Exhibition Review: Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing at the Queen’s Gallery from 24 May to 13 October 2019


The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace presents a major new exhibition entitled Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing which features over 200 drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, the largest exhibition of the artist’s work in over 65 years. The exhibition marks the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death and follows a series of 12 simultaneous exhibitions of Leonardo’s drawings from the Royal Collection at museums and galleries across the UK, which have attracted more than one million visitors.

The Royal Collection has one of the largest collections of Leonardo’s drawings which cover a wide range of the artist’s interests. The exhibition features works on painting, sculpture, architecture, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany.

Although Leonardo da Vinci is famous for his paintings, in his lifetime he completed only around 20 paintings. The exhibition explores Leonardo as the ‘Renaissance man’, full of varied interests and skills. Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing is organised both chronologically and thematically and include artistic projects that stretched on for years or even decades.

Whilst many artists use drawings for a quick outline or for practice, Leonardo’s drawings are often very different with remarkable detail. His approach would be considered today ‘scientific’ with the drawings accompanying ideas about anatomy, mechanics, light, water, botany and much more.

The first room includes the well known portrait of Leonardo by his pupil Francesco Melzi (A portrait of Leonardo c.1515–18) and the leather bound album created by sculptor Pompeo Leoni around 1590.

The album contained around 600 drawings and entered into the Royal Collection during the reign of Charles II.

Some of the highlights of the exhibition include anatomical studies include The fetus in the womb (c.1511), The heart and coronary vessels (c.1511–13) and The cardiovascular system and principal organs of a woman (c.1509–10). Leonardo was allowed to dissect 30 human corpses with the intention of compiling an illustrated treatise on anatomy.

Remarkably there are the only six surviving preparatory studies for the Last Supper (1495–8), the painting still exists but it has been drastically changed over the centuries and these drawings give impressions of how it would looked originally.

Leonardo was fascinated by the natural world and drew landscapes, studies of water, flowers and animals. There are many drawings of horses throughout Leonardo’s work, which including studies for three equestrian monuments that were never completed.

Among the drawings are a series of sketches that he used in preparation for the now lost painting Leda and the Swan.

Leonardo is not known for his cartography skills, but a series of drawings including A map of Imola (1502) were created using highly accurate techniques of measurement.

Preparatory studies for paintings include studies for Salvator Mundi (c.1504–8) and The Madonna and Child with St Anne and a lamb (c.1508–19).

All the drawings are not with serious intentions, Leonardo did drawings of costumes for court events, head studies, satires on growing old, grotesque people and animals.

One of the last sections is much darker, his drawings of the Deluge can be interpreted as the artist looking towards his own mortality.

This remarkable exhibition allows visitors the opportunity to understand why Leonardo is seen as the archetypal ‘Renaissance man’. Not only was his range of interests broad but he indulged them all with a scientific outlook that was often years or centuries ahead of his time. His artist skills are shown even in smallest drawings with incredible levels of detail and beautiful execution. The exhibition is a unique opportunity to see a large number of extraordinary works and gain some understanding of why we still are fascinated by the many talents of Leonardo da Vinci over 500 years since he died.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information or book tickets, visit the Royal Collection website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in  2014 , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Exhibition Review: Secret Rivers at the Museum of London Docklands – 24th May to 27th October 2019

The River Thames has played a vital role in the development of London, however for centuries there were a series of waterways in the capital that have mostly disappeared. The history of some of these waterways is the focus of a new major exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands. The exhibition entitled Secret Rivers uses archaeological artefacts, art, photography and film to reveal the stories of London’s rivers, streams, and brooks, exploring why many of them have been lost over time.

The exhibition begins by looking at some of the ‘Secrets of the Thames’, one of those secrets is over 250 Bronze Age human skeletal remains that were found in Mortlake. Whilst the remains confirm the presence of human habitation in this period, but how and why they died in this location remains a mystery.

The Sacred Rivers section includes remains from Roman Londinium found in the Walbrook River, during archaeological excavations there is evidence that Roman Londoners used the Walbrook to transport goods, metal working and other industrial activity. Other objects found like Venus figurines and stylii seem to have a more ritual intention.

The Biography of a River section tells the story of the River Fleet which was considered London’s most important river after the Thames. Known for centuries for being clogged up with filth, the exhibition shows the Fleet is a very different way with a oil painting called Entrance to the River Fleet by Samuel Scott. The artist was a disciple of Venetian painter Canaletto and shows the Fleet entrance with a bridge across that looks more like Venice than London.

An unusual find from the Fleet in the exhibition is a medieval oak triple toilet seat from the mid 12th century, the toilet would have been for private use in a building in Fleet Street.

The Poverty and Pleasure section illustrates that the rivers and streams were often used for a number of reasons. When the River Westbourne was blocked in Hyde Park it created the Serpentine Lake which often froze in the winter. A comic painting entitled Skating on the Serpentine, 1786 by Thomas Rowlandson shows people from a variety of social backgrounds ‘enjoying’ a skate upon the ice.

A less enjoyable water view is Folly Ditch, Jacob’s Island, 1887 by James Lawson Stewart, this area was considered a disease hotspot because of poisoned water open ditches. The area was made famous by Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist, it was where murderous Bill Sikes comes to a sticky end.

Many of the rivers and streams were utilised by the large scale sewerage works in the 19th century especially those constructed by Joseph Bazalgette. During the construction of the London sewerage system the rivers became covered by culverts and used as storm sewers.

The rivers may have disappeared from sight but the names often carried on in the area and gained an almost mystical quality. The River Effra, Fleet, Neckinger, Lea, Wandle, Tyburn, Walbrook and Westbourne in particular began to intrigue various people in the 1990s and the ‘Daylighting’ section looks at the Still Waters project by the Effra Redevelopment Agency. Although much of this project was a ‘spoof’ on London developers, the idea that rivers could be restored to the daylight began to be taken seriously.

Toward the end of the exhibition, artists look at the idea of ‘renewal’ with Data Flow, 2019 by Michael Takeo Magruder and a series of modern books that reference the old rivers.

This interesting and engaging free exhibition tells the largely unknown story of London’s lost rivers and streams. These waterways played an important role in the function of the city, however as the city grew, so did the waste that was often dumped into the water. The rise of water borne diseases like cholera led to action in the form of modern sewers developed during the 19th century. Therefore it is quite ironic that there is a movement to bring these rivers back into the ‘daylight’, as the exhibition illustrates for centuries these waterways were far from idyllic but full of all manner of filth and disease.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information, visit the Museum of London Dockland website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Exhibition Review: Manga at the British Museum – 23 May to 26 August 2019


The British Museum presents the largest exhibition of manga ever held outside of Japan. Manga is the generic name for Japanese comic books or graphic novels which are often serialised in magazines and are now read by a global audience. Manga has developed into multi-billion-pound industry that embraces anime, television, film and gaming. Despite its modern visual style, manga’s original style is associated with the great 19th-century Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai whose drawings of people, animals and nature were published as ‘Hokusai Manga’.

The exhibition begins by exploring the the influences upon manga, whilst some artists have looked way back into Japan’s past for inspiration, it is considered that cartoonists Kitazawa Rakuten and Okamoto Ippei are the first modern manga artists. Their work inspired manga legend Tezuka Osamu who created Astro Boy.

Over the 20th and 21st century, manga has evolved with a wide range of styles and subject matter. This particularly Japanese form of immersive story telling with unique characters and embracing universal issues has now grown to be a worldwide cultural phenomenon.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is the remarkable Shintomiza Kabuki Theatre Curtain loaned by the Waseda University Theatre Museum, Tokyo. At 17 metres long and 4 metres high, this giant curtain was originally made to be displayed between acts at the Shintomiza kabuki theatre and is displayed along one wall of the Sainsbury Exhibition Gallery. Created in 1880 by the painter Kawanabe Kyōsai, the curtain features painted demons and ghosts which create worlds of reality and fantasy. Due to its fragile nature, this will probably the last time the curtain will travel outside Japan.

Throughout the visually stunning displays are works from a number of internationally famous manga artists; including Tezuka Osamu (Astro Boy and Princess Knight), Akatsuka Fujio (Eel Dog), Toriyama Akira (Dragon Ball), Inoue Takehiko (Vagabond and REAL), Oda Eiichirō (ONE PIECE), Hagio Moto (Poe Clan), Takemiya Keiko (The Poem of Wind and Trees), Kōno Fumiyo (Gigatown) and Higashimura Akiko (Princess Jellyfish).

Visitors can enter a rendering  of the oldest surviving manga bookshop in Tokyo, explore artists drawing and understand some of the processes of producing the incredible range of manga. Although manga is considered for the young, the exhibition provides evidence that there really is something for all ages.

One of the great success stories in the genre is ONE PIECE written by Oda Eiichirō which broke the Guinness Book of World Records for the most copies sold for the same title by a single author. The story chronicles the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and his band of pirates as they travel the seas in search of the world’s greatest treasure, the legendary ‘One Piece’.

Another great success story is Studio Ghibli whose films like Spirited Away has recieved global acclaim, at the end of the exhibition on some large screens you can see the master at work and clips from the films.

This fascinating exhibition tells the remarkable story of how a Japanese visual medium conquered the world. Part of Manga’s appeal is that it can use a variety of sources and produce something original with universal themes. Whilst respecting the past, manga often deals with issues of the present and predicts some future advances.

Tagame Gengoro

However within these global adventures, traditional themes like being true to yourself and friendship are considered very important. Manga with all its outlandish characters is often more concerned with different types of human identity. Playing with your identity is all part of the genre which allows readers to immerse themselves in characters with various large Cosplay events.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended 

For more information and tickets, visit the British Museum website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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A Short Guide to Mudchute Park and Farm on the Isle of Dogs

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

A short distance from the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf is one of the largest city farms in Europe. This strange mix of urban and rural makes Mudchute Park and Farm a unique attraction for visitors.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The Isle of Dogs is one of the fastest growing parts of London with a large number of developments, however this is relatively recent phenomenon. Up to the mid 18th century, the vast majority of the Isle of Dogs was uninhabited and used as pastures for animals.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The large open space where the Mudchute Park and Farm now stands was once grazing land until the mid 19th century when during the building of the nearby Millwall Docks led to the space being used for storage of millions of bricks. After the docks were completed, the area was used to dump the mud that was dredged from Millwall Dock. This mud was transferred from the dock to the field by a pipe leading to the area being called Mudchute. Over time the mud accumulated to create small hills and bumps, but towards the end of the 19th century there was concerns when the mudfield was considered a health hazard and the pipe which was discontinued in 1910.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

After the first World War, the area was used for allotments . At the beginning of the Second World War, the land was used for gun placements to attack the aircraft bombing the docks ( there is an Ack Ack gun in the farm to pay tribute to those who risked their lives). After the war, there were a number of schemes to use the land for housing. However a campaign by local residents and supporters led to the creation of an urban farm in 1977.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Since then Mudchute Park and Farm has developed into one of the largest city farms in Europe covering 32 acres and is maintained largely by local volunteers. The farm and park has worked hard to create diverse environment that attracts all forms of wild life.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Farm animals have been introduced over the years to give visitors a variety of experience, with a strong educational aspect with close ties with local schools and other community groups.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Whilst most visitors come from the local area, the farm and park has increased its visibility to attract visitors from further afield.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Mudchute Park and Farm is one of the hidden gems of London providing a wide range of rural pleasures near to the urban jungle of Canary Wharf.

For more information and tickets , visit the Mudchute website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website
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Exhibition Review – AI: More than Human at the Barbican from 16 May to 26 August 2019

The Barbican presents a major new exhibition: AI: More than Human which provides a survey of creative and scientific developments in artificial intelligence and explores the evolution of the relationship between humans and technology. The exhibition tells the story of AI, from its ancient roots in mythology, Lovelace and Babbage’s early experiments in computing, to AI’s major developmental leaps from the 1940s to the present day.

AI: More than Human features cutting-edge research projects, from DeepMind, Jigsaw, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Computer Science Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL), IBM, Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Google Arts and Culture, Google PAIR, Affectiva, Lichtman Lab at Harvard, Eyewire, Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Wyss Institute and Emulate Inc.

The exhibition begins with a section entitled The Dream of AI which considers the human desire to bring the inanimate objects to life which goes back to ancient times. Artist and electronic musician Kode9 presents a newly commissioned sound installation on the golem. A mythical creature from Jewish folklore, the golem has influenced art, literature and film for centuries from Frankenstein to Blade Runner . Stefan Hurtig & Detlef Weitz look at the way artificial life forms have been imagined in film and television.

The next section called Mind Machines explains how AI has developed through history with a focus on innovators who tried to convert rational thought into code. This section includes some of the pioneers of early AI such as Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage; Claude Shannon’s experimental games; Alan Turing’s efforts to decipher code in World War II; Deep Blue vs chess champion Garry Kasparov; IBM’s Watson, who beat a human on US gameshow, Jeopardy ! in 2011; and DeepMind’s AlphaGo, which became the first computer to defeat a professional in the complex Chinese strategy game Go in 2016.

Also in this section is MIT CSAIL’s SoFi – a robotic fish that can independently swim alongside real fish in the sea and Sony’s 2018 robot puppy, aibo, who uses its database of memories and experiences to develop its own personality. Google PAIR’s project Waterfall of Meaning is a glimpse into the interior of an AI.

Artist Mario Klingemann’s piece Circuit Training invites visitors to take part in teaching a neural network to create a piece of art. Visitors will first help create the data set by allowing the AI to capture their image, then select from the visuals produced by the network, to teach it what they find interesting. The machine is constantly learning from this human interaction to create an evolving piece of live art.  In Myriad (Tulips) , artist Anna Ridler looks at the politics and process of using large datasets to produce a piece of art.

The next section, Data Worlds explores the practical applications of AI to improve commerce, change society and enhance our personal lives. Affectiva, the leader in Human Perception AI demonstrates how AI can improve road safety and the transportation experience. In Sony CSL’s Kreyon City , visitors plan and build their own city out of LEGO and learn how the combination of human creativity and AI could represent a promising tool in major architecture and infrastructure decisions.

Data Worlds also addresses important ethical issues such as bias, control, truth and privacy. Scientist, activist and founder of the Algorithmic Justice League, Joy Buolamwini examines racial and gender bias in facial analysis software.

The final section entitled Endless Evolution looks at the future of our species and also the possibility of a creation of a new species. reflecting on the laws of ‘nature’ and how artificial forms of life fit into this. Massive Attack mark the 20th anniversary of their landmark album Mezzanine by encoding the album in strands of synthetic DNA in a spraypaint can. Alter 3, created by roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro and Kohei Ogawa with artificial life researcher Takashi Ikegami and Itsuki Doi uses a deep learning system, Alter learns from its experiences and works with humans to define new perspectives of co-existence in the world.

Architect, designer and MIT Professor Neri Oxman presents ongoing projects from her research lab, The Mediated Matter Group at MIT. The Synthetic Apiary explores the possibility of a controlled space in which seasonal honeybees can produce honey all year round. Vespers , explores what it means to design (with) life. From the relic of the ancient death mask to the design and digital fabrication of an adaptive and responsive living mask.

MIT’s Open Agriculture Initiative looks at ensuring our food security for the future with their AI-driven ‘personal computer farms’ that optimise the development of crops in tabletop-sized growing chambers. It hopes to bring controlled agriculture into the household, by gathering crop-growing data from a network of farms and sharing it with the wider public. Lichtman Lab at Harvard and Eyewire both look at mapping the brain in their research projects and the implications this could have for our health.

The exhibition ends with a short film produced by Mark Gorton, Visionaries , which lets thinkers and experts Danielle George, Amy Robinson Sterling, Kanta Dihal, Yoichi Ochiai, Francesca Rossi and Andrew Hessel speak about their vision of singularity and the future.

This fascinating exhibition uses digital media and immersive art installations to enable visitors to interact directly with exhibits to experience some of AI’s capabilities first-hand. However behind the high tech is some important questions about AI like What does it mean to be human? and what are the ethics behind the development of AI? For all the remarkable recent developments and useful practical applications, the development of certain aspects of AI has been incredibly slow. The dream from the 20th century of a world full of robots that can fully replicate humans has not really happened. Part of the reason is that human beings are remarkably complex and whilst it is easy to replicate certain simple functions, ideas such as consciousness and imagination are more difficult concepts to replicate.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information and tickets , visit the Barbican website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website
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Exhibition Review- Global Dickens: For Every Nation Upon Earth at the Charles Dickens Museum from 14th May to 3rd November 2019

A new exhibition at the Charles Dickens Museum explores the global appeal of the famous author and the impact of his considerable travels on his life and writing. In an age when a ‘viral’ picture can travel around the world in seconds, it is worth considering how difficult it was for a 19th century writer to have global appeal. Whilst it was possible for writers to achieve fame around the British Empire, to sell books in other parts of world was difficult due to a number of factors.

This exhibition provides evidence that although Dickens is considered a quintessentially British writer obsessed by London, the reality was his work influenced people all around the globe. Unlike many 19th century writers, Dickens travelled extensively across Britain, Europe and America and both wrote about these places but also gave talks and performances creating a new type of international celebrity.

These travels were not without their problems, his criticism of American society in Martin Chuzzlewit and in his travelogue American Notes caused a considerable backlash, remarkably he returned to America many years later and was more popular than ever.

The exhibition features a hand written letter from Dickens to his friend William Macready in 1868 describing his impressions of Niagara Falls.

Part of Dickens appeal was his stories often had universal themes which were used and adapted in many different cultures. The exhibition give some idea of the way that Dickens has been used for inspiration ranging from Manga comics to numerous films, Dickens remains the most adapted writer of all time for TV and film.

The exhibition features a Russian poster for a theatre production based on Dickens, A poster for a production of Edwin Drood starring Claude Rains, and a Dutch translation of Dombey and Son.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is a copy of David Copperfield that went to the Antarctic on the 1910 Scott expedition. Its grubbiness indicates that it was well used by those on the ill fated expedition.

This fascinating small exhibition offers an opportunity to consider Dickens as one of the earliest global celebrities, his fame is not restricted to the past with many Dickens festivals still being held all over the world. Dickens never limited himself but was fascinated by his travels and used his journalistic and creative powers to provide his readers with stories of the world outside of Britain. In a fast changing world, Dickens often provided a record of the effects of major political and social changes in a number of countries.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

Visitors to the exhibition are free to explore the Charles Dickens Museum, The Charles Dickens Museum holds the world’s most comprehensive collection of Dickens-related material, including the desk at which he wrote Great Expectations.

For more information or to book tickets, visit the Charles Dickens Museum website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Great London Sculptures: The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin in Victoria Tower Gardens

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Visitors to the Houses of Parliament, often ignore the Victoria Tower Gardens nearby. The gardens offer some wonderful riverfront views and have pieces of art to admire. One of the largest and most prestigious is The Burghers of Calais, by French sculptor, Auguste Rodin.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Appropriately, considering it is within the shadow of the Houses of Parliament it represents the idea of freedom from oppression. The sculpture is based on an incident during the Hundred Years War, Calais had been surrounded for a year by English soldiers under King Edward III when in 1347, six leading citizens of Calais, the Burghers, offered to die if Edward spared the rest of the town’s people.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

It was this moment of heroic self-sacrifice that Rodin captures in his sculpture. In the end, an intervention by Edward’s wife, Queen Philippa pleaded on the Burghers behalf and they and the people of Calais were allowed to leave.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Rodin was commissioned to undertake this work of art in the 1880s and his original sculpture was completed in 1889 and took pride of place outside Calais town hall. Rodin later made a number of casts, this one was bought by the National Art Collection Fund in 1911 and the artist himself came to London to give advice on where the sculpture should be erected.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

This particular sculpture was cast in 1908, installed in 1914 and unveiled in 1915. Over the last century, the sculpture is considered to be one of Rodin greatest works and further casts have been installed in museums and art galleries all over the world.

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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