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San Diego Skyline

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: San Diego, California, United States

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The Yearning for Nostalgia

“Whether it is an escape through our popular culture, a preference to revisit the past than to explore what may come in an unknown future, or to enjoy simply what we have been accustomed to, the power of nostalgia should not be underestimated.”

What is it about nostalgia that stirs such powerful emotions in us all? Why do we insist on revisiting, remaking, and reconstructing the past? This innate yearning that is part of being human, I would argue, is a part of gaining back some comfort and familiarity in an increasingly unfamiliar and complex world. Whether it is an escape through our popular culture, a preference to revisit the past than to explore what may come in an unknown future, or to enjoy simply what we have been accustomed to, the power of nostalgia should not be underestimated.

As the new year begins, looking at the popular culture, which reflects trends in our overall society, this yearning for nostalgia has only gotten more prominent in the recent years, especially with the continuing of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are multiple examples in pop culture where nostalgia is the rule rather than the exception. One example would include video games where remakes, sequels, and remastered games from the Halo series to Assassin’s Creed to Call of Duty are still the most popular even after being decades long in terms of their original creation.

Another example would be television shows where one of the most popular series released recently is ‘Cobra Kai’ whose origins come from the Karate Kid movies of the 1980s, but for which has had a rebirth with the same actors almost four decades later but also with new characters who compliment the original story. Other popular shows involve those from the ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Marvel’ series whose revitalizations include the bounty hunter Boba Fett (also from the 1980s as a character) and popularly known comic book heroes including ‘Loki’, ‘Captain America’, and ‘Hawkeye.’ While these comic book heroes may be new to some viewers, they also date back in their creation back to the 1990s or even earlier allowing their fans to indulge in their own nostalgia in seeing these comic book heroes come to the small screen.

I haven’t even mentioned the plethora of movies from ‘Licorice Pizza’ (1970s), ‘The Power of the Dog’ (1920s Western), ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ (1990s-2000s), released just in the past few months who pay homage to the past from settings we are familiar with or at least recognize. While there are films and TV series that do focus on mankind’s possible future(s), such as ‘Station Eleven’ on HBOMax or ‘The Expanse’ on Amazon Prime, most popular media today focuses on either adapted stories or at least remakes of stories with slight changes or new ideas related to the same characters to keep its popularity going.

In 2022, nostalgia sells the best, which is why new Halo video games, new Spider-Man movies, and new Game of Thrones books still rule the day in terms of our popular media consumption. Now, that does not mean that our appetite for new and original ideas in our popular culture are going extinct, but you can tell that we live in an age of rampant nostalgia, which is the norm rather than taking a chance or a risk on a new story or new ideas.

I believe that this resurgent nostalgia does have its positives to give people some familiarity with what they already know from their own past and for which they have experience in liking already. In addition, it can take more time to warm up to a new story, a new idea, or a new experience when it’s easier to go with something or someone you already know. Stories can change or adapt or get better sometimes over times and just because we are familiar with a character, or a series does not mean that it automatically gets boring after a certain point.

However, it is much easier to rely on nostalgia rather than to forge a new path. In anything in life and not just popular culture, it’s not as challenging to look back on what we’ve done, where we’ve been, or what we’ve experienced than to go forward, challenge oneself, and try new things. The impulse to be comfortable with what’s familiar rather than the unknown is a powerful force and an impulse that can be hard to overcome without pushing yourself. Nostalgia does not create lasting comfort though usually and it can be rather stale to rely on reliving things, experiences, or places rather than to look forward to unknown occurrences in the future.

Sequels, remakes, reshoots, adapted materials are harder to make better than the originals and they also do not break any new ground. Whether it is film, music, art, books, or in general, it may be easier to rely on nostalgia for creation but if it does not work out, it can be harder to bounce back from that failure. If you do something original or unique instead, it will stand out much more currently, and while you may polarize people who have gotten so used to nostalgia everywhere, you can be more wildly successful in your endeavor potentially and create a new cultural touchstone.

One great example from this past year that generated not only a cultural touchstone, but a worldwide phenomenon from Seoul to London to New York was the Netflix original series, ‘Squid Game.’ While the popular show contained elements from other TV series from the past, it had its own flair to it with unique set design, memorable characters, and a compelling and timely plot. It was the #1 TV series on the global streaming platform for over a month or so and generated important conversations in the public sphere regarding capitalism, income inequality, and debt servicing. The creators of the series took a big gamble, and they could have failed but they put their heart and soul into this unique show, and it paid off in more ways than one.

‘Squid Game’ and other original programming are a lesson for us all to not let our imaginations be stymied by what’s familiar and already known. Even in an uncertain world being continually upended by a pandemic and the effects of climate change, people want to be challenged to discover what’s new and what’s important. There is room in this world for both what’s new and what’s nostalgic. I think our problems begin in society when we only crave what’s comfortable or only what’s nostalgic to us. If we only choose to focus on what we already know, we won’t be able to face what’s new or on the horizon for us. It is not good to dwell only on what’s past and to rehash forever and ever what we already like rather than not trying to discover what we may like or embrace in the future that can help us learn more about the world around us.

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USS Midway at Navy Pier

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: San Diego, California, United States

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“…It’s Just A Business” – Anatomy of A Scene

“As one economic system is thrown into recession, other illicit ones, such as illegal gambling tend to flourish in its wake, which is what ‘Killing Them Softly’ does a good job of showing the effects of a recession leading to a boom in the illicit economy.”

“America is not a country, it’s just a business.”

‘Killing Them Softly’ is a 2012 movie that flew under the radar at the time of its release. It may seem on the surface as a movie about the mob regarding unpaid debts, illegal gambling rings, and retribution for those caught in the crossfire, but what makes this movie different is its allegory laid out in the film regarding its relation to the financial system. As the mafia tries to prop up its system of illegal gambling rings and extortion rackets by using different hired hitmen, there are radio and TV clips highlighting the role of different politicians trying to prop up the financial system in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. To keep the system functioning, drastic measures are taken.

As the U.S. economy suffers, illegal activities flourish and there are those people who get caught up in resorting to crime to keep their head above water. When the illegal system malfunctions such as a Mafia protected card game gets robbed by criminals outside the system, Jackie Cogan (played by Brad Pitt) is called upon as an enforcer hired to restore order to prevent the local criminal economy to collapse.

When any economy, illicit or legal, are ripped from its foundations, there will be enforcers or politicians who will need to clean up the mess left behind. While the allegory is not spelled out in the film, As Jackie is left to clean up the mess of the robbed card game by getting revenge on the small-time criminals who wanted to disrupt the system, many scenes highlight how the U.S. economy needs to be bailed out due to the irresponsible actions of the bankers and financial traders who got the country into this mess. While it may not be the most pertinent allegory, Jackie Cogan, is there to maintain order in their own local illegal gambling racket, similar to how leading politicians in government are called upon to maintain order when the national financial system is ready to crash.

Jackie Cogan is on his own throughout the movie and must rely upon himself to fix the mess left behind from the mob-protected robbed card game’s aftermath. He knows other mob enforcers who could help but they’re jaded, bitter, or too worse for wear having done Jackie’s job multiple times before to keep the mafia afloat. Above all else, Jackie is in it for himself to get paid and survive in an economic situation that is affecting everyone, criminal or civilian.

U.S. political leaders, similarly, were asked to intervene on behalf of the government, to step in to save a system that was being abused by financial firms, but also individuals, who made irresponsible decisions, and even illegal ones, which caused the national economy to crash. To prevent the system from collapsing, former Presidents, George W. Bush, and then Barack Obama had to step in to save the economy even though the system itself was at fault.

In the wake of the financial crisis that still resulted from the bad decisions and greedy actions of its players, when there’s a resulting increase in unemployment and poverty as the film depicts along with the collapse of some communities, some people will inevitably turn to criminal and illegal activities including gambling, extortion, and drug dealing. As one economic system is thrown into recession, other illicit ones, such as illegal gambling tend to flourish in its wake, which is what ‘Killing Them Softly’ does a good job of showing the effects of a recession leading to a boom in the illicit economy.

Without spoiling too much of the film, the ending scene takes place with Jackie and the mafia’s head accountant meeting at a bar to discuss his payment rendered for being an enforcer to keep the Mob card game running afloat after the perpetrators were punished for robbing it. Jackie, like the head Mafia accountant, are using each other for the money and stability of their own enterprises. Jackie Cogan is in it for himself as other enforcers were not able to do what he does, and he wants to be rewarded for it.

The Mob accountant is looking to make sure his illegal enterprise stays afloat without paying more than he needs to. In this scene, Jackie raises the rate of how much he charges for committing the hits on the people who robbed the card game due to the ‘recession.’ The mob accountant counters by saying that what they would him are the ‘recession’ prices and that he’s getting what another enforcer who couldn’t do the job would normally get.

“You know this business is a business of relationships.” The accountant tells Jackie that they want to keep the relationship with him going since every other enforcer is unavailable so he should not ask for more money given he might need to help them again. Jackie isn’t fooled by this plea to continue their ‘working’ relationship because at the end of the day, it’s about getting paid by them and they could not care less what happens to the enforcers who clean up the mob’s mess.

The accountant is listening to the 2008 election night acceptance speech by then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama imploring Americans to see each other as ‘one people’ and ‘out of many, we are one.’ Jackie doesn’t buy it given the circumstances for which he lives out his life in America. The accountant labels him as a ‘cynical’ person but he has reason to be as ends up cleaning up messes violently and criminally to keep the gravy train for others rolling.

Jackie sees even one of the founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson’ as a hypocrite because while he wanted freedom and liberty for all, he still owned slaves and wasn’t actually fighting for the ideals he espoused in the Declaration of Independence. Despite being known as an ‘American Saint’, Jackie believes Jefferson was out for himself and his own interests and that there are no unifying ideals that bind the country together besides the need for ‘money.’

“Don’t make me laugh…I’m living in America…and in America, you’re on your own. America is not a country, it’s just a business.” Jackie Cogan, after what he goes through in the film, is looking to get paid and survive at the end of the day. He is corrupted and evil but justifies his actions by telling himself and the audience that he’s on his own like many other people were in the financial crisis and must take this blood money from the mafia to make it in America.

When Jackie Cogan hears American politicians say that “we’re all in this together”, “we are one community, one nation”, he believes that no one is looking out for him, not even his mafia employers, and must fight for every dollar he can have because he would not survive otherwise. ‘Killing Them Softly’ is not just about a low-level mafia enforcer keeping a mob-run gambling ring going after doing contract kills on three people who robbed one of the games.

Throughout the film, whether its news clips, radio segments, or the desperate actions of its characters, ‘Killing Them Softly’ is primarily about the larger and looming allegory for the larger failures of the economic system who could not protect many of its citizens from financial ruin in the wake of the 2008 crisis. The effects of this past crisis reverberates even to this day, whose mess created such dire circumstances for people across the country to fend for themselves. While the small-town mafia and Wall Street can get propped up by those who intervene to save it, the film makes it a key point in this ending scene that for too many Americans, they believe they have been left behind by a financial system that does not work for them and for a culture where it’s “winner take all” and if you get left behind, nobody is going to be there to bail you out.

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Padres Game at Petco Park

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: San Diego, California, United States

Don’t Look Back In Anger

“Instead of spreading that anger and letting it spread elsewhere, the anger you feel should instead be reversed to acting out in happiness and caring to keep that specific ‘ripple effect’ of anger from spreading.”

Anger is an emotion that we all experience at one point or another in our lives. While it’s inevitable to experience this emotion, but what is especially important is how we use that emotion and how we deal with it. Instead of letting it stir within us or to lash out to that person who angered us or for those close to us who we vent to, I believe it’s best to take that anger and channel it into something positive. Instead of spreading that anger and letting it spread elsewhere, the anger you feel should instead be reversed to acting out in happiness and caring to keep that specific ‘ripple effect’ of anger from spreading.

Instead of taking that anger you receive as a reflection of who you are as a person and letting it bring you down, try to let it reflect not on you but on the person doling it out to make you angry. The anger that they give out is more likely than not about you but about how they are feeling or what’s happened to them before. Anger is not often personal but often about how that person is being treated and instead of breaking the cycle, they continue to take their anger they received and spreading it to other people.

Perhaps in other cases, that person’s anger at you is justified if you did something wrong or erred in some way but their anger is not likely to change your behavior and may backfire if you take offense at their tone. When receiving someone’s anger, it’s important to respond rationally that you understand their frustrations at see what their criticism is about but that you don’t appreciate the way they are going about airing their grievances with you in that manner. It is important to explain that if they are angry about you, they can voice it in a measured tone without yelling or being contemptuous as that will prevent you from taking their anger seriously.

When receiving someone’s anger, do your best to hear them out and to apologize if you were in the wrong but don’t get angry if you can and don’t redirect that anger back or to hold it in you that it affects your mood for days, weeks, or months. As you go through life, you are going to be likely on both ends of anger as an emotion but it’s best to realize that anger is not a good emotion to experience and it’s best to avoid even if you’re frustrated or disappointed or annoyed with someone or something. It’s likely that you will experience anger on your own but to not let that anger grow or linger or eat you up inside. On top of that, if you receive anger whether you feel you deserve it or not, you cannot take that anger from someone else and let it stay with you for very long.

As one of my favorite sayings in English goes, you should not ‘look back in anger’ and to let it consume you. Any anger you’ve had or received needs to fade away and you must let go of it or else it will worsen your life on top of your present and future relationships with other people. Letting go of grudges, not dwelling on past blowups, or forgiving people from wrongful words or actions is a key part of maintaining a healthy attitude towards anger. Part of that attitude towards anger is forgiving yourself for past transgressions related to your anger and then forgiving others as much as possible for their anger towards you, deserved or otherwise. Often, you will have to give people the benefit of the doubt and realize that some people don’t control their anger well or lash out at you or others because they don’t have a healthy attitude towards that emotion.

However, instead of letting others have their anger spiral out of control or to let yourself get angry in response, it’s best to not be angry in response or to just breathe, take time to think it through, and respond in a way that does not let your emotions take control of your words. You should try to prevent yourself from letting your anger get the best of you and to say something to somebody that you cannot take back and ruin your relationship or friendship with them. Noticing that you’re angry with them is enough to at least have a conversation with the person in a mature and measured way without letting that anger boil to the surface.

Quite simply, the anger needs to dissipate, or it will infect other parts of your life and cause you to lash out at other people who don’t deserve your anger or are unrelated to what caused that anger in the first place. You would be better off when you stop holding on to that anger or looking back on it. If you can let it go, let it go completely but if you can’t, try not to think about it and remember that all emotions come and go and that is the way it should be. Anger can be channeled into more productive uses of your life like going to the gym to release the tension, writing your thoughts down and working through your emotions and reflecting why and how your anger came to be, or just talking through your anger with a trusted friend or a family member who you feel comfortable sharing that emotion with.            

Being able to channel your anger into something positive or something worthwhile is a key test of being a mature individual. Anger is a negative emotion but that doesn’t mean it has to go on forever or cause you to be a negative person. Knowing how to deal with it at first, react to it in a measured manner, and then eventually letting it go to leave it in the past where it should remain will help you to not look back on anger and to keep it from reaching the surface of your emotions again. As the famous Oasis song goes for which this blog article was inconspicuously titled regarding how to deal with anger at someone close to you whom you’ve grown apart from, “Don’t look back in anger, I heard you say…, at least not today.”

Pacific Beach and Mission Bay Park

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: San Diego, California, United States

English Corner – The Basics of Writing

“You must first be aware of what exactly your writing will be used for or can be used for, so we need to think about the uses for writing and how best to express yourself.”

In this article, I am going to cover the basics of writing, and to do this, we need to first figure out how to use the printed word. You must first be aware of what exactly your writing will be used for or can be used for, so we need to think about the uses for writing and how best to express yourself.

There are numerous examples of how we print words correctly and what each kind of writing does with its own different style or substance to it. There are dozens of ways to use English words but the most important ones that come to my mind are articles, books, emails, and stories. Because of technology, we are exposed to English writing in numerous ways including text messages and emails, so I believe that when you’re writing in English, you need to be able to write articles, emails, and stories but you also need to be able to write text messages as utilizing technology when writing in English is a key part of using the language.

There are multiple ways to write for English and I want you all reading this article to be aware of the major literary elements. Further on, when you’re writing something fictional, it is important to be aware of which literary elements you’re using. Remember that it’s not real if you created it out of your own imagination. Nonfiction writing is real, but it’s based on historical current events, for example, when we think of nonfiction, we think of World War Two and in your writing as you’ll discover, you need to use some or all these literary elements to be taken seriously as a writer. You should always remember the 3 Ss of writing specifically: Style, Syntax, and Substance.

To begin with, it is important to be exposed to multiple literary elements but the most important of which is the plot or otherwise known as the storyline. There is also the tone, which is about the emotions you’re expressing such as whether you are sad or if you are angry, happy, or what exactly is the kind of tone your emotions are taking when writing. In addition to the emotions expressed, a good writer can both answer and describe the important question about “what is the setting?”

Any writer should know where your story is taking place whether it is in a city, a farm, or an island. The point of view of the written article should also be expressed if there is a narrator who is telling the story. Your audience should know about the characterization of the people or things involved such as “what are the personality traits of the characters and how do they act?” “What is their personality?” “What is their emotional status?” and for the general characterization, when you’re writing in English, you need to be aware of, especially for fictional writing, “how are you are developing your characters?” and “what is the mood of your writing, such as is it light or heavy in terms of mood?”

It’s different than tone in that mood is kind of like the combination of the setting and the plot along with the tone together. You should be asking yourself if your writing piece is a comedy or is it a drama or another genre? Be aware when you begin your written draft about “what kind of writing you are focusing on?” and to know, “which themes or main messages you’re trying to get across to the reader?”

For example, “are you trying to give them a political message a social message or are you trying to come up with a particular moral or a value to share with them?” The purpose of knowing about these literary elements is to expose yourself to these different ideas and then that will help you develop yourself as a writer because you will be familiar with the general plot or important viewpoint or main themes. This will come across in your writing very easily, but you must know what the literary elements represent and how they can be used.

Every writer has a different drafting process when they begin but there are some fundamental steps that you can take to be a better writer. You should go from beginning to end in terms of the structure of the draft and to be diligent in creating that process, which will make you more focused and organized, and you need to do your research as well to be successful. I think that is the most part important part of becoming a writer is doing your research. You need to take notes about what you’re going to be writing about and you need to focus on a few rough drafts before finalizing your piece of writing.

I would also highlight the benefits of having a native English speaker review your work, especially if you’re a non-native English speaker and you’re writing English as a second language. Keep in mind that becoming a good English writer is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes a lot of time to be a good writer as writing is difficult even for a native speaker.

You should also know that you’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to have errors. You’re going to have structural problems with your writing at first, but you need to keep trying. You need to keep writing and writing until it becomes almost second nature to you. I would encourage you to try out writing a paper or a report after getting these basics down. Being a good writer is a marathon, and not a sprint, which means it’s going to take a while. Lastly, when you know it’s not going to happen overnight, you know to take the writing process more seriously. Remember that you are not in a race and it’s best to draft, edit, revise, and write again before submitting your final written work especially for your job or for your school.

Like any important vocation in life, it’s going to take thousands of hours to become a good writer. However, if you get down the basics such as knowing about literary elements, figures of speech, and understanding the emotions and viewpoints involved, you will be successful in developing different written forms of work. Keep practicing daily, get input from others, and learn from your mistakes, and you will continue to improve with writing in English.

Sunset Over The West

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Western United States (In The Air)

The Power of Saying ‘No’

“As much as we like to say ‘yes’, it’s important to know that saying ‘no’ is just as important and even just as powerful.”

There is nothing wrong with saying ‘No’ to someone else. Saying ‘No’ has a negative connotation but it can be worth its weight as much as saying ‘Yes.’ There is a main reason why we have both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ in English language vocabulary. There are times in our life when we can say ‘yes’ but we also have to moderate our impulse to say, ‘yes’ to things, people, and other commitments by balancing it out with the ‘no’s.’ As much as we like to say ‘yes’, it’s important to know that saying ‘no’ is just as important and even just as powerful.

When it comes to saying ‘no’, you do not want to overdo it either but it’s best to moderate your ‘no’s and to pick when and where to use that word. As you get older in life, the ‘no’ should be more often and the key hump to get over is to have any shame or remorse for saying ‘no.’ Psychologically, it’s much easier to say, ‘yes’ than it is to say ‘no’, but I would argue the ‘no’ needed to happen rather than a false ‘yes.’ Often, a truthful ‘no’ will be much better for you and other people than a fake ‘yes’, which could do much more harm. People don’t like to hear ‘no’s’ but rather than to embellish people with false yes’s, you must be firm with them and make the ‘no’ part of your vocabulary with them, even if they are friends or family of yours.

While others would not like to hear ‘no’, it is best not to lead them on when you’re not interested in anything related to business to doing favors to getting into a relationship. Honesty is part of the power of saying ‘no’ and if that person truly values you, they won’t be bothered by hearing the ‘no.’ A good litmus test for knowing how much someone cares about you is their reaction when you are bound to tell them ‘no’ at some point for one reason or another. If they give you a hard time in giving them a sincere ‘no’, it may be best to not be around them as much. The person(s) you say ‘no’ to, even if they are family or friends, should be mature and responsible enough to take the ‘no’ well and to understand that the ‘no’ itself is not a reflection of them as people but what they may be asking or telling you to do. If you disagree, have reservations about, don’t find it appealing, or don’t have time for it, it is best to say ‘no.’

When you tell other people ‘no’, you should always be firm but also do be as gentle as possible. It does not have to lead into a confrontation or an argument either. A good ‘no’ can be followed up with ‘that’s the way I feel’ or ‘sorry but it’s not possible, or ‘that is not something I’m interested in.’ Saying ‘no’ should never be seen as being disrespectful, rude, or condescending because it does not need to be as such. If you want to still be on good terms with someone like a friend or family, you can express your regret or disappointment on having to say ‘no’ depending on the ask or request. You don’t have to do that, but it can soften the blow, which may be important in salvaging the relationship or friendship for the long-term. In that relation to the other person or people, if the ‘yes’s outweigh the ‘no’s, the ‘no’ won’t be as big of a deal too. They should balance each other out but it is good to mix them up in order to have no ‘no’s at all or too many ‘yes’s back to back.

Most importantly, having the power to say ‘no’ not just every now and then but whenever you feel like it is crucial. You should not feel nervous or anxious about saying ‘no’ and to be ready to do so at any time. As we get older, we must be prepared to say ‘no’ more and more often. Time is limited as well as the chance to foster relationships, friendships, or job / business opportunities. If something does not sound that appealing to you at first, it’s best to have a firm ‘no’ for it rather to waste either your time or your money.

It’s likely in life that you’ll regret the ‘no’s you didn’t say rather than the ones that you did say ‘no’ too. There are plenty of charlatans, liars, scammers, fakers, and crooks out there and you need to be ready to say ‘no’ to them. Instead of saying ‘yes’ too many times, be more comfortable in saying ‘no’ especially if your heart, mind, or body are not into the idea. Unless you are enthusiastic or thrilled by the idea, thing, or even the person, a preemptive ‘no’ will make you better off in the long run. There is a power in saying ‘yes’ but there is also an equal if not more important power of saying ‘no’ especially if you are worried about losing precious time or valuable money or other resources.

Most of all, you should do your best to think deeply or weigh the ‘yes or no’ decisions as much as possible. Lose the impulse to give either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ quickly unless you do not have the time or place to think it through first. Not controlling your impulses when it comes to saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ can cost you both in the short-term or in the long-run. Be sure to have the power to say ‘no’ but remember to think it through carefully first before giving the ‘no’ to someone or something. Also, as I mentioned before, please be sure to phrase the ‘no’ in a polite or respectful manner. It’s not so much that you said ‘no’ at all but if you do it in the wrong way or with the wrong tone, you may risk losing that person or thing you care about forever.

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