Archive for the ‘Ayn Rand’ Category

SOUNDTRACK. COME FROM AWAY: Tiny Desk Concert #890 (September 11, 2019).

When I first heard about story of Come From Away, I was intrigued.  Could you make a musical–a musical–about the events of September 11, 2001?

At the end of this performance, the narrator says that this is really a story about September 12, 2001.  And that is true.  And the story is powerful and fascinating and really really interesting.  And yes, the music is fantastic.

So is this story about the attacks?  No.  The story is set

In the aftermath of the Sep. 11 attacks, 38 planes carrying thousands of passengers were grounded in remote Gander, Newfoundland in Canada for five days. The creators of Come From Away traveled to Gander 10 years later and collected the tales that make up the musical.

In Gander there’s an expression that, if you’re visiting, you’ve “come from away.” The people of Gander took in the come-from-aways, and their stories have resonated with audiences worldwide. The Broadway cast recently celebrated 1,000 performances and there are simultaneous productions running in London, Toronto, Melbourne and a national tour.

I listened to the soundtrack when it was streaming on NPR.  I was able to get through about half of it–the songs were great and the kindness shown was incredible.  I have yet to hear the end and I sort of imagine I might try to see the performance someday.  So for now, I’ll just enjoy these excerpts.

Sixteen performers from the Broadway production of Come From Away recently climbed out of a chartered bus in front of NPR and crammed behind Bob Boilen’s desk. They condensed their nearly two-hour show about the days following 9/11 into a relatively tiny 17 minutes. By the end of the diminutive set, there were more than a few tears shed.

In the show, the songs have full orchestration.  But here, the songs are played with great Irish instrumentation: keys, accordion (Chris Ranney); fiddle, fiddle in Gb; (Caitlin Warbelow); high whistles, low whistles, flute (Ben Power); bodhran, cajon (Romano DiNillo) and acoustic guitar (Alec Berlin:)

I don’t know who the lead vocalists are.  But two women take the majority of the songs.  And one of the men narrates the truncated version of the story.  The vocalists here include:

Petrina Bromley; Holly Ann Butler; Geno Carr; De’Lon Grant; Joel Hatch; Chad Kimball; Kevin McAllister; Happy McPartlin; Julie Reiber; Astrid Van Wieren and Jim Walton.

They sing five tracks:

“28 Hours/Wherever We Are” sets the stage–people were on the planes for 28 hours–just imagine that.

“I Am Here” is wonderful. The way the singer has to interrupt herself as if she were on a phone call–it’s a great performance.

“Me and the Sky” is based on an interview with Beverly Bass the first female pilot for American Airlines.  She was flying from Dallas to Paris when she was grounded.  It’s an amazingly personal story–I’ll bet she loves it.

“Something’s Missing” is a song I hadn’t heard before. It’s amazingly powerful–the reactions of people who returned to New York and New Jersey to see what they didn’t know anything about–and to see what’s left.  The most incredible line:

I go down to Ground Zero which… its like the end of the world.  It’s literally still burning.  My dad asks were you okay when you were stranded?  How do I tell him I wasn’t just okay. I was so much better.

They end with the uplifting “Finale.”

As one of the actors explains, “The story we tell is not a 9/11 story, it’s a 9/12 story. It’s a story about the power of kindness in response to a terrible event, and how we can each live, leading with kindness.”

This is a great tribute to not only Gander, but also to the victims of the attacks.

[READ: June 20, 2019] The War Bride’s Scrapbook 

Seven years ago, Caroline Preston created The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt.

I summarized it:

it’s a biography of a lady named Frankie Pratt from the ten or so years after she gets out of high school.  She went to high school in Cornish, New Hampshire in the early 1920s; that’s when this scrapbook starts.  Over the decade, Frankie goes to college, gets a job in New York City, travels to Paris and then returns home.  That is the basic plot, but that simple summary does a grave, grave injustice to this book.

For Preston has created a wondrous scrapbook.  Each page has several images of vintage cutouts which not only accentuate the scene, they often move the action along.  It feels like a genuine scrapbook of a young romantic girl in the 1920s.

For this book, take that premise and move it forward twenty years.

This is the scrapbook of a woman, Lila Jerome, who was a bit of a wallflower, who then married a soldier just before he went off to World War II.  The book is structured in four parts: (more…)

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rand SOUNDTRACKPISTOLERA-Tiny Desk Concert #199  (March 1 2012).

pistolPistolera is the brain child of a woman from Brooklyn who wanted to showcase music made in Mexico. [RESIST THE WALL].

The motivation was a longing for Mexican music on the part of the band’s principal songwriter and lead vocalist, Sandra Velasquez, a California native who was studying music in New York. Her solution: to form a band that played the music of her youth.

Sandra plays acoustic guitar and sings.   She is accompanied by a five string bass, accordion, electric guitar and percussion.  She has a delicate voice and sings everything in Spanish.

“Polvo” is pretty song.  She plays a lovely finger-picked guitar while everyone else adds flourishes to flesh out the song–never overpowering her voice or guitar.  The song has a louder moment with some oh oh oh ohs before growing quiet again.  It ends as prettily as it began with the delicate finger picking.

“Ponle Frenos” means put on the brakes.  She wrote this after having her first child when she realized that she needed to rest from time to time.  It is upbeat and bouncey with a reggae feel in the verse.  And there’s a fun refrain of what I hear as “beep beep beep.”

“La Despedida” is the final song, appropriately translated as “The Goodbye.”   This song feature “the symbol of the dessert,” the donkey jaw.  It is a quiet and slow ballad with bongos as the featured percussion.  There is great work from the (mostly unseen) electric guitar–nothing fancy but adding great textures and melodies over the main acoustic guitar.  He also adds a beautiful, lonesome-sounding guitar solo.  About 3 minutes in, the percussion starts playing the jaw bone along with the bongos.  He just hits it with his fist to make the rattle sound,  And then, she walks “off stage” with her guitar—standing in the audience watching.  And then the accordionist puts her instrument down and walks off—leaving just bass guitar and percussion. Then the bass departs.  After the last chords ring out the guitarist leaves just the bongo and donkey jawbone.  After a measure or two, he gets up and walks through the audience with the jaw.  It’s a great ending to the set.

It’s wonderful hearing music from other cultures, especially one that is so close to us, yet which we tend to spurn.  RESIST THE WALL.

[READ: January 27, 2017] “I Was Ayn Rand’s Lover”

This story was written near the election of Obama’s first term when Paul Ryan was a weasel with bad ideas but little power.  Now, sadly he is a weasel with worse ideas, no spine whatsoever and access to a lot of power.  But this essay is at least a fun way to make fun of him.  It begins like this:

Many of my Republican friends have said to me, “George, why are you voting for Barack Obama?” They assume it is because I believe in his radical socialist agenda of being fair to everyone, even the poor. But that’s not it at all. I could actually care less about the poor. We have some living near us, and pee-yew. They are always coming and going to their three or four jobs at all hours of the day and night. Annoying! No, the reason I am voting for Obama is more complicated.

The reason is that back in 1974, when he was just 17 and she was an internationally famous author, he and Ayn Rand were lovers: (more…)

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textsSOUNDTRACK: MANATEE COMMUNE-“Wake” (Tiny Desk Contest Runner-Up 2015).

manateeLast week, a Tiny Desk Contest winner was announced. This week, All Songs Considered posted ten runners up that they especially liked.  And I want to draw extra attention to a couple of them.

I know very little about these bands, so I assume that Manatee Commune is just this one guy doing some pretty electronic music (with some live flourishes on top–but not looped apparently).

When there’s a cheesy black curtain, you know that it is either hiding something or covering something up.

Manatee Commune’s setting looks like he’s trying to hide something.  He plays it up by having furniture in front of the curtain which is slowly removed.  And then we learn what he is hiding—it’s a pretty magnificent reveal

The song is pretty cool too. It’s electronic (I’m not sure how it’s all playing–I don’t know much about electronic equipment these days). But the drums sure seem live when he bangs on them.  (And I enjoyed the way he discards the sticks when he is done). The live violin at the end is also a nice touch.

The song is interesting, although it’s not my favorite.  This is one where the video really sells the song.


[READ: January 3, 2015] Texts from Jane Eyre

Sarah brought this book home from the library.  When I first heard about it a while back I thought it was a re imagining of Jane Eyre as text messages.  And I thought that was a really lame idea (and honestly isn’t the Jane Eyre trend over yet?).

That’s not quite what this book is though (note the subtitle).

Rather, it is a collection of imagined text messages between two (or more) characters from famous classics (and some non classics) of literature.  Knowing the originals helps tremendously, although sometimes even just knowing what the originals are about will do enough to make the jokes funny.

But the thing I found was that even though I fancy myself a well-read person who has read many of the stories, I didn’t always “get” what the joke was about.  I mean, I could tell obviously from the conversation what they were talking about, but I couldn’t always connect it to the story.  So basically this book made me feel really dumb. (more…)

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I’ve already mentioned this full length album, but how can you not talk about JR without mentioning this song.  (I probably could have dine a post a week about all of the covers of it).

This is one of the most famous songs certainly by Pink Floyd on one of the most popular album s of all time.  So how do you cover it?  You can’t lose the bass line, it’s way too important to the song.

But aside from that the song is pretty different–the vocals are machine tuned almost out of recognizability.  And that’s when you realize that although this is a pretty faithful cover, it’s also a goofy cover.  Not silly, not really disrespectful but not entirely right either (notes are out of tune and flubbed).  It’s very mechanized, as if they are talking about the auto-tuned nature of making hit songs.

  Henry Rollins takes the roll of the random punters ranting at the end of the song, and that’s pretty fun.

The whole thing is kind of  a trifle.  It works better in context of the album because you can understand what the group is doing.  On its own it’s a bit of  shock.

[READ: Week of July 9, 2012] JR Week 4

This week continues where last week left off–in the middle of trying to get Dan to convince Ann to drop the lawsuit against the school (for firing Bast). Whiteback tries to speak for Vern, but Vern will have none of it–Whiteback, despite being president of the school and the bank, is proving to be more and more of a pushover as the story goes along.

Vern gives his take on the school:

The function of this school is custodial.  It’s here to keep these kids off the streets until the girls are big enough to get pregnant and the boys are old enough to go out and hold up a gas station, it’s strictly custodial and the rest is plumbing.  If these teachers of yours strike just sit still and keep the doors open, by the time these kids have been lying around the house for a week their parents will march the teachers back in at gunpoint (226).

Dan interrupts the proceedings to talk to Whiteback about his mortgage (Vern magnanimously tells Dan to go ahead and conduct personal business during work hours).  Dan’s mortgage is not working out so well because the studs in his house are too far apart–causing it to be less insurable and causing him to pay a lot more. When Whiteback commends Major Hyde’s house for being spectacularly built Dan says that he was surprised to see that Hyde was moving.  Hyde doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  Dan tells him that there was a moving van in his driveway taking all of his things out.  There’s some chaos (and a stolen car) when JR comes in and tells them that Buzzie (who was sent down for possession) has taken off down the hall. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RUSH-“Something for Nothing” (1976).

This song comes from Rush’s 2112 album.  Since I’ve started reading JR, the refrain keeps popping into my head.  People talk of the influence of Ayn Rand on the band at this time and this song fits the bill.  When you think about the themes of most rock songs (carefree sex and partying) the lyrics to this song are totally conservative: “You don’t get something for nothing, you can’t have freedom for free.”  Rush has always been a hard working band, so this attitude makes sense.

And the song also resounds with the capitalists in this story–make your money (and other people’s money) work for you.  “Countless ways you pass the day.”

The song starts quietly but man it rocks hard with some really heavy guitars.  And the solo is intimidatingly noisy.

Oh and as for Rand, “What you own is your own kingdom.”

Of course, there is a little less capitalism as the song ends: “in your head is the answer, let it guide you along, let your heart be the anchor and the beat of your song.”  So, the message is not one of greed, but that to make your dreams come true you have to work for it.  Not bad advice, really.  Unless you were born into money of course.  In which case, never mind.

[READ: Week of July 2, 2012] JR Week 3

My JR posts are proving to be a day late (but not a… nope I won’t say it). It’s not the reading that’s hard it’s finding time to write these up.  So, apologies for those waiting with bated breath.

The week’s section opens with sex, specifically, Polaroids of sex.  Mr Angel, Stella’s husband, gets a call from Coen at the hospital (he got into an accident because of his broken glasses (ha–it was not reckless driving).  Then he starts talking with Terry about sprucing up the place–nice paneling, some plants–she thinks that’s a great idea (and actually buy a plant with her own money later).  They are interrupted by Mr Angel’s worker Leo who presents him with a stack of photos of the same Terry engaging in various graphic sexual positions (the boys in shipping had them).  With multiple men.  And although none of the men work in the office, the pictures are taken in this very office.  Mr Angel suggests that the photos could be doctored, to which Leo replies, “You’d have to have a picture of her eating a cucumber to paste onto this one, that’s some doctor” (151).   Childish but very funny.

Mr Angel goes off to Dayton to deal with some business and we see that quickest passage of time yet in the book.  Most of the book so far has been set in a day or two, but as we stay with the secretaries, several days pass in Mr Angel’ absence.  Terry and Myrna move their things into the same area so they can talk and listen to the radio while they work.  So there’s the gossip and the radio chatter vying for attention (the radio comes in Spanish as well as English) and the scene stays with them over a few days and through weekend.  Although this book doesn’t shy at all from potty humor, I enjoyed this little exchange before he leaves: Mr Angel say that she’s left the letter “s” off the word scrap on one of the documents.  She’s so embarrassed!

Terry also says she has something to tell Mr Angel about Leo…but that never gets said aloud, even when he returns and reminds her. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE KOPECKY FAMILY BAND-Tiny Desk Concert #131 (June 6, 2011).

I’d never heard of The Kopecky Family Band, but the write-up about them was pretty interesting, so I decided to give the Tiny Desk concert a listen.  The band (all 7 of them) play a great collective of music: two guitars (acoustic & electic) bass, cello, violin, drums and keyboard.  They play a sort of traditional folk with a very full sound.

Indeed, they remind me an awful lot of The Head and the Heart (the singer’s voice in particular), although they are from different edges of the continent and have been playing music about as long as each other (indeed, The Kopecky Family Band released an EP in 2008 whereas Head and the Heart formed in 2009).

And the Kopecky website offers lots of free music (which is very cool).

“Howlin’ at the Moon” is a full acoustic sounding track.  “Birds” has a simply gorgeous whistle/xylophone melody that is as beautiful as it is catchy.  “Disaster” is a tender ballad with wonderful harmonies.  And “Red Devil” is a somewhat more rocking song, which really helps to demonstrate the bands’ diversity.

And the band is charming.  Keyboardist/singer Kelsey admits to having left a trinket of some kind of the office bookshelves (which are littered with things).  It’s a wonderful set, and because of it, I downloaded the band’s first EP from their site.

[READ: June 5, 2011] Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love

Shaffer was signing books at BEA this year.  My coworker told me that he was very funny and that he signed her book in an amusing way.  He happened to be signing at the table next to the line I was on. Sadly, he finished before I was able to get to him.  But I was pretty close to the beginning of the line, so I asked if I could grab a copy of his book, which I did (although no autograph for me).

This is a silly book of nonfiction.  It looks at thirty-seven philosopher or thinkers and their utter failure at love.  Each man (and occasional woman) has had some distinguishing characteristic that made them pretty lousy in the emotional range.

The title of the book is funny and is meant to be kind of surprising: these smart folks were terrible at love.  Of course, spending a minute or two thinking about who these people were and what they did, it’s not surprising that they were lousy at love.  These were intellectuals, people who spend most of their time in their own mind.  Of course they couldn’t have a serious relationship.

Nevertheless, these stories are all more or less amusing (Louis Althusser accidentally strangled his wife to death(!) which isn’t amusing per se, but the story of it is, kind of).  Shaffer does a great job at keeping each entry brief but really retaining the salient points of the thinker’s philosophy and a cogent example of his or her lousiness at love.  He also throws in some amusingly snarky comments of his own as he goes along.

I was delighted that the book order was done alphabetically rather than chronologically.  A chronological list would have been a little too samey in terms of each person’s context.  The alphabetical list allows for jumping around from say Plato to Ayn Rand which keeps the stories interesting and fresh.

At the end of each person’s piece, there’s an “In His Own Words” which offers a quote that details his or her written philosophy regarding love.

Dare I say that this is an ideal bathroom book?   It certainly is. And it makes you feel a little better about yourself (if you haven’t for instance, adopted your mistress as your daughter (Sartre)).

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[WATCHED: January 3, 2011] Classic Albums: Rush–2112 • Moving Pictures

Sarah got me this disc for Christmas.  Thank you, Sarah!

This DVD is from the Classic Albums series.  The series is shown on VH1 in the states and BBC (and other places) elsewhere).  There’s been about 35 episodes of the series, with Rush being one of the few bands to have two albums for the show (which is an honor, but which also cuts down on the content for each album by half…boo!).

The show is an hour, and there’s almost an hour of bonus footage on the DVD  (which die-hard fans will enjoy more than the actual show).

The main show itself looks at the creation of these two classic albums.  There are interviews with the band members as well as many people associated with the band (and a couple completely random musicians).  We get their manager Ray Daniels and the producer for these albums Terry Brown (his segments are my favorite because he gets behind the mixing console and plays around with the songs).  We also get Cliff Burnstein (the guy with the crazy hair) who was instrumental in getting Rush publicity. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RUSH-Caress of Steel (1975).

Despite the fact that this album is largely considered a failure, it’s one of my favorite Rush albums.  There’s so much weirdness about it that I can see why it isn’t terribly popular but there’s so much goodness that it makes me a bit bummed that some glorious tracks are overlooked.

It opens with the one track people know from the disc: “Bastille Day,” a rough raw rocker that is heavy and really sets the tone for the first side of the disc. The heavy heavy riff is reminiscent of Black Sabbath and other early metal pioneers.  I also learned that they were touring with Kiss around this time, so maybe that’s where they got some of their heavy riff ideas from. I of course cannot imagine Rush and Kiss touring together.  That must have been a real trip.

The second song, the amusing “I Think I’m Going Bald” is rather obvious, especially the way he delivers the title line, but man the guitar solo just rocks and rocks and rocks.  “Lakeside Park,” a real location outside of Toronto is a gentle tribute to youth.   This quote amuses me no end, and is something I just read about.

The first real highlight for me is “The Necromancer,” a wacked out 12-minute mini epic.  It opens with a spoken word introduction, setting the tale of three travelers fording a river. The first part is pure psychedelia, with screaming guitars going from ear to ear.  The second part is heavy with a slow pounding riff and Geddy’s screamed vocals  It features a long headphone-happy guitar solo.  And just when you think it’s over, there’s some crazy sound effects and, yes more guitar soloing.

The third and final movement sees the return of By-Tor from “By-Tor and the Snow Dog.”  By-Tor is now a good guy and he scares off the Necromancer.  I always enjoyed playing this part on the guitar as the chord progression is really pretty.

Side Two is one song, a full side, their first proper epic. Called “The Fountain of Lamneth” it focuses on a man’s quest for this elusive Fountain.  It has six parts.  The first, “In the Valley” is a pretty, acoustic ballad that expands into a loud rocker.  It introduces our anonymous narrator, and by the end its sets the tone with a loud/quiet explanation of his satisfaction and dissatisfaction with his life.

It’s followed by the insane “Didacts and Narpets” (Teachers and Parents (anagram on Narpets).  It’s just drums and shouting.  Evidently it’s designed to show a young man fighting with teachers and parents, and sure why not.  It’s pretty out there, but it’s only 90 seconds long.  (I’ve always enjoyed it).

The middle sections are really quite mellow.  More of that beautiful classical guitar that Alex does so well.  The songs don’t remain mellow the whole time, with “No One at The Bridge” adding some loud aggressive bits.  But “Panacea” stays quite mellow, with some beautiful guitar harmonics.  The next bit, “Bacchus Plateau” is a really pretty song despite its ultimately downer message, and probably could have been a hit if tit weren’t part of  20 minute song..

The song ends with him finding the fountain.  And yet rather than rejoice, he’s exhausted.  But I’ve always enjoyed the “message” of the song: “Life is just a candle but the dream must give it flame.”  It’s inspirational and depressing at the same time.  It ends with a reprise of the opening acoustic bit. It’s a tidy song and a wonderful first attempt at an epic track.

The only reason I’m surprised this didn’t sell well is that it works so well as a trippy 70s disc, ideal for sitting around with headphones on in one of those round chairs.  I assume its the heaviness that turned away fans of Pink Floyd and the like.  And, well, probably the downer message and really weird title of the disc (what does Caress of Steel mean anyhow?) might have had something to do with it.

[READ: March 10, 2010] Rush, Rock Music and the Middle Class

I read about this book in an article from The Walrus. And I thought to myself, it’s geeky enough to love Rush, but how about reading an academic treatise about Rush? I’m so there.

Well, I haven’t really read a truly academic (as in published by a University Press) book in a while, but it didn’t take too long to get back in the swing of things.  Plus, if I may be so bold, ethnomusicology seems like a lot more fun than philosophy.

As the subtitle implies, this book looks at Rush as music for the middle class.  The only thing I had a hard time with the book was the definition of middle class.  It is specifically aimed at a U.S./Canadian middle class (although the UK does enter into it too), and with all of the definitions thrown around, middle class seems very broad.  The easiest breakdown to see was based on employment and the most prominent type of employment among Rush fans was “professional” (including librarians and IT people).  So, evidently I am middle class.  I only say this because for the most part classes are hidden in the US (they aren’t, of course, but there are many attempts to try to keep them hidden).

This concept of class obviously pervades the entire book.  But before we get too hung up on that, we must not forget that the real focus of the book: the music of Rush. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RUSH, obviously (1974-present).

I’ve loved Rush since seventh grade.  They introduced me to prog rock, Canadian accents, Lakeside Park and Ayn Rand.  They taught me how to play killer bass lines, wild guitar solos and to ponder the existence of washing machines on stage.

[READ: March 5, 2010] “Living on a Lighted Stage”

I don’t often write about non-fiction pieces in magazines, but because this one is about Rush, it seemed necessary to bring it up.

The rather humorous subtitle of the piece sets the tone here. Rush has been together since 1974.  They’ve been taken seriously by musicians and die-hard fans, but aside from that, the average person likes “Tom Sawyer” and that’s about it.

This article notes that Rush is appearing more and more in unexpectedly public places (to both the delight and consternation of fans).  From the Colbert Report (their first time on American TV in 30-some years), to appearances is movies, including appearing as themselves playing live in I Love You, Man.

In addition to all of this there are two new works that are designed to really delve into the history of Rush. One is a new book, an academic treatise that I am sure I never would have heard about if it weren’t for this article, called Rush, Rock Music and the Middle Class: Dreaming in Middletown by Chris McDonald (which I just received and hope to start reading shortly).  And, there’s also a new documentary coming out (possibly in the Spring) tentatively called: Rush A Documentary.

And finally, a new film coming out has Alex Lifeson (as well as about 100 other musicians) in a cameo (he plays a border guard). It’s called Suck, and you can see the trailer (which has Lifeson in it) at Rushisaband.com.

I can’t possibly explain the recent influx of Rush (“Tom Sawyer” even played a major plot point on Chuck not too long ago) except to suggest that maybe all the die-hard Rush fans have grown up and gotten jobs in some kind of prominence.

Some Rush fans bristle at the idea of the guys selling out (yeah, right) or, heaven forbid, having fun.  They’ve always had a silly side (read the liner notes, look at Geddy wearing a Devo pin in the late 80s), and it’s nice to see them showing that side off a bit.  And the thing is, none of this attention is going to make “Cygnus X-1” any more popular than it is.  But if it gets some new people into prog rock, well, where’s the harm in that?

I won’t be first in line when the documentary comes out, but I’ll certainly watch it!

This article is available here.

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