August 20, 2005 - August 13, 2005
Saturday, August 07, 2004
Return of The Boss
This is a monstrously cynical poster
ROCK AND ROLL
We know we said we'd keep
track of the credentials of the Bush-bashing celebrities. But now The
Boss is taking to the campaign trail, and we just couldn't be happier
for him. No, we didn't even check to see if he ever graduated from high
school. He probably didn't, but we don't care. He's the big guy from
New Jersey, and Philadelphia has adopted him too. When he performed,
all the tragic Eagles and Phillies fans always came in droves and
somehow intuitively understood the blue collar despair of his songs.
It was just a perfect fit somehow.
So we're not going to be objective about his renaissance as a warrior
in the battleground states for the Kerry campaign. It's just so
completely and utterly cool. Last week he was an irrelevant artifact of
rock history, blow-drying his vanishing hair in hopes of postponing his
consignment to greybeard pop dinosaur status; this week he's a valiant,
socially conscious mega-millionaire who knows that the only salvation
for America lies in the platitudes of a multi-mega-millionaire who
isn't even from New Jersey but from Pennsylvania (by
marriage anyway). How great can American democracy get? Shades of "Born
to Run." Now he's going to run all over the USA performing a handful of
songs in between the genius contributions of James Taylor and Bonnie
, and ticket prices will be so incredibly affordable for all
kids who never would have been able to come up with the scratch for a
four-hour performance by Bruce and tycoon E-Street band members like
Max the millionaire drummer and clothhead Stevie Van Zandt, the second
-- no make that the fifth -- coolest guitarist to take the stage even
after he got fat and far too old to carry off his sartorial trademark.
It's all just so great that we have to apologize for abandoning our
usual hard-edged rationalism. We're fans. Forgive us.
GO BRUCE! Sorry. We should be more restrained. But the truth is, we
always looked up to Bruce as a philosopher. How could anyone
know more about political science than a semi-literate from Asbury Park
who became a millionaire before he reached the age of 21? We've never
stopped admiring his ability to cram unscannable syllables into
depressing melodies that persuade his loser audiences of his
commonness, which is as stark and ineradicable as a tattoo. Who can
quarrel with a populist hero of this magnitude, and how low do you have
to be to point out that he's spent his entire adult life shuttling
back and forth between mansions in Beverly Hills and Rumsen, New
Jersey? Who else would be in a better position to persuade the rest of
us poor slobs that the only guy who can lead us ordinary folk properly
is a billionaire gigolo who spent 30 years imitating his average-joe
mentor, John Fitzgerald Kennedy?
Another triumphant tour, but one that's democratically on the cheap.
Another few months of
demi-divinity. Fantastic. Who needs a decent album? When you're The
Boss, all you need is the next excuse for recruiting a new generation
of fans. We're willing to predict, right now, that Bruce is even going
to survive becoming truly bald. That's
how great he is. No retreat. No surrender. Only bucks. Right on.
Friday, August 06, 2004
Thursday, August 05, 2004
"Mon Dieu, Therèse, cherie,
these long green things?"
"They're corn, dammit. You just
peel'em like bananas and chow down."
inevitable that pampered millionaires are going to make fools of
themselves from time to time when they seek to rub shoulders with us
commoners. It happened yesterday in Iowa, where both Kerry and Bush
were trying so hard to demonstrate their solidarity with the ordinary
citizens whose votes they need if they are to secure the most powerful
office in the world. The agent of humiliation in both cases was corn.
Monsieur Kerry seemed to be overwhelmed by the very existence of this
ubiquitous vegetable, brandishing 'ears' as if they were rustic
sceptres awarded him by adoring peasants. To prevent any reoccurrence
of this faux pas
, we are forwarding the following little exegesis on
to the Democratic National Committee. We hope they take
advantage of this opportunity to educate Mr. Kerry about a subject he
might find useful in campaign visits to come. (NOTE TO INSTAPUNK
READERS: You don't need to read the text word for word; it has been
chosen especially to be as dry and academic as the towering
intellectuals of the people's party prefer their reading to be.)
Over a period of thousands of
years, Native Americans purposefully transformed maize through special
cultivation techniques. Maize was developed from a wild grass
(Teosinte) originally growing in Central America (southern Mexico)
7,000 years ago. The ancestral kernels of Teosinte looked very
different from today's corn. These kernels were small and were not
fused together like the kernels on the husked ear of early maize and
By systematically collecting and
cultivating those plants best suited for human consumption, Native
Americans encouraged the formation of ears or cobs on early maize. The
first ears of maize were only a few inches long and had only eight rows
of kernels. Cob length and size of early maize grew over the next
several thousand years which gradually increased the yields of each
Eventually the productivity of
maize cultivation was great enough to make it possible and worthwhile
for a family to produce food for the bulk of their diet for an entire
year from a small area. Although maize agriculture permitted a family
to live in one place for an extended period of time, the commitment to
agriculture involved demands on human time and labor and often
restricted human mobility. The genetic alterations in teosinte changed
its value as a food resource and at the same time affected the human
scheduling necessary for its effective procurement.
Native Americans of New England planted corn in household gardens and
in more extensive fields adjacent to their villages. Fields were often
cleared by controlled burning which enriched not only the soil but the
plant and animal communities as well. Slash and burn agriculture also
helped create an open forest environment, free of underbrush, which
made plant collecting and hunting easier.
Native Americans discovered that,
unlike wild plants and animals, a surplus of maize could be grown and
harvested without harming their environment. Tribes in southern New
England harvested great amounts of maize and dried them in heaps upon
mats. The drying piles of maize, usually two or three for each
Narragansett family, often contained from 12 to 20 bushels of the
grain. Surplus maize would be stored in underground storage pits,
ingeniously constructed and lined with grasses to prevent mildew or
spoiling, for winter consumption of the grain.
George, on the other hand, appears to have some slight idea about
what corn is; he just doesn't know anything about eating it. For
example, even in Iowa, they don't generally consume it raw. So we're
sending this recipe -- courtesy of the Fanny Farmer
website -- to the Republican National Committee in hopes they'll find
someone to prepare and serve some corn on the cob to the
Texan-in-Chief, who has probably never seen a bright green field full
of plants that a human being would want to eat.
There is nothing like
fresh corn on the cob, quickly boiled, spread with lots of sweet
butter, and sprinkled with salt. Two ears per person may seem like a
proper serving, but appetites run high when corn is in season and
freshly picked. Click here
for information about choosing and handling corn.
Just before cooking, husk
the corn, pull off the silky threads, and cut out any blemishes with a
pointed knife. Drop the corn into a large pot filled with boiling
salted water. Cover the pot and let the water return to a boil again,
then turn off the heat and keep the pot covered. After about 5 minutes,
remove enough ears for a first serving. You can keep the remaining corn
warm in the water for another 10 minutes without its becoming tough.
Serve with lots of butter and salt.
Everyone in both parties says they wants to win Iowa.
Well, if the Dems and the GOP are serious about that, they'd better
learn that this particular state is a gridwork of roads at right angles
to one another, subdividing a giant field of corn. Learn what it is, learn
how to cook it and eat it, and you'll have a shot at wooing the voters.
You might also be the beneficiary of a marvelous bit of wisdom:
eating freshly cooked corn on the cob with an ocean of butter and a
half ton of salt is a bit of heaven. But don't tell the Iowans you
found all this out from a native of the place where the very best sweet
corn in the world is grown -- southern New Jersey. Unfortunately, all
that midwestern corn tastes like dirt and is only good for feeding the
pigs. That's something the jayhawks would probably rather not know.
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
We Can't Wait.
. It seems the Bush
one of its big honchos, is angry about a movie:
A new film set for release from
PARAMOUNT has raised the pop culture threat levels at the White House
-- a film which lampoons the war on terror [and media urgency] using
puppets, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.
"I really do not think terrorism is funny, and I would suggest
PARAMOUNT give respect to those fighting and sacrificing to keep
America safe," a senior Bush adviser told the DRUDGE REPORT this
The new fuss film TEAM AMERICA, set for release two weeks before the
November presidential election, is entering post-production with SOUTH
PARK creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
A deep voice using serious tones opens the film's teaser: "We live in a
time of unparalleled danger. Weapons of Mass Destruction are being
offered to terrorists all over the world. Global chaos is about to
consume every country on Earth. And there is only one hope for
The movie's official poster features an apparent Bush look-a-like
[strings attached] with his back to the viewer.
The so-called "Bush look-a-like" [sic] is the figure shown above. For
those who don't have an intimate knowledge of the back of Bush's head,
it's kind of hard to tell if it's supposed to be Dubya or not.
Regardless, we think the Bushies are overreacting here and should at
least watch the trailer for Team
before they rant any more about this. From what we know
about Matt Stone and Trey Parker, we'd bet that the movie is going to
be taste-free, offensive to all races and sexes, and frequently funny.
While the trailer does explicitly promise to anger
president, it also vows to enrage Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, George
Clooney, Michael Moore, Janeane Garofalo and assorted other Bush-hating
lefties. A lot of rightwingers might not want any help from the likes
of Stone and Parker, but they should calm down long enough to check out
the phenomenon of South
, whose votes will be as important as anyone else's
in reelecting George Bush. Here's what Tech Central Station had to say
on the subject:
The name stems from the primetime
cartoon "South Park" that clearly demonstrates the contrast within the
party. The show is widely condemned by some moralists, including
members of the Christian right. Yet in spite of its coarse language and
base humor, the show persuasively communicates the Republican position
on many issues, including hate crime legislation ("a savage
hypocrisy"), radical environmentalism, and rampant litigation by
ambitious trial lawyers. In one episode, industrious gnomes pick apart
myopic anti-corporate rhetoric and teach the main characters about the
benefits of capitalism.
South Park Republicans are true
Republicans, though they do not look or act like Pat Robertson. They
believe in liberty, not conformity. They can enjoy watching The
Sopranos even if they are New Jersey Italians. They can appreciate the
tight abs of Britney Spears or Brad Pitt without worrying about the
nation's decaying moral fiber. They strongly believe in liberty,
personal responsibility, limited government, and free markets. However,
they do not live by the edicts of political correctness.
They also have a sense of humor, which South Park does as well
and Team America is likely to reconfirm. The movie is made with puppets
, for God's sake, an obvious
takeoff on the old classic children's show Thunderbirds
It's not going to fool even the dumbest Democrats into thinking it's a
documentary, and if past performance is any guide, the writers are
going to be far more interested in scoring cheap, vulgar laughs than in
turning the tide of the election a couple weeks before the big day.
So relax fellas. If you'll buy the tickets, we'll buy the popcorn,
Pepsi, and twizzlers and meet up with you in the lobby just before the
show. And as for that stick in your ass, leave it at home. Theater
seats are uncomfortable enough these days as it is.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
A Gorey Tale
. It's one of
those weeks when nothing is happening in the news but trivialities -- a
freshly nominated set of Democratic candidates for president and vice
president, a major terror alert in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, DC, and the first large-scale terrorist attacks on Christian
churches in Iraq. Facing so little material to work with, the creative
blogger must look pretty far afield to find a topic for the faithful
readers. That's why our attention turned toward Bill O'Reilly in the
wake of his much ballyhooed showdown with Michael Moore. Last night he
devoted his 'Talking Points Memo' to defending himself against the
charge by a Boston Globe columnist that he sat speechless while Moore
demanded to know if he would sacrifice his child to save Fallujah.
O'Reilly, of course, is convinced his performance with Moore was a
triumph. Here's the transcript of the portion of the interview the
Globe reporter was referring to:
MOORE: Are you against
that? Stopping this war?
O'REILLY: No, we cannot
leave Iraq right now, we
MOORE: So, you would
sacrifice your child to secure
Fallujah? I want to hear you say that.
O'REILLY: I would
MOORE: Your child? It’s
Bush sending the children
O'REILLY: I would
MOORE: You and I don’t
go to war, because we’re too
O'REILLY: Because if we
back down, there will be
more deaths and you know it.
MOORE: Say, “I, Bill
O’Reilly, would sacrifice my
child to secure Fallujah.”
O'REILLY: I’m not going
to say what you say, you’re
a, that’s ridiculous…
MOORE: You don’t believe
that. Why should Bush
sacrifice the children of people across America for this?
O'REILLY: Look it’s a
worldwide terrorism — I know
that escapes you —
MOORE: Wait a minute,
O'REILLY: Yes. There are
terrorist in Iraq.
MOORE: Oh really? So
Iraq now is responsible for
the terrorism here?
O'REILLY: Iraq aided
terrorists. Don’t you know
anything about any of that?
O'Reilly may be the only person who can't see that ducking the
question and changing the subject do not secure rhetorical
victory. Now, ordinarily, we wouldn't care if an inveterate blowhard
comes up empty once in a while, but Michael Moore has gotten a lot of
mileage out of this "sacrifice your children" ploy, and he and others
will likely keep using it until someone with a particle of intelligence
and judgment stops them in their tracks. It isn't that there's nothing
to say in such situations. O'Reilly, for example, could have countered
with George C. Scott's famous line from Patton: "It's not the job of an
American soldier to die for his country; it's to make the other poor
sonofabitch die for his." Or he could have pointed out that American
soldiers are not children, but adults who have volunteered on their own
to defend their country and, if necessary, to sacrifice their lives in
exchange for a higher purpose -- the defense of American civilians,
including children and babies yet unborn. He could have said, as a
parent, I would be proud if my children chose to serve their nation in
the armed forces, and if they died in doing their duty, I would be
permanently grief-stricken and permanently proud of their lives. He
could have said, this is America, there is no draft, and no parent has
to "decide" to sacrifice a child to the military; it is always their
adult offspring who make such decisions for themselves. He also could have said, "Yes."
But no. Michael Moore's question did paralyze Bill O'Reilly. His
answer was lame, evasive, and non-responsive. Why? Because for all his
tough talk, O'Reilly is hostage to the great American obsession with
the "kids." Scarcely a night goes by that he doesn't, at some point in
his program, demand some government or community action on behalf of
the "kids." He does not see them as young citizens-in-training, but as
something inert and vulnerable, like the family silver, that has to be
protected at all costs. The subject of kids has become so sacred that
it suppresses even his native common sense. And he's not alone.
Sometimes it seems there's no crime we Americans wouldn't sanction as
long as someone puts it in the context of the "kids."
This is all precious nonsense. Yes, we have a responsibility to
protect children, but it's not the only purpose in life. It's just one
of many responsibilities adults and citizens have, including duty,
integrity, loyalty, honor, and bravery in the face of life's
challenges. When we start taking this one particular responsibility more
seriously than all the others, we are also taking ourselves too
seriously, and more importantly, we are putting children on a pedestal
where they don't belong. That's probably why we have stopped
disciplining our children, stopped making demands on them with respect
to their behavior, education, and work ethic. We treat them like little
godheads, bowing and scraping whenever their name is invoked.
Is there an antidote? Don't know. But any reasonable first step must
involve puncturing our inflated notions about the sanctity of
childhood. Only when we've done that might we have a shot at realizing
how thoroughly and disgustingly that sanctity has already been violated
by allowing our little darlings to engage in whatever pursuits appeal
to their narcissistic and stunted personalities.
But we are only InstaPunk. We can't provide antidotes. All we can
offer is the bracing air of dark and ruthless humor. That's why our
lesson for today is this link to Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies. It's
a hilarious alphabet book recounting the horrible deaths of some of the
sweetest looking little kids you ever saw. Read it or don't. Laugh or
draw yourself up in self righteous outrage. But spare us your
complaints. We don't give a damn. Children are also human, which means
they are not exempt from the human comedy. No one is. When we forget
that, we tend to forget a lot of values that we just might need someday
soon to save the lives of our precious kids.
Oh. And one more thing. Grow up, O'Reilly.
Monday, August 02, 2004
The Battle Lines Have
If you're sick of political analysis,
go here and see
if you can save the White House.
RESETTING THE CLOCK.
It may seem like we've been goofing off since the convention, but in
reality we've been reading the dozens of opinion pieces about what the
Democrats and Senator Kerry were trying to accomplish in Boston and
what, if anything, they have accomplished. All our reading has surfaced
two articles which we find representative of the two poles of thought
prevailing in the media. The lefthand pole thinks Kerry has succeeded
in making himself a credible candidate on national security issues. Any
of a dozen articles would serve to illustrate this viewpoint, but we've
chosen Trudy Rubin's essay in Sunday's Philadelphia
because it skips the stylistic persiflage and lays out
a nuts-and-bolts case for Kerry as commander-in-chief. We also like the
title: Worldview -- Kerry has grasp that Bush
. That's pretty unambiguous. So is her basic premise:
The main question is not whether John
Kerry is a nice guy. It's whether his policies are more suited for the
country's security needs over the next four years. That's what people
were trying to divine from the Democrats' convention in Boston.
After watching the speech,
talking to Kerry foreign policy advisers - and visiting Iraq three
times since the war - I'd say the answer is yes. Here's why:
The Bush antiterror policy has lost its
way. Yes, the President does what he says, but what he says and does
has led us into a defensive position in the struggle against terrorism.
Our military is bogged down in a
guerrilla war against Iraq that hasn't weakened al-Qaeda. Just the
opposite. The terrorist organization has found a new base in an
Anti-Americanism in the Mideast has never
been greater. Iraq's instability and Bush's abandonment of efforts to
promote Israel-Palestinian peace are a recruitment ad for al-Qaeda.
And, no, Ms Rubin's matter-of-fact assessment of the situation does
not mean she's chalking it up to bad luck or the predictable chaos of
international politics. All of the ills she describes are George Bush's
The Bush administration's hype on Iraq -
expanding Saddam Hussein's real threat to the Mideast into a nuclear
threat against the U.S. mainland - has made much of the world cynical
about the antiterrorist struggle. Most Europeans and Arabs don't
believe in the reality of this battle against Islamist jihadists. That
makes the effort much harder.
If the United States is to rally other
countries to this long-term goal - and convince their citizens - a more
credible U.S. leader is required. The world's growing anti-Americanism,
which hampers any global alliance against terrorism, is focused on the
persona and policies of George W. Bush.
Kerry has stressed over and over that he
will rebuild our alliances and repair the breeches within NATO. On
Thursday he said, "We need a president who has the credibility to bring
our allies to our side and share the burden." He is overly optimistic
about what the allies would contribute, especially in Baghdad. But he
would have a far better chance than Bush of persuading our NATO allies
to do more in Afghanistan, and take on new missions outside Europe.
Kerry advisers say he would push for needed reforms in NATO and the
Wiithout wasting time disputing her highly debatable
characterizations, we'll simply highlight the collapsing confidence in
the final paragraph of the quote. Up to this point, she's been marching
briskly toward a seemingly rational conclusion that we need someone
better than George Bush. But just when we expect to learn why Kerry is
so much better, she acknowledges that Kerry's best credential is that
he has "stressed over and over" that he will make our so-called friends
like us more. Then she admits that he is "overly optimistic" and
stumbles to the end of her thought with the lame asterisk that "Kerry's
advisers say" he might try to secure "reforms" in the U.N. and NATO.
Hmmm. Before, it sounded like she was saying all the obstructionism in
the U.N. and NATO was Bush's fault. So why do they need reforms? Isn't the big
idea here that Kerry himself is the necessary reform?
Despite Ms. Rubin's breezy exposition of Bush's failures, her essay
winds up at a different destination than her tone promises. It's really
an exercise in wishful thinking. We don't like the way things are. We
don't like it that people around the world are trashing America at
every whipstitch. We don't like it that America is still a terror
target and nobody else seems to care. We don't like it that winning the
war on terror hasn't been a neat little miniseries which could be
wrapped up before the audience got bored. And here's a guy who says he
can make it all better by applying his impeccable continental manners
at the diplomatic table. Yeah, maybe we don't completely believe that,
but it sure would be NICE, wouldn't it? Wouldn't it?
We said that Ms. Rubin's piece was representative. It is. All the enthusiasm for Kerry is
wishful thinking. That's why there are never any specifics. No
specifics in his nomination speech. He didn't utter the term 'Islamic
fascism' once. He didn't mention exactly which allies have to be on our
side before an American action is not unilateral. (His rhetorical
history would indicate that 'multilateral' means with the support of
France and Germany, while 'unilateral' means without the support of
France and Germany. That's a helluva big picture view, isn't it?) Yes,
he said he would double special ops forces and add another division to
the army, but what for? We aren't ever going to fight another war
unless we have to. What does
that mean? After the suitcase nuke levels Los Angeles? He didn't say.
And there have been no real specifics in the various pro-Kerry articles
following the convention. There are only vague aspirations for a
foreign relations rapprochement designed to substitute European troops
for American so that our boys can come home where they belong. No one's
used the term "peace with honor," but with all the Vietnam nostalgia
floating around the country like a cloud of methane, perhaps we can be
excused for being reminded of that old figleaf for surrender. It's as
if the war on terror itself can't be justified unless the rest of the
world agrees to it. If they don't, we should forget about it and cope
with whatever happens whenever it happens.
All of the assessments from the right have focused in various ways on
this head-in-the-sand attitude by Kerry's supporters. Everything about
the Democratic Convention seemed to be designed to turn reality into
something different. The party pretended to be pro-military and hawkish
about terror even though 95 percent of the delegates were completely
opposed to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and many, if not most, favor
an immediate pullout from Irag that would be disastrous. Republicans
have spilled a lot of ink pointing out this and other Democrat
hypocrisies written into the party's toothless platform. But there is a
more fundamental denial of reality at work, one that is ably
articulated by Mark Steyn in his Sunday
op-ed titled He
was complacent, arrogant and humourless. How they loved him. Here's
his most acute observation:
for-and-against the war for the last year according to political
necessity, Kerry seems to have settled on a position of doing pretty
much what Bush is doing while simultaneously spending more time on the
blower to Kofi, Jacques and Gerhard. If I were a principled anti-war
Democrat, I'd be furious.
But they're not. Because
the real distinction is not between pro- and anti-war, but between
September 11 Americans and September 10 Americans. The latter group is
a coalition embracing not just the hardcore Bush haters - for whom, as
the opening of Fahrenheit 9/11 makes plain, it all goes back to chads
in Florida - but the larger group of voters who've been a little
stressed out by the epic nature of politics these last three years and
would like a quieter life. That's what John Kerry's offering them: a
return to September 10.
That's the current campaign scene in a nutshell. Trudy Rubin and her
brothers and sisters on the left want to repeal not only George W.
Bush, but everything that's happened since election day 2000. And they
think that maybe if we just start acting normal on the world stage,
meaning the way we acted before September 11, maybe the world stage
will start acting normal too. The problem is, it's not going to happen.
The world stage wasn't in such hot shape before 9/11. The U.N. was
already engaged in the greatest and most costly institutional
corruption in history, the French and Russians were already making
dirty deals with the Iraqis, Jimmy Carter had already doomed the U.S.
to the current nuclear stalemate with North Korea, and al Qaeda and its
affiliates had already killed hundreds of Americans with impunity. The
nations whose anti-Americanism we didn't notice until G. W. Bush was in
office didn't much care about all that then, and they're not going
to start to care about it if Kerry resumes the Clinton foreign policy
of 1992-2000. Nor is Islamic fascism going to go away just because
another American president starts insisting on 'serious' new talks with
Worse, in their haste to crown a candidate behind whom all the faithful
could unite against the hated Bush, the Democrats carelessly selected
the most blatant of their army of panderers. Again, Steyn cuts right to
In another perilous time -
1918 - Lord Haig wrote of Lord Derby: "D is a very weak-minded fellow I
am afraid and, like the feather pillow, bears the marks of the last
person who has sat on him." It's subtler than that with Kerry: you
don't have to sit on him; just the slightest political breeze, and his
pillow billows in the appropriate direction. His default position is
the conventional wisdom of the Massachusetts Left: on foreign policy,
foreigners know best; on trade, the labour unions know best; on
government, bureaucrats know best; on defence, graying ponytailed
nuclear-freeze reflex anti-militarists know best; on the wine list, he
There probably isn't anyone in the United States who doesn't feel at
least an occasional yearning for the comparatively carefree days before
9/11. But would we really go back to that time, even if we could?
We'll close with our own little reminder of September 10, 2001
Take a look. Is that where you
want to be right now?
Sunday, August 01, 2004
HEINZ 57 VANITY.
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all
For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity;
. . . yet to a man that hath not laboured therein
shall he leave it for his portion.
This also is vanity and a great evil.
From the 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Reading One
Saturday, July 31, 2004
Reporting for Duty
7th Cavalry to the rescue. He'll show
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