buy this in a second.
   94. Srul Itza Posted: August 29, 2006 at 08:16 PM (#2160600)
a 45ish+ woman

No, it was a man. I have seen that scene -- it may have been censored, but it was also saved and has been shown since.

And the line was "I love my wife", to which Groucho responded, "I love my cigar too, but I have to take it out of my mouth once in a while."
   95. Srul Itza Posted: August 29, 2006 at 08:19 PM (#2160604)
Of course, in trying to track it down on the web, I am getting a lot of hits that indicate I am dead wrong. So maybe my mind is playing tricks on me.
   96. HowardMegdal Posted: August 29, 2006 at 08:24 PM (#2160611)
I have never seen anywhere that this scene has been preserved. I hope very much that it has been. I will also search for it.
   97. JC in DC Posted: August 29, 2006 at 08:30 PM (#2160614)
I have never seen anywhere that this scene has been preserved. I hope very much that it has been. I will also search for it.


May the gods of comedy be with you on your journey.
   98. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 29, 2006 at 08:32 PM (#2160615)
Srul, I'm 99% sure that it was a woman, and that the line was "I love children," but it's been so long that for all I know it might have been one of the children telling Groucho, "yeah, my Mom and Pop really like to get it on," and that's what caused the exchange to be banned.
   99. vortex of dissipation Posted: August 29, 2006 at 08:40 PM (#2160621)
76. John Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: August 28, 2006 at 07:32 PM (#2159716)

OK, after further review... apparently Feller was inducted on 1/6/42, but enlisted on 12/9/41, the same date as listed for Greenberg. All very confusing.

Equally confusing is whether Greenberg saw combat duty... there are reports that Capt. Greenberg flew bomber missions over Burma but he also appears as a Special Service Officer for 20th Bomber Group; I'm not sure he would have done both...


Greenberg originally served in the infantry. When he re-enlisted, he signed up for the Army Air Forces, but not as aircrew. Greenberg served in a ground capacity with the 20th Air Force, the B-29s that flew out of India and China. I'm not sure what his exact role was, but it was a non-flying role, as his autobiography makes pretty clear. He refers to one raid taking off, and says he "took my place in the control tower".

One thing that he wasn't doing was playing baseball. In his book, he says that during the four years he spent in the military, he played exactly one baseball game.
   100. HowardMegdal Posted: August 29, 2006 at 08:43 PM (#2160623)
"I'm not sure what his exact role was, but it was a non-flying role, as his autobiography makes pretty clear. He refers to one raid taking off, and says he "took my place in the control tower"."

Well, perhaps he was just a TERRIBLE bombardier.

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