Tag Archives: music

Five Things – 3.6.17 – POWER PLUS

TurboGrafx 16 Infomercial

This 18-minute promotional video for the TurboGrafx 16 game system pulls a page or two from the Saved By The Bell book of video effects.

Most videos like this have a terrible-yet-fun narrative angle threading the game showcases together, but outside of an awkward little kid occasionally playing unseen games we get a rapid-fire tour through just about the entire TurboGrafx library.  From Bonk to Darkwing Duck to Super Adventure Island to…Riot City…well, there’s a lot to see here.

The tour through the extensive game library is broken up by accessory after accessory. The portable Turbo Express, the CD Player, and the 5-controller connectable Turbo Tap all make an appearance, promising to turn your slick TurboGrafx system into an expanded clunky mess.

The infomercial concludes with a hard sell on the Turbo , the PS4 Pro of its day boasting increased speed, better graphics, and a higher price point.  And a subscription to their Nintendo Power, called Turbo Force.

For what amounts to a relatively unremarkable informercial, it’s actually pretty great – the graphic treatment is insultingly ’90s, the voice-over treatment given to each game is genre-appropriate to the point of being offensive, and the ability to look at the excitement around the gaming technology in 20-year-retrospect gives one a pretty satisfying smug feeling. Definitely worth a look:

 

Moon Zero Two Pressbook

Speaking of worth a look, I’ve been a fan of Moon Zero Two since I saw it featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the 1990s.  The set design, the costumes, the soundtrack, the goofy animated intro, the goofy live-action dance numbers, it’s all fantastic. Zombo’s Closet of Horror features a 12-page pressbook for the movie that’s just amazing in its depth of offerings to all members of a community. Hit the link for all of the scans, but here are some of my favorites:

 

MTV Spring Break 1993 Special

Is there anything more perfectly 1993 than this special concert during MTV’s legendary annual Spring Break stunt featuring Lenny Kravitz, Living Colour, the Black Crowes, and Stone Temple Pilots? If there is, it’s on you to show it to me.

Of particular note are those black and white MTV bumpers… I may break those out into their own thing at some point. Amazing stuff.

 

1980s Showtime Free Preview Weekend

I wore my VHS player out during the HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime free preview weekends. My family would take shifts recording as many movies as we could. Thanks to these weekends I can still recite Caddyshack 2 verbatim. This Showtime segment featuring Bill Harris hits that sweet spot.

For a bonus, check out the graphic design of this 1987 Showtime bumper. I want to live in it.

That bass line!

 

Safeway Supermarket Ad w/ Bob Weir

And to round things out, a stiff, muted Bob Weir championing a good cause in a 1980s Safeway ad. Just weird all around.

 

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Five Things – 1.9.17 – Nickel, Nickel

Hammerman

It should come as no surprise that MC Hammer, he of the pop charts and the parachute pants and the very-safe-edginess and the runaway early-90s success, had his own cartoon.  Hammerman ran on ABC in 1991, and only lasted one season.

(My computer keeps trying to correct Hammerman to Hamilton.  Guessing this is the only time those two shows have been compared.)

Hammerman follows the adventures of Stanley Burrell, a youth center worker who becomes the superhero Hammerman when he wears a pair of magic shoes passed along from aging superhero Soulman.

This is all explained in what is perhaps the laziest theme song ever rapped.  That includes the end credits of Leprechaun in the Hood.

Hammer hosts each episode with a live action intro and outro, and the episodes usually focus on some issue relevant to kids or a larger societal issue.  A villain pops up and Stanley has to turn into Hammerman to put the villain down.  The background music gets to dip into the MC Hammer library, which is probably the only standout feature of this series .

It’s a pretty lazy effort all around – this sort of thing should be right in my sweet spot, but it’s really tough to watch all the way through. It’s remarkable in its laziness, though, and maybe that goes to show both how iconic MC Hammer was in 1991 and also how eager TV Networks and (maybe) kids were for cartoons related to any already-existing-and-popular property.

Here’s an episode. It’s titled “Rap-oleon”.  Like Napoleon.  Shudder.

 

Cookie Monster IBM Film

Jim Henson was contracted to do a series of short films for IBM in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They’re all pretty great, but some of them in particular offer glimpses of the Muppets to come. Here’s one such glimpse – an early Cookie Monster with teeth and claws, eating a sentient computer.

A toothed Cookie Monster is a recipe for some real, lasting damage.

 

Lock’n Chase Ad

I’m in love with the illustrations in this ad for Data East/Taito’s 1981 Arcade Game Lock’n Chase.

 

Big Trak

A beautiful design for an awful toy.  Big Trak was a “programmable” utility vehicle that intelligently performed tasks that you told it to do.  I can only imagine how clunky and limited the interface must have been to ‘instruct’ Big Trak to do anything. Also, I’m sorry, but if you program Big Trak to bring me an apple and if Big Trak dumps that apple onto the floor in front of me, I’m not going to eat that apple.

 

1939 Pepsi Ad

As a Coca-Cola kid and a (now) soda-free grown-up, I can safely say that this 1939 animated ad is the best thing I will ever associate with Pepsi.

Now where’s my coffee?

 

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Five Things – 11.7.16 – Pappy Drew It

Beyond Westworld (1980)

What if the catastrophic events of Westworld (1973) and its sequel Futureworld (1976) were not the result of one company’s hubris, mismanagement, or ill intention but rather the beginnings of the schemes of one man with a larger plan in mind? That’s the premise behind Beyond Westworld, the short-lived 1980 television series based on the hugely successful film. And, I guess, also based on the hugely unsuccessful sequel.

Beyond Westworld Ad

Beyond Westworld follows John Moore, the head of Delos security, as he thwarts rogue ex-Delos scientist Simon Quaid’s attempts to unleash his special brand of psychotic robots upon the world.  He’s assigned a beautiful partner – of course – named Pamela Williams, and together they work to keep safe a world on the brink of an android holocaust.

quaid

Its a pretty great premise, right? Unfortunately, it comes out pretty flat. Only five episodes were produced, two of which weren’t even aired before cancellation. The plot lines are pretty mundane, especially given the license the show had to literally do anything they wanted in a world filled with murderous androids who could look like just anybody on the street.

foam-robot

Still, the premise and the tie-in to Westworld warrant a look at the series. The look of the show, of the sets and costumes, is fantastic – it was even nominated for an Emmy in Art Direction – but, like the Logan’s Run series, fails to deliver on a fantastic what-if.  For whatever reason it’s difficult to find episodes online; perhaps the powers that be envision a world in which there is only one Westworld television series in existence, and if that is the case I’m glad that the one we have is the one we have.  Here’s some of the promo material for the 1980 series, though – there’s definitely some charm here.

 

 

Pappyland

In the “this show could never exist in this form today” department, here’s Pappyland.

pappyland

Pappyland is what you’d get if an inferior version of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse married an inferior version of The Secret City and had a child.  The show, which premiered in 1993 on New York Public Television Station WCNY-TV, focuses on Pappy Drew-It (that’s right) and his magical friends.  They hang out in a magical cabin, draw pictures, and go on bluescreen adventures.

pappyland-gang drawing

None of this is inherently bad – except that it is.  The drawing itself is pretty good and it’s clear that the whole show is a labor of love but everything just kind of comes off as half-baked and thrown together. Which would sort of be fine, but it’s clear that it wasn’t half baked or thrown together! Also, am I the only one creeped out?

pappyland-in-space

Here’s an episode. Feel differently? Do you have fond memories of this show? Let me know!

 

Doctor Dreadful’s Food Lab

The gross-out version of the Easy-Bake Oven.

 

Pumpkin Dream Pie

This 1959 recipe from Jell-O’s got my interest – from a design and a flavor perspective.

Pumpkin Dream Pie

 

Stephane Grapelli – How High The Moon

Because it’s beautiful. Here’s Stephane Grapelli playing “How High The Moon” in 1991.

 

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Five Things – 9.12.16 – To Cogitate And To Solve

Mathnet

Mathnet appeared as a serial segment on the public television show Square One in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  For me, it was Square One – everything else about the show was either a prelude to or epilogue from Mathnet.

mathnet

Mathnet parodied the 1950s police procedural show Dragnet.  Kate Monday and George Frankly solved “crimes” (more like mysteries) by using logic and math.  It works better than you’d think.  Segments ran each day in sequential order, with the case usually being solved by the end of the week.  All together the storylines run from 30 to 60 minutes.

friday-and-frankly

Mathnet was a core component of Square One up through its final season in 1992.  It continued in replays through 1994, then showed up on Nickelodeon’s Noggin network after that. I also remember it being shown in the classroom on rainy or otherwise lazy days.  Here’s an episode.

 

The Box (Network)

How do you go up against MTV  in the mid-80s, the undisputed kings? You create a video jukebox, allowing viewers to call in and use special phone numbers and codes to put in your order for current or classic music videos, thus programming the air.

the-box

The Box ,originally the Video Jukebox Network, hung its hat on this idea of empowering the viewer. it even featured videos that couldn’t/wouldn’t be seen on MTV or were banned. Each of the over 100 affiliates had its own playlist, so there was a pretty good chance your order would get played quickly.

eazy-e

MTV eventually bought The Box, and a couple of years after the purchase the network was shut down in 2001 – a pretty good run.  It was never a true competitor to the music video giant, but what a way to swing for the fences technology-wise.  Here’s some of The Box.

 

Canadian Library PSA

A grainy, poor quality, but nonetheless charming animated 1992 PSA for the library.

 

1989 Fraggle Rock VHS Club Commercial

Mail-order book clubs are a pretty poor investment, as are mail-order music clubs, but I think mail-order VHS clubs took the cake as the worst way to spend your money of the 1980s.  Here’s one for Fraggle Rock.

 

The Box (Orbital)

Got 30 minutes? Of course you do.  Here’s Orbital.

 

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Five Things – 08.15.16 – We Fly On, Untouched

Escapes

On one sunny afternoon in 1986 Vincent Price, dressed as a mailman, delivers a VHS tape to a kid named Matthew.  The tape, Escapes, is a horror anthology hosted by Vincent Price.  He starts watching it, and so do we. I’m not sure which level of inception we’re at at this point.

Escapes

It’s really just five short horror stories wrapped by Vincent Price and given a strange intro and outro to make it make sense.

Vincent

There are five stories here: Something’s Fishy, Coffee Break, Who’s There, Jonah’s Dream, and Think Twice.  None of them are particularly scary in the execution, and some are downright stupid, but they’re all good snapshots of ’80s cable video production.  Coffee Break is probably my favorite of the batch; it feels like an early Stephen King short story minus the actual scary ending he probably would have written.

Coffee Break

What strikes me about the ending (spoilers) is that characters from each of the stories come together in a “shocking” final scene, proving that this isn’t just some acquisition effort at getting a bunch of unrelated stories and running them side-by-side. As an MST3k fan this video conjures up memories of Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders, which is actually slightly more involved in stitching the standalone stories together than this piece is but actually has a bunch of acquired, unrelated pieces in it – from different decades even. Still, same idea.  It’s worth a watch, there’s something warm and familiar about it all.

 

World War III, Part Two

The thrilling followup to last week’s 1950s scare comic about World War III. This installment features battles in the air, on land, and under the sea… and doesn’t really resolve much. It actually  makes the story much more confusing as to what the makers of the comic’s real agenda was. I’ve also never seen it spelled “Commy” before reading this comic.

WWIII Part Two

 

Nintendo Interactive Retail Store Displays

This 1992 training video about maintaining Nintendo console in-store play units goes further than it needs to in the effort to entertain.  Probably as far as it can. It’s hard to believe that this is this guy’s real voice – it sounds like the voice someone would use to make fun of this guy’s real voice. That’s a compliment, though, I think!

 

19th Century Obesity Ad

There’s very little to appreciate about this fat-shaming newspaper ad from the 19th century, but the aesthetic appeal of the images and the wall of text do catch my eye.

Fat People

 

Bluegrass 45

Current obsession: This 1970s Japanese Bluegrass band.

 

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Five Things – 06.20.13 – A Neon Sign Designer

Whew!

This short lived Game Show featured an amazing set, a strange format, and good old Rod Roddy.

Whew!

Whew! is basically a string of lightning rounds with a little twist – in the “normal” part of the game one contestant tries to get through the board in a set amount of time while the other places ‘blocks’, little land mines that take away five seconds each time they’re uncovered.  If the blocks are uncovered, the defending contestant gets the money.

Blocks

The first contestant to win two rounds gets to go to the final round, which is basically the same thing but with ten ‘villains’ delivering the questions and no blocks. If they can make it through each villain they get the grand prize, $25,000.

25000

The set is pretty fantastic, but I have a hard time putting my finger on specifics.  It alternates between a grandiose production and something in somebody’s basement, but you can tell someone had their eye on design in all components – even in the live, composited stuff.

Whew Set Lightning Final Round

Whew! lasted just over a year before being cancelled – April 1979 to May 1980.  A pretty wacky show, and it moves really fast.  Here’s an episode.

 

Home Alone (NES)

Of course there was a Nintendo game for Home Alone; there was an everything else for Home Alone, so why not  a game for the NES?

Home Alone Cover

Different versions of the game were made, each platform having its own format and objectives.  In the NES version (developed by Bethesda, current developers of the Elder Scrolls and recent Fallout series!) the premise is pretty simple: evade Harry and Marv for 20 minutes until the police show up. Kevin picks up different traps and places them around the house to slow the Wet Bandits down.  It’s not as easy as it looks. Get caught and it’s game over.

Oh No

Here’s a longplay.

 

Pepper’s Ghost

I wish I knew more about this fantastic 19th Century poster.  What I do know is there’s a wrong way to put a bunch of different fonts together, and then there’s this way.  I can’t stop looking at it. It’s beautiful.

Pepper's Ghost

 

What is Pippin?

A somewhat dry intro to Apple’s ill-fated video game console, the Pippin.  Would you have paid $700 for this in 1995?

 

J’attendrai

Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli never fail to scratch the itch.

 

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Five Things – 05.30.16 – And The Wind Would Carry Your Light To The Skies

Kid’s Court

Court shows are the connective tissue of the daytime TV schedule.  They seem to be necessary components for local TV stations to function. They’re everywhere and have been everywhere for decades.  Perhaps I have rose-colored nostalgia glasses on (I have several pairs), but I feel like the court shows of the 1980s were a little more level-headed and not the dramatic scream-fests that they are today.  Wapner wouldn’t tolerate that sort of behavior.  Nickelodeon’s kid-centric version of The People’s Court was a good show – not necessarily in the sense that it was fun to watch so much as that it did a great job of taking that dispute drama and putting it into a forum that worked for children audiences.  Also, it was pretty fun to watch.

Kid's Court Title

Kid’s Court featured comedian Paul Provenza as the host but not the judge. Every episode’s case was taken from a kid’s letter sent to the show, and the plaintiff and defendant were kids acting out whatever beef was in the letter.

Kid's Court 1

Sarah Stinks

It is unknown whether these kids were given clothes to wear or whether this kid picked this outfit out on his own:

Fashion

The majority of the show is Provenza going around the room getting the jury’s (the audience’s) take on the situation, and as more details of the case are revealed the kids in the room can see how their opinions change. At the end of the episode two audience members are chosen to make their final cases for the plaintiff and the defendent, and as with actual legal cases the result is determined by who more people in the courtroom clapped for.  Enter the judge, whose only role is to measure the applause.

Judge O Meter

Kid’s Court ran from 1988 to 1994, ending two years before Judge Judy came along and set a new bar for how loud court shows needed to be. Here’s an episode.

 

Rax Ads

Here’s some ads for Rax restaurants.  This one features their spokesman in the 1980s, musician Big Al Anderson.  Big Guy likes fast food.  Trust Big Guy.

Prepare your OWN sandwiches from a salad bar? I’ll stay at home, thanks!

Then there’s Pasta Man. You know, Pasta Man. Big Al’s in there, too!

You want to turn my Rax into an Olive Garden? I’ll stay at home, thanks!

 

Shel Silverstein on the Johnny Cash Show

A magical segment from the Johnny Cash show where Shel Silverstein shows up to play “A Boy Named Sue” with Cash, followed by a solo “Daddy What If” that yanks my heart out.

 

Oodles

How do you one-up those creepy Kewpie dolls? Make them slightly smaller and harder and shinier and sell them to young girls as charms to be worn around the neck. Large charms. Oodles!

 

Wheelee Board

Finally, an ad for the only skateboard you’ll ever need.

Wheelie

 

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Five Things – 05.23.16 – Dare You Let It In Your Library?

The Stephen King Library

Stephen King’s pretty well-regarded nowadays, but in the 1980s and 1990s he had a polarizing level of fame. While he had a dedicated fanbase, he tended to be regarded in the mainstream as a shlocky horror writer who put out a new book every week and opinion of him was formed on whether you liked that sort of thing or not.  He was a bestseller, sure, a rockstar of a writer, but it seemed like there was a level of respect for his writing that he never got.

Besides the fact that his crazy creative output in that era meant you always had something new to read, the volume also provided an easy business opportunity in the space that Time Life and Columbia House had forged – subscriptions.  Enter the Stephen King Library.

For $7.95 (the first time, $14.95 each shipment thereafter) you got a new King book, hardback. It’s crazy to me that there could be a book subscription service for one author, but there you go. I love the commercials for the service; this one seems to imply that publishers are approaching people on the street to try to sell Stephen King books:

While I love the cheesy comments and the hokey “scary music”, the comments reinforce that shlocky image that King’s writing had back then. It’s not wrong, really, just… incomplete.  The narrator also clearly hands the first guy a copy of Needful Things but calls it Dolores Claiborne.

*wheeze*

Here’s some commercials for specific books – The Stand, which would be a steal even then at $7.95:

I love that the extra content is pitched as something that we “weren’t allowed to see before”. Here’s one for Gerald’s Game:

These visuals aren’t really backing up the content of the books themselves; did anything really come up out of the ground in The Stand? That’s more of a Pet Semetary thing…

The Stephen King Library is still alive and kicking, too! That’s even crazier to me than the fact of its existence. I’m just glad that time has borne out King’s reputation as a great writer and we can all now move on to arguing about whether those fat cats in Hollywood are doing his work justice. How many days until The Dark Tower releases?

 

Coming Soon: Portable Computers!

Here’s a cringeworthy trip through all of the newest tech for those geeks with tons of disposable income in 1994.  It’s neat to see how big our ideas were and how limited our ability to execute those ideas was. The delay on that videophone cannot be unseen.

That’s, what, $9,000 worth of tech in that video? $10,000? And a printer you can use in the car? Worthless.

K-Tel Records: Looney Tunes

From the people who brought you the Sesame Street soundtrack, here’s Looney Tunes. Not the Looney Tunes you’re thinking of.  It’s weird.

 

I’m Telling!

Even weirder? How about I’m Telling!, which is basically The Newlywed Game but with child siblings instead.  This one didn’t last long – it ran from September 1987 to March 1988.

 

Uncle Sam Says Garden

Beautiful poster encouraging Americans to grow their own food in order to cut down on waste.

Uncle Sam Says Garden

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Five Things – 04.04.16 – That Men May Fight

You Dont Know Jack

In the summer of 2001 ABC tried to create a televised version of the crazy successful trivia video game show You Don’t Know Jack.   It was not successful, but it did end up being kind of crazy.

YDKJ Title

The show was pretty loyal to the game’s format. Instead of the game’s regular host Cookie Masterson (who still performed as the show’s announcer), Paul Reubens played Troy Stevens – and did a really great job at it.

Troy

The guests selected were pretty colorful people, some with pretty colorful talents.

Contestant

The “standard” trivia questions were typically worded or executed in a unique way, true to the video game’s style.  There were also mini-games throughout the show, just like in the game, that offered bonus money.

YDKJ Question

The “Dis or Dat” minigame picked one player and gave them two categories. Troy would then run through several items that the player had to place in the correct category.

Dis or Dat

Dis or Dat 2

Narrative arcs sometimes carried through the shows as well, centered around Troy.  The final round is the same as in the video game, the “Jack Attack” lightning round that pits the top two contestants against each other . Reubens really puts on his Pee-Wee hat for this round.

Jack Attack 2 Jack Attack

All in all, a fun show – I guess America wasn’t ready for game shows that didn’t involve asking if you wanted to be a millionaire or what’s in a briefcase.  You Don’t Know Jack ran for six episodes and was cancelled.

Here’s an episode.

 

Wall Street

Wall Street Title

This bizarre 1982 arcade game has two types of rounds. In one, you are rescue workers saving stock brokers who have jumped out of windows in attempts to commit suicide.

Wall Street 1

In the other, you are presumably a banker or stock broker running through the streets of a foreign city destroying tanks that are pursuing you and collecting large sums of money.

Wall Street 2

Here’s some gameplay.  I don’t understand. I mean, I understand the gameplay, but not the container that the gameplay was placed in.

 

YWCA Posters

In 1918, the YWCA provided personnel to assist the Armed Forces in World War I.  Here are some gorgeous posters from designed to raise money for the effort.

Men May Fight Help Our Boys Care for Her Building For Health Back Our Girls

 

Clean It

This mid-’80s McDonald’s training video features a Michael Jackson ripoff encouraging employees to clean the restaurant.  I use the term “training video” loosely, as there’s not much how-to here other than “clean it”!

 

Castlevania Soundtrack

The score for the original Castlevania on the Nintendo Entertainment System is real funky! Who knew, or remembered?

 

 

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Five Things – 02.15.16 – Eye Popping Moves Like The Centipede

1. Hot Fudge

This 1974 kids’ show from Detroit has a little bit Muppet, a little bit Pinwheel, and a little bit Great Space Coaster all lumped together.

Hot Fudge Title

Originally hosted by comic Arte Johnson, Hot Fudge featured humans interacting with puppets (called “Mits”), lots of music, and segments where kids narrate things out in the real world.  Johnson was replaced by Larry Santos and Seymour the hip, green puppet after the first season, and continued to host through the rest of the series.

Arte and Mit

Seymour Mits Song Mits

For every neat thing about this show – the groovy star power, the typography, the sweet lessons – there seems to be something that didn’t age well.  The songs aren’t great for the most part, the human puppets are difficult to look at, and the production just feels flat at times compared to other kids’ shows from that era.  Still, it’s impressive for what it is – a local Detroit production gone national, and it’s certainly unique.  And I’m nuts for the design and fonts used.

Write On Arte Seymour Graphic

Here’s an episode:

 

2. Fifth Element Concept Art

Iamag’s got some stunning concept art from The Fifth Element up.  I’m a sucker for this stuff, and it’s remarkable to see how close the movie came to some of these concepts! Hit the link for more, but here are some of my favorites.

fifth-element25 fifth-element24-1024x648 fifth-element13 fifth-element4 fifth-element28-1024x911

Amazing!

 

3. Breakin’ and Poppin’

Before he was Carlton, Alfonso Ribeiro was Ricky Schroeder’s super-hip pal in Silver Spoons.  He was a pretty hot item back in 1985 – he did a killer Michael Jackson impersonation complete with moonwalk. His breakdancing was remarkable, too; so remarkable that someone thought it’d be a good idea to package him up and put a price tag on it.  Here’s a commercial for his video, “Breakin’ and Poppin'”.

 

It even comes with a foldout cardboard mat!

 

4. Alvin and the Chipmunks

This mid-’80s magazine ad for Alvin and the Chipmunks toys takes me back.  I had the stuffed Alvin in the middle there, and took him everywhere with me.  He’s in a box in my 2-year-old’s closet right now, and I’m still debating whether he’ll ever get to touch him.

Alvin

Collect all the cute and WHAT? Unfortunately, I could only find page one of this two page ad.

 

5. How Long

It’s hard to describe my feelings for this.  This looks like a parody video of a 1975 hit song, but it’s real and it’s terrific.  I almost wish it were a parody though.

 

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