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14 posts from August 2007

August 31, 2007

Munny, or Our Fucked Up Society Part 5673

I'm a professional fundraiser for a nonprofit organization.

How fucked up is that?

It just hit me. I'm sitting here in a cafe, killing an hour before I go to a meeting at another nonprofit organization (where I will be giving my work for free), and I pulled out a book to read, one I'm reading to be better able to raise funds for yet another nonprofit organization where I also give my work for free.

I was just at the Craigslist Nonprofit Bootcamp in the Bay Area two weekends ago and the keynote speaker pointed out that nonprofit people are more obsessed with money than businesspeople. Yeah, even the ones who deal with money.

And it's true. Our society is so centered around money, that any endeavor that doesn't have money-making at its heart has to spend more time proving its money-worthiness than for-profit endeavors. This includes academia, social service (both government and private), arts and culture at all levels, etc.

How fucked up is that?

How fucked up is it that someone at my organization spent money buying a book that teaches us how to convince people to give us money so that we don't have to be concerned about earning it? How fucked up is it that convincing people to be generous for a good cause is an industry? How fucked up is it that all of my friends--all of them--that I met doing nonprofit work, who have stayed in nonprofit work, have all ended up going into some aspect of nonprofit development or funding, because that's the logical step when you get good at what you do?

Of course, it makes sense that money is at the center of everything because, although it behaves erratically, money is the only measurable quantity of any importance in our lives. The moment you point out anything else measurable--the amount of a harvest, the loss of polar ice, the progress of a student ... or of a disease--its meaning--or meaningfulness--can be directly translated into a currency amount.

Which means the obvious, of course: that money has many layers and regions of meaning, and its behavior and idiom are bigger than we give it credit for on a day-to-day basis. (Sidetrack: note the use of "credit" in the previous sentence, i.e. a promissory monetary value.) Money is neither simply a strange and arbitrary evil at the root of all social ills, nor simply a way--the way--we assess and assign value to objects, labor, and processes.

There are a number of layers of meaning even within the simple process of raising funds for a nonprofit. For example, my current place of work has an extremely healthy system of funding streams, because they are diverse, and because the org keeps a good staff around to continually expand on existing streams and look for and establish new ones. Also, within each stream (say: individual giving, or private foundations) we have a very diverse population of donors and funders, from the very small and limited to the very wealthy and large.

This is because our mission and programs appeal to a very diverse set of people, yes, but it also means that we are able to articulate a vision of our mission and programs that appeals to a diversity of folks. And it also means that the need to appeal to a diverse set of people causes us to articulate an appealing and layered vision of our mission and program. And it also means that the need to articulate an appealing and layered vision of our mission and program forces us to have an appealing and layered mission and program, as well.

Do you like the palindrome nature of that argument? Which came first: the programmatic value or the healthy funding streams?

Ask that question of businesses as well. Which came first: the great business plan or the venture capital? Any dilettante will tell you that you can't get capital without a great biz plan, but can you create a great biz plan without knowing who it is that might fund you?

Ask that of great art. The masterpieces of 500 years ago were all commissioned. Think about that for a second. "Here's some money. Paint something on that wall that will brighten up the room and make me look wealthy." Why can't that be the straw that builds the camel's headdress? Or the new grant the Moneybags Foundation created for a specific purpose: why can't that grant be the thing that causes today's artist to take a simple step out of the comfort zone and into something great?

(Who am I arguing with? Myself?)

It's also not a simple bilateral assignment of value: good/bad; yes/no. Proclaiming an endeavor can start the money flowing, but only fulfilling the promise can keep it coming or increase it. So you shape a mission/program that will appeal to a diversity and then you have to start spinning plates. It's the desire of the diverse funding sources that you be this, that and the other thing ... plus, that thing over there, too. So you say you will. And if you're successful in being those things, very often what you've proven is not your essential virtue, but rather your ability to balance competing demands.

And this is one of the aspects of a healthy organization: the ability to balance a variety of equally urgent demands and satisfy them all. In this way, funding can both stimulate the development of an essential success skill that can be applied to all aspects of the org, and also measure and reward the development of that skill.

A bad org--or artist--or researcher--will create a program based on the stated desires of funders, so you don't want to do that. In that way, money corrupts--and it does so easily and thoroughly. And as time goes on and the corruption (otherwise known as "mission drift") works its black magic, the org's mission and programs become less coherent and successful and the funders leave the building. So an organization unable to maintain its essential purpose against the temptation of easy money is found out. No matter what people may think of their own judgment, hardened bullshit can be very hard to detect. But money simply will not flow towards the corrupted mission ... and will flow toward the tended mission, no matter how personally corrupt its gardeners are.

This is story of George W. Bush. He is criticized for staying a course that won't work, but look at his administration from the standpoint of mission, vision, and program. No president since FDR can be said to have evidenced so little mission drift as Dubya. He articulated a vision of his mission and programs which appealed to a diversity of people, and the money flowed toward it and kept flowing. It still hasn't stopped. And has he kept his promises? Fuck yeah. Has he followed his mission? Fuck yeah! Has he established and stabilized the programs he said he would? Fuck yeah! We need more nonprofit E.D.s like him.

Prob is, of course, our society is neither a special interest, nor a business. And running it like one is killing us. But that's a bit too much of a digression now. What was my point?

Oh yeah, money senses both purity and corruption, not of human morality, but rather of stated purpose. Money can't tell you if someone is good or bad, but it can tell you to a nicety if someone is successful and consistent in their goodness or badness.

Money is incredibly sensitive to variations in that value. It's the ultimate liquid, flowing into every possible crevice. And it's the people who deal the most with it--the financiers and appropriaters and uber-comptrollers--who understand this the best. It's also they who fall most easily prey to the idea that money is the only measurement of value. We all know this.

What's difficult to realize is that, although even the smallest child has a grasp of the concept that money isn't the only measurement of value, even the most sophisticated, well-educated adults often don't have a grasp of the simple fact that money is one of the best measurements of social value we've come up with so far.

Not the only one. And certainly not one you would ever want to use in isolation. But one of the best ones? Definitely.

I can't tell you how uncomfortable this train of thought makes me.

August 28, 2007

Bachelor Parties as Black Holes

I usually hate Cary Tennis, but I love him today.

Some incredibly dumb woman is stressing because her husband is going to a bachelor party where the groom's best woman friend will be.

He is going to a bachelor party. You have said, "That's cool. I'm cool with that." But it's so outrageously lame it makes you want to set fire to the couch. But you are so used to going, That's cool, that it will take you a few minutes to realize that you really want to set fire to the couch. So remove all the matches from the house before you really start thinking about this.

A chick is going to be at the bachelor party, but that doesn't matter either because the bachelor party doesn't matter and she can't do anything anyway because she ceases to exist when she enters the bachelor party because the bachelor party is like temporary black hole. The only difference -- and this is the lamest thing of all -- is that the black hole is not even a real black hole, just a temporary black hole, like one of those bounce houses set up on the crabgrass for a kid's party.

So mix a few drinks, watch some reruns of "Dallas" and try not to kill yourself.

All advice columnists should be like this all the time. Seriously, that was my LOL for today.

I Hate Writing Today

I have five projects going on right now and I don't want to do any of them. I'm skimming over the top. I'm obsessing on whether or not I should go get bad sushi, even though I'm not hungry.

Argh!

I'm gonna get the sushi.

Better yet, I'm gonna go for a walk.

August 24, 2007

One African American Reading List

In the course of this ongoing discussion of race and literature, David Anthony Durham gave a commenter on his blog a recommended reading list -- but only in the comments. I hope he doesn't mind my reposting it here--mainly because I want to save a record of it for my own use.

Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin (First novel by a famous black literary novelist, about coming of age, identity, religion, race.)

The Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler (The only novel by a sci-fi novelist here – a tale of a near future with a world in increasing chaos, brutal and grim, but also poignantly hopeful as well. If you haven't read her please do. I think she was terrific, and I'm disappointed I'll never get the chance to meet her.)

Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison (Classic with a capitol C. His notion of invisibleness of African Americans became a central theme and metaphor regarding race in America.)

Angel of Harlem, by Kuwana Haulsey (A young, contemporary author. This is basically a biopic novel about the first black female physician in New York. That was a rather amazing accomplishment considering that the medical community didn’t think blacks – much less a female as well – were anatomically capable of higher thinking.)

Hunting in Harlem, by Mat Johnson (Another young author, decidedly urban, with a bit of the “thriller” to it.)

The Kind of Light That Shines on Texas, by Reginald McKnight (Interesting short stories with quite a bit of range.)

Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison. (Toni can be tough to get into, but she's worth the effort. I think Beloved is one of the best novels written - ever. I mention this one, though, cause it's darn good to, and bit more accessible.)

Little Scarlet, by Walter Mosley (This is a crime novel and can be enjoyed as such. I also think it’s shot right through with insightful – and sometimes confrontational – thoughts on wearing dark skin in the US.)

I’d be being coy if I didn’t mention my own books, Gabriel’s Story and Walk Through Darkness. I’m very proud of them, and believe they’re accessible and plot-driven at the same time as they're meant to hit some deeper themes.

I can second the Octavia Butler, Walter Mosley, and, of course, Ralph Ellison picks. And I have to admit that Song of Solomon really didn't do anything for me. Everything else is going on my wishlist.

August 23, 2007

Teh Awesome! Marianne Moore and Edsel

I did not know this. Did you know this? The Ford Company invited poet Marianne Moore to contribute names for the car that was eventually named the Edsel. I found it on Wikipedia, and really hope it's true:

David Wallace, Manager of Marketing Research, and coworker Bob Young unofficially invited poet Marianne Moore for input and suggestions. Wallace's rationale was, "who better to understand the nature of words than a poet."

Moore, a loyal Ford owner, submitted numerous lists, which included "Silver Sword," "Thundercrest" (and "Thundercrester"), "Resilient Bullet," "Intelligent Whale," "Pastelogram," "Andante con Moto," "Varsity Stroke," and "Mongoose Civique." (One name she suggested, "Chaparral," later, coincidentally, was used for a racing car.) Against the strong objection from her brother, Moore also submitted the name TURCOTINGA, which was a play on the Cotinga (a South American bird) and the color turquoise. However, she noted in her letter to Wallace that it was simply a suggestion, and that if she wanted to go in direction of nature, she had several volumes of works that she could review. In a letter dated December 8, 1955, Moore wrote the following:

Mr. Young,
May I submit UTOPIAN TURTLETOP? Do not trouble to answer unless you like it. Marianne Moore

All these outside ideas were rejected, although Miss Moore received two dozen roses and a thank you note affectionately addressed to the Top Turtletop, which Moore found amusing. In her reply to Young, she regretted that she could not have been more help, and noted that she was looking forward to trying out the vehicle when it was introduced.

Turcotinga!

August 21, 2007

Readin' Update

Finished Georgette Heyer's The Convenient Marriage. Then I read the McSweeney's Anthology of Hipsters Writing Children's Stories, which was disappointing. There were a few good stories in there, and at least one that was deliberately bad, but there were a lot of just plain mediocre ones. As if any kids would be interested in stories that didn't have proper endings, even if that made those stories Extra Hip And Literary. Arg.

Now, having just discovered that Jean Auel did, indeed, complete a Clan of the Cave Bear sequel long after I lost interest in the whole series, I'm reading said sequel, titled Cliffs of Stone or Caverns of Calcite, or Sex Scenes of Doom, or More People Who Live in Caves and Love Ayla, or whatever.

And yes, it's horrendously badly written. Truly painful. But ... somehow I'm getting drawn in. Despite the horrible writing, it's still addictive, and I can't figure out why. We'll see.

Also, too exhausted lately to blog. That's what happens when you don't take your medication for a couple of weeks. (Long story.) But I'll be back in the saddle again, so to speak, very soon.

August 15, 2007

Readin' Update

Just finished Georgette Heyer's Cotillion. Not sure what the title has to do with anything. I don't believe the word was ever used in the book. It was a little slow in the middle but fun.

August 14, 2007

Readin' Update

argh.

I have a buncha Post Of Import brewing, and I wanted to Write Stuff about these books, but I don't seem to be actually doing it, so I'd better just list them before things Get Outta Hand.

Read Jessica Hagedorn's Dogeaters while in Manila. Perfect! Will probably write something about this on the atlas(t): galleon trade blog.

Read Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. Not impressed, especially after reading American Gods and Anansi Boys, both of which were so much better. Oh, and tired of his Larry Sue protags.

Now reading some Georgette Heyers I never read before. Every time I threaten to forget about Georgie, Justine reminds me.

August 10, 2007

A Word Lesson On "Miscegenation"

Regarding this brouhaha:

First of all, some terms, since I've found that most people are really, really sloppy about them:

  1. Monoracial refers to individuals or groups that are considered to have only one race. This refers both to the person's self-acknowledged identity, and the identity assigned to them by society.
    My father is monoracial: white.

  2. Interracial means a relationship between two people who identify monoracially and whose races are different. It doesn't just mean sexual or romantic relationships, either. commerce between two racial groups would be interracial as well. There are also interracial friendships, mentorships, etc. The term suggests bilateralness. It does not refer to individuals of more than one ancestry!
    My white father and Chinese mother have an interracial relationship.

  3. Biracial, when referring to a person means that that person is of mixed descent, the mix being two races. Although this term could be used in a number of ways, it is commonly only used to refer to individuals of two racial ancestries.
    I am therefore biracial.

  4. Multiracial has many current uses. When referring to a person, it means that the person is of mixed descent, the mix being two or more races. A biracial person is also multiracial. There is also a slight political preference towards using "multiracial" because "biracial" excludes people of more than two ancestries.

    When referring to a group, it means either that the group is composed of multiracial individuals, or that the group is composed of monoracial individuals of two or more races. Which meaning will only be clear in context. "Multiracial" is often used to refer to groups which contain only two races. Usually, "multiracial" is used to refer to group situations and "interracial" is used to refer to one-on-one situations, but this isn't always the case.
    I am also multiracial. I have many individual friends who are multiracial: Chinese and white, Korean and Mexican, Japanese and black. My group of friends is very multiracial, including Mexicans, Indians, Filipinos, whites, blacks, Japanese, Iranians, etc.

  5. While I'm on the subject: Multicultural does not mean "multiracial". "Multicultural" literally means of more than one culture and can be used that way, but is commonly used to refer to a society or group composed of people of more than one race/ethnicity/culture. Its connotation is of balanced diversity within a group.
    I live in a society that strives to be multicultural.

  6. Mixed Race when referring to an individual means the same thing as "multiracial", a person of more than one racial descent. "Mixed race" can also be used to refer to groups of more than one monoracial identity, groups of multiracial individuals, bi- and multi-racial relations of all sorts. It's most commonly used, however, to refer to multiracial individuals.
    I am mixed race.

  7. Miscegenation is a noun, unlike all of the words above, which are adjectives, adjective phrases or adjective complements. It is a noun that refers to an action: the action of mixing races, either through interracial marriage or through interracial sexual relationships. The literal meaning of the term, which was coined fairly recently is "mixing origins", which can refer to childless relationships, but the strong connotation is that miscegenation is the production of mixed race children. After all, the dilution of monoracial purity only comes through producing multiracial children, and this is the result that causes the hysteria in antimiscegenation laws.

    The term originated in a hoax pamphlet intended to create anti-miscegenation hysteria (it succeeded) and has been used in an exclusively negative manner. To use it to refer to purely recreative interracial sex is to use the term falsely, unless of course, the kink is for unsafe interracial sex that leads to pregnancy.
    Many people would think my family is an example of miscegenation.


My point is this: the term "miscegenation" serves a very specific purpose. It has not been turned into an adjective or verb, or even an adverb. It has remained a noun for nearly 150 years. It describes a process, an action with consequences, not a simple fact or state of being.

Aside from any questions of offensiveness, using "miscegenation" to refer to interracial sex fetishes is simply incorrect.

There are interracial relationships, there is interracial sex, and then there are people who get off on the perceived taboo of crossing races for sex. What you call that is "Interracial Sex Fetish", not "Miscegenation".

Get it right.

August 08, 2007

No, It's Not The Same

This isn't IBARWy, but I had to post about this.

An article in Salon today about a woman with a learning disability that messes up her spatial relations:

The biggest problem with my problem is that other people think they have my problem. People get lost going to the airport. They make plans for Tuesday the 16th when the 16th is a Wednesday. It's not their disability, it's their life. Most people will claim they are "terrible with" something. Names, faces, tipping in restaurants. They expect no special concessions. Should I confess to the encumbered nature of my thinking, they're only too pleased to offer an "I know, I’m hopeless with maps too!" But if I try to emphasize the impenetrability of my particular brand of retardation, the commiseration comes to a grinding halt. I can see it in their eyes -- they think I should suck it up.

I get the same thing with low blood sugar. I don't think most people really know what that means. There's a huge, continental difference between being hungry and being in insulin shock. But when I try to explain to people that I'm in danger when my blood sugar drops, they always say, "Oh, I get that way, too!"

Get what way? You become irrational to the point of screaming at people for no reason? You can't pick things up because your hands are shaking so bad from the adrenaline? The lower half of your face goes numb? You lose depth perception? You pass out and go into epileptic-seeming convulsions, biting the inside of your cheek so hard that when you wake up, your shirt is covered with blood and you have short term memory loss? (Okay, I got most of that from a combination of movies about psychiatric patients being treated with insulin, and the blood sugar drop scene near the end of Leaving Las Vegas, but I have had convulsions.)

Funny thing is that another diabetic, or a hypoglycemic, would never say, "Oh, I get that way, too!"

I wonder why sympathy is out and empathy is so de rigeur these days. Or has it always been that way? I'm perfectly happy with people just listening to me tell them about something they don't already know, and then giving me a pitying smile and cutting me some slack. Why don't y'all do that?

August 07, 2007

International Blog Against Racism Week 07

Yay!

Oyceter over at LJ is again hosting International Blog Against Racism Week.

Da rulez:


  1. Announce the week in your blog.

  2. Switch your default icon to either an official IBAR week icon, or one which you feel is appropriate. To get an official IBAR week icon, you may modify one of yours yourself or ask someone to do so. Here's a round up of IBARW icons.

  3. Post about race and/or racism: in media, in life, in the news, personal experiences, writing characters of a race that isn't yours, portrayals of race in fiction, review a book on the subject, etc. (Linking back here is highly appreciated!)

You KNOW ima participate. Howzabout you?

Here's Oyce's links roundup so far.

(Cross-posted on Other Magazine blog.)

August 05, 2007

How Do Editors Reach Out to Writers of Color?

Damn.

I wasn't gonna get drawn into this debate, because Tempy and Tobias were already doing such a good job and saying what I wanted to say, but then I went and read the comments in Tobias's post and now I'm annoyed.

People were--well, one person was--calling out ABW for placing the lion's share of blame on the editors' shoulders for needing to go and reach out to writers of color if they really wanted to diversify the stories in their rags. This someone asked when they were supposed to have the time to do all this outreach.

Are you fucking kidding me?

First of all, arguing that editors don't have time to do their jobs doesn't really excuse anything. It's an editor's job not merely to present the best writing that's sent to her, not merely to make a real, good faith effort to find the best writing that's out there, but to actually encourage writers to produce more and differently--to shape the kind of writing that gets made in the first place. Anyone who doesn't know this isn't really a professional in the field.

And the best editors of the most respected magazines do exactly that. They don't sit on their asses and wait for the transom to emit. They run around like madpeople to conferences and workshops and readings, they collect zines and spend time on the internet and ask their trusted writer/editor friends for recommendations. They talk to agents. They do rain dances, naked.

They also turn to writers and agents and proactively ask them if they have a story on X, or a story written like Y. They do this knowing that word will go around that Editor Z wants X and Y! And tons of hungry writers will step up.

So it's funny that X and Y are so rarely "stuff by writers of color" and "stuff about people of color." All an editor has to do is ask.

2) Given that editors have to do this and also that their time is limited, why don't we poc make things easier for them? I mean, let's start a list of places an editor should go to outreach to those ever-elusive good poc writers. I'll start and maybe members of other communities can pick this up. I'd be happy to host a mini-carnival on this topic, or simply to collect the responses and post them all together at some later date. Please feel free to add resources in the comments, especially if you have a blog that you know poc writers read.

These tips should include:


  1. list servs, forums, bulletin boards, etc. where poc writers are likely to be found

  2. blogs poc writers are likely to read

  3. print and online magazines and newspapers poc are likely to read

  4. real world organizations poc writers are likely to hang out in

  5. poc writers conferences, conferences, festivals (esp. literary festivals)

  6. reading series where poc are likely to participate

  7. undergraduate writing classes at poc-heavy campuses and poc student orgs (yes, they really should be thinking ahead. Someone will be much more likely to START writing if they know they'll be welcome there when they've FINISHED writing something.)

What follows here is a list of all the poc real world and online spaces I can think of to use to outreach to writers of color. NOTE: this goes for literary writing AND for SF/F:

General POC


  1. The Carl Brandon Society (poc speculative fiction writers) discussion list-serv and blog

  2. VONA Voices poc writers workshop, and their email.

  3. Mosaic, an African American and Latino literary magazine, whose lit editor is Sheree Renee Thomas


Asian American
  1. Kearny Street Workshop (Bay Area Asian American arts) opportunities list-serv

  2. Kearny Street Workshop's links page to other Asian American arts and literary orgs.

  3. Asian American Writers Workshop

  4. Hyphen Magazine (national Asian American magazine) blog

  5. Angry Asian Man blog

  6. dis*Orient Journalzine

  7. This listing of South Asian American (Indian subcontinent) journals also includes general As Am markets, some of which might be defunct.

  8. DesiPundit blog, Indian diaspora.

  9. Tiffinbox blog, Indian diaspora.

  10. Resources on South Asian lit.


Chicano/Latino
  1. Galeria de la Raza (Bay Area Latino multidisciplinary arts organization.)

  2. PALABRA A Magazine of Chicano & Latino Literary Art

  3. La Bloga, a Chicano/Latino literary blog

  4. Other Latino literary resources


African/Caribbean American
  1. African American bookstores in the USA.

  2. Black magazines and journals with open submissions.

  3. Publishers with a particular interest in Af/Af Am writers.


Arab American
  1. Links list of Arab writers writing in English.

  2. Mizna, Arab American Journal

  3. Al-Rawi, association of Arab American writers.

  4. Resources and links to Arab American writers.

  5. Angry Arab blog


Native American/American Indian
  1. Native American writers directory

  2. Native Blog, native American/American Indian blog.

  3. Native American/American Indian literary resources.


Academic

  1. Here's a links directory of all the accredited Asian American studies departments and courses in the USA. Many of them will have As Am-specific creative writing courses.

  2. Here's a links directory of African American studies departments and courses in the USA. Many of them will have Af Am-specific creative writing courses.

  3. Here's an incomplete links directory of Latin American/Caribbean studies departments and institution in the USA. Some weeding will need to be done.

  4. The University of Michigan's Arab American Studies Center. A bulletin board, newspage, and resources page are all under construction, but you can email them your call for submissions here.

  5. List of Native American Studies programs

August 04, 2007

arg arg arg

Scalzi claims colorblindness. Arg.

Kameron Hurley reams him as he deserves. Argess.

This has been addressed a million times in poc blogs and I don't need to address it again. If you need to hear it though, read the following:

Nisi Shawl "Transracial Writing for the Sincere"

Nisi Shawl "Appropriate Cultural Appropriation"

Angry Black Woman on "How Prejudice and Bias Works"

What I want to add to the debate is a small piece of truth that gets glossed over. In response to the complaint of white writers about writing about people of color: "Damned if you do. Damned if you don't," I want to say: absolutely.

It's absolutely true. You're damned either way. If you don't do it, you're a racist. Yes, you are. Race and racism exist in this society, and if you ignore them, you're expressing a racial privilege that you don't, morally, have any right to. That's a subtle form of racism.

If you do do it and get it "wrong", you'll get reamed, and rightfully so. It's presumptuous of you to think that you have the right to represent a culture you don't belong to if you can't be bothered to properly examine and accurately portray that culture.

Further, if you do it and get it "right", or rather, don't get it wrong, you'll still get reamed by members of that culture you've represented who rightfully resent a white writer's success representing their culture. After all, every American ethnic minority has its writers: good and bad. The good writers are mostly ignored. Inevitably, some white writer will come along and do a bang-up job portraying that culture and will get--in one book, in one section of a book--more attention than the poc writer got over the course of three or five or ten books.

You're a white writer trying to do the right thing, but no matter what you do, it's wrong. And that's so unfair to you, isn't it?

Welcome to a tiny taste of what it's like to be a person of color.

Oh, and quit complaining.

August 03, 2007

One Party System

Seriously, dewds, what do we need two parties for?

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