cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Reflections”

Shakespeare Goals


Although I’m known as a Bardinator, I confess I’m a bit of a poser in actuality.

I  truly know a handful of his plays, primarily the ones I teach, the usual: Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Julius Caesar, Othello, Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet. I do have a working knowledge of other plays: King Lear, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing , The Tempest, Merchant of Venice,Twelfth Night. And I have a nodding acquaintance with the Henrys and Richards. I tend to shudder and ignore the more violent plays where body parts and pies and such are a featured plot focus.

As for William’s sonnets–let’s just say while I’m not adverse to his verse, I prefer to revel in his plays.

So, my goal is to become more than a dabbler and get cracking at becoming better in my Bard. This will involve some serious study since Shakespeare is not for sissies. He provides stout meat and drink once at the table of literature feasting. I will *sigh* set aside some (not all) of my leisurely summer reading forays and bite off, rather than nibble, sizable portions of Shakespeare works.

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Here is a beginning goal list:

  • Select at least five-ten sonnets, mainly the ones we refer to in our current curriculum, and really study them beyond the quick note referring I usually do. Study what other critics have come up with in their analysis.
  • Move beyond my comfort zone and learn at least one play of William’s that I’m not familiar with. I’m still squeamish about reading about revenge pie, so perhaps I will look into a comedy not well known to me–maybe The Merry Wives of Windsor or As You Like It.

My basic Bard facts are decent: birth, death, family life, supposition of lost years. I even have Renaissance and Elizabethan knowledge down pretty well as it relates to Shakespeare. I could start committing more to memory and really dazzle the crowds.

Why take on Shakespeare this summer? I could just lounge and read for fun and drift and not work so hard. Didn’t I just get out of school?

One reason to push myself in this endeavor is that Shakespeare is so fascinating. I knew relatively nothing about him until I began teaching his works. For the past fifteen years I’ve learned so much more about the Bard and it makes me realize I have so much more to go. But, I’m in no real hurry.

Another reason is that if want to really become a Bardintor, not just pretend I know my Bard stuff. Please don’t expect me to spout off reams of memorized quotes and speeches. Memorizing, is unfortunately, a real problem. Short term gaps and all that.

One other reason is that I want to be THAT teacher, the one whose enthusiasm for Shakespeare overflowed into the curriculum and into the hearts and minds of my students. I still treasure that moment when one of my struggling students came up to me after class and said, “I will will studying Hamlet.” He got involved in our study of the melancholy Prince of Denmark, and that’s why I will learn more about Shakespeare.

Anyone out there desire a bit more Bard in your life?

Reader Quotes


One of my daily subscriptions is Dictionary.com. I’m a confessed word nerd. I enjoy learning a new word as much as some people get that thrill from a new tasty food item. Hmm, words are nourishing in a way, aren’t they?

Recently Dictionary.com sent out a list of quotes all about reading books. How could I resist? Here are the favorites gleaned:

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“The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think.” 
        Harper Lee

“If a book is well written, I always find it too short.”
                                                                                 Jane Austen

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Hope one of these inspired you to grab a book or sit down and write something simple or even profound.

And now it’s back to editing my own writing instead of veering off chasing my email distractions like a rabbit chasing a dog around the yard.

 

Philosophical Chickens


Okay, Kauai is still much on my mind. Did I mention how this tropical paradise is practically overrun with feral chickens? This was not mentioned in the guide books.

While I didn’t see this many chickens at one time, they are truly everywhere: four star resorts, the airport, restaurants, shopping centers. And people don’t pay them too much attention. The locals tolerate them. The tourists take photos of them. I guess in the same way that our locals tolerate the moose that often wander down the street. Then again moose don’t jump up on the table to snatch unattended fries. No, instead they decimate tulips. And even the locals take photos of the moose.

I usually discuss cows. Today the topic is chickens due to my spring cleaning in July.

In summer I attempt to tidy up my office in my free and unfettered time now that school is out. I came across this handout that is related to allusions. I had intended to introduce this witty combination of chickens and allusions to one of my AP Literature classes. Somehow it didn’t happen. It’s too good to toss so I share it with you. It means so much more to me now that I have encountered feral chickens. However, I doubt they would be into Nietzsche. Douglas Adams, maybe. What is your favorite reference? I grin every time I read Groucho’s comment. This is found all over the place on the Internet in different version, so I am not sure who to credit. Enjoy!

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Hamlet: Because ’tis better to suffer in the mind the slings and arrows of outrageous road maintenance than to take arms against a sea of oncoming vehicles.

Timothy Leary: Because that’s the only kind of trip the Establishment would let it take.

Douglas Adams: 42

Nietzsche: Because if you gaze too long across the Road, the Road gazes across you.

Dorothy Parker: Travel, trouble, music, art / a kiss, a frock, a rhyme / The chicken never said they fed its heart / But still they pass its time.

T.S. Eliot: It’s not that they cross, but that they cross like chickens.

Darth Vader: Because it could not resist the power of the Dark Side.

Darwin: It was the logical step after coming down from the trees.

Emily Dickinson: Because it could not stop for death.

Robert Frost: To cross the road less traveled by.

Ernest Hemingway: To die. In the rain.

Mark Twain: The news of its crossing has been greatly exaggerated.

Martin Luther King: It had a dream.

Stan Laurel: I’m sorry, Ollie. It escaped when I opened the run.

Groucho Marx: Chicken? What’s all this talk about chicken? Why, I had an uncle who thought he was a chicken. My aunt almost divorced him, but we needed the eggs.

Author Spotlight: Sir Conan Doyle


While on vacation I picked up a Dover Thrift Edition of four Sherlock Holmes stories–a bargain at 35 cents at the corner library. Ages ago I read through all the Sherlock Holmes books and stories I could find. Or I thought I did. I did not recognize one of the stories, which was a bonus treat.

While I do relish a good Holmes story, I have been a fan of most of the Sherlock Holmes adaptations–Basil Rathbone was a bit over the top, Benedict Cumberbatch is a bit too loose with creative license for my tastes–I’m a bit of a purist, which is why while Robert Downey Jr. is entertaining, he is not Sherlock (he even admitted in an interview the series was for the “kiddies). Jeremy Brett of the BBC series is by far the epitome of Holmes. He interpreted Doyle’s detective as being an intelligent, if not a genius, English gentlemen whose inductive reasoning skills profited him many an adventure with his faithful friend and partner in sleuthing, Watson.

Holmes and Watson remain favorites of literature and film, which is evidenced by the myriad forms of satire and pastiche that abounds. That is a post for another day.

Unfortunately, as most fans know, Doyle was not keen on Holmes, stating that he could not move forward with other writing since the public only wanted more of Holmes. This is why Holmes was tossed over the waterfall in his battle with the Professor. This didn’t work out so well for Doyle. The fans went mad, magazine subscriptions were cancelled, and Doyle had no choice–Holmes once again appeared in print.

Holmes is not the first literary detective, even Doyle points to Poe’s stories for inspiration. There is also Christie’s Poirot, among other famous detectives. Yet, what makes Doyle’s detective stories so memorable?

First of all, Holmes is a dynamic, unique character possessing an air of mystery while he conducts the sleuthing of mysteries. Websites and fan bases are set up to explore his parentage, siblings, relationships, and personal preferences. Then there is Watson, who adds reality to the idiosyncratic nature of our Baker Street hero. Watson is a soldier, a gentleman, a doctor, a husband, a friend, but he is not a bumbling doofus, as he is so often presented to be. I do like Jude Law’s take on Watson.

Doyle’s stories are full of intrigue and strange situations. He plays with clues, creates plot twists, and red herrings while providing an assortment of interesting characters such as Lestrade, Moriarty, Mary, Mrs. Hudson, and his Baker Street Irregulars. There is no formulaic approach. Each story is unique in its formation, even though the reader knows there is a mystery to be solved, it’s the getting there that makes Sherlock Holmes stories so worthwhile.

And to think Doyle wasn’t content with having created such a memorable literary icon. Holmes almost fell out of circulation by becoming a washed up sleuth.

Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls.jpg

So–do you prefer to read Sherlock Holmes through his many stories or do you watch him through film or television series?

Who is your favorite interpretation of Sherlock?
Basil Rathbone?
Jeremy Brett?
Benedict Cumberbatch?
Robert Downey Jr?

 

 

 

 

Aloha Ahas


Hawaii. The esteemed destination vacation. Until recently there has always been something to prevent going: budget, weather, budget (that did deter us a couple of times), timing. YET–the hubs turned 70, the 35th anniversary arrived, and I turned 60. No excuses allowed with this triple celebration.

After some research we went with a very reasonable Costco package (seriously, check out their travel options. They offer more than a good deal on Baby Bells.)

Since we were limited to date blocks we grabbed the June package, which meant I barely submitted my grades before we hopped aboard the six-hour flight to the Garden Island: Kauai. The best part? We flew out on my birthday. Cool, huh?

Here are some revelations:

  • Previously a Southwest devotee, I might be switching over to Alaska. Free charging stations, reasonably priced food menu, free Mai Tais (the leis weren’t available?) , $10 movie tablets (which was an unexpected birthday perk) efficient crew. Very nice.
  • Kauai is truly the garden island. Lush verdant plants with flowers so brightly hued they practically glow. Everywhere there are bizarrely beautiful plants that seem primordial. Giant fragrant blossoms. The air is tinged with briny sweetness–ocean and blossoms.

   

   

  • Being 20 steps from the ocean is pinch worthy. I would wake up, open the sliding door and in a moment I was on the beach. This is not your pretty calendar white sand beach, this is an almost frantic roller wave beach that has buckskin-colored sand full of riptide branches. It’s not a posted swimming beach due to the coral reef and undertow. This meant it was fairly desolate. Quite peaceful, almost like having a private beach. The locals were the main visitors. They would come down in the morning to fish. We watched a twenty-something dude spear dive and bring up an octopus. I liked how our resort’s frontage was not a swimming beach but one the locals come and enjoy. This made the dxperience even better.
  • Humidity is a way of life. Hair does odd things in this weather. A person is either sticky from the misty rain or the moist, clingy heat. Any clothing that is 100% cotton remains 100% damp. I should have gone with the polyester shirts.
  • In June there are peekaboo sunny days mixed with muggy grey skies. But you know what? It’s Hawaii. I will take grey skies in Hawaii any day–even grey days are amazing.
  • Casual. Shorts, t-shirts, and bathing suits are the mainstay of dress. I felt overdressed with the one dress I brought. Forget capris–too hot. Shorts. Next time more shorts and tank tops. But not cotton.
  • Time is irrelevant. We gained three hours flying to the island and they were a bonus. Everyone lives in a relaxed attitude, even the K-Mart clerk. No hurry. No worry. Island time.
  • I always check out libraries wherever I vacation, and Princeville’s was jaw-dropping gorgeous with its amenities of open layout, pristine equipment. I grabbed a mystery off of the free rack. Gotta have a beach read when at the beach.
  • While the island itself is mesmerizing in beauty, the architecture is bland. Most buildings are block-shaped and are tan . No noted embellishments of design. Some houses sit on 12 foot high (or higher) stilts of concrete block (flooding?). 
  • There are so many places to see and so many things to do. Those days of hanging out by the pool working on the tan as I orignally planned got ditched once we saw how much there was to see. I sat out one day and I felt silly.
  •  Yet the one day I sat out I scorched. Not evenly, mind you. In blotches–because I sat under the shade tree. Whereever the sun peeked through I scorched. Yes, I was wearing sun block.
  • No one has perfect bodies. There were a couple of people under thirty who qualified, but most people at the resort were over forty and were far from svelte. This encouraged me to ditch the tankini and drag out the bikini. I scorched. There is a lesson in this.

 

Discoveries not in the guide book:

  1. There are feral chickens all over the place. Apparently the 1992 hurricane released chicken coops and their contents. The island has not been the same since. There are flocks of these wiry little cluckers all over the hotel compound. They have no shame. They will flap right up on the table if not watched with diligence. They wander into the open air restaurant. The sparrows are even cheekier. A trio of them perched on the opposite chair and didn’t flinch even with hand shooing and water flicking. Sheesh. Chickens are, in fact, all over the island. We traveled up to the top of the mountain for the canyon view (fabulous!) and chickens were wandering in the parking lot. Did they hitchhike a ride up?!?
  2. The snails are fantastic. Not to eat, mind you. Although these guys might serve up well as escargot they are so huge! Their shells are colorful spirals, the type a beachcomber yipes up and down in delighted discovery. As a gardener I abhor snails, yet I’ve grown fond of these guys. Every morning there is a commute of about a dozen roaming all over the hedge and ground outside on our miniscule patio. There is a huge cache of empty shells under the hedge to the point it looks like a used parking lot.
  3. One of my favorite beaches was actually an industrisl dump way back when. Located in Port Allen, Glass Beach is the site where empty bottles were dumped. Over time the ocean wore down the glass into bits and pieces. The beach is now a mix of glass pebbles and black volcanic sand.   

   

  While there are many islands to visit, it would be difficult to explore beyond Kauai. We are already saving to go back.

Poem of the Month: “Summer Silence”


Summer Silence
by e.e. cummings

Eruptive lightnings flutter to and fro
Above the heights of immemorial hills;
Thirst-stricken air, dumb-throated, in its woe
Limply down-sagging, its limp body spills
Upon the earth. A panting silence fills
The empty vault of Night with shimmering bars
Of sullen silver, where the lake distils
Its misered bounty.—Hark! No whisper mars
The utter silence of the untranslated stars

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I do relish a summer storm. The darkened, rumbly clouds. The sudden whoosh of wind with purpose bestirring the trees. The muggy air that heightens until there is either the release of rain, thunder, complemented with staccato flashes of lighting.

Yup–e.e. cummings got it spot on.

Crisis Chronicles Cyber Litmag (2008-2014)

cummings


by E.E. Cummings

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Why We Say #30: torture, tickling, and toeing the line


 

“This is my lucky day!”

Finding some extra cash, just when a bill is due. Getting that perfect parking spot when running late. Hearing that number called out, the one that matches your ticket stub–these and more examples make someone shout out: “This is my lucky day!”

Surprisingly enough, Napoleon started this expression. He isn’t generally known for his luck. After his defeat, it was discovered he owned a book listing lucky and unlucky days for starting battles. Maybe he got his days mixed up for Waterloo, which has its own expression: “I met my Waterloo,” meaning I met my undoing.

 

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image: Wikipedia

Through Fire and Water

“I’m telling the truth–so help me, I am. I’d go through fire and water to prove it.” Heard those words before?

Lying can definitely have its consequences. Telling lies back in Olde England had mortal consequences. If thought to be untruthful, a person could be given two tests. The first involved walking over nine red-hot plowshares. If there still remained some doubt after hot-footing it, then a person would be bound up and dumped in the river. If the person survived the drowning by untying all the binding then he or she had to be telling the truth, since surviving fire and water has to be through Providence.

Tickled to Death

“Well, I’d be tickled to death to house sit your place for a week and take care of your plants and three dogs.” This particular expression alludes to being so pleased that it’s an absolute delight. And be delighted to the point of laughter is pleasant. Who doesn’t want to laugh? Laughing is great fun, right? Then again sometimes what makes us laugh can also be painful.

Tickling, that paradox of pain that makes us laugh, was once considered a form of Chinese torture. The victim would be tickled without mercy. That’s right, dying from laughter. When a person says he or she is tickled to death, maybe second thoughts of what they are really saying should be under consideration.

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image: Etsy

Toeing the Line

This might be a regional expression or one that is outright too old-fashioned to mention, but I do say it or hear it from time to time. Letting someone know he or she needs to get things just right and not go beyond expected boundaries makes sense when applying this saying as it derives from when boxers had to step up to a designated mark on the floor as they faced up before fighting each other. Not that I expect to knock anyone out, but I do appreciate everyone that know where things stand. Hmm, is that like drawing a line in the sand? Gotta look that one up.

Reading Round Up: May


I’m still seven books behind my Goodreads goal. Drat and double drat. I had hopes of finding an engaging series and get involved in some serie-ous reading. My hopes were dashed *sniffle*.

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Feeling a bit snookered after investing some time in the first two Mary Russell books by Laurie King. After avoiding The Beekeeper’s Apprentice for several years,(Sherlock mentors a teenage girl?!?) I relented and read it and begrudgingly liked it. Moving on to book two, the title should have warned me off.
What a disappointment. Hardly any Holmes, Mary is some kind of savant who is six feet tall, can best Sherlock at chess (not often), solve mysteries, and is an heiress attending Oxford for theological studies yet is a burgeoning feminist in the days of Victoria. She wears pants and has has martial arts skills. This girl is busy. Oh, she does wear glasses–I guess she is a sort of Wonder Woman/Clark Kent,

While the first book held my attention when Mary was merely Sherlock’s protegee, I lost interest through major parts of book two as she came into her own at 21. Way too much speech making about feminism–it was monstrous, indeed. The ending nearly had me throwing the book across the room. Sherlockian purists be warned.

I would definitely appreciate a series that is Sherlock and not schlock. A mystery-solving detective not focused on blood, broads, and bad language. Or is that too tall an order? Open to suggestions…

 

187977An overlooked book that combines several genres: fantasy, science, adventure, maybe even a smudge of magic. A group of genius teens are awarded the privilege of spending their summer at a science camp with an esteemed scientist. They discover his true reason for selecting them is they each possess a talent that will help unravel the mystery of lost mammoths.
Lots of adventure contained in a well-crafted book, published by Perceval Press. The reader audience is difficult to suggest as it’s sporadically illustrated, something elementary students like, yet the vocabulary tends toward YA; however, the plot is so engaging I didn’t feel like I was reading a kid’s book.

BtW–Perceval Press was founded by Viggo Mortensen, who is said to oversee each of the twelve books that the company publishes each year. The book I read had been donated to our high school by Viggo. In fact, it’s one of two books that were given to the graduating class of 2006. Here’s the why:

One day, in a small barbershop, in a small town, Viggo Mortensen struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to him, who didn’t have a clue who he was talking to. The guy was the outgoing high school principal. Interested, Viggo asked him what he thought was the biggest problem facing the school. The principal said, “reading.”
It’s not clear what aspect of reading the principal thought to be the problem, but out of that conversation the principal received a phone call from Walter Mortensen, who represented Perceval Press. He said Viggo wanted to donate two books to each of the 350 graduating seniors. Each senior received two books written by Mike Davis: Land of the Mammoths and Pirates, Bats and Dragons. In addition, they received two bookmarks and a handwritten copy of a note from Viggo wishing the students well.

One of those seniors was my son, and I thought it time to read at least one of those books.

Some day I’ll relate the part two of the story, in which my sons met Viggo at one of his art shows and discussed books, if only briefly.

 

Of Purple Cows and Ending of School Year


Monday is the last week of school. My seniors are already done with their finals and have vamoosed. There is an empty spot in my schedule, and in my teacher’s heart. I so enjoy my AP Lit classes. I hope they remember the stuff I taught them or attempted to teach them when they are sitting in their university lecture halls.

This week the sophomores take their finals. They will be tested on their knowledge of Julius Caesar, the last unit of their tenth grade English. For the most part they enjoyed learning about this important Rome leader. They still have misconceptions about him though–such as him being the inventor of s salad. They were amazed July is named after him.

Some complained about how much history goes with English literature. One influences the other, is what I tell them. They still grumble.

My one another AP class, my AP Language, affectionately known as Langsters, will be presenting their Senior Project Starters this week as their final. Most will be moving on to AP Lit, so not too much sadness, although they did make my first year of teaching AP Language quite enjoyable. Juniors are done with underclassmen drama, aren’t infected with Senioritis, and realized that with a wee bit more effort it’s possible to get great SAT scores which can open doors to desired colleges.

After June 12th I’m free to get back to “me” pursuits, such as reading books, instead of essays. I also hope to finish up a YA novel I started (about five years ago). It’s tough finding time to write as a teacher.

Surprisingly enough, I’m on the short list to teach creative writing second semester. It’s been about four years, so I’m brushing off some of my lesson plans. One them involves parody writing. Tell me what you think:

Parody Poems

“Imitation is the best form of compliment” or so they say. A Parody Poem emulates or copies a known style of poet. Special attention is paid to tone, diction, rhythm, meter—basically getting the poet’s style so that it is recognizable.

Here are some parody poems using the famous “Purple Cow” poem:

 A Purple Cow  (reading by Stuart S.)
by Gelett Burgess

I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one.

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And here are the parodies:

Edgar Allen Poe
Parody by Susan and David Hollander

One lonely, gloomy, windswept eve
A mournful sound did I perceive.
I cast my eyes beyond the pane
And to my horror down the lane
Came a sight; I froze inside
A spectral cow with purple hide.
Emily Dickinson
Parody by Susan and David Hollander

On far off hills
And distant rills,
Sounds a distant moo.
A purple spot
I think I caught,
Yes! I see it, too!
In Bovine majesty she stands,
Her purple tail she swings,
The amethyst cow,
To my heart somehow,
Perfect joy she brings.
And yet the thought of being
Of that race of royal hue,
Though glowing like the violet sweet,
It really would not do

My contributions…

Dr Seuss
by C. Muse

Hey Sam–
Who cares about greens eggs and ham?

I like cows.
I like cows here and now.
I like cows and their moo.
Do you like cows?
You like them, too?

I like cows brown or black and white.
A purple cow?
I think not.
That can’t be right.

Shakespeare
SONNET 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art so lovely, as thou eats hay.

Gentle creature, thou shows its color true,
Of thy hide of which you are adorned
A rich amethyst, a most unexpected hue.
Some may give shriek and others scorn
Yet, it matters not, thou still dost moo.

So long as all can breathe and see,
So all appreciate the purple cow that is thee.

Why We Say #29: taking and talking


Taking a back seat can just take the cake sometimes, especially when talking turkey about telling a gag.

Taking a Back Seat
In England’s Parliament, members of power get the front seats, kind of a ringside view of the political show, while those members who are in the minority power must contend with the seats in the back, and probably don’t get to contribute in the same manner.   So when we tell someone to “take a back seat” we are basically letting him or her know that they don’t have the main say. Although back seat drivers are known for having quite a bit to say. Here are some back seat quotes to consider:

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Take the Cake
Remember once upon a time when there were school carnivals with all those wonderful games, including the cake walk? Moving around the circle hoping your number was called after the music stopped so you could pick your favorite cake from the selections was a definite high point of the evening. After the surprise of getting your number called you got to take the cake home–that’s pretty special, winning a cake. And so it goes with the expression: it’s pretty special, even amazing, when someone or something “takes the cake.”

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Moving on from taking to talking…

Talking Turkey
Early American settlers trading with Native Americans were not always interested in bargaining for anything offered but turkey. Turkey was a new type of meat, and many a settler had developed a taste for the bird. Getting right to the talk of trading for turkey, without having to sift through other trading talk, meant “talking turkey,” getting right down to the facts, the serious business. Some may not quite understand that talking turkey is serious stuff….

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northstonerealestate.com

Which leads us to telling a gag
Telling a joke, a “gag,” stems from the days when performers would save the situation when one partner would forget his or her lines by filling in the moment with a quick joke. This quick save avoided an otherwise awkward silence and helped the stricken partner regain the forgotten lines. The filler joke was referred as a gag, since gags were used as silencers. There are some great entertainers who knew all about great jokes:

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