on the refrain & 座禅

It’s ironic, writes Brad Warner in The Other Side of Nothing: The Zen Ethics of Time, Space and Being, 2022, which gives you an idea of the context, It’s ironic how much effort is involved in establishing a state of effortlessness. But we can relate it back to music again. For a skilled musician, playing complex pieces is comparatively effortless. But it’s effortless because the musician has put in hours of practice.

You’ll have probably heard this said of meditation and that is the context, but then Warner says, The problem in meditation is almost the reverse, … We don’t notice it, but the way most of us view reality is the result of many years of effort and practice.

No, I didn’t expect him to go in that direction but in the direction of reinforcing the effort zazen requires so as to experience effortlessness in meditation. It’s like learning to play a difficult melody. Once the skill is acquired it’s only a matter of being in the zone, letting the muscles do their work, letting the memory relax and being in the moment, the musical moment. This is the refrain.

While the second refrain recalls Deleuze and Guattari’s, the first calls Bergson to mind. He talks of letting the ego live which in meditation would be letting it go. Which is the better image?

The concept of the past gets talked about more than duration, more than either the present or what for Bergson might constitute the future. All of the past exists. It exists as memory. It might be called material memory, the memory of matter residing in its duration, and all matter might be understood to be suffused with memory.

The material ego is memory in its most contracted form. Contracted can be contrasted with relaxed. Like a muscle the ego contracts in effort. It expends effort in acting in and in staying in the present. Relaxed it releases itself from the demands of the present, from the demands of action and rests somewhere between complete release, the dispersion of its energies and their maximal concentration in attentiveness. The present being the point or focus of attention, and memory like a diffuse field, between the two matter and memory are confused, the outlines of matter more or less indistinct and the contents of memory more or less shifting.

The past as it exists in itself added to the present gives us the concept of duration. The future arises out of present actions. It comes from the interests of the present. The path the future takes is not in direct succession. It does not go past, present, future. It’s more likely to go by way of the past than the present.

Again the contraction or relaxation of this muscle, memory, might be invoked. In a relaxed state, when the ego is not being called on to act, the hesitation opens out onto duration, while in a contracted state of being called on to act, the future swiftly follows the present. It takes the path of utility.

This path is set by habit. It’s said of its acquisition that a habit is also contracted, and this goes to the contraction whereby there is no hesitation in action. It is effortless but, as Warner says, this is only because of the effort that has gone in before to acquire the habit of reality. Relaxed the muscle memory responds as it would if contracted but the example of music fills up the whole duration. It in itself constitutes a hesitation.

A melody is the example Bergson uses to press home the point he makes about duration, about letting the ego live, that living duration is neither divisible nor measurable, that it involves qualities. Any changes made for example to the duration of a note in a melody supports a change in the quality of the whole duration. A musical passage rather than taking the path of utility takes the sort of path I said the future does. Its arrival is delayed as it contacts the whole past looking for recognition, for patterns that will set off habits of response.

The new comes as the sort of shock we might expect to cause spasm, the sudden contraction of memory, except that memory does not work like that. Contraction is actually due to an effort to repel the new. It is resistance. Then isn’t this the same for the muscles of the body? and the habits of reality that Warner is dealing with? aren’t they acquired with effort and don’t they need an equal effort to shift?

Then there’s the refrain of Deleuze and Guattari. It’s introduced in A Thousand Plateaus, although the refrain appears Deleuze’s work without being thematised, where it is linked to Proust, Vinteuil’s little phrase triggering a tumult of emotion for Swann. And there has been some discussion about whether it were better called a ritornello.

What the refrain does is produce a territory. It is a reality that it makes like a bird out of the air.

luz es tiempo

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In an unpublished [foreword] to his 1964 autobiography, Charlie Chaplin wrote,

“In this record I shall tell only what I want to tell, for there is a line of demarcation between oneself and the public. There are some things which if divulged to the public, I would have nothing left to hold body and soul together, and my personality would disappear like the waters of the rivers that flow into the sea.”

— in Bret Easton Ellis’s White, 2019

Tropen Jainism, Chris Buzelli, for Tropen Museum, Amsterdam, a Jainism alterpiece, but it reminds me of a character in China Miéville, I think it’s The Last Days of New Paris, after the S-Blast, a blast of Surrealist energy that causes Paris to be cordoned, in an effort to stop Europe and then the world succumbing to the scourge of surrealist manifestations.

L.A. Times: At one point Miéville writes of the manifs that they produce a “stir of recognition” even when they’re “something inconceivable… never previously seen.” That’s a good description of surrealist art, and of what this book fails…

I’ve got to a bit in a detour writing “The Theory of the Moving Image” where Surrealism leads to Walter Benjamin’s conception of the dialectical image. The next bit will go something like, The fragmentation proper to modernity and the dialectical image differ but the dialectical image, by backdating movement to the still image, tells us something about that fragmentation, since it involves the mixing up of an historical object in the actual world to uncanny effect. What’s going on? History is.

No longer past, it’s current and immediate … It becomes so in the moving image’s capture of passing time so that it can be replayed. Replayed, we see time as it actually was, in all its unrepeatability, being repeated. The fragmentation proper to modernity records the shock of this … S-Blast.

luz es tiempo

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R.I.P. Sinéad O’Connor, firehorse 丙午, 1966-2023


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Please don’t tell us otherwise…

Auckland Council is asking for feedback on how Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland should grow over the next 30 years, with public consultation now open until 4 July 2023.

“And we want to hear from Aucklanders on whether they think we have got this right.”


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Emily Tesh’s Some Desperate Glory & the politics of AI and the artificial politics of intelligence, sensitivities, sensibility & style

Once upon a time, there were some people who were very unhappy and wicked …. This confused them, because they believed themselves to be good people. They tried having a king who was a good person, to tell them what to do: but no matter who was king, that person turned out unhappier and wickeder than all the rest. Then they tried each taking responsibility for themselves, and that didn’t work either; it just meant they had no one to blame. Eventually they realized they were under a curse.

The unhappy people journeyed widely, hoping to learn the solution; but everywhere they went, everything was just as bad. It became clear that the whole universe was cursed.

So one day … a clever person realized the problem was that no matter what anyone did, they couldn’t know what would happen next. No one wanted to do evil things, they just didn’t know what the right things were. So the clever person built a machine that knew everything. You could consult the machine and find out what the best thing to do was, and even if it did end up being bad, you would at least know that all the other things you could have done were worse.

— Emily Tesh, Some Desperate Glory, Orbit Books, 2023, pp. 210-211

in terms of the machine described here, Emily Tesh’s Some Desperate Glory resolves well. The machine, called the Wisdom, learns its limits; it learns humility. And how it learns it works: it learns through self-enjoyment.

I read her two novellas, Silver in the Wood and Drowned Country, that comprise the Greenhollow Duology, so I expected a similarly mawkish sentimental take on sexuality. The novellas present the Green Man of English folklore gone queer. … That wasn’t the attraction. Neither was it what led me to carry on with Some Desperate Glory when the operatic qualities of its queer space opera–more queer soap opera–began to pall. The fate of the earth being put repeatedly at stake seems the book’s most Astounding Stories sci-fi spacey characteristic. And I found the trigger warnings in the frontispiece less alarming than a comfort, comforting to know that Some Desperate Glory set out to offend someone even if it was only the sensitivity reader:

Some Desperate Glory contains sexist, homophobic, transphobic, racist, and ableist attitudes; sexual assault, including discussion of forced pregnancy; violence; child abuse; radicalization as child abuse; genocide; suicidal ideation; and suicide.

of course it’s alarming to consider that such trigger warnings are deemed necessary. Although, this is perhaps better than a retrospective re-write to suit contemporary sensitivities such as certain works by Ursula K. Le Guin have undergone.

I think Tesh has sacrificed a lot, however, and not in terms of pandering, either to queer lit or to fit what potentially some people are going to take exception to into a narrative that makes sense of that material, but in terms of propulsive genre-fiction narration. Some flower-sniffing goes on–trigger warning–but there’s little let-up in the narrative pace, and over all the rhythm is, although a bumpy ride, not as trauma-filled as the trigger warning indicates. It does not lurch from one phobia to the next or go straight from assault to assault to violence and abuse and then genocide, pausing only at suicidal ideation before suicide. It keeps up the action and this is at the expense of some unassignable quality. I think I’d call this quality, style. If it were fully present not just hinted at, it would be assignable. It would be Tesh’s style, as a writer…

…because that thing that keeps me reading is the hints I get, not of the sensitivities of the sensitivity reader, but of the sensibilities of the writer. Tesh has it, a style. It’s running under the running around her characters do to advance the narrative in this book but is there in the sympathies she has for them and, I would say, her classical themes, which is what I mean by her sacrifices to amp the scifi pace.

In respect of a certain underlying classicism she reminds me of Zachary Mason but in him it’s explicit. The other similarity is trying for gender-neutral language. Tesh uses they for the third person plural and for the third person gender-neutral singular and… there were times it was unclear who they referred to. Three people on the scene. A he, she and they. Now try and give them a shadowspace grappling hook. Or identify who they are among them.

Mason uses, seems to invent, se for the pronoun, third person gender-neutral and herm for its possessive form. This is in his book, a book I can unreservedly recommend, Void Star. It was surprising how easy it was to take on his invention. Again it has to do with writer’s style.

It is a stylistic decision. I’m really not so concerned with the functionality, with whether they is confusing or not.

I wondered how it would work to capitalise They when it was singular, like for the German second person formal, Sie, to distinguish it from sie or they. Italicising it would be annoying. As a stylistic decision it becomes extremely flexible, options are many.

What I care about is that style gets the credit and is not sacrificed for anything. Anything that distracts from style, like trivial concerns over pronouns, should also be considered a sacrifice.


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Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s novel Retrospective

It was a day of clear skies and Sergio saw the land through the little window with an insolent clarity: the portions of every shade of green in the world, the water of the rivers glinting like machete blades, the whole country where so many had done so much harm, where he had harmed as much as others. When the plan flew higher and clouds covered everything and the land was no longer visible, Sergio could only think in words of farewell.

— translated by Anne McLean, p. 453

… saw the land through the little window with an insolent clarity…

That’s why I chose this brief excerpt. It’s not exemplary or illustrative. It has this word, insolence, for the clarity with which another nation than this but also of the global South impinges itself on the consciousness of one born there. Insolent, like the challenge of a child’s eyes, their challenge being the clarity with which they look back and see you. And you through them see yourself no more or less included in what they see. A clarity of the South cutting out of light what rises, a freshly butchered vision but every shade of green in the world or like a net full of fish splintering the light here, machete blades, rivers. The Green Ghetto and the violence under the surface upholding it.

trawling through Nz Aa painters to illustrate this post… Michael Smither in mind, Rita Angus … too much figuration, too little abstraction … kitsch and kitsch again, the abstract without, the figural without pathology… no risks, too much judgement …perhaps Kate Boswell… perhaps Mike Glover … or Diana Adams … looking for the Francis Bacon of landscape painting. Fierce spiritual landscapes. Colin McCahon. Someone raising the landscape in bleeding heaps. Disinvesting it of painterly cliché, getting its disinterest. Not Colin McCahon. Ralph Hotere. Still man’s judgement. Doris Lusk. Gretl Barzotto. The graphic tangent that goes to Fiona Rae. Theatre. Fomison. Washes. Kathryn Carter. Shona McFarlane. …Peter Lambert skies. Gerda Leenards. … something made me look at Bice Lazzari, beautiful and Nothing to do with what I’m looking for... Rose Strang gets me to where I was going but in another landscape, a cooler palette. And perhaps this is what’s wrong with the South, its every-shade-of-green in the world. The paint should remain dripping and never dry, like it does in Bill Hammond’s backgrounds. It makes me think it’s all a paysage moralisé that the colonists and conquerors came to contemplate their guilty consciences here.

Paysage Moralisé 

Hearing of harvests rotting in the valleys,
Seeing at end of street the barren mountains,
Round corners coming suddenly on water,
Knowing them shipwrecked who were launched for islands,
We honour founders of these starving cities
Whose honour is the image of our sorrow,

Which cannot see its likeness in their sorrow
That brought them desperate to the brink of valleys;
Dreaming of evening walks through learned cities
They reined their violent horses on the mountains,
Those fields like ships to castaways on islands,
Visions of green to them who craved for water.

They built by rivers and at night the water
Running past windows comforted their sorrow;
Each in his little bed conceived of islands
Where every day was dancing in the valleys
And all the green trees blossomed on the mountains,
Where love was innocent, being far from cities.

But dawn came back and they were still in cities;
No marvellous creature rose up from the water;
There was still gold and silver in the mountains
But hunger was a more immediate sorrow,
Although to moping villagers in valleys
Some waving pilgrims were describing islands…

'The gods,' they promised, 'visit us from islands,
Are stalking, head-up, lovely, through our cities;
Now is the time to leave your wretched valleys
And sail with them across the lime-green water,
Sitting at their white sides, forget your sorrow,
The shadow cast across your lives by mountains.’

So many, doubtful, perished in the mountains,
Climbing up crags to get a view of islands,
So many, fearful, took with them their sorrow
Which stayed them when they reached unhappy cities,
So many, careless, dived and drowned in water,
So many, wretched, would not leave their valleys.

It is our sorrow. Shall it melt? Then water
Would gush, flush, green these mountains and these valleys,
And we rebuild our cities, not dream of islands.

-- W.H. Auden, 1933

— Paula Rosa, Human DK


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recently I struck a strange cavil on fakeduck

It was as follows:

I’d posted a list, shared, from Peter Larsen, a list of all the arts bodies, organisations, institutions, potentially affected by Mayor of Auckland Wayne Brown’s austerity policies. (The plan is to claw back some $300m+ by further gutting the gutted and hamstrung and hung-out-to-dry (because it has been very wet) city of Auckland, supercity, super.) And a nice person commented

Wow that is a lot of jobs and a lot of mental health support removed from the community… 🙁

I answered

please don’t reduce the role of arts to mental health

The nice person:

excuse me? Having art in peoples lives improves peoples lives. Having community outlets and hubs to join. Please don’t simplify my comment when I obviously wasn’t stating all benefits to having arts funding. 🤦‍♀️


I’ve grown up in the arts community since I was born and pretending art doesn’t improve mental well being is just ignorant.

Now. I just want to say this here. Perhaps you will be able to make sense of it.

Please increase the role of arts in mental health


Please do not reduce the role of arts to mental health

National Scandal

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$25 in two cents: two quotes that got away, from The_Future_For[of]_Arts_Development_in_Aotearoa_New_Zealand doc

“Pay us $25 hour to be here.”

“Artists need good wages, not the $25/ hour CNZ has been putting forward for some time (it’s too too low for contractors that many artists are working and have to pay tax).”

these come from under the subheading Artists need to be paid fairly and recognised as professionals

and this subheading comes under the heading Leadership

and this leadership refers to the organisation never to be known as the King Charles III Arts Council

but I like these quotes and cite them here to show the diversity of opinion among artists

and arts organisations.

I cite them to show the difficulty faced by this organisation. I mean

they clearly and plainly contradict each other. And apart from drawing attention to

this contradiction

I can imagine no other reason for that organisation to cite them. We

must, I say we must be put in mind of this small discrepancy:

the document has two titles. In one it is for Arts Development in Aotearoa New Zealand. In

the other it is the Future of Arts Development in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is The Future for

Arts Development in the title for the pdf but the document itself has the title The Future of Arts

Development. …this difference might be like those breadcrumbs of QANON. Unless

the organisation wants it both ways. It wants to dictate the future as well as indicate it. It wants to

answer the question what will the future be for arts development in Aotearoa New Zealand with

the answer it has already given. The future for arts development in Aotearoa New Zealand is the future

of arts development in Aotearoa New Zealand. One title points to the future and the

other raises the question of that future. For asks what does the future hold. Of relegates it to the past

where it will have been. If it has been at all.

In this way of is a question of a future being of the arts. Except

that the problem is further complicated by the compound noun arts development. What does it mean?

The future of arts development may be the only way it can develop. To state the future of arts

development is to prescribe if it is to develop how it will develop. Whereas to state the future for

arts development is to project into the future what development there will be. There is still some


The future for arts development may mean what use arts development will have. So the

question of the use of it will be raised. What’s the use of it? And does the document address in

any way that use?

Some of the quotes do, the quotes that the organisation scares us off with its raised eyebrows. They

do kind of. They, the quotes are not about arts development or its use but about the use

of arts. Imagine if the document were titled The Future for the Arts in Aotearoa

New Zealand. The quotes that talk about the use of arts make the arts out to be a form of

therapy. The use of the arts is for mental well being. What is the use of the arts? And then

what use does development for the arts have? What is the difference between that and

this, What use does development of the arts have? This question of the use of

development makes it clear that development serve the arts since it is the development

of the arts that is in question. It is the arts being developed. The other,

development for the arts applies something to the arts that it calls development but

which may be the opposite of development. Development is meant for the arts just

like the development of children is for them but has usually historically been

detrimental to them. In other words for means meant for and is well-meaning even

if in practice it causes maldevelopment. Just like that the organisation that

never will be called the King Charles III Arts Council means well. What it does

is another thing. It means well by producing a document for and of the develop-

ment of arts in Aotearoa New Zealand but this assumption undergirds it, that

the arts don’t so much need funding as development.

National Scandal

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Things I left out of a note on cinematic time [pdf]

The following adds to my ongoing consideration of cinematic time after Bergson’s concept of duration and alongside Deleuze’s of the time-image. Although they are nonconsecutive, the first part is called Enduring Dreams and the second Plan vital, and now this is the third. Contact me here if you have any questions or comments.


luz es tiempo
point to point

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The Future of Arts Development in Aotearoa New Zealand AKA The Future FOR Arts Development in Aotearoa New Zealand … AKA ‘Future Island’ charting a course for it, illustrated with stills from Clutch Cargo

here’s the pdf: https://creativenz.govt.nz/-/media/Project/Creative-NZ/CreativeNZ/PageDocuments/Future-of-arts-development/20230508_Future_For_Arts_Development_Report.pdf

says CNZ: “We agree with many artists and arts organisations that where we are now doesn’t serve our communities and will not improve without an intentional and significant shift.”

says CNZ: “It’s important to us to co-design the ‘future island’ with those who will be living on it.”

this may raise some eyebrows, says CNZ, while acknowledging that since Covid-19 Creative New Zealand hasn’t always delivered for all artists and arts organisations in the way they’ve needed. It says eyebrows about sharing some of the quotes it heard from people on their experiences and beliefs of how the arts is funded in New Zealand …

before the eyebrow-raising quotes, the organisation cites 5 challenges it needs to address:

  1. CONNECT TO ARTISTS AND ARTS ORGANISATIONS (note, not institutions) based on trust, respect and longevity (yep, that’s what it says) (note, this is challenge No. 1)
  2. FACILITATE ACCESS to work with the organisation in both “process and interactions” (whatever that means)
  3. GIVE COMMUNITIES A GREATER SAY IN WHO GETS $$$ AND IN [something called] ARTS DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES, “so that specific and nuanced arts development needs are met more effectively” (if you say so) (although meeting arts development needs more effectively sounds more than ever like meeting the development needs of children more effectively) (and this is not to speak of an implied similarity)
  4. MEET A STATED REQUEST TO USE THE ORGANISATION’S STATUS AS A CROWN ENTITY “to broker relationships between artists, arts organisations, territorial authorities, local governments and businesses to build better communities” (now to whomever made this request, be careful what you wish for) (and–the status of CNZ under statute is that of a crown entity thanks to the patronage of His Majesty King Charles III of Great Britain: decolonise that!)
  5. this challenge is headed as ADVOCACY. Good. However the description goes like this, “a challenge to use our existing government relationships more effectively so the lives of artists and the value of the arts are better respected and understood.” hmmm… Is that advocacy?

Co-design – is a buzz word that gets a lot of airtime in this document. A way forward is being co-designed. Co-design goes further than in consultation with … I’ve seen co-design in action. It’s not pretty. No… It is pretty. Like post-it notes in different colours are pretty.

The only technical word in co-design is the word design. What it is is a participatory design process. It’s pretty, like sunlight, says the commercial site for the Sunlight Foundation. This organisation presumably has co-designed global access to sunlight for all the nations of the world.

This May, in its last week, the organisation previously known as the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council (and never to be known as the King Charles III Arts Council) will take the next step to “co-design a way forward, with small groups of big picture thinkers from both the arts space and Creative New Zealand working on the high-level architecture” … &blahblah. One of its longterm goals is for communities to be the “accountable decision makers for their arts development needs.” (As above, read special needs.) It always intrigues me how it is that while painting the picture the organisation is not seen to be, and is not in the picture. Here it’s addressing its delegation of the work it does to those it is supposed to serve. I suppose this is really like a commissioned artist and the communities are like those commissioning the portrait that will paint them and their special arts development needs.

Note that this longterm goal of shifting decision making, no. That’s not right. Shifting accountability for decision making, decision making that the organisation is still being paid to do, a number of fulltime arts-organisational fulltime wages’ worth of being paid. This longterm goal is complex. It will take more time than co-designing whatever that first bit was.

By the end of 2023 expect to see some changes, warns the organisation. The cap on the number of applications for the April 2023 funding round lifts from 250 to 450. For the August and October rounds there is no cap on the number. The organisation is going to be speaking clearly and plainly and will clearly and specifically name people within it to have a conversation. That’s nice.

I’ve just gone through and to facilitate legibility have increased the size of the font in this post. This is probably the sort of thing you can expect from the organisation. Also know that you can always talk to me. Please use the contact form.

The organisation is embarking on this change journey for you and with you. However, it already concedes here, before the journey has begun, that leadership and advocacy changes (see 4. & 5. above) involve areas in which it has less direct control. That’s OK though. It’s going to get back to you before the end of the year with a plan, a seachart.




just sneaked a peak at the quotes.

not really, is all a bit lilylivered and yallerygreeenery and not enough uzis

on (dis)connection: “CNZ needs to be humanised. It is operating like a huge corporation and is totally out of touch with the art world in NZ.”

short-term thinking:

“Project focus is admin heavy and doesn’t allow for creative and long-term thinking.”

“We need art funding that isn’t project based–research fellowships, residencies, development time without outcomes.”

“You say you want to support us having ‘sustainable careers’? Let us think beyond projects so we can actually have career sustainability.”

“Please, I beg you: GRANT GENERAL OPERATING FUNDS!!! It is simply poor funding practice not to support general operating funds. All CNZ grants that organisations are eligible to apply for should be able to fund general operations. Not allowing that forces organisations into oppressive and reactive ways of working.”

interesting: this concern, which seems to have elicited the strongest response, has not really been taken up by the organisation

“Aotearoa New Zealand’s performing arts sector is served by enterprising organisations that may be regarded as ‘essential services’ within the overall infrastructure. Unless they meet rigorous criteria that may allow them to apply for multiyear funding, they are obliged to apply for shortterm Project Grants, competing with one-off creative projects, when they are neither one-off nor creative. What would it take for on-going funding to be available to such enterprises on the basis that the services they offer are seen as essential, valued, and well delivered?”

I like this one too:

“We need to be allowed to fail, if only to glimpse what possibilities lie in the experimentation without needing the weight of garnering critical acclaim.”

of course critical acclaim means numbers not the work of critics

And this:

“CNZ actively distrusts artists. Failure should be possible.”


“Projects that can generate bums on seats aren’t necessarily innovative–judge work on its artistic merits, not popularity then help those artists learn how to build an audience.”


“We are artists, not grant writers.”

“We need a sense of community not a sense of competition.”

“CNZ’s competitive tendering model is far from best practise; and is inherently, manifestly and demonstrably unfair. It’s prejudicial. It’s also open to inconsistent, incompetent and sometimes corrupt implementation via the assessments system.”

in fact the organisation’s five challenges oddly misrepresent the concerns in the quotes. Have a look. See what you think.

National Scandal

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