What is the Meaning of the Feather in Forrest Gump?

alex atkins bookshelf moviesIn the opening sequence of the 1994 film Forrest Gump, we are mesmerized by a feather that floats downward from the clouds, caught in a gentle breeze — swirling and spinning delicately like some ethereal dancer. Eventually the feather reaches the ground, and is swept across a street by the motion of cars, landing by the foot of the film’s slow-witted but kind protagonist, Forrest Gump, who is sitting on a bench waiting to catch a bus. It captures his attention, and he reaches out to grab it and gently place it inside his favorite book, Curious George, that his mother read to him when he was a child. Then at the conclusion of the film, that same feather falls out of this book, that Gump has now given to his son, and the feather is lifted back into the clouds by a gentle breeze. So, immediately we ask: what is the meaning of the feather in Forrest Gump? As we shall soon see, the feather is the perfect symbol for this film that, thanks to the brilliant screenwriting efforts of Eric Roth, works as a fable wrapped around a sweet love story (as opposed to the biting satire and cynical tone of the original novel by Winston Groom). And like one of Shakespeare’s fools, Gump may be simple-minded and a source of amusement, but he possesses much wisdom, when those around him often don’t.

Fortunately, if you haven’t figured it out by the end of the film, Gump tells us. In the last scene of the film, Gump is in a reflective mood and in a voiceover, explains: “I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze. But I think maybe it’s both.” And that is the central theme of this film: is life determined by fate or chance? In an interview, Tom Hanks, who played Gump, elaborates: “Our destiny is only defined by how we deal with the chance elements to our life and that’s kind of the embodiment of the feather as it comes in. Here is this thing that can land anywhere and that it lands at your feet. It has theological implications that are really huge.” Perhaps what Hanks actually meant to say, was that the philosophical implications are huge. Some of the greatest philosophers, thinkers, and writers have grappled with that question and its implication of free will; that is to say, if our life is based on fate (predetermined) or chance, do our choices matter? In the case of Gump, the answer is yes: even though the feather lands near him (chance), he actively picks it up (choice). And it is because he makes these choices, that he unwittingly plays a role in many defining events of the 20th century (teaching Elvis how to dance, reporting the Watergate break-in, inspiring the lyrics to John Lennon’s “Imagine”, the creation of the iconic smiley face, coining the phrase “shit happens,” etc.). 

On another level, the feather, with their connection to birds, represents flight and freedom. It also represent hope and inspiration. In the poem, “Hope” is the thing with feathers,” Emily Dickinson uses the feather as a central metaphor: “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops at all.” For many tribal priests and shamans, the feather represents ascension or prayer, representing the magical communication with gods or the spirit world.

In her fascinating blog, Symbolic Meaning of Feathers, Avia Venifica, who studies the work of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, presents an in-depth exploration of the symbolism of feathers. Briefly, she discusses the feather as representing truth, spirit, travel, heaven, levity, flight, messages, ascension, and fertility. She also writes about the meaning of finding feathers, which is also relevant to the film. Venifica presents four meanings of finding a feather:

“1. Feathers are a reminder to count our blessings and be thankful for the good stuff going on in our lives.

2. Feathers are a symbol of levity. When seen, they remind us ease up on all the seriousness. Take a breath, relax, enjoy.

3. If feathers really are a communication tool to and from the gods, then their appearance is a reminder to listen to the bigger voice – as in a higher power.

4. Feathers often show up when there is someone or something that wants to reach out to us. Sometimes this might be a loved one who has passed into non-physical. A feather is a reminder you are loved by infinite people (both here on earth and otherwise).”

So is life determined by fate or chance? Some believe it is fate, others believe it is chance. Like Gump, many believe it is both? If you read enough biographies and have listen to the life stories of many people, you will realize that there is a common thread: serendipity. Someone was at the right place, at the right time, with the right person — and that has made a huge difference in their life journey, with respect to their education, career, or personal relationships (friendships, mentorships, and marriage). And herein lies one of the greatest life lessons: although you cannot create luck, propitious chance encounters — learn to identify serendipity and seize the opportunity.

The film, because it is a timeless fable, asks us one important question: if you are sitting on a bench and a feather floats by and rests near you, will you pick it up?

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: What is the Meaning of Bohemian Rhapsody?
What is the Meaning of Elton John’s Rocket Man?
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For further reading: The Complete Dictionary of Symbols by Jack Tresidder
https://forrestgump227.wordpress.com/symbolism/
https://www.whats-your-sign.com/symbol-meaning-of-feathers.html


			

The Best Movie Taglines of All Time

alex atkins bookshelf moviesSometimes the taglines are more memorable than the films. It is a testament to the copywriters who have the challenging task of summarizing a 90-120 minute film in just a few words. Who can forget that great tagline from the 1978 summer thriller, Jaws 2: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water”? Or the 1979 science fiction horror movie, Alien: “In space no one can hear you scream”? You can even picture the iconic posters in your mind’s eye.

The tagline is incredibly important when trying to capture the interest of movie watchers in an increasingly crowded marketplace (thanks a lot social media!). In most cases, the writing of the tagline is the first step in marketing a film. Although the final product is simple, the process is not. Companies that specialize in marketing films typically build a team of in-house writers and freelancers to review a rough cut of a film (or read a script if the film hasn’t been shot) and then generate as many as 1,000 taglines for a particular film. Sometimes the time frame for writing is as short as a few days or as long as a year. From there, the list of candidates is pared down to arrive at the best tagline to go with the poster and trailers. According to one veteran copywriter, the best taglines are ones that evoke emotion rather than contemplation. A few years ago, the folks at Shortlist ranked the best movie taglines of all time. You be the judge of how well the copywriters did:

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “One man’s struggle to take it easy”

High Noon: “The story of a man who was too proud to run”

Psycho: “Check in. Unpack. Relax. Take A Shower”

Alien: “In space no one can hear you scream”

The Royal Tenenbaums: “Family isn’t a word. It’s a sentence”

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World: “An epic of epic epicness”

The Thing: “Man is the warmest place to hide”

The 40-Year-Old Virgin: “The longer you wait, the harder it gets”

The Social Network: “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies”

Superman: “You’ll believe a man can fly”

Zodiac: “There’s more than one way to lose your life to a killer”

Platoon: “The first casualty of war is innocence”

Brokeback Mountain: “Love is a force of nature”

Chicken Run: “Escape or die frying”

Lost In Translation: “Everyone wants to be found”

Gattaca: “There is no gene for the human spirit”

Bonnie & Clyde: “They’re young…they’re in love…and they kill people”

The Shawshank Redemption: “Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free”

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: “Who will survive and what will be left of them?”

The Graduate: “This is Benjamin. He’s a little worried about his future”

Alien Vs Predator: “Whoever wins…we lose”

I Am Legend: “The last man on earth is not alone”

Deliverance: “This is the weekend they didn’t play golf”

Jaws 2: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water”

Quiz Show: “Fifty million people watching and no one saw a thing”

The Fly: “Be afraid. Be very afraid”

Taxi Driver: “On every street in every city, there’s a nobody who dreams of being a somebody”

Napoleon Dynamite: “He’s out to prove he’s got nothing to prove”

Bram Stoker’s Dracula: “Love never dies”

A Nightmare On Elm Street: “If Nancy doesn’t wake up screaming, she won’t wake up at all”

The Truman Show: “On the air. Unaware”

Contagion: “Nothing spreads like fear”

True Lies: “When he said I do, he never said what he did”

The Godfather Part III: “All the power on earth can’t change destiny”

Predator 2: “He’s in town with a few days to kill”

American Beauty: “…look closer”

Greedy: “Where there’s a will, there’s a relative”

Swingers: “Cocktails first. Questions later”

Tommy Boy: “If at first you don’t succeed, lower your standards”

12 Monkeys: “The future is history”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Most Expensive Movie Props
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For further reading: https://www.shortlist.com/entertainment/films/the-40-greatest-movie-taglines-ever/83728
http://archive.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2004/02/29/how_movie_taglines_are_born/


Profile of a Book Lover: Karl Lagerfeld

atkins-bookshelf-booksWhen you walk into Karl Lagerfeld’s spectacular library of 300,000 books you are in book heaven — unless, of course, you are Marie Kondo and the overwhelming quantity of books leaves her head spinning: “You have to put all the books in one big pile,” she says, “and choose only the ones that spark joy.” Nonsense! Take a hike sister — for a bibliophile like Lagerfeld every single one of those books sparked joy: finding them, buying them, holding them, reading them, and just looking at them organized neatly in their custom bookshelves. To give you a sense of the scale of that size of a personal library: if you purchased one book a day, it would take you more than 821 years to complete a library of that size! You would also have to have really deep pockets. Assuming that the average art book costs $40, you are looking at an expenditure of more than $12 million (excluding tax and shipping fees)!

As you may have read, Lagerfeld, the world-renowned fashion designer, artist, creative director, and photographer, passed away on February 19, 2019 at the age of 85. For more than five decades, he was creative director at the Italian fashion house Fendi; and spent four decades in the same capacity for Chanel, as well as his own fashion label, Lagerfeld. And like acclaimed American author and journalist Tom Wolfe (not to be confused with another famous American author, Thomas Wolfe, who wrote You Can’t Go Home Again and Look Homeward Angel), Lagerfeld subscribed to the code of eccentrics that asserts that if you are an artist, you must really look the part. For Lagerfeld that meant dark sunglasses (day or night), fingerless gloves, and high, starched while collars that wrapped around his neck like a neck brace. He wore his shocking white hair pulled back tightly in a pony tail. You might say he dressed like a quintessential James Bond villain. (Compare that to Tom Wolfe’s signature look, that of the Southern gentleman: a white suit accessorized by a white homburg hat, white tie, and traditional two-tone shoes.) If his wardrobe didn’t put you off, many of his controversial fashion shows and personal views would. But we digress…

At heart, Lagerfeld was a passionate and consummate book collector — the bibliophile’s bibliophile, as it were. The first thing you will notice when you walk into his spectacular library is that the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves are incredibly unique. Rather than lining books vertically (spines perpendicular to the shelves) like most people, Lagerfeld had custom shelves made so that the books are arranged horizontally, lying flat, with the spines parallel to the shelf. In other words, as you look across a layer of bookshelves, you see a neat arrangement of stacks of books, each about 10 to 12 books high. The second thing you will notice is that he collects large format art, design, architecture, and photography books. And nestled in between these stacks of large books, as if to plug in the holes, are smaller books that are placed vertically. Lagerfeld was immensely proud of his library (as he should be). You can imagine how many times he had to answer the question: “Have you read all these books?”

Now I know what you are thinking… what if you want to view a book at the bottom or near the bottom of a stack. There’s the rub. You would have to either use brute force to pull the book out (and risk damaging the book) or lift a group of books and place them somewhere, recreating a stack there, until you got to the book you wanted. A supreme hassle, for sure. But apparently this was one huge concession Lagerfeld was willing to make to have books displayed “his way,” that is, to have the spines reading left to right so that you don’t have to tilt your head.

Regardless of the orientation of the books on the shelves, the library is stunning. The rooms are minimalist in design — white walls, with understated, modern chrome chairs (gray or black), and glass tables sitting on beautiful parquet floors. One room is a two stories, with an iron catwalk that wraps around the room, reached by a sleek, modern spiral staircase. The catwalk is about 12 feet high, which means that the stacks below the catwalk extend more than 10 feet. To access the upper stacks, one has to use a custom ladder, that slides along the bottom, that has a leather chair at the top. You can see some of the photos at My Modern Met.

Not surprisingly, Lagerfeld also owned a bookstore: The 7L Bookshop in Paris, located at 7 rue de Lille, in the 7th district of Paris, not far from two of the most famous museums: the Louvre and the Orsay. And just like his personal collection, the bookshop focuses on fashion, photography, design, architecture, interior design, landscape design, as well as cookbooks (this is Paris, after all). Moreover, the bookshop features books written by or edited by Lagerfeld.

So what will become of Lagerfeld’s incredible library? The usual scenario is that the executor will donate some portion to universities, art or fashion schools; the rest will be inventoried and broken up into smaller lots and sold at auction; perhaps some will end up at his bookshop.  Most mortals will never own a collection like this, but what an inspiration… There is an old adage that says: “you can’t take it with you.” But the bibliophile’s response is always the same: “it doesn’t really matter — the joy is in the building of the library, building it one book at time; feeling that tremendous sense of elation when you find a special book that you connect with; and that book inevitably leads you to another one, and so forth.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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Profile of a Book Lover: Richard Heber
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Expensive American Book
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For further reading: https://mymodernmet.com/karl-lagerfeld-sideways-library/
http://www.librairie7l.com/the-7l-bookshop-in-paris.php

 


There’s a Word for That: Euphuism

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIt’s one of those words that evokes a double-take: did you say euphemism or euphuism? Is euphuism even a word? Yes – despite spellcheck’s very annoying tendency to autocorrect to “euphemism” euphuism is a seldomly used word that means a very elaborate or roundabout way of speaking or writing. Consider it a fancier way of saying overly wordy.

It’s a fascinating word when you examine its etymology. The word is an eponym (a noun formed after a person), named after the main character from Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit, a romance published in 1578 by English writer and playwright John Lyly. That book was followed by a sequel, Euphues and His England published a year later. There is a specific reason that Lyly chose the name Euphues — it is based on the Greek word euphues, meaning “well-endowed by nature,” which in turn is derived from eu (meaning “well”) and phue (meaning “growth”).

Before prurient adolescent minds get carried away by the word “well-endowed” realize that 16th century writers did not mean its modern slang meaning (“having a large penis” — there, I said it; get over it). Rather, it meant that an individual had many talents. In the case of our friend Euphues, here is a character who didn’t act in porn films due to the aforementioned distinct anatomical feature; instead, he was able to speak in very long, ornate sentences. His speech was also distinctive in that he often spoke in sentences with parallel structure. Here are two examples:

“It is virtue, yea virtue, gentlemen, that maketh gentlemen; that maketh the poor rich, the base-born noble, the subject a sovereign, the deformed beautiful, the sick whole, the weak strong, the most miserable most happy. There are two principal and peculiar gifts in the nature of man, knowledge and reason; the one commandeth, and the other obeyeth: these things neither the whirling wheel of fortune can change, neither the deceitful cavillings of worldlings separate, neither sickness abate, neither age abolish.”

“A sharp sore hath a short cure.”

While most modern readers are quite unfamiliar with Lyly, almost everyone has encountered him — but they just didn’t know it. How is that possible? Lyly was an influence on the greatest dramatist in the English language: William Shakespeare. Shakespearean scholars believe that the Bard not only read Lyly, who was the source of Love’s Labour’s Lost, but also satirized him in the ornate, fancy speeches of Beatrice and Benedick (yet again, another penis reference) in Much Ado About Nothing, the lovers in Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Polonius in the Tragedy of Prince Hamlet. So there.

Related terms are circumlocution, periphrasis, grandiloquence, purple prose, wordy, and sesquipedalian.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
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There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
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There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
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People Will Hate You If You Make Them Think

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsIf you make people think they’re thinking, they’ll love you; but if you really make them think, they’ll hate you.

From Archy and Mehitabel by American journalist and humorist Don Marquis (1878-1937), best known for the humorous verses and short stories created by his fictional characters Archy (a cockroach) and Mehitabel (an alley cat). Marquis wrote a daily column, “The Sun Dial,” for many years for New York City’s The Evening Sun.


30 Epigrams That Can Make You More Creative

alex atkins bookshelf educationThe wisdom of Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 – 475 BC), the ancient Greek philosopher who is considered one of the founders of ontology (the study of being) and greatly influenced the philosophy of the Stoics, particularly Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus. Sadly most of his writings have been lost to the sands of time, save for about 125 fragments, epigrams, that appear in the writings of other Ancient Greeks. These early philosophers were very fond of epigrams, an idea expressed in a clever way. (The word epigram is derived from the Greek work epigramma, meaning “an inscription.”) Moreover, many of Heraclitus’ epigrams are paradoxical requiring contemplation and interpretation; therefore, in many cases, there is no one right answer. Those early philosophers were really onto something…

Despite being more than 2,500 years old, the epigrams of Heraclitus have been a tremendous wellspring for modern authors who have rediscovered and repurposed them in the last few decades. Authors like Ryan Holiday (The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living); William Irvine (A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy); and Dan Millman (Way of the Peaceful Warrior), for example, have very successfully mined the wisdom of the stoics for valuable insights into how to live and have a meaningful life. In 2001, creativity expert Roger von Oech (author of A Whack on the Side of the Head), stumbled onto the wisdom of Heraclitus as a key to unlocking creativity. In his book, Expect the Unexpected (Or You Won’t Find It), he writes: “I’ve selected thirty epigrams which I believe best express Heraclitus’ philosophy of the creative spirit. I call these his Creative Insights… Viewed as a whole… [they] provide us with a set of tools on how to be more creative… Indeed, Heraclitus’ enigmatic style in itself forces us to think differently. To understand his vivid metaphors and unusual paradoxes, we’ve had to tolerate ambiguity and probe for symbolic meanings. We’ve also had to be imaginative and think of multiple interpretations… [These epigrams are] a treasure box of creative inspiration.” The 30 Creative Insights of Heraclitus of Ephesus are listed below:

1. The cosmos speaks in patterns.
2. Expect the unexpected, or you won’t find it.
3. Everything flows.
4. You can’t step into the same river twice.
5. That which opposes produces a benefit.
6. A wonderful harmony is created when we join together the seemingly unconnected.
7. If all things turned to smoke, the nose would become the discerning organ.
8. The Sun will not exceed its limits, because the aven­ging Furies, ministers of Justice, would find out.
9. Lovers of wisdom must open their minds to very many things.
10. I searched into myself.
11. Knowing many things doesn’t teach insight.
12. Many fail to grasp what’s right in the palm of their hand.
13. When there is no sun, we can see the evening stars.
14. The most beautiful order is a heap of sweepings piled up at random.
15. Things love to conceal their true nature.
16. Those who approach life like a child playing a game, moving and pushing pieces, possess the power of kings.
17. Sea water is both pure and polluted: for fish it is drinkable and life-giving; for humans undrinkable and destructive.
18. On a circle, an end point can also be a beginning point.
19. It is disease that makes health pleasant, hunger that makes fullness good, and weariness that makes rest sweet.
20. The doctor inflicts pain to cure suffering.
21. The way up and the way down are one and the same.
22. A thing rests by changing.
23. The barley-wine drink falls apart unless it is stirred.
24. While we’re awake, we share one universe, but in sleep we each turn away to a world of our own.
25. Dogs bark at what they don’t understand.
26. Donkeys prefer garbage to gold.
27. Every walking animal is driven to its purpose with a whack.
28. There is a greater need to extinguish arrogance than a blazing fire.
29. Your character is your destiny.
30. The sun is new each day.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: 21 Epigrams That Can Make You a Better Person
The Wisdom of a Grandmother
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The Wisdom of Lady Grantham
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The Wisdom of Yoda
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For further reading: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Fragments by Heraclitus 
Whack on the Side of Your Head by Roger von Oech
Expect the Unexpected (Or You Won’t Find It): A Creativity Tool Based on the Ancient Wisdom of Heraclitus by Roger von Oech
The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday
A Guide to the Good Life; The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William Irvine

Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book that Changes Life by Dan Millman
The Life You Were Born to Live: A Guide to Finding Your Life Purpose by Dan Millman


What Is “Mrs.” Short For?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsMost people know the “Mrs.” is the title (“honorific” or “form of address” in linguistics jargon) used for married women. But what most people don’t know is that “Mrs.” is not an abbreviation of anything. Surprising, but true! It is never spelled out in written form; however, it is spelled out phonetically as “missis,” “missus,” or “missess” when it appears as dialogue. “How can this be?” you ask incredulously. For the answer to this linguistic mystery we need to travel back into time more than six centuries. Hold on tight…

We have arrived in the mid-1400’s, when a married woman is addressed as “mistress,” the feminine form of “master.” The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) cites the earliest recorded use in 1463. Over time, “mistress” is abbreviated as “Mrs.” Now let’s fast forward 300 years.

Arriving in late 1700s, we discover for reasons that are not entirely clear, that “Mrs.” is no longer pronounced as “mistress” but rather as “missus” — this change is perhaps analogous to the great Vowel Shift of the 14th century. Therefore, in the 18th century, a married woman is introduced as “Missis Jane Smith” rather than as “Mistress Jane Smith.”

Fast forward once again — more than a century later and we discover that the word “missus” becomes a noun. The OED records one of the earliest uses in 1833 by Charles Dickens in a private letter: “Hint this delicately to your Missus.”

Similarly, the title “Ms.” used to address a married or unmarried woman, that was introduced in 1901, does not stand for anything. It is essentially a blend of Mrs. and Miss and pronounced “mizz.” And like “Mrs.” it is never spelled out in written form. The word is used in an article in the Springfield Republican, a newspaper that was founded in 1824 in Springfield, Massachusetts. The relevant passage is: “The abbreviation ‘Ms.’ is simple, it is easy to write, and the person concerned can translate it properly according to circumstances. For oral use it might be rendered as ‘Mizz’, which would be a close parallel to the practice long universal in many bucolic regions, where a slurred Mis’ does duty for Miss and Mrs. alike.”

So the next time you are out with a group of people, impress them with this fascinating bit of trivia — ask them “so what is Mrs. an abbreviation for?” However, googling the answer is not permitted. Let’s see how well they do, Missy.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order
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Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels
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For further reading: The Oxford English Dictionary
Critical Pronouncing Dictionary by John Walker

https://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2011/11/02/what-are-mrs-and-ms-short-for/


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