Category Archives: Entertainment

The Velocity of Autumn

VelocityLast Wednesday our good friend, Casey surprised us with a pair of tickets to the pre-broadway engagement of The Velocity of Autumn, starring Academy Award winner, Estelle Parsons and two-time Tony Award winner, Stephen Spinella.  Written by Eric Coble and directed by the all-amazing Molly Smith of Arena Stage, this play of two on-stage characters takes you into the aging and glowingly lonesome life of Alexandra and her gay son, Christopher.

The entire play takes place in Alexandra’s Brooklyn brownstone living room, filled with arsenal of molotov cocktails and a woman with her husband’s Zippo lighter who’s on the edge of blowing up the entire block in a painfully desperate attempt to stay in her home.  Her estranged son, Christopher lives in New Mexico and returns to New York City, reluctantly becomes the family negotiator between his exhausted and seemingly volatile mother and his siblings.  This beautiful play is a compelling story of what seems like a long-lost mother-son relationship, whom both have more in common than they realize.  The audience are provided with the opportunity to witness the living room ping-pong match of extremely funny dialogue as well as deeply touching moments, as these mother and son characters re-discover their bond and love through unconventional ways.

The splendor of any good play, is being able to relate, sympathize, and empathize.  In the ever-increasing velocity of a me world, do we pause in our life to think about the ins and outs of our relationships with our family members, especially those who are aging?   When we seem to grow distant from family members (and long-time friends for that matter) through differences in our lives, beliefs, and understandings – do we embrace and nurture the bonds we once had to begin with, or do reconcile such distance, being that too much time has passed in placing little or any effort into trying to rebuild what once was?

I’ve often asked myself those same questions about the relationship between me and my 81 year-old grandmother.   Though we weren’t entirely close when I was younger, there was still a profound bond between the both of us.   As I grew up, we both became distant to a degree, and after father passed away – we re-connected our relationship and have continued to nurture it since then.   Perhaps we needed each other the most as she began to grieve the loss of her first-born son and I began to grieve the loss of my father.  In many ways we are alike, and in many more ways we are very different in “where we’ve been” and what we believe.  Yet though the beauty and mystery of the family bond, we depend on each other in many special ways.   I interpret that this is very similar for Alexandra and Christopher – though years of separation have passed, they have reached a point in their lives where they need and depend on each other.

The Velocity of Autumn is playing through October 20, 2013  at  Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater’s Kreeger Auditorium.  If you’re a DC local, I highly recommend that you enjoy this great theatre production!

Mason Jar Jack-O’-Lanterns

Make your jack-o'-lantern as silly or scary as you like!

Make your jack-o’-lantern as silly or scary as you like!

I can’t believe that tomorrow begins the month of October.   The countdown to Halloween is officially here!   For me, Halloween is such a fun season to use creativity and imagination with everything from costumes to food, decorations, and more.  When most stores are overstocked with the same old, boring, commercial “Made in China” Halloween decor…using one’s creativity is essential.

Fortunately I have a fiancé who loves Halloween just as much as I do, maybe even a little more.   Last week he came up with the brilliant idea of reusing some mason jars with some of our existing arsenal of craft supplies to make these adorably cute mason jar jack-o’-lanterns!  So I wanted to share this with all of my readers so you can join in on the fun too!   It really doesn’t get more easy to make and most of the supplies you probably already have.

  • Mason jar
  • Elmer’s glue
  • Orange tissue paper
  • Black construction paper
  • Green ribbon
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Rice
  • Tealight candle
  1. Cut strips of orange tissue paper and lightly glue them vertically to the outside of your mason jar.
  2. With a pencil, draw eyes, a nose, and mouth on the black construction paper and cut them out.   Great jack-o’-lantern face patterns are available for free downloaded on the internet if you need some added inspiration.
  3. Glue the face cutouts to the outside of the mason jar.
  4. Wrap the green ribbon around the mouth of the mason jar and tie a bow for extra cuteness.   You could also add some crafty extras like fake vine, leaves, etc. if you like.
  5. Slightly fill the bottom of the mason jar with rice and put a lit tealight down in the center.

Voila!   Now you have yourself a cute, little mason jar jack-o’-lantern!

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears…and Elephants too

The life of a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey baby elephant.

For many, the idea of a family trip to the circus may be described as fun, adventurous, and entertaining.   For many, a family trip to the circus is a tradition of sorts…something that one grew up doing and has carried on the tradition within their own family.   Fortunately for me, the closest thing I ever saw to a circus when I was growing up was the trapeze acrobats performing at the Las Vegas Circus Circus hotel.  My dad was not fond of the circus, and it wasn’t until I grew up that I finally realized why.  In 2006 a friend of mine had free tickets to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Anaheim Pond in Southern California.   Little did I know this would be my first and last circus that involved animals.   Amidst all the fancy costumes, high-tech lighting, and special effects…were the quite clearly depressed, neglected, and miserable animals being forced to perform for the massive and very loud audience.  We wound up leaving about 40 minutes before the circus ended, as we I just couldn’t sit there and watch what I was witnessing.

After years of abuse, Tyke escaped from a circus, killing her ‘trainer’ before running out the door to get outside, then she was shot to death by police. She was shot nearly 100 times and it took two hours for her to die on the street.

How is this still allowed in the 21st century?   Money.   Money has everything to do with it.  circuses such as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (the largest and most profitable show of its kind in history) have a bulk of cash to fight allegations and charges, manipulate the law, and buy their way out of trouble.   They also try to deceive their consumers with such programs as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation in hopes that it will take the pressure and eyes off their ongoing abuse toward elephants and other animals used and exploited in their shows.   Fortunately, countless animal rights advocacy groups as well as local & federal law enforcement agencies are cracking down on this ongoing problem, but it will remain a problem until we ban circuses from using and exploiting animals in their revenue making productions.

Here are 15 Reasons to Boycott the Circus provided by Florida Voices for Animals:

1. Government inspection reports reveal ongoing mistreatment of animals in circuses.  Because of continued abuse of circus elephants, there is a pending lawsuit against Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

2. Many people claim that circuses are conservation programs for endangered species (such as the Asian elephant).  However no circus animal has ever been released to the wild and the conservation claim is merely a way to justify the exploitation of animals for profit.

3. Sweden, Austria, Costa Rica, India, Finland and Singapore have all banned or restricted the use of animals in entertainment. However, the US lags behind.

4. Elephants are trained to perform unnatural acts by the use of a “bullhook”, which is a 2-3 foot long club or stick with a sharp metal hook attached to the top.  It is repeatedly used to beat, hit and poke the animals, often leaving permanent scars.  There are numerous undercover videos and testimony from past circus employees corroborating this information.


5. Heavy, metal, and short chains are used to confine circus elephants.  The elephants are chained by one front leg and one back leg, preventing them from laying down.  The chaining of elephants also prevents them from interacting with other elephants, which is a natural behavior for elephants as they are very social creatures.

6. Ringling Brothers typically transport the elephants from city to city by train, chained by one front foot and one back foot and unable to lay down.  They are also kept in cramped conditions for over eight hours without stopping for water.  They are trained for 11 months and the one month they are not being trained, they are still confined in horrid conditions.

7. Elephant transportation vehicles lack climate control and are forced to stand for hours in their own waste.  The are compacted into small spaces for days on end.

8. In the wild, elephants live in large, sociable herds and walk up to 25 miles every day.  In addition to the physical abuse of circus elephants, they are also deprived of their freedom to roam and engage in their instinctual behavior, which includes socializing with other elephants.

 9. Although minimum legal protections are provided in the Animal Welfare Act, the law does not provide adequate protection for circus animals.  Often a veterinarian isn’t even on site and local vets are not knowledgeable about the unique medical needs of exotic animals.  Circuses are frequently cited by the USDA, the agency responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act, for failure to keep veterinary records, for providing moldy or rancid food and no water, for storing chemicals near the animals’ food supply, and for stocking expired medications.

10. Every major circus that uses animals has been cited for violating the Animal Welfare Act.  These circuses are almost always given a slap on the wrist and forced to pay a minimal fine.

11. Enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act is very difficult because the USDA, the agency responsible for enforcement, only has 100 inspectors to monitor conditions at approximately 12,000 facilities.

12. Although poaching is a problem in Africa, there are wildlife conservation parks that are constantly patrolled to ensure the safety of animals.  Elephant poaching has decreased since the highly enforced ban on the possession and sale of ivory.  In recent years, the elephant population has significantly increased due to conservation efforts.

13. Although circuses claim that they are a form of educating the public about elephants, there is no education in watching the exploitation of elephants that are cruelly trained to perform unnatural acts.  Circuses teach children that it is acceptable to exploit animals.  No research has been shown that attending circuses increases public concern about the status of an endangered species.

14. Elephants in the circus, regardless of how much they are “trained”, are still wild animals capable of and have a history of lashing out, escaping, and thus posing a risk to public safety.

15. Elephants in the circus often carry diseases such as tuberculosis (aka “TB”) and can infect humans with this disease.  Note that there is no cure for this disease in either elephants or humans.

The fact is, animals do not naturally ride bicycles, stand on their heads, balance on balls, jump through rings of fire, or piggy-back each other.  To force them to perform these confusing and physically uncomfortable tricks, trainers use whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks, and other painful tools of the trade.

Please do NOT support any animal circus.  Animal abuse is not entertainment.   Together we can make a difference.   Please visit the following links below for a list if animal-free circuses as well as a petition to demanding action to help ailing elephants.

List of Animal-Free Circuses (PETA) 

Take Action to Help Ailing Elephants (PETA)

When Pets Speak to Psychics

Gracie & Luna get a psychic pet reading on FOX 5's Morning News on August 19, 2013.

Gracie & Luna get a psychic pet reading on FOX 5’s Morning News on August 19, 2013.

Last week Gracie (our labrador retriever mix) and I got an invitation from WTTG FOX 5’s Annie Yu to join her live on the set of the FOX 5’s Morning News for a special “Pet Project” segment with animal communicator and psychic, Diane Roadcap.   Gracie is an avid lover of everything water related…except baths!   She loves swimming and playing in the ocean, rivers, and creeks…but will do whatever it takes to avoid a bath.   Paul and I have always wondered why this is the case, so we gladly accepted the invitation in hopes that Diane could give us some insight as to Gracie’s thoughts and feelings.   Amanda Marie Bowen and her 2-year old deaf Great Dane, Luna were also invited on the show.   Of course some are probably skeptical about a pet psychic or any psychic for that matter…but I believe Diane had an amazing connection with Gracie, and I bet the same could be said by Amanda (the other segment guest) who brought Luna to have a reading as well.

Diane Roadcap’s website says, As a child, Diane recognized that she had a deep spiritual connection with animals.  Playing with a variety of animals in the wooded areas around her home outside of Washington, DC, she discovered that she could connect with them at a soul level.  This connection was confirmed at age five when her dog Blackie telepathically warned her that a poisonous snake was dangerously close to biting her.  She heeded his warning and slowly backed away before it could attack her.  She continued to receive communications from animals and discovered that she could  easily read their needs and wants, humor and insights, aches and ailments.”

While we were still in the green room, Diane already began reading our pets as well as Amanda and her family.   She knew that Gracie had a smaller, older K9 companion at home which would describe our 11-year-old Miniature Schnauzer, Tabatha.  She also mentioned another light-colored labrador which had passed away…of course I knew this was Heidi, a beautiful labrador who passed away when I was around 3-years old.   “She wants you to know she’s standing next to you”, Diane exclaimed.   I could have fallen out of my chair!   She went very into depth reading Amanda, her family, Luna, and their pets at home which I won’t go into detail, as it’s not my place to tell about that very special moment.

Do you believe in psychics?  As far back as I can remember, I have had ongoing contact and communication with human spirits who have passed away…family and strangers alike.   To my knowledge, there’s nobody in my family who has this “gift.”   Though the information given to me is often vague, it is something I’ve gotten used to and experience daily.   So it makes perfect sense to me that people have an ability and “gift” to fully communicate with pets, both passed and living.   But at the end of the day, we will believe what we know as truth and dismiss that which we don’t.   For me, I believe!

Besides learning that Gracie doesn’t like to be in a confined areas…she’s a very happy dog.   “She wouldn’t change a thing.   She loves people…the more people she’s around, the more she loves life”, Diane affirmed.

Below is a video from the segment.   Check it out!

Otterly Amazing Sea Otters

A police officer sees a man driving around with a pickup truck full of sea otters.  He turns on his lights and pulls the guy over saying, “you can’t drive around with sea otters in this town!  Take them to the zoo immediately.”  The guy says “OK”… and drives away.  The next day, the officer sees the guy still driving around with the truck full of sea otters, and they’re all wearing sun glasses.  He pulls the guy over and with anger asks, “I thought I told you to take these otters to the zoo yesterday?”  The guy replies., “I did . . . today I’m taking them to the beach!”

*insert rimshot here*

Otters1

California Sea Otter

Last night I came home from my book club and watched an amazingly interesting documentary with Paul, National Geographic: Big Sur – Wild California.  For those of you who have been to Big Sur will know that this part of California’s Central Coast is home to one of the most incredibly diverse ecosystems on Earth.  Here, nature and wildlife have evolved in drastic ways to survive.   Big Sur is home to many unique species of wildlife including the highly endangered California Condors, San Joaquin Kit Fox, California Sea Lions, California Tiger Salamanders, and of course the California Sea Otters.

Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris) are an aquatic member of the weasel family.  They spend most of their time in the water, which is easy to do when you have webbed feet, nostrils and ears that close in the water, and water-repellent fur to keep them dry and warm.    Sea Otters are meticulously clean!  After eating, they wash themselves in the ocean, cleaning their coat with their teeth and paws.  They have good reason to take care of their coats, as it helps them to stay waterproof and insulated against the cold.  Unlike seals, sea otters don’t have insulating fat (blubber) to keep them warm in frigid 35 -60 degree ocean waters.  They have air-bubble-trapping fur – the densest fur of any animal on Earth.  Each square inch of their bodies are covered with 600,000 to 1,000,000 hairs.  An entire human head has only about 100,000 hairs!  

Otters2

Sea otters often float at the water’s surface, lying on their backs in a posture of serene repose. They sleep this way, often gathered in groups.

Sea otters often float at the water’s surface, lying on their backs in a posture of serene repose. They sleep this way, often gathered in groups. Otters sometimes float in forests of kelp, or giant seaweed, where they entangle themselves to provide anchorage in the swirling sea.

These aquatic otters do more than sleep while floating on their backs. They are often seen with a clam or mussel and a rock that has been deftly snared from the ocean floor. Otters will place the rock on their chests, and repeatedly smash the shellfish against it until it breaks open to reveal the tasty meal inside. They also dine on aquatic creatures, such as sea urchins, crabs, squid, octopuses, and fish.

Sea Otters are the only otters to give birth in the water. Mothers nurture their young while floating on their backs. They hold infants on their chests to nurse them, and quickly teach them to swim and hunt.

The California Sea Otter survived a close brush with extinction early in the 20th century, but today, under protection of the Endangered Species Act, they’re expanding their range and increasing their numbers.  By the 1930’s, most people believed that this subspecies of sea otter had vanished, wiped out by fur traders who coveted its rich pelt.  In 1938, however, a small group of otters were discovered living near the mouth of Bixby Creek along California’s Big Sur coast.  From those few survivors, the otter has increased its numbers to more than 2,000 today.  Growth has been particularly impressive during the past decade, when otter numbers increased by nearly 50%!

Conservation works!   If we can see such a population increase with such an enchanting species, Sea Otters should inspire us to be advocates for other Ocean dwelling and dependent species which remain gravely endangered.   Change begins with us!

Have an “otterly” wonderful Friday!

Perfectly Penzance

Frederick & Mabel, "Stay!"

Frederick & Mabel, “Stay!”

This afternoon my fiancé and I had the joy of watching our good friend, Chris take to the stage in the role of The Pirate King in W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s operetta, The Pirates of Penzance.   The cast and production team consist of members of the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) community, and The GLBT Arts Consortium who dedicate their time and talent every summer to beloved Gilbert & Sullivan shows.

Pirates of Penzance is perhaps G&S’ most enduring hit!  It’s filled with great tunes plus more than the usual ration of satire and silliness.  It’s a fast-paced show that requires good singing and an even greater talent for rapidly biting off those consonants in the dynamic duo’s famous patter-songs.

The story begins on the rocky seashore of the Cornwall coast.  The pirates offer a toast to Frederic.  Now that Frederic is twenty-one and his apprenticeship over, the men assume that he will join their band permanently.  Ruth, a “piratical maid of all work’” explains that, as Frederic’s nursery maid, she had been instructed by his father to have the boy apprenticed to a pilot, but she misheard and instead took Frederic to a pirate.  Her shame upon realizing her error led her to join the pirate band herself.

Now that his obligation to the pirates has ended, duty compels Frederic to devote himself to destroying them.  When the men admit their inability to make piracy pay, Frederic explains that they are themselves slaves to their tender hearts, particularly about their refusal to take advantage of anyone they believe to be an orphan.

Ruth longs for Frederic to take her with him when he leaves.  He has had no opportunity to compare her with other women, but when he decides that she should stay with the pirates, they reply that they cannot deprive him of his beloved. Frederic wishes he could bring the pirates back to a respectable life, but the Pirate King rejects that possibility.  Alone with Ruth, Frederic admits his reluctance to marry her, though he is satisfied that, despite her age, she is beautiful.  But when he sees a group of lovely young women approaching, he rages at her for deceiving him.

The girls descend to the shore, delighting in their surroundings.  They are astonished to meet Frederic and horrified to hear that he is a pirate.  He assures them that, having just abandoned that profession, he now wants only to love one of them.  They all reject him except Mabel, who reproaches her sisters for being deaf to pity. The girls distract themselves, so that Frederic and Mabel can have a few moments alone.

The pirates suddenly surprise the girls and expect soon to become their husbands.  Mabel reminds them that she and her sisters are wards in chancery (i.e. minors under the protection of the Court of Chancery), and that their ‘father’ is a major general.  The Major General enters and objects to the girls being married against their wills to the pirates of Penzance. He lies his way out of the situation by claiming to be an orphan.  The girls are released from the pirates’ clutches, as Mabel and Frederic – ignoring the pleas of Ruth – look forward to their marriage.

The girls comfort the Major-General, who is upset because he believes his lie has shamed the family name and he fears the consequences.  Frederic will soon march against the pirates accompanied by the police, who now arrive.  They eventually leave to attend to the business at hand, but only after repeated urging by the Major General.

Alone, Frederic contemplates atoning for his years with the pirates, when Ruth and the Pirate King enter.  They explain that Frederic was to be apprenticed until his twenty first birthday; having been born in a leap year on 29 February, he is officially only five.  The Pirate King insists that Frederic respect his own sense of duty, whereupon the obedient young man informs him that the Major General lied about being an orphan.  The Pirate King and Ruth swear vengeance.

The Major General & The Pirate King, "We Triumph Now."

The Major General & The Pirate King, “We Triumph Now.”

Frederic informs Mabel that he will not reach his twenty-first birthday until 1940.  Convinced that he can ignore the pirates’ claim, she begs him to stay with her and swears to be faithful.  After he leaves, Mabel tells the policemen that Frederic has returned to the pirates, praising him for his sense of duty.  The Sergeant laments the difficulties the constabulary faces.  The policemen hide as soon as the pirates arrive.

Unable to sleep, the Major General enters.  The girls chide him for leaving his bed at this time of night. Frederic and the pirates seize the Major General and overcome the police.  When the Sergeant implores the pirates to yield in the Queen’s name, Ruth reveals that they are peers of the realm.  With this revelation, they are pardoned by the Major-General, who rewards them with the girls’ hands in marriage.

You can’t help but smile, sway to the rhythm of the music, and laugh!

I’ve forgotten what a joy community theater is, and have been renewed in the importance of supporting local community theater.   God bless the arts!

It’s Shark Week

For those of you who are old enough to remember, Discovery Channel launched its first week-long series of Shark Week on July 17, 1987.   I don’t remember when I actually started watching the series, but I estimate that it was somewhere around the summer of 1989.   I’ve always loved sharks.  I suppose I was one of the fortunate kids who never really believed that man-eating great white sharks patrolled the shores of seaside beaches, searching for their next bite of human flesh, as so ignorantly portrayed in the Jaws films.

I grew up in sunny Southern California.   The beaches and the Pacific Ocean were all a normal part of life for my family.   I actually remember my first real-life experience with a shark when I was around 4 or 5 years old.  My dads had a pretty awesome little sailboat that we would launch in San Diego’s Mission Bay, and would always head out of the bay into the big, blue Pacific Ocean.   We would always jump overboard and swim in the open water.  One afternoon a larger mako or blue shark swam into our area and spent a few minutes swimming around us before losing interest and venturing on.   Of course we made our way back on board the sailboat with our hearts pumping a little more stronger than usual, but surprisingly we were more honored and excited than scared.  Over the years I’ve had many more fortunate encounters with these majestic creatures in various dives in California, Hawaii, and Mexico.

In the past several seasons of Shark Week I’ve noticed a decline in educating viewers and a rise in feeding the typical fearsome stereotypes of these misunderstood predators.   The first sharks lived around 400 million years ago, with most sharks developing during the Cretaceous period – over 64 million years ago.  Today there are over 400 species of sharks, and they are found in every ocean of the world, with some species also found in rivers.   One third of oceanic shark species are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species which means they are seriously threatened by the possibility of extinction.  Scientists even estimate that shark populations in the north-west Atlantic Ocean alone have declined by an average of 50% since the mid 1970s!   Jaws was released  as a film in 1975, and was based on a fictional New England seaside town named, Amity Island.   You do the math…

There are many ongoing issues and circumstances which continue to threaten sharks such as overfishing, phobias, loss of habitat and food source(s), climate change, oceanic pollution, and the wealth sought in the shark fin industry.   As STOP SHARK FINNING states, “Every year tens of millions of sharks die a slow death because of finning. Finning is the inhumane practice of hacking off the shark’s fins and throwing its still living body back into the sea. The sharks either starve to death, are eaten alive by other fish, or drown (if they are not in constant movement their gills cannot extract oxygen from the water). Shark fins are being “harvested” in ever greater numbers to feed the growing demand for shark fin soup, an Asian “delicacy”.

Shark Fins

Since the 1970s the populations of several species have been decimated by over 95% – shark finning is a devastating contributor to this.

This is probably one of the most horrific and barbaric practices that is as equally criminal as the killing elephants simply to “harvest” their ivory tusks.   Fortunately many animal rights and conservation groups have stepped up to the plate and have refused to let this issue go away.

And sadly there is a global pandemic of galeophobia, a fear of sharks.   Are you afraid of sharks?  Did you know:

  • You have a 1 in 63 chance of dying from the flu and a 1 in 11 million chance of being killed by a shark during your lifetime.
  • Over 17,000 people die from falls each year. That’s a 1 in 218 chance over your lifetime, compared to a 1 in 11 million chance of being killed by a shark.
  • In 1996:  toilets injured 43,000 Americans a year.  2,600 Americans were injured by room fresheners. Buckets and pails injured almost 11,000 Americans.   However, sharks only injured 13.
  • For every human killed by a shark, humans kill about two million sharks.  (Read that one again!)

Even with these known facts, the ongoing research to study their behavior as well as their alarming population decreases, sharks are pretty much open game.   If they’re not hunted, they die in fishing nets and even shark proof nets, which many Australian beach communities have gone so far to install.   They do this in a desperate attempt to protect their revenue by providing tourists with a false sense of security instead of discussing the ongoing problems and issues which humans are to blame for.   In the end, countless sharks wind up being the losers.

The last thing I want to do is put a damper on anyone’s Shark Week, especially for shark geeks such as myself, and so many of my fellow friends, but we need to speak out!   Pay close attention to this series and see if you notice any fear-selling, misinformation, or downright absurdities!   Don’t let Discovery Communications define Shark Week, we must be Shark Week!  Let us put our passion into play and help educate our friends, family members, co-workers, etc.   Let’s hit the “like” and “subscribe” buttons of the many great shark conservation groups and organizations.   For those of us who are fortunate enough to have the means, lets go diving!   For those who have never dived, look into it learning!    Our oceans are an amazing ecosystem that we’re still learning about on a daily basis.   Let’s be apart of that process!

 

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