Sunday, November 4, 2007

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How NOT to Manage an Event: Filmy / Synergy / Bollywood ka Boss

Win 50 Lakhs, they said. A show to be anchored by Boman Irani, they said. Produced by Synergy, to be aired on Filmy – well, I had reasonable expectations from the event when they sent me an SMS saying I’ve been shortlisted for the written test of this new Bollywood-based quiz show on Filmy, Bollywood ka Boss (I was shortlisted on the basis of a short-ish SMS quiz).

“Congrats! Your roll number is xxxxxx. Please turn up at Siri Fort Auditorium at 5 PM on Monday, 22nd October”. Well, I reached at 5 sharp – to find a massive queue of god-knows-how-many people outside Siri Fort. No problems, I thought, the gates should open soon, and got in line. Person behind me told me that the event is at *6:30 PM*, and I confidently told him that that’s not possible, they wouldn’t call us 90 minutes in advance. Must be the next batch, I thought.

Well, guess what – it was due to start at 6:30 PM. They did call us 90 minutes in advance. And it gets better – the gates didn’t open at all till 6 PM – which means that they made hundreds of people (that they had invited through an SMS, so they knew precisely the maximum number of people that could have turned up!) wait outside, without so much as a word of instruction or apology. At about 6:05 someone wakes up and goes around telling everyone that women can jump the queue and enter first.

I finally get in from the main gate by 6:15 – and the scene inside the compound is no better. Some 5-6 youngish chaps are sitting in one corner with a laptop, ostensibly to handle registrations (I wonder why…they have my mobile number, they’ve assigned me a roll number already – what more do they need to do? ) So anyways, registrations are excruciatingly slow. It’s 6:35 PM already, I’m still in line outside the building, and the people in front of the registration desk are getting so bugger-all pissed that there’s lots of shouting and cursing, people are jostling against each other, the staff is looking totally confused, and a couple of people look like they’re going to fall off the landing. The guy with the laptop now climbs onto something and holds his laptop high above his arms – I wonder what the crowd there had threatened to do to his laptop to make him do that, but a rather funny sight it was. Then another staffer picks up a laptop case and starts flailing it around- I think he was attempting to throw it across the crowd to one of his friends. And every time he would lift his arm to throw the case, the crowd below him would start shouting. Also at the same time, the extremely irate crowd has started throwing whatever they can find into the air. Plastic bags that were being distributed (to keep mobile phones in?), and even straws. I swear I am not making any of this up.

6:40 PM – I’m in front of the registration desk now, I can see inside the building, and what do I see from the distance? Another long line inside!! But what happened next totally takes the cake: All the staffers there, poor confused souls, grab their sheets and head off somewhere. Without a word of explanation. As it is, all of them looked like college kids hired for a pittance – I couldn’t spot a single senior guy handling the event, and these people definitely did not look like they worked for Filmy, or even Synergy. Even these staffers disappeared, leaving the crowd in the hands of the security guards…who were obviously clueless to begin with.

6:50 PM: What else could possibly happen to add to the chaos? At least the lights are still…uhh…wait a minute! Why’d it suddenly get so dark? The lights inside, the lights outside are working – but the lights in the foyer, where the remaining crowd is, are out. A vague attempt to disperse the crowd still left outside? Or simply some random thinking on the part of the college kids managing the event?

6:55 PM – The lights are back on. I’ve had enough though. The staffers are still missing, and no one is around to tell anyone what’s happening, or when it’ll begin. Also, given the horribly mismanaged affair so far, no ways can I trust them with handling my (sweet!) mobile phone and actually returning it to me later. Time for me to exit stage left. Filmy – where’s my refund for the cost of the SMSes I sent? Actually, chuck that. Where’s my written apology?

Update: Wow, that's the fastest I've ever gotten what I'd asked for...maybe I should've asked for a BMW:-) Filmy's responded in the first comment...Shailesh, I must admit I wasn't expecting this kind of response from the organisers! Kudos to Filmy for at least owning up to what happened...haven't seen too many big organisations that are willing to do that...I hope next time is more fun for me:)

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Who/what is a Terrorist?

What makes a Terrorist? What exactly is the Global War on Terror all about? Wikipedia throws up the following nugget:

"Terrorism expert Walter Laqueur in 1999 also has counted over 100 definitions and concludes that the "only general characteristic generally agreed upon is that terrorism involves violence and the threat of violence""

Not very useful, is it? According to this definition, if I punch my brother in the face, I'm a terrorist. Surprising, given that this word is splattered all over our newspapers and televisions - I've always wondered what a headline like "Terrorist shot dead in Bombay" means. At what point in your life do you become a terrorist? Upon having committed the act of violence, or even when preparing for it? What if you're just a trainee? What act of violence qualifies - does it have to be a bombing? Specifically a suicide bombing? Do you have to be a Muslim bomber to be called a terrorist? If it is a shooting, what kind of gun do you have to use? An AK-47? What if you shoot someone with a pistol? Does the violence have to be communal?

Another way of defining the word could be by looking at the motive of the offender. The word itself then presents a possible answer: "Terrorism" could mean "attempting to spread terror". Sorry - too vague again. Is a high-school bully also a terrorist, then? What if I'm trying to scare a witness into not deposing against me, and kill off a couple of his family members - the motive is clearly to spread terror. Am I a terrorist, then? Or does the target have to be more than one person - if so, what's the threshold?

Also - does membership of a "Terrorist Organisation" make you a terrorist? what kind of membership - what if you handle accounts for the JeM...or make lunch for the cadres? Does membership automatically make you a terrorist, or do you have to actually kill a few people before they bestow the epithet upon you? Is there a fancy certificate involved?

Too many questions - and till I get some answers for them, I'm going to be rather skeptical every time I see a headline talking about terrorists being gunned down.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

What's the Difference between...

...saying "I give a Damn" and saying "I don't give a Damn"?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Politics at Work

The lower the average workload-per-employee in any company - the greater the amount of politics played there.

Le Blog est Mort, Vive le Blog

(With due respect to whichever language I've just butchered above)

The blog, whatever there was of it, is mostly dead these days, since I've turned into a restaurantrepreneur. (I thought I'd invented a word, but turns out Google already throws up 6 results for it..bah!) So if you're ever visiting Sector 110, Noida, do give me a shout and come visit for some great food.

Monday, May 7, 2007

What makes a Poem a Poem?

Sometimes I wonder if
I'll ever understand what makes
a poem a poem and
an essay an essay.

I wonder if there is a
set of rules that defines
what a poem is. It us-
-ed to be simpler in my t-
-ime. Stuff like rhyme schemes
made it easier to understand.

abab, ababa, abba
and the
like, and I instinctively knew that
it was a poem. But what if there's
no rhyme scheme? Is there
a fixed number of words per
sentence? Or is simply pressing "enter"
midway through whenever I
feel like it good enough to make
this blog-post a poem?


Monday, March 26, 2007

Such Idiots... such high positions of power. Check out this BBC Hard Talk interview of John Bolton, US' former ambassador to the UN. I would comment, but Bolton's words are better testimony to his moronic nature than anything anyone can say could ever be.

Friday, March 16, 2007

My Problem with The Departed

(Warning: The following post contains spoilers about Reservoir Dogs and The Departed)

I loved the movie. It featured some brilliant acting, a great story and great direction. I just…hated the ending. The movie was going great till about ten minutes from the ending, at which point everyone started going plop-plop-plop. Everyone except for Mark Wahlberg, that is – but given how everyone else was disposed of, I’m more inclined to think he was kept alive either for a sequel (which is on its way, apparently) or simply because there should be one person left alive at the end to shoot the second-last person.

The last movie I saw with an ending that was remotely similar was Reservoir Dogs (only Mr. Pink survives). I saw the movie a long time ago, so I don’t remember it well enough - but I do remember being rather impressed by the shock ending, because till then, I hadn’t seen any movies which chopped off all the main characters within a span of some 20 seconds. With The Departed, however, I felt somewhat cheated at the end.

The better movies are those that bring alive their characters – that make me watch every scene wanting to know what happens next to these people. Which is why I expect proper closure for every major character in a good movie – I’d rather not see a character say “I’ll be right back”, never to be heard of again. The directors and story writers need to decide what to do with every character by the time the movie ends. Mostly, deaths are integral to the storyline – but sometimes killing off a character becomes a shortcut, a way for the director to finish off the movie without having to decide what to do with that particular person.

A lesser director and a simpler storyline would’ve made things simpler, because most movies still fall into the “Good vs. Evil” category – villain goes around doing evil stuff, good guy goes around doing good stuff, and in the end the bad guy dies because it’s the righteous thing to show. Some movies go to extreme extents to make the contrast obvious, for example Ghostrider, which actually shows Nicolas Cage, complete with flaming skull, leather jacket and chains in hand, stopping his bike to save a lady from a mugger. But that’s a different story, and one better left unsaid. Who should die and who should survive isn’t even a question in such movies – it just boils down to how the bad guy eventually dies.

The Departed, however, made things interesting by making every character a different shade of grey - barely any character was Surf-Excel-white. While watching The Departed, I was wondering at several points at what the ending would be – would the weasely guy (Matt Damon) kill off Leonardo and secure his own future? Would Leo get Damon sent off to jail? And if that happened, what would the law do with Dicaprio, given that he was a plant himself? Would Wahlberg resurface in time to tell the cops that he had sent Leo to infiltrate Nicholson’s gang?

The story, however, eventually ended up taking the “Ek-tha-Raja-Ek-thi-Rani-dono-mar-gaye-khatam-kahani” route….killing off everyone. No tough moral decisions to make, no problems.

And that’s the problem I had with an otherwise brilliant movie.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

271 Arrests in Pune at a Rave Party last week

...reminds me of this old Doonesbury strip. Don't the cops have any real work to do?

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Music Review: The Decemberists: The Crane Wife

It might seem somewhat late to review The Crane Wife, given that it released more than four months ago - but it passed by largely unnoticed in India. That’s a shame, considering that this is the best album I’ve heard in 2006. While the album is full of catchy, melodious tunes, it’s the lyrics that make this record the masterpiece that it is. Each song is more like a short story, told more-often-than-not in the first person, and singer Colin Meloy manages to immerse himself incredibly well into the skin of the characters he creates.

The songs are mostly about war and personal loss, but the tunes are upbeat, sounding even happy at times – which is nothing new to The Decemberists, but is a technique used so well in this album that it switches the mood of the songs from melancholy to aggression to optimism, and seamlessly at that. Even when Meloy sings “I will hang my head, hang my head low” in the first song, you’ll find yourself singing along sooner or later.

The album is held together by two “concept” songs – the sixteen minute title track in three parts, and “The Island/Come and See/The Landlord’s Daughter/You’ll not feel the Drowning”, a 12-minute track in four parts about a kidnapping and murder. This second track is the highlight of the album, starting off with a short progressive instrumental piece and then heading off into folk-rock territory, full of some very quick and very effective finger-picking, that is the mainstay for most of the album.

The most ambitious track, however, is the title track, The Crane Wife, based on a Japanese folk tale about a man who heals a wounded crane, only to find it return to his doorstep in the form of a beautiful woman – who he marries and subsequently loses because of his greed. The song’s third part, which ironically is the first track on the album, is one of their best tracks till date, sung so well that Meloy seems obsessed at times.

Another song that stands out is O Valencia, a story about the Romeo-and-Juliet premise of two lovers caught in the middle of a gang war. The chorus itself is enough to put vivid images in your mind as Meloy sings “I swear to the stars, I’ll burn this whole city down…”

Poetry set to great music, backed by very good instrumentation is how I would define this album. Definitely worth hearing.

How does one Convince a Dog...

...that any car is, uh, "fair game" when out on a walk...unless there's someone cleaning it right then?

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Airtel's SongCatcher service... such a letdown. I tried it with songs no. 7 and 5 from my previous post ...but all it says is that the songs do not exist in the database. what's the real point of the service then? If the songs had to exist in their database for me to use them, why wouldn't I just check on their website?

I Thought it was an opportunity for me to use whatever sounds I wanted...but, yes, in hindsight I guess it wouldn't really fall under "Fair use", since they're clearly making money off it as a commercial service...and thus would lead to all sorts of copyright entanglements. Sigh.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Ten Funniest Songs I've ever heard

While people have been writing “funny” songs forever, few of them last in public memory, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, lyrics alone might be enough to make people listen to a song a few times and laugh out loud, but for them to remember the song and listen to it over time, the music has to be great too. This combination of good music and lyrics becomes more important here than in other genres.

For “spoof” songs, however, the music is similar to the original song, so focus shifts solely to the lyrics – which is why they had better be really, really good.

Also, if you’re spoofing a song, the original has to be a really big hit, since your audience had better have heard the original one enough times to identify with your song. Which basically means that you’re pitching your song to fans of the original – making it very important that your song comes off as a “tribute” and not as a low-brow satire, or worse still, a knock-off. The song that’s number two on my list is a perfect example of how to tread this fine line of paying tribute and extracting humour, but let’s start from No. 10:

10) I Will Survive – Cake

One of the funniest cover versions. Ever.

9) The Bedrock Anthem – Weird Al Yankovic

Musically, this song was a spoof on Give it Away and Under the Bridge by RHCP, accompanied by brilliant lyrics based on the Flintstones. And, of course, a hilarious video, specially the “Bee Girl” intro, a spoof/tribute to Blind Melon’s No Rain:

8) Peaches – Presidents of the United States of America

For some reason, the line “Peaches come from a can, they were put there by a man…in a factory downtown” just never gets old for me.

7) Thanda Thanda Paani – Baba Sehgal

So who said this was an English-only list?

Whether this song qualifies as a “Spoof”, “Tribute”, “Inspiration” or “Rip-off” is beyond me – I just love the free-flowing lyrics: “Main five-star hotel pehli baar gaya, maine dekha paani se bhara swimming pool aaya manager, bola baithiye please sir sir sir, aapki seva mein main haazir hoon, kuchh farmaiye, kahiye kya aapko chahiye?”

I don’t remember there being a video for this one – so no clip on Youtube, unfortunately.

6)Volcano – PUSA

Flowing, funny lyrics, a very catchy tune and a crazy video. Great recipe, well cooked.

5) You are my Chicken Fry – Bappi Lahiri (Rock Dancer OST)

One of the corniest songs I’ve ever heard, but what lyrics. What lyrics. What lyrics. And put to some really good music!

“You are my chicken fry,
You are my fish fry,
Kabhi na kehna kudiye bye-bye-bye…

You are my Samosa,
You are my Masala Dosa,
Main na kahungi mundeya bye-bye-bye…”

A search for “Bappi Chicken” on youtube yields no results. Ah well.

4) Baby One more Time – Travis

Yes, you got the name of the song right. The Britney song, this is – done by Travis on one guitar. It actually sounds really good, in fact – but just the fact that the source material is what it is, also makes this one very, very funny.

3) Bobby Brown – Frank Zappa

It starts off sounding like a regular, feel-good “I Love America” song – but that’s just the first two lines. Then it swings into action.

“Hey there, people, I’m bobby brown
They say I’m the cutest boy in town
My car is fast, my teeth is shiney
I tell all the girls they can kiss my heinie!”

2) The Saga Begins – Weird Al Yankovic

This is the closest thing I’ve ever heard to a perfect spoof song. Musically it’s a spoof/ tribute to a cult song – American Pie. Lyrically, it’s a tribute to a cult film franchise – Star Wars. Yankovic wrote this song, based on The Phantom Menace, without even knowing the actual story of the movie – he got everything from internet spoilers. And he followed it up with a video that has to be seen to be believed.

Don McLean:
“Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie,
Drove my Chevy to the Levee but the Levee was Dry;
Them Good old Boys were drinking Whiskey and rye,
Singing, this will be the day that I die…
This will be the day that I die…”

Weird Al:
“My, my, this here Anakin guy,
May be Vader some day later, now he’s just a small fry;
He left his home and kissed his mommy goodbye,
Singing, Soon I’m going to be a Jedi….
Soon I’m going to be a Jedi…”

1) Quite a few Monty Python Songs.

This one just had to be a tie. I can’t choose between Always Look on the Bright Side of Life , The Knights of the Round Table, The Lumberjack Song, the Philosophers’ Song or even I Like Chinese. I would heavily advise everyone to hunt for this album called Monty Python Sings – It’s the biggest laugh you’ll have all month.

Obviously, I’ve missed out quite a few songs that should be there on the list – some which I’ve temporarily forgotten, and a whole lot that I haven’t heard. Do let me know!

Friday, February 9, 2007

Why Global Warming is not a Threat

From a comment left here by "Lukewarm the Snowman, professional debunker" at the Huffington Post:

"Nature always achieves a balance. Assuming that rising global temperatures are and will continue to lead to rising sea levels, nature will find a way to restore balance.

Here's how: As sea levels rise, the excess water will drip off the edges of the Earth. This dripping water will then cool the sun as it passes underneath the Earth at night.

Problem solved.

Hey, works for me!

(Discovered via The Conscious Earth)

Monday, February 5, 2007

Who do I blame...Kotak or Indiainfoline?

It's been 4 months since I returned to Delhi and got myself a sparkling new mobile number. Four months of bliss, uninterrupted by any pesky credit card salesmen.

Friday (all of three days ago...or working day ago) I called up Kotak and Indiainfoline, enquiring about opening a demat account with them.

And in the last four hours today, I've received *three* calls from HSBC asking if I want a credit card.

I wonder which of the two, Kotak or Indiainfoline, is the sleazy lowlife.

Friday, February 2, 2007

The “Death of the Album”, or the Revival?

Ever since Apple’s iTunes Music Service has become successful, I’ve been hearing opinions from all over bemoaning the “Death of the Album”. Here’s what people say: since it’s become easier to pick up music one song at a time, rather than having to buy an entire album of 12-15 songs, the album will lose relevance and die out, and singles will thrive. I’m not talking about the distribution model here (downloads vs. CDs), but the album as a concept. These people say that since I can download, say, “Vertigo” for 99 cents off an online music service, I don’t need to spent the 400-odd rupees that I would’ve paid otherwise to buy the CD of “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb”. This, somehow, should worry the industry. To quote a Tribune article from December 2006:

‘Bob Merlis, a long-time executive with Warner Bros. Records and now a Los Angeles-based music industry consultant, said the iTunes phenomenon of purchasing individual songs "is not healthy for the music industry."

"It doesn't address something that albums and full CDs did, which is having a body of work from an artist," he said.

"It's so fragmented now. You get the song you like but you don't get to know the artist anymore. It encourages this rapid turnover," he added, pointing out that a band like U2 achieved its popularity because fans came to know them through a substantial body of work.

"If U2 came along right now, would they have the staying power? It would be very difficult to maintain that ongoing interest," Merlis said.’

I think they’re wrong – I think it’s great for the music industry in the long term. Somehow, when I think of the ability to download single songs off the net, I don’t think it’s the “Death of the album as we know it” – in fact, I believe the exact opposite is true. We’re in for a renaissance of the album as we know it – which is great news for music listeners.

The CD model as such promotes laziness on the part of the artist and the RIAA. Off-hand, how many albums can you think of where every song, or nearly every song, was great – and, given a choice, would’ve been worth buying stand-alone? The first few names that come to my mind are Dark Side of the Moon, the Wall, OK Computer, Ten, Dream Theater’s Scenes from a Memory…but a bulk of the albums I can think of from the last 20 years seem to fall into the following formula:

a) 2-3 “Star” songs – These get the most promotion, get videos made, etc, and are essentially meant to “carry” the album;

b) 4-5 mediocre songs;

c) Padding. After all, any CD has to have at least 12-13 songs, right?

So basically artists would sell $15 CDs on the basis of 3 songs, and everything was hunky-dory. Till iTunes came. Now, the Star songs will definitely sell – and fetch the band/RIAA $2-3. The mediocre songs will sell, but in fewer numbers. And the padding stays. Net income from the sale of the album: way lower.

So what happens? Bands are forced to innovate. They can either be satisfied with the $3-5 that the aforementioned formula would likely fetch them, or they can start working on making every single song good, so that people *want* to spend money on all 14-15 songs on the album. More concept albums will come in, with a theme tying together all the songs – and more concept albums, in my opinion, is definitely a good thing. There will also be more albums where nearly every song is a joy to hear.

I think the renaissance is already within striking distance. I can think of a whole lot of 2006 albums that I like listening to start-to-end, and not just a song or two: Belle & Sebastian’s The Life Pursuit, The Decemberists’ The Crane Wife, The Hold Steady’s Boys and Girls in America, RHCP’s Stadium Arcadium (coming after two very inconsistent albums, “By the Way” and Californication), Pearl Jam and quite a few more. Partly because of the reasons above and partly because of the rise of Indie bands, 2006 was a great year for music.

I’m hoping for even better in 2007.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Brilliance, sheer Brilliance....

Lies here. This site is one of my favourite sites for the kind of creativity I get to see unleashed in the form of Photoshopped images. How could a site which shows you movie stills like the one above ever go wrong?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Of Big Brother, Racism and Undercooked Food

989 articles on Google News today, talking about racism on Big Brother targeted towards Shilpa Shetty. More than 19,300 complaints received by the Brit (sorry, is Brit an offensive word?) TV regulator. An issue blown so far out of proportion that Gordon Brown, currently in India, has to talk about it. Tony Blair has to defend his country. The Indian high Commission in London has to launch an enquiry. And, of course, the inevitable…effigy burning in Bihar. To quote from this Time article:

“About 25 people, most of them men, marched down a street in the city of Patna in eastern India on Wednesday chanting, "Down with Big Brother." The protesters, who said they were members of the Shilpa Shetty Fans Association, burned a straw-and-paper figure representing the program's producers in effigy before being dispersed by police.”

Over what?? Let’s take a look at the offenses:

a) Calling her a “liar and a fake”;

b) Calling her a dog;

c) Asking her if she lives in "a house or a shack" – well, it’s the new-age version of misinformed foreigners asking if we ride to work on our magic carpets, innit? (Sorry, is my use of “innit” offensive to anyone?)

d) Refusing to eat chicken cooked by Shilpa Shetty, calling it “spicy” and “undercooked”. Ouch. My ears are still hurting from those grossest-of-gross racial slurs. They should ban the word “undercooked” – then we could always call it the “U-word”, never to be used except in crass rap songs.

e) Telling her to “go back to the slums” – that’s just a stupid, misinformed opinion. Should we be launching enquiries based on stupid people’s stupid opinions?

f) The Guardian:

‘Danielle also weighed in - but out of earshot from the actress - saying: "I think she should go home."’

How racist of them to want her to lose the competition. Hang them, I say.

This one’s my personal favourite, though – people are complaining that they call her “The Indian”. Since when is being called an Indian an insult? Let’s face it – how many of us have never referred to a foreigner as a “firangi”? I’m definitely guilty of that one. Am I a racist?

Imagine that there are fifteen people in a room, fourteen are British, one is Indian, and you’re so thick-headed that you can’t pronounce the Indian’s name correctly, so you call her “The Indian”. That might be stupid behaviour. It might be an attempt to show derision for her and for her entire country. It might be an attempt to somehow prove yourself superior in everyone’s eyes – whatever it is. It’s just a stupid woman and her stupid opinion. Grow up already – must we go crying to the principal every time the class bully calls us names? I’m calling that Brit woman stupid. I imagine someone from the UK must be filing a suit against me right now for being racist.

Since when did the whole world become such a crybaby? Do people think that screaming at people for voicing their true opinions will make these opinions go away? Will Jade Goody suddenly become a better person now, with all traces of slums and undercooked food removed from her outlook of India? Yes, I can see that working - "If people stop voicing their true opinions, their opinions will all change for the better and the world will be a happier place". Am I missing a step in between?

More from Patna: a BBC article has this to say about the fine, cultured people there:

“The comments provoked a small protest in the northern town of Patna and prompted the country's junior foreign minister to comment on the issue.

"Surely such racist slurs have no place in civilised society?" Anand Sharma asked.

"India has throughout firmly rejected all forms of discrimination and racism.''

Of course. We have no racism in India. No discrimination on the basis of caste, class, economic status, anything. We’re the perfect society. Enough said.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The iPhone, and what it could've been.

Here's what it finally looked like: Everyone's seen it by now, but there were some interesting mockups floating around, by "insiders" and random fanboys. Here's my favourite: This would certainly be a fun thing to put in the drawing room! (Pic courtesy Lots more available at the Gear Factor iPhone Mockup Gallery.

Update: Here's a photo from the Macworld conference:

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