Girl on Film: My SFIFF 2016

I terribly miss volunteering for film festivals. I hope against hope that next late-April and early-May my schedule will allow me to do so once again. There’s nothing like the camaraderie and surprises that come with spending hours in a theater with other volunteers, temporary workers, nomadic staff, film loving attendees, attendees who happen upon the festival, filmmakers and special guests. I loved (and was a bit jealous) following along with my dear pal Amber who made the prestigious move from volunteer to house manager in 2016, and basically lived at the festival. Next year will be my 7th San Francisco International Film Festival and if you don’t see me taking your ticket one of those nights, find me and smack me.

I may not have volunteered this year, but I did once again purchase a 10-pack so I would make it films. Two of those I missed at my own volition (I skipped Under The Shadow to party at the new SFMOMA and Trivisa because I ran into a group of dear friends while getting out of the Lyft at the Alamo Drafthouse). The last, Cameraperson, I begrudgingly missed when I got stuck late in a volunteer meeting. Thanks to missing my last scheduled film, the next day I spontaneously bought a last-minute shorts program ticket when another volunteer meeting wrapped early.

Eight screenings ain’t too shabby and one up from my 2015 festival showing. So what did make it to see?

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World

My plane back from SE Asia landed about 9 hours before I Herzog’s take on Silicon Valley. Full of the typical cast oddballs and dreamers, albiet ones who are influencing our daily technological choices, this was hard to watch after  just three days prior, being somewhere where there was not reliable water access. It’s difficult to listen to old white dudes wax poetic on settling Mars when we’ve already fucked Earth over (the one badass female scientist profiled in the film did point out this very fact).

Assassination Classroom

I love going to whatever iteration of “Dark Wave” or Midnight Movies that film festivals include in their line up. They always make me miss the weird shit I used to see at the UWM Cinema in my 20s. I was going to go see this one jetlagged and alone, but ran into a gaggle of friends at the theater, so go to crack up to Scott Pilgrim meets Battle Royale with a group and then laugh about/reference it for the next couple of weeks. Looking forward to Part II.

The Fixer

Image: SFFS.org

I appreciate that a city’s film festival generally includes a local filmmaking component and when I can I do try to support at least one screening of area cinema. But this film, along with last year’s Quitters, to me signify why the eyeroll emoji was invented. I just don’t find privileged Northern Californians reflecting on the weird worlds they live in. It’s frankly quite boring. In the Q&A there was discussion of how this was supposed to be “different” because the main character was a person of color, but sorry, it was still clearly written by two white dudes over 50.

Granny’s Dancing on the Table

I love a beautiful, dark film, but this one was extra unsettling and claustrophobic for me Despite its setting in a massive forest, the limited characters (both human and stop animation) and confined spaces they occupied began to feel very heavy as the film unfolded. I appreciated it immensely from a cinematic perspective (as I do artwork that makes the audience experience multi-level emotion), but it’s not one I’d rush out to see again. That said, I recommend it to you hearty international cinema lovers out there who can handle a good dash of despair.

Blood Simple (Mel Novikoff Award: An Afternoon with Janus Films & The Criterion Collection with special guests the Coen Brothers)

Every year I have to have at least one festival experience that transports me to “film nerd heaven.” I realized that despite seeing plenty of clips, I’d never actually watched the Coen Brother’s first feature film, so this was an absolute treat to enjoy it in such a geeky context. The interview with the Janus/Criterion dudes was really interesting to hear about their process and adaptations with changing technology. I found the conversation about their approach to design particularly fascinating  – people are buying the design along with the film. Finally, I was especially excited to learn about Filmstruck, the new streaming service from Criterion and TCM.

As I Open My Eyes

Getting toward the end of my ticket stack, I was a little worried that I hadn’t had a “wow” film yet. I think I picked this one because the timing worked well for me, but As I Open My Eyes was easily my favorite film of the fest, hands-down. A Tunisian film, it was certainly more of a traditional feature with universal themes, but did them all very well. The structure, acting and intense plot twist took what could’ve been your traditional “teen girl rebels against parents” movie into an excellent and upsetting film that I absolutely recommend.

Wiener-Dog

Image: Teaser-Trailer.com

There may have been a time in my 20s, during those cold Wisconsin winters, where my broke eastside gang sat on a dumpy couch on Humboldt Street, with various cheap substances, watching Todd Solondz movies and laughing our asses off. It’s wonderful to know that I could spend a sober evening in my mid-30s in The Mission and laugh my ass off at Solondz’s new venture. Definitely not for everyone, but if you’re a fan of sick, trashy humor (and are excited about the Welcome to the Dollhouse universe continuing), put this on your list.

Shorts 4: New Visions

Image: SFFS.org

I think this is the first time I’ve ever paid money to see a shorts program during SFIFF and that’s a real shame! Future fest planning will definitely integrate taking a closer look. These were globally-themed and experimental, so provided a very different perspective and approach to filmmaking than I’m used to. My Aleppo was probably the most traditional and intense film in the bunch. Sept-Oct 2015, Cizre packed a powerful punch, but I’ll be honest, the structure/editing grated on me. Untitled (sorry, that’s an impossible link) was super short, but a really solid message. I would’ve preferred the program had chosen that to end with instead of the sprawling False Start (Faux Depart), although I suppose there’s some poetry in that title ending my SFIFF 2016.

***

A final note on the location change for SFIFF. I loved it. Wandering around the Mission and Castro to get to films felt so much more special and urban than just bumping around the Kabuki, mingling with “normal” movie goers. Having so many bars and restaurants to pick from for a pre-or-post film discussion was a welcome change from wandering around the weird Japantown mall. When the fest was in Lower Pac Heights I’d pop in and out for the movies, but this year I spent way more time in the neighborhood.  The Alamo Drafthouse is truly a shining addition to San Francisco and their support of “little guy” theaters like the  Victoria Theatre (first time going!) and The Roxie is absolutely heartwarming. And of course getting back-and-forth to The-one-and-only Castro Theatre was 1000x easier too!

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Travel Tuesday: I Guess I Never Wrote About Vietnam Last Time Either

IMG_0404As my recent travels to Vietnam and Cambodia fade into the dust of time, the guilt of never writing about them eats away at me. Apparently that will go away too, since I apparently never wrote about my 2012 to visit Jason as well. No wonder no one knows it was my second time back!

This time I did fill up two Field Notes, so maybe, just maybe, I can peel out of life obligations at some point in the near future and translate scribbled pen to digital paper.

If you’re still reading this blog (ha!)…what parts of my travel do you most want to hear about?

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Beer Week is Now Officially Over

 

I got Pliny the Younger. Twice. Living around the corner from Toronado has its perks. 

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A Night with an Angel 

 
Kicked off my camping goal for the year last night with three of my lovely gal pals just a ferry ride from the city. More coming soon…

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36 by 37: Check In Numero Uno

 

Tackling the history category at Hyde Street Pier.

 
I know it’s only the first of these, but I have to say I’m feeling much more optimistic about my goals this year. Maybe it’s because they’re almost entirely a fresh set or maybe it’s because I set a much more manageable benchmark number, but they seem really achievable.

Ask me again in July, but here’s how we’re shaping up so far in month one (5.45% overall completion rate):

GEOGRAPHY
Visit six countries.

My travel for Vietnam and Cambodia (with two day long layovers in China) is all booked. I’ve been making some career moves (more info on that coming soon) and may end up traveling later this year for that. Exciting things are happening!

Complete at least six modules of six languages in Duolingo.
Need to motivate myself back onto a streak.

Attend six different ethnic cooking classes or special dinners.
I see a calendaring project in my future.

Read six books by authors from six different non-US countries.
I started with a short, but important one, from one of my new favorite authors: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists.

See six films from six different non-US countries.
No progress.

Swim in six different bodies of water.
It’s early February. Even in California, this would be silly to attempt.

 

Tempted to apply at The Alamo Drafthouse. Would happily eject talkers/texters!

 
ENTERTAINMENT
See films at six different theaters.
It solidified my distaste for Iñárritu and may have scarred my friend Amy, but I did see The Revenant and finally checked out the Alamo Drafthouse.

See concerts at six different venues.
I always love when friends help me achieve my goals. I got to kick off my year of concerting with an Annie Bacon & Her OSHEN show at Amnesia for an unexpected Sunday Funday.

Host six dinner parties for six.
I really, really, really need to get this apartment ready for entertainment.

Read six books by entertainers.
Didn’t think I’d be plowing through this one so quickly! Read Patti Smith’s M Train, Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band and, thanks to a cool contract gig, the surprisingly (to me) fantastic The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer.

Go on six dates.
Plenty of messages on the internet ranging from awkward to horrifying, but no dates yet.

Participate in six performances.
Nada.

HISTORY
Interview six family members.
I should probably connect with my family about this!

Visit six historic sites within San Francisco
A brief “funemployment” stint has been great for hitting up things when the crowds aren’t. Hit up Hyde Street Pier and “discovered” El Polin Spring in the The Presidio this past month.

Go to six historical society events.
Both the San Francisco Historical Society and the California Historical Society are extremely active and have a lot of offerings. I look forward to hitting some walks and some talks.

Write six chapters of a memoir.
Busy living it. (Excuses).

Watch six documentaries about historical events.
Once I’m done Breaking Bad binging.

Read six books about historical figures.
Before Hamilton! opens here in 2017.

 

The cultural anthropologist in me loved following the connections this exhibit made.

 
ARTS & LITERATURE
Visit six visual art exhibitions at six different museums or galleries.
Enjoyed the Looking East: How Japan Inspired Monet, Van Gogh and Other Western Artists exhibit at the Asian Art Museum. It felt really relevant after my Amsterdam art experiences last year. I’m taking notes on theses sojourns and hope to have some insightful stuff to share for a future post.

Attend six performing arts events by six different companies.
Again, friends helping me with goals! Got to see my talented friend “Funny” Emily Markoe perform with EndGames Improv and catch the wonderful San Francisco Ballet Program 1 with my college pal Ingrid.

Read six novels published in 2016.
It’s only February, I’ll work through the other categories first.

Take six arts/crafts classes/workshops.
Have talked to friends Allison and Mary Ann about taking these together. Now to do that!

Attend six author talks.
Another calendaring session that needs to happen.

Write six short stories of six pages or more.
Realizing I’m going to need to crowdsource some guidance here AND make the time.

 

This hike fell short of six miles, but was still worth it!

 
SCIENCE & NATURE
Visit six science museums/nature centers.
No progress.

Take six hikes of at least six miles each.
I tried so hard last weekend at Samuel P. Taylor State Park, but the trail we were going to loop on was closed and only got to 5.5. The hiking bug is back!

Kayak six times.
I’ve booked bioluminesce tour in Tomales Bay in May!

Read six science/nature books.
No progress.

Tent camp in six different locations.
On my way to Angel Island as this posts to camp overnight!!!

Attend six science/nature lectures.
On my calendaring list as well.

SPORTS & LEISURE
Attend six yoga workshops/retreats.
Two of my Yoga Garden teachers started my year off right (and I have notes from these for future posts). I got into the deepest, craziest wheel of my life at the Hearts, Hips & Relationships workshop with Jean Mazzei and a week later truly zenned out at Karen Macklin’s Coming Home Retreat with Mary Ann and Amber.

Participate in six organized runs.
Training for Oakland!

Go to the gym six times each month.
This was definitely the most challenging challenge of the month and found me running a mile on the treadmill at 9 p.m. last night. But I did it. And I made myself try swimming and spin again, as well as a core class!

Attend six sporting events.
Yeah, I didn’t go to the Super Bowl.

Read six sports-themed books.
Not yet, but thanks for all the awesome suggestions!

Go to six different spas/hot springs.
After a wild start to my 36th year, massaged out the stress of the start of 2016 at In-Symmetry Wellness Spa.

How are your 2016 goals coming along?

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Lent the Blogging Commence

A couple of years ago I tried a Lenten blogging challenge. It lasted six days. Long story short, I got dumped shortly after it began and was busy listening to Elliott Smith and being emo in a physical journal (that’s dismissive…my heart was fucking crushed and I wrote some pretty intense things that maybe one day will be workshopped into something I’ll actually put out there) instead of posting daily shit on the internet.

Since nobody can dump me this time around (bwa ha ha, #singlelife for the win), I’m going to try another attempt at giving up blog neglect for Lent 2016 (in addition to mixing alcohols, ice cream and the Facebook app).

Hopefully I’ve got enough to say for 40 days!

What are you focusing on for Lent this year?

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The 36 by 37: Personal Pursuit

Editor’s note: I wrote this entire post throughout the weekend and just as I was about to schedule I saw the news of David Bowie’s death. My optimism will hopefully return, so I’m not changing it, despite my extreme grief over one of my idols.

A couple weeks ago a hummingbird flew into my apartment. A friend pointed out that its a harbinger of joy. All small goals aside, I hope that 36 is overall a most joyful year!

I’m weirdly glad that my birthday is a Monday this year. I feel like I need a real fresh start and as bummer as Mondays can be, if you kick ’em off right, they can be the best day of the week. The day with a complete blank slate. The day where you can shape how the following few days are going to go. Trust me, I have definitely had my TBIM days, but I’m going into this one with my head held high and my spirit open to possibility.

Speaking of fresh starts, in reflecting on the results of my 35 by 36 efforts I realized that one of the reasons I didn’t hit even 50% achievement is because my goal setting had stagnated. I’d begun regurgitating year-on-year, with some goals (like yoga) becoming habits and others becoming things I once loved but began to resent (like running or stairway walks). Additionally, as I’ve aged, my numbers have gotten really damn ambitious. Someone recently said “Gosh, I hope I don’t know you when you’re 90.” I still want to have the number of goals match my age (give me that one thing), but I do recognize that I need to limit myself within each individual goal.

Thanks to basic math, translating that into action for this year was relatively easy. 36. Hoorah squares. I decided that I would divide it up into six categories with six goals each and use six as the base number of tasks to complete within each goal. Go ahead, roll your eyes.

At any rate, I then needed to find categories. I first made the mistake of trying to map those existing, repeated goals: community, professional, travel. I wasn’t feeling it – as a communications person there was no story, no common thread. Alliteration maybe? Friends, food, fears… Nope.  Then it hit me:

Trivial Pursuit

Six perfect categories. For the former girl scout obsessed with the idea of the Dabbler and Marquette student stoked to find the general Social Sciences minor, mapping my next year Geography, Entertainment, History, Arts & Literature, Science & Nature, and Sports & Leisure sounded like just the refresh I needed. Plus it gave me the opportunity to apply some color-coded conditional formatting to the tracking spreadsheet I use.

So, with a renewed energy and interest in this little personal project, I present Personal Pursuit, my 36 by 37 goals:

All geography goals cannot be completed inside It’s A Small World.

GEOGRAPHY
Visit six countries.

This shouldn’t be too difficult to hit with a SE Asia trip on the horizon that will find me visiting Vietnam and Cambodia, with a day layover on each end in Guangzhou, China.

Complete at least six modules of six languages in Duolingo.
I gushed about learning German through this app and even though tackling multiple languages probably isn’t the best retention strategy, I’m also curious to obtain or revisit the basics in a handful of language. Tentatively I’ll be continuing with German and Spanish, and adding in Italian and French. I’m hoping to learn some non-Western languages too, hopefully Vietnamese will launch before I go and I’d love to tackle Arabic.

Attend six different ethnic cooking classes or special dinners.
This still allows me to continue with my 18 Reasons commitments, but also accounts for opportunities like the Thai cooking class I took with Team India last year.

Read six books by authors from six different non-US countries.
One of my absolute favorite books I read during year 35 was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, about the Nigerian immigrant experience in the US and UK, as well as repatriation. While my travel funds are limited (unless I win that Powerball), I can always use an escape to another place through the page.

See six films from six different non-US countries.
Similar to books, I’m open to traveling through film as well. It’s been awhile since I’ve made a concerted effort to watch foreign films, so I’m excited to tackle this. And bonus, maybe this will finally be the year I dine at Foreign Cinema.

Swim in six different bodies of water.
Harkening back to Trivial Pursuit, I realized that I probably should add a geographic feature challenge here. I’m not sure I’m ready to start summiting mountains, so this one seemed doable. Plus I really need to explore some lakes and rivers. And I’m pretty stoked to swim in the South China Sea again.

Setting entertainment goals since 1980.

ENTERTAINMENT
See films at six different theaters.
Considering that two years ago I managed to hit 12 different theaters, this should be beyond doable. I’ve really hated how off my game I’ve gotten with my filmgoing. Hoping El Niño allows for me to take baby steps back into it and maybe blow this out of the water.

See concerts at six different venues.
Another that I’m confident I can meet, but that will also keep me honest. I’m very lucky that my new apartment is closer to both The Fillmore and The Independent and makes Rickshaw Stop and Brick & Mortar walkable. I guess The Chapel too. Okay, there’s five. Now to see some dang shows.

Host six dinner parties for six.
Before the roommate switch at my old apartment, Sadie and/or I used to host dinner parties with relatively frequency. I miss the act of communal eating. For years I’ve been wanting to piece together a salon-like dinner parties series and I think maybe this is the year to tackle it. Also, I love how I’ve designed my space to be sort of like the Barbie fold-up apartment and want to put my Ikea Norden table to the test.

Read six books by entertainers.
While I eased up on other pursuits, I couldn’t cut back my reading challenges. Especially after such a lackluster 35. You’ll notice a lot of book-related goals intersecting various categories, which will hopefully overlap with some of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. Since Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl and Patti Smith’s (signed!) M Train are waiting on my shelf, I figure these will be a good start. (Also, Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band and Aziz Anzari’s Modern Romance are high on my “to read” list).

Go on six dates.
Look, I don’t want to have to have this goal. Dating is the worst. Since last year’s set up challenge was a complete bust and 15 seemed impossible, I’m setting this at a more manageable six dates and have set aside my pride to return to the terrible world of online dating. Still feel free to set me up or y’all can just keep giving me hugs and telling me what a “great catch” I am.

Participate in six performances.
If you’ve met me, or my family, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’re a little, uh, theatrical. My younger brother has totally impressed me in recent years by going for it with comedy and putting himself out there in the Portland scene. A few years ago my mom started taking vocal workshops and participating in a couple of showcases. Super inspiring stuff, but I was always in the ensemble. I want to make sure I can still “ensem”. And maybe this is the year. So are you putting on a production? Need someone to be  “Woman in Coffeeshop #4”? Let me know!

Exploring personal history is big on the agenda for 36.

HISTORY
Interview six family members.
One of the highlights of my year is having a sleepover with my octogenarian grandmother and hearing stories of her youth in rural Montana and Tacoma, Washington. I also realize my own parents are getting older, with my dad to start getting the senior discount later this year. Other relatives will be traveling out for my brother’s wedding in October and I’d love to commit some family tales to the record. (I just realized that Mom did a genealogical research project when she was around my age…what is it about  the mid-thirties?).

Visit six historic sites within San Francisco
I love being a tourist in my own town. Always happy to get out and explore.

Go to six historical society events.
Both the San Francisco Historical Society and the California Historical Society are extremely active and have a lot of offerings. I look forward to hitting some walks and some talks.

Write six chapters of a memoir.
My BFFF is actively and publicly working on hers and is a constant inspiration in that regards. Mine will likely live in a Google doc, but I think developing some of the stories from my travels and life adventures wouldn’t hurt. Oh and chapter length? You guessed it, at least six pages.

Watch six documentaries about historical events.
In an election year this could be terrifying.

Read six books about historical figures.
Can I get a shout out for the 920s section? Maybe this is the year I finally finish Team of Rivals.

I imagine a lot of reading in the park this year.

ARTS & LITERATURE
Visit six visual art exhibitions at six different museums or galleries.
I can’t wait for SFMOMA to reopen this year, but in a way I’ll also sort of miss how the “on-the-go” aspect of my membership got me out around town. Setting a manageable goal should make this both doable and interesting.

Attend six performing arts events by six different companies.
When I lumped performing arts and lectures together last year I felt like performing arts got the shaft a little. Hope to check out some of the smaller companies around the area and not just the usual suspects.

Read six novels published in 2016.
As as an aspiring writer whose dreams haven’t completely died, staying on top of contemporary literature is important. I’ve somehow found myself in two (very different) book clubs, so hopefully there will be some overlap with those reading lists (or other goals!).

Take six arts/crafts classes/workshops.
Despite my appreciation for most visual disciplines, my current personal arts and crafts level is set at full #PinterestFail. I’m hoping taking some classes could up my game slightly, or at least leave me with a nice macrame owl or something.

Attend six author talks.
Granted there’s now a hill between me and The Booksmith, but I’ve always appreciated the amount of access to working writers we have as San Franciscans. I need to take advantage of this.

Write six short stories of six pages or more.
Combined with the memoir, I realize I’m assigning myself a lot of writing this year. But, as I reevaluate my career direction and center it back toward written communication, any bit of practice helps. My creative writing skills are extremely dusty, so I see a lot of prompts in my future.

More of this, please.

SCIENCE & NATURE
Visit six science museums/nature centers.
Science museums aren’t just for kids (or people with them). I love playing with the exhibits at The Exploratorium or visiting amazing spots like the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in my travels. You can’t ever learn too much, whether you’re six or 36 or 66.

Take six hikes of at least six miles each.
While this lessens the number of hikes I’ll be “forced” to take, I am happy to strive for longer ones. We’ll see how this folds into my plans to increase running again this year, but I’m sure I can make it work.

Kayak six times.
Years ago I took an Intro to Kayaking course through the Urban Ecology Center, had a great time, but for whatever reason never tried it again. Fast forward to an awful (but breathtakingly gorgeous) experience of Aialik Bay in Alaska, a wonderful guided tour of sea caves in Channel Islands National Park, and my first solo outing in the very calm (and otter-filled) Morro Bay, and I am HOOKED. Can’t wait to have more adventures on the water this year.

Read six science/nature books.
I foresee more visits to the  SF Public Library to find some of these. Time to get ultra-nerdy!

Tent camp in six different locations.
Another outdoor activity I got absolutely hooked on last year, thanks in part to purchasing an REI Half Dome 2 tent. Look forward to some more of this during year 36.

Attend six science/nature lectures.
Another specific type of talk that I’d like to attend more of. The chance for me to be a STEM professional has likely passed, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t find science fascinating.

Amongst other things.


SPORTS & LEISURE
Attend six yoga workshops/retreats.
Upping my yoga game this year after going to Yoga Garden regularly is now second nature to me (in fact, I get bummed out when I can’t make class). I am really stoked to deep dive into my practice this year. I’ve already signed up for a workshop with one of my favorite humans, Jean Mazzei, and a day retreat with the lovely Karen Macklin.

Participate in six organized runs.
I’m already signed up for the Oakland (running for CALICO again) and Portland half marathons. I see myself doing a few DSE runs and if I’m in town, another Thanksgiving run with Amber.

Go to the gym six times each month.
I can already see that this is the one where I’m going to have to be most honest and ride myself the hardest. The job switch really affected my gym schedule and I need to find a way to remedy that. I miss spin.

Attend six sporting events.
No, this isn’t some sort of reverse voodoo to make sure the Packers make it to the Super Bowl. I took 35 off of having a sports goal and made it to only one Giants game (although I did go to the Midnight Sun game in Fairbanks, which was super special). While my interest in professional and college athletics has waned since my Milwaukee days, I still think it’s fun to go cheer on a team every once in awhile.

Read six sports-themed books.
Talk about an area of unknown for me. This. I think Seabiscuit may be the only sports book I can recall reading. It’ll be interesting to branch out.

Go to six different spas/hot springs.
I was super bummed that I never made it to Harbin and it reminded me that I haven’t really taken advantage of these types of wondrous places. I know it could be a bit of a stretch to make it to six hot springs, so I’m including spas as well, which I supposed I need to define further. Whatever, I need pampering and I’m working it in here.

There we have it! Any suggestions on how I can get started? What are YOUR goals this year?

 

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