Gregory Crewdson is a creature of habit. “I try to do almost the exact same thing each day,” he said from his home in Becket, Massachusetts, explaining that his routine is structured down to the food he eats. Each morning, the photographer wakes up early to travel to a picturesque and remote pond in the Berkshires, accessible only through the Appalachian Trail. “I ritualistically make time during the summer months to do long-distance swims,” he said. “That, to me, is central to my existence.”
This month, Crewdson is introducing a new series, “An Eclipse of Moths” (2018-2019). The work is being exhibited at Gagosian in Beverly Hills, California, until November 21, and an accompanying book will be published by Aperture. The photographs are set in a quiet, dreary post-industrial town — in reality, Pittsfield, Massachusetts — with familiar mists from past series creeping into the scenes. The figures, small in the frame, appear isolated even when they are together. Like in much of Crewdson’s work, a sense of malaise permeates the surface, though the cause is never quite clear; his subjects navigate their small worlds, searching for something beyond the boundaries.
Crewdson’s latest body of work, “An Eclipse of Moths,” is set in small post-industrial America, a follow-up to the rural forest scenes of “Cathedral of the Pines.” Credit: Gregory Crewdson
Crewdson’s tendency toward rituals and obsession extend to his practice. “I’m monomaniacal about almost everything,” he said with a laugh. That approach is in part because of the nature of his work: large, cinematic productions which require location and lighting teams, as well as coordination with local officials.
But long before he assembles his crew, he scouts locations, sometimes for months, driving around while listening to podcasts (mostly pop culture, unsurprisingly many about film). He returns to the same places over and over, checking the light at different times of day and in different weather.
“At some point, an image comes to mind, and then you commit to it, and then start building up,” he said. He asks himself: “What’s going to happen here?”
Fine lines and personal connections
The title for “An Eclipse of Moths” came to Crewdson early on. When an eclipse — the term for a group of moths — is attracted to a light source, the insects block out its illumination. It’s a poetic metaphor for the sense of sorrow and detachment the characters of Crewdson’s series seem to experience. But it also alludes to the renewal they seek, as they stand outside of the dilapidated “Redemption Center,” or stop to gaze into the setting sun: The light, though concealed, is still present. The moths, fragile and ephemeral creatures, will eventually disperse.
Though Crewdson has a lifelong love for film, he’s never been inclined to make one. “I think in terms of still images, (not) in a linear narrative,” he said. “There’s something really powerful about a still picture that is very different from watching a movie.” Credit: Juliane Hiam/Harper Glantz
The scenes in “An Eclipse of Moths” take place just a 20-minute drive away from those of “Cathedral of the Pines.” But Crewdson has known these environments long before he moved to the Berkshires, where he commutes back and forth to New Haven to direct the MFA photography program at Yale. Originally from Brooklyn, Crewdson spent his childhood summers in a cabin in Becket with his parents and siblings; the region’s landscapes set the backdrop for his life as he came of age.
“In a direct way, landscape is filtered through my own kind of imagination and childhood and biography,” he said. In his two recent series, he sees connections threaded together through the cerebral nature of the work.
“I do see them as interrelated projects, although maybe different sides of the same coin,” he explained. “They have different moods and atmospheres, but to me, they’re related in different ways, maybe psychological ways.”
Over the course of his career, Crewdson has used hyper-detailed, uncanny settings to descend into his characters’ interior lives. In his series “Twilight” (1998-2002), the home becomes an untenable site for creeping horror. In one photograph, an Ophelia-like figure floats in her flooded living room, eyes gazing past the camera. In another, a fearful man on all fours is surrounded by drilled holes in the floorboards, pillars of light beaming through each. The scene recalls Crewdson’s formative childhood memories of straining to hear his psychoanalyst father’s private sessions in their Park Slope basement — Crewdson’s own fulcrum for mystery in the domestic space.
But after his series “Beneath the Roses” (2003-2008), the photographer has refocused on smaller productions in real locations, instead of building top-to-bottom sets. He has also seen his work become more nuanced over time.
“If you go back to the earliest or the earlier stuff, it’s definitely more hyperbolic, it’s more exaggerated, it’s more theatrical,” he commented. “And I feel like if anything, in these pictures, it’s definitely clear they’re becoming more and more distilled, or quieter, or more open-ended.”
Behind the scenes on “An Eclipse of Moths” in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Credit: Grace Clark for Crewdson Studio
It would have been easy to make a more blatant political or socioeconomic statement through “An Eclipse of Moths.” In the post-industrial city of Pittsfield, Crewdson witnessed the effects of the opioid epidemic’s grip on the region: the ambulances returning to the same homes day after day, set in their own inevitable routine.
Today, the photographs have another layer of implications. Though they were shot when distance between people didn’t imply a pandemic, Crewdson sees a linearity to the times in which we are living.
“As it turns out, they’re weirdly relevant to the moment we’re in,” he said. “No one could have guessed that.”
But though the American landscape has been his primary backdrop, Crewdson doesn’t inject his work with current events, or even a sense of time. Part of that timelessness in “An Eclipse of Moths” was enhanced through working with the city of Pittsfield to temporarily replace contemporary-looking street signs, and to avoid cutting grass or paving roads in scouted locations during production.
Still, Crewdson doesn’t turn a blind eye to the complexities of the settings he chooses. “I do want to acknowledge the place and the experience of making (the photographs),” he said. “It’s that weird balancing act that you look for in art — that fine line between what it is and what it isn’t.”
Continuing the circle
By now, Crewdson’s influences are well documented. His father took him to see a Diane Arbus retrospective (1972-1973) at the Museum of Modern Art when he was 10 years old. (“That was the first time I kind of understood that a photograph could be psychologically powerful and urgent,” he recalled.) He was struck by the images of Stephen Shore and the films of Steven Spielberg. David Lynch’s psychosexual thriller “Blue Velvet” (1986) has long been etched into his brain. He has always loved film — maybe more than art, he admits — but he has never had the urge to build a more linear narrative.
“Whatever story that a still photograph can produce is limited,” he said. “Rather than seeing that as a liability, I’ve always seen it as something that’s potentially powerful in a photograph. Maybe that’s why you could return over and over again to a photograph and it will never reveal its true mystery.”
Crewdson and his studio used to build entire sound stages for his productions. Now they work with a smaller team in real landscapes. Crewdson often spends months scouting locations. Credit: Grace Clark for Crewdson Studio
Though he has refined his imagined world over the years, each occupant of it is distinctly his own. Like his day-to-day, he doesn’t steer too far from the course. But that’s in part because he sees his place in the broader canon, among painters like Edward Hopper, photographers like Arbus and writers like Joyce Carol Oates.
“I feel like I’m part of a continuity of artists that seem to explore the intersection between everyday life and theatricality,” he said.
That continuity has become circular within visual culture, with Crewdson inspired by cinematographers and, in turn, cinematographers tapping his work. The German mind-bending time-travel saga “Dark” was reportedly influenced by his photographs, while its fellow Netflix drama “Ozark,” set in the titular rural region, is also decidedly Crewdsonian.
In both shows, the characters confront the darkest sides of themselves, but hope for some sort of redemption. That search for balance underpins Crewdson’s practice.
“Why do it otherwise?” he asked. “Particularly in moments of crisis, I go to art to try to establish some sense of order in the world, (to) filter the chaos into some kind of stabilizing form.”
Crewdson continued, “In good times, my life feels very chaotic, so I always look to art for not only clarity, but refuge. I look at art for complications: beauty and sadness or artifice and nature or some sense of anxiety and something calming … If it was just purely bleak, I wouldn’t want to pursue it.”
Crewdson also doesn’t deviate too far from his original vision for a more intrinsic reason, a sense of self shaped by formative influences. He believes those early encounters set in motion the rituals we repeat for the rest of our lives.
“I’ve said many times that (your) story is defined when you’re coming of age … the music and the movies and the books you loved,” he said. “And then you spend the rest of your life circulating the same things.”
He continued, “You don’t really go too far. In a certain way, your position has been set, and the challenge is to push forward with a story and try to reinvent it as best you know how. But at the core of it, you can’t get away from yourself. So you just continue the circle around these preoccupations, these obsessions … and every time you make a picture, you get one step closer to knowing what it is.
All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year
Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.
Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.
So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.
Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.
Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)
During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.
Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)
Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.
Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)
Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.
Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)
This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.
Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)
If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.
Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)
With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.
Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)
The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.
Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)
Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.
Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)
Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.
Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)
The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.
The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.
The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.
The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.
Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)
We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.
Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)
The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.
Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)
The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.
Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)
Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.
Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)
Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.
Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)
The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.
Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)
With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.
Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)
Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.
Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)
The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.
Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)
The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.
Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained
Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.
In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.
Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.
It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.
Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.
Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.
Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.
The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”
At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.
On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.
That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.
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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year
From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.
Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.
From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.
“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.
Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.
The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.
Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.
Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.
Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.
The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.
Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.
Calls for urgent reduction of violence
Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.
Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.
“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.
There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.
1/4 I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever. https://t.co/hVl4b032W6
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) October 27, 2020
A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.
But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.
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