The Obelisk is Seven Years Old Today

Posted in The Numbers on January 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the-obelisk-seven-years

Seven years. Seven years! That’s longer than any job I’ve ever had. When it came around on the calendar, I almost didn’t believe it, like there was no way 2009 could’ve been so long ago.

This one has been on my mind a while, I won’t lie. Seven years is not a short amount of time, and I’ve had to kind of sit with it, chew on it, think about what The Obelisk has come to mean to me and what I’ve gotten and continue to get out of doing this. Seven years ago, when I put up the first post, I had no idea what this thing would become, or how long it would go. I still don’t.

But a couple years ago, it really started to sink in to me that this is probably as far as I go in terms of any kind of meaningful contribution. For better or worse. I’m 34 years old. If I was going to wind up working for some big-time rock mag (or hell, a big-time rock site), it would’ve happened. If I was going to be in a band that made a lasting impact through touring or album releases, it would’ve happened. I’ll never own that bar I’ve spent so much time and effort daydreaming about. Not that I necessarily want to do anything else — except own that bar, which I definitely want to do — but what I’ve got is this site. It’s not perfect — it’s needed a redesign for at least the last two years, the radio breaks, and I’ve still got HeavyPink singles to get rid of — and I think for a lot of people who come here it’s just an obnoxiously wordy place to find the name of a band and then click off to their Facebook or Bandcamp page or whatever, but it’s all I have. I’m proud of what I’ve done here, it’s just bittersweet to see these things in the light of seven actual years of my life. If The Obelisk has been of some use to you, I’m exceedingly grateful. I’m going to keep it going for as long as I can.

I have a few ideas I want to kick around and a few things I want to say to mark this occasion. If you have any feedback on any of it, I’d love to hear it in the comments:

The Obelisk All-Dayer

I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to confirm Mars Red Sky as the first band for the first-ever The Obelisk All-Dayer, to be held Aug. 20, 2016, at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. I’ll probably announce another band in the next two or three weeks, but really, I want to stress that this isn’t a fest the way they normally go. I want it to be a party where everyone’s invited, everyone enjoys themselves, nobody gets harassed, nobody gets on anybody’s shit, everything’s chill. No drama, or at least as little drama as humanly possible. I want it to be a good time. If it’s a good time, I’ll be happy with it. If you haven’t bought one and/or want to support this site in any way, tickets are available here. The Facebook event page is here.

The Obelisk Presents

Next month I travel to Arizona for the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta. Way stoked on that. I’m helping present Heavy Metal Parking Lot 3 at SXSW. You may have noticed The Obelisk logos on posters for Maryland Doom Fest. I’ll be there as well hopefully come June, and of course April is Roadburn and not that I’m presenting it, but I have that warm going-home feeling knowing I’ll be back there. You might recall last month I presented a Kind show at the Vitus Bar. I’d like to start doing more of that kind of thing — and not just in New York. I mean around the world. I’ve hesitated in the past to associate The Obelisk with individual gigs, but if you’ve got a show and I think it’s cool, I’m all about it. I’d like to install a widget in the sidebar for upcoming gigs presented by the site, and I’d love to have that be as worldwide as humanly possible. How awesome would it be to have The Obelisk present a gig at Truckstop Alaska in Sweden? Or The Black Heart in London? Or some West Coast basement? I might not be able to be there, but I could post about the show in advance and at least give it a plug that way. Seems like it could be a really cool thing, and a kind of writing I haven’t done much of to-date.

Book Release

Speaking of writing, I’m happy to announce I have a book coming out. It’s called Electroprofen and the cover is by Adam Burke. Here it is, with the back on the left and the front on the right:

Electroprofen I-1400

It’s being pressed up through War Crime Recordings (with much thanks to Steve Murphy) and is a collection of short stories. Not music-related writing, fiction, but hopefully an otherworldly enough vibe one way or another that you get what I’m going for. The layout is being done now, hopefully it will be ready to go in Spring. So probably Summer. I’ll keep you posted either way. Preorders soon.

Merch

And speaking of preorders, thank you once again to everyone who put one in for a t-shirt or a hoodie from that sale in December. The last of the orders went out this past weekend and I’ve so far only heard from one person who probably should have his stuff who doesn’t, so yeah, that seems like a decent turnout. Merch wasn’t something I particularly wanted to do — frankly, if it’s not going to make me enough money to live on (and it’s not), I don’t see the point — but it turned out fine and I’ll probably do it again in another year or two. Not before. I’ve been hit up a couple times by people who missed the sale. Sorry. It wasn’t intended to be a permanent thing.

Interviews/Reviews/Etc.

I’ve been pretty happy over the last year with how the scope of how a review happens around here has broadened. Between the four Quarterly Reviews, track premieres, album streams and so on, I’ve enjoyed the challenge of not doing the same thing the same way all the time. I’d like to have more time for interviews. I’m doing the best I can in that regard, but it’s an area I hope to pick up and expand on in 2016. Haven’t yet — actually I got blown off last Friday for one, and sorry, but my new policy is I don’t call back. If you want me, I’m not exactly inaccessible between this site and social media. Time is short, which brings us to…

Time

Since last May, I’ve worked a full-time job in addition to doing this site. It hasn’t always been easy, particularly at the beginning and particularly for longer features — all the lists in December just about killed me — to find a balance between prioritizing the work I do for money and this site, which at this point I don’t think I could stop doing even if I wanted to. Which I don’t. But where I’ve felt the impact most is in my ability to go to shows. Not just that I have to get up in the morning to go to work, but I commute well over two hours driving every day and after that, I’ve got about zero energy left for going out, especially since any show, just about anywhere, requires another hour on the road. Most nights, I’m dragging ass up to bed, let alone rocking out at the club. I’d like to get to more shows, but please know that whether I do or I don’t, I’m doing as much as I can do with the life situation I’m currently in. I think it’s probably the same for a lot of people, and until someone wants to come along and give me $40k a year to run this site — not holding my breath — it’s the way it has to be. Thank you for your understanding.

THANK YOU

And thank you most of all for your continued support. I know there are people who’ve just found out about The Obelisk or who have come and gone. That’s fine. Nothing lasts forever. But at this point there are people who’ve stuck around for years and it absolutely amazes me that someone would do that. I’m humbled to think about it, and I appreciate it deeply. Thank you so much. This hasn’t been an easy year on any number of levels, and there are days where it’s this site carrying me through, so please know that I mean it when I say thanks.

I think I’ll leave it there for now. There’s a lot still to do today, and I wouldn’t want to be accused of lingering too long. Thank you again for supporting this site. Here’s to seven years and the next one already underway.

All the best,
JJ Koczan / H.P. Taskmaster

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This is the 7,000th Post on The Obelisk

Posted in The Numbers on January 13th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

7000th-post

I don’t want to dwell too long on it because there’s a lot to do today, but this is post is number 7,000 published on The Obelisk. Some people know, some people don’t, I doubt most care, but this site is run by one person — me; hi — and I’m responsible one way or another for all the content that’s been put here in those 7,000 posts, whether that’s news, a review, a guest column, an interview, whatever it is. To have done this long enough to hit a marker like that is, frankly, staggering.

We’re closing in on an anniversary as well, so I’ll save some of the state-of-the-site stuff for that, but I just wanted to take a second to express to anyone who sees this how incredibly grateful I am for all the support I’ve received as The Obelisk has continued to grow, change and ultimately become something much, much different (and much more time-consuming) than it was when it started those 6,999 posts ago. I try to say “thanks for reading” as much as I can, but please know that I mean it each and every time. At this point, there are people who’ve been reading this site for years and people who just found out about it a week ago, and I hope it will keep growing and keep expanding its reach, hopefully proving useful to those who check it out.

Because that’s the whole idea, right? As attached to this process, this weird ongoing thing, as I am, it’s not about me, or about writing. For the people reading it, it’s about music, and that’s how it should be. I’m gonna get back to all of that in a minute, but before I do, thank you again for your role in making this project special, to me and I hope to you as well. I wouldn’t be able to keep it going without your support.

Okay, back to work. More to come.

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The Obelisk is Six Years Old Today

Posted in The Numbers on January 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk 6 years

A lot has changed in the last six years. Not so much my PhotoShop skills, but plenty of other stuff. The first post on this site went up on Jan. 31, 2009. It was a Saturday, like tomorrow. The better part of the few days prior had been spent sorting out a WordPress back end with Slevin, picking a theme, making a header and all that kind of stuff, so I usually just mark the last Friday of each January as the anniversary of the site’s launch. I’m sure there’s a way to figure out the exact time and date it happened, but I’m also sure I have neither any idea nor inclination to find out what it might be. We’ll all live.

My perspective, of course, is skewed, but to me it seems like this site has come to occupy a curious space in the weird, online version of the heavy underground. There are a lot of blogs out there now — more than when I started and there were plenty then as well — and what I think continues to set this one apart is that I have no staff. I doubt everyone who stops by to check out a track stream or whatever or read a press release knows that, but it’s true. Apart from a few tour diaries (and more to come) and a few short-lived columns by others, I’ve done all the writing on this site in the last six years and over 5,800 posts. I’ve been places I never thought I’d go, heard things I never thought I’d hear. It’s become my creative livelihood. If it’s a weekday and I’m not writing, I feel disconnected.

That’s about me, though. I’ve said thanks many times over the years, and I continue to do so without fear of redundancy because it’s important to me on a personal level that you understand how much I appreciate your role in all this nonsense. I’ve thanked readers, my wife, labels, PR firms, Slevin, and many others along the way, but the group I think I probably thank the least is the bands, the people who actually make the music. I’ve also said there are days when The Obelisk is what gets me out of bed in the morning, which is very true, but if the music wasn’t there to start with, if these wonderful people weren’t reaching out to me at a rate that I can in no way keep up with anymore, the impulse would’ve died long ago. Whether it’s your fifth album or your debut EP on Bandcamp, thank you.

And to the rest as well, of course. Readers, both brand new and old enough to be considered friends. EVERYBODY on the forum and EVERYBODY who listens to the radio. The Patient Mrs., who I don’t think really understands this project completely but knows I need it and accepts that, which to me is all the more beautiful. My family for their support, especially this last year. The labels and public relations folk who’ve stuck with me even as my career in print media evaporated one outlet at a time. Slevin for his unending willingness to hold my hand through what must seem like the easiest damn things in the world to him.

The list goes on and is full of names that by now feel pretty familiar, which makes me feel even luckier for the loyalty that implies. If I believed in blessings, I’d call myself blessed. I am instead incredibly fortunate, and this site reminds me of that every single day. Even the weekends.

To six years.

Thank you,
JJ Koczan

 

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This is the 5,000th Post on The Obelisk

Posted in The Numbers on June 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

That is a lot of posts. Five frickin’ thousand, and apart from the odd and usually shortlived column from someone else, they’ve all been by me. I’ll be the first to tell you it isn’t all gold, but I’m proud of this site and proud to be passing this mile-marker along the way.

Earlier this year, I celebrated five years since I started The Obelisk at the end of January in 2009. I’ve spent some time thinking since then about what doing this means to me. I don’t think it was ever more in my consciousness than at Roadburn in April just how much the music is a part of who I am and how baseline elemental — air, water, food, riffs — it is. After a month of dragging ass mentally for having lost my last remaining job, to go there and be so inspired felt like being renewed. There’s some comedown obviously as you return to your life and the realities that presents, but I’ve worked hard to retain that feeling as much as possible, and hopefully it comes through in whatever it might be that I’m posting on a given day.

There’s no doubt in my head that without the immense and incredible support I get week in and week out, this site wouldn’t be here. Every comment is appreciated, every retweet, every Thee Facebooks like or share or comment or whatever it is. All of it, really. It sounds like a huge ego trip, and maybe it is, but every time I see someone sharing a post from this site, or having something to say — good or bad — about a review or other piece I wrote, or even if they’re just stoked that a press release I put up has good news, it’s validating in a way that I never expected to come from doing this. When I woke up this morning, the first thought I had was cracking open the laptop and getting the day started. It’s become an important, essential piece of my existence.

And I owe that to your checking it out. If you read every day, if you post on the forum, stream the radio player, if you never read, or if you show up to hear a track stream or something, whatever, thank you. There is a real human being on the other side of these words, putting this together, and it means a lot to me that you find any level of value whatsoever in what I do.

On to 5,001.

Thanks,
JJ Koczan

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk

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The Obelisk is Five Years Old Today

Posted in The Numbers on January 31st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I don’t think when this site was launched five years ago today I had any idea of what was going to happen with it. The Obelisk started basically because I was newly out of work and didn’t know what to do with myself in the wake of that. I wanted to write. Since the start, I’ve never really known what’s next, and that has continued to be the case over the last half-decade. As milestones have come up, things like adding the forum, adding the radio stream, etc., it’s really only been after the fact that I’ve been able to sort of step back and realize that any sort of shift has taken place. This is one of those times.

You know what’s coming, and though I say it with some regularity, I never quite feel like it’s enough. The internet is built on anonymity. If I’m lucky enough that your eyes are seeing this somewhere around the world, whether it’s Jersey or New Zealand, there’s a decent chance we’ll never meet. If we do, that’s awesome — please  say hi and I’m sorry in advance for being an awkward weirdo — but I know how it is to read a site like this one and have the author be an abstract, shapeless beyond the text presented, not really a consideration. I’m not saying everyone who looks at this page needs to know who I am or anything like that, just that I hope that if you’ve ever read this site before or if this is your first time here, you know that there’s a human being on the other end who is incredibly grateful to you for doing so.

The Obelisk has become a huge part of my life and a huge part of my every day, and five years on, it’s not only an outlet for writing, but a big piece of how I think about my own identity. I never anticipated that, but I’m not sorry it’s happened. I’m proud of this site, what it has managed to accomplish in its time, and I’m thrilled to be able to continue to develop it. I’m amazed at the passionate community that’s developed on the forum, and I think for the five bucks a month I spend to host it, the radio stream is worth the cash for my enjoyment alone, never mind anyone else’s. Thank you. Thank you so much. For checking in every now and again, for reading however often you might, for posting on the forum, listening to the radio, correcting my spelling on somebody’s name or offering suggestions for bands to check out, or to check out your band. For clicking Like or retweeting. All of it. Huge thanks to The Patient Mrs. for her years of rolled-eye indulgence, and to Slevin for his near-constant help in every technical aspect of running the site, from installing WordPress to designing the forum to finding the host for the radio to helping me size the header properly. There are days where The Obelisk is the reason I roll out of bed — over the last five years, more than a few — and I know that would not be the case without the kind of support I have received on every level. Once again, thank you.

I look forward to continuing to say thanks for as long as this lasts, however long it might be, wherever it might go from here, and wherever we might be headed. I’ll probably never be able to convey just how much your support and your involvement is appreciated, but please, please know that it is.

All the best,
JJ Koczan

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk

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This is the 4,000th Post on The Obelisk

Posted in The Numbers on July 25th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

This one kind of crept up on me. I saw a couple weeks ago we were getting closer to 4,000 posts, but then I guess I forgot to pay attention and looked two days ago and we were there. Time flies when, uh, time is flying.

It’s been a lot of upheaval the last couple weeks for me on a personal level. Buying a house, then not buying it, having to scramble to find a place to live in a state I don’t really know (yet), then finally finding it, maybe not, maybe yes. Yes? I guess so. Seems like it, but that’s hardly the first time. If nothing falls apart and no secret chemical spills come to light, The Patient Mrs. and I will move next Thursday. A week from today.

The point is it’s stressful, and as has become my habit over the last four-plus years, I’ve been using this site as a means for finding some kind of stability in what’s been a teeth-grindingly unstable time. Thank you for continuing to read, to show your support, to be patient in my not answering emails in a timely fashion, to spread links, retweet, like posts, leave comments, whatever it is. Just yesterday, that Monster Magnet stream topped 1,000 Thee Facebooks likes. I try not to define my self-worth by such things, and I know for a fact that the link spreading around has nothing to do with my writing and everything to do with the fact that the song is good and it’s their first US tour in a decade, but this is the internet and I take validation wherever I can get it. So again, thank you.

I never have so I won’t start now to claim to have any idea what the future holds, for me, for this site, for anything. But as we pass 4,000 posts on this site, I’m glad for the things it has been able to accomplish and I have enjoyed watching it become the time-consuming beast it has become. If you’re reading this, then you’re keeping me going, so one more time before I move to the next thing, thank you.

Onward.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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The Obelisk is Four Years Old Today

Posted in The Numbers on January 31st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I just wanted to take a minute out today to note the fourth anniversary of launching The Obelisk. The time has gone fast. I started this site because I had just gotten semi-laid-off — I’d be fully laid off within days of it going live — and when I put up the first post, I had no idea what it would become or how much of my everyday it would consume. I was like, “Oh, I’ll just put one thing up a day or every other day. Whatever. No big deal.” The fool.

And as I’m noting The Obelisk’s birthday, it seems only fair to single out Slevin and thank him for the last four years of diligent, mostly thankless, certainly without compensation work that he’s put into the site. From helping me that first weekend with registering the domain name and installing WordPress, to designing, putting up and managing the forum, to securing the box that houses the hard drive for The Obelisk Radio and dealing with the flurry of technical issues that have cropped up in the wake of that, Slevin has been dedicated to this site from day negative-one, and I feel lucky to be able to rely on him with issues that otherwise would’ve sunk me before I even started. I wouldn’t be typing this right now without him. Thanks dude.

On a level far less related to CSS customization but still ultimately vital, thanks to The Patient Mrs. for putting up with me talking for the last four years about “having work to do” and then going to post some band’s new video at 10 at night, or being anxious because some review I wanted to write I didn’t get time to write, or having to transcribe an interview, always wanting to listen to someone’s new album at midnight and so forth. I’m not an easy person to be with, and for the life of me I don’t know why she’d bother, but she does and I appreciate it.

Before I started, I said to myself to keep this short, so I’ll end off by thanking you, as always, for reading. I say it a lot, but I’m constantly astounded and humbled by the fact that I can type something up, put it online and someone — even if it’s only one person — gives a crap for what I’m talking about. If you’ve been along for the whole ride (as I know a few of you have), or if you’ve only come aboard recently, I hope you feel welcome here, because you are, and I hope that you continue to find this site useful or entertaining, that you continue to point it out when I screw up, and that you continue to share this passion for music.

I’ve never known what’s coming next with The Obelisk, and I still don’t, but four years later I’m still excited to find out. Thank you for that.

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The Numbers: 2,117,104 Views in 2012

Posted in The Numbers on January 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s been a hot minute since I last posted the monthly numbers around here. The ego of it started to get to me. Shrug. But with the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, I wanted to take a second and mark the occasion of the year passing and most especially to say thanks to everyone who made the ridiculous figure above a possibility. In 2012, The Obelisk had a whopping 2,117, 104 page views. It’s the kind of number that makes me want to say “golly” in the high-pitched voice of some scamp from a ’50s sitcom.

That rounds out to over 176,000 page views per month, and that’s about where we’ve been (December was right around 166k). Not bad for some rinkydink one-man operation, and I’m even more stoked that things like the forum have managed to stay consistent and that The Obelisk Radio  has been getting a solid response. I genuinely had no idea what it would turn into when I started this site, but even up to the fact that just under 300 people took part in the 2012 Readers Poll, I’ve been consistently amazed and humbled by the response and support.

So this is the part where I announce I’m quitting and moving to the Riviera, right? Nah. Fact is I’m hooked into this thing now and I don’t think I could stop if I wanted to. My biggest complaint with the site these days (aside from the fact that the sidebar is too close to the main posts) is that I don’t have enough time to do all the things I want to with it. Man’s gotta work. I hold down two jobs in addition to this, and do the best I can with the time I’ve got. If you sent me a CD and I didn’t get to review it, I’m sorry. If you emailed me and I sucked at getting back, I’m sorry. I’m trying and it’s a work in progress.

Let’s run down some numbers real quick:

The unfuckingbelievable 2.1 million page views came from an astonishing 185 countries around the world. The US accounted for just under half of the total traffic to the site, with the next five countries being the UK, Germany, Canada, Australia and France, in that order. In America, the top five states were California, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Texas, with New Jersey and Oregon close behind, and NYC, L.A., Portland, Seattle and Chicago were the top cities. Makes me want to get out to the Pacific Northwest even more than I did already.

On the forum, there are currently 1,175 registered users, and 78,929 posts in 5,939 topics. Wild times continue to ensue. Meanwhile, The Obelisk Radio now has more than 15,000 songs in its playlist, doubling the original amount contained on the K666 drive when I got it. I’m going to keep pushing that and updating as much as I can, and hopefully expand it over the course of this year and beyond, ideally with things like weighted playlists (i.e. more Kyuss) and maybe even a live show once a week or something like that. In the meantime, thanks for checking out the stream if you have and if you haven’t had the chance yet, no time like the present.

While we’re here, some other business:

The Maple Forum: Please don’t forget that Clamfight‘s I vs. the Glacier is coming out Jan. 22. I’ve got the boys at work on a track-by-track for the album and hope to have that posted by the time presales go out next week. Stay tuned for much more as we get on release time, and if you’re in town, they’re playing their release show this Friday in Philly with Kings Destroy, Thee Nosebleeds and Wizard Eye. More info on that here.

Features: Much to come here too. I’d still like to do a Top 10 EPs/Demos list for 2012 if I can get a chance in the next week or so, and the annual Top 5 I Didn’t Hear is imminent as well. Interview wise, I owe emailer questions to Pleasure and Wight, among others, so I’ll get on that hopefully this weekend, and I’ve got that Arthur Seay Q&A in the can waiting to be transcribed. Sometime in the next couple weeks, expect a Looking Forward To 2013 list — I’ve started compiling it and it’s getting near the 20 mark. Lots of lists, but it’s that season.

Reviews: Well, I don’t want to forecast a whole year ahead, but there’s some great stuff coming up in both the near and far. Tomorrow I’ll be posting my review of the Clutch show in Allentown the other night, and then I’m headed out to see the three opening acts from that gig — Mondo Generator, Saviours and Wino — at the St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn, so I guess there’s no real slowdown in shows. Hell, Neurosis and Graveyard are rolling through. It’s a great time to be alive.

Radio: I’m pleased with the reaction it’s gotten so far. I know I’m about a decade behind on the whole internet radio thing, but I hope you’ll take a listen if you can and hope you get to hear something you might not otherwise. Ain’t no Weltraumstaunen on Pandora, last I heard. I’ve got another 50 records ready to go up tomorrow and I’ll keep up with the Add of the Week too. Check the update page for the latest.

Columns: Much love to Tommy Southard and Tim Catz for their work on “Drinking with the Devil (Dick)” and “70 RPMs,” but I think it might be time to find a couple new columnists. I understand dudes get busy, and it ain’t like I’m paying. So yeah, look for a couple new columns to come this year, maybe on these topics, but certainly on others as well. I’ve been back and forth with Ron from Ice Dragon about starting a horror-worship column and hopefully that will come to fruition, and Andy Clamfight‘s an archeologist when he’s not destroying his drums, so it might be fascinating to hear about that too. It’ll come together over time. I’m not looking to force anything, but if you have any suggestions or comments, I’d love to hear them.

Canon of Heavy: Expect more to come with this as well. So help me gawd. It’s too cool an idea to waste.

Alright y’all, I think we should be just about caught up. Huge megathanks again to everyone who joined in on the fun this year one way or another, and to everyone who will be along in the next 12 months, I hope you get some use out of it. Killer.

Wishing you the best in 2013 and beyond,
JJ Koczan
Humpty Phrumpty Taskmaster

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