Thursday, December 30

Professor Mac-thing-a-ma-jig's triumphant return to the world of Scientifery!

Last year there were so many great movies I had to make a top twelve list, but this year after a heart to heart with Matt, wherein I basically confided that I didn't think there were enough good movies released this year for me to make a year end top ten, I have reconsidered. There are barely enough, and so here they are:

10) A Dirty Shame, by John Waters

Another directorial high point, it's gleeful depravity so infectious I feel sorry for the critics too stodgy to get the joke. Ought to be shown as part of a sex ed class in every high school in the land.

9) Team America: World Police, by Matt and Trey

Scattershot politics aside, this does what comedies are supposed to; made me laugh until my sides hurt. Just fuckin' hilarious from start to finish, I laughed as loud and as hard as I have at anything since, well, since the last Trey and Matt movie, South Park:B,L&U. God it's nice to be adding my second comedy to this list.

8) Lila Dit Ca, by Ziad Doueiri

A perfect, beautiful coming of age, almost the female 400 blows with its frank sexual energy and incredibly compelling performances. Seek it out.

7) Collateral, by Michael Mann

A genre thriller that is Hitchcockian in the actual sense of the word, with organic story and brilliant characterization that had me on the literal edge of my seat. The real deal in spades, muchacho. Never mind cinematography that will prove so influential that night shooting on video can never be the same again. Destined to be aped ad infinitum.

6) Old Boy, by Chan Wook-Park

South Korea is definitely the new Hong Kong, and it was ground zero for two of the most astonishingly different crime films I've ever seen. Old Boy is the flashier of the two, a revenge tale that had me guessing to the final frame and yet never stopped giving exactly what was needed to ground the story and knock your socks off with visuals and pacing. The other was....

5) 3-Iron, by Kim Ki-Duk

A hypnotic and brilliantly cinematic study in isolation that blew my mind in so many ways. Just a treat to see something so totally in command of the form that watching it i needed to remind myself to breathe occasionally.

4) The Incredibles, by Brad Bird

What can be said that hasn't been already? the Pixar movie for grown-ups plays better when you don't bring the kids along, and can fully geek out at the awesome sets, furniture, costumes, architecture, cars, etc. Not to mention the out James Bonding James Bond, and throw in the best super-hero group dynamic ever.

3) The Alzheimer Case, by Erik Van Looy

The flat out most entertaining film I saw this year. An aging hitman (Karakter's Jan Declair) is slowly losing his memory, and fighting against time to right a wrong he almost committed himself. Memory and loss of memory play out as overarching themes that inform every scene, but never intrude on what can simply be enjoyed on the level of a crackerjack thriller. Think Point Blank, except you care deeply about the characters and the outcome.

2) A Very Long Engagement, by Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

World War I has never been on screen like this before. Never mind that it's the best mystery in a movie this year, or in any of the past five, for that matter. Jeunet slows down to hit all his targets with the same deliciousness that a marksman takes in nailing a perfect score. This is what it's like to watch a master of both art and craft. Bravo.

1) Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside), by Alejandro Amenabar

The toughest thing is to take a hackneyed, overwrought "issue film" (euthanasia) and actually make it as riveting as if it was happening to us. Mar Adentro delivers an emotional wallop that I have rarely been privy to, and my deep connection to it on a purely emotional level trumps all the rest to make it my best film of the year. It's playing soon, so make sure you just go and buy a ticket. Take a friend. Make a night of it. Bring some kleenex.

Honorable mentions: Childstar, Kill Bill vol 2, Hellboy, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Sideways, Ferpect Crime, Bad Education, Primer, Breaking News, A Very Long Engagment

Most disappointing movies of the year (remember, this doesn't necessarily mean the worst)

The Life Aquatic, Being Julia, Mean Girls, Spiderman 2, Van Helsing (okay in this case it means the worst), The Village, Open Water, Shaun of the Dead

Movies seen that were theatrically released this year: 30 in theatres, another 45 at the festival

Again, I can't see everything:

(These might have made the list if I had had the werewithal to get off my ass and see them in time)

Lemony Snicket
Hotel Rwanda
Red Lights

you're ordering tests to cover your lechery; or help, my rotisseur's arm is full of spiders

I'm back from my week at the cottage. We left a little later than originally planned, after a couple of my hebrew peeps came through with cancelled plans of their own and we all got together for a rockin' jewish christmas eve. In what was a harbinger of things to come, The Aviator turned out to be kind of meh. This has been one awful year at the movies, and so why should this be any different? There's nothing really wrong with the picture, just nothing extraordinary, and for my money that makes it a disappointment. Remember when Scorsese had so many ideas it didn't seem like they all fit on the screen at the same time? Well now he's a competent journeyman who seems less passionate about the stories he's telling than Ron Howard does. I'd love to talk to someone in 1978 and let them know that someday Richie Cunningham was gonna be a better director than the guy that just did Taxi Driver.

Then it was some excellent Omonia greek, and in the morning we headed north. I packed about 10 dvd's and no books (a mistake, as it turned out that Cig actually did need to use his own computer some of the time, leaving me with nothing to do but spend time with my son. That bastard.) I did manage to get this astounding picture:


I think he might have a slight astigmatism, we'll know better after some tests. This was part of our time spent playing 3d Tic-Tac-Toe (those are the "O's"), a shockingly challenging game that was quickly replaced by a variation in which both players work cooperatively to try not to win. This is, of course impossible and that added to the joy. The main point of playing games with Max isn't so much to play the games anyways, it's to teach him how to win, and how to lose. At almost 5, it's a work in progress.

We played in the snow, I watched about 14 hours of commentary and special features (that giant burning building in Gone With The Wind?, it's the gates to Skull Island from RKO's back lot), Leah read an entire book, and general nondescript fun was had by all. Max can now play Mary Had a Little Lamb on the piano, and nothing else of consequence was accomplished. We came back yesterday, leaving Max for one extra day of fun.

There were still a couple of movies left on my list, so I headed out for a double feature, Life Aquatic (more meh) and Million Dollar Baby (still more meh, although in this case a two thirds excellent movie ruined by a poor final third) and then it was home again to my warm bed.

Now my only problem is what to do with New Year's eve.

Thursday, December 23

A blank page, a canvas, white

Crashing headlong into ought five, I thought I might do a quick recap of my life in the oughts, as we are now practically halfway through:

I gave up my dream. I seriously planned to open a video store and was raising the money to do it, I incorporated, bought some back stock, and had a kickass business plan. Then, I gave it up. Reality kicked my ass on that front, folks.

I sold out to the man. I have worked for not one, not two, but three different soul crushing industries in the last five years. Yup, cars, banks and telecom, the three biggest economic oligarchies around (I suppose I could have worked for Hydro just to complete the grand slam, but there's still half a decade left for that) have all had the pleasure of my service and my sunny disposition. Here's what I've learned about the world of work. It can't be enjoyed, it can be barely tolerated, unless it's really busy with meaningless task, in which case it can be gotten through. I find it almost impossible to be friends with the people at work because without those divisions my life will become too entangled, and yet when asked what I like about my job I will invariably answer "well, the people are nice."

I did a pretty good job so far with the kid. Max is turning out almost exactly as I had hoped, although who knows anymore if that's good or not, or even whether I'm right to have any hopes for how someone else will turn out. In any case, he's funny and silly and we have shtick together that can last a lifetime. Also he's inquisitive and currently trying to read everything he can get his hands on. He's also popular, something I haven't been since 1978, so I'm hoping he enjoys it while it lasts. Watching the Iron Giant and having a cry together on the couch gives me hope for future generations.

I bought my first house. Well, actually my wife bought it, but I helped a little. I realized my goal of living right downtown, and my dream of not having a yard. I also managed to make my other dream a reality, the one where a sexy schoolteacher's car breaks down and.. oh shit, never mind.

I learned to drive. Technically this happened in '99, but my final license was obtained in the oughts, and so counts for this decade. After years of cold, fruitless waits, work lateness and a complete lack of female companionship i did what I should have done in the first place and got my ass in gear, so to speak.

I made some new friends for the first time since high school. After a progressively fragmentary group got small enough to count on my fingers, I went out and did the impossible, made some actual new friends that I care about. The great thing is that they've fooled me into thinking that the feeling is reciprocated although we all know that I'm really quite an odious little man who presence can never be anything more than barely stomached.

I went to New York. Realizing a lifelong dream to spend gobs of money in a tiny technology filled island, I hit NYC and saw three honest to god broadway shows. Now I just have to save money for seventeen more years so I can afford to go back.

I got fat. At the beginning of the decade I was 35 pounds lighter than I am right now. Getting fat sucks, it depresses me, but not eating every single thing I want to whenever I want to depresses me more. Viva la bam!

I'm sure there's more, but these are the high points as I am concerned. From a stats perspective, here it goes:

2 Industrial films
2 blogs
200 CD's
300 DVD's
500+ movies
20 plays
30 books
25 new recipes
3 cars
1 apartment
1 computer
1 iPod

Wednesday, December 22

fistic oblivion

The trailer for the biggest movie ever to shoot in our city just hit the net. Cinderella Man is a big budget redemption story from the depression, kind of the man version of Seabiscuit, and it's being soft pedaled like the oscar bait that it is. But the trailer made me feel good anyways, mostly because of just how beautiful the shots of a fully lit and dressed Toronto are throughout. Seeing Maple Leaf Gardens cleaned and scrubbed and decked out in all its' 30's splendor gives you a small sense of how important that building was to our collective civic pride when it was built. A giant project, financed out of the worst economy in history, and completed in just eight months, it must have been the Taj Mahal to Torontonians struggling to find their next meal. A building to inspire greatness in the rest of us.

One quick story: A while back I got to know a television director, and amongst his other projects he had been one of the directors on the "Heritage Minutes" series for Patrick Watson. He pitched a Maple Leaf Gardens minute to try to show just how amazing the construction schedule on that thing had been. The centrepiece was going to recreate a working forge that had been built at centre ice to actually found the beams used in the superstructure of the building, since they couldn't get them delivered from Stelco in Hamilton fast enough. Beams were founded, cooled and then put into the rafters in one smooth series of steps, part of why the schedule was so accelerated. Apparently the remains of the forge are still under centre ice, since they were too heavy to be carted away. The series ended before he could get the green light, but holy crap, that would have been cool.

Brenda, you have been replaced

An australian has invented self folding robotic paper that can origami itself, apparently. Because the whole joy of origami is in the result, not in the physical process. Way to take the most low tech hobby ever and turn it into something you'll need a phd in molecular engineering to participate in.

Tuesday, December 21

Just Warming Up

Damn, was it cold! Andy must just be cursing Canada all this week. Was out on Sunday night taking in House of Flying Daggers and after it was over I got to relive it by walking outside and feeling the ending of the movie in real time.

I've rediscovered my iPod. After about a 2 month fallow period following the end of the TIFF, I am once again convinced that this little hard drive is my bestest friend in the whole world. Just putting it on global shuffle and having it instinctively guess my mood and inclination proves it to me. Now there's even better news, too: in what I fear is the vapor ware announcement of all times, Belkin just had a press conference to introduce the world to TuneStage. This is a little bluetooth nugget that plugs into the headphone jack on your iPod (or any headphone jack, I guess) and then there's a little receiver piece for the home stereo, and voila! wireless connectivity from the iPod to the stereo, and the damn thing becomes its own remote. How long before the G5 version just builds bluetooth right into the case and I wind up upgrading the whole damn thing?

Other stuff you could do with a bluetooth enabled iPod (besides be the envy of everyone around you)

wireless earbuds (duh!)

personal broadcasting - anyone within 50 feet of your iPod has the ability to hear your stuff on their iPod, if you choose to enable it) or better yet, anyone within 50 feet of anyone within 50 feet, in a kind of ad hoc network style set up

car stereo compliance - build class 2 bluetooth into the car stereo (acura already does this for cell phones) and the damn thing just plays while the pod is in the car

cell phone communication - just pop a little microphone on the wireless earbuds, and have the iPod wirelessly "talk" to your also bluetooth enabled cell phone to allow you to take a call on your iPod automatically while pausing the music. Hell, let the syncing with address book make it so's you can even dial out from the click wheel

Oh, and about Flying Daggers, of course the usual accolades apply, a visual treat yada yada, but also I just kept thinking about how ready I am for an HK actioner to actually be amusing again. The thing that hooked me in the age of Golden Classics wasn't the action per se, it was the unbelievably witty and audacious quality of action that I was seeing. It was like the crazy high school movies my friends were making, but with people that could really move and the budget to blow things up. The sheer insane exuberance of it just seems lost now in a sea of melodrama. And don't get me wrong, I loves the melodrama something fierce, I'm just jonesing for the other thing to come on back. KB Vol 1 seemed to have it, so did the Pei Mei section of 2, but other than that brief respite i'm left wanting.

material world

Things that can be blogged about:

1) Opinions on the world around us (yeah,we definitely need more of these)

2) Stuff one has bought/wants to buy

3) Weird shit that just happened

4) Weird shit one gorram wishes would happen

5) Places visited and people met (but without you, constant reader)

6) Poetry

7) Observation

8) Observations about poetry

Sunday, December 19


Joy joy joy to Marissa and David on their amazing wedded bliss. Congratulations on doing it up in style.

Friday, December 17

is that a ram smartie or a rom smartie?

he's a very naughty boy

Taking a break from entering my contact info into my new toy, and i thought I would show you what fun a camera phone can be.

Also I am watching movies I was sure I had seen, only to find out I've only seen bits when they've been on TV. Turns out Animal house is a lot better than I thought, whilst Life of Brian is somewhat worse. They both, however, have exceptionally good making of docs that make them more than worthwhile to own.

I counted the other day, and in the space of a year I have added approximately 200 DVD's to my collection. I have nearly 300 in total now, and I'm changing tacks for the new year. Given the never ending backlog of watchable stuff sitting on the shelves, I'm changing from quantity to quality. Every month I will be knocking one criterion disc off the list, and maybe one inexpensive reissued classic, and that's it. I'll keep up on new releases by nicking them previously viewed, and I'm sure any Seinfeld/Simpsons/Looney Tunes sets won't go unnoticed, but by and large I'm taking it down to a crawl to let myself breathe. Call it a new year's resolution if you will, but I think I'll be happier this way and less overwhelmed.

Thursday, December 16

i'm down with OPP!

I got my new phone!!!!

Exactly! I bought this pen one hour before my bike was stolen. Why? What's the significance? I don't know!

this is an audio post - click to play

and that foot is me

just to recap, blog stages are as follows:

stage one: I have a new blog! I have over 20 years of random ideas in my head! I'm writing them down! I'm doing it four times a day! here comes another one!

stage two: I'm still observing new stuff, although all of my old ideas and stories seem to be used up. Wait, oh here's something I never thought of before. And here's something or someone that is pissing me off right now. And this is something cute i just read on the internet! Wow, I write a lot.

stage three: I better blog because I started this thing and I sure don't wanna look like a quitter. Shit, I better find something cute on the internet and then blog about it. Wait, can I make a list of things I like about food. Shit, I already did that. Damn, I feel like a quitter already.

stage four: I quit.

stage five: After some time off, I feel like I'm missing the chance to express myself, plus it's a bit of an ego thing that people were reading it, so I'm gonna start blogging things again. And it gets easier, and I'm more relaxed, and funnier, and I think the writing's better too, because I'm just doing it for myself.

So there.

Tuesday, December 14

may the dopest crew win

My parents aren't going to be around for our traditonal jewish Christmas eve this year. That means I'm on the lookout for anybody interested in celebrating Christmas eve the way it was meant to be; with a movie and some chinese food.

any takers? anybody? hello.... is this thing on?

salt peanuts

I'm preparing my annual latke making excursion, this time at Jason's before poker. That's good, as this week promises to be an intimate affair, meaning more latkes for us. It's amazing how much experimentation can go on in a recipe with only 7 ingredients.

What kind of potatoes to use? Peeled or unpeeled? Wrung out, or just patted dry? rinsed in water or just left with starch on?

What kind of onion? How finely chopped? how much?

Salt before or salt after? Pepper? White or Black?

Matzo meal or flour? Baking soda? (sometimes yes, sometimes no)

What kind of oil? How hot?

For myself, I use Yukon Golds rinsed and wrung out lightly, a sweet onion chopped very fine, salt before and after, black pepper, matzo meal (just enough to stop it from being runny) no baking soda, and peanut oil hot but not smoking.

You see, it ain't easy. Comment with your latke tricks and tips, fellow israelites!

Monday, December 13


Stage four crept up on me and dumped me on my ass. I have slid completely into not having anything to say, despite my best efforts. Until I can think of something, here's a shout out to all the people who shared by birthday on saturday:

Hector Berlioz
Fiorello La Guardia
Joseph Mohr (lyricist of Silent Night's original german lyrics)
Grabbe (wrote Faust)
Victor McLagen (star of Gunga Din)
Carlo Ponti (Mr. Sophia Loren)
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Joe Masteroff (book for Cabaret)
Tomas G. Alea (director, Strawberries and Chocolate)
Jean Louis Trintignant
Tom Hayden
Donna Mills
Senator John Kerry (who?)
Teri Garr (this is the one I'm happiest about sharing the day with)
Kathy Smith (exercise chick)
Susan Seidelman (fast times at ridgemont high)
Bess Armstrong (MSCL!)
Jermaine Jackson (I'm lucky enough to share with one of the relatively unscrewed up Jackson's. BTW, it's a statistical likelihood that you also share a Jackson birthday. Look it up)
William Joyce (Rolie Polie Olie!)
Nikki Sixx (Rolie Polie Spliffy!)
Rachel Portman (Composer, The Piano)
Derek Bell (Major League Baseball)
Mo'Nique (that black BBW on the pepsi ad)
Victoria Fuller (Amazing Race 6's alpha bitch)
Harry Knowles (he's one year younger. look at how much more I've accomplished with that extra year)
Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa Senators)
Mos Def
Rider Strong (Boy Meets World, Cabin Fever)

So, there you are. I trust everyone got what they wanted for the big day, I know I did. Thanks for the book, DVD's, gift cards, car washes, and most of all the cash. Back when I actually have something to write about.

Wednesday, December 8


There's something I'm trying to say, about myself. Bear with me a minute.

I was watching last night's episode of House. Did you see it? The one with all the sick babies. I was watching, and I was in there, enjoying and involved. And then one of the babies died right in front of me, and I spasmed on the couch and cried out and couldn't stop sobbing. And I was still watching, and I was mad, angry at Bryan Singer and the rest of them for having a show where a baby dying like that was even possible. And I wanted to be angry, but I couldn't, because this wasn't cheap or theatrical, it was earned. And I just kept watching, and crying, and wanting to hold Max and thank fucking god that I get to hold him as he flies headlong towards five years old. And I'm crying now just thinking about it. And fuck. Good fucking christ, I'm not sure I can keep watching if the baby can die.

And I'm gonna keep watching.

night ride

Driving home down first Mount Pleasant and then eventually Jarvis (lifelong TTC riders may not know that these are in fact the same street) I enjoyed just crusing along. The point of late nite city street drives is simply to maintain. I quest to find that magical constant rate where I can feel fast without danger, and never never never hit a red light. It's like sailing, or gliding really. Especially in the dark, lights silently progressing behind you, I always feel like .... golden.

Tuesday, December 7

i have nothing to report

just like that, I am out of ideas. There has been no blog since I blogged about the weather (a sure sign that things have gone sideways) and I have been scratching my head for 3 days trying to come up with what the hell to talk about.

I worked this weekend, probably one of the reasons I've got nothing to say. Nothing happens here on the weekend. i did get one piece of news, I won't have to keep coming in on weekends starting in january. Hours are changing (for the better) and we've gone and got ourselves a regular weekend guy, so I'm gonna be home making pancakes every sunday from now on (of course you're invited). I also disovered the joys of bittorrent, allowing me to stay on top of my TV viewing habits from work of all places. Goodbye to season one of Rescue Me, it's been nice knowing you.

The DVD pile seems like it's getting smaller, but my birthday's coming up and I have this feeling it'll be out of control again in no time. It doesn't help that my energy level is so low I fall asleep during almost every commentary. I need caffeinated DVDs. Start working, science.

Max keeps perfecting the naked dance. Latest victims were my in-laws, and they were suitably impressed with his challenging choreography. I tried making the dance remix, but how to improve on perfection. I know not.

It also hasn't helped that every other blogger in my universe has been just knocking it out of the park lately. C'mon, people, easy on the inspiration, yer makin' me look bad.

Up next: Poker tonight, Lost tomorrow, Thursday wings and beer (B-day) friday gift shopping-o-rama, saturday actual birthday (i think I see the folks in there somewhere) also a chanukah party, sunday working (bah, projects) and then the whole thing starts all over again.

Saturday, December 4

Fie you, Caliban, FIE!

There's a crazy full on wind and rainstorm going on outside. I just walked through it to get a coffee. I needed the coffee as chemical preparation for the rest of the day. It's a courage screwing up coffee. I should have had it just to get up the courage to go outside. To compensate for my lack of both courage and coffee, I walked to the cafe and back pretending to be Prospero on my island, waving my hands as if to control the wind. Yeah, I got some looks.


Below is my letter to Late Night with David Letterman. Start checking in on Wednesdays for CBS mailbag:
Dear Dave,

3 Friends and myself are getting in my Volvo stationwagon next spring and driving to Indianapolis. We will be going to the big Star Wars Convention. We were wondering, since we will be in the neighborhood, if you wanted us to say Hi to your mom. I'm sure that we will be sick of Star Wars by day 2 and would not be inconvenienced at all by stopping off.


Matthew Price (and friends)

I could probably make more of an effort

Three movies opened yesterday. Primer. Closer. Stander.

Seriously, I hardly know her (sigh).

Wednesday, December 1

i gotta get out more

I lost my window

Since Monday (when you could have watched CBC and seen me tell Shaun Majumder not to open the "number 1" envelope at the halfway point of the Greatest Canadian results show) until now, life has just escaped my grasp.

I was going to go on a hike on Thursday, weather permitting, and of course the weather doesn't look like it will be permitting. I rediscovered my love of the wood walk only 2 weeks ago, and in my fashion I did so far too late to take advantage of it this year. It's not the cold, mind you. I like the cold as long as it isn't still going around with the biting wind. In the woods, they are legally separated most of the time. No, what I'm worried about is the frosty ground, which can make a trail of rocks and tree roots slightly more deadmaking than I'm willing to risk. Therefore, I must wait until spring. Who knows? It might clear up enough for me to get one last one in.

I'm also hosting a TV technician for the fourth time in five months, as I fight an ongoing war to be able to see all of my DVD's, not just the bottom 9/10ths of the picture. Yeah, mostly I'm hoping to be able to just take the damn thing back and get a different one. I've decided that as much as I love a tube television, they're just not suited to a 16x9 world, with the windowboxing and the geometry and the glaaaavin. I'm probably going to have to break down and go for the LCD projection that I like but don't love. (contrast ratios rule everything around me. C.R.R.E.A.M.) More on that after the incredibly argumentative tv tech leaves later today.

I'm also jonesing for (surprise, surprise) the iTunes music store coming to Canada, something that was supposed to happen by yesterday at the latest. I'm still waiting. The weird part is, not only has there been only a minor change at the store itself (I can now browse the other stores again, but still no Canada option) but Apple hasn't issued a statement about the delay, and no one else has written a follow up article about it either. Surely there must be someone more rabidly excited than me in the liberal media that wants to stir up the muck. Just do it, already, I wants my original motown singles and I wants 'em now.

I played poker last night, and in the weirdest coincidence ever I cashed out exactly what I started with. I don't just mean the same amount of money, either. I mean the exact same chip denominations. Freakish.

I'm missing the Lost party tonight so that Leah can go to the condo's annual meeting while I look after Max, but I hope to be in the swing of it again next week. Speaking of, if you've been thinking about picking up the Entertainment Weekly with the Lost cover story, just be warned: SPOILERS! Huge, monkey-sucking spoilers that made me want to go back and fucking un-read them to get them out of my head. Great article, but Lost is the one show I want to have without knowing a damn thing about what's coming next. It's disastrously delicious.

The TV thing is just crushing down on me like there's no tomorrow, too. I'm finally getting near the end of Rescue Me and Wonderfalls (and Jewel Staite turns out to be in it next week, so that's gorram awesome) when suddenly here come season two of SFOO (6 feet under to the uninitiated) and House to take their place. It aint gonna stop.

Also last night turns out to be the best single episode of Amazing Race I've ever seen, with everything that proves that that show is the Mack Daddy of Reality TV. Great locations, awesome conflicts, people getting lost, weird ass challenges (hay unbaling? icy shot glass curling? ikea employment?) and absolutely soul crushing mistakes made for a hell of an hour.
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