Psychologists: Just Like Mariah, Santa Is Real

This article contains spoiler alerts and / or trigger warnings about Santa. I’m not sure what a trigger warning is, but there seems to be a lot of them about. So if you’re thinking of shooting Santa,
or anyone for that matter, please don’t.

It has taken me a few days to masticate and digest reports about an article published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal that parents who lie to their children about Santa Claus could wreak havoc with their offspring’s moral compass. This could apparently lead to a Bermuda Triangle of floundering lies, tinsel, and disgruntled kiddies.

With all due respect to the learned psychologists who penned the report, I call bullshit.

You’re secret is safe with me, Santa

The report suggested that by lying about the existence or otherwise of the big bloke in red, parents can irrevocably damage the trust their kids have in them, resulting in “abject disappointment” when said kids discover the “truth” about the Christmas Eve nocturnal visitor. “There is potential for children to be harmed in these lies,” said clinical psychologist Kathy McKay, one of the report’s authors. Calm down Kathy, I know you’re looking out for the kids, but it’s ok.

Christmas is a time of innocence, magic and wonder, and sure, a few creative porkies. Don’t overanalyse or destroy this charming story for kids. They’re fine. Parents lie to their kids all the time in varying degrees. We all survived the great reveal of Santa. I can’t recall a mass shooting occurring with young Trevor, tears streaming down his face, screaming “WHADDAYAMEANTHEREISNOSANTA!!??” while at the business end of an AK-47.

The Lancet report’s authors did raise an interesting point, “If adults have been lying about Santa, even though it has usually been well intentioned, what else is a lie? If Santa isn’t real, are fairies real? Is magic? Is God?” The God bit caught my eye, I know Christmas “should” be about a certain baby blowing out his birthday candles, but not being the most religious chap, I’ll stick with the Santa narrative, it’s more believable.

I love the whole Santa story, it’s wonderful. Suspending disbelief of the North Pole workshop, the elves, the reindeers, the transport logistical issues, the leaving out of Santa’s beverage and food of choice, so excited and not being able to sleep, but forcing yourself in case he didn’t come, then waking up on Christmas morning, racing out to the tree, and the unbridled joy of “SANTA’S BEEN!! SANTA’S BEEN!!”

Parents, let kids enjoy the Santa experience for as long as they can. Sure, if they’re 41 years old and still a believer, you may have a slight issue. Just chill out, have a quiet drink or a nice cup of tea, and depending on what hemisphere you’re in, spray some fake snow on the windows, and listen to Mariah Carey warbling about making her wish come true for the three millionth time.

PS Santa, I’ve been a good boy this year.

©Steve Williams 2016

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No Thanks Donald Trump, Keep Your Snake Oil

Over the years I’ve worked with a hell of a lot of sales people.

I don’t want one of your f*****g steaks, either

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some good, some psychotic, which of course you could say for any “profession”,
but a psychotic salesperson is something to behold, and not in a good way.

Sales people are a certain breed.

President-elect Donald Trump… I can’t believe I just wrote that… this is a very f****d up Twilight Zone / Black Mirror episode… but I digress. Donald J. Trump is a sales person. The ultimate.
Reported guestimates of his bank balance range between $150, $3 billion or $10 billion, give or take.

With Trump, it’s all about closing the deal, he wrote THAT book which thankfully I have avoided. Trump closed the deal early Wednesday morning – the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC.

So where to now? During the campaign Trump made a litany of very well documented promises to his faithful (we all saw them as outrageous threats), but will he follow through? Or in true snake oil salesman mode, was all that ranting simply BS, means to an end of winning the Presidency?
Who knows? With Trump, you get the impression that he is constantly making it up as he goes along, to borrow that line from Monty Python. We’re all in very murky unchartered waters,
heading straight for the Bermuda Triangle.

No doubt many of his hard core supporters would have been simultaneously disappointed and disillusioned with his victory speech. It was extremely un-Trumplike, none of the vitriol, no locking up of “Crooked Hillary”, no wall-building threats, no pussies were grabbed, nobody was threatened with deportation. I laughed when it was reported as “being Presidential”, I put it down to the fact he’s an old man and it was waaaay past his bedtime.

Is Trump serious about making America great again? What does that very shallow four-word slogan even mean? Define “great”. Trump was following the old adage of tell ‘em what they want to hear and closed the deal.

Let’s pick one of his campaign “policies”. Did he / does he have any intention of building that wall? Again, who knows how any of this will play out. He’ll no doubt wheel out that hoary old chestnut (which is itself a hoary old chestnut),“Well you know I wanted to <insert bizarre promise> I really did. I promised you I would. But I was blocked. They’re weak. Cowards… etc etc”. The faithful will chug down some more Kool-Aid.

Trump’s meeting with President Obama in the White House on Thursday was surreal to say the least. Trump used the words “great respect” which is laughable, considering the whole birther thing, and the blowtorch he continually took to Obama during the election campaign. But did he really mean any of that? Neither of them looked like they wanted to be there. The body language experts had a field day.

So I suppose it is a matter of watching this space, to see what President steak salesman and beauty pageant owner does. I find it highly amusing / terrifying that his campaign team barred him from Twitter during the final days of the campaign, and now he has the nuclear codes. You seriously couldn’t make this stuff up.

Millions across the planet are proclaiming that the Trump presidency will be the end of the world… and to quote the classic R.E.M. song, Trump will respond with “and I feel fine.”

©Steve Williams 2016

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A New Kitten = Trumps Everything

I would like to discuss Donald Trump.

Actually no, I’d much rather talk about our new kitten.

We didn’t think we would get another one.

The wonderful Oscar was with us for nearly 15 years, travelling around the world with us.
Part of the family. Until last October. You can read about that very ordinary Thursday here.
Oscar was always going to be a very hard act to follow. My wife and I resisted for a year.
We just couldn’t do it, but we have.

Lilli the kitten arrived a few weeks ago, very coincidentally on the same date Oscar died.
She has rather large paws to fill, though she is not a replacement and of course she is her own cat. She is quickly proving that. Apparently she was the “shy, reserved one”. Hardly.

It’s a long time since we had a kitten in the house, you forget what it’s like…

*Having to look down when you carry a cup of coffee as she likes to wrap herself around / sprint between your feet like a little silent furry ninja.

*The intense interest in anything happening in the kitchen. The reaching up, pawing at legs in an attempt to get some of whatever is on offer. “It’s yoghurt. You’re a cat, you don’t eat yoghurt.”

*Seemingly dematerialising then rematerialising in another room like a Star Trek episode. Sometimes it’s like there are three of them.

*The rescuing of cat toys from under lounges. I keep being “dragged” away from working to extricate a trapped cat toy from the very middle of under the lounge. A pitiful squeak – Lilli appears to squeak rather than miaow, sounding in desperate need of WD40. The squeak leads me to a rather forlorn little thing peering anxiously at the dark abyss under the lounge / chair / bed, basically anything that is the perfect size for a cat toy. The foil crunchy shiny mice / ball things being the toy du jour.

*The amusement of looking at her discovering herself in the mirror.

*The psychotic sprinting after she uses her kitty litter tray. I’ve always thought it would be amusing if humans did that.

*The pushing the boundaries – using the dining table as a shortcut, delicately pirouetting around photos on the sideboard. That is being strongly discouraged as we speak. A stern “No”, distracting her with said crunchy shiny mice / ball things. Then she turns THAT face on, and is back on the dining table. Repeat.

*The overall outrageous cuteness of a young kitten, the tractor-esque purring, the random sleeping in what are extremely uncomfortable locations, when there are at least 47 far more comfortable spots.

*The general craziness of rampaging through the house for no apparent reason. Seeing an imaginary something on the ground, then taking off with a very strange un-kitten like sound.

*The ignoring of expensive cat toys, happy to spend half an hour in an empty carboard box.

*You forget how small and low to the ground kittens are compared to adult cats. There are numerous unsuccessful attempts daily of Donald Trump style pussy-grabbing.

I wrote about Oscar sitting in my wife’s his chair while I working, Lilli has now discovered the same chair, she looks quite at home. It’s nice having that chair occupied. That Coldplay song isn’t quite as sad.

Welcome Lilli, it’s wonderful to hear the crazed scampering of paws in our home.
Oscar was quite the furry ratbag, and you’re shaping up extremely well in that department…

©Steve Williams 2016

*This piece also appeared in The Huffington Post Australiahttp://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/steve-williams/steve-williams/this-new-arrival-trumps-everything/

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Electric Dreams – Turning On & Off Sex Robots

There’s been a lot of talk about sex robots lately. Not sure why.
I suppose it’s better than talking about Donald Trump.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may have possibly read about Roxxxy “the world’s first robotic girlfriend”. Apart from the screamingly obvious objectification (literally) issues, the repetition of the letter “x” and total
WTF?-ness of it all, my first thoughts were of the late great actor Yul Brynner. No, not in a weird “King and I” dancing fantasy (not that there’s absolutely anything wrong with that). I was thinking of Yul’s work in that classic sci-fi / thriller “Westworld” (now an HBO remake) when he plays the robot who loses the plot slightly and goes around slightly shooting people.

What happens if Roxxxy or any of her robotic horizontal folk dancing sisters loses the plot?
Blows a head gasket, O-ring, hard drive or any remotely sexually sounding innards? Who do you ring? Some call centre in Mumbai where “Bazza” will talk you through the issues? Is there bedside assistance? Or do you have to wander down to a service centre with her under your arm, surfboard style and say, “She’s buggered mate”.

Roxxxy was born? Unveiled? Frankensteined? at an Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas,
where else – and apparently her creator’s inspiration for her / it rose from the death of a friend in the September 11 attacks. “I promised myself I would create a program to store his personality, and that became the foundation for Roxxxy.” I’m wondering which of the fembot’s various programmable personalities that was. “Wild Wendy”, “Frigid Farrah” or “Mature Martha”?
Even so, a nice way to be immortalised. I’m sure the mate would be very proud. He went on,
“She can’t vacuum, she can’t cook but she can do almost anything else, if you know what I mean.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I thought “vacuum” might fall into the “if you know what I mean” category. Told you it was weird.

Roxxxy’s not cheap, at up to nine thousand bucks, but if you’re into that sort of thing, she sounds
a tad safer than that bloke in Brazil a while back who became rather excited about a car’s exhaust pipe and needed some angle-grinder action to extricate himself.

As they say, whatever turns you on – as long as you can turn her off. Just remember Yul Brynner.

©Steve Williams 2016

*This piece also appeared in The Huffington Post Australiahttp://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/steve-williams/electric-dreams-the-rise-of-sex-robots/?utm_hp_ref=au-homepage

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Emoji all the people*

It seems like we have gone full circle.

 

Man (and woman) first started communicating in a written form over 30,000 ago with cave paintings, depicting animals and rudimentary images of humans. Graffiti was born.

Fast-forward to around 5000 BC and Egyptian and Chinese cultures communicated (amongst themselves) with pictograms and ideograms that represented an object, activity or concept.
These led to Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese characters. So far, so good. Then around 3200 BC, the good burghers of Mesopotamia thought it wouldn’t be a stupid idea to start writing words, and the rest as they say, is history.

So how do we communicate in 2016? Emojis, that’s how. I read an article the other day that “emoji” is the world’s fastest growing language. <face screaming in fear emoji>

Blame one Shigetaka Kurita. The unassuming Japanese chap produced 176 designs for Japanese mobile phones in 1999. There are now over 1,800 emojis. Possibly 1,790 too many.

From cave paintings to hieroglyphics to emoji — maybe we should have just left out the middle bit, making the world’s greatest writers redundant. In the annals of literary history, we could have just leafed past the work of Homer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Tolstoy, Wilde, Austen, Orwell, Hemmingway, Jackie Collins… ok, maybe not her.

Speaking of classic novels, The United States Library of Congress has accepted its first emoji novel — a reworking of Herman Melville’s classic Moby-Dick. It has been 2016-ised into Emoji Dick with the 212,000+ words converted to emoji. I don’t know whether to be horrified or impressed.

The recent breathless launch of the iPhone 7 included new emojis, “women playing sport”, “woman in a turban”, the gun emoji has apparently become a water pistol, there’s now a “man getting a haircut”, and a “man wearing bunny ears”. As one does, though not simultaneously. There is now basically every type of parent / child / gender / family emoji you can poke a stick at. I assume there is still a stick emoji for the iPhone 7. I’d personally prefer a headphone jack emoji.

Being an iPhone person, I assume other smartphones have their own emoji, including an explosion emoji for a certain Samsung smartphone. <smiley, winking face, poking out tongue emoji>

We survived the rise of mobile phone text-speak, which wasn’t all that GR8, you often had no idea what the hell other person meant. I’d normally just ring them up and get them to explain it. Which kind of defeated the purpose.

It will be interesting to see where all this emoji business ends up. I suppose one day we will be reading online newspapers and magazines written in emoji form, though I suggest that will be when we are in our autonomous flying cars eating our food tablets.

*Apologies to John Lennon for that atrocious headline.

©Steve Williams 2016

*This piece also appeared in The Huffington Post Australiahttp://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/steve-williams/emoji-all-the-people/?utm_hp_ref=au-homepage

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Rugby League — Greatest Memories of All

Australian rugby league fans have a passion that can’t be dismissed.

It’s a game we played, grew up with, watched on the telly and listened to on the radio.
We still do. It’s our game.

Here are a few random memories from when I was a kid growing up in Sydney.

The greatest team in the history of sport (www.nma.gov.au and Melba Studios)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Getting splinters in your arse from those wooden seats at Cumberland Oval. The exuberant Eels fans that torched it after the 1981 premiership win did us all a favour.

*Running onto the ground as the fulltime siren sounded to try and grab the black and white striped cardboard corner post. I was successful a few times.

*Listening to the great Frank Hyde on 2SM. When people still listened to 2SM.

*The halftime entertainment malfunctions that have plagued Grand Finals — the busted TV allegedly to promote Optus Vision (which was actually quite prophetic), John Williamson serenading an inflatable rubber tree with “Rip Rip Woodchip” after loggers had threatened a blockade of the SCG, the cast of “42nd Street” standing forlornly in the centre of the ground waiting in vain for their music to start, and more recently, Billy Idol’s hovercraft cutting the power, which was a good thing.

*The sensational prizes bestowed on guests of TV’s “Controversy Corner” — including a Pelaco shirt, vouchers for a Viking Sauna and Kevin Junee’s Run For Your Life sports store and the piece of resistance — a bottle of Patra orange juice.

*“The Theme From Shaft” used over the closing credits of Channel Seven’s Sunday night footy coverage with Rex Mossop. Not sure what a “blaxploitation” film had to do with footy, but there’s probably a parallel. “Chips and eggs” was the standard Sunday night fare in the Williams household.

*The Chook Army (diehard supporters of Eastern Suburbs) singing “We hate Ray Price and we hate Ray Price / We hate Ray Price and we hate Ray Price / We hate Ray Price and we hate Ray Price / we are the Ray Price haters”. One actually threw a grapefruit at him while he was in his petrified praying mantis pose — he didn’t budge.

*The “sand boy” running on with a small bucket of sand to for the ball to sit on before conversions and penalty shots at goal.

*Scanlen’s footy cards — that sweet smell of the thin pink strip of bubble gum lingering on the cards… and still lingers with me. Some bastard kid knocking the cards out of another kids’ hands in the school playground yelling “Scramble!!!” which meant a mad free-for-all.

*Having a birthday party with a few mates when I was about ten at Lidcombe Oval for the Chooks v the Magpies, we were sitting behind the try line and were captured in mid-try celebration mode in a photo on the back page of the next day’s Daily Mirror.

*The arse falling out of your meat pie at a brass monkey-inducing Sydney Sports Ground.

*The trainer scurrying on to the field with his “magic sponge” dunked in a bucket of water, mopping up a horrific head gash, then redunking it in the same bucket, primed for the next injury.

*One of my most prized possessions — the autographs of the entire victorious Roosters 1975 side (on an Easts Leagues Club wine list — thanks Uncle Pete).

For all its faults — and there are a few, it’s a bloody good game. It’s our game.

©Steve Williams 2016

*This piece also appeared in The Huffington Post Australiahttp://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/steve-williams/the-good-old-days-when-rugby-was-in-a-league-of-its-own/

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If you’re happy and you know it FFS don’t clap

As an esteemed member of the community — an ordained Reverend (five minutes on the internet) and Lord of Glencoe (an owner of a one square metre block of land in Scotland) — I would like to offer an erudite, measured opinion.

What the f*ck is going on?

You’ll be on detention for that

A Sydney school has banned clapping. No I did not make that up. Banning semi-automatic weapons, knuckledusters and even access to Kim Kardashian’s Snapchat I can understand,
but clapping?

In a newsletter sent home / emailed to parents (that deliciously featured the incorrect spelling of “assemblies”), the good burghers of Elanora Heights Public School advised that clapping has been banned at assemblies “to respect members of our school community who are sensitive to noise.” Hate to break it to you people, but having spent quite a bit of time in school playgrounds in my much younger years, they are somewhat noisy places. Whoever clapped at assemblies anyway?

As an an alternative for the acoustically-affected, the school suggests students “pull excited faces, and wriggle about on the spot” as part of their “silent cheers”. Yes, really.

I think there is something in this, the board of the Sydney Opera House should implement this concept immediately. Picture yourself at the conclusion of a wonderful performance of La Bohème. Instead of the usual thunderous ovation, the audience wriggle about and pull excited faces.

That reminds me of the John Lennon line as the Beatles played at a Royal Command Performance, “The people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands… and the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewellery.” Today, somebody with a jewellery phobia would complain.

The Olympic Games in Rio could take this wriggling about etc onboard as well. It might take people’s minds off the Zika virus.

This is not the first time that clapping has been kiboshed. Attendees at a UK student feminist conference last year were asked to stop clapping “but do feminist jazz hands” as “clapping triggers anxiety”. I suppose it does if you don’t receive any. I have no idea how “feminist jazz hands” differ from the garden-variety type.

It is all just so ridiculous. These are more examples of victories for the no-fun, no-offence, no-winners, cotton-wool-encasing, high-vis-wearing nanny-state-nannas.

I do however agree that some sounds should be banned… bastard leaf blowers, recorders, not to mention the music of Kanye West.

©Steve Williams 2016

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The Recorder – The sound of Satan

So Australian insurance company AAMI has finally realised what we all have known forever, that the recorder is an instrument of Satan. “Yea, Lucifer forged a musical abomination in the scorching pits of hell with his cloven hooves” : Book of STFU.

The Prince of Darkness was working double-time

After a concerted campaign, AAMI thankfully edited a TV commercial that featured a brat kid blasting some ear-piercing “notes” from her recorder while her parents were broken down in the middle of nowhere. Just what they needed. Personally I would have abandoned her.

Harsh? Not at all. My hatred of the recorder was resurrected a few days ago by enduring the tormented tones of a recorder being “played” by a kid in a nearby apartment.

It’s always kids playing the recorder. I’ve never been to a concert hall to witness an acclaimed recordist, recorderer recorder player performing a stirring virtuoso rendition of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata No. 1 Op. 666… for recorder.

Likewise, I’ve never seen a massive arena show with a leather-panted megastar out front of a wall of Marshalls wailing out a nine-minute scorching riff… on his recorder.

Why is it compulsory for every kid on the planet to learn the recorder?
I’m all for a musical education, but why this sonic assassin?

I did it — I remember in my first year of high school we had a rather highly-strung music teacher. These days he would be described as having “issues” and would be sitting by the pool at a Thai rehab centre favoured by rugby league players and D grade celebrities. Mr H. (name abbreviated to protect the psychopath) would make you perform a recorder solo in front of the class. To this day, it’s the most terrifying experience of my life. Not the playing part — but his reaction.

After Mr H. bellowed my name, I would gingerly stand up, shaking, all trembling fingers and asthmatic breaths attempting to play my reworking of Smoke on the Water (it was 1977) while waiting for the inevitable catastrophic critique. If you weren’t up to the maestro’s exceptionally high standards (which was always), he would scream at you — not in said arena concert fan style, but seriously full-on, hysterical (yes I used that word) frothing-from-the-mouth-ranting.

No wonder I f*cking hate the recorder… I’ll be by the pool at that rehab resort.

©Steve Williams 2016

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Gough Whitlam, Pauline Hanson and Me

To commemorate what would have been the 100th birthday of Gough Whitlam, relive my tribute from 2014.

I was only ten years old when former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was unceremoniously dismissed from office in 1975, but his death last week had a profound impact on me, as it did on so many other Australians.

Prime Ministerial amusement

I am not only sorry at his passing, he was such a towering presence — physically and politically.

Many in Australia mourn that Gough’s political legacy has been tragically trashed over the subsequent decades, by both sides of politics. I doubt we will see a return to those heady days.

I had the pleasure of meeting “The Great Man” years ago when writing radio commercials
at Sydney radio station 2KY, which at that time was owned by the Labor Council of New South Wales.

Former NSW premier Barrie Unsworth was the General Manager and was showing Gough around the palatial corporate edifice.

I was rather a fan of the Mambo clothing company. On the day in question, I was suitably attired in the standard creative uniform of a Mambo t-shirt.

My selection that day was a satirical parody of the famous Australian match brand Redheads (apologies to Australian readers for getting the glove puppets of explanation out). In place of the flaming caricature redhead, my t-shirt depicted controversial “politician” and all round embarrassment to Australia Pauline Hanson. The word “Redheads” had been brilliantly replaced by “Rednecks” with assorted contents and warnings as you can see.

After exchanging pleasantries with Gough, he looked down (quite literally) at my t-shirt,
smiled and said “Well done, Comrade.”

A memorable moment from an unforgettable man.

Vale, Gough.

©Steve Williams 2016

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Bullfighting and the running of the morons

“Good.” That is my first reaction when I hear of the latest horrific injuries suffered during the “Running of the Bulls” in Spain.

Numerous deaths, a crushed thorax, gored armpits, heart, groins, knees and thighs, even a rectal perforation.
Just part of the injury roll call from previous versions held in Pamplona. Arseholes.

However, that is small change compared to the 250,000 bulls maimed and killed each year in bullfights across the planet.

Seriously, how much of a moron would you need to be, what copious amount of sangria or drugs would you need to have consumed to think that running 850 metres through narrow, cobbled streets in front of very big, very pissed off (and very terrified) bulls, before they are corralled into the bullfighting arena is even remotely a good idea?

Bullfighting is cruel and barbaric and needs to be stopped, as does the running of the bulls. Thankfully there is an ever-increasing groundswell of support to do just that. ¡Felicitaciones!

If you want to get badly injured without inflicting cruelty on an animal who has no choice in the matter, may I suggest the time-honoured “sticking your hand in a blender”.

You can hear the purists cry “the running of the bulls is an intrinsic part of Pamplona’s San Fermín festival dating back to medieval times.” Bullshit. Don’t care.

Hopefully the running of the bulls and bullfighting will one day die a death — and you can add other barbaric practices to that list — such as fox hunting by people with double-barrelled surnames wearing stupid hats, animals in circuses, restaurants serving sharkfin soup and exponents of Traditional Chinese Medicine using basically every body part of endangered tigers in the vein attempt of getting a bigger dick.

One can only hope.

For more information on the (blood) sport of bullfighting, visit the World Society for the Protection of Animals, www.stopbullfighting.org.uk and PETA, (warning: the websites contain disturbing, but necessary facts and images).

©Steve Williams 2016

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