garthsj

"Django" Biography

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Thanks for letting us know about this.

My mother -- ain't she great -- is getting me the Django Mosaic for Christmas, and I may pick this up to go with it.

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The best jazz writing I've seen in a long time. Just ordered the book.

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Interesting review from 'The New Yorker'. I have read somewhere that this was the first authentic biography of Django to be published. Probably in the USA but not over here where there has been quite a number of books on Reinhardt published in recent years.

Not going back to the Charles Delauney book of memories of his friend Django that was came out shortly after the musician's death, French books on the subject have been published by critics like Patrick Williams (a specialist of gypsy culture), Noel Balen and Francois Billard, among others. They all provided new light on the man's career.

Will check this one!

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Interesting review from 'The New Yorker'. I have read somewhere that this was the first authentic biography of Django to be published. Probably in the USA but not over here where there has been quite a number of books on Reinhardt published in recent years.

Not going back to the Charles Delauney book of memories of his friend Django that was came out shortly after the musician's death, French books on the subject have been published by critics like Patrick Williams (a specialist of gypsy culture), Noel Balen and Francois Billard, among others. They all provided new light on the man's career.

Will check this one!

Brownie,

I assume that all of those other books you mention are in French?

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Bol, yes. They're all in French.

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Just read the New Yorker article - intelligent until the end where he makes some silly statements -

1) Contrary to what he writes, Django's late work on electric is brilliant and fascinating for its absorption of the new bop elements - Django was Django until the end -

2) Hendrix had nothing to do with Gypsies or Django, regardless of band name - I love Hendrix, but the comparison is a bit embarassing to this critic's rep - Hendrix was very much within the rock and roll tradition, and his experimentation was related most to the rising tide of psychedelia -

Edited by AllenLowe

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I'm in the middle of the Django bio, which seems pretty solid, but per Allen's comment above, the New Yorker reviewer of the book, staff writer Adam Gopnik, is close to the top in that fairly rare category, the not-unintelligent idiot (piss-elegant division, in his case). While he doesn't say anything flat-out stupid in this case until, as Allen points out, the very end, bullshit (or is it horse shit?) is always lurking there with Gopnik because everything he says is something (a) he's prepped himself on more than experienced (b) his motvies for saying anything that he says always have to do with power and advancement of self. See Renata Adler's book about The New Yorker for gory Gopnik details, though she's quite a piece of work herself along related lines.

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The jazz writer for our local paper (Winnipeg Free Press) reviewed this book in today's paper. It was the usual unintelligent, nice, easy-to-understand-but-hardly-indepth stuff that seems to be acceptable for this audience (ie. people who know very little about jazz). His record/concert reviews are in much the same style. Oh well, it's an easy gig for him, I suppose.

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bullshit (or is it horse shit?) is always lurking there with Gopnik because everything he says is something (a) he's prepped himself on more than experienced (b) his motvies for saying anything that he says always have to do with power and advancement of self.

As a writer myself, non-fiction variety, I am more than interested in your take on Gopnik's piece ... I wonder if you would care to elaborate on this critique of yours. I must admit that I don't really understand/see it in this review of the Django biography. I do understand his inaccuracy regarding Django and the electric guitar, but your critique's references escape me. Most of us write about things the we have "prepped" on ... and as far as "power and advancement of self" is concerned, I would like to know more about why you feel that way, and where you perceive this in this particualr review.

Garth.

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I will speak for Larry here - just kidding really - but I know what he means about "prepped" rather than "experienced", and it helps me to understand some of the dumb things Gopnik says - to me Larry is indicating that Gopnik doen't really know the subject through any real experience with it - probably has read a lot of books and other critics - sort of like an academic - as for his personal flaws, Larry was referring to a book written about the New yorker -

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Garth: That Gopnik on Django piece was innocuous for the most part, mostly because he didn't seem to see a way, given the subject, to inject his "professional bright boy with lots of clever ideas"" persona into the mix -- though his reference to Hendrix at the end may have been a gesture in that direction. Typically, however, the subject of almost every Gopnik piece I've read or dipped into over the years (and then thrown across the room) has been the care and feeding of that "professional bright boy with lots of clever ideas"" persona of his.

Now we (that is, you and I) are both of a certain age I believe (I'm 62), and I think we both have had our share of journalistic experience, so perhaps I don't need to explain what a "professional bright boy etc." -- for they abound in journalism (virtually their native habitat), and the stench they give off, once encountered, is unmistakable and unforgettable. Defrocked columnist Bob Greene would be one sterling example; while Gopnik's veneer is far more intellectual when it suits him, he and Greene veer toward an "aw-shucks" pose whenever necessary.

Basically, the problem with such people is that they are, in their work and their inter-personal behavior, cynical lying suck-ups. They trade on their boyishness long after the calendar says that they ought to be regarded as men, and one can never take any of things that they profess to care about as something that they ever in fact considered apart from the advantage they might gain from professing to care about them. For instance, one of the things I know about you is that you are a passionate, knowledgable admirer of Buddy DeFranco; the genuineness of your relationship to DeFranco's music goes without saying because it's so clearly THERE -- to the point where I'm sure that anything else I might discover about who you are and what you've written or done in your life would have to be congruent with your deep fondness for DeFranco's music. And the same, I hope, could be said of me more or less -- when and if any of my enthusiasms are compared to anything else I've done or said, in public or in private. But the Gopniks of this world are living billboards dedicated to the promotion and retailing of the false self. And as with Bob Greene (about whom abundant evidence is now available to all) the scariest thing about most such customers is that may not, in fact, be as cynical as they seem to be -- rather, they quite likely believe in their own poses and cover stories up to and beyond the point where they crumble. A Gopnik anthology would prove my point, but I don't have the will to assemble one. Here's a link to a review of a Gopnik book that touches upon some of what I've said above:

http://www.bostonphoenix.com/archive/books...PARIS_MOON.html

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I would like to thank both of you -- Larry and Clememtine -- for your responses. Not living on the favored coast, and therefore not as needful to monitor the activities, lliterary and otherwise, of people like Gopnik and Denby, (or Frazen and other New Yorker writers) I was genuinely interested in why Larry's take was so ... well ... "negative." I am now duly enlightened, and will play closer attention to their work in future, bearing in mind what has been said here. Of course, in my own little academic world (I teach communications, with a speciality in film history and propaganda studies), I know many such people, and I have learned a long time ago to be wary of their veneer of intellectual superiority. In my time I have been hissed and politely booed at several academic meetings for daring to suggest that "the emperor has no clothes"!

So, once again, thanks for the clarification ....

Garth.

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I'm more interested in reading opinions of Michael Dregni's biography than I am in reading opinions about Adam Gopnik. For example, how does Dregni's biography stand up next to Charles Delaunay's? I haven't read either one, so I'm curious.

By the way, anyone who disliked Gopnik's review should check out Gene Santoro's review in the N.Y. Times a couple of weeks ago. That was a total piece of hack work.

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I'll report on the Dregni bio when I'm finished but have been deflected by other matters. Don't have the Delauney, so I can't compare it to Dregni. Sounds like Brownie knows the Delauney though, in the original French.

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What happened to Bob Greene?

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I'll report on the Dregni bio when I'm finished but have been deflected by other matters. Don't have the Delauney, so I can't compare it to Dregni. Sounds like Brownie knows the Delauney though, in the original French.

I read the Delauney book 'Django, Mon Frere' (Django, My Brother) when it was published a long time ago. Don't have a copy with me now. It was a pretty enjoyable first-hand account of Django's life. Long on anecdotes and short on analysis.

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Don't mean to hijack the Django thread, but here are two pieces about the Bob Greene affair (so to speak).

This one I’ve linked to:

http://www.chicagomag.com/pressbox/021803pressbox.htm#more

The other one appears below complete because you’ve got to go through a bit of an Internet maze to get to it otherwise. As a Chicago Tribune employee during the Greene years, I believe that while there is even more to be said on the debit side (e.g. the horrific Baby Richard crusade), both pieces are on target as far as they go, even if Neil Steinberg is more than a bit of a prick himself. It was the assumption within the paper that what got Greene fired was that when the story began to come out, he lied to his bosses about his involvement with the girl and, especially, about sicc-ing an FBI agent on her in an attempt to scare her off.

Anatomy of Bob Greene

The Chicago columnist crusaded on behalf of abused kids. Then he got fired for having sex with a teenage subject.

By Neil Steinberg

Salon, Sept. 19, 2002 | There is no shorthand to explain Bob Greene, no code. Unlike columnists such as George Will (bow-tied Washington elitist) or Jimmy Breslin (rumpled New York tough guy) or the late Mike Royko (ethnic Chicago wiseass), there is no simple way to describe the deeply weird Midwestern world that Bob Greene built through his column in the Chicago Tribune. That world shattered like a glass Christmas tree ornament hit by a brick last Sunday, after news of his forced resignation was tucked in the lower left-hand corner of the Trib's front page, in a narrow box headlined, cryptically, "To our readers." After nearly 25 years in the newspaper, and more than 30 as a Chicago columnist, he was gone, cashiered.

Bob (calling him "Greene" somehow feels wrong, like calling Elvis "Presley") was the bard of Middle America, the defender of abused children, the relentless nostalgist who seldom paused from keening for the lost world of pre-1964 Columbus, Ohio, to notice anything positive in life today. It was all loss and decay, and a sense of sadness over what was and outrage over what is. In Bob's world, children were routinely tortured and murdered while the legal system yawned, cherished institutions crumbled, the niceties of life were abandoned, and nobody cared.

When Bob did find something that met his approval, it was inevitably presented as a freakish anomaly, an unexpected flower growing out of our blasted and ruined landscape. When he found a high school string quartet that played diligently at a dinner he attended in South Bend, Ind., he presented the students as one of the rare "signs of hope" in a nation where otherwise "a lot of things" are "destined to go badly, to decline."

Bob's world was filled with odd contradictions. He liked baseball but not baseball players, Woody Hayes but not football, airports but not travel. He hated cities but lived in Chicago, lauded the wide-open roads of the Midwest but did not drive. He was the master of the unexplained dateline, filing from some city that had little or nothing to do with that day's topic. His column might, say, carry a Tokyo dateline, but describe, not anything in Japan, but the hotel room, or the little soaps, or something on the cable TV.

Perhaps the most distinctive Bob characteristic was repetition. A columnist is supposed to provide a counterpoint to the steady drumbeat of the news. When the front page is chanting Iraq! Iraq! Iraq!, the columnist can cut across field, write something entirely different -- hit some small curiosity one day, and the fate of the universe the next.

Not Bob. He would latch onto a subject -- particularly the tales of tortured children he gleaned from trailer park America -- and worry them like a dog with a beefsteak. Four columns in a row were unexceptional for Bob. Eight columns. A heart-wrenching child custody case, the Baby Richard saga, prompted more than 100 columns from Bob, each day repeating large blocks of background, lines like "the only family he has ever known" burning into the memory of his readers as certainly as Homer's "wine-dark sea" and "rosy-fingered dawn."

That this world could come crashing down in a sex scandal -- with a high school girl, no less -- was a shock to his fans and a delightful surprise to his detractors.

For the past 20 years, there have been two ways to view Bob: You could take him at face value -- and a lot of people did. They viewed his concern for children as sincere, and made his books bestsellers. His column was syndicated. For a time, in the mid-1980s, he wrote the "American Beat" column for Esquire and filed reports for "Nightline." He was pals with Michael Jordan, and his two hagiographies on the star swept away Jordan's complex character in a blast of adoration.

Or you could mock him -- and a lot of people did. They viewed his detailed descriptions of child abuse cases as an unsettling kind of pornography, and his take on America sentimental and sappy. The very first issue of the satiric monthly Spy, its October 1986 debut devoted to "JERKS," featured five little square photos of Bob Greene, in a row, under the headline "The Illustrated History of Hair, Part I." In the first, 1971 photo, he was seen on the phone, his bald pate barely covered by a pathetic tuft of hair. In the next four, he is shown in a series of patently fake toupees, lush helmets that would look ridiculous on Madame Pompadour.

The toupee seemed to symbolize Bob and his writing -- a simulacrum of nature, an obvious falseness that he seemed to believe was accepted as real. He bared his soul, supposedly, but never a word about the wig. The ridicule swelled -- Chicago radio stations aired sketches and running gags about Bob. The Chicago Reader ran my monthly column, BobWatch, for two years, cruelly dissecting the columnist's passions and failings. The BobWatch philosophy was that Bob was so woefully bad, so frightened and out-of-touch and tone deaf, that he could be savored as a guilty pleasure, the way lousy 1950s sci-fi thrillers are enjoyed as camp.

And now he is gone, in a flash on a clear blue Sunday, gone like dial telephones and penny candy. Scandals unfold in a natural, almost mathematical progression, and this one is no different. First that morning's shocking news, a spare gathering of fact: Bob Greene has resigned and "will no longer appear in the pages of this newspaper." He was forced to resign after an anonymous e-mail touched off an inquiry uncovering "inappropriate sexual conduct some years ago with a girl in her late teens whom he met in connection with his newspaper column." The Tribune "deeply regretted the conduct, its effect on the young woman and the impact this disclosure has on the trust our readers placed in Greene and the newspaper."

If the Tribune expected this vague scrap of fact to satisfy the local media, hungry on a quiet Sunday, it had, again, failed to grasp what people consider news. Bob is married, with two kids, one of whom he celebrated in the 1984 bestseller "Good Morning, Merry Sunshine," the book that began the trend of writers commoditizing their children. Merry Sunshine is about the age of the girl he admitted to having sex with.

Reporters fanned out, hot on the trail of Bob and the girl, and battering at the Tribune corporate doors, which were barred. The Trib's spokesman said merely that the statement stood on its own with no need for elaboration. Greene issued the standard, passive apology fragment, that he was "sorry for anyone I have let down." The story led the local TV newscasts in Chicago on Sunday, except of course for WGN (which, remember, stands for "World's Greatest Newspaper"), the station owned by the Tribune, which buried it deep in the program. So much for synergy.

There is a certain indignity that follows Bob like a cloud. When the Tribune inserted a "time capsule" CD-ROM in the paper the previous Sunday, it included a special warning -- due to a glitch, clicking on the Bob Greene column caused the program to shut down. The scandal a week later was no different. Despite the seriousness of the reports, a subtle mockery filtered in. The local NBC station misspelled his name, "Green," in its ID tag. The Fox reporter initially gave his name as "Mike Greene."

Newspapers leak like paper bags filled with water. By Monday, the details were dribbling out: The girl was a high school student visiting the Tribune for a project. There was sex in a hotel room and Bob wrote about her in his column -- not about the sex, of course, but a fond look at her naive questioning as part of the high school project.

As with all things Bob, there was a weird twist. After the girl -- now a woman in her 30s -- called Bob on the phone, twice, she was contacted by the FBI, who told her, her e-mail to the paper claimed, that she was threatening the columnist. Even the Trib, which at first tried to stonewall, carried a next-day story on the vigorous debate over Bob's dismissal.

There was plenty to ponder. Just why was Bob forced to quit? For the sex? That seemed odd -- his reputation for goatish pursuit of young women was an open secret. Everyone seemed to know women who had stories of Bob creepily singing his love song at them. I myself knew four. Why would the Tribune decide to act now, on this particular complaint? It couldn't be the first.

Was it because he then wrote about his little missy in his column? That would be more in keeping with the Trib's recent high-profile moralizing. The paper had refused to even look at the photos of a photographer at ground zero after learning he had accepted a free T-shirt from Chicago firefighters. That set people's heads shaking -- we've come a long way from the days when City News reporters occasionally kicked in the basement windows of a crime victim's home to steal a photograph of the deceased off the mantle. They couldn't let the path to coverage in the Tribune lead through Bob Greene's bed.

Or was it something else? News stories do not always emphasize the most salient facts, and Bob's apparent terrified rush to the FBI was a fact that was easy to overlook, particularly as the image of Bob Greene having sex with a teen was seared into the collective consciousness. His running to the FBI was not buried safely in the 1980s, but recent, this year. The Trib takes its ombudsmanship seriously, and can't have complaining readers ratted out to the feds.

And what did the woman call about, anyway? The assumption is that, if she was actually threatening or blackmailing Bob, that would be somehow exculpatory, and the Trib would have mentioned it. What did she say?

At midweek, we are at the point where, traditionally, the wrongdoing, which initially was passed off as an isolated indiscretion, is found to have been a longstanding pattern of behavior. Radio talk-show phone lines heated up with women claiming to have approached Bob as admiring young fans and left him as despoiled groupies.

So far, the Trib has refused to entertain the issue of whether this was the first complaint or, like the Baby Richard columns, one in a chain of 100.

"We are dealing with one specific allegation, and that's what we addressed," said Ann Marie Lipinski, the Tribune editor.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this entire episode is how quickly the Tribune cast its premiere columnist's being fired for using the newspaper as a chick magnet into a moral triumph. The newspaper positively glowed with pride, in a flurry of self-administered back-pats.

"I'm also intensely proud of the people who run this newspaper," wrote metro columnist John Kass. "Because they had the courage to do something painful to repair that trust."

"Tribune journalists must," noted an editorial, "under possible penalty of dismissal, abide by 12 pages of policies on ethics and business conduct."

Now Chicago journalists are wondering how the Tribune -- which in the past five years has lost such marquee names as Mike Royko, Ann Landers and, now, Bob Greene -- will be affected, and if the Bob Greene story has legs. Midweek of the first week, interest in Bob's Big Blunder seems to have not yet crested. CNN and MSNBC are preparing programs. Newsweek is investigating. And even his detractors are shaking their heads in amazement and feeling, perhaps, a twinge of regret over the loss of Bob's warped world. Who will we make fun of now?

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Thanks Larry .. now I know what "self-aggrandizing journalism" means ... it makes academic writers seem almost modest by comparison ...

Edited by garthsj

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Greene has begun to resurface lately, as many Greene watchers predicted he would -- an op-ed piece in the NY Times, an appearance on Nightline (I believe), etc. If I were a betting man, I'd say that such a relatively quiet, "Don't we all agree that I've done my time?" return won't really work, if only because lack of regular exposure to Greene's particular form of journalistic b.s. probably will make him seem a bit "off" and dated to those -- both in the audience and in the industry -- who might otherwise have remained susceptible to him. My guess is that his only hope is go all out -- write a mea culpa book about his career as a supposed sex-addict who had a sad yet irresistable need to bed hero-worshipping teenage girls. The risks of doing this are obvious but...

Still reading the Django bio. My guess is that the author's account of Django under the Occupation will be the meat of the book.

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Still reading the Django bio. My guess is that the author's account of Django under the Occupation will be the meat of the book.

Larry, does the book give a detailed account of what happened when Django Reinhardt tried to take refuge in Switzerland in 1943?

I remember the Delauney book briefly mentioned the episode. Delauney indicated that Django Reinhardt was refused entry and was turned away because he was neither a black or a jew.

I have personal reasons to be interested in the episode. If the account of Django under the Occupation brings new light on this sad period, I will probably purchase the book.

And to keep this personal, just to let you know that my Christmas present will be a copy of 'Jazz In Search of Itself'. My wife's been told I was not looking for any other present.

Any plans to come to Paris for a book signing :rolleyes:

Also I must admit I had never heard of Bob Greene until his name showed up on this thread. Quite fascinating!

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Brownie -- Django's attempt to get into Switzerland in Nov. '43 is mentioned in a paragraph but not in much more detail that you referred to. My guess is that the Delauney book was Dregni's source there. A signing in Paris? What a dream that would be. My wife and I were there last April for about five days of heaven (stayed at a nice little place, the Hotel Aviatic, 105 Rue de Vuagirard, near the Montparnasse Metro stop) but don't think we could afford a visit with the dollar where it is now versus the Euro. It was expensive enough last year, though not as bad as London, where everything seemed to cost twice as much as it should even after you took account of the exchange rate.

The account of the war years in "Django" is interesting -- our hero, though not a collaborator per se (that issue arguably was not on his radar screen), was never better off financially than he was then, and jazz reached unprecedented peaks of popularity under the Occupation -- but the book as a whole to this point has a few problems. Some odd goofs -- the Nazis are said to have invaded Poland on Aug. 20, 1939 (try Sept. 1), "Stompin' at the Savoy" is credited to Benny Goodman and Chick Webb, not to its actual composer Edgar Sampson, etc. Also, the author, though he's a musician, hasn't said much so far about Django's music that seems to me to be insightful and a lot that strikes me as wooly, e.g. on p. 230, of Django's composition "R-Vingt-Six," "Its breathless runs of harmonizing chord changes..."

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Larry, thanks for the report on the war account of the Django book. I'll check the book when I see a copy and would decide then if it's worth purchasing.

So you stayed at that Aviatic hotel on the Rue de Vaugirard! A small world! I know that part of the street (Paris' longest street). I lived from 1952 to 1968 at 107 Rue de Vaugirard! Marion Brown who visited my place a number of times before I moved out of it even wrote a composition after that place. His recording of it is still unissued :angry:

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Some observations:

I've read Delauney's book a number of times. As Brownie suggests, it is more of a memoir than a history of Django. A number of interviews with Stephane Grappelli, were at odd's with Delauney, concerning the war years. Records of concerts in England after Django supposedly returned to France, etc.

I found 'D's' version of the 'escape' to Switzerland, sadly, very funny! If you are interested in the subject, I would research Grappelli interviews. It's definitely another point of view. Delauney's book is worth reading for the 'Keystone Cops' quality, of aspects of Django's quirky personality. The photo's alone, are worth the price of the book!

I look forward to a comprehensive review of the new biography.

pmf

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This will have to be a truncated report, because Dregni's book pretty much lives or dies on the accuracy of its French scene/Gypsy life background and foreground, and I don't have enough independent knowledge to judge those matters. In other areas, as I said above, odd glitches appear. For instance, on p. 255 Bobby Jaspar is identified as one of a group of "African American expatriates," and p. 254 Roy Eldridge is a "bebopper." Apparently, jazz as we know it is not Dregni's home ground. Again, there is some reason to assume that the French and Gypsy milieus are where he speaks with more authority, but I can't swear to that. I wasn't impressed with Dregni's account of Django's music at first, but in the latter stages of the book, he mounts a vigorous, fairly detailed, and, in my opinion, accurate defense (if that's the right word) of Django's latter-day electric guitar work. There's some amazing, more or less unprecedented music there; Django was re-inventing himself. Also, if Dregni is to be trusted as a judge of talent, there's a intriguing epilogue in which he discusses a host of allegedly remarkable guitarists (many of them also gone now, some of whom never recorded) who sprang from the same world Django did. I'm inclined to trust Dregni here, because he praises the Ferre brothers, Boulou and Elois, and they are remarkable.

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