Weaver's Week 2010-05-30
Coming up: full coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest semi-final, and the running order for the final. But first!
The Grand Final
|"It's been a long road", says the host. You don't say, the show began on the Friday before the August bank holiday, and concludes on the Friday before the May bank holiday. And we hear that the theme music has been re-orchestrated, played by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.
David Buckle is first up, and he's chosen Hollywood in the 1980s. Hollywood is a suburb of Belfast... what, there's another one? Apparently, this Hollywood is somewhere near Sacramento, and the local industry is making motion pictures, mostly teen comedies with lots of music in. Certainly, that's what the round concentrates on, "Back to the Future" and "Teen Wolf" and "The Shining" and "Full Metal Jacket". It's a good round, but there's some headroom for the others to tilt at: 13 (1).
Our next finalist is Kathryn Johnson, and she's talking about the Granddaughters of Queen Victoria. The British queen had many children, they had many children themselves, and most of them would become royalty in their own right. The contender freely admits that this was a choice out of desperation, rather than inspiration, but she knows a lot about the grandchildren anyway. She also confesses to nerves before the heat began. Perhaps that accounts for an unusual stutter over one answer, It's another sterling round, finishing on 16 (0).
|Jesse Honey has chosen to answer on Liverpool Anglican cathedral (built 1904-78). The cathedral was the brainchild of the second Bishop of Liverpool, Francis James Chavasse, who thought there was something strange about a bishop without a cathedral. Worship began in 1942, and regeneration outside the cathedral began in the 1980s. Hang on, one chap gets to go to the West Coast, this chap has a trip to Liverpool? We suspect the final won't be entirely decided on the general knowledge round, as this contender ends on 18 (0).
Barbara Thompson has picked English cricket's county championship since 1960. In England, the domestic cricket tournament is played between a number of county sides, playing games of three or four days, with the best amongst them crowned the champions. She's at a cricket match, fairly obviously, and says that she started to love the game when she saw the Yorkshire side of the 1960s. The first question asks after the champions in 2001, and is met with a pass. The contest won't be won here, but it could be lost, and an unexpected pass spiral may have done for the contender: she ends on 10 (4).
|Les Morrell will offer the General Strike of 1926 (3-11 May 1926). The proximate cause of the general strike was an effort to reduce the pay of miners, and trade unions wishing to demonstrate that they could defeat the aims of capitalist owners and cause the lumpen proletariat to rise up. It was called off after barely a week, and the net result was that both government and unions agreed that it's better to talk than do battle. His location report is from Beamish museum, where there's a recreation of a mine from circa 1926. This is keeping him in the contest, a score of 16 (1).
Our final finalist is Mark Grant, and he's got 17th century Venetian opera (1637-1700). Opera began in Venice, and remained associated with the lagoon city for a couple of hundred years afterwards. Cavalli and Cesti popularised the style, with plays and ballets in some very complex stagings – one show is reported to have had 66 scenes and 24 sets. Proving that the budget does run to another decent trip, we catch up with Mr. Grant in Venice. He watched Mastermind Australia when he lived over there. He goes for it, doesn't hesitate, and scores a stonking 17 (0).
|So to the general knowledge round, Barbara Thompson needs nine to take the lead. It's a tall task, and though she achieves it, there's very little in the tank afterwards, and 19 (7) is her final score. Mrs. Thompson has been a regular face for as long as we can remember television quizzes, and we doff our cap to her. David Buckle doesn't need to be "economical with the truth" in one of his correct answers; he also remembers the booby prize on Crackerjack (cabbages!) and takes his score to 22 (3).
Kathryn Johnson begins with the recent success of Vera Lynn, and knows that no-one should buy a used car from Richard Nixon. When she knows the answer, the contender responds quickly; when she doesn't, she passes and moves on. The contender knows a lot of the answers, including the Battleship Potemkin and the misleading diet of the Oystercatcher, to end on 32 (2).
|The target has been set, Mr. Morrell has his work cut out. There's room for a few wrong answers, and he gets the main river of the Isle of Wight, and Muralitheran, and misses the author of "Sex and the City". Sadly, there are a lot of other misses, and he finishes on 23 (5).
Mark Grant needs fifteen to remain in contention, and begins with the country other than Israel to border the Dead Sea. He's dressed in a very natty waistcoat, and is averting his gaze from the host, presumably to help with the concentration. It means he misses cues about when the host is about to finish the question, but that's all. The Hidden Transmission Indicator question about the Eurovision Song Contest appears, and there's one about a repechage allowing defeated contestants back into the series. It was a good idea for this show. Time just runs out: 30 (0).
|Jesse Honey has two minutes to take the title. Fifteen correct answers and he's there. Flag of Cyprus, Greenwich meridian, the Red Cross, the points keep coming. Botswana's colonial name, the druids, Gaitskill's address to the Labour party conference, they're all there. A brief hiccup when asked what PFC stands for in the US army, and the river Ipswich stands upon, but that's as far as it goes. The final score, including one pass and a guess after the bell, is a total, a vast total, a highest score of the television revival, a winning total of 37 [THIRTY-SEVEN] (1).
So Jesse Honey, a planning officer from Wandsworth, has won the coveted title of Mastermind champion. He receives the trophy from last year's winner, Nancy Dickmann.
|Ooh, that Paddy O'Connell. He can turn up on Radio 4 to promote Broadcasting House forty hours before the show begins, but he can't be bothered to be in his commentary booth here a mere forty seconds before the start.
Hello, welcome to Oslo, where Europe's finest modern popular music compositions will do battle for the Grand Prix d'Eurovision. We're welcomed by three hosts. Three! Don't they know there's a recession on, and the budget for the UK entry has been slashed to six new pence? Each host has a clearly-defined role. Erik Solbakken (former journalist) and Haddy N'jie (recently on air for eight hours without a break – David Dimbleby reckons she's a lightweight) are going to be cheering on the crowd and floating around the green room. Nadia Hasnaoui will be the mistress of the scoreboard, a job she did rather well at the 2004 Junior ESC. Think Peter Snow, with a very full head of hair. And better French. And better English, probably.
|In a change to previous years, voting begins at the start of the show, and will continue for 15 minutes afterwards. Vote early, and vote often! Or, if you're watching in the UK, put your feet up and enjoy the next 75 minutes, you won't be voting, as Paddy will tell us about ten squillion times. Ditto for viewers in Ireland.
Moldova kick us off with a very eighties song. Lots of mullet, lots of shoulder pads, and even a gratuitous sax break. It's Moldova, it'll get something. Here's how: the usual title and performers and writers are displayed before the song, and again about 20 seconds before its end, before the phone voting numbers are displayed. Or, for viewers in the UK, a "don't vote" message.
Russia come next, they've sent Peter Nalitch, Mr. Emoski, who sings a plaintive love song about his lost love and how the world is full of w0e. The backdrop comes into play for this song, as it appears to be snowing behind him. It's a much more restrained staging than last year, which isn't going to surprise anyone: the lights behind the screen are narrower rectangular lights, sufficiently dense to appear like your average video wall but with only about a fifth as many bulbs. The stage itself is glass, divided into small squares by struts and underlit in various colours. And it's a sensible size, large enough to allow performances, but not dwarfing Goliath.
|Last year's Estonian entry is still missing, they went out on the huge Moscow stage and never came back. Malcolm Lincoln takes its name from a wrong answer on the Estonian version of Millionaire, when someone was asked to name the US president. The song is performed by a someone who wants to be Jarvis Cocker but isn't, and is the sort of clever-clever angst they'll love on 6Music if ever they deigned to play New Eurovision music. Which they don't.
Slovakia next, and we can see that the staging also includes a massive chandelier. Don't they know there's a recession on? Actually, yes, the Slovaks do, as they've made their costumes out of leaves and animal skins. Apart from the backing singer who needs a fairy cake to stand on top of. It's a folk music tune, really rather lovely in its own way, and we'll be disappointed when it doesn't progress.
|Finland say "Bring on the accordion", because what the continent needs is, er, a second folk song in a row. This one's jaunty and song by two ladies who are prancing about like nymphs and has the accordion and fiddle and handclaps and blokes in soldier suits performing acrobatics. It'll be straight into the "Isn't Eurovision bonkers" file, and might come back on Saturday.
Commercial break, and Sarah Cawood is talking to a dedicated UK fan who made a film about his journey to Oslo via Chelmsford, Harwich, Copenhagen, and Ulan Bator. Oh, sorry, that's Josh Dubovie, who's actually performing the UK entry. We'll discuss the postcards, which are people performing some sort of dance with the national flag, interspersed with shots of the group about to perform on stage. But the postcards are superimposed onto a camera moving above the audience, and the national flag appears and disappears as golden mist. Takes a lot of getting used to.
|Where are we next? Latvia, who have sent a pretty blonde girl wearing her silk dressing gown. Don't they know there's a recession on? Evidently: it's suffered cuts of her own and is never going to make the knee. The song is a serviceable power ballad, but there's more wind machine than memorability. They're asking what's more than Mister Bod, a question we'll discuss over milkshakes with Alberto Frog.
Serbia are next, and Paddy gives us a flashing light warning, so do be careful out there. He's ripping off the "Shady lady" gimmick from Ukraine's entry a couple of years ago with his backing dancers. The song is three minutes of jumping about and talking through a slight vocoder effect, and we're not really convinced it works. We'll not be humming *this* in the bus queue on Monday.
A step north next to Bosnia and Herzegovina, who get a flashing lights warning for a song called "Thunder and lightning". Hmm, not exactly subtle, there. And with a name like that, it's going to be a rock epic, complete with Mad Axe Solo about halfway through.
|Poland next, and Paddy has us dropping our jaws by confessing that he's been watching the rehearsals. What, a BBC commentator not swanning in forty seconds before the show starts? Has he actually attended the meeting where all the national commentators decide who's for the winning? Ken Bruce will beat him up for such a confession. And if you think that's bonkers, the dance in national dress – complete with scoffing of an apple – is entirely bizarre. Especially the bit where he whips the top off of one of his dancers while the other does the splits. Er, quite! Poland are the defending European Dance Contest champions, and this sort of performance ensures they'll keep it for a very long time to come.
Right, there's an announcement going on behind us, but the BBC insist on showing us footage of Josh's rehearsal.
|We haven't described the stage geography, have we? Circular, or thereabouts, with the video wall stretching about halfway round, coloured lights right around the perimeter except for the path to a raised dais. And that's where we find Tom Dice, runner up in X Factor Vlaanderen, a young lad with a guitar, singing for Belgium, and clearly going after the Amy MacDonald vote.
Are these golden bits of mist meant to be maps of the country? Malta next, they're sending Chiara yet again... Oh, it's Thea Garrett, apparently. Chiara's daughter, down to the ball gown, standing on the spot, reaching out to the camera, and smoke emerging from behind her. It's a very pretty song, but lacks substance even with a bloke in angel's wings flapping madly behind her.
Where's next? Albania, and don't be confused by the fiddles, this is a proper power pop song in the Céline Dion mould. After the various slownesses, this is a refreshing change. Satisfactory 12-beat Europop, nothing to cause offence, nothing to really stick in the memory.
|Greece are sending Giorgos, who has gone platinum five times, gold nine, and silver more often than it's polite to mention. He's backed by four young lads in very white tracksuits straight out of Washes Whiter. Lots of jumping around, lots of shouting "Hey!", and more than a certain feeling that he's going for the Ruslana vote. Without the whole looking like a warrior princess thing, but with a very strange bit with drums.
Portugal are next, while Paddy is blethering on about Greece. Dearie, the whole point is that after you've spent 30 seconds talking about Greece before the Greek entry, you don't spend 20 second talking about Greece before the Portugese entry. Anyway, the chandelier has been cut so far that it's almost touching the stage, it's another long evening dress, though this competitor actually moves about while singing. Out-Malta-ing Malta by a long chalk. One of these years, Portugal will end up winning, though this has 15th place on Saturday written over it.
Another commercial break is neatly edited out by the BBC showing Paddy O'Connell backstage. No-one told him to get lost this year, not like the officious security guard in Moscow. Always helps not to wear the set of Countdown, mate.
|Retrospective flashy warnings for Macedonia, with a song translated as "I've got the power". Don't expect a 1990-style burst of rapping, but do expect a 1990-style burst of soft rock, combined with the most scantily-clad dancers of the night. Ah, we were wrong with the rap, as some bloke walks on to deliver a Turbo-B style piece of toast. As does a guy with a guitar, to deliver another entry for the Eurovision Mad Axe Solo Competition.
Belarus are next, and they've only gone and recruited the cast of Glee! Well, five members of the cast, delivering some close harmony singing for a minor-key classic. This column is a pushover for anything in a minor key, and even the blatant gimmick at the end (which we're not going to spoil) doesn't particularly harm the mood.
And finally! It's Iceland, Hera Bjork performs in English and French, it's another huge cocktail dress, but this time performing an uptempo disco number. Doesn't do much for this column, but what do we know, we liked Slovenia.
|And that's that. 9.16 and the night's performances are over! "Don't look at the numbers! Look away now!" implores Paddy. "Tonight we can just relax," says the UK commentator. That would be a good idea, just shutting up and letting us events pass over us. Was that real fake snow behind the Russians? Anyway, there's a further 15 minutes of voting here, which includes two recaps. And something in the middle that the BBC doesn't bother to show us because they're talking with the Dutch and Lithuanian entries, and shows a film about the immense popularity of Eurovision in Norway.
Voting ends, and it's time for the interval act. Except, yet again, we're not seeing the interval act, but a preview for Thursday. At least they've shown all the songs. The Beeb didn't show a pan-European mockumentary about the noises one can make with the voice and the body. Sorry, guys, we should have seen this and not Cawood's bletheration.
The hosts are joined by Mini Mr Host and Mini Miss Host, and they help to introduce the automatic qualifiers. It's now fourteen minutes since voting closed, and the hosts are plugging the website, CD, and video cassette. We're impressed with the green room, which has little alcoves for each of the delegations, all shaped like hearts. That's just about the only use of the heart logo at this year's contest.
|But out to the arena, where Svante Stockselius confirms that there's a result. Only one of our three hosts is doing the result. The revelation order is: Bosnia and Herzegovina... Moldova... Russia... Greece... Portugal... Belarus... Serbia... Belgium... Albania... Iceland. These songs are briefly repeated while the performers flood the stage.
Which means we lose the rather good folk entries from Slovakia and Finland, the entirely bonkers entry from Poland, and more mediocre entries from Estonia, Latvia, Malta, and Macedonia. We don't get to see the closing credits because BBC3 doesn't believe in closing credits, but we're done at three minutes to ten. They'll need to fill!
|As is traditional, this column will be hearing the sound coming from Oslo via RTE's massive transmitter in Trim. It means we're hearing the commentary of Eurovision performer Maxi, and not the Cawood – O'Donnell double-act from Tuesday.
Again, our trio of hosts welcomes us to proceedings, and explains what's going to happen. Professionalism from the hosts: no pretence that they're dating, no unfunny one-liners, and a few good sight gags. Lots of voting, and this time viewers in the UK and in Ireland, do get to vote. UK people! 09015 22 22 then your country's number. Irish people! Send an SMS to 53125 containing the chosen number, or dial 1513 71 72 then the song's reference. 15p to vote from the UK, 60 cent (about 50p) for Irish participation, and no SMS voting in the UK. Voting begins at 8.05, and will close about sixteen minutes after the final performance, at 9.33. Bring your own time machine.
|Lithuania get us going tonight, with a Latin-funk-punk song incorporating some disrobing. From the all-male group, we hasten to add. The song doesn't particularly go anywhere, and the loss of the trousers doesn't help to improve matters.
Armenia are up next, singing about her apricot stone, a traditional source of strength in that country. The singer – a dead ringer for Angelina Jolie – is dressed in an apricot and cream dress, and the routine begins with an extreme close-up of a detail of that dress. Yes, the stage dressing includes an oversized stone, and the song moves from a twee ballad to an uptempo stormer. Reminds us of Riverdance, in a good way. Qualifier!
Israel has sent the winner of their local Pop Idle production, a young lad in the Joe McElderry or R Wayne mould, what he lacks in singing talent he has in looks. The song leaves us stone cold.
|We're told that Denmark really haven't done too well in rehearsals. It's performed by Chanee and n'Evergreen, the local answer to Kylie Minogue and the tallest man in pop. Is that still Rick Astley? Anyway, the performance begins with the two separated by a paper wall, and there are some interesting shadow effects, familiar from So You Think You Can Dance. The song's an anthemic duet, during which our couple walk off down to the dais in the crowd. Ooh, a Eurovision keychange! Is that the first of the year? Went off well, and we found ourselves humming along in the recap. It's going through.
Switzerland haven't qualified for the finals since 1385, and have sent a song in French. Oh, is the chandelier actually arrangements of bubbles, like in the opening titles? Halfway through proceedings, and we finally get the joke. Even with the Eurostandard key change, the song sounds like one we'll love after half-a-dozen listens, but that's five more than we'll get in competition.
|Which brings us to the first intermission, and while the BBC are promoting the Greeks, the hosts are introducing Lys Assia to the crowd, and showing off the trophy.
Sweden have sent a young and photogenic female performer with a guitar, performing a song called "This is my life". They take Eurovision very seriously in Sweden, it's their X Factor and Pop Idle rolled into one, and without any Simon Cowell. Their gimmick is to issue the audience with coloured glowsticks, and the result looks entirely wonderful, even if it reminds us of a Roxette video. The song? An earnest ballad, possibly a little over-earnest, but one we'll be humming at the bus stop.
By rights, Azerbaijan shouldn't be here this year. The national broadcaster blatantly interfered with the voting, the police quizzed people who dared vote for their favoured song, and the EBU chickened out by giving a token fine. The Azeris are here, and they're starting by putting their singer on the top of a flight of stairs, which light up as she descends them. Not content with ripping off the UK entry last year, she's also walking out to the dais, and we have a distinct suspicion that it's the backing singers doing most of the work. Apparently, this is favourite at the bookmakers after a massive online campaign: don't believe the hype, this is mid-table at best.
|Ukraine were present in the first semi-final in 2004, won the whole she-bang, and have twice finished second. This year, they've sent Little Red Riding Hood, beginning on a very red stage and concealing her face from view with a hoodie. Before anyone can go up and hug her, she reveals her hair, only for it to be blown about by the Eurostandard Wind Machine. Lots of wailing, lots of emotion, and we really hope she doesn't get in a w0e battle with the Russian entry otherwise it'll feel like the end of the world. Going through, obviously.
Rather than a shiny warning, the next song comes with a smurf warning: it's written by the father of the small blue people. The Netherlands have sent a throwback to 1970, a fairground song clearly based on "Puppet on a string", and with a chorus that goes "sha-la-lie, sha-la-la, sha-la-lie, sha-la-la." Just to rub in the obviousness, the Dutch giant prop is a fairground organ, with two of the dancers pretending to be wooden puppets. It has all the subtlety and nuance of a sledgehammer.
|Maxi's recapping the vote numbers, the BBC are showing Father Abraham's father and some young footballer — oh, sorry, it's Pete Waterman and Josh Dubrovnik.
Romania are up next, dressed in black leather and featuring a piano for two. It's cheaper than installing two pianos, don't you know there's a recession on. The song is called "Playing with fire", and guess what the special effects department does. No, go on, guess. Eurostandard disco, with a bit of a screech towards the end.
Maxi, we don't need "one away from Ireland", not when song number eleven is coming. It's our ear-tugging friends from Slovenia, and they've had the good sense to send another entry into the Eurovision Axe Solo Contest. And an entry into the Eurovision Folk Song Contest. In the same song. Seriously, half the group is a heavy metal band, half is a folk group, and the twain meets in a quite wonderful melange – albeit one sounding a bit like "Jai ho!". It'll go over the heads of many people.
|Nought away from Ireland, and it's only Niamh Kavanagh, everyone! The woman indirectly responsible for Riverdance performs "It's for you", with stage smoke rising from out of the set. It's performed in the Portugese style: a woman on her own at the front of a stage, with dancers standing around, and someone playing the flute. The Eurostandard wind machine cranks up for the final moments, and there's a slight reminder of "Love shine a light" in there. If that doesn't qualify, we'll eat our hat.
Bulgaria are next, and the female backing dancers have combined their trip with a run in the Oslo marathon as they're waving about those foil cloaks. The lead singer is dressed as Elvis, white suit and quiff; the male backing dancers couldn't afford shirts and are having to make do with bubble wrap, more casualties of the recession. Something similar seems to have happened to the song, which is little more than an excuse for the dancers. Nothing wrong with that, but Poland are the reigning champions.
|Cyprus come next, and they've sent a singer from that well-known suburb of Nicosea, Newport in Gwent. His backing band are a cosmopolitan lot, coming from other islands around Europe. The song? Rather early-90s, very polished, very earnest, a bit anthemic. Might be there or thereabouts, but not a gimme.
Another break: Maxi is warning us that Irish listeners shouldn't vote for Ireland, not this time. Cawood is talking to Anna Paquin, for reasons that we really don't understand; and Josh Dothefunkygibbon is complaining that no-one's chatted him up.
Only three more to go, so let's crack on. Croatia are sending us Feminnem, their local equivalent of the Sugababes. Readers with very long memories will recall that the group represented Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2005; since then, they've swapped one member for someone else, and perfected a line in sitting around on a park bench looking moody. They're joined by a couple of black-clad dancers for the last few moments, but the director shows them in a very wide shot. Possibly the first directorial failure of the year.
|Georgia were excluded from last year's contest for nakedly political reasons, so expect the expats to vote in quantity. It's the second song called "Shine" in as many years, but unlike the Dutch mess last year, this is all the right sort of drama: not as dark as the Russian or Ukranian entries, not as cutesy as Portugal or Ireland, and with the best modern dance routines we've seen in months. One of the few songs this year to have Possible Winner. That'll be the kiss of death!
And finally! Turkey have sent Manga, who combine rock with rap and electronica. We're expecting a sort of Limp Bizkit, we get a sort of Limp Bizkit. With a knight in shining armour dancing on the platform behind the lead singer. Can we send Iron Maiden next year and be done with it?
Josh Dubovie is flying the flag. Upside down.
|Quickly through the next seventeen minutes: recap, filler (the worst songs in Eurovision history, and no mention of "Celebrate"), recap, lines close. The interval act is a choir in the arena making noises appropriate to the video – hands against glass, feet on the roads, a metro train, and so on. Yet again, the BBC prefers to show a recap of Tuesday and conversations with other people, in this case the Icelandic performer, and footage of Josh Dohreymee rehearsing. Nadia's uniting the world by talking to pilgrims from Australia, the BBC is being parochial by showing good luck messages from Josh's family. It's the wrong editorial decision.
Right was the Little Erik and Haddy again, but now joined by Grandpa and Granny Presenters. And half-an-hour after the final performance, we have the finalists, each revealed after 20 seconds of wait. Georgia... Ukraine... Turkey... Israel (!)... Ireland (which pleases Maxi no end)... Cyprus... Azerbaijan... Romania (must be the dance routine)... Armenia... and Denmark.
No Sweden! No Sweden! Stuck in the semi for the first time ever! They'll be rioting on the streets... no, they'll be writing nasty letters to SR before the night's out! Lithuania, Switzerland, Netherlands, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Croatia also miss out, which isn't such a surprise. But no Sweden! And no end credits, which still isn't right.
|The draw order is:
Shiny warnings! Readers who are sensitive to flashing and strobing lights will wish to look away during the performances by Serbia and Turkey in particular, and also those by Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Ukraine. Caution may need to be exercised during Romania and at the very end of Georgia's performance. We also advise against anyone watching the United Kingdom performance, but that's because of its quality. It won't win; this column is putting its notional tuppence on songs 20-23.
This Week And Next
Ratings for the week to 16 May showed – guess what! – Britain's Got Talent ahead, 10.6m on Saturday night. Thursday's HIGNFY was seen by a year's best 6.2m, and the Over the Rainbow results show by 5.6m people. Worth noting that Junior Apprentice (4.6m) came ahead of The Whole 19 Yards (4.45m). Come Dine With Me was the largest game show on the minor channels, 2.45m, with the Saturday full version of HIGNFY on 2.3m and Great British Menu had 2.15m. ITV2's Got Talent had 1.555m viewers, the Sunday repeat 1.02m, and Come Dine With Me regained third place on the digital tier with 860,000.
As well as Eurovision (Saturday from 8pm), the coming week has the semi-finals of Britain's Got Talent (ITV, 7.30 weekdays), and the grand final (ITV, 7.30 Saturday). Mission 2110 finally reveals the secrets of Enlap (CBBC, 5.45 Monday) and there's another chance to see the 2008 series of Only Connect (BBC4, 7.30 Mon-Thu).
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