The Tattooed Poet's Project, Jillian Brall's Love of Trees Manifests Itself in a Back Piece

In April, we featured 31 tattooed poets in honor of National Poetry Month. But we had some late entries who missed the cut-off and, well, we just plum ran out of days. Nonetheless, we have decided to continue the feature as an occasional treat for those lovers of tattoos and poetry who frequent Tattoosday.

First, the tattoo:


The owner of this piece elaborates:

My name is Jillian Brall. I am receiving my MFA in Poetry from The New School this May. I am also a collage artist and saxophonist. I live and work in Brooklyn (Bushwick)...On my back is a bare black and grey tone tree that I drew. I have been drawing trees like this one since I was a little girl. Drawing them makes me feel calm and focused. I love seeing the skeleton of the tree, not veiled by leaves. I love that every time I draw one it is completely unique from all the others I have or ever will draw...different numbers of branches, different sizes, different positions, different light sources guiding the shading of the trees.

Jillian had this tattooed in February 2007 at R&D Tattooing in Queens, Rich Fie is the tattoo artist. She adds, "the tree was definitely not his typical street style tattoo, but I drew the sketch and he traced it and did a really beautiful job with it!"

When I asked Jillian for a poem, she not only offered up a poem, but she presented a photo of one of the collages she created:


And, a short poem from Jillian, as well:

To Lose Myself

At night in bed, I hear my neighbor's heaving music

through the concrete wall. In this pale red light

the music is supposed to inspire me to lose myself.

It is supposed to aid me in losing myself.

But I turn my head and there is a bookshelf, with my books in it.

I turn my head and there is the off-white circular rug.

I'm not lost.

Someone threw it out in the hallway, and after scrutinizing and cleaning it,

I brought it into my room.

I turn my head and there is a pen I took from the bank.

And there is a bottle of diet coke,

not an angel, an object without angles.

I turn my head and there is my laundry bag,

not the underworld.

Thanks to Jillian for sharing her tattoo, her collage and her poem! The Tattooed Poets project can be seen its entirety if you click on the tag at the bottom of the post.

Aaron's Skater Days Represented in Ink

Aaron has this very unusal piece tattooed on the back of his right bicep:


When I stopped to speak to him on 7th Avenue in Manhattan, I was happy to hear this tattoo, along with many of his nine others, were inked by Peter Cavorsi at Body Art Studios in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Peter has done three tattoos on my wife and me and he comes highly recommended by us. To see all of Peter's work that has appeared on Tattoosday, click here.

This particular tattoo is based on work entitled "Shater Days" by the professional skateboarder and artist Ed Templeton. Templeton designs and sells skateboard products through his website Toy Machine.

Aaron felt that the design was perfect for a skater, with the image of a helmeted person hitting himself over the head with his board.

The inner skater never goes away, even as one gets older and spends less time on the board. The inner persona still courses under the skin and this particular art piece, can be, like all art, interpreted in different ways.

The act of hitting oneself over the head with one's skateboard is the ultimate expression of frustration, a sentiment that doesn't go away in life.

There are always people and things that frustrate individuals. I like how this specific work of art speaks not only to Aaron, but spoke to me as well.

Thanks to Aaron for sharing this unusual tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!

I Should Be In The Kitchen


Another tattooist who has been featured heavily here is Hannah Aitchison. This is one of my favourite Hannah tattoos, which was done on LA Ink. I love the text too!

I Should Be In The Kitchen


Another tattooist who has been featured heavily here is Hannah Aitchison. This is one of my favourite Hannah tattoos, which was done on LA Ink. I love the text too!

Red Hot


This simple but very pretty pinup was done by Cara Massacre, whose increasingly impressive work we have seen before.

Red Hot


This simple but very pretty pinup was done by Cara Massacre, whose increasingly impressive work we have seen before.

Hoot Wave


This awesome little owl, submitted by Cassidy, was inspired by this very blog! After seeing the tattoo on Rae in this post, Cassidy contacted Rae through me and was given permission to get this owl done. Owl Tattoos FTW! Cassidy's owl was done by Amy Cole from Tigerlilly Tattoo in Portland.

Hoot The Ground Running



Sorry for the lack of posts recently, I've been very busy! Now, on to more important stuff, like the above reader submission from Matt, which was done by Tomas Archuleta of Thick As Thieves Tattoo in Denver!

Death Metal Tattoos: part 2

I wish I knew what this was, I really do. It looks like a totem pole of demons? With some kind of weird scarred-out blob in the middle. Is it a tribal-mutant batman logo? AND DO YOU SEE THE SCRATCHED UP FETUS ON HIS ELBOW? I mean really, how could you miss that? I don't even know what the stuff on his forearm is. If anyone can help decipher this, please let me know! I was staring at this guy for ages trying to figure it out.



I wish I knew what was on his back, too. You can see a bit of it poking out. I bet it's incredible.

Death Metal Tattoos: part 2

I wish I knew what this was, I really do. It looks like a totem pole of demons? With some kind of weird scarred-out blob in the middle. Is it a tribal-mutant batman logo? AND DO YOU SEE THE SCRATCHED UP FETUS ON HIS ELBOW? I mean really, how could you miss that? I don't even know what the stuff on his forearm is. If anyone can help decipher this, please let me know! I was staring at this guy for ages trying to figure it out.



I wish I knew what was on his back, too. You can see a bit of it poking out. I bet it's incredible.

Death Metal Tattoos: part 2

I wish I knew what this was, I really do. It looks like a totem pole of demons? With some kind of weird scarred-out blob in the middle. Is it a tribal-mutant batman logo? AND DO YOU SEE THE SCRATCHED UP FETUS ON HIS ELBOW? I mean really, how could you miss that? I don't even know what the stuff on his forearm is. If anyone can help decipher this, please let me know! I was staring at this guy for ages trying to figure it out.



I wish I knew what was on his back, too. You can see a bit of it poking out. I bet it's incredible.

Death Metal Tattoos: part 2

I wish I knew what this was, I really do. It looks like a totem pole of demons? With some kind of weird scarred-out blob in the middle. Is it a tribal-mutant batman logo? AND DO YOU SEE THE SCRATCHED UP FETUS ON HIS ELBOW? I mean really, how could you miss that? I don't even know what the stuff on his forearm is. If anyone can help decipher this, please let me know! I was staring at this guy for ages trying to figure it out.



I wish I knew what was on his back, too. You can see a bit of it poking out. I bet it's incredible.

Death Metal Tattoos: part 2

I wish I knew what this was, I really do. It looks like a totem pole of demons? With some kind of weird scarred-out blob in the middle. Is it a tribal-mutant batman logo? AND DO YOU SEE THE SCRATCHED UP FETUS ON HIS ELBOW? I mean really, how could you miss that? I don't even know what the stuff on his forearm is. If anyone can help decipher this, please let me know! I was staring at this guy for ages trying to figure it out.



I wish I knew what was on his back, too. You can see a bit of it poking out. I bet it's incredible.

New York City Tattoo Convention, Part 2: Amazing Tattoos from North of the Border


Lost in the post-euphoric haze of the tattoo orgy known as a tattoo convention, was an encounter I had with several Canadians, one of which is a talented artist.

This was, of course, the New York City Tattoo Convention, which I attended a couple weeks ago (see the brief recap here).

Having decided not to collect many posts and photos for the blog (I had settled on this one), I found myself chatting with Phil, a co-worker of mine, after he spotted me among the masses.

It was while we were chatting, adjacent to the snack area, that I noticed we were being watched. Just to our right, this image greeted us:


This is Janet Leigh, in her iconic role in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Not only is this a masterful portrait, but it was framed beautifully by the cut-out portion of the dress worn by the woman who had this tattoo. It was as if the artist had positioned the tattoo with this dress in mind.


So I introduced myself to the woman who owns this piece. Her name is Marie and she is from Montreal. She got this tattoo because she liked the picture. And that's all that I got from her.
I would have learned more, but the room was loud and I had trouble understanding her. Her English was certainly better than my rudimentary high school French, but the environment made it difficult to pick up what she was saying.

However, shortly after our conversation began, a couple of gentleman rejoined her and one happened to be the artist of the tattoo in question.

His name is Stéphane Bérubé and he is an artist out of a shop called Tatouages Libre Expression, in Saint-Eustache, a northern suburb of Montreal, Quebec.

He was very friendly and introduced me to the other person he was with, who was one of his clients as well.

With little prompting, this guy rolled up his left pant leg to reveal a sleeve Stéphane had done, comprised of bright, multi-colored cartoon panels:





The owner of the tattoos explained that he had brought a graphic novel to Stéphane, telling him it was one of his favorite books growing up. They extracted different panels to make a cohesive combination of segments that make up the whole of the sleeve.

It is phenomenal work and I thank Stéphane and his friends for allowing me to photograph their tattoos!

Death Metal Tattoos: part 1

I went to the Maryland Deathfest this past weekend and OH BOY did I see so many amazing metal tattoos! One million distorted zombies! Ten thousand blurry black and white messes of somethingorother! A good handful of band logos! I have a LOT to share with you guys, but let me start with this gem (perhaps the best of the bunch):



THAT GIRL IS TRUE. EVIL. I love the fancy flourishes added to each word, it really rubs in the brutality of her tattoo.

Tune in soon for more!

Death Metal Tattoos: part 1

I went to the Maryland Deathfest this past weekend and OH BOY did I see so many amazing metal tattoos! One million distorted zombies! Ten thousand blurry black and white messes of somethingorother! A good handful of band logos! I have a LOT to share with you guys, but let me start with this gem (perhaps the best of the bunch):



THAT GIRL IS TRUE. EVIL. I love the fancy flourishes added to each word, it really rubs in the brutality of her tattoo.

Tune in soon for more!

Death Metal Tattoos: part 1

I went to the Maryland Deathfest this past weekend and OH BOY did I see so many amazing metal tattoos! One million distorted zombies! Ten thousand blurry black and white messes of somethingorother! A good handful of band logos! I have a LOT to share with you guys, but let me start with this gem (perhaps the best of the bunch):



THAT GIRL IS TRUE. EVIL. I love the fancy flourishes added to each word, it really rubs in the brutality of her tattoo.

Tune in soon for more!

Death Metal Tattoos: part 1

I went to the Maryland Deathfest this past weekend and OH BOY did I see so many amazing metal tattoos! One million distorted zombies! Ten thousand blurry black and white messes of somethingorother! A good handful of band logos! I have a LOT to share with you guys, but let me start with this gem (perhaps the best of the bunch):



THAT GIRL IS TRUE. EVIL. I love the fancy flourishes added to each word, it really rubs in the brutality of her tattoo.

Tune in soon for more!

Death Metal Tattoos: part 1

I went to the Maryland Deathfest this past weekend and OH BOY did I see so many amazing metal tattoos! One million distorted zombies! Ten thousand blurry black and white messes of somethingorother! A good handful of band logos! I have a LOT to share with you guys, but let me start with this gem (perhaps the best of the bunch):



THAT GIRL IS TRUE. EVIL. I love the fancy flourishes added to each word, it really rubs in the brutality of her tattoo.

Tune in soon for more!

Tattoorism: Erika's Yellow Rose

I've been remiss in sharing Erika's tattoo, which she sent me almost two months ago. So let's have a visit from her lovely rose tattoo:


I'll let Erika explain the artowork:

"...[this] was done at Miami Ink [actually called Love Hate Tattoo Studios]. Not by anyone on the show, as they only tattoo for the show, but they have a group of very talented artists who are not featured. This tattoo has a very personal meaning for me. My mother's favorite flower is the yellow rose, so the rose represents her. I have a very close bond with my mother and tell her absolutely everything, and she means a lot to me. As for the two thorns? Representing me and my sister. Yes, we are the thorns in her side, but we also protect her.

I went into Miami Ink with a couple of pictures of yellow roses, as I wanted it to be just going into bloom (that's when I think roses are at their most beautiful) and told them I wanted it to curve around my ankle bone. They drew up a design in an hour and I liked the very first thing they showed me. I always get comments on it when it's exposed, and it remains my favorite of my 6 tattoos. They did such a lovely job with the shading and I think it's beautiful!

And for the record, it's the only tattoo I have that my mom kind of likes."

Here's a shot of the tattoo, just after it was completed. You can see the source material in the background:


Erika followed up with more information:

"James [Hamilton] (pictured below with Erika) was the artist and he was great. I was in Miami over Spring Break in March 2007 and that's when it was done. Ami James was hanging around the shop when I went, so I got to meet him as well..."

Thanks so much to Erika for sharing her rose tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!

Tattoo Highway Contest!

Win Prizes from the New A&E Real Life Series TATTOO HIGHWAY, PREMIERING WEDNESDAY, MAY 27 AT 10/9C.

Tattoo Highway follows 15-year tattoo veteran and star of former A&E hit “Inked,” Thomas Pendelton as he takes his tattoo parlor on the road to cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Salt Lake City to transform personal stories into living art. Pendelton and his business partner and wife Monica have transformed a 1970s tour bus into a tattoo parlor on wheels, featuring a swanky interior and top-of-the-line tattooing equipment. It’s a tattoo shop that can tattoo anyone, anywhere. Ride along as emotional limits and friendships are challenged and the persistent mechanical problems of a vintage bus are tested on the road, as “Tattoo Highway” proves to be one bumpy ride. Tattoo Highway premieres Wednesday May 27th at 10/9C on A&E!

Visit http://www.aetv.com/tattoo-highway for more information.


Here at Tattoosday, we've partnered with A&E to help promote this exciting new show. Here's how our contest is going to work:

Tattoosday is all about stories behind the tattoos and how each piece of body art resonates with the individual. To be entered into the contest, simply watch the first episode (Wednesday, May 27th at 10:00 PM Eastern/9:00 PM Central) and then write a little something in the comments section of this post. Tell us what tattoo that you saw on the premiere episode was your favorite, and why you liked it. Winners will be chosen randomly among the entries and you could win:

a Tattoo Highway iPod Skin OR

a Tattoo Highway Aluminum Water Bottle OR

a Tattoo Highway Tank.

Watch and enjoy! Winners will be announced on the site by Monday, June 1.

Landon's Sugar Skull

One of my favorite tattoos to feature here on Tattoosday are sugar skulls. Clicking here (or on the tag at the bottom of the post) will display all of the sugar skulls featured on the site and, undoubtedly, demonstrate that, like snowflakes, no two sugar skull tattoos are the same.

I met Landon last week on Broadway during the lunch hour. He has thirteen tattoos in all, and he offered up this piece, on the back side of his right biceps, to share:


To Landon, there is no hidden meaning behind the tattoo, it is more decorative in its purpose.

The tattoo artist responsible is Jamie Ruth, who inked this at Dare Devil Tattoo, but is moving to London, and has been guest tattooing here and there.

Thanks to Landon for sharing his sugar skull with us here on Tattoosday!

Mike's Marine: A Tattoo for Memorial Day

It only seemed fitting that, on this Memorial Day, we feature a tattoo that honors are men and women in uniform.

A week ago, I was fresh off of my experience at the New York City Tattoo Convention, and everything I saw on the street was uninteresting. Until I passed by Mike and did a double-take.

This is the tattoo on Mike's inner right forearm:


Mike explained that, as a United States Marine, he was choosing to honor the corps by building a sleeve of iconic military photographs.

If you think this is an impressive tattoo (which it is), seeing the source material further magnifies how phenomenal a replica the artist has created on Mike's flesh:


A page on About.com explains this image further:

"While units of the U.S. Far East Air Forces Combat Cargo Command made an all-out effort to aid embattled units of the First Marine Division and Seventh Infantry Division, the men fighting in Korea were trying desperately to link up in their battle for survival. This marine is shown just as he reached the crest of the ridge at the link-up point. Wet, stinging snow and ice made the operation the most difficult sort, as unleashed hordes of communist troops charge again and again into the United Nations forces. (circa December 1950) "
In addition to this tattoo, Mike has a Vietnam-era photo of a Marine sniper inked on his right biceps.

This astonishing tattoo was created by Randy Prause at Permanent Buzz Tattoo, in Denville, New Jersey.

A hearty thanks to Mike for sharing this tattoo with us here on Memorial Day. More importantly, Tattoosday expresses even more gratitude to Mike and all his fellow soldiers and who have so bravely served our country to ensure the freedoms we enjoy each day.

Have a safe and pleasant Memorial Day!

Grover's Tattoos Recollect the Past, But Focus on the Future

I ran into Grover a month or two ago where he worked in Penn Station and admired the work on his sleeve. As I try my best to not disrupt folks on the job, I passed him a Tattoosday card and was happy to see when he e-mailed me a few days later.

Our schedules are different, and we tabled any definitive date to meet and discuss his ink. But one day, by chance, I passed the business where he worked and he was outside on a break.

And he offered me his arm:


We discussed the inner part of his right forearm first. This cross is a tribute to his parents, who were both injured in a serious accident about five years ago. He had this tattooed after it appeared that they would recover, and it symbolizes his faith in the blessing of their survival. The tattoo reads "Mom. Dad. God Bless."

On the top part of the outer right forearm is an starred banner design and the words "Death Before Dishonor" to remind him that he has kept his head up while working hard for his daughter.

He has chosen the honest life, rather than slip into the easy trap of making a living dishonorably.

Grover's daughter's name is London, which he has inscribed on his flesh, over a tattoo of Big Ben, the emblematic clock tower than stands proudly in the city which lends its name to his daughter. Big Ben is frozen in time at 4:10, the date (April 10) that London was born.


Below that is a skull crying blood.


The blood is the only part of Grover's tattoos that are not done in black ink. This image reflects the harsh reality of the world and the raw emotion that life often pulls out of one's soul, in the form of bloody tears.

And lastly is my favorite part of the tattoo, which rests on Grover's hand.


He grew up in Harlem and the buildings represent the view south, looking to the skyline of the city. The dollar sign and, to the right, the leaves of marijuana plants, represent to Grover what it was like "back in the day," when the drive for money in the big city, and the prevalence of marijuana in the neighborhood, left a profound impact on his days growing up.

Grover credits much of the work seen here to an artist named Marco, who works out of Crazy Fantasy Tattoo on West 4th Street in Manhattan.

I want to thank Grover for sharing his set of tattoos with us here on Tattoosday!

Janet Presents: The Non-Stick Tattoo That is Permanent

My awesome friend Janet (whose tattoos are here) sent this to me last Friday and, although I am not in the habit of accepting on the street submissions, this one is pretty damn cool and blogworthy:


Janet reports:

"I was walking behind this guy going north on 6th Avenue, between 15th and 16th Streets on the east side of the street and was compelled to tap him and ask about the tattoo. He allowed me, without hesitation, to photograph it with my phone, then told me the story, which depicts a long-running inside joke. He's a photographer, and in the course of his work, at one point ran out of baby oil to use on the models.His partner suggested spraying the models with Pam... the tattoo was a gift, related to a wedding (I'm not sure if it was his wedding, or his friend's...)."
Thanks to Janet for sharing this one here with us on Tattoosday!

Sean's Organic Tattoo


It's always interesting when you meet people with a lot of tattoos. Unless someone volunteers to catalog their entire collection (case I point here), I generally ask folks to share just one with us here on Tattoosday.

The problem there is that asking someone to pick one tattoo to offer up is often like asking someone to select their favorite child among their brood of kids. They're all special in their own way and most generally equally-loved.

So when I ran into Sean, who has eleven tattoos, there was some debate. We were going to do his right leg piece, but it wrapped around the majority of the calf, and I didn't think it would come out well because of the multiple angles. This is why you don't see a lot of sleevework on Tattoosday.

The "OUCH" tattooed inside his lower lip was funny, but it's just a word in a strange spot, and not very artistic. We considered for a moment the lipstick imprint of a kiss. But that one was on his butt, and it just didn't seem right to be photographing someone's posterior on Seventh Avenue.

So we went with a tattoo on his right forearm which doesn't totally wrap around the arm:



















This was Sean's first tattoo that was drawn on free-hand. He liked the organic colors in the design and just let the artist do her thing.


It took about four hours for Tina Forever at Resurrection Tattoo in Austin, Texas, to complete the piece.

Thanks to Sean for sharing his tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!

Dispatch from the New York City Tattoo Convention


Align Left

I take pride in the fact that this site is very positive. Even "bad" tattoos get their moments in the sun. If the story behind an "eh" tattoo is compelling, then it's worth telling.

There are enough places on the web where "free speech" reigns, wearing the stained sheet of petty negativity.

So I don't feel too bad about offering this word of advice to the organizers of the New York City Tattoo convention: answer your e-mails, answer your messages.

I left several messages via e-mail and phone offering to help promote the show via the blog. My inquiries weren't even acknowledged. And that's fine. Except, of course, it isn't. Why else would I be writing about it? The rote response from people I've voiced my disappointment to has been similar, "Well, what do you expect? They're old-time tattoo people."

There my be truth to that sentiment, but I'm not willing to embrace it. There are plenty of people who are in the tattoo industry who are savvy enough to hit "reply" on an e-mail.

So, disclosing fully, I approached the show at the Roseland Ballroom last weekend with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. But I was determined to enjoy myself. And I did.

I spent a little over five and a half hours wandering the aisles, watching the artists, introducing myself to various people, checking out some amazing tattoos.

I enjoyed meeting Mike Bellamy from Red Rocket Tattoo and Elio Espana from FlyRite Studio in Brooklyn. I had nice chats with people from Lotus Tattoo in Sayville, Rising Dragon in Chelsea, and New York Adorned. Many of the shops whose artists' work has appeared on the blog, everyone friendly and courteous. It was nice to put faces to the hard-working people in
these, and many other shops.

I was asked by a lot of people after the show if I took a lot of pictures. The answer is no, not what would be expected from a guy who is taking tattoo photos as often as he can.

I posted one amazing back piece on Sunday, and I have another post in the works featuring an incredible artist from Quebec.

Other than that, I just observed, met other fans. Talked with the editors of fine tattoo magazines, like Inked. Took in the sights.

I thought I would feel extremely self-conscious being there with no visible tattoos. But there were a lot of people who appeared similarly un-inked. I showed my tattoos once, to a big mensch of a tattoo shop owner from Staten Island, who started peppering his speech with Yiddish when he saw my last name was Cohen. He told me that his Jewishness didn't stop him from having 52 tattoos, and it drove his father crazy.

And I even ran into two people who have been featured here on Tattoosday. I passed by John, from my neighborhood in Brooklyn, whose work appears here and here. I also had a nice chat with Melanie, whose holstered revolvers remain one of my favorite on the street encounters.

In all, I had a fun time. I can see why many I've spoken to about the New York show have seemed hesitant to admit that it's a top-notch tattoo convention. It's cramped and dingy, but that seems a bit in character with what the promoters are trying to convey.

Will I go back next year? Perhaps. But it certainly leaves me hungry for more. Las Vegas, Vancouver, Milan.

A blogger can dream, can't he?

Lacey's Traditional Gypsy Tattoo

I will never hesitate to ask someone about traditional tattoos. There's something classic about the imagery that just intrigues me.

Last week I ran into Lacey as our paths crossed on Seventh Avenue. It was a gloomy, overcast day, and I spotted a flash of vibrant color cutting through the streets. She shared this lovely gypsy:


This tattoo in particular, Lacey told me, doesn't necessarily signify anything other than an appreciation of the design. She did acknowledge that gypsies were mysterious and, as she put it, "a little naughty". This and the fact that there is a familial resemblance (she has several sisters), made this an appealing choice to sport on her inner left forearm.

The tattoo was inked at Ron and Dave's Tattooing on Staten Island by the artist Chris Lopez.

Thanks to Lacey for sharing her tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!

A New Tattoo Show on A&E is Coming Down the Highway



I owe a great debt to shows like Miami Ink, Inked, and L.A. Ink.

When I first decided, almost two years ago, to run a once-weekly over on my original site, BillyBlog, I had no idea how much I would enjoy the project. I basically conceived of a "Poor Man's Miami Ink," a once-weekly Tat-Tuesday post. Before long, I had spun off Tattoosday onto its own page, and it hit the ground running.

But Inked and Miami Ink are distant memories, and Kat Von D has been the only one holding the tattoo torch on television, of late. That is, until now.

Next week, A&E is premiering Tattoo Highway.



This is a new thirteen-episode mobile tattoo show that is helmed by Thomas Pendleton, who many of you will remember from Inked.



And I have seen it, and it is good.

Pendleton & Co. have equipped a mobile home with a tattoo studio and they go out and find the subjects to be inked.



Stay tuned for more news about the show. Here's a little bit of a taste of what viewers can expect next week:



Wednesday nights are about to be a lot more colorful!

P.S. Be sure to have some fun with the show's virtual tattoo generator here.

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