Best Show celebrates an anniversary and Nerdist geeks out with Tom Hanks

Best Show celebrates an anniversary and Nerdist geeks out with Tom Hanks

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QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“‘Man, when she goes to sleep, she goes to sleeeeep.’ If she had a mic, she would have [dropped it].” —Greg Behrendt shares how his daughter handled the death of the family dog, Walking The Room

“By the way, all movies are essentially based on old Brady Bunch episodes.” —Tom Hanks, Nerdist

“It’s better to have a government that trickles down on to you than one that urinates straight into your face.” —Andy Zaltzman, The Bugle

“There hasn’t been a Steve Jobs of baldness.” —Graham Clark, Stop Podcasting Yourself

“Doug loves boobies…”
“Is that why I’m here?” —Doug Benson and Tig Notaro, Doug Loves Movies

NEW (TO US)

Conversations With Matt Dwyer
Every week, comedian Matt Dwyer sits down with regular folks to talk to them about what they do; the only criterion he uses to select guests is that they fascinate him. Given Dwyer’s eclectic tastes and sense of humor, the resulting podcast is unpredictable from episode to episode. For instance, one week, Dwyer’s guest might be a BDSM porn star who talks in detail about her life as a sex worker and the ways she balances her work with her family life; other weeks, Dwyer might sit down with a musician he admires. Among these, episode #4 with David Yow, frontman of noise-rock legends The Jesus Lizard, is particularly strong, with Yow sharing his audition reel for the voice of the Aflac duck.

While Dwyer’s attempts to inject comedy can sometimes feel awkward, in the end, his meandering, freewheeling style makes for interviews that are oftentimes as unexpected as they are interesting. For example, in episode #5, butcher Melissa Cortina offers a fascinating look at gender roles at her butcher shop and engages in a thoughtful dialogue on food and ethical, sustainable consumption, issues she is clearly passionate about. Conversations With Matt Dwyer is at its best when Dwyer gives everyday people like Cortina the chance to share their stories and show that an individual need not be famous to be interesting or funny. [DF]


OUTLIERS

The CriterionCast
The near death of movie-rental stores may have wiped out the nerdy discussion that popped up around the stores’ counters, but many film podcasts have picked up where those conversations left off. CriterionCast is one of the best examples of that sort of obsessive chatter moving to Skype-facilitated conversations between like-minded fans of movie miscellany. The podcast named after a company that thrives on film fetishists includes discussion about Criterion Collection films and blockbuster fare like The Avengers, but there’s more talk about cover art, special features, online movie deals, and the confounding numbering system on the spines of Criterion cases. Even the actual film reviews can be more experiential than critical: A discussion of Robocop features extensive conversation about childhood impressions of the film. Nostalgia often reigns supreme, resulting in discussions that are just as fixated on a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers release as Umberto D. There are also film-news episodes and installments focused on Criterion’s homely cousin, Eclipse. The frequently updated show is addictive, if only to hear the beautiful variety of regional accents from regular hosts Ryan Gallagher, James McCormick, and the golden-voiced Travis George. CriterionCast may eventually be little more than a downloadable time capsule of the fascination with physical media, but at its best, it’s a freewheeling film-nerd conversation worth overhearing. [TC]


THE BEST

The Best Show On WFMU
A child born on the night the first Best Show episode aired would still be one year shy of being allowed to listen to this week’s uncharacteristically PG-13 entry. The show celebrates its 12th anniversary with Tom Scharpling by taking the typically “hard G”-rated program in a slightly more bawdy direction with guests A.C. Newman and Julie Klausner. The result is the first truly great episode in a few months. Scharpling revels in the instant feedback from Newman and Klausner, who add hilarity to discussions of the Hulk Hogan sex tape, the off-putting placenta lyric in Live’s “Lightning Crashes,” and karaoke disasters. Most of the calls are karaoke-related, including an excellent tale about a blind date with a hobo expert who has a penchant for an Ace Of Base song that isn’t “The Sign.” It’s a lively episode that would be a good starting point for those who missed the show’s first dozen years. [TC]

The Bugle #208: A Kama Sutra Approach To The Truth
The Bugle co-host John Oliver begins the podcast for the second straight week by waxing poetic about the magic of the pop duo LMFAO, setting the stage for another rollicking episode. As with other recent entries, the podcast hits its apex when it takes on the presidential election, focusing this week on the first debate between Mitt Romney and President Obama. Co-host Andy Zaltzman has some of the sharpest points, aimed at both candidates, though Oliver gives a fantastic deadpan delivery in his assessment as well. But the highlight of the entire episode is a tangent surrounding a “fuck dungeon.” Another bit on cod in the North Sea doesn’t quite land, nor does a pun-laden aside from Zaltzman that never reaches the manic highs of the “fuck dungeon” bit. Still, it’s a worthwhile entry, and with the election still a month away, there’s likely to be more like it. [MG]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #179: Pitch Slapped: Adam DeVine, Paul Scheer, Kay Cannon, Hana Mae Lee
As longtime Comedy Bang! Bang! fans know, Scott Aukerman is a musical-theater geek, so it makes sense that he pursued the cast of Pitch Perfect to appear on this week’s episode. He doesn’t seem to know much about them personally, with the exception of Adam DeVine—who has the highest profile of them, thanks to Workaholics—so the conversation doesn’t seem to come as easily. Paul Scheer’s studio rep Scott Jeffries happily fills the void, though, spouting empty-headed biz-speak and other nonsense. It’s a funny character, though he basically takes over the proceedings until Would You Rather? The episode really comes together then—too bad it’s not very long. [KR]

Doug Loves Movies: Tig Notaro, Sarah Silverman, Nikki Glaser, And Amy Schumer
This NYC-recorded episode is light on competition and heavy on goofy camaraderie, thanks to the presence of four distinct yet complementary voices on the panel. Though DLM pro Sarah Silverman is the loudest presence, notorious movie non-aficionado Tig Notaro scores most of the big laughs with her detached yet laser-precise asides. Her joking request to the venue’s bar for eggnog turns into a long digression about a joke of Todd Barry’s, culminating in Notaro, Silverman, and Doug Benson all calling the comedian simultaneously from the stage to try to get the punchline. The games portions are so low-stakes that they almost seem to run in the background, providing just enough structure to keep the episode’s loose hang-out vibe from going slack. [GK]

Hang Up And Listen: The Put A Star On That Asterisk Edition
The wonky new wild-card situation in Major League Baseball, where two wild-card teams square off in a high-stakes single game to determine who advances to the next round, has already drawn controversy due to a questionable—or, for Atlanta Braves fans, criminal—infield-fly call that spoiled a late-game rally. The HUAL crew picks apart this surprisingly convoluted rule while wondering if the play-in game represents much of an improvement. But this week’s episode is useful mainly for its At The Movies segment, where the hosts look at four recent sports documentaries and offer opinions that land hard on opposite sites of the spectrum. The winners: The Other Dream Team and 9.79*, about the 1992 Lithuanian Olympic basketball team and the 1988 Olympic doping scandal in the 100m final, respectively. Dropped from a great height: The 30 For 30 docs Broke, about athletes who have nothing left for retirement, and There’s No Place Like Home, a gimmicky film about one man’s quest to purchase James Naismith’s “Rules Of Basketball,” bring it back to Kansas University, and annoy the hell out of Josh Levin, Stefan Fatsis, and Mike Pesca. [ST]

How Was Your Week #83: “P Is For Pizza”: Jodi Lennon, Jessica Grose
In a charming interview, Julie Klausner catches up with Jodi Lennon, who is delightful as she shares stories about prank-calling local news shows and her new life as a petty shoplifter. Klausner also talks blogging with writer and former Slate senior editor Jessica Grose, who, after talking about her new novel, shares a few of the more ridiculous “lady-blog” posts she’s collected from Jezebel and the like. Klausner and Grose are hilarious as they poke fun at the overly serious and outraged rhetoric, while never losing sight of the larger questions raised by these articles. [DF]

Judge John Hodgman #79: Irre-console-able Differences
Judge Hodgman announces up front that he knows how he’s likely to rule in this case, but he gives it a hugely entertaining hearing anyway. Jessica brings the case against her younger sister Eden, who gained possession of Jessica’s Wii console while her sister went to Africa with the Peace Corps for two years. During that time, the console broke down and Eden bought herself a replacement, yet she doesn’t feel she has to replace Jessica’s machine. Hodgman delights in contrasting Jessica’s time in The Gambia, where she taught poor children and lived without air-conditioning, and Eden’s time in Los Angeles, where she toted the Wii to parties and worked on bad reality television. The gentle ribbing is all in good fun, and the sisters are wonderfully game. [ST]

The J.V. Club #31: Abigail Spencer
After a couple of lackluster episodes, The J.V. Club returns to form with this fun, informative, and heart-wrenching interview with Janet Varney’s Burning Love co-star Abigail Spencer, best known for playing Sally’s teacher/Don’s mistress on Mad Men. It’s one of the show’s longest episodes, spending ample time discussing Spencer’s upbringing, adolescence, and entrance into the professional world. She’s a charismatic guest full of great anecdotes, telling Varney about her childhood growing up in a surfer family and her early days as an ignorant young actress. The conversation takes a turn for the serious when they begin talking about Spencer’s father, who suddenly passed away last year after having a heart attack while surfing. He died doing what he loved most, and Spencer has a similarly inspirational mindset, offering sage advice for both personal and professional issues. [OS]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #81: Cara Santa Maria
Paul Gilmartin has created a non-judgmental, compassionate space in The Mental Illness Happy Hour, a show where guests and listeners can be honest about their darkest instincts. In this episode with Huffington Post science writer Cara Santa Maria, Gilmartin’s ability to listen and encourage candidness sparks an interesting discussion about the all-encompassing nature of depression. The neuroscientist doesn’t focus on the science of mental health, but goes in-depth about her own lifelong struggle with depression. While the conversation starts slow with a well-worn rap session about their personal stances on religion, a more interesting exchange results as Santa Maria talks about her teenage break with the LDS Church and her devout Mormon father. A touching letter from a listener at the end of the episode is a reminder that in addition to being an entertaining listen, Gilmartin’s unique show is actually helping people. [TC]

My Brother, My Brother And Me  #123: Contraband Future Dildos
On most podcasts, the time set aside for advertisements is seldom worth paying attention to: Not only is there great overlap of sponsors between podcasts, but the ads are also typically presented straightforwardly. My Brother, My Brother And Me sets itself apart in this regard, with a sponsorship segment that is often as entertaining as the show’s regular content. That’s perhaps best exemplified in this week’s episode, in which a message paid for by a listener spurs a riff on “noodling the loaf,” and an ad for an online sex shop culminates in Justin McElroy asking, “Are you suggesting that the reason Dan Aykroyd’s head is increasing in size is because people are using his head to store contraband future dildos?” It somehow makes (some) sense in context. As is par for the course, the normal goofs on both sides of the advertisements are almost universally strong as well. [CG]

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Nerdist #267: Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks has always navigated show business with a level of down-to-earth charm that has made him immensely likable. It’s therefore no surprise that during his time on Nerdist he comes off both jovial and entertaining, sharing stories about his time in the industry and engaging in humorous back-and-forth with the hosts without ever seeming artificial or forced. The Nerdist crew allows Hanks to lead the conversation while keeping him on track—though a tangent about Hanks’ obsession with Storage Wars provides one of the episode’s many highlights. The 90-minute discussion progresses smoothly and entertainingly, with Hanks turning in a wealth of anecdotes and offering up career advice without it ever seeming trite. His willingness to discuss any topic at length is a true asset, and the fact that he’s as friendly, funny, and kind as anyone would hope makes the episode all the more enjoyable. [DA]

Nerdist #268: Liam Lynch
As the mastermind of MTV’s best—and so far only—sock-puppet comedy series, The Sifl And Olly Show, and the creator of the surprise hit song “United States Of Whatever,” Liam Lynch’s offerings to popular culture are as diverse as they are unusual. It’s therefore no surprise that his appearance on Nerdist goes in various directions, all of which are captivating. Whether Lynch is discussing studying music under Paul McCartney, having Ringo Starr play drums on his album Fake Songs, or cloning his cat, his anecdotes are interesting enough that Chris Hardwick and Jonah Ray seem content to sit back and let him man the ship. The episode runs a bit long, but never really wanes, and it ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, with Lynch promising to come back and tell a spooky Halloween story. If Lynch does return, it sounds like he has plenty of fresh material to offer. [DA]

Sklarbro Country #115: Shiza Porn: Paul Provenza, Jesse Thorn
As the co-director of The Aristocrats and host of Comics Only, Paul Provenza was delving deep into the depths of the comedy mind long before inside-comedy podcasts like WTF and You Made It Weird elevated comedy navel-gazing to new heights. This makes him a perfect guest for the Sklar brothers, who are as geeky about comedy as they are about sports, if not more so. Provenza justifies his appearance with a killer (no pun intended) anecdote involving road rage and a pre-bloody-glove O.J Simpson, then the always-welcome Jesse Thorn closes things out with one of his absurdist fantasy-league reports, this one a timely update on political pundits. It’s not quite as surreal or conceptual as previous fantasy reports, but it’s solidly funny and impeccably delivered all the same. [NR]

Sklarbro Country Sklarbro County #20: Mike Schmidt, Chris Cox, Dan Van Kirk
When even the fake voicemail at the end of a Sklarbro County episode elicits laughter, it’s the sign of a great bonus episode. That fake Jerry Jones message, which describes potentially trading miserable quarterback Tony Romo for San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Sergio Romo, is classic, and the news discussion doesn’t disappoint, either. After some belated Ryder Cup mocking with Mike Schmidt, the Sklars get down to business mocking a story in which a man attacked his wife by smearing a meat sandwich in her face. The stories are almost always bizarre police-blotter fare, but the faux re-imagining of the situation with the Sklars playing the couple is hilarious. [KM]

The Smartest Man In The World #179: Gators
On balance, Greg Proops does nicely at this set from the Bell House in Brooklyn. Sure, he does the predictable Greg Proops-type thing by singing “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” as he takes the stage, but later on he mocks himself for rambling so much about old movies and baseball when he’s stoned. He may milk the hell out of a story about alligators being found on Long Island, but at least he does it the right way, by nerdily picking apart the language the New York Post used to cover it. [SG]

Sound Opinions #358: Rock Doctors With Mark Crilley, Mumford And Sons Review, Lupe Fiasco Review, Jim’s Desert Island Jukebox
Sound Opinions’ “Rock Doctors” feature may be knowingly corny—Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot refer to each other as “Dr. Kot” and “Dr. DeRogatis”—but they do decently enough this week, “prescribing” Zola Jesus and Bat For Lashes to a comic-book artist who needs some dark but hooky music for a project. Later, they manage to basically pan the new Mumford And Sons album with balance: Though it’s the last album some folks will want to hear a thoughtful discourse on, the hosts use U2 as an interesting reference point for where the band has gone wrong. [SG]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: A Brief History Of Trick-Or-Treating
Guest host Cristen Conger joins Sarah Dowdey to walk through how many of our Halloween traditions began, starting with the Celtic tradition of Samhain, which celebrates the time of year that “souls come back.” When these very pagan activities made their way over to the Americas in the 1800s, they met with so much cultural resistance that many of the details get lost. The middle sags a bit, but once the podcast moves beyond World War II, the more marketable aspects of the modern holiday come into play and the episode becomes more relevant. The discussion of lost traditions that were celebrated as recently as the 20th century is fascinating: The charity aspect of trick-or-treating that once made a big difference in 1950 hasn’t really translated to today. [DT]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Jim Bowie: Blades, Battles, And The Alamo
The beginning of this episode shows a rarely heard side of the hosts when returning co-host Deblina Chakraborty reveals she has had a daughter, with Sarah Dowdey vouching for its cuteness. It sets a looser tone than usual, which is a welcome complement to the dense political history of Jim Bowie. A gator-wrestler and slave trader, Bowie (rhymes with “Louie,” it turns out) was enlisted in the War Of 1812, but arrived after the British had already been repelled. Much of what he did afterwards—such as slave-trading with pirates—will repel listeners, but the source of his fame is intriguing nonetheless, and the bad life choices led to some exciting fights in Bowie’s life. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Fire Works
A topic that surprisingly has not yet been covered, the chemical reaction known as fire is full of science, history, and hubris. Hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant were likely putting this one off for a week when they needed something especially fun to talk about. (The magic of charcoal filtering could be an episode unto itself.) Though Bryant threatens to fall asleep during the chemistry portion of the episode, both of the guys maintain their enthusiasm for discovery throughout. Bryant also knows enough about combustible campsite materials to keep his end of the science discussion lively. It’s a discussion of basic chemistry—how heat brakes down fuel—but the hosts indulge in plenty of dry tangents that keep things lively. [DT]

This American Life #476: What Doesn’t Kill You
Very few radio programs can tell stories that instill physical discomfort and nausea. But that’s exactly what happens with this week’s anonymous story of a New Zealand woman who was attacked by a shark—or some other creature, it’s still unclear—when she was 13, and initially mistreated by a doctor who overlooked that her bowels had been impaled. It’s truly harrowing, disgusting, and unlike anything else heard on the radio or podcasts. Pair that with a free excerpt of Tig Notaro’s now-legendary standup set that was recorded the day after she received a cancer diagnosis, where she abandons all comedic pretense and instead monologues about an absolutely tragic four-month period in her life, and this is a must-listen episode. [KM]

The Thrilling Adventure Hour #91: Sparks Nevada, Marshal On Mars: “Mutiny On The Bounty Hunter”
The most recent few episodes of Thrilling Adventure’s Sparks Nevada serial were starting to drag on, but the show isn’t beating a dead horse just yet. In this episode, the plot gets the twist it’s been needing, as the space-western hero goes through a very bureaucratic certification process to become a bounty hunter. Comedy-music duo Paul And Storm guest this week, and Mark Gagliardi continues to get some unexpected laughs out of Croach The Tracker, a stilted Martian who’s recently discovered alcohol and insults. And in Pemily Stallwark, a murderous lady from the moon, Thrilling Adventure finds one of its best villains so far. [SG]

The Todd Glass Show #67: Tom Martin
One thing that sets The Todd Glass Show apart from other podcasts is its ability to seamlessly switch gears between serious topics and outright silliness. Todd Glass brings the same passion to a speech about the state of parenting that he does to his obsessive rants about the cleanliness of hotel blankets or the première of a new jingle. Glass also has a knack for choosing guests that can ride out these shifts in tone. Comedian Tom Martin makes a return appearance to help Glass goof on some Irish drinking songs, and also demonstrates remarkable commitment to a bit where Glass plays an irate Boston Market telemarketer. [MS]

Walking The Room #124: Craig Anton
Past guests on Walking The Room have been either well-known comedians or prominent podcasters, if not both. Craig Anton is decidedly neither: He left the road early in his stand-up career to focus on his family, and for whatever reason, he doesn’t appear on many podcasts. So it’s easy to forgive Anton’s initial timidity, and the fact that Dave Anthony and Greg Behrendt tell listeners why Anton is funny before he gets much of a chance to show it. Plus, the closet is as cluttered and self-referential as ever, so it’s hard for anyone to get a word in edgewise, particularly an outsider. Thankfully, Anton’s seeming reluctance to indulge in the co-hosts’ many stories of his career earns him the spotlight for a few minutes to make sense of whatever it is they’re talking about. Also, he is funny, as his sharp, well-timed one-liners cut through the din for some of the episode’s biggest laughs. [SM]

Who Charted? #97: Funchbob Coolpants: Ron Funches
Since this week’s guest, Ron Funches, is rather low-key and soft-spoken, Howard Kremer emerges as the driving force of the episode. This dynamic works out well, as Funches and Kulap Vilaysack seem more than happy to go along with Kremer’s mildly incoherent but delightful ramblings. Kremer’s greatest contribution is his breakdown of the confounding and horrific teaser of the Hulk Hogan sex tape. He also contributes an equally confounding, yet no less enjoyable, theme for the movies charts in which he compares movies to tweets. Although Funches is fairly taciturn, he does recommend that Vilaysack watch the early-’90s hip-hop mockumentary Fear Of A Black Hat, which is some of the best advice anyone can receive. [MS]

WTF With Marc Maron #322: Phunny Business
Those who enjoyed the Showtime documentary Phunny Business but were put off by some of the film’s cheesy edits will enjoy this week’s WTF. Marc Maron goes deeper with Ali LeRoi, John Davies, and Raymond Lambert, who created the doc, which examines the rise and fall of Chicago’s formerly preeminent black comedy club, All Jokes Aside. Maron so frequently focuses on the creative side of comedy that it’s interesting to hear about the business end, though he and his guests also discuss race and comedy, race and Chicago, and just a touch of Pootie Tang. (LeRoi was a producer on the cult favorite.) [CZ]

You Made It Weird #90: Noah Garfinkel
Though Pete Holmes’ conversation with comedian Noah Garfinkel is way too long at more than two hours, it’s breezy and funny enough to sustain itself over multiple drop-in listens over a couple of days. Their riff-laden talk is refreshingly light on the sort of bong-hit philosophizing that can drag down some of the longer YMIWs, focusing instead on a series of extended anecdotes from Garfinkel, including a hilarious account of his fruitless struggle against a determined bed-bug infestation. There’s a lot of filler in between—bouts of giggles and “free podcast!”-prompting tangents abound—but the meat of this episode is worth the time commitment. [GK]

You Made It Weird #91: Thomas Middleditch
The Thomas Middleditch episode of You Made It Weird is a sometimes-fascinating, sometimes-painful, sometimes-boring, and often-uncomfortable exploration of the complexities of human relationships that’s short on laughs but long on pathos. Middleditch and Pete Holmes used to be good friends and collaborators before a series of tricky variables threatened and then ruptured what was once a strong friendship. Holmes and Middleditch perform a bittersweet post-mortem on their relationship, in which even the goofy gags they improvise have an undercurrent of sadness. This episode isn’t for everyone, but it offers insight into both Holmes’ psychology and the difficulties of sustaining close bonds in the comedy business. [NR]


THE REST

Doug Loves Movies: Zach Galifianakis, Kyle Kinane, And Anthony Jeselnik?
This episode seems like a slam-dunk based on the lineup, but without the presence of Anthony Jeselnik—who’s stuck at a doctor’s appointment—the combined energy of Zach Galifianakis and Kyle Kinane is far too low to carry the episode. [GK]

Monday Morning Podcast
Bill Burr is sick and consequently ornery, but not in a way that makes him particularly funny. He considers bailing on the episode halfway through, and that may not have been the worst idea in the world. [CG]

The Moth: Suzanne Vega: Stage Fright
Singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega has a rare story on her hands—playing at the Glastonbury Festival despite a threat on her and a band member’s life—but she tells it with little humor or reflection. [SG]

Nerdist #266: Joe Casey
Joe Casey’s work in the world of comics provides a great deal of talking points, but this episode never builds upon them effectively, as the most interesting moments are when the Nerdist hosts riff about Chris Hardwick’s car. [DA]

Never Not Funny #1116: Mending Fences With Greg Fitzsimmons
With a doozy of a background story—Greg Fitzsimmons’ aggressive last appearance is known as the most controversial in NNF history—the episode course-corrects into an almost formal, occasionally funny interview that rarely steps outside the bounds of podcasting. [SM]

Stop Podcasting Yourself #238
Stop Podcasting Yourself is in the pumpkin patch and at the movies this week, with clever, rapid-shuffle riffing on Halloween, Looper, Frankenweenie, Kevin James, tattoos, and the real-life terror of the Chuck E. Cheese band. [DXF]

Stuff You Should Know: How Rainforests Work
An amusing “on-location” beginning gives way to a muddled episode that tries to cover too much nature at once. [DT]

Uhh Yeah Dude #342
Jonathan Larroquette and Seth Romatelli expunge all their negative energies in preparation for the L.A. Podcast Festival, encouraging listeners to ditch their shitty families to party at work and calling God out in the hopes that he’ll finally, once and for all, “cut the crap.” Lively one minute and a bummer the next, #342 is a dangerous admixture of uppers and downers. [CW]

WTF With Marc Maron #321: Dave Alvin
Marc Maron’s cat is missing, and his worry hangs over the entire episode as he interviews Americana musician Dave Alvin. Fans of Alvin will find a lot of material to dig into, but the episode doesn’t measure up to other interviews Maron has conducted with prominent genre musicians. [KM]