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Saturday, January 22, 2021

underground scene
You see them more often than not when you commute via NYC’s underground: Subway musicians, both official and unofficial. (I believe Bedford Station subway harp lady, above, is/was in the latter camp.)

I wonder, how often does such exposure lead to a big-time musical career? Is it a steppingstone to the top, or a dead end? Or a desperate last-gasp for attention?

The cause for my pondering was a recent couple of tweets from an aspiring band. They announced their impromptu performances on the Union Square platform, basically as a way to drum up attention for their paying gigs. For some reason, to me, this came off as a sign that they’re not doing too hot — resorting to the subway just to get noticed.

Fact is, this metro-musicality has been around for years, and to my knowledge, has yet to produce a breakout pop star. Probably not the best route to a career in the recording studio.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/22/2011 06:05pm
Category: Celebrity, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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Wednesday, January 19, 2021

feed the kittyComic book and movie fandom was wetting itself over the news that Anne Hathaway has been cast as Catwoman in the next Batman flick, The Dark Knight Rises.

Or was she?

Pay close attention to the wording in the official press release:

Warner Bros. Pictures announced today that Anne Hathaway has been cast as Selina Kyle in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises.” She will be starring alongside Christian Bale, who returns in the title role of Bruce Wayne/Batman.

In fact, the name “Catwoman” is not mentioned at all in the entire (brief) release. Meanwhile, Christian Bale is pointedly referred to as “Bruce Wayne/Batman”.

So, you have to figure that Hathaway is slated to play only alter-ego Selina Kyle in this film. The set-up for her transformation into Catwoman will probably be part of the story, with the cat-suit being donned in the fourth, Nolan-less installment. Hathaway will be wearing that costume, unless somebody pulls a two-faced move on her:

Billy Dee Williams took the role of Harvey Dent [in 1989's Batman] with the expectation that he would be brought back to play Two-Face and reportedly had a contract clause added reserving the role for him. During casting for Batman Forever (1995) Warner Bros. decided they would prefer Tommy Lee Jones and bought out Williams’ contract.

Let’s hope cinematic history doesn’t repeat itself. It’d be a real shame to miss out on Hathaway kicking ass in feline-inspired spandex.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/19/2011 10:03pm
Category: Celebrity, Movies, Pop Culture
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Monday, January 10, 2021

What’s your sign? If you’re going by the age-old Zodiac calendar, then you’re off by a planetary wiggle-wag:

The ancient Babylonians based zodiac signs on the constellation the sun was “in” on the day a person was born. During the ensuing millenniums, the moon’s gravitational pull has made the Earth “wobble” around its axis, creating about a one-month bump in the stars’ alignment.

The result?

“When [astrologers] say that the sun is in Pisces, it’s really not in Pisces,” said Parke Kunkle, a board member of the Minnesota Planetarium Society.

Basically, a presumed Pisces is really an Aquarius — the traditionally preceding sign. You take a step back to get to your “true” astrological essence. Or something.

So then, I’m not really a Gemini? This revelation would shake me to my self-identifying core, except that it’s not 1977 and I’m not hitting any discotheques tonight.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/10/2021 10:38pm
Category: Pop Culture, Science, Society
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Thursday, January 06, 2021

hammer time
When it comes to ostentatious symbols of power, it’s hard to beat John Boehner’s choice of gavel, pictured above. He’s already taken some grief over its giant-sized resemblance to a polo mallet.

Or is it more like a hammer? Is it, in fact, more reminiscent of Mjollnir, the mythic magical hammer of Thor, the Norse god of thunder? The timing couldn’t be better, as Boehner takes the Congressional reins in the same year that Marvel Studios’ Thor hits movie theaters.

Does our new House Speaker have a god complex (albeit a lower-case one)? If some Capitol Hill page lets leak that Boehner has given a name to his legislative appendage, then I think we’ll have our answer. If Boehner winds up throwing that thing at some Democrat’s head, and it boomerangs back to his hand, then we’ll definitely have our answer…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/06/2021 08:40pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, Politics, Pop Culture
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Tuesday, December 21, 2021

If you’ve ever pondered how superheroics and supervillainy would translate into real-world collateral damage, Law and the Multiverse provides legalese as applied to the comic-book context:

The answers are dry, technical and funny in their earnestness. The Second Amendment, [co-blogger James] Daily suggested, would protect many powers, but “at least some superpowers would qualify as dangerous or unusual weapons (e.g., Cyclops’ optic blasts, Havok’s plasma blasts)” that are “well beyond the power of weapons allowed even by permit.” Those super-duper powers would be tightly regulated, if not banned outright.

Then there’s this jurisprudential nugget: When Batman, the DC Comics hero, nabs crooks, is the evidence gathered against the bad guys admissible in court? Not if he is working so closely with Commissioner Gordon that his feats fall under the “state actor” doctrine, in which a person is deemed to be acting on behalf of government and thus is subject to the restrictions on government power. In fact, he might be courting a lawsuit claiming violations of civil rights from those who were nabbed.

Leave it to a couple of blawging lawyers to suck all the fun out of superpowered mayhem. On the other hand, it’s good to know that supervillain-insurance residual pools would keep a lid on premium payments.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/21/2010 10:33pm
Category: Bloggin', Creative, Pop Culture, True Crime
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Monday, December 20, 2021

Why would it suck to be a superhero? Because there’s always going to be more bad guys than good guys.

Think about it. Marvel and DC publish monthly comic titles starring individual superhero characters. While the lead character holds sway from issue to issue, s/he needs different opponents to tangle with each month. In no time at all, that rogues gallery adds up, and you’ve got a gross imbalance between the forces of good and the forces of evil. Periodical publishing is the ultimate aberrant force, it seems!

You’d think the supervillains would figure this out, band together, and overtake all the Batmans, Supermans, and X-Mens of the world. The numerical advantage is clearly theirs, after all. I guess that lack of organizational coordination is why they keep getting foiled…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/20/2010 11:31pm
Category: Pop Culture, Publishing
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Saturday, December 18, 2021

If you think that comic book geeks are an insufferable lot when it comes to film adaptations of their beloved characters, consider the wrath of those who sorta-kinda believe said characters are real. Thor, the next big-budget production coming from Marvel Studios, is facing a boycott from British white supremacists over the casting of a black actor as one of the Asgard crew:

The Council of Conservative Citizens is upset that London-born Idris Elba, star of The Wire and BBC detective series Luther as well as a number of Hollywood films, is to play deity Heimdall in the Marvel Studios feature. The group, which opposes inter-racial marriage and gay rights, has set up a website, boycott-thor.com to set out its opposition to what it sees as an example of leftwing social engineering…

“Now [Marvel] has taken it one further, casting a black man as a Norse deity in their new movie Thor. Marvel has now inserted social engineering into European mythology.”

Note that in the Norse chronicles, Heimdall is the watchman of Bifrost, the rainbow-colored bridge between Midgard (earth) and Asgard (heaven). Given that this Council has a thing against gays and blacks, it’s not surprising that this mythological juxtaposition — black guardian, rainbow-flag road — would have them protesting in favor of a whitewash.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/18/2010 08:00pm
Category: Movies, Pop Culture, Society
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Thursday, December 16, 2021

Obviously not fans of They Might Be Giants or The Four Lads, modern Greek-speakers persist in referring to that city on the Bosphorus as “Constantinople”.

The Greeks are hardly alone in hanging onto a legacy place-name. Socio-political disputes across the globe usually hinge on conflicting geographic designators. Still, it’s a bit jarring to hear a world-class city’s antiquity name dropped into current-day parlance — especially news reports from Greek media. Especially since it’s not likely that Istanbul is ever going to revert to a Hellenic dominion…

For the (lyrical) record, Greeks do recognize the name “New York”. Even though, like Istanbul, it once had another name.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/16/2010 11:32pm
Category: History, Politics, Pop Culture
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Sunday, December 12, 2021

The International Boxing Hall of Fame created a bit of a stir last week with the announcement of its 2011 class — and it wasn’t because Mike Tyson was on the list:

The day’s shocker, though, was that the name Sylvester Stallone appeared alongside the boxing legends.

That’s right, Stallone is going into the BHOF for his contributions to the sport through film. Stallone gained worldwide fame between 1976-2006, playing the fictional character “Rocky Balboa” in six movies.

You can certainly make a solid argument for inducting non-participants in the actual sport. Still, this smacks of yet another wacky action from perhaps the wackiest of organized sports, and brings to my mind this quip from boxing journalist/historian Bert Sugar, on the scandal-plague Ring magazine:

“If Ring is the Bible of boxing,” Sugar cracked, “the sport needs a New Testament.”

But, hey. Maybe the professional pugilists are on to something. Why not honor the fictional ambassadors of any sport with enshrinement? With that in mind, here’s my slate of candidates for other hallowed halls:

Baseball: Kevin Costner, for Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, and, um… Waterworld?

Basketball: The coach on “The White Shadow”. Sorry, the only one that stands out for me…

Football: Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. C’mon, he’s due! Better than the obvious choice, that overachieving twerp Rudy.

Hockey: No-brainer on The Hanson Brothers, for Slap Shot. And why not — Paul Newman, posthumously.

Horseracing: Mister Ed. And that talking spokes-horse from Yonkers Raceway commercials, while we’re at it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/12/2021 12:10pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, Pop Culture, Sports
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Wednesday, December 08, 2021

infected connected
I’ve mentioned how enamored I am by Dirty Laundry‘s dance track “Disco Infected”, along with its cover art.

So much so that, when it came time this week to refresh my wireless router’s SSID, I picked that track title for the name: “DiscoInfected”. As good as any other tag, I figured.

Until I noticed how closely that mashed-together name resembles “Disconnected”.

Not really a problem, but as I glanced that label on my iPhone’s list of available wi-fi networks, it did make me do a double-take. Maybe it’s close enough to a failed-connection notification that it’ll dissuade unwelcomed leeches from trying to hack in. They’d need the password anyway, but every little bit of deterrence helps.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/08/2021 10:51pm
Category: Pop Culture, Wi-Fi, Wordsmithing
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Saturday, December 04, 2021

Proving that the music industry has nothing but love for gimmickry, Cee Lo Green’s controversial track “Fuck You” is on the Best Record slate for the 2010 Grammys (albeit listed as the scrubbed “F*** You”).

Should he win, Green says he will sing the song during the live televised ceremony. And, to steal a joke from Conan O’Brien: If Green loses on Grammy Night, he’ll really sing that song…

In actuality, the G-rated version “Forget You” will grace the Grammy broadcast. When the chips are down, mainstream practicality trumps four-lettered expression. As was the case with Chic’s disco classic “Le Freak”:

[Says Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers] “We were so pissed off at what had happened. I mean, it was Studio 54, it was New Year’s Eve, it was Grace Jones, and we were wearing the most expensive outfits that we had — back then, in the late ’70s, our suits must have cost us a couple of thousand bucks each, and our really fancy shoes had got soaked trudging through the snow. So ‘Fuck Off’ was a protest song, and we actually thought it was pretty good — ‘Aaaaahh, fuck off!’ It had a vibe. I was thinking ‘This could be the anthem of everybody who gets cut off on the street by a cab driver or any kids who want to say this to their parents.’ You know, ‘Hey, I wasn’t saying it, man! I was just playing the record.’

“We really had pretty big designs on completing the song as ‘Fuck Off’. You’ve got to remember, we didn’t think of that prior to sitting down and playing. Once we did sit down and play and started singing that hook, it sounded good; just as good as ‘freak out’.”

I feel safe in assuming that “Freak Out” will endure in the popular consciousness a lot longer than “Fuck You” will.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/04/2021 03:04pm
Category: Celebrity, Pop Culture
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Sunday, November 28, 2021

in con-text
For whatever reason, someone decided to transcribe the entire run of Calvin and Hobbes onto a blog. All crammed within two posts.

I’m assuming that all those words are, indeed, the sum total of the daily/Sunday strips. Each page is certainly long enough to contain the ten years’ worth of word-balloon contents from Bill Watterson‘s creation. I’m not going to dig through my old trade paperbacks to verify the accuracy; some of the missives certainly seem like the real thing, and bring back warm memories of the manic four-color humor.

I’m just wondering what prompted this project. I’ve transcribed similar content myself, when I felt that the image-born words needed to be preserved in more hypertext-friendly form. But the sheer volume here is astounding. And let’s face it, without the accompanying artwork, the scripts — as humorously sharp as they are — are less than satisfying. Unless you want to continually envision a spikey-haired boy and his toy/imaginary tiger delivering the lines…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/28/2010 10:02pm
Category: Bloggin', Comedy, Pop Culture
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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

spread the disco-ease
It’s not quite the rockin’ pneumonia and the boogie-woogie flu, but I like the idea of being “disco infected”.

And more than that, I like the (remixed) song of the same name by Australian electronic/dance unit Dirty Laundry. Along with this cover art. The surgical mask on a mod-looking girl really sells the concept.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 11/23/2010 11:39pm
Category: Creative, Pop Culture
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Monday, November 22, 2021

skin and bones
Last seen imposing his aesthetic on mainstream pop culture, a certain West Coast graffiti artist is currently laying down ink on Manhattan hotel-guest skins:

It was a scene that unfolds along low-rent commercial strips in towns big and small, but this was no storefront tattoo parlor, with neon signs in the windows and folding chairs in cramped quarters. Instead, it was the pop-up studio of Mister Cartoon — a tattooist who counts Eminem, Beyoncé and Mena Suvari as clients — at the Marcel at Gramercy, an upscale boutique hotel looking to distinguish itself from the pack.

As part of the hotel’s artist-in-residence series, Mister Cartoon, who is based in Los Angeles and usually has a three-to-six-month waiting list for appointments, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, has created original artwork that hangs in the lobby. And from Nov. 14 through Wednesday, he is offering his services out of a two-bedroom suite.

A tattoo artist-in-residence? Seems more properly a Chelsea Hotel thing, versus this celebrity-whoring boutique. As if to underline the clientele, the article features Tommy Hilfiger‘s rehabbed son booking a session with Cartoon.

I wonder if Hilfiger Jr., or anyone else, has requested the above sombrero-skull sample of Cartoon’s work? Despite my fondness for this detail, my revulsion of body ink ensures that I won’t be getting it seared onto my skin.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/22/2010 08:49pm
Category: Creative, Fashion, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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Monday, November 15, 2021

gaga
Following a franchise-record 10-game losing streak, the New York Islanders today fired head coach Scott Gordon.

An unintentional underlining to this painful move came via the team’s telecommunications system:

Perhaps it was appropriate that Lady GaGa’s “Bad Romance” played before the conference call announcing his firing began.

I’m sorry that Gordon had to lose his job (although he will remain employed by the Isles as an advisor). But I’m glad that a certain hockey blogger is on the NHL‘s media list, and so was in a position to pick up on this pop-cultural coincidence.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/15/2010 10:20pm
Category: Hockey, Pop Culture
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Sunday, November 14, 2021

I’m a sucker for a good musical remix — especially if it totally reinterprets the original song. And probably even more than that, a good remix title will snag me as well. Something about that parenthetical addendum to the track title speaks to me, promising an extra-special sound experience. And the more creative the tag is — whether it’s simply an unusual band/artist name, or a thought-out rework description — the more likely I’ll be to listen to it.

Below are my favorite remix titles, from my personal music collection. There are actually a lot more than I thought there’d be — I had guessed a maximum of five or six, but ended up with these 17. No particular order, although the first few are definitely the most compelling in my view:

1. “Lost and Found (Jaded Alliance Club Mix)”, Delerium feat. Jaël

2. “Mixtress (Son of the Electric Ghost Remix)”, DJ Baby Anne

3. “Filthy/Gorgeous (ATOC vs. Superbuddha Remix)”, Scissor Sisters

4. “Calabria (Hot Pink Delorean Remix)”, Enur feat. Natasja

5. “Circus (BitchSLAPhappy 3 Ring Circus Remix)”, Britney Spears

6. “Remedy (Kitch ‘n Sync Remix)”, Little Boots

7. “Fancy Footwork (Death To The Throne remix)”, Chromeo

8. “Boomerang (29 Palms Polysynthetic Remix)”, Cirrus

9. “Change of Heart (What Kind of Breeze Do You Blow Remix)”, El Perro Del Mar

10. “Boy In the Window (Ursula 1000 Artic Chill Extended Remix)”, The Gentle People

11. “Alejandro (Son of Vader Lipstixx Rmx)”, Lady GaGa

12. “Sympathy For The Devil (Who Killed The Kennedys Mix)”, Laibach

13. “Pink Neon (The Amalgamation of Soundz Dub)”, Natalie Walker

14. “Nice Day (Wamdue People Remix)”, Persephone’s Bees

15. “You’re Gonna Get Yours (Reanimated TX Getaway version)”, Public Enemy

16. “How To Kill A Radio Consultant (The DJ Chuck Chillout Mega Murder Boom)”, Public Enemy

17. “Who Stole The Soul (Sir Jinx Stolen Souled Out Reparation Mixx)”, Public Enemy

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/14/2010 10:42pm
Category: Creative, Pop Culture, Wordsmithing
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Apparently, those rear-window car sticker decals representing happy SUV-filling families have been annoying people since 2008. So I guess I’d be late to the party in expressing my revulsion.

For whatever reason, they seem to be more prevalent now, at least here in New York. I’ll see them on parked cars in the City, as well as during my rare stints behind the wheel on suburban roads. Just from my limited exposure, this automobile-flare Mom-Dad-Kid1-Kid2-etc. lineup seems to be gaining popularity.

What could stop this spread of white-on-window nuclear family cuteness? Defacement and vehicular damage seem extreme. I’m guessing alarmist theories about exposing your kids to tailgating predators might dent the enthusiasm for some. More likely, overexposure will lead to this fad fading. That, and the ever-steady 50 percent American divorce rate…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/14/2010 08:56pm
Category: Pop Culture, Society
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Wednesday, November 03, 2021

When you, the writer, just can’t muster up the gumption to “murder your darlings”, it’s time to turn to Soylent.

Well, someday it’ll be time, perhaps. For now, it’s an experiment in crowdsourced copy editing, on a micropayment scale:

Soylent is an add-in for Microsoft Word that uses Mechanical Turk as a distributed copy-editing system to perform tasks like proofreading and text-shortening, as well as a type of specialized edits its developers call “The Human Macro.” Currently in closed beta, Soylent was created by compsci students at MIT, Berkeley, and University of Michigan.

And yes, the concepts at play — both the mass participation and the meat-grinder aspects of editorial tasking — are the inspiration for the iconic-cinematic name:

[Lead researcher Michael] Bernstein said they were looking for something familiar but also true to the idea of what they created. Soylent, is made of people. It is indeed, people.

“The original name was Homunculus,” Bernstein said. “It didn’t have the same ring to it.”

I’m guessing there’ll be no bragging about Soylent being powered by “Green” energy? That would put the tongue far too firmly into cheek.

(Via @Aerocles; who I thanked with a snarky “tasty!” retweet)

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/03/2021 10:46pm
Category: Creative, Internet, Pop Culture, Publishing
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Monday, November 01, 2021

I was never a fan of Nintendo’s Super NES console.

But I did like There Will Be Blood quite a lot.

Therefore, I guess I’d have grudgingly appreciated an improbable 16-bit videogame adaptation of the epic historical drama:

A bravura pixelized re-creation of the culminating bowling-pin murder scene. I’m sure Daniel Day-Lewis gladly would have compromised his artistic integrity to make this cartridge-based iteration happen! Although I’d have liked to have seen more milkshake action.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/01/2021 11:22pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, Pop Culture, Videogames
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Saturday, October 30, 2021

spin cyclers
All the social outrage over the “Glee Gone Wild” photoshoot in GQ is predictable — just as predictable as the oft-repeated girl-to-woman image makeover employed by maturing performers:

All began their careers with a preponderance of fans in the bubblegum set and traced the same celebrity arc, by which Disney tiara is exchanged for Victoria’s Secret teddy and the sweet princess becomes a sweaty temptress. If she’s lucky, she then proceeds quickly to some amalgam of the two, her diversifying mission accomplished. If not, she’s Lindsay Lohan…

It’s all about image adjustment, about taking a pendulum positioned too far in one direction and yanking it in the other, so that it eventually winds up somewhere in between. The process has a physics all its own: G plus NC-17 equals PG-13.

When you’re dealing with public perceptions, shock techniques work better than steady progression. Fact is, most of the audience doesn’t want that little boy or girl in the popular sitcom or rock band to grow up — they want them to remain an iconic representation forever. Basically, a sharp break with the past is necessary, and nothing does the job better than sexualization.

And yes, that formula goes back a lot farther than “Glee”. It even goes back farther than Britney, Christina, or any of the latter-day Disney child stars. One-time one-dimensional kid phenom Jodie Foster turned the trick (so to speak) by playing a teenaged hooker in Taxi Driver. You can even point to Liz Taylor‘s career following the same (albeit tamer, owing to the times) trajectory.

And it’s all calculated. So keep that in mind the next time the apologies and claims of being led astray (the latter being another veiled form of sexual presentation for young women) spill forth, after the next strategic “scandal”.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/30/2010 05:25pm
Category: Celebrity, Pop Culture, Women
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Monday, October 18, 2021

A horror ha-ha from Dustbury, via the Twitterized version:

Q: What do vegan zombies crave?
A: GRAAAAAAAAAAAAINS.

I generally despise the subgenre that is zombies, mainly because it’s been done to (living) death. (Although really, I never cared for the original Night of the Living Dead to begin with.) But a good joke is a good joke, pun and all.

And I contributed the headline, to bring it all together. Isn’t that the point of social media collaboration — to use your collective brains? Or rather, braaaaaaains…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/18/2010 10:22pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, Pop Culture, Social Media Online
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