Category Archives: Contemporary

Revisiting Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights

Wakes of Joy: On Ross Gay's "The Book of Delights" | Porter House Review

All writers are given the same piece of advice to write each and every day; Ross Gay took on this challange and made it literal. 

And so The Book of Delights was born, Ross Gay’s collection of personal essays, a one-year project beginning and ending on Gay’s birthday. Each piece is framed around the blissful premise of capturing the little pleasures in everyday life. 

The topics of the delights range from the smallest joy, like a “Flower in the Curb,” where Gay recounts seeing, “some kind of gorgous flower, mostly a red I don’t think I actually have words for, a red I maybe only seen in this flower growing out of the crack between the curb and the asphalt…”  (Gay 9). 

In addition to the light moments, Gay reveals truths that ask his reader to think. A writer of color, Gay raises the issue of inequality throughout the text, like when he discusses his friend’s book : 

“…the fact that innocence is an impossible state for black people in America who are, by virtue of this country’s fundamental beliefs, always presumed guilty. It’s not hard to get this. Read Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow. Or Devah Pager’s work about hiring practices showing that black men without a record receive job callbacks at a rate lower than white men previously convicted of felonies… (Gay 25).”

This perspective that Gay shares invite his readers not only to be appreciative, but critical, of their surrounding world. More serious themes such as this are interwoven throughout the novel, balancing the existing uplifting moments. 

As a reader, this feels more authentic to read than a book solely about delights. It’s not realistic to have a positive outlook every day for an entire year. Gay’s balance of the ideas he wrestles with in daily life, along with the little joys he experiences make for a reliable narrator. 

The Book of Delights is a great read that asks its reader to reflect on life’s positive experiences, amid times of uncertainty and negativity. Its essay-like structure of one delight at a time makes it easy to breeze through, since it is connected by a premise more than a plot. It’s positive tone will put you in an uplifting mood and help you to notice the daily delights in life than go often overlooked. 

– Charleigh

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“A Hard Road:” Charles Coe Considers Voter Attitudes

Charles Coe, a member of CambridgeEditors’ Editorial Team, is also a poet and prose writer. His latest essay, “A Hard Road” published in Plume, recounts his thoughts while traveling through Western New York as a poet-in-residence at the Chautauqua Institute. Getting “a lay of the land,” Charles opts to have his driver take the scenic route to Chautauqua, where manufacturing jobs have dwindled and the abundant Concord grapes have little demand. Coe notes this landscape is “a common one in the rust belt and farm country.” 

Commenting on “A Hard Road,” Coe states his essay “reflects on how a common attitude shared by people who support the current administration is suspicion of and antipathy toward art and artists.”

This common attitude is established in the collapsing barns and beat-up homes he sees along the drive, and Coe notes the Trump 2016 signs at seemingly every home and turn. The duality of poverty and political agendas, aligning with the side of wealth baffles Coe. He likens his own understanding of the signs to the following Lindon B Johnson quote: 

“I’ll tell you what’s at the bottom of it,” he said. “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

He goes on to list the political beliefs and agendas of the Trump voter: a disbelief in climate change, Covid-19, and the desire to fund football teams over libraries. In “The Hard Road,” Coe considers the driving principles behind The Trump Voter without high-income. He also takes into consideration Trump’s view on the arts, leaving readers with the question of whether Trump even reads poetry. 

Coe teaches English at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island and is a poetry and nonfiction professor for their low-residency MFA program. You can read more of his work in his  2019 book, Memento Mori, a poetry collection capturing mortality, change, and loss. 

– Charleigh

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Mechanical Keyboards: The Best of Both Worlds

In the last ten years, the manual typewriter has made an astounding comeback. Writers across the globe have returned to the analogue. Like the Moleskine notebook or the fountain pen, today’s writers seek antiquated tools for a sense of nostalgia and inspiration. However, completely forgoing modern conveniences such as spell check, email, and word processing is a hard sell. For those seeking something old that still has the tools we desire, there exists another option: the mechanical computer keyboard.



Mechanical keyboards were the first computer input devices before the invention of the mouse, but they fell out of fashion with manufacturers because of high costs. Cheaper to manufacture, the spongey feeling rubber dome membrane keyboards replaced them in the 90s. By contrast, mechanical keyboards use switches and springs with distinct stages of actuation, producing a satisfying “click” with each keystroke. 

The most common mechanical keyboard design is the German Cherry MX, which uses downward motion against a spring to push a plunger piece and complete the circuit. The plunger “snaps” downward when enough pressure is applied, making the sound. The other equally revered, but much less common, design is the “buckling spring.” These have a keycap resting on a spring, which buckles against the walls of the stem when pressed and rocks a “hammer” plate to complete the circuit. IBM invented and popularized this design on their 1984 “Model M keyboard,” which today is regarded as the ultimate typist’s keyboard for its quality and feel. Only one small company in Kentucky called “Unicomp,” made up of former IBM employees, carries on the buckling spring legacy.

The next time your MacBook keyboard fails, and you yearn for something analogue but cannot completely forego modern computer conveniences, consider a mechanical keyboard of 1980s design. It can do for you what the manual typewriter has done and continues to do for writers like David McCullough, John Mayer, and P. J. O’Rourke.  A mechanical keyboard will allow you to commune with the past and an analogue experience, while still allowing you to get real work done in a modern workflow.


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Howard Greenberg Collection: Romanticism Through Times of Hardship


The “Viewpoints: Photographs from the Howard Greenberg Collection” at the Museum of Fine, Boston is a spectacular collection of images from many notable photographers. 

Greenberg’s collection explores the social history and cultural battleground of America. The photographs display the Depression Era, African American life from the 1930s to the Civil Rights Movement, and photographs of war-time as it ravaged the country and overseas.[MOU1]  Greenberg describes the impact of the works: “photography is an art form, as well as a cultural, political, and social force.” The power of the photographic eye in this collection, while powerful and saddening, still recognizes a glimmer of hope.” _


Robert Frank “The Day Before Arriving in New York” (1924)

The photograph just being in black and white adds a certain dramatism, as this man’s future rests on the unknown. The monochromatic print feels more depressing than hopefully as if the pain of leaving one’s own home and embarking on this long journey at sea is more meaningful than the final destination- New York. 


Brassai (Gyula Halasz): “Lovers in a Cafe (couple d’amoureux dans un petit cafe)” (1932)

Greenberg, commenting on the photograph, writes: “the complex composition and fragments seen in the mirrors surrounding the pair, evoking the duality of Parisian nightlife that so enchanted Brassai. His photograhs reveal the combination of glamour and decadence with lust and sinfulness all found in the city’s nighttime angst and beauty.” Additionally, the “L” shaped composition made by the mirrors draws the viewer’s eye toward the subjects, further emphasized by the stark contrast of their faces against the dark booth behind and below them.


Allen Ginsberg: “Handsome Jack with his Breakman’s Rule Book in his Pocket, 206 E. 7th Street” (1953)

Allen Ginsberg’s “Handsome Jack with his Breakman’s Rule Book in his Pocket, 206 E. 7th Street” shows a young Jack Kerouac looking out over the city. The tight cropping of the photograph between the brick wall and Keruac feels intimate and shows the close relationship between the subject and photographer, Ginsberg.



Bruce Davidson “Couple Kissing in Corner” (1959)

Bruce Davidson’s “Couple Kissing in Corner” shows the comparison between loving connection and platonic acquaintances. In the room with the couple, the highlights on their bodies make them stand out from the dark hallway surrounding them. In contrast, the room with the acquaintances has a light wallpaper, and their bodies are dark and unemotional as they sit with their backs to the walls.

The Howard Greenberg Viewpoints exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts shows the power of “photography as a tool for documentation” [of social conditions in America]. The ways in which each photographer is able to convey connectedness and love (whether that be romantic or platonic love) is truly mesmerizing. The romanticization of the American dream, of lovers, and of childlike wonder each show the ways in which one can fall in love with the world around them. 



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The Future Library of Norway


The Future Library of Norway is an environmental, literary, and artistic project designed by Scottish artist, Katie Paterson. In 2014, 1,000 trees were planted in Norway. Once a year for the next one hundred years, one writer will be chosen to contribute an original work, which will not be read until 2114. That year, the fully-grown forest will be chopped down and used as paper to publish an anthology of the writers’ pieces.  

In 2014, Margaret Atwood was chosen to be the first Future Library author. “For me, it’s the great unknown,” the Canadian writer states, “but it’s a very hopeful gesture. It means somewhere in the future there will still be readers. There will still be people. There’ll still be a forest in Norway. There will still be a library.” The only information available about Atwood’s book is the title, Scribbler Moon.

Since 2014, David Mitchell, Sjón, Elif Shafak, and Han Kang have been chosen to contribute to the Future Library. South Korean writer Han Kang dragged a white cloth through the forest before wrapping it around her book. In Korea, white cloth is traditionally used to clothe newborn babies and those recently deceased. In an interview, Kang stated, “it was like a wedding of my manuscript with this forest. Or a lullaby for a century-long sleep, softly touching the earth all the way. So, this is time to say goodbye.” Her book, named Dear Son, My Beloved, will not be read by any human for 95 years. 

The next author to join the Future Library will be selected later this year. 

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The Language of Photography

Lotter by Emily Bunn

Photography is a means of visual storytelling. Even a single moment captured in time allows the viewer to access and interpret an entire story.  Much like one’s brain puts words together to create meaning, photographs can be placed together to create equally powerful narratives.

The “decisive moment” is a term coined by Henri Cartier Bresson, an early photographer who photographed throughout the entire twentieth century. The decisive moment is an exact instance in time when a photograph is taken, wherein which the image represents the essence of the event in its entirety. Taking this image requires the brain (knowledge of what is going on), the heart (understanding the emotion felt during the scene at play), and the hand (in order to click the shutter to capture the image) to all work in congruence simultaneously. Having the knowledge to understand and interpret one’s environment as well as having a strong sense of one’s own intuition are both equally important in creating an image. When done successfully, a still photo can show, not tell (as all writers must do as well in their writing) the emotion and situation of their captured moment.

Though a single photograph can garner endless interpretations, a photo series can give viewers even more insight into a photographer’s story. Collections of images put together can tell complex tales by showing the progression of a subject or scene. In one’s own home, photo albums of family members on holidays, birthdays, weddings and other landmark events show the progression of an individual through life. Capturing images of one’s closest friends, passions, and favorite places can also tell stories about where one exists in the timeline of their own life. What may seemingly appear like a collection of random images can easily be rearranged and presented as a photo series. How these images are put together can tell a multitude of stories about oneself. In turn, when viewed by an audience, these images can speak endless stories to viewers about their own lives, thoughts, and relationships.

The ability to tell stories within a silent medium can reverberate through the minds and hearts of viewers deafeningly. Images are singular moments captured in time that can speak to experiences both past, present, and future. While photographs can tell a photograph’s story, the interpretations by the photographer’s audience can tell a thousand more. Photography is a language understood by all, communicated between photographer, their camera, and their viewers.

Photography by Emily Bunn


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The Language of Dancewear

Language is an important tool that dominates our everyday ideas and ideals. These ideas and ideals are especially important in marketing. However, in a time of supposed equality, the language used to sell items changes dramatically if a company wishes to pander to the feminine market or the masculine market. This remains true even in the areas of the arts such as dance and the language used to sell dancewear.

A Bit About Dance and Dancewear

image1-3Dance styles: ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, and ballroom dancing all have different types of dancewear associated with them. Most of these dance styles have a strict uniform for both female and male dancers. In many dance stores, the ratio of women’s dancewear and men’s dancewear is skewed in favor of the traditional female dancer. Speaking for personal experience as a sales associate in a dancewear store, this skew towards female dancers often discourages young male dancers from wanting to enter a dancewear store, even if it’s to get something as simple as a new pair of dance shoes. Online stores improve this situation by providing a larger selection of dancewear. Unfortunately, sizing in the online market for dancewear is different than within the physical store. Often trying on items can be more time consuming when done at home instead of in a retail store. Since male dancers are more likely to shop online than in the store, many retail stores struggle to see a need to improve their selection for men.

Women’s dancewear description

Online dancewear retailers are often creative with their descriptions. With the lack of time and a large selection provided online, the descriptions tend to be repetitive and tailored toward women. We can see this within CoCo Chanel and their phrasing such as:

“Coco Chanel knew best when she said, ‘Modesty is the highest elegance.’ This reigns true when you wear the Long Sleeve Unitard. Our best-selling unitard features a moderate scoop front and back.”

“Style icon, Audrey Hepburn knew best when she said, ‘Elegance is the only beauty that never fades.’ This reigns true when wearing the Georgette Long Wrap Skirt made of delicate chiffon.”

These generic descriptions feed into the idea that companies believe female dancers only care about how they look. This helps create the many different variations of the same thing we see in the store, with only minor differences to help with the comfort level of the garments.

image2-2.jpegMen’s dancewear description

When the same online marketers are creating the copy for men’s dancewear, they focus almost exclusively on highlighting comfort and utilitarian function. Sometimes, they only state the bare facts about the item. The reasoning behind this is rooted in the idea that masculine dancers do not care about looks, which affects both how much is offered to these dancers and creates a harsh stigma when a male dancer tries to break away from the monotone color palette of black and white. With the hundreds of different style and color options that female dancers have, it is only right that male dancers are given the same opportunity to stand out and put their best foot forward. In the New York City Ballet, one of the top ballet companies in the United States, the only category where male dancers outnumber female dancers is at the Principal level, the highest level a dancer can achieve in a company. Ballet and other dance forms need strong male dancers and until something changes, the stigma will remain the way it is and some of the best male dancers will be lost before they have even given this wonderful art form a try.

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“Prosecutors dismissed a manslaughter charge against an Alabama woman who was indicted for “intentionally” causing the death of her fetus after someone else shot her in the abdomen. The decision follows the arrest of Marshae Jones, 28, who was charged on the allegation that she started a scuffle that led to her being shot by another woman. The fight took place in a parking lot in Pleasant Grove, just outside Birmingham.” -NPR reports

As you may have seen on the news state by state controversies about abortion clinics have been on the rise. But what is abortion, how is it legal, why is it important, and which states have these controversies?

According to Merriam Webster the definition of abortion is the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus.

So what is the most recent case of abortion being legal? That would be the 1973 Roe V Wade case. According to the ACLU or the American Civil Liberties Union, “The Court ruled that the states were forbidden from outlawing or regulating any aspect of abortion performed during the first trimester of pregnancy, could only enact abortion regulations reasonably related to maternal health in the second and third trimesters, and could enact abortion laws protecting the life of the fetus only in the third trimester. Even then, an exception had to be made to protect the life of the mother.”

However, this was not the first time abortion had been legal within the United States. Abortion was practiced throughout the United States until the early 1800’s. Abortion is also not a modern practice. According to Dr. Kenneth R. Niswander, article “Medical Abortion Practices”, “Abortion is undoubtedly an ancient practice. The records of almost every civilization indicate knowledge of abortifacient agents and abortive techniques. Among primitive people, these were gruesome when practiced in the extreme, and remain so among certain tribes today. One tribe encouraged large ants to bite the woman’s body, and on occasion the insects were taken internally.'” Gross traumatization of the pregnant abdomen was a popular method of attempting to induce abortion and is still used by some primitive groups. The early Hebrews knew abortive techniques although they strongly disapproved of the practice. The Greeks, on the other hand advocated abortion in order to control population size and insure good social and economic conditions among the people.” Dr. Kenneth R. Niswander continues to write that “Plato and Aristotle dearly encouraged abortion on social or economic grounds. Hippocrates practiced abortion but wanted only physicians to abort patients.”

However, this legal abortion practiced in the ancient world came to an end during the early 1800’s. The United States in particular, has continued the recent trend of outlawing abortion. According to Dr. Acevedo, the United States followed this trend of anti-abortion primarily because the attitude of abortion was reflected from the colonies original controlled country. The British colonies abortions were legal if they were performed prior to quickening. In the French colonies abortions were frequently performed despite the fact that they were considered to be illegal. In the Spanish and Portuguese colonies abortion was illegal. From 1776 until the mid-1800s abortion was viewed as socially unacceptable; however, abortions were not illegal in most states. Most of these laws were ambiguous and difficult to enforce. To enforce these laws abortion was criminalized by the late 1880’s.

In fact, between 1880 and 1965 criminalization of abortion did not reduce the numbers of women who sought abortions. It only increased the maternal death rates of the illegal abortions received. According to Guttmacher institute of policy review “Special Analysis on Abortion” In 1930, abortion was listed as the official cause of death for almost 2,700 women—nearly one-fifth (18%) of maternal deaths recorded in that year. The death toll had declined to just under 1,700 by 1940, and to just over 300 by 1950 (most likely because of the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, which permitted more effective treatment of the infections that frequently developed after illegal abortion). By 1965, the number of deaths due to illegal abortion had fallen to just under 200, but illegal abortion still accounted for 17% of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth that year. And these are just the number that were officially reported; the actual number was likely much higher.

As I write this article there are 9 states that have passed bills to limit the ability for women to access abortion services. The states are as follows:










Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio stopped short of outright bans, instead passing bills banning abortion from six to eight weeks of pregnancy. This is effectively outright banning abortion since most women discover they are pregnant between four to seven weeks.

These are not the only states to enact bans however these are just the most stringent bans. According to the ACLU there are thirty-one states that have some sort of restriction which are as follows:


While these historical statistics are favored by the pro-choice movement, the anti-choice movement has created its own narrative. Instead of rephrasing statistics, the antichoice movement has dedicated themselves to making the movement to challenge an individual’s moral compass. While the pro-choice movement has relied on statistics and historical data —the antichoice movement has relied on a combination of religious texts, romantic language, and few of any statistics.

We can see the use of religious texts to support antichoice decisions through the language of law makers:


“Today, I signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act. To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious & that every life is a sacred gift from God.” Tweet from Governor of Alabama Kay Ivey

“Jeremiah 1:5 says, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you,’” Inhofe continued. “To everyone who comes to the March for Life, know that we hear you and we are standing with you, just as we have in the past.” JIM INHOFE using bible verses for his speech at March for life.

To further energize the antichoice movement, journalists and activists will use emotional rhetoric as persuasive tools. Famous examples of this emotional rhetoric used: Rush Limbaugh, Tammy Lauren, and Bill O’riley.

Each uses strong romantic-emotional language when persuading viewers. An example from Rush Limbaugh:

“RUSH: Yes, I do. I think we are facing a World War II-like circumstance in the sense that, as then, it is today: Western Civilization is at stake. I made the statement a couple days ago talking about the race that we are in, the race being led by the attorney general, William Barr, and his prosecutor, John Durham from Connecticut. We’re in a race with the people that ran this silent coup to get rid of Donald Trump. We’re in a race to get to the finish line first. Who will expose this or who will get away with this?”

Each description of the situation is in active voice and each adjective used is over exaggerated. There is no “invasion” at the southern border nor is there an actual “race” or “coup” in our politics. But these words catch the attention of listeners and are routinely used as key phrases and repeated when provided with conflicting information.

While the news may cover the various states that have the most stringent laws the proliferation of emotional rhetoric instead of statistics is becoming more popularized. I hope with these statistics and evidence the reader will be able to discover and reanalyze the data that has been given to you. Below are the list of websites and articles that I have pulled from:

(Definition of abortion)

(Roe v Wade)

(History of Abortion)

(Death rates)

(Current stringent bans)

(Any bans)

(Knowledge of pregnancy)

(1800s and the colonies)

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Mood Boosters

Happy Mental Health Awareness Month (and Happy Cinco de Mayo!) In celebration of Mental Health Awareness and the less than sunny weather here in Boston, I have gathered some writing exercises to hopefully improve your mood!


(Note: As you write each of the prompts listen to either your favorite playlist or podcast.)


1.Look around you and pick an everyday object. Take 15 minutes and create a rant about that object.


(Optional) have a friend read your rant aloud and have that same friend write a rant about a different object.


  1. Take a moment to draw a chart of this week. Then take 20 minutes to write about all of your accomplishments throughout this week in cursive.


(Note: The accomplishments can be as simple as taking a shower. We want to write as many accomplishments as possible.)


  1. Take 30 minutes to write about how you are a child playing hide and seek and you stumble upon a bright new world.


(Optional) draw your new world


  1. Take 5 minutes and write down as many random words as possible. After this, take 10 minutes to create a poem using only the random words.


  1. Take 10 minutes to write about your daily activities. Next, take only 20 minutes to grab a dictionary and edit/play with your sentence.


For example:


-I walked through Newbury street and stopped to grab a coffee before work.


-I descended through  Newbury street and halted to conquer a coffee before work.


I hope these fun prompts boost your mood and help you to forget your worries (and the weather) if even for a moment. Remember, these prompts are meant to be silly and fun so allow yourself to make mistakes and let those words flow! Comment below on your favorite writing prompts!

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Time To Plant!

If you are like me, and enjoy planting,  the first day of spring is an exciting time. The flowers are beginning to bloom, the trees are not simple sticks, and plants are ready to be potted! For those that are new to planting I have a few plants that are near impossible to kill.

  1. Succulents- First, these plants do not always do well within glass. Their roots need space to breath and for drainage. A common mistake for first time succulent owners is to over-water, under-water, or have an incorrect pot for the plant. All plants require special love, care, and knowledge to make sure they flourish. That said, here are two succulents that require less care than others.


Aloe Vera-Requires low light, low water, and when the leaf is broken it can be used for sunburns. For potting, watering, and fertilizer instructions please visit:




Gollum- Does well in high humidity and high light areas. Requires very little care. For more detailed information please visit:


2. Ivy- Common mistakes with ivy plants occur when watering. When watering PLEASE make sure that when the water drains from the bottom of the pot and onto the water  dish, MOVE THE PLANT INTO THE SINK AND LET WATER DRAIN. Ivy is notorious for drowning in excess water. Otherwise, this plant will survive any light or weather conditions. It’s a hardy plant.

Devil’s Ivy- Great for any light conditions but must allow excess water to drain out of the plant. These hate to sit in their extra water. If you are notorious about under-watering these plants can survive you! For more details please go to:


English Ivy- Note: this plant is toxic to dogs and cats. Featured in many design magazines English Ivy climbs quickly and requires little to no maintenance. Simply water once a week, fertilize once a month, and keep in bright light. For more details and potting instructions:


3. Closet Plants- Also known as office plants. These require little to no care except for watering. Make sure to have correct drainage pots for these plants and you are good to go!

Peace Lilies- Note: Peace Lilies can be grown in water. These plants require little water or care and little to no fertilizer. It will eventually need to be re-potted as it can grow quickly. So if the plant starts to sag after watering it may be time to re-pot. More information for this plant can be found here:

peace lilly

Cast Iron Plant- These plants require some watering but low light. If you are someone that under-waters a plant, this specimen can handle you! Over-watering… not so much, it can be susceptible to root rot.

cast iron plant

If even after reviewing all the information you feel unsure. Here are some final tips to make sure you know how to check if a plant has enough water.

How to check if you are watering your plant too much:

Soil feels and appears mud-like hours after watering.

Brown tips on the leaves.

Leaf fall.

Rotten odor.

How to check if you are not watering your plant enough:

Yellow leaves.

Dusty soil.

Leaning stem.

No one has a “black thumb” with research, love, and proper care anyone can have a healthy garden!

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