Little Otik


This film, based on a Czech fairy tale, is bizarre and horrifying.  The tale goes that a couple wants a child, but is barren.  One day the man finds a tree stump that reminds him of a child, so he shapes it like one. It, Otik/Otesanek comes alive, eats his parents, and rampages around eating mammals until he finds a cabbage patch.  He eats cabbages too, but the old woman who grew them guts him with a hoe.  Otik dies and everybody he ate comes back out.


This movie brings things into the modern day.  The barren wife is the Miss Haversham of wanting a child.  The director adds a lot of strange, obsessive oddities about food.  There’s a neighbor girl who ‘feeds’ Otik people to eat after his father gets creeped out and hides him.  Otik does wind up eating cabbages and presumably getting gutted by a hoe.  However, the (really long) film ends before we see his demise.


I have some theories about all this.

1-“Little Otik” is a statement promoting vegetarianism.  The thing eats whatever it’s told is food.  His parents quickly learn that after he’s tasted meat, Otik wants meat and he doesn’t distinguish between meat other people consume and people.  His interaction with the neighbor girl where she tells him she is not food shows that it can learn and distinguish, but that it sees no difference on its own between pork, cats, and humans.  It’s nothing but a great appetite that eats cattle and people in the tale.  As the girl says, it is ‘blameless’ because it only follows urges that it’s learned.  It even washes its ‘hands’, showing that it can be civilized when someone shows it how.  The thing is, everyone else eats meat too, so no one can explain the line between being carnivorous and murder.  When Otik discovers cabbages, that switch signals the end of this frightening appetite.  The old woman who grew the cabbages is never shown to eat anything else, so has no connection to anything but vegetables.  The ‘vegetarian’, then, saves the day by having the power to stop appetites from eating things they should not.  The director wants us to apply this to ourselves and become vegetarian.  We don’t need to see the actual climax of Otik dying because the consuming of cabbages is what’s really important here.


2. While not specifically vegetarian oriented, this film is demonstrating that the way we approach food is the same way that we approach the other fundamental aspects of life, death and sex.  The father sees babies in, of all things, food during is obsession (perhaps because they’re alive?).  The tree stump was the first non-food item.  Perhaps Otik constantly ate meat because he was a wooden thing trying to become the meat, flesh-and-blood baby the father wanted.  Eat enough meat he’ll become meat, or good enough.

The neighbor girl constantly read/talked about sex and birth while eating or when her mother cooked.  She also had a habit of oddly touching her food.  Clearly, in matters of sex, birth, and food she saw connections and wanted to be involved.  No wonder she was the one who linked food with death by feeding Otik humans.  That’s how she eats, so that’s how she’ll judge the line of behaviour concerning others’ life, death, and food.  Her father’s hallucinations about food just further illustrated that the way you perceive everything else in your life will always come back to what and how you eat.  As the frugal foodmaker, the girl’s mother was the one with the sense and fear to barricade people in and try to protect her family.  This is reminiscent of other fairy tales where wives are chosen and people are evaluated based on watching them eat (cheese, in the version I know).  Thus, the old woman has the power to kill Otik because she not only eats, she balances it out with growing more food to replenish the cycle.  Balance triumphs over excess!


3. Saying that sex and food are two appetites that everybody thinks they know about, but that still encounter all kinds of problems all the time.  The old pedophile’s desire for small girls-wrong, but the adults still like him and refuse to see it.  It’s clear the couple’s desire for a baby is unhealthy, but everyone refuses to see the awful results until the little girl basically tells them by reciting the fairy tale.  Everyone gets together and eats every day, but the food represents their own obsessions-sex, what alcohol does to commercials, children.  Only the person who grows their own food, who’s intimately acquainted with nurturing what goes into their body, instead of consuming or killing it, has the willpower and self-control to stop human appetites when they get nasty.  This version could say the film is a plea to return to more organic things food, or simply to be more aware of what’s around you.  Inside every human is a desire with the size and potential to become like Otik-slaughtering everything in its path.  Be aware and ready to control it!  And, for God’s sake, never just stand by and let someone be the Miss Haversham of anything, ever!


I know some of those overlapped, but I needed all thoughts about this movie out of my head.

First Frost

First Frost

By: Liz DeJesus


Musa Publishing Imprint: Euterpe 2012

A young adult fantasy review


Bianca’s life revolves around her mother’s family-run museum.  This museum is special because it holds artifacts from fairy tales, such as Snow White’s apple and Sleeping Beauty’s spinning wheel.  More importantly, the museum is a legacy that has always passed to the women of the Frost family.  At seventeen, Bianca Frost feels ready to break away from the inheritance, the tradition, and the magical objects of the museum.  After all, magic can’t be real.  Unfortunately, the truth about magic and fairy tales proves itself to Bianca in a most brutal way-sending her on a quest to discover her own powers, rescue her loved ones, and enter the story begun by the famous First Frost.

DeJesus writes with timely, vivacious humor.  First Frost is full of references to current sensations like Tina Fey and tokidoki, as well as to the Grimm’s tales.  This flamboyant tone moves the book at a quick rate and makes it easy to digest.  On the other hand, this persistently light feel occasionally overrides the influence of the plot.  It is difficult to sympathize and connect with characters who don’t seem to be taking their own crisis very seriously.  The dashes of romance and sprinkling of real feelings add layers, but don’t necessarily create fully fleshed-out characters.  However, the charm of this book lies in the alluring items, the rambling journey, and the colorful atmosphere.  Too much psychological depth or focus on the heroine’s many obstacles would have turned this into a very different work than the sweet, delicious medley DeJesus’s story is.

First Frost is the literary equivalent of frozen yogurt, covered with many tempting toppings.  It’s not traditional ice cream, and the toppings might leave some tastes less emphasized than you’d expect, but it’s a sweet, cool treat for the summer.

Batman: The Dark Knight Rises

I enjoyed watching “The Dark Knight Rises.”  It was a fun, packed movie with all the spectacle one can expect from this genre and series.  Watching it felt like getting tossed around on a thrill ride, with all the excitement and pleasure that goes with that.  However, whenever there was a moment to access the situation, a lot seemed unclear.  And once the movie ended, things felt pretty shaky.  The simplest way that I could sum up this plot is that the French Revolution from A Tale of Two Cities comes to Gotham, and its version of the’ tragic backstory of one family’s pain tying everything together’ is pretty kickass.  Plus, they have Cillian Murphy.  The near parroting of Sydney Carton’s famous last line was something I could have done without, though.  It felt cheesy and unimaginative, and sent me dodging right out of the story just when I was supposed to receive an emotional punch.  Luckily, the ending was solid enough for me to leave the theater on a good note.


My reactions are based on the movies alone as I have never read the comics or done anything else in the Batman verse.  Therefore, I was not eager about this movie the way many were.  On the other hand, I had no expectations for the plot and foresaw none of the twists, the way many fans did, which made my experience somewhat more intriguing than those in-the-know.  Nevertheless, I do have more thoughts.

Additional comments (spoilers included):


1. My largest issue with the film was the way Anne Hathaway delivered her beginning lines about being poor and stealing because she needed to.  It all sounded so saccharine, so trite, so fake.  I thought she was making it all up, or at least playing true things to make her sound good when really she’d be stealing anyway.  Sounding obviously fake would be bad in that situation, but one could presume she was unused to being confronted like that and so new to verbal improv.  Discovering it was not only true, but the driving motivation behind Catwoman’s every move stunned me and made it hard to take Catwoman seriously at all.  More importantly, when the poor-rising-up/French Revolution popped up, I was unprepared.  A lot of Bane’s speeches don’t make a lot of sense unless you’re already expecting a lot of people on the brink of rising up against their situation.  “Reclaim what is yours!”  Okay…and that would be what?  Cause right now what I don’t have is safety and I presume that’s not what you’re saying.  Then Cillian Murphy slapped me in the face with FRENCH REVOLUTION.  Then things fell into place, but I felt a bit disappointed because then it was clear that Hathaway’s initial lines were supposed to be what prepared us for this, what pointed the way to FRENCH REVOLUTION and I couldn’t even buy them as showing something real about Catwoman.  I think I would’ve enjoyed this film so much more if only someone had said those lines in a way that really sold me on ‘the rich are going down.’

2. Bane’s mask frequently made him difficult to understand.  If you’re going to go Darth Vadery with a mask and amplified breath/voice sound, then you have got to do it right.

3. Cillian Murphy’s straw-and-scarecrow sleeves were BRILLIANT. (Death.  By EXILE.)

4. How come Bruce never gets around to dealing with the fact that Rachel chose someone else over him?  Cause the most I saw is that he slept with Talia to try and move past it when he saw her holding Rachel’s photo.  That’s hardly real coping and should not be shown as a successful way to get past such a traumatic issue.  Perhaps he really was over Rachel before the film started and he just used her as an excuse not to do anything else?

5. I love Talia’s backstory.  I even enjoyed the twist and its timing.  However, part of the reason was that I was just so relieved that woman finally had a real character.  She was an inkwell before.  Having guys talk about her behind her back to Bruce Wayne does not count as a personality.

6. Here’s the thing, though: when The Pit (of Despair) is the place with the most reasonable people and most supportive community feeling…how am I even supposed to finish that sentence?  I mean, talk about rehabilitating a society!  Gotham could learn a lot from the change from Talia’s time in the pit and Bruce’s.  Makes me think Bane would be a good civil leader, if only he weren’t obsessed with Talia.

7.Liam Neeson owns your mind.  Forever.

8.If all they had to do to keep the coreless fusion reactor from exploding was flood the place, couldn’t they have done that before?  Wouldn’t the real Mr. Fox have done that in the first place, before allowing Bane to make the core a bomb?  Or slipped back in and done it before it was just about to go off?  Why was this a huge game-changer with the government folk if that’s all they needed to do?  Apparently no one was guarding that coreless part.

9.Why does everybody pick on Gordon?  He is the ONLY one who ever gets anything done reasonably in Gotham.  Batman, while effective, can hardly be described as reasonable.  It’s true Blake tried, but he shot someone in his first altercation, spent time snarking at Gordon after hearing about Dent when they had far graver things to worry about, and is about to join vigilante justice in some sort of super-suit and live in the Batcave.  While justifiable, none of this can be described as properly reasonable.  Gordon is my favorite.

10. What kind of weird tech could Fox have whipped up so freaking BATMAN in his heavy suit could walk on the ice that couldn’t hold skinny bureaucrats up?  Is that how Bruce Wayne got back to Gotham when it was locked down with government help?

11. When Batman told Blake to lead the exodus it seemed just like Hector charging Aeneas to get out and found Rome.

12. I liked hearing the word ‘Robin’.  It’s one of the very few Batman things I know, so it was fun.  I’ve seen some fans dislike this, but I’m glad the movie made the more widely-known choice.

13. A friend asked why Talia didn’t go after the warlord who put her mother in the Pit.  My first response was that as a warlord, he wasn’t likely to live long enough for Talia to find her fatherly reinforcements and get around to him.  However, thinking about him, one does wonder.  He’s cruel enough to put his own daughter in the pit.  On the other hand, she requested it.  Plus, he did arrange for her to have her own safe space and a doctor.  Clearly, he wanted her to have her child in safety, if not in dignity or privacy.  I hardly think there just was a safe space like that down there-that doesn’t seem in keeping with the chaos and even-the-pregnant-woman-gets-lowered-by-rope-cause-if-higher-ups-go-down-they’ll-be-slaughtered thing.  The warlord got that space created, had a key made so a doctor could attend her, and possibly condemned a doctor to the pit specifically so his daughter could have proper medical treatment.  The more I think about it, the more I think he might’ve just put her there until the baby was born, which as a lord he would’ve wanted to hide for political reasons anyway, so he could still marry her off, and been about to release her when she died.  To me that makes it even more poignant.

14. Why did the doctor say he had to stay in the Pit because he couldn’t totally fix Bane’s face?  He tried, he clearly didn’t join in the attack, and Bane’s supposed to be the guy who values good and innocence, like those not attacking him over the child.  Moreover, wasn’t his real mistake the whole ‘I forgot to lock the door and that’s what started the attack-Bane-and-Talia’ thing?  Nevermind anything after that, his lack of lock responsibility started everything.  Is he just lying?  Because he did go on to admit he forgot to lock the door, so he had no motivation to lie.  The only reason for that would have been so the movie had another misdirect about Bane being the child instead of Talia.  I dislike it when characters say things for movie reasons that don’t overlap with their own.

15. Blake says he saw the I’m-angry-about-my-bad-childhood look on Bruce Wayne’s face when Blake was young.  This means Blake realized Bruce was Batman…how???  That was really glossed over…badly.

16. My favorite Catwoman moment was when she played hysterical-female-victim for the police.  I think most people would have played the contrast between that and her follow-up calculating look as “You’d expect a woman to do this, but this one’s special,” and Hathaway played “This is  feminine archetype, but that’s just how men see me when they’re not seeing who I really am” and it had nothing to do with Catwoman being special, but with stereotypes masking women’s true characters every day.  That was awesome.


The Lizzie Bennet Diaries – YouTube

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries – YouTube.


These things are fantastic!  About 3.5 minute increments of a modern day Lizzie Bennet video blog.  She has two sisters.  Jane is spot-on Austen and Lydia is hilariously updated to modern obnoxious boy-crazy.  She dresses up and does voices for her parents.  I think my all time favorite things are when she’s being her mother.  It makes me smile and is surprisingly hard to stop watching, considering I know where it’s going.  Perhaps it’s the editing touches (done by Charlotte), or the true-to-life sibling interactions, or the minimal costumes, or the stronger connection to the character in this setting.  After all, I am also a ‘DREADED MIDDLE CHILD’, etc.  It’s a wonderful, fun pick-me-up that makes me smile.

In more palatable news (…sortof)

the ragbag – how to make cockle bread -or- for wunderpantry:….

Apparently England used to host a specialty baked good called “cockle bread.”  It involved women kneading/shaping bread dough to their nether regions and then presenting the baked loaf to their preferred man.

“cockle bread was a popular stuart-era baked good said to excite the passions of men. young women would make it for the objects of their affection by sitting on raw dough with their naked derriere, kneading it with their privy parts by madly wriggling around and singing the cockle bread song:

my dame is sick and gonne to bed
and i’ll go mould my cockle bread
up with my heels and down with my head
and this is the way to mould cockle bread”

-Apparently garnered from brand’s popular antiques (1905).

I went looking into this and found an alternative shaping method in Lisa Splittgerber :: Aphrodisiacs in the Libro de buen amor: Serranas’ Sexy Secrets:

“…the tradition of cockle bread which was described as:

. . . a small piece of dough which the girl would knead and then press against the vulva. The dough, moulded to this shape, was then baked in the normal way and the loaf presented to the man she sought to attract. If he ate it, he would fall beneath her spell and be powerless to resist. Similar types of charms have been used throughout Europe and indeed may still be used in primitive country regions (Taberner 46-47).”

Wikipedia says:

John Aubrey wrote of it: Young wenches have a wanton sport which they call ‘moulding of cocklebread’ – they get upon a table-board, and then gather up their knees and their coates with their hands as high as they can then they wabble to and fro with their buttocks as if they were kneading of dough with their arses, and say these words: ‘My dame is sick and gone to bed/ And I’ll go mould my cocklebread’. I did imagine nothing to have been in this but mere wantonness of youth … but I find in Buchardus’s book Methodus Confitendi … one of the articles of interrogating a young woman is, if she did ever subjugere panem clunibus, and then bake it, and give it to the one she loved to eat … So here I find it to be a relic of natural magic, an unlawful philtrum [i.e. aphrodisiac or love charm]. [from A. McLaren, Reproductive Rituals (1984), p. 37].

Nursery rhyme

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Cockle-Bread was a children’s game in which one squats on his/her haunches with hands clasped beneath the thighs, while others grasp his/her arms and swing him/her to and fro. This action was often accompanied by a rhyme:

My granny is sick and now is dead
And we’ll go mould some cocklety bread
Up with the heels and down with the head
And that’s the way to make cocklety bread.”
Forget bread and circuses!  Give me bread, sex, magic, and rhymes-it’s a much more rounded survival plan.    Also, as entertaining!  If the arenas hosted competition in these arts…actually, that picture’s not really that different from how ancient Roman life is often depicted now.  Still, the point is made. 

Colorado Movie Theater Shooting: Largest Shooting in U.S. History

Colorado Movie Theater Shooting: 71 Victims the Largest Shooting in U.S. History – ABC News.


The Dark Knight Rises is a movie.  Unfortunately, the awful events of this morning are real:

“Twelve people were killed and 59 were injured in Aurora, Colo., during a sold-out midnight premier of the new Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” when 24-year-old James Holmes allegedly unloaded four weapons’ full of ammunition into the unsuspecting crowd.

The number of casualties makes the incident the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Holmes, a graduate student at a nearby college with a clean arrest record, allegedly entered the movie auditorium wearing a ballistics helmet, bullet-proof vest, bullet-proof leggings, gas mask and gloves. He detonated multiple smoke bombs, and then began firing at viewers in the sold-out auditorium, police said today.

Bullets from the spree tore through the theater and into adjoining theaters, where at least one other person was struck and injured. Ten members of “The Dark Knight Rises” audience were killed in theater, while two others died later at area hospitals. Numerous patrons were in critical condition at six local hospitals, the Aurora police said this afternoon.

Holmes was apprehended within minutes of the 12:39 a.m. shooting at his car behind the theater, where police found him in full riot gear and carrying three weapons, including a AR-15 assault rifle, which can hold upwards of 100 rounds, a Remington 12 gauge shot gun, and a .40 Glock handgun. A fourth handgun was found in the vehicle. Agents from the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms are tracing the weapons. ABC news confirmed that they were all purchased legally.

According to police sources, Holmes told the officers arresting him that he was “The Joker,” referring to the villain in the second installment of the Batman movie trilogy, “The Dark Knight.” He also warned police that he had booby-trapped his apartment, leading officers to evacuate the Aurora apartment building.

Police Chief Dan Oates said today that police and bomb squads have found a large number of explosive devices and trip wires at Holmes’ apartment and have not yet decided how to proceed without setting off explosions.

“The pictures we have from inside the apartment are pretty disturbing considering how elaborate the apartment is booby trapped,” police said outside of the apartment complex today. The “flammable and explosive” materials could have blown up Holmes’ apartment building and the ones near it, police said.

The apartment complex is home exclusively to University of Colorado Medical Center students, patients, and staff members, residents tell ABC News.”


The article goes on to include the completely unsurprised reaction of the shooter’s parents and several witness statements about this horrific event.  I don’t have many coherent things to say in the face of this tragedy.  My one clear thought is this: Space needs to be reclaimed, life needs to be affirmed, and no bully with a gun in his hands should have the right to control people through fear, through horror, or through grief.  These things will exist, they are natural responses to what happened.  But the shooter does not deserve to win influence or hold sway over any more victims than he’s already claimed.  I know the movies are tainted now and that many may not be able to feel comfortable there for awhile, particularly at this particular film.  I only wish that things which have felt safe before, have made people happy, have gotten people to stay out until the wee hours of the morning, will not be more casualties claimed by this madman.

Today brought so many people so much to recover from.  I hope that healing, both physical and mental, will come as swiftly and smoothly as possible.


Sleeping Beauty as Stalker

Breezes from Wonderland » Blog Archive » Sleeping Beauty as Stalker.


“With Disney in production on a Sleeping Beauty film with  Angelina Jolie starring Maleficent, producer Neal Moritz is moving forward with a comedy take of  the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale that turns the slumbering sweetie into a pesky stalker.

The 21 Jump Street producer is developing a modern-day retelling that finds the male protagonist accidentally awakening Sleeping Beauty and finding that he can’t get rid of the lovestruck heroine.”


Here’s the thing about this: doesn’t it sound just like the beginning of Twilight?  There’s a ‘special’ guy (prince/vampire/just rich guy(?), what’s the difference in this vampire fetish age?) who attracts the attention of a young girl.  The young girl feels this man is the source of her ‘awakened’ self, her interest in this new world she finds herself in, and refuses to let him shake her off.  If this Sleeping Beauty starts stalking the guy without knowing what makes him ‘special’ then the similarities get even scarier.  At least a prince’s sparkles, no matter what time period he’s in, are likely to be confined to his clothes.

Horse, Flower, Bird

Horse, Flower, Bird

By: Kate Bernheimer


Coffee House Press 2010

A fairy tale anthology review

Horse, Flower, Bird contains eight original fairy tales for adults by Kate Bernheimer.  Through birds, dolls, flowers, and even Star Wars, Bernheimer discusses humanity in artful curves and colors.  These tales are like the hilt of a knife-hidden behind brightness and intent, but revealed when the deed is done.  They connect the danger of the future with motivations from the past and give the present a thrill.  Above all, they show the hidden edges and fickleness of the things we hold onto.  No matter what is lost-imaginary friends, caretakers, or poems, they leave a story for our minds to cling to, to keep up with who we are in life’s shifting sands.  Like older fairy tales, Bernheimer’s illustrate the importance of these tales we live, with all their beauty and perils.

Horse, Flower, Bird speaks of people as if there is no normal and of ordinary things as if all their meanings are true.  Two sisters playing a game can be as poignant as a woman in a cage.  A secret petting zoo can show human depths as deftly as a woman melding her mind to a room in the woods.  This book is short, the tales eager to be read and easy to come back to.  Like all true fairy tales, these can haunt, soothe, or invite cogitation.  When you feel up for a mysterious journey, this is a good book to turn to and a good work to return to.  I highly recommend it for lovers of older, darker fairy tales.

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem

By: Vivian Vande Velde


Scholastic Inc. 2001

A fairy tale anthology review

Vivian Vande Velde’s The Rumpelstiltskin Problem contains six stories that grapple with spinning straw into gold.  More amusingly, this book struggles to understand the characters who appear in the familiar story.  What motivates Rumpelstiltskin?  How did the idea of spinning straw into gold start?  What kind of people decide to marry someone they’ve known over threats for three days or offer up their child for some deal concerning gold?  There are many answers in The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, all filled with quirks and charm.


The stories in The Rumpelstiltskin Problem twist and turn the story’s characters into many actors: cruel kings and kind ones, stupid girls and clever ones, generous spinners and hungry ones.  Whatever person you’re a fan of, this collection has a tale where they are wonderful.  Whoever you dislike, there’s a story to mock their distastefulness.  The consistent features are something to laugh at, someone to like, and playful writing that nudges you along like a hayride: the setting is familiar, the new bumps are fun, and it’s part of a world somewhat different from your own.  Besides, as well as all that straw, each of Vivian Vande Velde’s versions provides a little bit of gold.  It’s just hiding in different places.  The Rumpelstiltskin Problem is a very swift ride that will please.  After my trip I recommend it.




Folville’s Law (The John Swale Chronicles)

Folville’s Law (The John Swale Chronicles)
By: David Pilling
Musa Publishing 2011
an historical fiction review

Queen Isabella of England prepares to attack her husband Edward II with the aid of her lover, Mortimer.  England’s lords and law keepers scramble to make the most of the weak king’s corrupt reign.  Hugh Despenser the Younger, the king’s favorite, feels his world threatening to crumble.  Hugh’s one loyal night, Sir John Swale, sets out on a simple mission and finds himself caught amidst outlaws, family feuds, and increasingly lethal encounters.  It’s the year 1326 and the law of the land is simple: there is no law, only different masters.

            Folville’s Law takes readers through many different perspectives.  Everyone’s world is narrow, full of their own ambitions and motivations.  David Pilling does an excellent job at keeping his audience abreast of circumstances from the individual to the international while juggling storylines and his characters’ perceptions.  All of the voices Pilling uses to tell his tale are strong, consistent, and eminently human.  No one is concerned with an overarching history more than their own welfare; no one is outside their immediate surroundings and limited knowledge.  Royals, bandits, and widows all show glimpses into different lifestyles, giving Pilling’s book a more up-front and direct feeling of authenticity than many.

          Folville’s Law fights and schemes through its pages, maintaining a quick and exciting reading pace.  The ensemble cast and swiftly switching perspectives draw readers into the history and action of the plot, but also make it difficult to connect to any of the characters.  The many actors and subplots make Pilling’s debut novel engaging, an excellent lead work for a series (now in its seventh book).  Throughout, Pilling wields a distinctive tone, a knack for explaining complications with flair, and a strategically balanced sense of pacing.

In a nutshell, Folville’s Law is a gritty, well-researched adventure without a hero, just an array of humans.  If you’re looking for romance, this is not the book for you.  For historical interest, action, and intrigue, I recommend this work.  It’s always good when I’m left still wanting to know what happens next.

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