Multi and New Media

This class involved a great selection of academic essays and entertaining activities. Revolving around new media, it was a good class to flex my feminist writing muscles which I did in both my podcast, The Fourth Wave: Cyberfeminism, and the essay on Vlogs Vs Podcasts: A comparative essay from a consumer perspective:

For example, in the ‘Wonder Woman’ podcast (Mirk 2014) the author/speaker discusses how wonder woman’s back story has been changed and manipulated to, essentially, change her from having been born of female solidarity to being born from female rivalry. In the ‘Background Characters vlog’ (Sarkeesian 2014) the author/speaker discusses how, as video games are more interactive and players are not mere viewers but participants through their ability to manipulate the character’s world and actions, players are engaging in the sexual objectification of NPCs (Non-Player Characters). The vlog then cuts to numerous clips of players, through their character, paying NPCs for sex, paying for lap dances, picking up prostitutes and other such scenes. The author/speaker then points out that these actions have the same effect as the character getting a drink- using the women as sex objects increased health and status within the game. Again, the vlog cuts between those same scenes and a scene in which the character buys a drink from a vending machine. The audience themselves can now clearly see what the author/speaker is discussing with sickening clarity. Within the game, the sexual objectification of women is much the same as buying a drink. The author/speaker then announces that having NPCs displayed as sex objects only allows for them then to be dismissed as disposable. Toward the end of the vlog the same characters are then shown with the same NPCs in identical situations (paying for sex/lap dances) however afterward the character, at the command of the player, then physically assaulted and, in most cases, brutally murdered the NPC. Seeing this has a greater influence on the audience than merely hearing it can.

To begin with the ‘Background Character’s’ vlog (Sarkeesian 2014) issues a content warning, comes with a list of links and resources for further reading and a detailed summary of the series, unlike the ‘Wonder Woman’ podcast (Mirk 2014.) The ‘Wonder Woman’ podcast (Mirk 2014), whilst intelligently discussed and well put together, has received a mere 400 views compared to ‘Background Characters’ vlog (Sarkeesian 2014) which has 177 Twitter shares, 334,000 YouTube views, over 1,000 Facebook likes and has generated 11 cash donations for the Tropes Vs Women series. These viewer numbers support the findings of Helft (2013, p.1) who writes that “Viewers consume 6 billion hours of YouTube videos monthly — that’s almost one hour for every person on the planet”. If one compares Helft’s (2013) findings with that of Markman and Sawyer (2014), which state that podcast listeners didn’t listen to more than 30 minutes a week, it is clear which form is the more effective.

The revenue the ‘Background Character’ vlog (Sarkeesian 2014) alone has generated for the Tropes Vs Women series contrasts strongly with the reports by Markman & Sawyer (2014) that 39% of podcasters create no revenue and over 75% spend significantly on the creation of their product. The ‘Wonder Woman’ (Mirk 2014) podcast would, if it contained the some visual element, would undoubtedly do equally as well. In the discussion of podcast versus vlog topic and content are not of the utmost importance (Markman & Sawyer 2014). To engage an audience the delivery is of greater concern. Guest speakers and interviews help engage interest, though the addition of graphs, images and video cannot be valued highly enough. Had the ‘Wonder Woman’ podcast (Mirk 2014), on topic due to the upcoming movie, included the images being discussed, such as wonder woman wielding a sword, views would have surpassed the current count of 400, a belief backed by Markman and Sawyer’s (2014, p.4) observation that most “podcasters drew a small audiences.”

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Writing for Illustration: Graphic Project and Book Cover Designs.

For NMIT’s writing for illustration I chose to create a comic through Bitstrips based on the short story Too Much To Lose, one of the stories I self-published in the Behind Closed Doors collection that can be found on Smashwords here. Too Much To Lose takes readers into the reality of life with anorexia; the obsession, the isolation, the silence…

With any luck it might just burst into flames and I could leave, or the building might burn down and I could die. It is hard to feel anything about that thought. Wanting to die isn’t something I really do- it’s just a vague thought, almost a joke. I hear the creak of a chair and spy Carroll’s legs under the desk as she sits back in her seat. Her thighs spread out before her looking ready to burst from her stretched skirt. I’d bet anything that her thighs touch even if she stands with her feet apart. I glance down at my own thighs, poking at the hard bones that define them. I look up and meet Carroll’s eyes, my mouth twisted to the side in a smug smile – Too Much to Lose.

To see Too Much To Lose follow the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

The intention behind using this short story as a comic series published online is to counteract the massive online presence of pro-ana (pro-anorexic) websites, particularly those appearing on sites such as Tumblr. I wanted to illustrate the control an eating disorder can have over your life and the isolation. It was difficult making the comic appear as dark as I wanted it as I was really limited by the graphics provided on Bitstrips. I was only able to manipulate and edit so much. For example, I had very limited backgrounds on offer and to create a dark background I had to use the same gradient frame. If I could draw, I’d have made Ana (Ana being a personification of the protagonist’s ED) look like a hollow eyed, ghostly figure at times and as your stereotypical beautiful model at others. This would highlight the opposing sides of the image of an anorexic. In reality, you end up being skin and bones and look sickly. Your hair falls out, you’re constantly dizzy and pale. However, in the pro-ana forums there is this desire to see it as a lifestyle and beautiful. Many anorexics end up with a certain attachment towards starvation. Basically, the opposing images of Ana would illustrate all this. With more time, I would have fine tuned the dialogue too.

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Magazine 11 Reflections

Take a kick-ass subject and add to it a brilliant lecturer and what do you have?

(Translation: Please give me a HD.)

I’ve learnt so freaking much in this class (am I allowed to say ‘freaking’ if this is for an assignment?) When I nodded along when we were all asked if we knew what a media kit was, I was lying. I had no idea. I was surprised everyone else knew. Were they lying too? Or do I really need to get with it? Either way, I know now.

I also designed a magazine insert for this class which is something I would never have even though of before. It’s so simple but, still, it wouldn’t have occurred to me.

I am really happy with how my InDesign skills improved this semester compared to last. I haven’t actually had any of the classes were we’re taught InDesign so I’ve been learning by watching tutorials and playing around with it. I think I still have a long way to go though.

At so many points I wanted to smash my face through the keyboard because, dammit, designing a magazine is so…fiddly. Every time I’d sit back and think ‘there now, it’s perfe- oh, fuck!‘ Literally every time I think I’m done with it, I discover some tiny new error that irritates me.

The cover to begin with was atrocious until I purchased some stock images for it. The TOC (table of contents) was atrocious until I’d scanned some tutorials. As you’d expect, it’s still  little (a lot) on the basic side. Really, as far as the design goes, I have little to say. You can clearly see a colour scheme and I used the same two fonts throughout (why? They just have the right look). I just experimented in InDesign and messed around with colours and layouts until I had something nearing how I could picture it. There is still so much potential with designs that hasn’t even occurred to me though. The magazine presentation day illustrated for me the variety of layouts it’s possible to have. It’s something I’d want to experiment with a lot more.

That said; Lo and Behold! Here is an example of some of the magazine:

Magazine116 Magazine11 Magazine1113 Magazine1112 Magazine1111 Magazine118

I had the idea for the magazine in semester one when I was put on the spot and asked what I might possibly want to do a magazine on. I came up with a parenting magazine out of nowhere. I’m not actually a huge fan of children and prefer writing about women/feminist topics. The thing about this magazine though is that it’s about parenting and being a young mother in general- it’s not for children so it shouldn’t be an issue that I’m not crazy about them (apart from my own, obviously.) I did some research on parenting/lifestyle magazines and realised there is definite gap in the market where younger parents (and even single parents) are concerned. There seems to be plenty of parenting magazines for older, married mothers that are still trying to sell the image of the perfect, nuclear family.  I knew I had found a good angle for my magazine.

My other motivation is being a passionate believer that having a child young doesn’t mean the end of your life or that you’re a hopeless, brainless idiot. Lets face it, there is no end to that attitude. When I found out I was pregnant I had to deal with the most ridiculous comments. For example, being snidely asked after mentioning my desire to go to university, “You’re going to study and have a baby. Do you, like, even know how to do that?” Guess what, knobcloud, I know now. At my year 12 graduation I was also told the parents in the audience were disgusted that I was allowed on stage. I always wondered why there was this attitude meant that I shouldn’t be allowed to continue on with my life. There was definitely this expectation within the town I lived that I should drop out of school and do nothing with the rest of my life. Luckily, my family and I did not share that expectation.

Young Parenting was created with the purpose of delivering an honest yet positive take on being a young mother. It’s purpose is to inform, encourage and unite young mothers throughout Australia between the ages of 16 and 23. It would stress the importance of continuing with your education and taking your aspirations seriously. It would not be condescending, demeaning or be written with the assumption it’s audience knew nothing.

If it were an actual glossy generating a profit, in line with the above values, the magazine would offer two successful applicants a 10 week paid internship each year. The magazine would also keep readers up to date with various study and skills building opportunities and scholarships.

When giving up is a good thing

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Day 2
8:46 AM: Cigarette. Cigarette. Cigarette. Arrr, I am dying. Although it occurs to me I’m not as sick as yesterday (I have a cold). Maybe recovering faster thanks to Not Smoking?
10:02 AM: This. Is. Hard.
10:21 AM: I wish I could fast forward two weeks.
10:26 AM: I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.
This is so hard.
Jeepers. I just have to remind myself about cancer. I was feeling this awful loss a while ago thinking ‘I can never have another smoke AGAIN. Boo hoo.’ But the thing is, why do I even want one? What’s it do for me? The only reason I feel that way is because I’m addicted. That will go away. Also, then I am slightly less likely, y’know, to freaking DIE. Smoking KILLS. Gotta keep remembering that little fact. Denial is a powerful thing. Imagine if we had as much ability in willpower as we did denial?
10:40 AM: Does quitting actually INCREASE your appetite? It seems to.
6:38 PM: I am impatience personified.

Day 4
7 AM: Day 4! I am so proud. This is my third quit attempt this year. I have been wanting to quit so much, I set it as my new years resolution, but until now my head was not in the game. I had to not want to smoke anymore (wanting to quit and not wanting to smoke are different).
It’s a mix of things that bought me here; Because I’ve been focusing on improving health through exercise, I want to improve the other areas too.
7:15 AM: Here is a list of the side effects I have noticed;
1. Mood swings (especially wanting to cry.)
2. Irritability (very snappy).
3. Increased appetite. I’m not eating out of boredom or to smother a desire for a smoke. I am genuinely hungrier (smoking IS an appetite suppressant.)
4. Unable to sleep.
5. Jittery/twitchy (my hyper level, usually a docile 2 or 3, is now a 9.)
The actual cravings are the easiest part of quitting. The mood swings are the worst.
12:19 PM:I used to smoke, on average, 15 cigarettes a day. Say, it takes 6.5 minutes to smoke one (and that is not including rolling it time) that is 1 hour and 37 minutes smoking took up everyday. Christ. Now maybe I can use that saved time to go for a jog or write.
By the way, that is 682 minutes (11 hours and 36 minutes) a week. Which is 35,464 minutes (591 hours) a year.
Why didn’t I ever think of this before?
10:30 PM: I had four hours sleep last night. I hope I can sleep better tonight. You know, I am noticing all sorts of annoying withdrawal effects. I am so pleased that I am doing this though. It’s amazing how simply not doing something is an activity in itself.

Day 5:
8PM: Earlier today I was smug about how easy this is and now I could cry because I want a smoke so badly. This is ridiculous. I may have screamed at the person who suggested ‘why don’t you just have one.’ Ha. But at least I did not have one and the craving is easing now.

Day Six
11:09 AM: I dreamed of smoking last night.

Day Seven
11:17 AM: Woke up feeling happy with myself. This is the end of the first week!

Brief Book Review: Bed Rest by Sarah Bilston

Bed Rest

Chick-lit is without a doubt the most scorned of genres. As a big reader, with a love for all genres (with the exception of erotic romance- think Mills and Boons. I just can’t find it interesting), I sometimes wonder why.

Sure, some chick-lit is simply awful. Think shallow, immature and unbelievably, well, dumb protagonists and you will be at the heart of the problem with a lot of chick-lit. Chick-lit like that loses the brownie points the genre stands to gain by being realistic. Women, when reading a good chick-lit book, should be able to relate to the characters. After all, it’s a genre written, mostly, by women for women. If women read it and find themselves angrily thinking the main character is ridiculous and questioning if other women are really like that? All the author has achieved is alienation of their audience.

On the other hand some chick-lit is quite good and what bothers me is that the good stuff is often written off as crap because of the bad. When browsing the book reviews for chick-lit titles so many of them begin ‘I don’t usually read chick-lit’ with a note about how the writer of the review is a Serious Reader (why such shame at picking up a chick-lit title?) They then either go on to trash the book (warranted, in some cases) or else write about how surprised they were to have enjoyed it.

I used to love chick-lit in my early teenage years, along with horror, suspense & mystery, fantasy and anything published as a penguin classic. These days my appreciation for fantasy and chick-lit has waned. I am not a literary snob, though. If someone gives me a pile of books (as my brilliant Grandma often does) I will read them, regardless of their genre. A book is a book is a book…

I think the scorn poured on chick-lit is, in some ways, just another socially accepted form of sexism but that is another topic for another time.

The book I am reviewing today is Bed Rest by Sarah Bilston.

Quinn “Q” Boothroyd is a young British lawyer married to an American and living in New York City. She’s checked off most of the boxes on her “Modern Woman’s List of Things to Do Before Hitting 30,” and her busy working life has been relatively painless. But when her doctor tells her she must spend the last three months of her pregnancy lying in bed, Q is thrown into a tailspin. Initially bored and frustrated, Q soon fills her days by trying to reconnect with her workaholic husband, provide legal advice for her sweet Greek neighbor, forge new emotional bonds with her mother and sisters, and figure out who will keep her stocked up in cookies and sandwiches. Q experiences adventures on the couch she never would have encountered in the law firm and learns a lot about herself and what she wants out of life—and above all, about the little one growing inside her.

On the cover there is praise for this book saying ‘even if you have never been pregnant you’ll be as instantly hooked on this addictive novel as I was.’ I’m thinking you’d be hooked especially if you had never been pregnant because the protagonist’s reaction to learning her amniotic fluid is low is not the teensiest bit realistic.

‘Amni-what?’ is her first thought. The first person narration then goes on to explain in depth how she had no clue what this meant, or what it even was.

Not realistic. Not realistic at all.

Q, the protagonist, is supposed to be an almost-30 year old lawyer who is pedantic about recording everything and making lists and so on. Basically, she seems like the kind of person who would have researched this whole pregnancy thing and not the kind of person who…well, I can’t even think of a comparison. Having had a child myself, trust me, if you are pregnant you tend to want to learn as much about pregnancy as you can. You definitely know what amniotic fluid is. She also doesn’t do any baby shopping until five weeks before the child is due and at no point are there discussions about baby names. The book skims over many of the milestones you would expect from a book in which the main focus is the protagonist’s pregnancy.

The remaining plot-points were dull. They were clichéd and the majority of readers would see the ‘surprising twists’ coming a mile away.

However, there were some funny parts, the voice was engaging and the protagonist was likeable. There were also some really good lines within the novel. Some even, I must admit, that I was surprised to find in a chick-lit novel that revolves around pregnancy and relationships.

In the darkness I listen to his heartbeat…In the darkness he listens to my heartbeat.

You could almost imagine its summer- until; you see the thin, stripped trees along the street, the pallid fawn sunshine, the pedestrians muffled up in furry coats and downy jackets.

I’ve always regarded mine with some bewilderment, its mysterious activities, its dark places where the blood flows close to the surface.

Crack open Sylvia Plath’s Ariel when life seems too hard to bear. It’s always good to discover that someone else has been closer to the screaming edge than you are.

A pause, a brief moment of silence, and then a cry to make a mother’s heart dissolve.

Whilst I would not recommend this book to anyone I know, I did enjoy certain parts of it and I do believe it would be enjoyed by readers who like this genre.

Behind Closed Doors

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Behind Closed Doors contains the following stories:

Wasted offers a tantalising glimpse into the derelict life a father attempts to keep secret from his wife and children.

He grabbed the bag of pills and made his way to the crumbling bathroom. Leaning over a mouldy sink he cupped his hands to capture some of the rust streaked water. Raising them to his cracked lips, he gulped the water down, pushed two of the pills into his mouth and gulped some more. He stood there, holding tightly to the rim of the sink as his teeth chattered – Wasted.

Please Stay highlights Ebony’s confusion when she awakes to find her long-term partner, Ryan, has disappeared in the dead of the night without explanation.

I open the cupboard beneath the sink; his shaving cream, his razors, his sleeping pills and cologne are all gone.  I race back into the bedroom, flinging open his wardrobe door. It’s empty. I search the whole apartment; living room, kitchen, the spare bedroom. He isn’t here and nothing of his remains, not even his musty old trainers that lived, untouched and forgotten, at the bottom of the shoe stand – Please Stay.

The Good Cop, the longest of all seven stories, follows the struggles of three characters whose lives are not what they seem, as observed by the main protagonist.

This girl is leaning against the wall, expertly inserting a needle into her vein. She injects and as the drug flows through her she throws her head back and moans. She has the look of a homeless person; unwashed skin, grimy, lank hair and muddied mini-dress. I know, even before two men approach her down the dark alley, that she is a prostitute. In this black and white image, I see one man hand her money as his buddy stands guard at the mouth of the alley. Once he is done they swap positions and his friend moves to the girl – The Good Cop.

Breakfast Time dives into the mind of a ten year old girl as she tries to make sense of the adults around her.

“Use your initiative,” she yells. Using my initiative means knowing what she wants and doing it before she has to shout, “or else!” Or else! Is a belt on the leg, cool leather marking my skin, or a slap across the face, the sting of a palm on my cheek. This morning something manages to pull me from my own head. It’s a box of flying cereal. It lands in the kitchen, spilling sugary puffs of grain across the floor. Dad had already stormed out, leaving his empty bowl on the table. There is only my little brothers and I. And mum, standing in the pantry, mumbling to herself. I look from her to the cereal. Am I going to be in trouble? – Breakfast Time.

In Followed you stalk a young university student, innocently slipping into her life to wait for a chance…

I am careful to make sure I saunter down to the same carriage as her. The train is practically empty at this time of day so it is easy to choose a seat directly across from her. I pull out my phone and pretend to be absorbed in it whilst flicking my gaze to her at every chance. Should I take a photo? I feel my pulse quicken and my cheeks burn – Followed.

In Dreamer Evelyn visits her family’s favourite picnic spot where she makes a life changing decision.

Reaching into her pocket she pulls out a small camera, moving carefully she raises it to her eyes, recalling how her mother had held it so delicately poised before her, and snaps a picture of the tree, the soft click of the lens echoing in the silence. Smiling, Evelyn slides the camera back into her pocket. Tomorrow she will bring some rope for the tree – Dreamer.

Too Much to Lose takes readers into the reality of life with anorexia; the obsession, the isolation, the silence…

With any luck it might just burst into flames and I could leave, or the building might burn down and I could die. It is hard to feel anything about that thought. Wanting to die isn’t something I really do- it’s just a vague thought, almost a joke. I hear the creak of a chair and spy Carroll’s legs under the desk as she sits back in her seat. Her thighs spread out before her looking ready to burst from her stretched skirt. I’d bet anything that her thighs touch even if she stands with her feet apart. I glance down at my own thighs, poking at the hard bones that define them. I look up and meet Carroll’s eyes, my mouth twisted to the side in a smug smile – Too Much to Lose.

Check out both of my free e-books on Smashwords. You can also follow the Black Ink Quill Facebook page or friend me on Goodreads to read more brief books reviews.

Harsh New Laws Punish Victims of Violence

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Children need to be protected from violent perpetrators and so do their mothers. Mothers who are the victims of domestic violence risk losing their children upon reporting the abuse under new zero-tolerance child protection laws, such as those outlined in the 2013 Child Protection Legislation Amendment Bill (Child Protection Amendment Bill (No 33) 2014). With an estimated 80% of all domestic abuse cases going unreported (Vic Health, 2012) such laws will make the direct victims of domestic abuse less inclined to seek help for fear of forced separation from their children. Removing a child from an abused but otherwise loving and capable parent is not in the child’s best interest, nor is it in the best interest of the victim to have them too intimidated and shamed to speak out.

Domestic violence has overtaken paternal mental illness and drug or alcohol addiction as the leading cause of child protection intervention (Butler 2014). The Family Rights Group (2014) states that cuts to domestic abuse and family support services, including strict means-tested welfare reforms, results in further isolation of victims. The inability of a victim to seek sufficient support, in the forms of stable housing and financial aid, increases their dependency on their abuser. Cathy Ashley, the chief executive of the Family Rights Group, states that women who report the crimes committed against them are told by social workers to leave immediately with their children or they (the children) will be taken into care (Butler 2014).

In order to understand the disempowering and dehumanizing demands of such practices, you first must understand the complex issues faced by victims of domestic violence. The zero tolerance laws indicate that even those who experience such cases daily are failing to understand that victims cannot simply pack up and leave. Not only are victims psychologically manipulated by their abusers, and usually dependent upon them through strategic isolation, they are also most at risk of extreme violence once they have left their abuser.

Clementine Ford, journalist for Daily Life, writes:

In June 2013, WA woman Angela Furullo was murdered by her ex-partner, James Bill Payet, at the hairdressing salon where she worked. Her pregnant daughter was injured in the attack. In April 2013, Kara Doyle’s boyfriend shot her in the groin. Doyle had been planning to leave him. She was dumped at a nearby Caltex Station with severe injuries and died in hospital five days later. Her killer, Mehmet Torun, was recently sentenced to eight years in prison with a non-parole period of five years. In February 2014, Victorian woman Kelly Thompson was murdered by her long term partner. Just 19 days before, Thompson had applied for an AVO against Wayne Wood. After murdering Kelly Thompson, Wood killed himself.

These are just a handful of the devastating acts of violence enacted against women and children every week in Australia. Every single one of these women were either in the process of leaving their partners or had already left them. If women are supposed to ‘just leave’ in order to end the cycle of violence, what is it that these women did wrong? The answer is nothing. They did nothing wrong (Ford 2014).

When a social worker tells a victim of family violence to leave immediately with her children, without time to source adequate housing, financial aid or support for safety, they are putting the mother and child/s life in profound danger. Threatening to remove the mother’s children will only add to the psychological trauma of the victim and make her far less likely to report future acts of violence. This advice condemns victims whilst doing nothing to address the real issue.

Domestic violence does impact on children, who, on average, witness 44% of all violence (Vic Health, 2013). Children are often the victims of revenge killings wherein the perpetrator murders his partner’s children to make her suffer further. As discussed above, such incidents usually occur directly after a woman has left her abuser. This illustrates a definite need for intervention but not the intervention that has been proposed.

We ought to be asking ourselves, as domestic violence is as much a crime as assaulting someone in the street (for example, the now famed ‘coward punches’), if child protection services have sufficient evidence and reports to remove children from the home then why can there not be a new legislation introduced where the perpetrator is court ordered to attend men’s behavioural change sessions? Or, why is the perpetrator not formally charged and facing jail time? Why is more not being done to prevent the violence? Why are there cuts to essential support services? Why is more money not being put into women’s refuges? Why have there been such harsh cuts to welfare payments for single parents?

Seventy-eight percent of people in Australia who are homeless due to domestic violence are women (Ford 2014) and it isn’t hard to see why. There seems only three, bleak options available to women experiencing domestic violence; stay with their abuser and not report the crimes against them in order to avoid having their children removed; stay with their abuser and lose their children; or leave, putting their own and their child’s life at risk, and face a life of poverty and, potentially, homelessness.

In a written interview, on the 10th of June 2013, Susan* illustrates what many women must endure when they make the choice to leave.

It got to the point where I had to seriously consider getting an intervention order against him. His behaviour was erratic and irrational. One moment he would be begging for my forgiveness for what he had done, saying he would love me forever, and at the next he would be calling me a ‘dumb slut’ and saying everything was my fault. I was scared of him, for myself and for my daughter. I had been too afraid to go to court for a formal custody agreement, fearing what he might do if I pushed it that far, so we had our own agreement where he would have her 3 nights a week. Every abused woman with children knows the horror stories that are both real and common. We all fear for our children (Susan* 2013, pers.comm., 10 June)

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