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Sunday, 21 June 2020


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Perhaps this is too political, but one positive outcome of the pandemic (and unfortunately even the recent racial tensions) has, in my view, been an apparent turnabout in national voter opinion polls. That provides me with some hope, and hope is good.

Something positive about lockdown? Sure, no commute!
I've gained about one hour per day, which amounts to a luxury - even if I do like driving, I can do without 2 times 30mn of urban+highway driving, before I even mention the environmental gains.
I'm lucky I can do my job at home in good conditions (kids are grown enough that they don't require constant attention, and my work can be done at home as well as in my office, and as a geologist I got field days now and then to get legally outside).
Lockdown is almost ended here in France, but we go on working at home if we can, and that is a good thing indeed.

Ha, you likely would not enjoy Knausgaard's six book memoir/novel, My Struggle. I found it enjoyable at first when it was mostly artful description, but by book six I just quit because he moved into inartful philosophizing. One of his favorite Norwegian poets, Olav H. Hauge, has a four thousand page, twenty volume diary published, much of it concerning what is going on around his apple orchard. If I remember correctly Thoreau's complete journals fill seven or eight books.

I wish we had better internet editors. Someone to bring me a few must read stories a day, and that's it. It's actually one of the reasons I stick around TOP, the kind of old fashioned attention to detail.

I seldom watch movies but stumbled upon one I liked- "A Man Called Ove" from Sweden. Something like "Nebraska" which I remember you commenting on.
By the way, I read the Karamazov book on your recommendation. Most Russian novels frustrate me to no end with the name changes of the main characters. I will never understand the point of giving someone with a six-letter name a nickname of sixteen letters. This one was not as bad as the rest, so thanks for that.

The whole situation with covid-19 is terrible, but without any hope of travel to workshops or interesting locations, I startet going out taking pictures locally much more often than I used to.

I have been waking along this river more often the last 3 months than the previous 20 years.
Skarselva logging canal

Found lots if interesting things to photograph, so I will continue.

While on the subject of long books...
The manuscript that Ralph Ellison worked on for decades reached over 2000 pages. After Ellison's death, a portion of the work was published in 1999 as "Juneteenth". A more complete version of the manuscript, numbering 1001 pages and which utilized two editors, was published in 2010 with the title "Three Days Before The Shooting".
Apparently, Ellison did so well financially following the publication of his masterwork "Invisible Man" that he didn't have a deadline to be concerned about.
Still, Ellison was one of America's greatest writers.

For the past eleven years, I've written two thriller novels a year, but this year, I told my publisher, I was cutting back to one. Then, the virus. I tried to stick with that, but I got bored, so now I'm writing two books at the same time, a nasty experience, I have to say.

But: I'm also reading a lot, and listening to a lot of music. I didn't much care for John Prime's songs, but I was sad to see him go,, and read his obituaries. One of them quoted Bob Dylan as saying, "Prine's stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. ..." [Thus establishing that Dylan had some interest in Proust.]

As it happened, I'd been listening to some of Dylan's later music, and one song, "Things Have Changed," has a great line, "I'm in love with a woman who don't even appeal to me."

In a further coincidence, amidst the boredom of the pandemic, I decided to read Proust's "In Search of Lost Time" (or "Remembrance of Things Past", take your pick.) Along the way, I determined Proust would have no idea of what you were talking about if you accused him of Existentialism.

The first volume of the work (it's 4,000+ pages long) is called "Swann's Way," and is mostly about the love life of a dude named Swann. That's too complicated to explain in less than 600 pages, but at the end of that section, Swann thinks, "To think I've wasted years of my life, that I've longed to die, that I've experienced my greatest love, for a woman who didn't appeal to me, who wasn't even my type."

So why I'be done during the pandemic is discovered that Dylan stole one of his great lines from Proust.

As Picasso once allegedly said, "Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

Even with shutdown over in my part of the woods, safe distancing and wearing of masks are observed to reduced transmission. That could well be the new norm.

Of late, GP's report a drop in acute respiratory infections presenting in their clinics.

Docs habitually don masks and they hardly catch airborne bugs in their line of work.

If your county has 6 deaths, does not have 41 cases: has hundreds. Of course US is not good at testing so has no idea how many cases there are. Not good at counting deaths either: more convenient for glorious leader for people to die quietly to pretend than to know what real numbers are. Better and easier to lie. One day perhaps real numbers will be known. Too late for many.

Anything positive? Yes indeed. My daughter has been home for months, during a time in her life when I expected to not see her for more than a few days at a time at any point in the year. This is a wonderful silver lining in an otherwise terrible cloud.

Aside from the stress of grocery shopping, I find that I have enjoyed the absence of pressure to "go out" and to "do something." To me, it feels like the 50's did, a slower pace, quieter, time to breathe, less traffic. Back then, PA had its "blue laws," where no business was open on Sundays, except pharmacies, in the afternoon, for about four hours. It feels like Sundays.

I am glad your son and you are well!

Something positive out of this pandemic?

I'm noticing a beginning debate on whether we've learned something about handling a crises, and if we then will be capable of handling our climate crises better.

The other day on Swedish radio Greta Thunberg held a 70 min. talk on climate change and how it already influences us.
Here is an English version:

( It's the best analysis I've yet heard,
and her presentation is exceptional.)

Also she discusses that towards the end and concludes that the hope is with us all, not with the politicians or the industry.

( She illustrates with meetings with politicians and experiences from several weeks of travel across North America, especiallly to places where climate change is very visible and some tipping points are close or even passed.)

I retired awhile back and after retiring I moved to a new city and reveled in not having to do the things I’ve always done but didn’t want to do. No more alarm clocks, no more one hour commutes, no more meetings, and no more juggling a dozen tasks simultaneously knowing full well that all were getting my half-assed attention. I just reveled in the peace and quiet, occasionally walked in nature, and worked on my photography. On many days I was perfectly happy doing absolutely nothing. I was like David Puddy, happily staring at the back of an airplane seat.

After a years’ time my joints ached and my mind was restless. During quarantine I decided to start exercising again. I know from experience that exercising makes me feel better but I didn’t begin (again) until the thought entered my mind that a healthy fit man of my age has a better chance of surviving the virus than a flabby weak one.

As a younger man I had exercised to manage weight and stress but now…all of a sudden…I find myself to be an old, gray man who needs to exercise in order to feel good and maintain test numbers that make my Doctor happy. So it goes.

After two months of quarantine exercise I find myself in that happy zone where I feel good every day from the moment I get out of bed and as a result look forward to the exercise and wouldn’t think of skipping a day or procrastinating due to laziness. Experience has taught me that at some point the enthusiasm will fade and I will need to find another way to maintain but for now…I am in the zone.

It’s surprising how little it takes. I’ve been walking at a fast clip for 2.5 miles in the mornings then stretching and lifting puny dumbbells for 30 minutes as I watch the evening news…and that’s it. Whenever I begin to exercise again I always pretend that I’m ten years older than I am so that I don’t get sore or injured and use that as an excuse to stop. Next up on the agenda is tennis. As an incentive I just bought my first tennis racquet in 40 years. Here’s hoping my knees can handle the stress. Giddy up!

There has been nothing positive about having everything closed. Seems to be coming to an end finally.

I agree about movies. When I think of all the elements that have to be brought together to make a movie, I'm amazed anyone pulls it off. Casting, Script, Cinematography, Acting, Editing, Scoring, seems like a lot of different skills have to come together.

BTW, if you want to see some striking cinematography, watch the Joe Wright (Keira Knightley) version of Pride & Prejudice. (the & is in the title)

Under doctors orders I ended up spending 5 weeks at home. Had to go back to work after burning all my time off but the experience persuaded me that It is time for a change so on July 1 I will be retiring. I have spent 46 years in TV news and that is enough.
I will not miss five hour standoffs in freezing rain but I will miss the wonderful people I have met in this business. One will be going with me into retirement. Jacquie (AKA Mrs Plews) was a pioneer woman tv director in the Omaha market and forty years ago I somehow got her to marry me. She has been out of the game for a while and says the end of deadline pressure is going to blow me away.
Going to take some time off to decompress and restart my darkroom. I am going to try Multigrade Art 300 and compare it to some Seagull I have stashed. I guess that constitutes a positive outcome.

Care to try a book where some 400 pages are reduced to 200?
Tove Jansson,
The True Deceiver.
A favourite passage of mine is a page and a half towards the end of the first chapter. (It starts about dogs, and what they do, and what they hide by digging... and...)

( Also I have become (much) more choosy as the years go by - only a sparse personal language attracts me.)

Recently (on Swedish radio) I heard a discussion on:
On earth we're briefly gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong.
The way they described his language made me rather curious, it might be one of the few books I end up reading.)

I hesitate to write this because I am acutely aware of how unusual my experience is, and of how many people are enduring severe hardships including loss of Jobs, Businesses, Illness and the death of loved ones.

I live in a semi rural area of Bucks county Pennsylvania, more Gentrified now than it was 32 years ago when I built the House. I have 4 adult married children and two Grand Children one 3 and one two weeks old.
3 of the four live within 5 minutes of my House, The Fourth with the new Baby live a half hour away in Princeton NJ.
So the 3 closest were part of a strict shelter in place(s) with us. No contact outside the family. My son is an Executive Chef and was able to have provisions delivered from commercial suppliers. So we Cooked and Ate commune style, opened the Pool early, did lots of gardening and working in the workshop with my grandson. We also made no contact deliveries to my Daughter in Princeton. We are of course worried about keeping us all safe, and are aware that we have been very lucky. We've taken lots of pictures, eaten marvelous meals together, built a sailboat for the pool, and put an emphasis on enjoying the enforced time together. It has reminded us of what is truly important.
We have made it a point to stay busy with productive things--- to 'accomplish' a list of things worth doing inside and outside our homes.
I set up a Gym for all to use, including me
The 3 year old now asks 'What's our Project today Pa?"

We of course want it to be over as so many people have been hurt directly or indirectly by the repercussions of the Pandemic.

So do we, but it has brought my family closer than we have ever been.
My Mom always said, 'Look for the Good' we have, and we found it.
Today we were ALL together for Father's Day.

Happy Father's Day, Mike.

The positive for me is that social distancing is now socially acceptable. It's been my preferred way of living for the last 66 years. Now no one can razz me about it. :-)

As long as you are on a "hotel theme" in your reading you might want to try Hotel Silenceby the Icelandic author Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir. It is one of the finest recently published novels I have read (and it is short!)

Your library system should have a copy.

I feel a bit guilty to admit it, but to me the lockdown has been wonderful. All of a sudden - silence. No glass shards, no trash all over the place. Just me, doggo and a few souls.

No tourists defecating in the park, no drunks chanting in the night, knocking over trash cans and smashing bottles. Nothing.

People were suddenly polite, carefully keeping distance. Wonderful. Life got so much simpler, as everything slowed down and came to a halt.

There were new smells, it felt like the countryside. Amazing. At night, the only noise were birds singing! And when I walked alone through the strteets, billboards annoincing events that were never going to happen.

Yes, I am worried. I have a lung condition, and would likely not survive covid. Same for my elderly parents. I live in a distant city, and if anything happened, there would be no way to see each other ever again.

I started to think of my death, and how I could make it easier to those close to me. Not pretty thoughts.

Life got back to normal in Berlin. Loud, crazy, crowded, obnoxious people bumping into each other. Tourists are defecating in the parks again, and everything is littered with glass shards.

It was an exceptional time. I miss it. Oh, and covid isn't gone - I'm still at risk of dying..

Hi Mike,
Despite the lockdown having a big impact on my business, my wife and I had our third child in the middle (April 14) of this lockdown. I got to spend more time with my family, got a lot crossed of my general to do list and also got in the best shape of my life ahead of turning 40 last week.

My project manager and I converted part of the studio into a work out area and we have been exercising 6 days a week for 10 weeks. In the last 4 weeks that includes a 30 minute ride one way on our bikes. Workouts grow from 1 hour each day to 2 plus the rides.

So while I still have to rebuild my business, and I might have some difficult decisions ahead of me about staffing if things stay slow, it isn't all doom and gloom.

Keep well!

The Covid-19 impacts are not fully known yet, for the masses as well as me personally. But I've been saying for a while now that, except for the potential financial peril, this Covid life has been great!

I have two children, 14 and 15, and feel so fortunate that this mad period has occurred at this time. We are just coming to realize how brief and wonderful this time with them is and it has been a real gift to get to spend so much time with them.

My son has the golf bug and we have been able to play together almost every day. It is stolen time and I appreciate every minute of it.

March through June is by far my busiest and most lucrative period each year as a commercial photographer. That work completely evaporated after an unusually busy spring and a full-day job at Harvard on March 12. I've lost a lot of money that will never be found. But it was in fact nice to enjoy a spring without working like mad.

While I have photographed little or nothing for work since early March, I have been shooting a ton of personal work and have enjoyed that immensely. I feel fortunate to have social media like Instagram to have an outlet for that work.

Hopefully my family and friends will be spared any direct impact from the health side of Covid. Hopefully I will be able to right the ship financially when commerce restarts. If I am fortunate enough to achieve those two things, I will look at Covid as a great, once in a lifetime opportunity. A reset. An opportunity to get off the wheel and simplify a bit.

This whole mess has been anything but a joyful experience for me. A late in life job has me working for an essential retailer that has not only remained open but has been beyond thriving through it all. Yeah they pay us extra but approximately 1/3 of the customers refuse to wear masks or respect social distancing and the rude get vocal when you ask them to back off.

So as one who has first hand direct experience with all this? Here is what I can report. The good people of this world open up and ask others how they are doing. Those who are not so nice? It brings out the jerk factor big time. I was called to the office yesterday to be informed 2 co-workers have tested positive. This is all so much fun.

“One a these days.” I’ve slowed down enough to start working on subjects close to home. I’d noticed them before but had passed them up for more glamorous stuff in the wider world. Funny how inspiring and instructive the new focus is becoming.

There’s maybe a somewhat blinding pressure to be productive at far away, resource consuming locations, and it’s pretty absent when I shoot out back these days.

Positive? Define positive.

It's been like Bill Bonanno's time in prison. Over the last 3+ months I've lost weight, spent lots of productive time writing, developing new training curriculum, thinking and may be, but only maybe, be ready to start another book.

I bought a Nikon FM and 35/50/100 lenses and shot two rolls of film. Learned that film is no longer of interest for me. Anybody want a deal on a 35mm kit?

The book might be titled "Delusional America," a follow up to the book you inspired by your challenge a few years ago, Mike, which I called "Delusional Management" based on my 50 years of working with the nutcases in high tech. That might give you an idea of what "Delusional America" would be about.

Featured will be my notorious family: the biggest slave trader in America in the early 19th century, his widow who was the 7th largest slaveholder and the richest woman in America, the President who undid everything Lincoln hoped to accomplish in the Civil War and the other President that finished off Reconstruction completely.

Your final comment on the FBI agent makes me comment on two stories this AM on NPR.

During the Tulsa riots being discussed everywhere, airplanes dropped incendiary devices on the blacks. Just where did those come from?

And a reporter described visiting the home of a friend and being shown a rifle by the friend's father - who bragged that it was a replica of the rifle that killed Dr. King in Memphis.

You can't make this #$%^&*() up !

Like your correspondent Zyni Moe, permit me to be persnickety about your COVID-19 statistics. If you have 6 deaths among 41 known cases of the disease, your mortality rate is 15% - which is horrendous. Today Johns Hopkins reports the US has 2,279,879 cases: the death rate in your county applied to the whole country would mean that the US would have 341,981 deaths. In fact today we have had 119,969 deaths attributed to the virus. One interpretation is that the treatment of the infection in your county is not very good: or that your population is all very old: or that your statistics are faulty.
None of this would encourage sound sleep at night.


I share your wonderment at the art and craft of filmmaking, particularly when it comes to lighting. During my thirty years as a museum photographer, I have often spent hours manipulating bits of light around a single object that does not move, in front of a camera that does not move. When I see multiple characters in motion, in front of a camera that is also moving, and the lighting does not call itself to my attention, my common reaction is "How do they DO that?!"


Thank you for acknowledging the chaos and stress of making a movie (or television). It's 12-16 hours per day of anxiety about whether you're making the director/client/producer happy balanced against what artistic compromises are you making yourself. I'm a cinematographer and run this gauntlet frequently. Many of us DPs fantasize about shooting fine are photography as a career instead: No one to tell you what to do, no divas to deal with on set (actors or producers). If only there was a paycheck in photography to support a family...

No, there's nothing positive. I started drinking hard, ran out of my savings, looking at the piling bills and am on the very edge.

Before the pandemic, I had always planned to print up photo albums for my three daughters of pictures taken while they were growing up. I came to the sudden realization that no one is going to print these pictures after I go and "going to print someday" needed to be "going to print now."
I was always going to print on the best fiber based paper and use archival albums, etc. Looking at the volume of good negatives (in 35mm, 6x4.5, 6x7, 6x9, 4x5 and 5x7) and setting a reasonable timeframe for completion, I decided that 5x7 RC paper was the way to go. Ilford had just released its MGRC paper in pearl finish which I find to do a good job with traditional B&W films and TMax and Delta films, as well. I make 3 decent prints, with minimal dodging and burning and no contrast adjustment, from each negative and move on. Since each kid will get a couple of hundred prints this Christmas to do with as they will, I had to adapt the Patton Principle - A good job today is better than a perfect job tomorrow.
I decided on 5x7 for prints since anything larger usually get torn or folded over time. RC paper is really good at this point and probably fairly archival. In retrospect, I wish I had not switched film formats and film types so often and, given the 5x7 prints, I should have used a higher ISO film.
I pleased with the throughput and quality so far and the family isn't going to wonder if I could have gotten a little more shadow detail from a given negative.

I have been unemployed since early April, so I have had a lot of free time to revisit and try to organize my photos. As an amateur I tend to take a lot of photos during trips but not many in between, and I had not been good about processing and organizing them.

So I have been working on that and learning new tricks in Lightroom and Photoshop. I've also been sharing a photo-a-day with my brother and his family as a way to keep me motivated and to stay in touch.

Last week I started organizing my old negatives by putting them in PrintFile pages (that had been sitting in a drawer for years/decades) and creating contact sheets using a light box (recovered from the depths of a closet) and my digital camera. After a few adjustments in Lightroom they are ready to print and store in a three-ring binder with the PrintFile sheets of negatives/slides. This makes it easy to see what I have. I'm almost done but my printer has run out of ink a few times so I've had to pause to restock.

The next step will be scanning some of the better long-lost negatives/slides using an old Nikon CoolScan.

My biggest frustration with film was the inability to make prints that lived up to their potential. The drugstore or even photo store 4x6 prints were almost always unsatisfying, and I knew they could be improved with a few basic edits like dodging and burning. Once digital became somewhat affordable I abandoned film pretty quickly because of this. I bought the scanner in the hopes of having the best of both worlds but never found the time or desire to make much use of it.

It's been fun dusting off some old equipment and skills and finding long lost photos. I still have a long way to go but hopefully I come out the other side with something useful to show for my time out of work.

It's really been good, in my individual life and my wife's.

I passed the 20 year mark of retirement in February. So in most ways life at home is familiar. OTOH, we were traveling much of last spring, and 1/4 of all of last year.

Good: We've watched the garden grow and change every day, which is quite wonderful.

Not bad: Maybe neutral? No travel, not even local, so photography has been limited to house and garden and to finishing up part of the backlog of photos from prior trips as yet unfinished.

Maybe bad, if it goes on too long: Travel breaks up life, brings new perspectives, both literal and internal. I'm OK with none now, even enjoying it, but look forward to more in the, I hope, not too distant future.

The social aspects are different, in some ways better, some worse. We missed visiting with Carol's family in Brooklyn in person in April and will miss the other sister near Boston this fall. But we've been visiting with all three families together on Zoom fairly regularly.

Between Zoom and Facetime, we have kept up many usual connections. Our dream group meetings on Zoom have been great. Most of Carol's usual social activities have moved to Zoom, including her Pilates lessons.

We're actually able to "attend" more workshops via Zoom than we manage in person. The personal aspect is missing, but we can do more.

My social engagement with my photo friends on the Oly List are largely unchanged. Perhaps even more active as some are stuck at home.

We've actually had more contact with some friends than usual. We do miss the physical contact, but we have each other, in our little bubble. I do feel sad for our friends who are single. Some clearly are suffering from lack of physical contact.

About the only deadlines I usually have are self imposed or related to travel. The complete lack of external deadlines is good-bad. I enjoy it in some ways, but feel like the days just flow by, undifferentiated, which leaves me a bit asea occasionally.

How is it possible hat this is the Summer Soltice already? Wasn't it March just yesterday? But that's at least as much related to age as to sheltering in place.

This disconnection from usual calendar time may be slowing me down on a couple of projects. Not sure it matters, though.

Others we know have expressed a similar feeling of losing location in time.

It's also been a time of assessment and re-imagining who we are, and what our lives are about. We know even more than before how incredibly lucky and blessed our lives are.

So, put me in the big Plus column. \;~)>

(Oh, yeah. The issuer of B&H's credit card finally decided I'm not dead, which I already knew and appreciate, and I now have a Payboo card. ++)

Speaking of Bob Dylan and intellectual property theft, I was ready to sling stones at the photo on his new album cover. Sure looked like a colorized Robert Frank to me. But it ain’t—and there is a great story of the 1964 photo (by Ian Berry) that was used in Rolling Stone. Fully credited, paid, colorized with permission. Glad I kept my hot angry accusations to myself!i

For us, Lockdown (in the UK) has been...OK. We tend to live quietly anyway, we are quite a long way from family (indeed, one daughter lives in the US) and therefore we only see them on planned occasions. We don’t usually go out much. So no real change there. I’m retired and my pensions have kept rolling in, and my wife (who is not retired) has been able to work from home. Indeed, she always did On some days - on the other days she would be on-site at a customer’s - and during lockdown her employer has found ways by which their staff can do the job without going on-site. So for us there has no financial impact at all. We have been well, as indeed have all our family. So Covid-19 has not been close to us (and I understand that I am lucky in being able to say this).

The big impact has been that we have had to cancel planned trips. We were going to the US (Chicago & Mississippi) for a big wedding celebration for our daughter in April, but that didn’t happen. Then this week we should have been on holiday in the Thames valley - we were planning on exploring the old small towns in that area and enjoying the restaurants and pubs. And there have been all the more local trips that we haven’t been able to do - to galleries and museums. But even those cancellations have worked out OK - unlike many other people we have been able to recover the money we laid out for our trips - so here’s a big shout out to American Airlines, who not only refunded the cost of the transatlantic flights that they cancelled, but also the internal US flights that weren’t cancelled but which we couldn’t take because were couldn’t get to the US.

Photographically-speaking, I am now more familiar with my garden than ever before. They’re not the pictures I would have chosen to take, but I have enjoyed doing so, and in particular becoming familiar with handling the tripod and trying out some techniques such as focus-stacking.

So it’s been an odd time; almost enjoyable. To some extent I almost feel bad about that.....

Unfortunately, we’ve ihad lness and a death in our family both directly and indirectly related to COVID 19, so it’s been a sad dark time. On a positive note, my wife and I have been going on long walks/hikes everyday and in the process have discovered parks, nature preserves, and trails within a 30 minute radius of us that we didn’t know existed despite having lived here with rare exception since 1970. We are truly blessed with natural beauty around here. In addition, I have been going on long drives almost every day through the rural areas surrounding us with a camera in the car. This area was settled in the 1830’s mainly by Germans and Irish folks and they built beautiful country churches between their fields, each with a cemetery that reads like a history book of the times. I’ve shot photos in these places—no social distancing necessary! You can read the patterns of their lives in the patterns of their deaths.

In regard to your comments about movies and books—it is my belief that almost everything I read now from books to articles as well as movies would all benefit from collaboration with a skilled editor. They are all way too long—books by 100 pages or more, movies by an hour. Even articles in magazines like The Atlantic or the New Yorker are too long. A 30 page article for an idea that could be presented very well in 10. What have they done with all the editors in the world? Shipped them to the Gulag? I think they got rid of them to save money and because best selling authors/directors demand “final cut” on their creations. Problem is it’s very hard to cut your own baby—too close to it. A great example of this is in the book I am now reading “ The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood” by Sam Wasson which is the story of the creation of the movie Chinatown and the revolution occurring in Hollywood at the time. Robert Towne won an Oscar for that script, but it would never have seen the light of a projector, if Roman Polanski hadn’t ruthlessly edited to give it a narrative arc. Great book by the way.

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