The guitar you see pictured here was made by the Gibson Company, in the year 1943. It was made by women, as almost all the male employees of the Gibson Company were off fighting World War II. It is a model named by Gibson the “Southerner Jumbo,” its back and sides made of Mahogany and its top out of Adirondack spruce. To any player of Gibson guitars the trademark parallelogram fretboard inlays scream “Southerner Jumbo” from across a crowded dance floor. There were other Southerner Jumbos made that year, but this one is special. The man who purchased this guitar bought a second, identical to the first. One…he left at home. One…he took to war. This guitar made the trip to Europe and back during one of the most dangerous times in American history, a time that culminated with the dropping of the first atomic bomb. This guitar saw the horrors of war, yet retained its spirit, its chi. It is almost void of finish, marked with a hole through the top, and bangs, bruises and scrapes far to numerous to count. What songs were played on this guitar? Who played them? Were men dying around this guitar or were they singing.
The guitar now resides with a friend of mine named John Thomas. He doesn’t view himself as the “owner” of the guitar but rather its conservator. John is somewhat of a Renaissance man, a university professor of law by day, fingerstyle guitarist by heart, harp guitarist by challenge, record producer, author.
Why is any of this important. To begin with any wooden relic that made it back from the European Theater of World War II is something special. All the enemies of wood stalked this guitar. Excessive moisture, blunt force trauma, dehydrating sunlight, yet she made it home. Not only did she make it home but she made it home and began life again in the form she was meant to be…to produce beautiful sounds that can send you heart and imagination soaring.
I refer to the guitar as “she” because she was crafted by women. Miraculous women who took over the positions of men who had gathered the luthier’s skill that can only come with decades of devotion. These women basically taught themselves the art form of lutherie, and in the minds of most Gibson devotees, produced the most glorious guitars in the history of that company…the “Banner Gibsons,” so called because during the war years the peghead sported a banner graphic that read “Only Gibson Is Good Enough.”
John has made numerous trips to Kalamazoo, Michigan to gather data for his soon to be released book “The Kalamazoo Gals.” He even met with the woman who was the inspector of one of the Banner guitars that John now has. She inspected it again, almost seventy later, and passed it.
So, for all the lads who went to fight the great war and never returned…for all the gold star mothers…far from all the pomp and circumstance that is the usual accompaniment to a war’s ending…here is a living testament to you. She was beside you in dark hours and quite possibly allowed you to pass through a time when you felt all hope was lost. I’ve played this guitar and I must say, it brings a tear to your eye and you let your breath out saying “Johnny I hardly knew you.”
John’s book and an accompanying CD of songs played on a variety of Banner Gibsons will be released soon. The beauty of these guitars is further enhanced by the beautiful voice and virtuoso guitar playing of Lauren Sheehan.Leave a Comment
So here we sit. Children are slaughtered in a public school, entire towns have disappeared from the map of the east coast, people are fighting for their right to own high capacity magazines, Congress has decided that the financial structure of America is merely a blue chip in the poker game that they call governance. I would say that we are merely watching the pendulum swing, that the ship of state will eventually right itself, but I see no individual or group out there that has the will, desire or power to do anything about it.
I watched the public flogging of Lance Armstrong today and wondered what his greatest sin was? Taking drugs, lying, or raising $240,000,000 for a charity. As I do with most moral dilemmas I look to memories in my own life for a glimpse of a moral compass, any moral compass, to steer my decision making process. I’ve taken drugs, I’ve lied…but I’ve never raised $240,000,000 for a charity. Most people consider me a “good person,” so through the simple process of elimination I would say that his greatest sin must have been raising money for charity.
What do the two paragraphs above have in common? Morals, or the lack thereof. I don’t believe it to be moral to take money from an industry whose sole product is an instrument that causes death, and then be feign outrage when that product slaughters babies while they are in school. The NRA spent over $2,000,000 filling the coffers of men and women who we decried the brutality committed using their sponsor’s products. We strip Armstrong of all his titles, ban him for life from competitive sports and that’s just the beginning. He faces both civil and criminal prosecution. For what? Is there any sane person who believes that the “War on Drugs” has produced even a scintilla of success? The criminalization of drugs produces only one salient effect. It makes certain that this country maintains an underclass of people who are completely disenfranchised and available as fuel for the corporate government. We privatize the prison system and then fill those prisons with people who dare to hold dominion over their own bodies and inject, smoke or sniff whatever they want. If Lance Armstrong wants to fill his body with growth hormone whose business is it but his? The hypocrisy of the whole affair is that at the time Armstrong began winning the Tour de France you would be hard pressed to find a rider who was not on drugs. We don’t hate Armstrong for taking drugs, we hate him for his denial. I know I shouldn’t be, but I am constantly amazed by this country’s moral outrage at incidents such as an athlete taking drugs, but we are not outraged by civilians being able to possess high capacity magazines designed for guns whose sole purpose is to kill people. That is something we have to debate. I am reminded of the “jury is still out on evolution” mentality that was expressed by all of the Republican candidates for President of the United States with the exception of John Huntsman. We are still debating whether man shared this planet with dinosaurs and we are still debating whether 30 round magazines are our “right.”I will offer the doubters libraries filled with proof of evolution and I will offer detailed photos of bullet riddled bodies of six year olds to help decide the “moral” answer on high capacity magazines.
You can hang all the banners you want, send mountains of teddy bears, hold endless vigils, and cry rivers of tears. Those are the easy, somewhat cowardly ways out. Where the rubber hits the road you are soft and fearful. You listen to men telling you that someday your government will come for you…jackboots on…kicking in doors in the middle of the night. They will take not only your god given guns, they will take your family, rape your daughters and wives and sodomize you sons. The only way to keep the scurrilous curs at bay is to maintain your guns and ammunition. The more the better. Hell, when that Stryker battalion comes rolling up your driveway you want to make certain that your equipped to stop them with your Bushmaster and 2000 rounds.
I have often stated my shock at the pride this country takes in its maintained ignorance, but somehow I believed that the thought of dozens of baby’s bodies raked with bullets would shake them out of their mental malaise. I was wrong. The NRA has neutered the collective conscience of America. How simple…the citizenry shall be denied two implements that serve no other purpose than to kill people, kill them in great numbers, and kill them quickly. The civilian version of our armed service’s M-16, and high capacity magazines. They are the butcher’s cleaver and his paring knife and the butchers are those whose mental capacities have been so severely damaged that they somehow see piles of dead six year olds balancing the scales. America watches this and then debates the merits of banning these implements of destruction. Congress will ram through the naming of a post office but dead babies require a debate. We are shocked and embarrassed by Abu Ghraib but we must ponder Newtown. Lance Armstrong must be not only degraded but also ousted from the entire social order. His crime? Cheating at a sport. What of assault weapons and high capacity magazines? Their crime? The slaughter of hundreds of Americans including almost two dozen in school in a small town in Connecticut. What should be done with them? Debate and discuss.
Anyone who belongs to the NRA is a traitor. Anyone who belongs to the NRA supports murder. We wanted Bill Clinton to be punished for engaging in oral sex, but the gun manufacturers don’t even get a slap on the wrist for selling death at competitive prices.
Once again, I am ashamed to be an American. I thought we stood up for the helpless, protected the children. What a fool. It pains me to admit that I have been duped all these years. We’ll serve whoever will pay us the most. We are a country of whores. What will come of the pools of coagulated baby’s blood in Newtown? We’ll get pails of antiseptic soap and wash away any traces. We may even demolish the building. That’s what we Americans call “standing up” to the corporate power mongers. Not to worry, you can always fall back on your moral “get out of jail free” card and “support the troops.” That will wipe away the cardinal sins committed in allowing others to find easy mechanisms to create another Newtown.
I must offer my sincere apology to all the whores who might be reading this. I recognize the fact that your virtues are far greater than those of the average American.1 Comment
While everyone takes a deep sigh of relief for us not going over the infamous “fiscal cliff”, it becomes increasingly evident that no one in Washington is serious about addressing our debt or deficit.Given that our total budget is approximately $3.5 trillion and our deficit is $1.1 trillion, it is hard to take a deal that raises $60 billion a year in revenue as a serious effort at balancing our budget.
Study this chart and see if you can find $1 trillion in spending cuts in any fashion, let alone in cuts that won’t take money out of the pockets of would be consumers. If we cut 100% of the defense budget, it wouldn’t get rid of our deficit.
We spend half again what we take in in revenues. We’ve been doing this since the two Bush tax cuts. This will put the cost of those tax cuts into perspective:
My math says the debt will continue to rise until we get rid of the deficit. My math says we should raise all the tax rates in affect in 2012 by 44%. A 10% rate would become 14.4%. ad 35% rate would be a 45% rate. They may look like high rates, but historically they are not. Please look at rates since WWII.
It is somewhat fascinating to receive frequent emails longing for the “good old days” of greater prosperity and higher tax rates. The point is: we thrived as a nation when tax rates were higher. We keep hearing, “We’ve got to stop spending more than we take in.” I think we’ve got to stop taking in less than we spend.
The simple, albeit inconvenient, truth is we have to cut spending by a full third or raise revenue by nearly 50% to balance our budget. Until/unless we balance our budget the debt will continue to rise. That’s the simple arithmetic. There is no alternative. However, even if we manage to bite the proverbial bullet and zero out our deficit, we have not done a thing to pay down the debt.
My suggestion is we raise taxes enough to cover our current obligations. No one will like that, but we can likely find a way to do so that won’t impact those making $30k or less. Some of the really high incomes might have to get taxed at 50%, but if one is making $2 million that is all in that 50% bracket, he is keeping $1 million, and that is many times what the fellow making $100k keeps. Relatively speaking, he’s still doing fine. I lived in the days of the 90% plus brackets, and I can assure you the people in that bracket had their summer homes, a yacht in the harbor, and big, new cars in their garage.
We are a nation of people who don’t like to face the truth and don’t like politicians that tell us the truth. The budget is math. There is no painless way to pay for the “free lunch” we’ve been eating since 1980.
We have, since the shooting at the school in Newtown Ct., suffered through hundreds of hours of discussion about gun control and the second amendment, as if there’s some new laws we can pass to disarm the public. Meanwhile, study after study has shown the very vast majority of gun violence in this country is connected to drugs being illegal. It is Prohibition all over again, but this time we don’t have the good sense to change those laws.
The revenue this deal increased will be eaten up entirely by help for Hurricane Sandy, if that help passes. It’s already long since when it should have passed.
The two wars will soon (not soon enough) be history. All of the Bush tax cuts should be history. Now they are mostly permanent. It’s hard to call this a victory when we all lose long term. Our deficit is a permanent part of our budget. Our debt is a permanent part of our future.
We simply don’t have the political will to change that.
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When Dad was seventeen he blew the top of a friend’s head off with a shotgun. He wheeled after a rabbit and his friend stood up from a crouch. His friend lived, miraculously losing only skin. Dad took me hunting once when I was about nine, I think, old enough to know the story, included in a conversation about gun safety. There was not much visible game and Dad was intense, sighting along his shotgun, moving this way and that. At one point he wheeled and I fell to the ground, remembering that friend’s scalp. I don’t believe I ever asked my Dad to go hunting after that.
I’ve done some target shooting with a .22 rifle. I’ve shot skeet, and am not bad at it, it turns out. It’s an interesting thing to do over a cornfield on a fall afternoon. I don’t want to kill anything. I’m fine with eating other animals. I just don’t want to kill them. A hypocrisy, perhaps, or a reflection of life here in the food chain.
Because I live in Iowa, where deer are so populous as to be pets, I support responsible hunting. I’m not sure that the hunting of mourning doves qualifies as a sport. If you’re going to pick on small birds, I think grackles or sparrows would be a better choice. I know a decent and likeable young man who hunts mourning doves and faithfully prepares and eats them. That works for me. I don’t want to kill deer or doves. I don’t mind killing fish – another hypocrisy?
For the hunting of children, for the harvest of unsuspecting adults, for the massacre of folks who run into danger to protect children huddled in the corners of classrooms, you want a gun that will fire a lot of rounds, quickly, without jamming. Apparently, Mrs. Lanza, mother of the demented young man whose latest hunting exploits fill our minds, late of Sandy Hook, Connecticut, purchased the guns her son used herself. She uniquely equipped her troubled son with just the equipment he needed for an efficient hunting expedition.
I’m sure she had a good reason, although it’s hard to understand why a woman in a lovely Connecticut town like Sandy Hook would need one. I know she wasn’t thinking that she was purchasing the instruments of her own demise. I know she underestimated the risk her son’s illness implied.
My father suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. As I got older, I began to realize I had some responsibilities in this regard. One day when I was in 7th grade, Dad and I went to the GEM store, a big box department store. Among other things, Dad bought a box of shotgun shells. He hadn’t been feeling very well lately, staying home and not doing much. I thought it was kind of cool he was thinking about going hunting again. I mentioned something to Mom about it.
“Shotgun shells! Why didn’t you tell me?” I never saw those guns again. Dad went back into the hospital not long after that. It was a hard year.
There is a lot of money in guns. Once a week, the local paper publishes all the folks who have been granted handgun licenses. We are a “shall issue” state now, which means it’s pretty easy to get a gun. We can carry concealed handguns on our persons as long as we carry our permits. The list of new gun carriers is always long. That’s a lot of weapons in the general population.
The “problem” with the general population, is that there is always a troublesome subsection of people whose judgment is impaired. Some others have been permanently separated by circumstance from their consciences. Anyone who works with the public knows this.
Like me, off with my father to the GEM Store to buy shotgun shells, we do not always recognize the danger in those we love. My mother, by then, had learned to be vigilant. What if I hadn’t mentioned the shells or the hunting? I thought it was good news. Dad was taking an interest in things again. What if I’d gone off to play that day and said nothing?
There are too many guns around. People are using them to kill children. Massacres of humans generally are increasing in frequency. All of those humans were someone’s children.1 Comment
Here is a partial listing of television shows dealing with vampires: Supernatural, Blood Ties, Kindred: The Embraced, The Vampire Diaries, The Dresden Files, Moonlight, True Blood, Angel, Being Human, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Sanctuary, The Gates, Vampire High, Demons, Valemont, Blade: The Series. This is a sampling from the past decade. The number of feature films devoted to vampires is far too vast to be included here.
This is not the same horror filled fascination we had with Bela Lugosi telling us, “I vant to drink your blood!” He was a monster that was supposed to make children scream and young girls clutch their boyfriends around the neck. Today’s vampire fascination has to do with sex and gore. Male vampires have a constant erection and female vampires display their equivalent of this insatiable lust. Who wouldn’t want to be a vampire if it afforded you a “life” in a world of sex on demand.
How about video games centered around violent actions? Here’s a partial list courtesy of the “Ask Men” website:
No.10 Carmageddon - 1997
The violence in Carmageddon comes from the sheer ability to run people down in the most imaginatively brutal ways with a multi-purposed road hog reminiscent of those seen in the 1975 film Death Race 2000 Ramming pedestrians into steaming piles of bloody flesh, hitting massive roadside bombs (highly unethical given today’s “war on terrorism” standards) and obliterating rival vehicles with copious amounts of unnecessary weapons and power-ups — these are just a few of the items on the menu of this video game. Perhaps the tagline on the box of Carmageddon says it best: “The racing game for the chemically imbalanced.” How very true.
No.9 Soldier of Fortune - 2000
Keeping with the true 3-D environment spirit, the key thing that separated Soldier of Fortune from its other first-person cousins was the use of the GHOUL System, a physics-based game engine that lets you, for a lack of a better term, torture and brutalize enemies at your most sadistic desires. While the game offers an action-packed story of terrorists and nuclear warfare (and the chance to assassinate Saddam Hussein), it’s the sick little pleasures of blowing off enemy limbs with a shotgun and watching blood spray and guts spill that make this game one of the most truly violent titles of all time.
No.8 God of War II - 2007
As Kratos, a former member of the Spartan army, you become the ruthless god of war in the pantheon of Greek gods. Sounds simple enough? Probably, but the tale also includes erasing your tormented past, and that includes cutting a violent and deadly path to get your satisfaction. But it’s going to take a lot of blood, sweat and tears along the way. Did we mention blood yet? God of War 2 promotes ruthless weapon use, stylized and gory finishing kills to enemies and brutal cut scenes that would make Quentin Tarantino blush (including one final kill where you continually slam a door on another god’s head numerous times). The mythological backstory of the game serves to soften the blow of equating it to modern-day street violence, but then again, ruthless gods probably didn’t settle matters over a cup of tea either.
No.7 Gears of War 2 - 2008
Slicing a foe with a chainsaw from the groin upward is gruesome enough; however, getting to use a corpse as a human shield when taking fire takes the cake (not to mention the obtuse and unashamed use of blood that accompanies these techniques). Either way, Gears of War 2 gives the third-person adventurer just enough violence to keep him satisfied, even when between a barrage of bullets (when blood is spilled, it shows up nicely on the screen, obscuring your battlefield view — just like in real life!).
No.6 Mortal Kombat - 1992
The origins of violent video gaming are about as untraceable as the Loch Ness Monster, but there was no denying the violence when Mortal Kombat debuted in homes everywhere in 1992. The uproar and backlash was unprecedented at the time, as players engaged in 2-D combat with a variety of moves that induced blood loss, explosions and all things gory. While it was a dastardly game designed to sour soccer moms everywhere, kids loved the “fatality” finishers, including uppercutting your opponent only to have him land torso-deep in razor-sharp spikes. “Finish him” also became one of the most recognizable one-liners in the short history of video gaming. It was still gross though.
No.5 Thrill Kill - 1998
This game was not actually officially released on the PlayStation, as it was originally intended, but many copies have since become available through bootleg channels. Either way, only the truly sadistic would want to track down this game and enjoy it. It involves a four-player 3-D fighting game in which some of its most unsavory characters fight to the death. Armed with syringes, cattle prods, severed limbs, and more, players simply beat the daylights out of one another with grotesque, fetishistic and/or sexual maneuvers, always with the result of too many blood splatters to count.
No.4 MadWorld - 2009
What’s black and white and red all over? Your victims as they’re splattered against the wall after being skewered on a lamppost. Or perhaps the answer could include disposing of your enemies in a meat grinder, or playing darts using only your opponents and a baseball bat. Whatever the stylish kill, this video game means serious business on the violence factor. Maybe the blood splatter on a black-and-white backdrop really highlights the ferociousness and gratuitous violence, but any game with flavors of The Running Man and a protagonist with a chainsaw on his arm usually have violent potency.
No.3 Manhunt - 2003
As history would repeat itself every time a controversial new video game was introduced to gamers, Manhunt and its producers ran into constant battles with game classifications, angry parents and censorship laws that stirred a fury among critics upon its release (including being the first video game classified as a movie by the province of Ontario in 2004 due to its grotesque nature). Either way, the player sneaks around a 3-D environment and commits heinous acts of murder as part of a sadistic form of entertainment. Decapitation, steel-object-to-the-brain impaling and even the ability to jam a sickle up an unsuspecting victim’s ass was part of the Manhunt experience. Violence indeed.
No.2 Grand Theft Auto III - 2001
If Mortal Kombat was the granddaddy of ultra violent gaming, then anything from the Grand Theft Auto series (particularly Grand Theft Auto III) is easily its bastardized offspring. As the title suggests, you’re out to make a name for yourself by accomplishing missions in a third-person environment, and stealing cars is the most lighthearted crime you can commit. From massive gangland-style beat downs to barbecuing prostitutes with flamethrowers, nothing is too vile or unrealistic in the face of death, blood and mayhem. Subsequent violence from later sequels (including GTA: Vice City, GTA: San Andreas and GTA IV) was simply adding more fuel to the fire. Once the franchise hit the 3-D third-person perspective, all hell broke loose, and you can blame GTA III for all of it.
No.1 Postal 2 - 2003
Taking the throne of video game violence is a mantle often reserved for only the elite titles, and Postal 2 easily captures the top spot. This is a game in which it is not uncommon to drop-kick grenades and whip scythes at unsuspecting civilians if they refuse to participate in your everyday life story (which is, after all, the plot behind the game). Of course, this includes using cat carcasses as silencers on your gun, hitting people with anthrax-laden cow heads and playing “fetch” with dogs using the severed heads of your dismembered victims. Postal 2 is the epitome of senseless, over-the-top video game violence.
So, here we have it…generations brought up on eternal life and sex and a complete acceptance of brutality as a way of settling differences. Please, don’t tell me that video games don’t have an effect on children. Is there much difference between what your little Johnny is playing on Playstation compared to what big Johnny is doing at a drone command center?
I place the blame for today’s orgy of violence directly at the feet of a generation who are derelict in their duties as parents. Don’t blame it on the company that makes the violent video game, blame it on the parent who allows the child to play it. There have always been a easily accessible source for handguns in this country yet mass murders seem to be increasing at an alarming number. Why? Let’s use Occam’s Razor…we’ll look for the simplest explanation. First let’s take the constants when we compare the time when I grew up, the forties and fifties, and 1990 to the present. Guns are one constant. They existed in great numbers then, they exist in great numbers now (I recognize that the killing capabilities of an AK-47 grossly outweigh those of a bolt action Remington, but I am not speaking of gross carnage but rather increased occurrence.) Anger was present then as it is now. People lost their jobs, were victims of infidelity, were bullied and disagreed on any number of social and political matters.Those are some of the constants between the two ages, there may be others but these will suffice for our discussion here. Now, for the variables. In the forties and fifties we didn’t have cults of youngsters following the exploits of people who drank blood, dismembered people and possessed sexual magnetism of such power that their mere gaze could make a member of the opposite sex swoon in erotic rapture. There was no past time where children played games about “Grand Theft Auto.” Hell, the only time we ever heard that term was on “Dragnet” and Joe Friday always used it with the gravitas it deserved…and he was damned polite doing it. We played cops and robbers, cowboys and indians but there was no simulated blood, nobody’s head came off and…this is most important…we didn’t play those games into our teen years. If you knew a 16 year old who was still playing cops and robbers you knew a boy with a serious problem. Now we have men who maintain an active “gaming” life. More likely than not they started their gaming as children and the addiction did not disappear when they left puberty.
On a personal note, as a child, based on my school record, I would, by today’s standards, be classified as a troubled youth. I was in frequent fistfights, perhaps because I was a skinny kid and looked to be an easy target for anyone wanting to impress a friend, a girl or just because he was in a foul mood. When enough of these dust ups took place I suddenly realized I was damend good at it and I ceased needing the stimulation of being picked on to start throwing punches. It just felt good. That may be difficult for the reader to either accept or understand and I have to offer an apology here, I myself don’t know why it felt good. I never hurt anybody seriously, nor was I ever hurt seriously…there was the occasional suture needed, but that was it. One thing I do realize upon reflection, once the fight was over so was my anger. I didn’t walk around angry or depressed. The thought of killing someone never entered my mind and it was certainly never discussed among my friends. Now, if you had a time machine and shipped me from the period of my childhood to present day I couldn’t promise that something bad wouldn’t happen. You take a kid who has a propensity for moving from talk to action without much forethought and inundate him with accepted images of blood, gore, sex and mayhem and yes, you could have someone who would increase his violence to a level that could do serious harm. There, we have our variable.
I began writing this piece before the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, a town I know very well. A friend of my daughter-in-law lost her niece in that carnage…she was five years old. Newtown and other mass killings are not simply a demonstration of inadequate gun laws. That is an overly simplistic approach to a complex problem. What is occurring in the United States is a virus and viruses can’t self-replicate, or reproduce alone, and they can’t grow. The only way viruses can replicate is if they take over another cell and force it to make copies of that virus. Guns don’t cause self-replication, humans do. Take away handguns and the virus will kill with rifles, take away the rifles and the virus will kill with shotguns, take away the shotguns and the virus will kill with a knives, take away the knives and the virus will kill with a club. It’s not the instrument we must fear the most, it’s the virus. The virus of violence that grips this country is replicating through video games, TV shows, movies, political leaders and self interest groups. The only known immunization for this virus is sound parenting, and, to those members of the religious right, it does not matter whether it’s a single parent, a man and a woman, two women or two men. Unfortunately morality is not passed through the placenta. We are not born moral human beings, we are taught morality. That being said, is moral upbringing an immunization to possible mental problems that could lead to a Newtown? No, there are always the exceptions, however, an immoral or amoral upbringing will plough a fertile field for a mass murderer. Parents who drop their kids in front of a TV or video game are not imparting morals…the TV and the games are, and more likely than not those visual experiences include violence, misogyny, and murder. To turn around and state that there is a “gun problem” in this country is to mock the fact that the problem this country has with violence has a genesis with people, not firearms. If you believe that tighter gun laws are all that is need to stop this insanity then your are part of the problem, not the solution.1 Comment
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