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multi-media videozine for creatives

interviews, creative non-fiction and poetry about jazz

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Playing percussion, singing a capella and leading a poem I wrote for four voices that includes audience participation! Cornelia Street Cafe, March 9, 2016    6-7:30pm   

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Live Performance: "Mirrored Vision" -- an original poem by Monique Avakian

Video link and words below (@Cafe Mozart Mamaroneck with Oscar Sanchez & Aaron DeMasi -- all part of Dorothy Saraceno's, Potpourri, Oct. 27, 2015)

Mirrored Vision
            by Monique Avakian

the drunken thud of a hefty bumble bee
knocks once
against the threshold glass

limbs swollen with gold, s/he sinks and sets off simultaneously

how I envy that evolved creature

in my case, the heat is trapped outside
and I have removed myself from my own sweat

I don’t dare embrace the swollen starfire
for when I dream of Spirit’s voice
I become lost and filled with a brutal longing

so, I stay inside
trying to freeze dry away a desire I perceive as dangerous

somewhere else, though,
a solar disk spins forth
and the ancient mirrored vision of the message
drives into the THUD of the kick drum
snakes through the twining melody improv sung by reeds
rides forth through the crack and pop of black vinyl via the   
               old K cymbal sizzling:

                                   . . . say yes . . .

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Ghost Hungers Not, Here

      an original poem by Monique Avakian (inspired by *)

For the duration of the concert
a long, curvy, electric red LED sign
spoke in rivers of rhythmic code
running, running, running
above our heads

I have no idea what was said
only that as the night grew, my feeling intensified:
this was some kind of placental communiqué, charting the ebb
      and flow of the life-blood of the sounds streaming over us, through us, within us

The drummer’s wild, free hair surfaced
from time to time – like cresting tsunami ocean waves
held in paintings sent from that other, far-away floating world: ukiyo-e!

With Van Gogh’s heavy hand of longing
and like the changeable cloud patterns of childhood
the wash, wash, wash of his cymbals
invoked the Everyman expanse of blue to
move through us
over us
within us - echoing the riverrush
of the group’s subliminal intent

Enter: the long songs of whales
to join: the open arms of trees
in witness of: the elegant, firm spires bursting
up and into
made of rock
made of spirit
of endangered hopes and sunken dreams

Reflected in the window
of the off-air
hundreds of cabs and people were shown to be stopping and rushing, rushing
and stopping
their antics held spellbound
in a kind of funky, visual ostinato accompaniment;
a telegraphed reminder of the bittersweet allure of those

That evening, in the cauldron of the theatre,
every mitochondria available
was asked to dance
by those powerful, telescoped frequencies
pulled forth
from metal and wood

The sublime
with sinew and bone
by dedicated and skilled human beings
who channeled
the knowledge of the spheres
the stories of the ancients, the world
as it is, as it was, as is ever

--Monique Avakian
Pronunciation note: “you-KEE-ohweh”

* This original poem of mine was inspired by the concert held on June 26, 2015 at the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space
44 Charlton Street New York, NY 10014

The Subliminal and The Sublime featured a solo opening set by Garth Stevenson (original music), followed by the sextet of: 

Chris Dingman on vibraphone 
Loren Stillman on alto sax
Fabian Almazan on piano
Ryan Ferreira on guitar
Linda Oh on bass
Justin Brown on drums

The work entitled, The Subliminal and the Sublime, was composed by Mr. Dingman, sponsored by the Inner Arts initiative and commissioned by Chamber Music America with funding from the Doris Duke Foundation.

(CD artwork and design by Shoko Tagaya)

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Original Poem Inspired by the First Annual RiverArts Tour (June 6, 2015)

June 6, 2015

this was a day
where all kinds of people
came together

related by music

this was a day of reckoning
that beckoned our hearts to fill

a day
when skilled and intuitive elders
voiced the feet of the young into joyful dance

a day
when young cats synced familiar songs into neo-hip uncharted waters of sound

a day
when old met young met free met positive met the glorious radiance of

was a day of reckoning
that had nothing to do with the end of the world
or the latest shitty lie disguised as news
manufactured by thugs
to be repeated endlessly over superficial TV channels
created to frighten you
into isolation
and despair

this day had nothing to do with 21st century depressive tactics of social control

this day
beckoned our hearts to fill
to rejoice, live and in person
to touch one another
alongside our river
here in our sweet little towns
held by the sun and the moon and the stars
our Mother’s patient harp thrummed with ease

--Monique Avakian   

(inspired by the first annual RiverArts Music Tour)  

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Valentine for the whole world: Nina Simone

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Older Child in my Dream was Rather Miffed at the Appearance of all the Babies.....

The older child must have been poetry, because poetry has been taking a back seat for quite awhile to music.

Now that I've put together a chapbook of my political poetry and am putting together the Neo-Surrealist Road Show for Oct. 25th 3-5pm at "The Art of Dressing" in Mamaroneck, NY, I've got the word as the worm, and I'm feeling pretty early! :)

Two great finds just now tweeting along...Let's see if I can teach myself how to "embed":

1) From Literacy, Inc.'s Twitter Feed:

2) From Poets & Writers Twitter Feed:

Friday, September 26, 2014

I hope you get this album because it is DYN-O-MITE!

Here's my review on Avant Music News:

PHOTOGRAPH BY Michelle Arcila

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Rivertowns Jazz Blog Captured by Robots!

Slowly but surely I am finding the Rivertowns Jazz Blog content I created. For now, I am just linking until I have time to re-do it all. I am thankful I am not completely DE-indexed from Google, but I am confused about the Patch and curious as to why the new owners have approached the situation this way.

I created something cool and involved that benefitted many people, including the Patch. To have it all just DISAPPEAR overnight like that...well, it is just confusing, to say the least.

I'm not sure people realize how many hours and hours and hours it takes to put something like this together....

Thank you for your patience. The links I've found so far are below. It doesn't look like any of the video carried over....






Hastings Jazz Collective
Review of Live Show at the Hastings Unitarian Society, April 27, 2013
Monique Avakian

You know, I got to go to church the other day in another way: through music. Specifically, jazz. Intentionally: Hastings.

I love Hastings. So many creative people live there. And the arts are really supported. You can go hear the Hastings Jazz Collective almost every Friday night at the Station Café for a donation. Plus, if you’re so inclined, these generous professionals open up the mic for improvisers to jam with them! Their generosity and good will are to be treasured!

Anyway, I wanted to write a little something about this particular show at the Unitarian Society because the musicians’ choices of tunes and arrangements were very thoughtful. Each song had a bluesy~gospel root and that made for a really enjoyable and threaded exploration. The standards and originals included Oscar Pettiford’s Laverne Walk, Kenny Wheeler’s Mark Time and Kenny Baron’s Voyage.

And this particular evening (part of the Common Ground Community Concerts series), each player took long, long solos. Each and every time. These cats got into it!

Ron Vincent on Drums:
If you’re ever in a bad mood and want to snap out of it, just imagine Ron’s face while he’s playing. He is so in touch with the joy of jazz, it is absolutely infectious. And as a player, he is constantly evolving.  He’s got the softest bass drum EVER and makes these Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em hits INSIDE a smooth ride feel that is so clean and free. He’s not afraid to get involved with the toms either, and he has this arresting slight drop~out~of~time feel at choice moments that’s simply magnetic. His arrangement of “Pick Yourself Up” was intriguing, especially when he went into a sudden Latin feel and then traded 4’s with himself rhythmically! I never heard a drummer do that before – too cool!

David Janeway on Keys:

David is not afraid to experiment in the moment and has a range of technique that allows him to test the waters fearlessly. And even though he can be as avant as the next guy, he chooses to go there just slightly. This is really effective and wonderful for listeners, because you don’t get lost or confused or exhausted. Yet, you are encouraged to evolve in your understanding of the complexity that is so attractive about jazz. David, too, is constantly evolving, and I have never heard one player have so many different ways of texturizing with arpeggios, tremolos, little endearing Monk-like tinkles, and soulful and inventive chord voicings. Completely relaxed, yet with appropriate authority, Mr. Janeway very much embodies the phrase: “Yours Truly.”

Tim Armacost on Sax:
Though his solos can be sweet and lilting, Armacost always has a good slab of grease on it. He’s got awesome lung power and this subtle feel~great vibrato sound which he sometimes offers at the end of an excursion. Armacost’s tone is especially warm way down low, but the man covers a lot of interesting territory all the way up and down the register.

Frank Tate on Bass:

Solid. Relaxed. Accomplished. This is a player that can be relied upon to respond to anything. Tate’s lead on their version of Willow Weep for Me on this particular evening was especially grand and meditative.

Check them out! At the Station Café, The Hastings Jazz Collective is often joined by Jay Azzolina on guitar, various bass players and all kinds of special guests. It’s a great hang.


Hastings Station Café:  914-693-3175

Hastings Jazz Collective:

Monique’s other site:

Common Ground Community Concerts:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Winged: New Writing on Bees

CLICK HERE FOR MY POEM INCANTO INCOGNITO plus:   Winged: New Writing on Bees

I am pleased to announce that Winged has posted my poem and prose explanation about how the improvised music of this trio lifted me into BEE consciousness ! :

Ellery Eskelin     tenor sax

Susan Alcorn     pedal steel guitar

Michael Formanek    upright bass

Their CD is available here:
Show less

Friday, November 1, 2013

Greasers in Greece: "It's Wild! It's Out-O-Sight!"


As the debt ceiling continues to crash into the Government Shutdown, one wonders, why, again, this game of chicken?

As with other questions involving the paradoxical Chicken with a capital C, there are no easy answers.

Throughout history, this urge to win while risking suicide has motivated and amused countless hordes of dim-wits hell-bent on passing the time counter-productively. One could argue that war in general falls into the same category, actually, leading the baffled individual contemplating the finer points of human history to stumble into rather uncomfortable terrain….

So, as in all pivotal moments within a narrative arc, one reaches for the smoke-bomb, eject button, vial of antidote, or any kind of non-descript device invented by a mad-scientist tortured by cross purposes and glasses too thick to actually see through. My personal diversion from the scene crumbling around me? The comics.

To wit: Greasers in Greece. This hilarious offering by publishers GryphonKnights Comics, just now hot off the press, reads like the comics I remember from earlier days. Complete with fan-art, pin-ups, and interesting bios written by the creators themselves, this book is a steal at $9.95.

Writer Dimitrios Fragiskatos and Illustrator Thomas J. Griffin (a dynamic duo eerily reminiscent of the creative team from Michael Chabon’s, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay), both steer clear of the mundane while firmly embracing the familiar.

And maybe that’s why this story is so engaging: we know exactly what’s going to happen. As in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and every episode of Lost in Space, Wayne’s World, or even Gilligan’s Island for that matter, the reader/viewer is enthralled by the comfort of paradox couched in the familiar brought to us by characters who make us laugh.

This comic is filled with visual puns, running jokes, socio-cultural asides and masterful allusions to all kinds of 20th century archetypes and motifs. The lay-out is easy to read and the art is involving. Overall, Griffin’s style is quite kinetic. I especially love the cover, with the careening hot-rod and Roman Chariot animated by the Zombie-esque hand of a Devil-god emperor puppeteer (pulling invisible strings, of course).

Inside, my favorite visual moment rests with the three-panel page where the car is sent through time. We get to observe the inked observer aging and not-aging while the words and visuals break through the paper and literally into our hands. The effect is further echoed by the crazed chicken drawn in the bottom right-hand bottom corner, careening once more with a squawk into the lower levels of consciousness…

As for dealing with the usual paradoxes found in time-travel stories, for some reason, my brain is assuaged. Or perhaps massaged. Or, better yet, sealed in a warm bath of CO-Q10 and placed on a shelf to glow in perpetuity alongside Einstein’s.

How did Dimitrios pull this off? Usually, with time travel stories, you reach that moment where you’re like: ok: if the characters do X, then that changes history and then they wouldn’t exist and none of this would be happening anyway, and why did I just waste another 45 minutes of my one wild and precious life thinking along this frustrating and useless path of inquiry?

But this moment does not occur in Greasers in Greece. I am guessing it has to do with the motive and powers of the evil Devil-god emperor, but I won’t speak of it, as I don’t want to spoil the fun for you, dear Reader.

Short Video Interviews conducted at the book signing:

With Dimitrios Fragiskatos, Writer:

With Thomas J. Griffin, Artist:

With Sean Griffin, Editor:

Greasers in Greece. It’s wild! It’s out-o-sight!

Available now at Mid-Town Comics/Grand Central:

(this review is slated for publication at MacDuff NYC, but I am posting this until that transpires because this is really a great comic, and I thought you'd like to be in the know...)

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Larry Roland Trio -- Jazz and Poetry Review

Larry Roland of 
The Larry Roland Trio – Jazz and Poetry
            Live Show, Blue Door Gallery, Yonkers, October 19, 2013
            Review by Monique Avakian

It’s like a desert sometimes, this country and the lack of access to poetry. So when I find an oasis of sound play and thoughtful wondering, you better believe I am all over it. Apparently, a lot of people have a similar thirst, because every seat was taken!

On October 19th, listeners at Blue Door Gallery were treated to a spectacular evening of textural context quietly and powerfully forged. Through questions and musings posed by poetry and jazz, The Larry Roland Trio brought us metaphor, sound~play, analogies, improvisation, loving~kindness, socio-political awareness and intense groove. All the familiar jazz standards helped the listener absorb the novel words and experience of poetry and music combined. The group really carried this sub-genre to a deep, yet completely accessible level. The words truly functioned as another instrument within the group structure, and the musicians proved adept and responsive to one another in an authentic and enjoyable way. From the very beginning, the experience itself came to embody the poet’s quest--all of us “in search of hope” became part of the “continuous pursuit (that) manifests.”

Dwayne Cook Broadnax on drums had a very small ride cymbal on a very small kit—a thoughtful choice that fit the realities of the room. His style was very commanding, yet completely quiet. I would describe him as skilled at leading from the back, which is very hard to do when poetry is involved. Though the words are structured, Mr. Roland’s rhythms are always variable and completely live in the moment. Mr. Broadnax rose to the occasion, showing a quiet, restrained leadership while playing completely in-the-pocket throughout the evening.

Waldron Ricks, on trumpet, also complimented the group without dominating. Playing on a horn specially made by Dave Monette in Oregon, Mr. Rick’s sound was warm and embracing. His style enhanced the words and the music equally, and he was not afraid of space during solos. His horn was very vibrant even when still. The bell on this instrument seemed very unique; truly one-of-a-kind. I can’t get the look of the bell out of my mind! So symbolic of the quality of the evening, where the listener was drawn in and in and in…..

As for the poetry, sometimes spoken word is off-putting to some people as the “one-up-man-ship” involved in the competitive aspect takes away from the connection between poet and audience. None of that is part of Larry Roland’s universe, where generosity and gentleness embrace and engage the listener. The man is totally for real and seeks connection at all turns. The content of his poetry is direct, deep, serious and well-crafted. Mr. Roland often writes about family and friends, with themes situated within a socio-historical context as well as the larger philosophical questions germane to the human condition. I think Larry Roland is especially powerful precisely because he asks a lot of questions. He takes you on a thoughtful journey that leaves you in a place of reverence for life. Larry Roland (who also plays bass) is a philosopher for Every Man.

After the program, as the large crowd spilled into the street, I was struck by the vibe carried forth by the people, who were clearly buoyed and sustained by the experience. During the break, Mr. Roland had stated: “I’m just tryin’ to be a force for good, you know what I mean? That’s where I’m coming from.”

It was evident from the timbre of the listener’s voices, as well as from the word choice involved in their reactions, that The Larry Roland Trio had succeeded in transforming the people who had come to hear.

Next performance of poetry and jazz at Blue Door:

Nov. 22
The Jazz & Poetry Choir Collective
Michael TA Thompson (conductor)
Golda Solomon
E.J. Antonio
Will Connell, Jr.
Rosi Hertlein
Larry Roland
Physlisha Villanueva

Blue Door Gallery -- just a hop, skip and a jump down Warburton

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Over at the Rivertowns Jazz Blog....Jazzy Field Trips for Writers

Check it out!

I'm not lying -- two friends have had similar experiences to mine:

We go listen to live jazz and the next thing we know, our writing skyrockets into new realms of delight!

Listening to CDs works, too, but it's not as visceral.

Highly recommended:  Cornelia Street Cafe in the Village. Any group you see there will likely inspire you!

Join us sometime, won't you?

(You don't even have to share what you write!)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

David Ullmann Octet at I-Beam, Brooklyn

I started writing over here, too!

Check it out!

They like it short at MacDuff.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ellery Eskeling Trio New York II -- CD Review

Ellery Eskelin Trio New York II
            “A free approach to the Great American Songbook”

by Monique Avakian

If there is a band to check out in 2013, this is IT.

I’m tempted to stop right there, or at least toss in a spoiler alert. Half the grand delight of listening to this album is the process of discovery as you uncover the multi-layered subtlety of this group’s free, beyond~interpretative stance. Another tasty slice of major happiness derives from recovering your relationship with some kick-ass standards through this visceral free improv. The Ellery Eskelin New York Trio II embodies the ideal of the avant aesthetic: forward movement, deeply rooted, and set free with honest emotion.

Overall, I would describe this trio as precise, kinesthetically supple and incredibly feline. You may not know they’re in the room until you feel their whiskers, but they already know all about you and everything you dreamed of before breakfast.

On this album, you’ll be treated to three musicians who take their respective instruments each and together into the wild and unexpected.

Gary Versace expresses feelings and thoughts with the Hammond B3 Organ in a way that is simply unprecedented. What a supercool style! During the first listen, I didn’t even know he was playing a B3; I thought he was playing multiple synthesizers and getting the sonic variety out of electronic dials and settings. In Versace’s words: (The organ is the) “first kind of real time synthesizer. You can change the sound as you’re playing, you can hold a note, there’s vibrato, there’s air moving through it…(and I can) change phrase lengths and chord lengths as I see fit.” (*)

Gerald Cleaver is one of those super highly evolved drummers who can play anything he needs to super soft. If you’ve ever been anywhere near a drum kit, you know how difficult that is. Cleaver takes this concept even further through his careful choices of not playing. Whoever heard of a drummer not playing ?!? Especially when you reach a technical level, like Cleaver, where you can pretty much play anything. You could learn a lot about musicianship by studying his choice of silence. In Cleaver’s words: “I try and swing and try to do the things that feel the best….the idea of swinging is one of connectedness and having a real affinity for the piece, whatever it is.” (*)

And Ellery Eskelin, ooooh! His work on the tenor sax (now playing a 1927 Conn.) is complex and experimental, yet completely engaging and intimate. Conceptually, he’s all about paradox and sparking wonder, and this is made all the more appealing due to his natural and relaxed fearlessness. Even though he can knock your socks off with rapid, inventive runs, he never runs all over you. His phrasing is intuitive and often subliminal. Ellery Eskelin brings you inside—DEEP into the living breath of sound.

As for playing live with the trio, in Eskelin’s words: “We know that there are probably six or eight tunes that we might incorporate in some way, without me prescribing any kind of a treatment or rules at all for how those may or may not happen. It’s simply a matter of real-time musical negotiation between us, listening very hard to each other.” (**)

Standout Tunes:
    The Midnight Sun

Like sparkles on water, sun and moon dance through threaded ideas traded with echoes. Some kind of unity forms from duality, and I am feeling the blazing sun late at night.

This trio achieves a sonic representation of emotional metaphor so central to the tune that at first listen I literally felt the sun and moon simultaneously appear without knowing anything about this song, including not having read the title – (! ! !) – I’m not making this up! The emotive quality engendered by the trio’s take on this lovely standard is completely involving. Wait a minute….is that stardust on my sleeve?!?!

   We See
This take on We See is like having déjà vu while simultaneously hallucinating inside a parallel universe. This version is out, yet NOT closed-off inside some phony fortress with a thousand doors locking you out. The Eskelin Trio is so open and inviting, even when the swing is sonically invisible, you feel it. And the Be-Bop confidence and rhythmic forcefulness are there, too, yet reached through the opposing sensibility of exaggerated pianissimos and small, subtle crescendos. Case in point: Versace gives that B3 ZAP chord every once in awhile, but he does this 
* s * o * f * t * l * y * -- as if using volume itself to make a rhythmic statement (?!)

Live:   Friday & Saturday, July 26th & 27th, 2013
at Cornelia Street Café   (Reservations recommended)


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

40Twenty: A Perpetual Puzzle Unfolding

by Monique Avakian
12/18/12 (long version)

This is the kind of album that leads a magically-minded person to start searching for hidden clues buried inside numerical relationships. Being lousy at math, this puts me in an awkward position. Don’t get me wrong – those of you well-versed and in-place will happily puzzle through all the various layers of rhythmic smoke bombs, harmonic fractals, (a)symmetrical puns, and inside jokes to be found in this wildly structured tripped-out way IN.

But since I speak for the poets among us, lets just go for the metaphor, shall we?

40Twenty invites you into a world that seems completely unknown, yet totally familiar. As Miranda Sielaff’s graphic on the back cover suggests, you are going to move beyond your usual daily kind of Self. As you listen, you may begin to ponder A~Universe~of~Ear or TheGeOgRaphYofWindOw. Certainly, you’ll get more familiar with The Essence of Spiral. You may even find a kind of ladder that goes everywhere inside a nowhere kind of square. The deeper you go with listening, you realize you really are solid. As in stabilized. As in GROUNDED.

And how cool is that, to feel grounded in the middle of such high level abstraction? Given the level of chaos most of us are experiencing nowadays, who wouldn’t want to feel safe enough to hear water become granite or steel turn to flax?

Believe me, this is an album that will simultaneously plant your feet and blow your mind.

Highlights of 4 Co-Creative Voices:

Keys/Jacob Sacks:
Ever true to the group improvisational spirit as well as his highly developed uber-individualistic style, Mr. Sacks takes us on simultaneously layered journeys of exploration, all defying simplistic categories of explanation. The most intriguing moments, to me, are those source spots where he winds us down into the lowest registers of resonance, as if drawing down the moon into an expanse of sea. Sacks works a kind of temporal magic here that is as subtle as it is benevolent. Whatever way you choose to connect (through math, sound, beauty, science, art, magic or spirit), you, as I, will be left with the concept of possibility and with a sure-footed feeling of empowerment.

Drums/Vinnie Sperrazza:
That Ride! What a sound! And all that Multi-Dimensional Sonic Wash! Ooooh! What’s he’s doing?!?! Sperrazza takes traditional cymbal techniques and elevates ideas of a sonic harmonics into a place of integrity and purpose that is not even close to what you might expect. It’s hard for a drummer to use sound-based ideas in a way that invites people in, but Sperrazza is so melodically involved in the harmony, it’s as though we’ve known him forever and what’s the big deal, we’re just cookin’ along like always. Yet, nothing here is typical. Whether made for emphasis, for cleansing, for contrast, for support, for transport, in the service of a rhythmic choice—whatever the particular need called for by the group at the moment, Sperrazza can be counted upon to go beyond convention and provide something you might miss if you are not paying attention. Pay attention! He’s so generous!

Bone/Jacob Garchik:
Melodically rapid to the point of incredulity, conceptually hearty like your favorite winter stew, sonically loping around when appropriate, stern yet completely warm in intent--this is a kind of wow in technique and approach you are not sure is for real because how could one person be so adept from so many different angles and starting points? Look out and get into it. Garchik’s steady and exponential evolutions will leave you completely exhausted and quite happily so. His bold relentlessness is oddly reassuring.

Bass/David Ambrosio:
Mr. Ambrosio provides a willful beacon to follow – if you dare. Lyrically-minded, melodically intent, ever open inside the search, consistently inventive in approach—you have to commit to taking the time to really get involved with the Soul Force that is this bass player. His level of focus might seem kind of scary at first, but that’s only because your attention span has been wrecked by irrelevant machines and superficial living. Ambrosio’s careful freedom allows the listener to cultivate an understanding rooted in intention, and his complexity expresses a level of sincerity that is as refreshing as it is enlightening. He offers us access to a world of abundance, but this is not to be entered into haphazardly without care. The onus is on you to prepare, but if you think about it, why would you want it any other way?

© Copyright - 40twenty / Yeah Yeah Records (700261364872)

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