내가 제일 잘 나가~

No heavy analysis today folks. Just a fancam video of a performance by 2NE1 this morning. Because they were awesome:

See here, here, and here for photos of the event, and here for my breakdown of the lyrics to the song. I can’t believe it’s been out for three years already!

Music Break: Two K-pop Gems You’ve Been Missing

I’d like to like Misogyny Drop Dead by Planningtorock, but agree with a commenter that its more “experimental” and “obscure” than something you can actually dance to.

As for that “problem” though, the author definitely has a point. Just type “trance” into a Youtube search and see for yourself:

Trance Music ObjectificationThoughts? Any more quality K-pop (or covers or remixes) out there that should be much better known? Would you say the objectifying imagery is simply because — I assume — most of the DJs are male? Or some other reason?

*Update: Link is just about the regional Wellington competition sorry. Any sources on the national competition would be appreciated.

Scream — 2NE1 (Korean Version)

Last week, I found Trance Blossom’s remix (download) of 2NE1’s Scream, and have only danced in my room to it (and surreptitiously on the subway) about 20 times since. Unfortunately, the accompanying video was smote by the copyright gods, but, 2NE1 being 2NE1, I was still looking forward to the MV of the orginal…

No, not quite what I was expecting. But hell: the dancing, costumes, and make-up ain’t half bad.

Meanwhile, here is the original Japanese version. I haven’t been able to find one with accompanying lyrics and English translations, but you can see find both here:

Yes, despite the date, this really did happen to me today…I guess I got rickrolled K-pop style. And now, you too!^^

Korean Gender Reader

(Source)

Not only is this poster simply cool, but the 3rd Montreal AmérAsia Film Festival it advertises will playing during my birthday too. So why does it bug me so?

I think, because I’m so used to seeing women in such mildly Orientalist imagery, that for the life of me I can’t imagine an East-Asian guy with the same expression and pose. Or is that just me?

Either way, see the end of this post for some Occidentalist imagery to compare (and of course, I wish nothing but the best for the festival!). Meanwhile, here are this week’s links, and one long discussion:

1) The Photoshop issue

Paula, a professional model, responds to last week’s post on excessive and unnecessary photoshopping in Korea at Noona Blog: Seoul. Like she says, photoshopping is the photographer’s or client’s prerogative, but still: what’s usually done to her pictures can hardly be considered an improvement!

2) How Nicki Minaj kicked open the door for 2NE1

I confess, I never heard of Nicki Minaj before reading this post of Latoya Paterson’s at Racialicous. But now that I have, then I’m not going to forget anytime soon. I’m also convinced that there’s a genuine opportunity for 2NE1 (투애니원) to succeed in the US market where so many other K-pop acts have failed. As she explains (source, right):

After watching good artists try and fail to make it in the US market, I began trying to find a pattern. Why was this happening? The reasons vary – particularly because artists often use their entry to the US as a kind of reinvention, which can be risky – but a big component is that American marketers/listeners had no idea what to do with them.

But, luckily for 2NE1, they have a secret weapon: Nicki Minaj.

It may seem strange to look at Nicki Minaj as the the person who put a crack in the Billboard ceiling big enough for 2NE1 to break through to the top spot, but it is her inherent strangeness and genrelessness that is opening the door for other women artists to bend the rules.

And a little later:

Both Minaj and 2NE1 are also combatting societal scripts about what women of color can be. While Minaj occupies a space defined by feminist contradictions, she still actively defies the proper “place” for a black woman in the broader pop music space. Considering the limited spaces where black women are allowed to appear, it’s remarkable how Minaj has carved out a space for herself in both urban markets and the fashion industry. 2NE1 is facing off against stereotypes around Asian American women – particularly the submissive stereotypes that would push them out of the more aggressive sides of the pop and hip-hop scenes.

Read the rest there. Also, for anyone further interested in why BoA (보아) and Rain (Bi; 비) failed in the US, email me for a copy of “Playing the Race and Sexuality Cards in the Transnational Pop Game: Korean Music Videos for the US Market” by Eun-Young Jung in Journal of Popular Music Studies Volume 22, Issue 2, pages 219–236, June 2010, which covers both in some detail. Or, for something less academic, you may like this recent post on Girls’ Generation (소녀시대) by Natalie at Seoulbeats, which gave me a renewed appreciation of how different 2NE1 really are compared to most Korean girl-groups.

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3) There really is no difference between men’s and women’s maths abilities

For those of you that didn’t already know, the notion that there was any innate biological differences in maths ability between the sexes has long since been thoroughly debunked. But, as io9 explains:

Until now, there was [still] maybe a sliver of statistical data to support the existence of this gender gap — nothing remotely convincing, mind you, but just enough that the idea couldn’t be entirely dismissed out of hand. While most who studied the issue pointed for cultural or social reasons why girls might lag behind boys in math performance, there was still room for biological theories to be proposed.

Now though, a new study has debunked even that data too, as you can read about here.

Related, also consider this post of mine from 2008 about how gender differences in maths ability show a direct relationship with a countries level of sexual equality (i.e. the more egalitarian the less – if any – difference there is), and #4 here on a recent, albeit very limited survey that suggests that men’s greater spatial ability similarly decreases the more power women have in a society.

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4) Obligatory post about that sex survey (or, sexuality and parenthood in Korea)

For those of you that have been living in a cave for the last week:

South Koreans are the least sexually active among people in 13 countries surveyed in an international online poll, a global pharmaceutical company said Monday.

Eli Lilly and Co.’s Seoul office said Korean couples over 34 have sex an average of 1.04 times a week, citing the survey based on data collected from 12,063 people worldwide including 1,005 South Koreans.

Read the rest at the Korea Herald, and some discussion of it at the Marmot’s Hole. Personally though, I’m extremely wary of surveys like these, especially if I know nothing about their methodology. What’s more, when just a 5 minute search of my books – let alone Google – reveals dozens of figures ranging between 1 and 2-3 times a week for US married couples, then “news” articles like this, poring over differences of national differences of less than 0.1% a week, is clearly only good for headlines.

Another problem is that the term “married couples” doesn’t take their ages into account, whereas – however politically incorrect it sounds – it’s well known that women’s libidos generally decline in their 30s, whereas men’s stay the same.  Also, it doesn’t take into account whether the couple has had children or not, which is a huge deal in Korea.

Why? Well, with the proviso that I haven’t studied sexuality in specifically Korean marriages as much as I should have by now, and that of course the Koreans I’ve spoken to about it aren’t a representative sample, I and especially my wife have spoken candidly about it with many (she’s worked from home for 5 years, and has known many couples in the 3 apartment buildings we’ve lived in), and I don’t think it’s just confirmation bias on our part when they consistently speak of having sex more like once per month or even year, and consider that perfectly normal.

But to be sure, it’s difficult for any married couple to get back into the swing of things after having a child. As explained on p. 362 of Our Sexuality (2002), by Robert Crooks and Karla Baur for instance (source, right):

In the first three months after delivery, over 80% of new mothers experienced one or more sexual problems, and at six months 64% were still having difficulty. The most common concerns were decreased sexual interest, vaginal dryness, and painful intercourse. An author of a book about pregnancy warns women to be prepared for their sex lives to be “downright crummy” for up to a year. “Mother Nature” is using her entire arsenal of tricks, from hormones to humility, to keep you focused on your baby and not on getting pregnant again”.

Things like breastfeeding can be a bit of a turn-off too, as Jenny at Geek in Heels is finding:

I also now have tremendous difficulty seeing my breasts as sexual objects. Yes, I know that women’s breasts are designed to feed and nourish the young, and any sexual uses should be considered secondary functions. But the sudden transition from years and years — from the moment I donned my first bra — of their being sexual objects to asexual tools that spend hours each day dangling from the mouth of a babe (or from the ends of a breast pump) is pretty brutal. Whenever my husband looks at them with *that look*, all I can think is, “These floppy things? Can we lay off of them because you’re only reminding me of the kids and that does little to turn me on.”

Yes, the boobies will be expelled from all sexual acts — by my request — until I can start disassociating them from my children.

Just as, and maybe even more important are the lifestyle changes, especially the lack of sleep. Factor in Korean men working such long hours too, to the extent that the Ministry of Health and Welfare notoriously told them to go home at 7pm on Wednesdays to, well, fuck their wives, and the fact that there’s a huge prostitution industry in Korea (see here for the ensuing effect on marriages), then it’s easy to appreciate why Korean marriages in particular might be relatively sexless after the birth of a child.

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Having said that, Korean marriages shouldn’t invariably be doomed to sexlessness though. Consider the following from p. 361 of Our Sexuality (my emphasis):

Couples are commonly advised that intercourse can resume after the flow of the reddish uterine discharge, called lochia, has stopped and after episiotomy incisions or vaginal tears have healed, usually about three to four weeks. However, most couples wait to resume intercourse after six to eight weeks following birth.

Also:

Typically, women and men with more positive attitudes about sex in general show more sexual interest and earlier resumption of intercourse than do others with more negative attitudes about sexuality.

In other words, US couples at least generally expect to and want to resume regularly having sex again after the birth of a child, whereas Korean couples expect to have it much less often, if at all. In saying that, I hate to perpetuate a “US/West = Good, Korea = Bad” dichotomy beloved of expat blogs, but when very similar lifestyles and attitudes produce the same result even in “sex-crazed” Japan too, then it’s time to call a spade a spade:

While Japan has an enormous sex-related industry, married couples don’t seem to do it that often (According to a Durex Survey, Japan ranks last internationally in terms of sexual activity.) And this would be the case in many modern societies as well. So for the last two years, author Sumie Kawakami gathered interviews of various Japanese women to depict this one aspect of society: Her latest book, Goodbye Madame Butterfly: Sex, Marriage and the Modern Japanese Woman by the superb Chin Music Press portrays eleven sex lives in painstaking detail.

(Source)

Moreover, even the physiological difficulties may not be as great as they may appear. As commenter Jo recently mentioned on another post for instance, and which is confirmed by similar anecdotes in my books:

I remember watching a documentary about breast feeding, an interview was shown with a wet nurse, she said that she gains great pleasure from breast feeding, even breast feeding other people’s babies. She was asked if the pleasure was at all sexual, and she replied that it was a mildly sexual experience for her. – touch, sexual feelings, pleasure are extremely complicated, the feeling toward a family member and a sexual feeling are not necessarily dichotomous, this may be a construction, there may be some, very un-sinister, overlap, in this case allowing for ‘uncle fans’ to deny the sexual element of their affection, and for touch between father and daughter to be slightly confusing. Maybe we should try not to separate ‘sexual feelings’ from all other feelings.

Also, I can’t find the source sorry, but distinctly remember reading somewhere that many mothers and fathers actually get incredibly turned on at the fact, which is quite logical when you think about it. But don’t get me wrong: I absolutely don’t intend for the above quote to be an indirect critique or comment on Jenny’s experience and feelings about breastfeeding. Rather, just again to stress that nothing is set sexuality-wise, and how crucial societal and personal attitudes are.

And on that note, again I can’t stress enough that of course there will be many exceptions to all the above, and that it’s overwhelmingly based on just what my wife and I have personally heard from Korean couples. So, please let me know how that matches – or doesn’t match! – your own experiences and/or what you’ve heard, and, now that my winter vacation has started (메롱~), I promise not to be so reticent in the comments if you do!

(Source: unknown)

5) White female academics suggest minority women with white men are sluts and gold-diggers

From Shanghai Shiok:

A reader, frustrated with how I constantly deny that my white male/Asian female relationship follows certain “societal streams,” pointed me to an article which he believed would enlighten me on the nature of my relationship and others like mine.

The article summarizes a new study which is flat out absurd, insensitive, bigoted, and racist — but since it’s conducted under the dignified umbrella of academic research, it’s perfectly acceptable to put these ideas out there.

Two privileged white female academics get together and make powerful statements about women who they deem unprivileged. These nuggets of wisdom include the suggestion that unprivileged women exchange their bodies for the material benefits and social status associated with the privileged white men whom these academics feel are most suited to their own caste. At a minimum, their study “proves” that privileged white women (like themselves) wouldn’t jump into those white guys’ beds as quickly as those coloured hussies. After all, they have statistics to prove it.

Read the rest there, and you may also find my “Real & Presumed Causes of Racism Against Interracial Couples in Korea” post interesting.

Finally, I can understand wanting to make a university more “international”-looking, but this Korean homepage probably overdoes it:

In contrast, the English and Chinese websites both feature the same 10 Caucasian guys, and 1 Southeast-Asian(?) one!

(K)Pop Art는?

(Sources: left, right)

What comes to mind when you hear that Korean(?) cosmetic brand Clio (클리오) hosts a biennial Clio Cosmetic Art exhibition? That it sounds more like a brand tie-in than a genuine attempt to encourage original and thought-provoking art? The purist in me couldn’t agree more, especially when you consider that some works in the 4th (2009) and 5th (2011) exhibitions were not just inspired by, but use the very same photos as Clio’s own advertisements, prominently featuring brand endorsers Kim Ha Neul (김하늘) and Lee Hyori (이효리) respectively.

When its at the behest of the advertiser itself, arguably the ensuing pop-art loses its edginess.

But art doesn’t have to be radical to look good. What’s more, when you combine the images with the women themselves, then the juxtapositions are like an intellectual wet dream, the afterglow of which has had me buzzing for the last week.

For which are the more real? The flesh-and-blood women in the Insa Art Center (인사아트센터) in Seoul’s Insa-dong district? Or Ha Neul and Hyori the mass-produced visual commodities, with which we are much more familiar?

Groovy

(Sources: left, right)

But although the pictures did indeed persuade me to take down my handful of books on hyperreality and postmodernism, yet again I rejected them as unnecessarily abstruse, even for a geek like me. Also, Lee Hyori in particular (I’m less familiar with Ha Neul) is actually so down-to-earth and accessible that arguments that she’s merely a media creation can’t be sustained, one positive of Korean celebrity culture that I’ll be discussing in a lengthy post next week soon.

Until then, let me just pass on the art itself here, hoping to inspire more aficionados amongst you.

First, see here for a brief English introduction to the 5th exhibition, then the following graphic about it for a quick snapshot. If there’s anything on it you particularly like, click on the graphic itself to go to the Clio website, then on the specific artwork on the graphic there to get a quick (Korean) bio of the artist.

To any K-pop fans, see if you guess where you’ve seen Mari Kim’s work before:

(Source)

For many more large and/or high-definition pictures of the art and exhibition hall itself, see here, here, here, or here (beware the automatic music in the last one). My favorite work is easily The Magic (also known as Masic) by Park Dae Cho (박대조) below (the one using the same photo as a Clio advertisement), which you can see a zoomable version of here:

(Source)

Note though, that it’s actually a color-changing transparency in a light box rather than a static image, like most of Park Dae Cho’s works (which you can see more of on his blog):

That video doesn’t really do justice to it though, as it must really have been quite mesmerizing when viewed close-up. For the best equivalent, click on the following image:

(Source)

As for those of you that share my love of juxtapositions, alas, there seems to be a conspiracy of exhibition-goers to avoid taking decent pictures of Lee Hyori standing next to this particular artwork in particular, this one always cutting it in half for example, or this one being so much more interested in the contents of Lee Hyori’s dress that he ruined the contrast. But decent, albeit smaller and/or watermarked versions can be seen here, here, or on Park Dae Cho’s blog itself.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t guessed already, Mari Kim (blog; Facebook; Twitter), not to confused with (the also – quite literally – cool) Miru Kim, is the artist behind 2NE1’s (투애니원) I am the Best (내가 제일 잘 나가) album cover, and the Hate You music video:

(Source)

Finally, unfortunately there was much less interest in the 4th exhibition with Kim Ha Nuel, but Dramabeans does have a good English introduction to it,  and again Clio has a snapshot image, although without links to the artists this time:

(Source)

See here, and here for more pictures of the exhibition, and here and here for more shots of juxtapositions.

What do you think? Please let me know, and I’d very much appreciate it if readers could pass on any more examples of interesting juxtapositions and/or celebrity-related Korean pop-art. I’d be especially interested in anything featuring men, as I’m curious if I’m only interested in the Clio exhibitions because they’re centered around two attractive women. I’m sure that’s not the only reason I like them (what do female readers think of them?), but probably it’s much more important than I’d like to admit!

Update – Sorry for forgetting to mention it in case you wanted to go, but unfortunately the 5th exhibition ended back in May. But see you at the 6th one in 2013! :D

I am the Best (내가 제일 잘 나가) by 2NE1 (투애니원): Lyrics, Translation, and Explanation

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It’s a strange feeling, being disappointed by the release of a 2NE1 music video.

Perhaps the closest analogy would be a few weeks after you first leave home, when the excitement of non-stop partying wears off. Suddenly, you realize that it’s up to you to do the housework, take care of yourself, and somehow pay the bills. Maybe even—heaven forbid—go to bed at 10 like your parents did.

Likewise, Areia’s trance remixes of Follow Me (날 따라 해봐요) and especially Can’t Nobody are how I personally came to love 2NE1, and they’re such epics that I couldn’t help but be taken along for the ride. But, once the magic had worn off a little, I had to admit that their music videos made little sense really, placing the onus on YG Entertainment to produce something more original and coherent this time.

And in the same style as the above image, the teasers did make me hopeful, especially given the constant delays to its release. Like Ashley at Seoulbeats said:

Is it too much to hope for an entirely animated MV with with the girls clearing out a warehouse, Tomb Raider style? They’ve got guns!

But instead we got a veritable smorgasbord of images and props again:

About which Noelle of the (awesome) Always Rational K-Pop Podcast said:

Let’s see… CL the boxer (or wrestler, take your pick) and the mental patient in a straightjacket and later on with a kitten that looks suspiciously like one of my kittens; Bom in skintight leather and studs rocking the dominatrix look with a poodle; Dara in a sports car and later with a hat with two ice creams in metal; Minzi in armor (which reminds me of Joan of Arc) who shows off her nifty dance moves…and all the girls with guns shooting glass. Nice!

What can I say? Well, nothing much but yeah, the world is theirs to conquer.

To which I’d add the—yet again—outrageous expense of their outfits, which surely undermines their maverick and/or bad-girl image?

Much as I’d like to deconstruct Bom’s BDSM side then, or ponder the symbolism of CL stroking her pussy, the incoherence of the video defies such efforts, so I’ll wisely just concentrate on the lyrics here. But don’t get me wrong: disappointment at missed opportunities aside, the video is still very addictive(!), and I love the song itself so much that it’s no less than my second ever MP3 purchase! (600won/US$0.55 from Naver, if you’re curious)

UpdateMy First Love Story puts my love-hate relationship with the video very well:

“I Am The Best” is the title of the new 2NE1 single. Fitting, as 2NE1 may in fact be the best girl group in the world at this very moment. And this is taking into account that the above video is rather typical 2NE1. It’s flashy, sleek, and professional, but it’s not like we haven’t seen this type of look-book video from them time and again. Thankfully, a typical 2NE1 video is still worlds better than an amazing video by approximately 99% of other girl groups in the game right now.

Update 2 – And Subi at Seoulbeats discusses the question of if this music video means that 2NE1 is really as original and unique as they seem.

(Source, all screenshots)

내가 제일 잘 나가 (x4)

Bam Ratatata Tatatatata (x4)

Oh my god

누가 봐도 내가 좀 죽여주잖아

둘째가라면 이 몸이 서럽잖아

넌 뒤를 따라오지만 난 앞만 보고 질주해

네가 앉은 테이블 위를 뛰어다녀 I don’t care

건드리면 감당 못해 I’m hot hot hot hot fire

뒤집어지기 전에 제발 누가 날 좀 말려

I am the best (x4)

Bam Ratatata Tatatatata (x4)

Oh my god

Whoever sees me thinks I’m a little killing hot

To be second to someone would be such a pity

You follow behind me, but I look ahead and race forward

I jump around on the table you sit at, I don’t care

If you touch me you won’t be able to bear it

Someone stop me before I go crazy

I’m surprised to learn that this is actually only the second 2NE1 song I’ve translated on the blog, and so will try to speed up the other 2 or 3 almost-completed ones I have floating around on my hard drive somewhere. Until then, please take my word for it that the brevity of their lyrics tends to belie their vagueness and contradictions, and in particular that subjects and objects are so often omitted in this song that—lest they make the translation unreadable—I decided to forgo all the extra square brackets to indicate my guesses (but I think I’ve got most of them right!).

That caveat aside, in line 4 “killing hot” is my wife’s literal translation, but which I’m sure you can make more natural-sounding in English (“looks to die for”? “looks that kill”?). Likewise, I thought the “a little” (좀) detracted from, maybe even flatly contradicted the point that she was very attractive, but as it’s in the original Korean then there you have it.

Fortunately the rest is just a matter of getting the dictionary out, as is the next verse, so I’ll pass it on without comment. But as always, please feel free to ask any questions about anything I don’t cover (and I’ll add my explanations in the corresponding sections of the post).

옷장을 열어 가장 상큼한 옷을 걸치고

거울에 비친 내 얼굴을 꼼꼼히 살피고

지금은 여덟 시 약속시간은 여덟 시 반

도도한 걸음으로 나선 이 밤

내가 제일 잘 나가 (x4)

I open my wardrobe and throw on my sweetest clothes, then

meticulously inspect my face shining in the mirror

Now it’s 8, my appointment is at half past

I leave this night with a proud, arrogant step

I am the best (x4)

내가 봐도 내가 좀 끝내주잖아

네가 나라도 이 몸이 부럽잖아

남자들은 날 돌아보고 여자들은 따라해

내가 앉은 이 자리를 매일 넘봐 피곤해

선수인척 폼만 잡는 어리버리한 Playa

넌 바람 빠진 타이어처럼 보기 좋게 차여

어떤 비교도 난 거부해 이건 겸손한 얘기

가치를 논하자면 나는 Billion dollar baby

뭘 쫌 아는 사람들은 다 알아서 알아봐

아무나 잡고 물어봐 누가 제일 잘 나가?

내가 제일 잘 나가 (x4)

Whoever sees me thinks my look is the end

Even if you were me, you would be envious of my body

Men turn their heads and look at me, women follow me

I am tired of people trying to take my place [as number one] everyday

A stupid, naive playa who only poses like one

Like a tire that’s had it’s air let out, you look well rejected

I don’t accept some comparison, this is my modest story

If you planned to guess my worth, then I’m a billion dollar baby

People who know about stuff, recognize all this by themselves

Grab anyone and ask: who is the best?

Lulled into a false sense of security by the previous verses, this one frankly had me wanting to rip my hair out. Fortunately, I don’t actually have any, but you get the idea!

  • In line 1, as you can probably guess “my look is the end” is a literal translation, but note that it means exactly the same thing as “I’m a little killing hot” in the corresponding line in Verse 1.
  • If you’re confused by line 2, because you think that if you were one of the 2NE1 members then surely you wouldn’t be jealous of their body because it was now yours, then you’re not alone. So please don’t shoot the messenger!
  • In line 3, don’t misread the “돌아보다” like I originally did: it’s not “돌보다”, which means “to look after”.
  • Line 4 is literally “athlete-pretend-form/pose[only]-grab[that]-stupid/naive-playa”…after reading which I seriously began to despair. But my wife telling me that “선수” (athlete) also means “playa” in many contexts helped, and our final “a stupid, naive playa who only poses like one” does make some sense: the guy referred to is a poser rather than a genuine playa perhaps?
  • Line 7 would be better translated to “Nobody compares to me” in English, but what’s up there is closer to the original Korean. No, I don’t think that that’s a “modest story” either.
  • Line 9 I couldn’t make any head or tail of, and so the translation is entirely my wife’s. I throw myself on the mercy of the court!

In compensation for the difficulty I had with all that though, fortunately the song is already almost over:

누가? 네가 나보다 더 잘 나가?

No no no no!

Na na na na! (x4)

Bam Ratatata Tatatatata (x4)

Oh my god

Who? You are better than me?

No no no no!

Na na na na! (x4)

Bam Ratatata Tatatatata (x4)

Oh my god

And on that note, apologies for the slight delay with this post. But for my severest critics demanding to get involved however, then it would have been up several hours ago:

Wanna Be Sweet?

(Sources: left, right)

Yeah, I know: a 3000 word post on gender issues this ain’t. But then I’ve always been a real sucker for high-definition images of women’s faces, and like fashionista Effiel in Seoul, simply loved singer Sandara Park’s (박산다라) expressions in these ones the instant I saw them. So I thought I’d make an exception!

Enjoy your weekend everyone!

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