Friday, April 08, 2016

I Wanted More from "Everbody Wants Some"

When I saw the trailer for Everybody Wants Some, I couldn't have been more excited - here was a sorta sequel to my favorite Richard Linklater film Dazed and Confused, set in my favorite decade (the 80s) and featuring my favorite sport (baseball).  Perhaps my expectations were just too high because the film really fell flat for me.  I can identify a few issues:

  • Women's roles - There's only one female character in the film who actually gets a name and a little development as a love interest for our hero Jake. Still, she seems more like a muse than a fully developed character
  • Casting - Most of the actors are in their late 20s. With the mustaches, they look more like 30. They just don't seem convincing as college students. I find it hard to believe Linklater couldn't find enough quality actors in the 19-22 range for the roles.
  • Lack of depth - There's some attempt at philosophizing over the bong, led by the likable Willoughby (played by the cute Wyatt Russell, spawn of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn), but it doesn't get deep at all. It seems to be included so the film can pretend to be aspiring to be more than "Porky's."
  • Lack of baseball - There's only one scene where the guys actually play baseball, and there's no game situation. We are shown their competitive spirit in other ways, such as ping pong and knuckles competitions. But baseball as a subject is ripe for philosophizing, as we've seen in films ranging from Bull Durham to Field of Dreams to Moneyball. Linklater, who played baseball himself, really does nothing with it.  The one scene I liked comes in the beginning where the All-American star hitter on the team tells the freshman pitcher, our hero Jake, that they'll never be friends because of his mistrust of pitchers. There could have been a lot more of that.
  • Unrealistic settings - There's a party thrown by the drama students that rivals some of the biggest corporate parties I organized or attended while working at Google, These corporate parties had huge art direction budgets. I just can't believe students would be able to pull that together, especially on the weekend before school actually starts. It just feels like it's thrown in for entertainment value. The party at the Moon Tower in Dazed and Confused was much more realistic.
  • Boring main character - Although cute and likable, Jake is something of a cypher. The title tells us "everybody wants some" but we have no idea what Jake really wants. He seems to want to get laid, but he doesn't obsess over it. He doesn't think about baseball at all. He kinda likes the female character with a name. It's all a bit wishy washy. 
Dazed and Confused was a triumph because even though it only took place on one night, it showed us a range of different characters who were able to find some common ground.  We learned a lot about different cliques, and characters were individualized.  American Graffiti is another film that covered the same ground, and did it well, also with a killer soundtrack. Everybody Wants Some has the great soundtrack, but, by focusing on just the jocks, and not really differentiating them from typical jocks, it fails to take things to the level of low-key profundity that these other films achieved.  

On the positive side, the soundtrack is killer. And there are a couple of outstanding performances: newcomer Temple Baker is hilarious as a freshman catcher who's not the sharpest pencil in the box, and Glen Powell as the smooth-talking Finn is poised to get the Matthew McCoughnahey breakout award. 

The film has some fun moments and some laughs, but I found myself bored and looking at my watch halfway through it. It's getting glowing reviews, but I think if people really think about it, they will have to acknowledge it doesn't live up to its predecessor or the promise of its topic and era.  

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American Idol: The Final Finale, Part II

Wow, that was such a fun finale - a total stroll down memory lane!  

Winner: Trent Harmon

I was really disappointed that La'Porsha Renae didn't win. Her story really moved me this season, and I felt she had the most presence and star quality. She's a true diva who channels Tina Turner and Mary J. Blige.  I'm sure she will have a career.  This felt sort of like when Kris Allen beat Adam Lambert. Somehow America's mainstream tastes prevailed and a talented white male singer beat a unique butterfly.  I don't feel it was a grave miscarriage of justice, because Trent is hella talented, no doubt.  But La'Porsha has that American Dream story and, as Kelly Clarkson pointed out, it would have been cool to have a woman be the first and the final winner.  Idol has had only 5 female winners, and 10 male winners. Yet the two biggest icons of the show (Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood) are both female.

Some highlights from tonight's show...
  • Idols as Angels: I loved the opening number "One Voice" where Idols past and present filled the stage and all were wearing white. This felt like the Ghosts of Idols Past. 
  • Dunkelman is back! It was fun to hear a little repartee between Seacrest and Dunkelman again.
  • Sanjaya's wigs: While he didn't get to speak, we glimpsed Sanjaya in the audience twice - once with a huge Mad Max mohawk and once in a powdered wig.  
  • Simon, Paula and Randy: This was a fun reunion to witness. It wouldn't have been a satisfying finale without seeing these three and especially Simon, and he really did seem moved by it all. He's still looking good. We wrote these love haikus for Simon back in 2002. 
  • The Rocker medley: I loved seeing Bo Bice with short hair (unrecognizable, but he looks good), Constantine Maroulis, Caleb Johnson, James Durbin, and Chris Daughtry perform together. 
  • Idol Gives Back tribute: Harry Connick and Marley Fletcher, a kid from The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in the 9th ward of New Orleans, sang "What A Wonderful World" together, in a touching segment honoring the Idol Goes Back charity that has raised $185 million for underserved youth in the US and around the world.
  • 3 Divas Reunited: LaToya London, Fantasia Barrino, and Jennifer Hudson sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water" to remind us how much the show had gone downhill since they were The Class of Season 3.
  • J Lo the Showgirl: her segment was basically a commercial for her Vegas show. Well, I'm sold.
  • William Hung: Yes, they needed to go there. 

Old idols I was happy to see again...
  • Tamyra Gray: She looked fierce, singing "Sober" with Jordin Sparks and Kara DioGuardi and singing "Girl Crush" on her own.  She was one of the most memorable contestants from Season 1. We wrote a bunch of haikus about the contestants of Season 1 back in the day.  
  • Justin Guarini: Justin looks pretty handsome with the shorter hair. He can no longer be compared to Sideshow Bob.
  • Carrie Underwood: I have to admit I was too hard on her back when I wrote this screed about her after she won Season 4. She has grown a lot of personality since then. She always had the voice but I found her wooden.  Now her songs are sassy and smart.  And she even did a passable Stevie Nicks tonight, singing "Stop Dragging My Heart Around" with Keith Urban.
  • Constantine Maroulis: He's my all-time favorite Idol. I wrote these haikus about Constantine back in the day. 
  • Kelly Clarkson: Although her performance was taped due to her being unable to attend due to impending childbirth, it was still fun to see a hugely pregnant Kelly sing a medley of her many hits. 
  • Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo: Idol put them on stage together tonight but failed to mention they are married - missed opportunity to showcase a true Idol love connection. Diana is only 28 but something about her face and hair makes her look like she's in her 40s - can't really put my finger on it but she's always had that look. 
  • Taylor Hicks: He's my second-favorite Idol and I wish we'd seen more of him tonight, but how about that stylin' purple velveteen jacket?
I doubt this is really the end, but it's certainly been a great ride, especially those early years when it was all new and some true superstars were found.  

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Wednesday, April 06, 2016

American Idol: The Final Finale, Part I

Tonight we said goodbye to teen dream Dalton Rapattoni. I am sad to see him go as I too found him dreamy, and he was the show's only rocker.  But I think Dalton will be just fine. He would be a great frontman for an indie rock band, or he could have a great solo career ahead of him. He got to sing his Idol song before he left. It was a catchy tune called "Strike a Match." 

  

So, our Final Two are Trent Harmon and La'Porsha Renae, and I don't think anyone would disagree that they were the two strongest singers in the Top Ten. So America got it right. They both sang three songs tonight.

Trent Harmon - Trent's Idol song is called "Falling." It was soulful and showed off his range. I always find these Idol songs somewhat forgettable. Next Simon Fuller chose "If You Don't Know Me By Now" for Trent. He was very confident and delivered the song with soul, feeling the lyrics. Keith said it was a great song for him. J Lo said he's going to give La'Porsha a run for her money and it may be the closest vote ever.  For the song of his own choice, he reprised "Chandelier" by Sia. It was so impressive how he hit the high notes. He was pitch perfect and got a huge ovation, Harry said he's making this the hardest decision in the history of Idol. Keith said his vocal transitions are amazing, J Lo said she knew he would be in the final two and that he deserves to win. 


La'Porsha Renae - La'Porsha's Idol song is "Battles." I preferred it to Trent's song as it was anthemic, and it fit her story. Simon Fuller asked La'Porsha to sing "A House is Not a Home," and she was terrific. It made me miss Season 1 when they did a whole theme week devoted to Bacharach songs. La'Porsha pulled back a bit and delivered it in a Dionne Warwick vein.  She looked terrific in a sparkly gown with jewels. J Lo said it was so beautiful. Harry said it was her most complicated song melodically. Keith said it was smoldering. For the song of her own choosing, she picked "Diamonds" by Rihanna, which she had sung in the Top Ten week. It really showed off her stage presence and the strength of her vocals.  She got a big ovation and the crowd chanted her name. She started to cry. Keith said she and Trent both chose black diamond runs and sailed down the hill. J Lo said she can't wait to go to a La'Porsha concert and cut loose. Harry asked who was the "you and I" she was singing about and she said it was her daughter, thus reminding viewers again of her dramatic backstory.


Prediction - I think La'Porsha is going to win, but the vote might be close. They both gave it their all tonight. I just think La'Porsha connects a bit more with the audience and has the brightest star quality. 

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Monday, April 04, 2016

KISS Unplug for the LA KISS Faithful

I've been a season ticket holder for the LA KISS since the team was founded three years ago, and finally I feel all the suffering with the mediocre team really paid off.  Being a fan of a losing team is nothing new to me - my family were season ticket holders for the football Cardinals when the team was in St. Louis. Plus, I grew up Catholic. So I'm good at suffering. 

In the first season, LA KISS season ticket holders were promised a full KISS concert, and the band delivered. But it took them a long time to figure out a date that worked with the arena and the band's touring schedule, and it ended up being a date when I had to travel for work. The team only won three games that year, but there was a lot of entertainment value, with tribute bands playing pre-game concerts and halftime, BMX stunt bike shows, dancers, and pyro. They had dancing girls in cages suspended from the ceiling. You could call it "the greatest show on turf" without even talking about the game. In the second season, there were management changes and a lack of effort. The owners rarely attended the games (but to be fair, they were on tour most of the season). There was no KISS concert, much less extracurricular entertainment at the games, very little schwag, but the team improved in the second half of the season and made the games competitive. They ended with a record of 4-14.  

In the offseason, management made a lot of moves under new CEO Joe Windham, including hiring a new coach, Omarr Smith, and acquiring many players from last year's champion San Jose Sabercats after that team went out of business (Arena Football is a shaky business).  And they announced some schwag items and the thing we were all hoping for - another KISS concert just for the season ticket holders.  And this time it would be unplugged, sans makeup and pyro! 

I had to skip the last day of the Association of Writing Programs conference to catch this show, but it was really no contest for me.  I had already had two days of the conference to be highbrow and then needed to indulge my lowbrow side.  We arrived at the Honda Center in Anaheim around 12:15pm and there were only about 30 people in line. The first two people in line had arrived at 8:50am.  The first 500 people would be able to watch the concert from the field. We had fun chatting with other fans in line until we were let into the arena around 1:45pm. We headed straight for the field and were able to get a second row centered standing position. The pair who had arrived at 8:50am were against the barrier right in front of us, and I was quite happy because the gal was much shorter than me so I would have a clear view. 

The band took the stage around 3:00pm and they were all wearing sunglasses except for Tommy. Gene and Paul were in jackets and jeans. They kicked off the acoustic show with "Coming Home" and continued with "Calling Dr. Love" and everyone sang along.  It was certainly surreal to be so close to the band, and in such an intimate setting.  Although we were on the football field in a big arena, there were only 500 of us, so it felt like a club show. The fans who came later were sitting in the stands. Paul hyped up what a great season it was going to be and thanked us all for being fans.  




As usual, Paul did the talking, and Gene was stoic.  Tommy sat for more than half the show and Paul made a big deal when he finally stood up. He also pointed out to the crowd that Tommy was single. When a fan complimented Gene's bass, Paul said, "He'll be glad to sell it to you." And Gene nodded that he would.  "How much for that pink pocket square, Gene?" Paul asked.  "One million dollars," Gene deadpanned.  Sure enough, I saw a sales kiosk for Gene's basses when I walked around the arena concourse later that day.  




Paul explained the origins of "Goin' Blind" while musing that they almost were 93 years old like the character in the song (Simmons is 66, Stanley is 64). "Plaster Caster" was a highlight for me, as I have always loved that song.  



The band sounded great, and it was fun to just enjoy the songs without all the theatrics.  We tried in vain to catch one of the many picks they threw. Thankfully a front row fan who caught a bunch gave us one after the show. 

Toward the end of the set, they attempted to cover "Take It Easy" by the Eagles in honor of Glenn Frey but they stumbled through it. Paul admitted they probably should have made sure they knew the words.  It was still fun to watch and a sweet tribute.  Drummer Eric Singer got a chance to sing on the final song "Beth." 



The show was a little over an hour, and I felt like I was in a dream.  I had only been this close to the band during signing events. My KISS fandom began at age 5 when I carried a KISS lunchbox to kindergarten, so this was really an incredible experience. 

The band came back and played two songs at halftime for all the fans in attendance: "Shout It Out Loud" and "Rock and Roll All Night." And the team really did look good and actually won the game!  We picked up our season ticket holder schwag - orange "LA KISS Corps" backpacks, designed by Paul, and the bags included lanyards and pins for each of the seasons we had been season ticket holders. Just like the bobbleheads they gave out the first year, the pins will be collectible, and that's what us KISS fans dig. 

It's a shame that only 6800 people attended the game, even with the KISS performance at halftime which should have been a great incentive. Hopefully it will be a good season and more people will come if they keep winning. I already feel like I got my money's worth.  And lord knows I've given KISS enough cash over the years to buy Gene a lot of pocket squares and probably a few basses! 



Check out all my photos from the concert

Visit the LA KISS website


Setlist

  1. Coming Home
  2. Calling Dr. Love
  3. Hard Luck Woman
  4. C'mon and Love Me
  5. Love 'em and Leave 'em
  6. Mainline
  7. Christine Sixteen
  8. Goin' Blind
  9. Do You Love Me
  10. Nothin' to Lose
  11. Love Her All I Can
  12. Plaster Caster
  13. Got to Choose
  14. Take It Easy
  15. Beth

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Concert Review: Father John Misty - Opening Night in the OC

I've never seen so much PDA in a concert crowd as I did tonight at the opening show of Father John Misty's new tour at The Observatory in Santa Ana. The guy just exudes so many pheremones that he's like a giant living, breathing bottle of Axe Body Spray. People can't help but respond in kind. 

Tess and Dave opened the show and seemed like a likable and fun duo, although I only saw their last two songs.  They are also in Father John's band.

Misty strutted through most of his catalog to the delight of a crowd that hung on and sang along to his every word.  He had a couple technical problems and said it was due to it being the first night. At one point, he had to stall, so he encouraged fans that this would be the time to take cell phone pics if they must, and he posed like a rock god. He even took one woman's phone and took a selfie and handed it back. Many times he approached the folks in the front row, who must have waited many hours to nab those spots at the sold out show, and he grabbed their hands. Yes, love and lust were in the air. When someone yelled out "I love you" during a break in the action, Misty said he loved us too, but then qualified the statement to say perhaps it was just infatuation. 

The dude has a lot of sex appeal, although the songs are about love and marriage almost as much as boning. I'm not normally into skinny guys with beards, but tonight I made the connection of why I dig him so much. He reminds me of my soft rock heroes of the 70s - Dave Loggins, Harry Nilsson, Herb Alpert, Gordon Lightfoot, Bertie Higgins, Gerry Rafferty. His voice has that richness and perfect tone and the melodies have an easy listening vibe along with a sharp sense of humor. I heard one girl in the crowd describe him as being "like a dreamy Charles Manson." 

We were treated to two killer covers - "Because the Night" by Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith and "Kiss It Better" by Rhianna.



Misty played 90 minutes. He closed the set with a rousing rendition of "I Love You Honeybear" and then returned for a three-song encore. 

You can see the setlist here.  

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Friday, March 25, 2016

American Idol: And Then There Were Four

This compressed American Idol season is flying by, while I wish it would linger a bit. Tonight the Idols were mentored by Steve Van Zandt on classic rock songs and then by Sia on her songs. Sia let them see her eyes but this was blurred out for the TV audience.  

LaPorsha Renae -  LaPorsha's classic rock choice was "Wanted Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi. Although she doesn't seem like much of a cowboy, she delivered a strong vocal, circled the stage with swagger, and hit the big note at the end. The judges felt it was an odd song for her, but J Lo said she could sing the phone book and it wouldn't matter. It reminded Harry of Tina Turner. They also complimented her braids, which she said took 15 hours to do. She did look awesome and she has such confidence now. It's been a great evolution to watch and if there's any justice she will win the show. Her Sia song was "Elastic Heart" and it was another good performance. J Lo said she is a fully realized artist and they just don't have much to say to her, but I wonder if the lack of effusive praise and the fact that she had to sing first tonight might cause people to forget to vote for her. 


MacKenzie Bourg - His classic rock song was "I Want You to Want Me" by Cheap Trick. He slowed it down a lot and it kind of lost its rock edge, Keith hated the arrangement. Harry thought he could have sung it the same and kept it double time as the original was and would have kept the energy up more.  Mac's Sia song was "Titanium." This was a typical performance but he did stretch for a high note. Harry thought it was nice but it shouldn't all be about one note. Keith liked that he made it a singer/songwriter moment and stripped it down. I feel like Mackenzie is sticking with what he's good at but not stretching enough, and this may be his downfall. 


Trent Harmon - Trent's first song was "Sharp Dressed Man" by ZZ Top. He delivered it as a rock song with a bluesy edge. We got to see a more rocking side of him, and he got the crowd into it. J Lo said it was fungal - dirtied and muddied up.  Harry thought it was brilliant. His Sia song was "Chandelier" and it was impressive, with the high notes. Sia told him he picked her most difficult song. Keith thought it was exquisite. J Lo said he can do anything. Harry gave it 100 out of 100. The judges really laid it on thick for Trent. I think they want a Trent/LaPorsha finale. 


Dalton Rapattoni -  Dalton sang "God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys, and I don't really view this as a classic rock song. However, it's one of my favorite songs and Dalton gave a heartfelt rendition and really connected with the audience. We've seen him rock quite a bit this season, so I won't hold the song choice against him. Harry said it was the most complex song he's sung so far and it showed his vulnerability. His Sia song was "Bird Set Free" and he wore a cool neon spatter paint jacket. He sounded a bit flat to me, but he sang with feeling and got choked up at the end. The crowd went wild. J Lo cried too and said everyone was cheering for Dalton's bravery. Keith said he pushes through his limitations. 


The Bottom Two were Sonika and Dalton and Sonika was sent home. This reinforces my feeling that the judges were wrong to save Sonika two weeks in a row. Now she was in the Bottom Three for three weeks straight and finally was sent home. I think she has a lovely voice but she just didn't connect with the audience well enough to motivate people to vote for her.  

I was definitely surprised to see Dalton in the Bottom Two.  I have been partially basing my prognostications on Twitter. Dalton and Mackenzie both have @ 130,000 followers.  LaPorsha and Trent have about 30,000, and Sonika had about 15,000.  With that huge advantage in Twitter fans, I felt Dalton and Mackenzie would sail through these middle of the competition weeks.  Of course, voters can become complacent. Dalton had a good week last week but he did mention his struggles with bipolar disorder and that may have unfortunately turned off some of his fans.  I also think he and Mackenzie are drawing from the same pool of teen/tween Tiger Beat type voters.  With that being said, I predict Mackenzie and Trent will be the Bottom Two next week and Mackenzie will go home.  It could be Dalton, but I think he will benefit from all of his fans being scared because he was in the Bottom Two this week and they will vote, vote, vote.  


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Friday, March 18, 2016

American Idol: Top 5 Revealed

Last night, American Idol revealed its Top 5 and Adam Lambert came back to entertain us. 

I've officially lost my patience with the judges' save. They haven't even told us the last couple of weeks that they would be continuing to save people, but last night they used their last save of the season to save Sonika Vaid. Sonika had been in the bottom last week and this week. In my view, that means America has spoken.  While she has a strong voice, she is clearly shy and just doesn't connect that well with the audience. She comes off a bit like a Disney princess.  In the conversation segments, she does seem more likable, but somehow there just isn't a big personality radiation when she sings. And yet, with a bottom two of Tristan Macintosh and Sonika, the judges saved Sonika for the second week in a row. Of the two, I'd say Sonika probably does deserve to be there more than Tristan, who is very young and not quite ready, but I still think America should have the final say by this point, as we are only a few weeks away from the end of Idol - forever! 

Here's a recap of the performances. The contestants had to sing songs suggested by America via Twitter and other social media outlets.

Trent Harmon - His first song was "Counting Stars" by OneRepublic. This seemed kind of uncomfortable for him, and afterward he admitted he didn't really know what was going on. J Lo felt he engaged the audience well. His second song was "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd and this was the perfect song for him. By the end, he had J Lo in tears, waxing rhapsodically about how she would miss the show for moments like this that showed the perfect collision of song and singer.  Trent cried too.  He's a talented and likable guy. We also learned he had a good friend who designed his guitar that died young, and he plays on to honor his friend. 



Dalton Rappatoni - America suggested Dalton sing "Numb" by Linkin Park and he delivered the tune with emotion but dulled the rock edge a bit too much.  Harry said he poured his guts into it, but the judges felt it was an uneven performance. His second song was "Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel and that was much more in his wheelhouse, allowing him to focus on the lyrics and deliver a haunting performance with lots of eye contact with the camera from those big dreamy eyes. Keith said he liked how Dalton connected with the words. Dalton reminds me of a Walter Keane painting and I just want to spoon with him, especially after we learned he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 9 and that his grandma runs a beauty shop where all the little old ladies are rooting for him while getting their shampoo n' set hairdos.  


La'Porsha Renae - Her first song was "Ready for Love" by India Arie and I thought it was good but not as mind-blowing as her usual performances. Harry thought it was phenomenal. Her second song was "No More Drama" by Mary J. Blige and she really brought it. This was the perfect song choice, especially after they played clips of her talking about emerging from her abusive relationship. She was in tears at the end and so was J Lo and probably many viewers at home.  La'Porsha poured her heart and soul into the performance and the judges were pretty much speechless. I feel this is the best of American Idol - finding someone as downtrodden as La'Porsha and giving her a platform to excel. If she doesn't win this show, it will be because of tons of tween girls voting for Dalton and Mackenzie, and it will be a damn shame.  But I'm sure she will have a career after this, no matter what.


Mackenzie Bourg - His first song was "Wild World" by Cat Stevens, and it was the perfect song for him. He could fit in well with my 70s easy listening heroes like Dan Fogelberg, Dave Loggins, Paul Davis, Al Stewart.  Harry said he was glad to see Mackenzie do something more up tempo. His second song was "Billie Jean." I thought the lyrics didn't hold up to the dramatic slow interpretation he gave the song, but the judges praised him for making it his own. J Lo said she was riveted. We also learned he has made a full recovery from congestive heart failure but it nearly killed him in high school and forced him to give up sports. So he found solace in music. 


Sonika Vaid - America asked Sonika to sing "Let It Go" by Demi Lovato, probably to instruct her to do as the song says and emote more. I thought her performance was too subtle and not bombastic like this song requires. But the judges liked it, and J Lo said Sonika is shy but fierce. Her second song was "Clarity" by Zedd and her performance was strong, but it still felt hollow. There's none of the emotion one feels watching La'Porsha, Trent, and even Dalton and Mackenzie to a lesser degree. Yet, she remains. 



Tristan Macintosh - Before being eliminated, Tristan sang "Independence Day" by Martina McBride and played the piano. It was a strong vocal but the judges felt it was very similar to her other performances and she needs to stretch more. Harry said she just needs to get older. Too bad he couldn't tell her to come back next year. 









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