Busted Halo
September 14th, 2008

PART 10 of the BustedHalo interview with Anne Rice on the release of her second book on the life of Jesus: Christ the Lord, The Road to Cana.

Author Anne Rice gives BustedHalo editor-in-chief Bill McGarvey a brief tour of some of the religious art in her home as well as paintings by her late husband Stan Rice.

View other parts to this series:

Part 1: Jesus’ Loneliness & Love & The Da Vinci Code
TOPICS DISCUSSED: Discussion of research for the new book. Taking the Bible completely seriously as a writer. Jesus loneliness & love of Avigail. Taking on the DaVinci Code. Trying to write an exciting novel about a character who is sinless, celibate and didn’t marry. Is the US a Post-Christian nation?

Part 2: Religious Obsession & The Virgin Mary
TOPICS DISCUSSED: American religiosity, the struggle to write a novel about Jesus that is both compelling and Biblically faithful. The perpetual virginity of Mary. Her theological conservatism and her disagreements with some skeptical critics.

Part 3: Disagreement With & Dependence Upon Scholars
TOPICS DISCUSSED: Controversies surrounding John’s Gospel and her interactions with scripture scholars.

Part 4: Beauty, Artifice, Sensuality & Faith
TOPICS DISCUSSED: Connecting directly with her longtime readers via the web. The continuity between her Vampire books and her Christ the Lord series. Love of beauty, artifice and sensuality in the Vampire Chronicles and her Catholic faith. The Catholic artistic tradition. Being a Christ haunted writer. The Eucharistic symbol of blood in her Vampire books.

Part 5: The Christian Story of Lestat & The Role of Women & Gays

TOPICS DISCUSSED IN PART 5: On the possibility of revisiting Lestat and bringing her vampires into a Christian context. How is her life different since coming back to faith and the Catholic Church? Loving her enemies and neighbors. Christians persecuting other Christians. The role of women and gay people in the Church. Her son Christopher’s activism for gay rights. Homosexuality in Jesus’ day.

Part 6: A Memoir, a “Tragic Mistake,” & a Regret
TOPICS DISCUSSED IN PART 6: Her spiritual memoir “Called out of Darkness” to be published in the fall of 2008. …

September 14th, 2008

In late 2005, novelist Anne Rice stopped by BustedHalo’s® offices in New York to promote her book Christ the Lord, Out of Egypt, the first installment in her planned four-part “autobiography” of Jesus. What was supposed to be a brief interview with the legendary author—who has sold more than 100 million books worldwide—turned into a wide-ranging, hour-long discussion of her career and her re-discovered Catholic faith.

Her second book in the series Christ the Lord, The Road to Cana, picks up Jesus’ life in Nazareth at age 30 just before he begins his public ministry. Like its predecessor, The Road to Cana eschews the lush style that marked Rice’s Vampire Chronicles series for a far more spare prose. There is a simplicity to Rice’s Jesus that will beentirely recognizable to anyone familiar with the Gospels. This is, of course, Rice’s intention.

Though she has filled in details of Jesus’ life that aren’t found in any of the Gospels—including frustrations with his “brothers” in the family’s carpentry trade, and the pressure to take a young woman named Avigail as his wife—Rice’s Christ the Lord books are ultimately deeply devotional works that testify to the strength and scriptural orthodoxy of her faith.

Rice, who is 66 and suffers from diabetes, no longer does promotional book tours. So, with the March 4th release of The Road to Cana the author invited BustedHalo® editor-in-chief, Bill McGarvey to interview her at her home in the desert near Palm Springs, California.

The following video segments are excerpted from an hour-long interview in which Rice once again spoke on a wide variety of subjects ranging from sexuality and the Catholic imagination to the possibility of a Christian Vampire novel and her outspoken support of Hillary Clinton.

The interview is broken into 10 different pieces that BustedHalo® can be seen above.

(Special thanks to Sue Tebbe and Becket Ghioto for all their assistance.)

TOPICS DISCUSSED in Part 1: Discussion of research for the new book. Taking the Bible completely seriously as a writer. Jesus loneliness & love of Avigail. Taking on the DaVinci Code. Trying to write an exciting novel about a character who

September 11th, 2008

At the end of August, an Italian priest was forced to scuttle his plans for an online beauty pageant for nuns, because it had been, in his words, “deliberately misinterpreted.” Father Antonio Rungi, from a town near Naples, noted that he had already received numerous requests from nuns to take part in his “Sister Italia 2008” contest, which was supposed to show off the “chaste, inner beauty” of sisters.

Needless to say, this story was picked up by hundreds of otherwise respectable media outlets.

How come? Because nuns are wacky.

Or, more accurately, pop culture and the mainstream media leads us to believe they are.

Nuns are silly (Sally Field cruising the skies in her modest-but-aerodynamic habit in “The Flying Nun”); clueless (almost everybody in “Sister Act” except lounge-singer-turned-Carmelite-nun Whoopi Goldberg); or repressed (sultry-but-chaste Audrey Hepburn in “The Nun’s Story”). Today when a nun comes on screen—TV, film or Youtube—it’s usually for a cheap laugh. Even books based on the lives of real-life sisters provide much of the same images.

This is pretty surprising when you consider what these supposedly “nutty” sisters have accomplished throughout American history. During times when women were routinely denied opportunities for leadership, sisters founded colleges and universities on a shoestring; ran inner-city schools for vast immigrant populations; and managed far-flung hospital systems for people of all faiths. All this while living together in cramped residences, earning little money, and putting up with those penguin jokes.

In recognition of just a few of their incredible accomplishments, here are three books that take a serious, more accurate look at the lives of those “first feminists.” Hopefully they’ll get you thinking there’s something inspiring about three words you don’t hear too often — poverty, chastity and obedience.

“Today when a nun comes on screen — TV, film or Youtube — it’s usually for a cheap laugh.”

Mariette in Ecstasy, by Ron Hansen. I know a woman who is never without three copies of this astonishing novel—one for her purse, one for her nightstand, and one to give to someone who hasn’t read it yet. Ron …

August 17th, 2008

Jim’s new internship could have been a great opportunity, but instead it turned out to be a big setback requiring embarrassing explanations to his parents. He lost his internship when his new employer found online pictures of him stumbling-drunk—pictures he’d posted himself. Susan was a bit smarter. She ‘scrubbed’ her online presence when she was hired for a high-security job, taking down all but the most basic information.

Of course everyone understands the internet is a great way to stay connected. For the majority of college freshmen, next to their cell phones, it will be their most important communication tool and the best way to stay in touch with family and friends. Unfortunately, in a few short years the pictures posted of freshman year exploits could come back to haunt a recently graduated job-seeker. Pictures from the party or road trip that seemed like harmless stupidity or the ‘not-for-public-viewing’ photos swapped online with a current boyfriend or girlfriend could seriously limit your options later on.

It’s easy to feel like nobody’s watching when you’re posting personal material, whether it’s a heated political debate on a message board or glassy eyed shots of you and your buddies partying at the club. A handful of your friends might see the pictures, and the chances of some encountering the folks who participated in your political debate are slim to none.

Public Domain
No matter what you believed would stay buried on the web, here’s the dichotomy of the internet: what feels like a private note to friends or a living room conversation is actually a billboard. Just because nobody has driven past that billboard yet shouldn’t make you feel safe. It all seems private, until, very suddenly, it’s not.

“It’s not illegal for a company to Google a prospective employee, and it’s not illegal for them to look …

August 17th, 2008

No matter how well (or how poorly) you did in your classes back home, or how pleased your high school teachers were with you and your work, one significant difference you’ll find on campus is that the college professor is a whole different animal. Behavior, expectations, communication and attitude vary widely between the two species. Understanding the distinction between your high school teachers from senior year and your college professors this fall can mean the difference between making it your first semester or not.

Deceptively Simple
Is it hard to make a professor happy? How do you know what they’re looking for? While it may seem mystifying at first, focusing on the basics is a good place to start. Thomas O’Brien, Ph.D., a professor of theology at DePaul University in Chicago, says the most important things a student can do to ensure success in a class are, “Come to class. Submit assignments on time. Participate and stay engaged. Read and follow the syllabus.”

Rick Malloy SJ, Ph.D., an anthropology professor at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia echoes the sentiment, “It will help tremendously if the student has gone to every class. Missing class is a loud message to the professor, ‘I want an “F” for this course!’ On the other hand, if you are in class every day, how can a professor admit he or she was unable to teach you anything?”

It sounds pretty easy. Just show up and the rest will fall into place, right? Well, not exactly.

The Hard Facts
You will surely encounter some fantastic and very engaging teaching on campus, just as surely as you will have teachers that can bore you to sleep in the first ten minutes of class. College can be a mixed bag when it comes to the quality of teaching. Though many professors make an effort to keep student interest piqued, …

August 12th, 2008

Best-selling author Clyde Edgerton’s ninth novel, The Bible Salesman (Little, Brown), is the story of Preston Clearwater, a car thief who picks up hitchhiker Henry Dampier, a 19-year-old Bible salesman.

When Clearwater offers Dampier a lift on the road in post-war North Carolina, he convinces Dampier he is an FBI agent in need of an associate. Dampier joyfully seizes the opportunity to lead a double life as both a bible salesman and a G-man.

But Dampier’s fundamentalist upbringing doesn’t prepare him for the complexities of his new life. He falls in love, questions his religious training, begins to see he’s being used, and realizes that he is now on his own in a way he never imagined.

David Sedaris told USA Today, “I read a galley recently on a trip to Greece. I howled with laughter. It’s called The Bible Salesman by Clyde Edgerton. Now I have all his previous books to enjoy, too…How good it feels to throw back one’s head and howl with a great comic novel. The ‘burial tuck’ alone should make The Bible Salesman a classic.”

A Statement About Belief
By Clyde Edgerton

I think about religion a good bit. And I write novels in which characters think about religion. In my most recent novel, The Bible Salesman, the main character is reading the Bible on his own for the first time and throughout the narrative he is confused and delighted and puzzled by what he reads. His thinking sometimes reflects my own, but managing and understanding my character’s “belief” or “unbelief” was not difficult because I had relatively good control of his mind and the influences on it, and what he experienced, whereas with my own mind, what is out there staring at me is a universe of scrambled information and judgments and feelings. And while I believe there is a design of some sort going on out there …

August 11th, 2008

After the attacks of September 11th, it seemed like everyone was asking the same question: Why do they (the terrorists) hate us (Americans)? Some offered various answers, and some argued the answer didn’t matter. What mattered was that the terrorists killed lots of Americans and now Americans should kill lots of terrorists. For a while trying to learn why the terrorists hate us seemed like giving them credibility. But now Andre Dubus III’s new novel, The Garden of Last Days, takes a long, hard look at why one fictional terrorist hates Americans so much. Dubus follows Bassam, a 9/11 hijacker, from a strip club in Florida all the way through the checkpoint at Boston’s Logan International Airport, giving readers a detailed map of one religious fundamentalist’s thoughts.

Almost the whole novel takes place during one night in Florida, when April (a stripper) can’t use her regular babysitter, and so she decides to bring her daughter to work. Bassam visits the strip club with sixteen grand in cash. He takes April (who goes by “Spring” at the club) into the V.I.P. lounge. While they’re in the lounge, April’s daughter wanders outside, where A.J., a man with very little to be happy about in life, puts her in his truck and drives away. To recap: a stripper brings her baby to work; an Islamic fundamentalist sins like an American; and a drunk drives away with a baby. Through each event, Dubus shows us why these characters think what they’re doing is a good idea. A.J., for example, is very drunk, and he sees so much danger around the little girl who has wandered out into the strip club’s parking lot, sees it as his duty to keep her safe in his truck and drive away.

Dubus’ ability to show how characters see the world and rationalize their decisions is put to good use with Bassam, who has to justify going to a strip club to see naked women—something forbidden to those of his faith. We learn that Bassam and his fellow terrorists think they …

August 1st, 2008

Once upon a time, superheroes were simple.

Superman was virtually invulnerable; he fought for “Truth, justice, and the American way.” Batman was a handsome billionaire playboy, dishing out punishment to a deserving criminal underworld. Wonder Woman, Captain America, and Captain Marvel fought evil robots, mind-controlling worms, and scurrilous Nazis. All provided straightforward, idealized role models for an anxious populace facing the Depression, Fascism, World War and the Nuclear Age.

But this summer’s profitable crop of big screen superheroes is different. We’ve got Hancock’s title character, a self-loathing homeless alcoholic; Iron Man’s Tony Stark, a vain, womanizing alcoholic-in-training; The Hulk’s Bruce Banner, whose rampaging, id-fueled alter ego often does more harm than good; the titular Hellboy, a demon superhero whose red skin, lengthy tail, and sawed-off horns evoke Satan (“Believe it or not,” trumpets the ad campaign, “this is the good guy”); and the second film in Christopher Nolan’s reimagining of the Batman mythos, in which Bruce Wayne is almost—if not equally—as deranged as those he brings to justice.

This new crop of movies speaks of cynicism, disillusionment, and sour self-examination. But while it obviously has a lot to do with our current situation as a nation—including an ongoing war in Iraq over weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to exist—its roots go farther back, to that original period of American disillusionment: the 60’s.

For What It’s Worth

There’s something happening here, as Buffalo Springfield said in November of 1966. At the time, U.S. troop strength in Vietnam had passed 400,000, the Cold War was getting worse, and the term ‘Black Power’ entered the common lexicon. The stark good guy/bad guy morality of Superman comics no longer fit a world now painted in shades of gray.

Along came Marvel Comics, and a young writer named Stan Lee. His new characters (the ones now ruling the multiplex) included Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Iron Man, and the Hulk. Lee wrote from a new angle: the younger side of the generation gap. His characters suffered money problems, family problems,girlfriend problems. They were sometimes selfish, often proud, inevitably flawed.


July 29th, 2008

To be honest, I was never a fan of Sex and the City when it was on television so I really had no interest in seeing it when it hit the big screen earlier this summer. I just didn’t think it was my kind of movie as a nun, if you get my drift. But after it had such extraordinary success at the box office—its opening night grossed more than Indiana Jones, establishing SATC as “by far the best of all time for a romantic comedy,” according to EW.com—a call from a friend of mine piqued my curiosity. He mentioned during our conversation that he was surprised at the broad range of women he knew who absolutely loved the movie. Whether it was college-age young women, accomplished 20, 30 and 40-something professionals (both single and married) or older grandmothers—it seemed to make no difference—women from all different social, economic, geographic, racial and religious backgrounds seemed to embrace this film with a remarkable amount of passion.

He then asked me an interesting question: who are these women who have elevated this quartet of New York women to such iconic heights? What do they see in SATC that makes them such avid fans of it? His question provided me with all the motivation I needed to visit the local multiplex and plunk down $11 for a ticket.

The most striking thing for me about SATC was that it does a good job of portraying what I have come to call “women forming community.” Through the bond of friendship that exists among women, we are able to create meaning and navigate the rest of our lives. SATC has made the friendship of Charlotte, Miranda, Samantha and Carrie the story. Despite the fact that I personally cannot relate to the characters’ issues or lifestyles, I found their bond of friendship deeply engaging.

Do SATC fans connect with it in the same way? Do they relate to the themes? To the lifestyle? Or is the friendship element the connection with them as well? I sent …

July 24th, 2008

“Why do you think people are so fixated on celebrities?”

July 10th, 2008

Who knows, were he born a century earlier perhaps Radiohead’s Thom Yorke might have picked up a paintbrush instead of a microphone. Yorke and 19th century Post-Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh (1857-1890) occupy completely different artistic fields from different eras and seemingly different worlds, but with the release of Radiohead’s recent In Rainbows Yorke proves yet again that—despite the 115 years that separate their births—and he is a spiritual brother of the legendary painter. There is something in each of these men that screams its way into the conscience of the world, something undeniably distorted and utterly beautiful.

Refusing to give in to the burden of past successes Radiohead’s 10-track disc is a disturbed take on everything from love and vice to trust and isolation. In Rainbows features some of Yorke’s most haunting lyrics and some of the most playfully elusive guitar hooks ever conjured out of the mind of Jonny Greenwood. Somehow this digitally glitch-filled collection manages to be both organic and quietly pleasing.

Hello Dali

Both Yorke and Van Gogh are masters at conjuring abstract expressions of the world around them from unique, albeit troubled perspectives. Van Gogh wore his crazies right out on his sleeve—be it the bloodletting, ear-gouging moments, or twisted works like “Skull with Cigarette.” Yorke’s eccentricities, though subtle in nature, are also strangely unsettling. His spine-tingling, deranged falsetto croon sounds at times like frostbitten wind whipping through a desolate house and his lyrics often descend into a surreal, paranoid darkness as with “Jigsaw Fall Into Place” from In Rainbow’s:

The walls abandon shape
You’ve got a Cheshire cat grin
All blurring into one
This place is on a mission
Before the night owl
Before the animal noises

Closed circuit cameras
Before you’re comatose

Yeah, not exactly “Love Me Do.” This is the kind of stuff I’d imagine Dali painting after a long acid trip.

Both Van Gogh and Yorke enter art from a background filled with failure, rejection, and loss. Van Gogh spent his young adult life chasing after a preacher’s calling that never stuck, sleeping on straw mats …

July 1st, 2008

Until recently, I believed the most heavenly experience I would ever have through music happened at a U2 concert in 1997 when I had an OMG moment as Bono blew a kiss my way while he sang “Mysterious Ways.” Fans of the band will recall that same song—from their 1991 album Achtung Baby—featured a very sensual belly dancer shimmying through the video and live concerts from that period; but the Reverend Paige Blair, rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church in York Harbor, Maine, urges listeners to consider the music from the Dublin quartet in a completely different light.

“The belly dancer is great,” she says. “But listen to the wonderful intertwining of how God uses desire to draw us, tempt us and lure us closer to Him.” She goes on to elaborate on the “light” and “shadow” interpretations of the song. “There’s a dark side to the belly dancer—alluding to the dance of Salome,” she explains. As the story goes, the beautiful Salome so captivated King Herod with her dance that he vowed to give her anything she wanted. She asked—at her mother’s urging—for John the Baptist’s head on a tray. “That’s Johnny of Johnny, take a walk,” she points out. But the song is not all dark, she says. “The chorus, It’s alright…she moves in mysterious ways plays on the ‘God moves in mysterious ways’ phrase that we all use. And at the conclusion of the song, one voice is singing She moves with it, another voice is singing Spirit moves in mysterious ways—the Holy Spirit.”

Fish in the Sand
Three years ago, Blair started a GenX revolution of sorts at St. George’s by floating the idea of a ‘U2 Eucharist’ to her parishioners. “U2 has always been a Christian band. No other band has a 30-year history of singing about biblical, scriptural and spiritual matters,” she points out, referring to a quote by Bono from the book, U2 at the End of the World, in which he says, “Maybe we just have to sort of draw our fish in the sand. It’s there for people …

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June 30th, 2008

Even by Hollywood standards the story idea pitched to movie executives for Pixar’s WALL-E must have sounded hallucinogenic: “So we’ve got this robot, but it’s a really lonely robot, see, because all the humans have left Earth a complete wasteland and this poor little guy has to pick up their trash—forever! Yeah! He’ll be busy picking up their trash for like, 700 years, and he’ll only have one friend…um…a cockroach. And then let’s say he falls in love with another robot and ultimately makes the planet safe for all the humans again! Oh, oh, and people will leave the movie wanting to save the Earth.”

When word first spread about Pixar’s latest film, about a silent robot who saves the world, industry analysts were placing bets that this, finally, would be Pixar’s undoing. Sure, they had recently pulled off a movie about a rat that became a chef at a fine restaurant (Ratatouille), but this—a silent movie? A robot romance?—was just too much. The creative minds at Pixar have produced gems like Toy Story and The Incredibles that are flat-out excellent films—even Pixar’s relative dud, Cars, is Citizen Kane compared to most animated movies. But could they pull this off? After seeing WALL-E on its opening day, I can tell you the answer is yes, yes, yes. No movie has ever made me call all my friends immediately to insist they see it, and certainly no movie has ever compelled me to break state laws and call those friends on my cell phone while driving. I didn’t care. If a cop had pulled me over, I would have told him to see WALL-E too.

Little Tramp
“But it’s a robot,” my friends told me. “I know,” I said, “but he’s not just a robot. He’s WALL-E!” After all, Bambi and The Lion King are about a deer and a lion we come to love, and it’s just about impossible not to fall in love with WALL-E.

Clearly indebted to Charlie Chaplin’s …

June 23rd, 2008

Earlier this month, a Catholic watchdog group protested a student art exhibition that displayed certain religious symbols in a sexually explicit manner. Have you ever been offended by a piece of art?

June 18th, 2008

“Each painting lays out in black, white, purple and magenta just how present G-D is in all aspects of life.”

June 9th, 2008

“Do you think Barack Obama should choose Hillary Clinton to be his running mate?”

June 6th, 2008

It’s not easy being a villain in Narnia. Twice now, in the two movies based on C.S. Lewis’ beloved series, the bad guys begin with the whole world in their hands, only to be thwarted—like some mythic, British take on Scooby Doo—by a band of meddling kids.

Narnia can be a pretty brutal place for filmmakers as well. Lewis’ books have spawned millions of passionate, highly defensive devotees across three generations. Meaning that anybody who dares to put their beloved tales on screen does so at their own peril. They also risks the scorn of movie critics, who are as notoriously finicky as any Narnia fans, and perhaps even less rational.

No surprise, then, that director Andrew Adamson has come out of Prince Caspian, the second film installment in Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, with nearly as many bruises as the movie’s whipped, onscreen villains. While Caspian has grossed over $115 million worldwide, it hasn’t lived up to its expectations, critical or commercial. Its earnings have been nearly doubled by the less-hyped Iron Man, and according to Yahoo!, its average critics’ rating is B-, matched recently by other lackluster films like Leatherheads and Baby Mama.

Compare and Despair

At the heart of the matter seems to be a game of comparison. In review after review, from both fans and critics alike, there are complaints about how Caspian stacks up against both the first story in the series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and a series of three movies based on books by Lewis’ friend, colleague and fellow Christian J.R.R. Tolkien. (They’re called The Lord of the Rings, and made over a billion dollars. Maybe you’ve heard of them.)

To this Narnia fan (and occasional movie reviewer), the unfavorable comparisons are accurate. But are they fair? Well, yes and no. Lewis’ material deserves some of the blame for the sophomore slump; but we should also point a finger at any critic who refuses to lighten up a little about a movie that’s ultimately an adaptation of a kid’s book.

Prince Caspian starts much like its precursor: with the four Pevensie

children …

May 21st, 2008

Since his first, monotone date with cinematic history in 1986’s Ferris Bueller, Ben Stein has carved a public career out of slight, but reliably charming variations on a single character: himself. Stein has been a supporting player in TV series and movies, a commercial pitchman (remember those Clear Eyes ads?), the host of the late, great Comedy Central quiz show Win Ben Stein’s Money, and, more earnestly, a news pundit on CBS. His wardrobe—always a drab-colored suit, always a pair of canvas sneakers laced up with immaculately white shoestrings—seems the perfect extension of his persona. Bookish, phlegmatic and self-deprecatingly funny, he looks at once like the smartest and least threatening man in the room.

Stein has never concealed his political leanings. A supremely entertaining talk show guest, he frequently describes his tenure as a young speechwriter for Nixon and his straight-ticket Republican voting record. His commentary for CBS has been vaunted by the Religious Right for taking aim at some of the Secular Left’s sacred cows. (In one holiday segment which later became a popular chain email, Stein, who is a practicing Jew, expressed dismay that Christian Nativity displays were being forcibly removed from public property.)

Design Theory
It should come as no surprise, then, that Pat Robertson and company were excited about Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Ben Stein’s first foray into documentary filmmaking. The movie, which opened in April, argues that there is a systematic effort to snuff out any challenge to the prevailing, evolutionary account of life’s origins. In the media, but most especially in America’s institutions of higher learning, Stein asserts that science has become a one-sided conversation, with Darwinists doing all the talking. He rolls out a group of researchers who, he claims, lost tenure or employment at places like Baylor, George Mason University, and the Smithsonian Institute. These are the film’s “expelled”—scientists who are punished for championing, or merely mentioning the possibility of, a Creator’s hand.

Stein, who promoted the film on Robertson’s 700 Club show, clearly favors the Design theory. But initially at least, he casts the film’s central issue as one of …

May 20th, 2008

“In what way are you affected by the news of natural disasters abroad?”

May 17th, 2008

Do you have financial debt? How do you feel about debt?

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