Non Traditional Christmas Songs to Add to your Playlist

Last year inspiration struck and I created A Parademon’s Christmas.  This year, I am in the middle of moving, so my more creative juices and general energy are directed towards methods of self-preservation.  Happily, one of those methods is the time-honored tradition of not thinking about an upcoming stressful event by distracting yourself with other things.  And the distraction of my choice has been Christmas/Holiday music.  My Pandora list is mighty, my Google Play collection knows no boundaries..and so I have decided to share with you a few of my more non-traditional favorites.

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Getting all sorts of festive!

 

Oi to the World - The Vandals. I was first introduced to this song as a result of the No Doubt version.  Yes, there was once a time when I really liked No Doubt.  Back when everything was kinda low budget and they were really into their Ska/punk thing, oh man, good times.   Anywhoo, No Doubt was friendly with The Vandals as part of the punk scene in California at the time, so when No Doubt got a space on A Very Special Christmas 3, they opted for a cover of their pals’ lesser known ditty. The song itself is fun, upbeat, and you gotta love a song that references having a sword “like the guy in Indiana Jones.”  Personally, I love both versions, but No Doubt did make an adorably low budget video.

Fairytale of New York - The Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend (Venture Brothers). I do feel like this one is a bit of the cheat because the original by the Pogues is quite well known.  But really, using the Venture Brothers version not only allows me to bring attention to a really phenomenal song, but it it also gives me a chance to fondly remember how Venture Brothers used to release a Christmas single every year.  It was bliss; they were often hilarious, and now I make it a point to add my favorites to my holiday playlist. We haven’t gotten a new one since 2011, sadly.  Maybe that is because Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick never want me to feel joy again?  Anyway, you can download all of the singles here.

I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas – Gayla Peevey  I have found that people either love or hate this one.  It’s really very much of its time and to me, that is what makes it hilarious.  This video of the Gayla singing it doesn’t help much with my attempts to convince people that this one is more hilarious and enjoyable than saccharine and creepy, but it might be just be the very thing for some of you out there.  Just don’t look directly into her eyes and I promise that you will be ok.

Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight) - The Ramones.  Do I really need to explain this one to anyone?  And if I do, I’m not sure we can be friends anymore.  Also, you might want to write a formal apology to the Gods of Rock.

 

Dishonorable mentions:

Little Drummer Boy – I didn’t really love or hate this song until I was introduced to The Little Drummer Boy Challenge.  Now,this nationwide game of assassin has become one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season.  I can tell you where I was each time I was struck down and it continues to be a great source of entertainment as I dart in and out of stores and tense up each time the holiday soundtracks move to the next track.  It isn’t too late to play.  I got ousted pretty early this year, so I am hoping to be avenged.

The Christmas Shoes – There is something about this song that makes me angry and my skin crawl.  Mostly because it’s terrible and manipulative.  And then there are people who make their own video versions like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpkI7GW2V34  Watch at your own risk.  If you never sleep again, it isn’t my fault.

 

And now comes the part where I ask for reader feedback.  What songs am I missing?  Which do you love, and which do you hate?  Post your comments in the section below and have a great holiday!

Cartoon Sara Watches Three Muppet Christmas Specials

December is upon us, which means – like it or not – the winter holidays have arrived. It’s once again time for walking through winter wonderlands, roasting chestnuts on an open fire, and desperately trying to ensure that all three gifts for your fellow Ladies arrive in time. (Maybe that last one is just me.) It’s also an excellent time to get your Muppet fix. The Muppets have been making Christmas appearances on TV shows since the 1960s and started their own catalog of Christmas specials in 1970 with The Great Santa Claus Switch. Over forty years later, Muppet fans have a lot of holiday themed Muppet material to choose from. These are my three picks for the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, and Muppetational Muppet Christmas specials.

A Muppet Family Christmas

What’s it about? You think your family’s holiday gatherings are nuts? Fozzie Bear has decided to bring the entire Muppet crew to his mother’s farmhouse for Christmas, without telling his mother. As more and more Muppets arrive and slip on the icy patch, Miss Piggy battles a blizzard to spend the holidays with her frog and a still very much alive Christmas turkey tries to convince the Swedish Chef to consider Big Bird as an alternative.

Why is it great? The joy of Muppet Family Christmas isn’t so much the story as the opportunity to see metric tons of Muppets from at least three different TV shows interacting with each other. It really does feel like an inside look at how the Muppets spend their holiday downtime rather than a show they’re putting on to entertain an audience. Rights issues would make such a crossover nearly impossible today, so the fact that this special happened when it did is its own Christmas miracle.

Deleted Scenes Speaking of rights issues, problems with music rights have kept Muppet Family Christmas from being available in uncut form for decades. Two songs from the carol singing medley at the end and three full musical scenes are missing from modern cuts of the special, including this one where the Muppets watch old home movies of their younger selves singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Thankfully, the cut songs are still available on YouTube, so you can watch them. Or, if you’re the type of person who loses sleep wondering if Muppet Babies is “canon,” you can continue to skip this one and save your sanity.

My Favorite Part Like I said before, the interactions between characters who don’t normally appear together is what makes this special great. My absolute favorite is when Bert and Ernie are telling Doc from Fraggle Rock what letters various words start with. When Doc asks what the point of it is, they respond that “where we come from, this is small talk.” Really explains a lot about Sesame Street.

Christmas Eve on Sesame Street

What’s it about? When Oscar expresses doubts that big fat Santa Claus can fit down a skinny little chimney, Big Bird starts worrying that Santa won’t be able to deliver presents and Christmas will be ruined. He searches for answers while Bert and Ernie trade away their most prized possessions to get gifts for each other and Cookie Monster tries to contact Santa last minute.

Why is it great? I’m sure it helps that this is the Sesame Street I grew up with. But even putting that aside, this is just an extremely well written Christmas special. When it’s funny – highlights include Oscar’s song “I Hate Christmas” and Kermit and Grover questioning kids about how Santa gets down the chimney, it’s absolutely hilarious. Yet when it’s serious, it is genuinely moving. You wouldn’t think a character giving up his paper clip collection could bring a tear to your eye, but Frank Oz’s performance as Bert is just that good. And to top it all off, the message of the special is not “believe in Santa and the magic of Christmas,” but “being with family and the people you love is the real meaning of Christmas.”

Deleted Scenes While the other two Muppet Christmas specials I love have undergone massive edits, this one has dodged that particular bullet. All the songs other than “Feliz Navidad” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” are original, so it doesn’t suffer from the music rights issues that Muppet Family Christmas does. The final scene with Gordon and Susan returning home to find that Cookie Monster has eaten their tree sometimes gets cut for time, but it’s still on the DVD release.

My Favorite Part It’s a tough choice, but I love Cookie Monster and the scenes of him trying to let Santa know he wants cookies for Christmas and repeatedly eating his methods of communication crack me up. His “Deeeeear Saaaaaaaaaaaan-ta” at the beginning never fails to make me laugh.

Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas

What’s it about? Emmet and Ma Otter have been struggling to make ends meet and have no money left to buy presents. When a town talent show is announced, they both secretly enter, hoping to use the cash prize to get a gift for the other.

Why is it great? It’s only just barely about Christmas, but it’s also the perfect Christmas special. It’s gorgeous to look at, featuring some early remote puppeteering. Every performance is pitch perfect. The songs are amazing. And at the heart is a story about two characters taking a chance to try and make the other’s holiday everything it should be.

Deleted Scenes The problem here is not rights to music, but rights to frog. Kermit originally appeared as the story’s narrator, but his scenes were removed when Henson sold the rights to the Muppet Show Muppets. Again, YouTube to the rescue, but don’t watch if you haven’t seen the special before, as the Kermit clips give away the ending.

My Favorite Part The songs. Yes, all of them. This was Paul Williams’ first collaboration with the Muppets and to my mind, they’re some of the best songs he ever wrote. They’re mostly meant to be traditional songs in the world where Emmet Otter takes place and they somehow feel like songs that have been around for ages. My favorite of the lot is actually the hymn “When the River Meets the Sea.” But aside from one or two videos of the original with nausea inducing shaky visuals (of a TV playing the special or a still picture of the cast), YouTube only has the merely okay John Denver version and the “Smalerie will murder me if I post it” Jim Henson’s funeral version. So let’s watch a nice clean clip of “Ain’t No Hole In The Washtub,” straight from the Henson Company itself.

Got a favorite holiday special of your own, Muppety or otherwise? Tell us about it in the comments and enjoy the holiday season!

Stealth Geek or 3 ways to let your geek flag fly at work without ending up in HR

If I actually lived by the advice “dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” I would probably end up in my boss’s office explaining why I thought it was okay to wear an Iron Man suit to work (or maybe this).  Point being, as much as we want to show our fandom, there is a time and place and your 9-5 desk job isn’t always that place.

But never fear, it’s not all business casual or Ann Taylor Loft from here on out. There are ways to push the boundaries (especially on casual Friday) to let your geek flag fly even without wearing that super cool Captain America hoodie you got at Target.

1.” Inspired By” Outfits

If you are into Pinterest you have probably seen many many outfit “pins.”  But have you seen that there are also many of these that are inspired by fandoms?  These outfits take thematic colors and signatures and work them into outfits you could wear almost anywhere without someone asking what Con you’re on your way to.  Many of these outfits are work appropriate, or at least casual Friday appropriate depending on where you work.  Here are a few of my favorites:
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Agents Carter and Coulson are quite work friendly, while the Star Lord-inspired outfit is a bit more weekend wear, but you get the idea here.  You can very easily get sucked into a fashion hole looking at all these options.

So, take to your closet and see what you can put together.  Here is my Hulk/She-Hulk inspired outfit featuring purple fleece-lined leggings (a must for New England winters), a pencil skirt, a green and purple top and some accessories to represent science and gamma green.

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Hulk inspired outfit- Science earrings from Think Geek

I don’t really think anyone would look at this outfit and think “she looks like the Hulk”, but I know what I’m doing and that’s what’s important.

2. Accessorize

Take to Etsy and do some searching.  Maybe you need to wear a suit every day and don’t have a ton of flexibility.  Alright, we can work with that.  In the great wide world of crafting there are earrings, bracelets, necklaces, cuff links, tie pins….(you get the picture) inspired by your favorite fandom.  Here are a few pieces from my personal collection:

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Clockwise: Captain America earrings (Think Geek), Carol Danvers inspired Necklace (Etsy), Black Widow inspired Necklace (Etsy)

3. Decorate

Do you have any personal space at your job?  Are you allowed to decorate it?  In that case, art prints, vintage posters, and desk trinkets are your friends.  There are so many amazing artists doing comic related art and lots of crafts ideas to make your space feel a little more you.  Here’s a look at what’s in my…well I hesitate to call my office my sanctum sanctorum, but I do spend a lot of time there and hence like to fill it with things I enjoy.

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Stuff in my office. Clockwise- Movie poster, Lego desk organizer, adorable figures, snow globe of Hawkeye vs. a Minotaur that I made myself

Your lesson here, my fashion mavens, is to keep it clean and work appropriate.  Some of these things have been great conversation starters and have helped me identify some like-minded souls.  Someone notices your Sherlock Holmes poster or Captain America earrings and all of a sudden you are networking about stuff you like talking about (Note: I am a lousy networker about other stuff).

I would love to see what others do with space or clothes to share your fandom, share some pics if you have them.  Besides, I’m always looking for new ideas.

Cocktails and Comics

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Are you ready to open the door to adventure?

 

A few weeks ago, a local restaurant held a ComicCon-themed industry night, closing dinner service down early to serve comics-themed drinks and snacks. The staff were in full costume (but I neglected to get a photo of the guy with the Bat-symbol goatee), and there were entertainments that included a Batman ice luge and vintage video games (yes, we’re at a point in time at which video games can be vintage). The restaurant in question, Alden and Harlow, is a current area hotspot with an innovative menu and cocktail list, so Tiny Doom and I, together with The Goog, decided to check it out.

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Skinny Logan serves drinks to a Ninja Turtle

 

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Behold, the Bat-Luge!

The evening was fun, and very crowded, and it got me thinking about other comic-book themed cocktails. Too often, the ones you’ll find online are sticky sweet, lazy, or both, putting garish color before mixology. Alden and Harlow’s did not fall into this trap, but they did make use of some Hawaiian Punch and Mountain Dew. Is it possible to make a tasty, well-crafted cocktail that evokes your favorite heroes but avoids sticky-sweet additives? I decided to give it a whirl, and I press-ganged Tiny Doom and The Goog into helping! So here for your imbibing pleasure are three superhero cocktails that do not involve fruit punch, Pucker, or anything else with atomic food coloring. They do include somewhat obscure cocktail-nerd ingredients, so you might need to make a trip to the store before you make them.

In keeping with most of my posts, I stuck to a DC theme for this first attempt. If people like this concept though, we can do it again with Marvel and other properties. To be fair, I also picked heroes I felt I could do justice to with the ingredients I did have to hand.

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Clark, you look so classy. He’s 2 oz rye, 1 oz cider syrup, .25 oz cinnamon syrup, and tiki bitters to taste.

First up is Superman!
For him, I wanted something strong, all-American, and with a bit of something unexpected, something alien, if you will. I started with a rye whiskey base, rye being the quintessential American liquor (yes, even more so than its cousin bourbon!). In my travels, I’d picked up some boiled cider syrup, so I thought that would be a good addition – what’s more American than apples? For the “alien” note I toyed with the idea of throwing in Cardamaro, a digestif from Italy that’s made with cardoons and blessed thistle, but at the last minute I spied my tiki gear and thought that might be a more suitable direction, so in went some cinnamon syrup and the ‘Elemakule Tiki bitters from Bittermens.

The result was tasty and would actually make a great Thanksgiving cocktail – it tasted like apple pie in a glass, but without the cloying sweetness and with a bit of heat from the rye. If it didn’t go against my “strong” mandate, I’d say it would be good with some seltzer, as well.

 

 

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The dark heart of Bruce. 1 oz concentrated cold brew coffee, 1 oz Root, 1 oz Gosling’s Rum, .5 oz Kahlua

I couldn’t do Superman, of course, without Batman. The cocktail would need to be both dark and bitter. Tiny Doom pointed out that something that evoked childhood innocence lost would not be remiss, and suggested that I add some Root, a lovely concoction from Art in the Age that tastes like the very best root beer. I heeded her advice and added that to some cold brew coffee concentrate and Gosling’s rum. The first sip was okay, but weirdly flat. We decided to add a touch of Kahlua for sweetness, and it was vastly improved. This ended up being dark and complex, like its namesake, and it looks fantastic in the glass.

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The Flash! 1 part Cherry Heering, 2 parts seltzer, a dash of Snap. Lemon twist mandatory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, how could I not do an homage to my beloved Flash? This one I did base on its looks to a significant degree, but it’s also basically a highball and thus, pretty fast. (And yes, I know a shot is faster, but not to prepare if it’s a mixed shot, and since I just don’t shoot things on principle, you get this.)

My version may also be a bit redder than what you would get a home, because the base I used, Cherry Heering, is usually a bit darker – this is a homemade version using sour cherries, which are more vibrant. I threw in a bit of Snap, another Art in the Age gem that tastes of ginger, since Wally West is my favorite Flash, and Tiny Doom came to the rescue once again by pointing out that a lemon twist would be just the right garnish to evoke the lightning bolt symbol. The result was light and refreshing, with a bit of zing from the Snap, and how gorgeous is that red?

If you try any of these cocktails at home, let me know what you think! If you want to suggest other heroes or villains to get this treatment, tell me in the comments! Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone.

 

Slimed!: A Review of Words

slimed-cover

In some ways, my timing for this review could not have been worse. After the recent storm of press Mathew Klickstein has received after his nauseating and infuriating interview in which he manages to show the world that he is both racist, sexist, and does not understand the basics of forming and communicating an argument, I was loathe to give him more coverage. In fact, I was pretty close to just returning the book to Amazon and calling it a day. Then two things happened. One, I realized that in all the hullabaloo, there was very little talk about the quality of the book itself. And two, Cartoon Sara and I got invited on a radio show to talk about Klickstein, his book, and Nickelodeon in general. At that point, the cat was out of the bag about my planned review and there will be no going back.

And so, for the approval of the Midnight Society, er um, I mean the dear folks who take the time to read my rambling blog posts, I am going to take the time to try my hardest to ignore Klickstein as a person and address him as an author. The purpose of this review is to focus on the book as presented and determine just how well it can stand on its own.

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Saturday Night Nickelodeon

Slimed! is an oral history. This fact is both the book’s blessing and its curse. Presented as a series of loosely organized quotes, Slimed! is extremely difficult to get through. Rather than presenting the reader with an organized narrative of the events that led up to the heyday of Nickelodeon, the author chose to be completely absent from the book. This decision might have been made in order to let those interviewed speak for themselves, but instead it simply muddies the reading experience. Each chapter is named with a very general theme and what follows are snippets back and forth from the 100+ people Klickstein interviewed. As I read it, all I could imagine was Klickstein cutting up the transcripts of his interviews and haphazardly gluing them together as best he could. This results in an uneven if not jarring reading experience as you try to stay on top of what exactly each interviewee is talking about. You basically have to hope that you are able to figure out when they have switched from talking about one show to another. Also, if you are not already familiar with the names of the actors and creators of most of Nickelodeon’s shows, you are going to find yourself spending just as much time looking up who everyone is as you will actually reading the oral history itself. It’s a slog, and if you are like me, you just might hit a point where you just don’t care anymore and just do your best to push on.

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Much harder than it looks.

The frustrating thing about this is that the solution to the problem could have been simple. In fact, there could have been quite a few solutions that could have made reading Slimed! a much more enjoyable experience– a chapter written by Klickstein introducing his credentials, link to Nickelodeon and interview process, chapter intros reintroducing the main players in each section, or maybe Klickstein himself could have been just have been a little more focused and selective about who he interviewed. Yes, all those people being involved in this book is a very cool thing, but with a cast of thousands it can be very hard to get a clear picture of any individual experiences at all.

That isn’t to say that this book is completely without charm. In fact, there are several entertaining anecdotes to be found: from the origins of the iconic green slime to why those kids on Nick Arcade always looked so stressed and confused in the final Virtual Reality round of the game show (hint: everything they saw was backwards from the way it was on screen). If you are a die-hard fan who is willing to work for it, you can certainly find something in this book to enjoy.

So the question that remains is if this book is worth your time. Unfortunately, that is a hard question to answer. I think that this book best serves those who are more than casual fans. Knowing the names of a few big players before you start reading goes a long way. As for me, I think this book and I are pretty much done with each other. It was a nice enough fling, but the lack of organization and context is not really something I want to deal with again. So while Slimed! is not the Nickelodeon book I was hoping for, I am hopeful that the press Klickstein has received does show that there is an audience for the subject matter, and a bright and intelligent audience at that. If Slimed! opens the door for more 90s nostalgia and pop culture analysis (especially about Nickelodeon) then that is certainly a good thing. Let’s just hope that the next book is written by someone with a more organized and caring hand.

If you haven’t read Slimed! and want to decide for yourself if it’s any good, please comment below by December 3rd. I will be giving my copy of Slimed! away (complete with a few bonus goodies) to one of our readers.

Now reprise the theme song and roll the credits…

Why I’m Not Freaking Out About “Toy Story 4”…Yet

Toy Story 2 - Woody and Al

After months – if not years – of rumors, the official word is out: Toy Story 4 is coming. We know virtually nothing about the movie aside from its planned June 2017 release date, a few of the people who are working on it, and some rumblings that the fourth film will be a love story. But does that stop the Internet from speculating? Of course not.

The second the film was announced, it seemed like everyone had an opinion. Years before its release, Toy Story 4 had already been called everything from a potential new Pixar masterpiece to a sign that the studio’s days as the symbol of quality in computer animation are over, plus everything in between.

Obviously it’s a bit early to know how we should feel about a new Toy Story movie, but it’s also nearly impossible to avoid having an opinion. So here’s my take on the announcement, from my concerns to my thoughts on other people’s concerns to the one big reason I’m not worried yet. Continue reading

Five things I saw at Rhode Island Comic Con

Local people might have heard about this already, but Rhode Island Comic Con was a mess.  And calling it a mess is me being kind. It seems that the promoters vastly underestimated both how popular comic/pop culture conventions have become, and the amount of turnover over they would see.  Both things are surprising given the news out of San Diego and New York.

I and my merry band were some of the lucky ones who actually got into the Con.  It paid to make it an early morning and get in line before the doors open.  That said, it was pretty clear by the first hour that things were over sold despite the organizers’ claims to the contrary.  By early afternoon they were no longer letting people in due to the venue being close to fire code capacity, however, I heard they were still selling tickets (not cool at all).  Many many people missed out on the con, stuck outside in lousy weather, and many were separated from their parties due to the sudden enactment of a “no re-entry policy”.  If you want to know more check out the twitter hashtag: #RIComicconfail2014.

In spite of all this I was able to get into the con and have a little fun before completely redlining due to the crowds. So here’s a rundown of 5 things I saw before realizing it was time to leave and have some nachos, hence avoiding the impending nervous breakdown.

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TONGHT: Ladies of Comicazi LIVE on the Radio!

Need some more of the Ladies in your life? Well you’re in luck! Tonight, November 3 at 10PM, Ladies of Comicazi Smalerie and Cartoon Sara will be on GeekBeatRadio discussing Slimed!, Michael Klickstien, and Nickelodeon nostalgia. You can tune in tonight or listen to it in podcast form at your leisure.

Dead DC

Is everyone ready for Halloween? Costumes chosen, wigs purchased, ready to begin the revelry? We here at the Ladies have already participated in the best annual celebration around – the Comicazi Halloweeniversary! Since once again it falls to me to write the Halloweek post, I thought I’d share the group costume I was part of this year in case you’re in need of some last-minute comics related ideas. But rather than go into elaborate detail on how the costumes were created, I’m going to give you a quick rundown of who the characters are, since they’re a bit less well-known.  I’ll give a scale of 1-10 on costume-making ease though, 1 being that you could make it with all things you have lying around the house, 10 being that it requires special equipment and a license to operate heavy machinery.

We decided to go the spooky route this Halloween, so our theme was DC comics characters who are either dead or have death-related powers. I’m calling it Dead DC, but really only half the team counts as officially having shuffled off this mortal coil.

 

Dead DC heroes

Spooooooooky

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Smalerie Shares Some Halloween Comics

Ah, Fall.  Such a lovely time of year.  Days filled with foliage, apple picking, and various fun things to do outdoors.  Nights filled with warm drinks, and cold sweats trickling down your back as you gorge yourself on everything spooky for Halloween…  Well, at least that seems to be much of the case in the Smalerie household.  Between The Boy’s great love for bad horror movies, Mokey’s wardrobe of costumes, and my constant internet research on Halloween themed food-items – it’s a pretty great time to be a New Englander.  And since I assume that many of our blog readers are like-minded Halloween-loving fools, I though I’d use my turn this month to share the Halloween comics I managed to scare up.  Let’s start with the most bleak, shall we?

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