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Fascinating Historical Documents.

Classical Music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews a four video tape series called Hollywood Rhythm: The Paramount Musical Shorts. by Kino Video. They are short music videos that were shown before movies from 1929-1941. They feature singers such as Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday and Ginger Rodgers. Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor for the Boston Phoenix.



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Other segments from the episode on September 12, 1997

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, September 12, 1997: Interview with Alice Munro; Review of the film "Hollywood Rhythm: The Paramount Musical Shorts"; Obituary for Maurice Levine; Obituary for Derek Taylor.


Date: SEPTEMBER 12, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 091201np.217
Head: Writer Alice Munro
Sect: Entertainment; International
Time: 12:05

BARBARA BOGAEV: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev.

Canadian short story writer Alice Munro is sometimes described as North America's Chekhov. She's celebrated for her ability to evoke the spirit of a place, most often the small towns of southwestern Ontario where she grew up and still lives today.

Many of her readers simply refer to the region as "Alice Munro country." One critic says of her stories that they are telling portraits of ordinary people living simple lives in a complex way.

Munro is the author of one novel and eight collections of short fiction, including "The Beggar Maid (ph)," "Friend of My Youth," and "Open Secrets." Her latest collection, "Selected Stories," is due out in paperback this fall. It draws on the work of her entire career.

When I spoke with Alice Munro last November, she said she already knew she wanted to be a writer when she was 10 years old.

ALICE MUNRO, CANADIAN NOVELIST AND SHORT STORY WRITER: I was reading all these books and I think one day I thought I could make -- I didn't want to leave -- I remember -- I didn't want to leave the stories behind. And the way that they wouldn't be shut up in a book and left behind was that I would make up one of my own, and then I would always have it in my head.

And so I began to make up stories that were actually very like whatever I happened to be enthralled with in reading at the moment. And so I would always -- and this wasn't writing anything down -- but this was, I remember doing it when I was in about grade seven, having a historical novel that was patterned on some stuff I'd been reading.

And then I can remember, oh, all sorts of things that I was writing in my head in high school. And then I think when I got to be about 15, I started trying to write some of them down, and it was a dreadful disappointment how hard it was and how nothing really came out on the page the way I wanted it to.

BOGAEV: Well, you went to college. You got married right out of college.

MUNRO: That's right. I didn't graduate. I had a two-year scholarship, and as I said, there was no money to go further. So after two years, I got married. I was 20.

BOGAEV: How much did you write when your children were young?

MUNRO: You'd be surprised how much I managed. I'm surprised now when I think about it. I tried something almost every day. I -- my children took naps. Naps were very important in our family. And then after a while, they went to school.

And I would try, but I had to tear up most of the things I wrote. And this wasn't really a matter of being a housewife and a mother of small children and not having enough time. It was simply a matter of learning my craft, which took me a long time.

BOGAEV: I'm thinking of a quote from one of the characters in your stories that spoke to me as a parent. "In my own house," you write, "I seem to be often looking for a place to hide; sometimes from the children, but more often from the jobs to be done and the phone ringing and the sociability of the neighborhood. I wanted to hide so that I could get busy at my real work, which was a sort of wooing of distant parts of myself."

What form did that wooing of distant parts of yourself take?

MUNRO: You know what it is? It's just sitting and looking at the wall or looking out the window, usually with a cup of coffee going cold beside me. And it's like -- it's not really trance-like or anything like meditation. My word for it, to the children, my husband, is just "I'm thinking."

But I'm not really thinking in a logical way. I am just trying to get some feeling, picture, necessity to come straight in my head. And that is one of the hardest things to do because you look like you're not doing anything.

BOGAEV: That's exactly right. And guilt and parenting, they go together, but -- and I hope you don't take this wrong -- I would think that if you were, say, a scientist who went off from the family to discover the cure for cancer, that's one thing. But writing seems to induce ...

MUNRO: I know.

BOGAEV: ... so much guilt. It's so literally self-centered.

MUNRO: Because -- it's literally self-centered. It also may come to nothing. It's not like a job you have. And it's very hard to justify. But I think it's particularly hard to justify for women. I know lots of male writers who, at the same stage that I was at, would have actually a room in the house where they went and did this business. And everybody would -- would sort of make sure that dad wasn't disturbed.

Generally, there was a wife who was holding the fort, and for women there isn't any setup like this and there also isn't, in women of my generation, there tends not to be the feeling that this is what you deserve. I still find it hard to think that I deserve that time.

BOGAEV: To this day?

MUNRO: To this day.

BOGAEV: One critic referred to your writing as "gossip informed by genius."

MUNRO: I know.

BOGAEV: Well, I can understand you enjoying the "genius" part of that.

MUNRO: I enjoy the gossip part, too.

BOGAEV: Well, what about the gossip? Do you like that description of your writing? What does that word ...

MUNRO: Yes, I think I do because of course it's redeemed by the "genius." If it had been called gossip, I might have been rather huffy.

But I think -- I mean, gossip -- there's a pretty wide interpretation for gossip, isn't there? There can be very malicious gossip that can be gossip which is actually spreading rotten and perhaps untrue stories about people.

And there can be gossip -- and I think -- I think women have done this always -- in which you get together and you simply try to figure out life. You talk about your sister-in-law's divorce or somebody's problems with their mother-in-law or something, and -- but it's still, it's trying to analyze what people are like; what people say; and what they think, which may be different things; and the oh -- and gathering in all the evidence you have for this. You listen to women on the train or on the bus.

And when I say that women gossip, I'm not using it as a pejorative thing at all. I think this is something we've always done. We try to make sense of the world around us or to record it and generally in terms of human relationships.

BOGAEV: Are you the kind of person who always knows what's going on in your town?



MUNRO: And when I was -- when I was a young wife and mother, and I had friends who were in the same situation, we would get together maybe about once a week, and we'd drink endless cups of coffee and smoke endless cigarettes because you did in those days. And just tell the truth about everything.

I suppose it could be called gossip, but mostly it was hilarious. And I think -- I mean, we laughed all the time, even though what we were talking about was probably disappointment and frustration and, oh, things that didn't make us particularly happy. But we just -- we were together and we were sharing all this stuff. And we were enormously helpful to each other, I think.

BOGAEV: You've written series of short stories that share the same characters, and a reader can trace a character's development through the stories. Why don't you -- why didn't you make those stories into a novel? Or what's the difference for you between writing the short fiction and a novel?

MUNRO: You know, I really don't know. I really don't know. I used to try to write novels because, you know, when I started out writing, what you did was write a few short stories until you sort of got on your feet and then you wrote a novel. And that's what I thought I should do and it was also what publishers thought I should do.

And I tried and tried and tried, and something always went wrong. I got bored with the novel. Things got flabby. And I didn't feel the right tension. I feel very tense about short stories, just as if you're on a tightrope or there's a rope pulling you somewhere. And I didn't get that feeling when I tried to write novels.

I did write "Lives of Girls and Women," which is a very episodic sort of novel, and it's the usual thing about, you know, growing up, childhood and adolescence. And I could only do that after I got it chopped into very distinct segments, and could do it that way. So I was -- it was almost like working at a series of stories.

And this may have something to do with the fact that when I was a young mother, I couldn't possibly take a year out of my life to write a novel. I could take a month to write a story, and then, you know, catch up on all the things I'd let go.

But it must have -- it got to be my habit, and it got to be the only way I can now write fiction. And yet the stories are very untidy stories. They tend to have a lot of, oh, different pathways and I try to -- well, I don't try to, but I find myself shaping them in ways that are rather strange.

So what I'm doing now, I guess, is writing ever-longer stories.

BOGAEV: Do you ever fear that at the end of your career you'll have all these stories, but it will feel to you as if they're bits and pieces of things.

MUNRO: You know, that's what Katherine (ph) Mansfield said. She said how awful it would be to die -- of course, she died when she was 32, I think -- and she said how terrible to leave all these bits and pieces.

And I used to think of that quite a bit, but I don't now because stories, I've found, can have a longer life than novels. If they're picked up for anthologies, they, you know, keep -- they keep alive. And then, a book of stories may be reissued just as easily as a novel.

And so, no -- no, that doesn't worry me at all anymore. I think of each story as the main, while I'm doing it, it's the main work of my life, and I can't remember what I -- I can hardly remember what I used to write before I started doing it. And then when I'm finished with it, it goes out there and joins all these other offspring and I hardly think of it again.

So I guess I don't think in terms of what I'm going to leave behind or what my reputation is. I'm always just thinking of the work I'm doing right now.

BOGAEV: I'm thinking of one of the characters in your story "Material." She reads a short story by her ex-husband who she never thought would turn out to be a decent writer.

MUNRO: That's right.

BOGAEV: And the story affects her very deeply, and she's envious that he can, I think in the character's words, "turn a lifetime of memories into art, while for her they're just useless baggage."

Now I imagine this is bitterness talking, that this character ...

MUNRO: Yes, I think it's bitterness, because I think it's because of her particular experience with that man that she feels this way.

I don't for one minute think that people envy me for turning a lifetime of experience into art or into stories because I think that's what, what I was talking about before. That's what the women on the bus are doing. That's what women in kitchens are doing.

And, well, I think men do it too. My husband is a World War II veteran and I know when I listen to his friends that I feel that they are creating life stories.

BOGAEV: You called your stories "entertainments" at one point.


BOGAEV: Is that what you -- is that exactly what you mean? That they come lightly?

MUNRO: I want them to be entertaining. Nothing bothers me worse than being written about as a bleak or a grim writer. And it happens. And I don't intend this.

Because I can be entertained by a very serious story. Anything that surprises me, that makes me see anything differently. Anything that gives me a gift is entertaining. It lightens my spirits. It makes me happier. That's what I think art does for people.

And I think the -- what is thought of as serious art can do this, perhaps more readily than art which sets out to be frivolous.

BOGAEV: Alice Munro's latest collection, "Selected Stories," is due out in paperback this fall.

This is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia
Guest: Alice Munro
High: Canadian writer Alice Munro. Her latest book "Alice Munro: Selected Stories" will be published in paperback this November by Vintage. Alice Munro was born in 1931 in Wingham, a small town in southwestern Ontario, to a family of small farmers. Alice Munro is the author of one novel and six collections of short stories. She is a three-time winner of the Governor General's Award for Fiction which is Canada's highest literary prize.
Spec: Literature; Canada; Alice Munro; Society; Families
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Writer Alice Munro
Date: SEPTEMBER 12, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 091202NP.217
Head: Classic Musical Shorts
Sect: Entertainment; Domestic
Time: 12:20

BARBARA BOGAEV, HOST: Kino Video has just released a series of four home videos featuring musical shorts made by Paramount Pictures from 1929 to 1941. Some are just filmed concerts, but even those, says classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz, are fascinating historical documents.



LLOYD SCHWARTZ, MUSIC CRITIC, BOSTON PHOENIX: Long before anyone ever dreamed up MTV, there were the 1930s equivalent of music videos: Short films that played in movie theaters before the main feature.

Musical stars of the day made them, like Ruth Etting and Lillian Roth, whose scandalous lives Hollywood would film decades later. Or Bing Crosby, who's in two comic shorts produced by Keystone Kops director Mack Sennett. Composers like Hoagie Carmichael, the delightfully roly-poly Mack Gordon and his partner Harry Revell (ph), or Duke Ellington, in his first screen appearance, perform some of their own songs.

There are precious films of black entertainers like Louie Armstrong, Cab Calloway or a teenaged Billie Holiday with traces of baby fat still visible. The great Bessie Smith made her only film appearance in a brief 1929 melodrama called "St. Louie Blues" that her singing raises to a kind of tragic grandeur.

And a 1941 short has Fats Waller doing his freest, most delicious version of "Ain't Misbehavin'"


No one to talk with,
All by myself.
No one to walk with,
But I'm happy on the shelf.

Ain't misbehavin',
Savin' all my love for you.
You fine rascal you.

I know for certain,
The one I love.
I'm through with flirtin'
It's you that I'm thinkin' of.

Ain't misbehavin'
Savin' all my love for you,
For you, just you.

Like Jack Horner,
In a corner,
Don't go nowhere,
What do I care?

Your kisses, my dear,
Are worthwhile waiting for.
Ha, ha, believe me dear.

Don't stay out late
Ain't got no place to go.
I'm home (unintelligible),
Just me and my radio.

Ain't misbehavin'
Savin' all my love for you.

SCHWARTZ: Studios also used these films to get audience reactions to new personalities. In "Office Blues," an irresistible pre-blonde Ginger Rodgers moons over her passive boss.

"I am cynical; he's rabbinical," she sings.

Cary Grant made his film debut in a musical short called "Singapore Sue."

Some of these films tell little stories, often about some form of sexual abuse to women. Some of these films are startlingly experimental.

Just before her Broadway debut in 1930, Ethel Merman made a short called "Her Future," in which she stands before a judge in a malevolently distorted Kafka-esque courtroom and promises to reform.

"If I've gone wrong, then heaven will judge me, for I learned the game from men," she sings. Then belts out one of the hit tunes of the day, "Sing, You Sinners."


You better,
Drop and sing,
Let that harmony ring.
I (unintelligible) heavens are,
Sing, sing, you sinners.

Wave your arms all about,
Let that (unintelligible) shout.
Pour that music right out,
And just sing.

Whenever there's music,
The devil he kicks.
He don't allow music,
by the River Styx.

You're wicked! And you're depraved,
And so if you want to be saved,
Then you've gotta behave,
Sing, you sinners.

You'd better drop everything,
Let that harmony ring,
To the heavens I sing,
With you sinners.

Wave your arms all about,
Let that harmony you shout.
All that music right out,
Sing you sinners.

SCHWARTZ: Perhaps the most impressive and imaginative of these mini-musicals is Duke Ellington's "Symphony in Black" in which director Fred Waller cross-cuts back and forth from Ellington composing this jazz symphony and performing it in concert, to powerful images of coal (ph) workers; a jilted woman, Billie Holiday, getting knocked to the ground by her ex-lover; and some exuberantly filmed sequences in a Harlem nightclub.

I'm especially crazy about a 1929 film called "Makers of Melody," in which Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, playing themselves, send up the usual trashy interviews about how they came to write their hit songs.


FEMALE INTERVIEWER: Gentlemen? You're about to be interviewed.

RODGERS: Wait 'til I fix my tie.

FEMALE: Don't you like being interviewed?

HART: Well, I don't mind. As long as you don't ask us which we write first, the words or the music.

FEMALE: I'm not going to ask you that. I think our readers will be more interested in knowing how you get the ideas.

RODGERS: You tell her, Larry.

HART: Oh, no. You tell her, Dick.

FEMALE: Suppose you tell me how you began.

HART: Have you got two or three days to listen?

FEMALE: Yes. If you tell it to Mr. Rodgers' music.

RODGERS: Couldn't laugh that off, Hart.

HART: It's a long, heartrending story.


HART (SINGING): What a beautiful, tough, hard-hearted town it is.

RODGERS: What? Oh, Manhattan.

HART: Manhattan.

RODGERS: Manhattan. We'll have Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten ...


SCHWARTZ: The satirical scenes are punctuated by three enchanting musical numbers, "Manhattan," "The Girlfriend," and "Blue Room."

The extremely charming and stylish performers make today's young singers seem plodding and inert. How can you resist a film in which a lively flapper, more libidinously uninhibited than her boyfriend, sings, "He's very short on looks, but long on decency. He's long on decency. He's very tame. But he has made an awful hit with me since he -- the hit with me since he first came. Isn't he cute? Isn't he sweet? He's gentle and mentally nearly complete. He's warm as an oven. He knows how to love. And I'm the girl friend."

That's funnier and sexier than anything I've ever seen on MTV.

BOGAEV: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of the Boston Phoenix. He reviewed a series of musical shorts on Kino Video.

Here's Cab Calloway in his 1934 short "Jitterbug Party."

This is FRESH AIR.


Now, if you'd like to be a jitterbug,
First thing you do, get yourself a jug,
Put whiskey, wine, and gin within,
Shake it all up and then begin.

Get yourself a cup and start to toss,
Come on, Jack, you're drinking jitter sauce.
Don't you worry, you just (unintelligible).
You'll always be a jitterbug.

See this gang, so forlorn,
Been jitterbugs since the day they were born,
The sauces rise,
Swear they gonna drink it 'til he die.
Drink whiskey and go to bed.
Old, boogie woogie (unintelligible).

Come on, you just (unintelligible) your mug,
And come on be a jitterbug.

It's the call of the jitterbug.

It's the call of the jitterbug.

It's the call of the jitterbug.

It's the call of the jitterbug.

It's the call of the jitterbug.

It's the call of the jitterbug.


Dateline: Lloyd Schwartz; Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia
High: Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews a four-video tape series called "Hollywood Rhythm: The Paramount Musical Shorts" by Kino Video. They are short music videos that were shown before movies from 1929 to 1941. They feature singers such as Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday and Ginger Rodgers. Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor for the Boston Phoenix.
Spec: Music; Movies; Paramount Pictures
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Classic Musical Shorts
Date: SEPTEMBER 12, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 091203np.217
Sect: Entertainment; Domestic
Time: 12:30


ALAN JAY LERNER, LYRICIST: ... problems with the lyrics.

I wrote the lyrics, first of all, incorrectly on purpose. The lyrics should be, "I have often walked down this street before, but da da da my feet before; da da da da da eat before." It should be that way. But it's a bore.

Every time I spoke to him about it, he said, "Let's take it out."

And I said, "Well, no, let's not take it out. I like the melody."

So I couldn't talk to him about it.

So I finally decided that I would inter-rhyme it in the middle -- "Let enchantment pour out of every door" -- but I would try and find words so soft that maybe would notice it.


And so that's what happened.

"I have often walked down this street before, but the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before. All at once am I, several stories high, knowing I'm..." -- and so on.

And it was literally done for (unintelligible) and those kind of words, hoping that it would all slide by and that would be.

When Columbia Records, who was making the album, and Mitch Miller at that time was the A&R man at Columbia, and he heard the song. He loved the song. He said, "But I hate that middle part."

So Fritz, "I don't care what you do with it. Do anything you want with it." He hated it.

So Mitch suggested that we take out the middle. Fritz was delighted. The less of it the better.


LERNER: So, it was taken out. I said let's leave in the one part, because I did like the fact -- the only thing I did like was that it was, "Oh, the towering feeling, just to know," because those first long notes all rhyme which nobody knew, but it was attractive vocally.

So, finally, the play opened in New Haven, and the song was an absolute disaster. And the night after we opened, everybody met and said, "Let's take it out; change the singer; get a new song" -- the usual thing that goes on.

But I still liked the song, and I couldn't understand why it was dying the way it was.

Finally, one day, I began to wonder, after it had been playing it about three or four nights and looking at it, I began to wonder if -- everybody was in Astor grays, and I was wondering whether anybody remembered them from the scene previous, you know?

And I thought, well, perhaps if we changed the verse and put the verse more in the style of what just happened, that maybe there'll be some shock of recognition, and to fortify that, I'll have somebody open the door and say who he is.


LERNER: So, I turned -- I said to Moss, "Can we try that?"

So Moss said, "Well, yes, you could try that if you wanted to."

And, so help me, the next night, it stopped the show.

And Moss came around to see me afterwards and he said, "How dare you give me an inferiority complex."


LERNER: So, this is the way the song then finally appeared in the show when it came to New York.

When she mentioned how her aunt,
Bit off the spoon,
She completely done me in.
And my heart went on a journey to the moon,
When she told about her father and the gin.

And I never saw a more enchanting (unintelligible),
Than the moment when she shouted, "Move your bloomin'..."

ACTRESS: Yes, sir?

CROMWELL: Is Miss Doolittle at home?

ACTRESS: Whom shall I say is calling?

FREDDIE: Freddie Eynsford-Hill (ph).

ACTRESS: Oh, yes, sir.

CROMWELL: And if she doesn't remember me, tell..


... tell her I'm the fellow who was sniggering at her.

ACTRESS: Yes, sir.

CROMWELL: And you needn't rush. I want to drink in this street where she lives.

ACTRESS: Yes, sir.

I have often walked down this street before...


But the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before.
All at once am I several stories high,
Knowing I'm on the street where you live.

And oh, that towering feeling,
Just to know somehow you are near.
The overpowering feeling,
That any second you may suddenly appear.

People stop and stare, they don't bother me
For there's no where else on Earth that I would rather be.
Let the time go by, I won't care if I,
Can be here on the street where you live.


TERRY GROSS, HOST: That's Alan Jay Lerner from his 1971 appearance at the "Lyrics and Lyricist" series at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. By the way, the singer we heard was J.T. Cromwell.

Do you have a favorite lyric or can you tell us what one of your favorite lyrics is?

MAURICE LEVINE, DIRECTOR, 92ND STREET Y'S "LYRICS AND LYRICIST" SERIES: Oh, boy, that's a tough one -- asking a parent with 10 children which is your favorite of the 10. Gosh. I thought "Night and Day" is one of the great lyrics.

GROSS: And what do you like about it?

LEVINE: Well, I'll tell you what I like about it. In my estimation, it is the most passionate love song ever written. Can I do just a line or two from "Night and Day"?

GROSS: I was hoping you'd ask.

LEVINE: All right.

Night and day, under the hide of me,
There's such a hungry yearning burning inside of me.
And my torment won't be through,
Until you let me spend the rest of my life,
Making love to you,
Day and night, night and day.

That's a pretty good lyric.

BARBARA BOGAEV, HOST: Morris Levine spoke with Terry Gross last December. He died Monday at the age of 79.

Several of the "Lyrics and Lyricists" music series are available on CD on DRG Records.


Night and day, you are the one.
Only you beneath the moon and under the sun.
Whether near to me or far,
It's no matter, darling, where you are,
I think of you,
Night and day.

Day and night, why is it so?
That this longing for you follows wherever I go?
In the roaring traffic's boom,
In the silence of my lonely room,
I think of you,
Night and day.

Night and day, under the hide of me,
There's an, oh, such a hungry yearning burning inside of me.
And its torment won't be through
'Til you let me spend my life making love to you,
Day and night, night and day.


Dateline: Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Maurice Levine
High: In New York City, the 92nd Street YMCA is better known as the 92nd Street Y, a cultural arts center. Maurice Levine, the director of the 92nd Street Y's "Lyrics and Lyricist" series for 26 years, died on Monday at the age of 79. The program spotlighted American lyricists and composers like Alan Jay Lerner, Stephen Sondheim, and Dorothy Fields. The series had consistently been a sell-out.
Spec: 92nd Street Y; Arts; Theater; Music; Culture; New York City
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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