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Tue, July 3rd, 2007   #1
lazyfatbum
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DJ and I were bullshitting about hidden meanings and how they were used in cartoons like Dexter's Lab and I wanted his opinion on a story dynamic i'm working on and he says Uncle Jesse wants me to post it and get everyone's opinions, so ta-da!

Begin copy past'd

Me: Do you like stories with hidden meanings? Like Kubrick or ... cellphone packages?

---

DJ: Hidden meanings... like when they have "making of" documentaries? Or, like magic?

Anyway, I don't know much about the peoples like one of them Kubricks, but I do enjoy hidden meanings every now and then. I also enjoy stories that lack allegory completely. Sometimes I get the inspiration for this or that, and sometimes that monster or this thing might be inspired by something but I don't mind not really knowing it. Then there's stuff like Dexter's lab. That just gets funnier with time.

---

Me: Dex was just awesome, I was so pissed when it got canceled. It was the first modern cartoon I saw where I thought "Wow this is good". The hidden stuff about family, upbringing even sexuality and incest was written so well that people fell in to it and, the older the viewer, the more they understood. Just plain genius. Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends is also good, you should give it a shot if you haven't already. There's alot of play around the separation of childhood and adulthood with the teenage girl being the link who suffers the slings and arrows of responsibility (teaching the younger characters who adapt and actively watch her struggles) while the main character (Max) teaches her how to still enjoy childhood. The whole spin on the series seems to be targeted at teens with a statement of 'dont try to grow up too fast'. It's pretty well done, almost every episode deals with a younger character in a delima with an older character offering guidance - the younger character then gets different opinions from other 'older' characters from a visceral old rabbit to manly-men and so on until the younger character who has the issue can gain the understanding to overcome it.

I have found two distinct levels of serious story telling of which all categories can be placed within. There are directors and writers who crutch on the ideal of retelling an event. Let's take the story of Moses from the old testament except Moses is an ant, Egypt is a backyard, God is the neighbors cat, etc. Now you can tell this engrossing multifaceted arc and it 'feels' new to the viewer but has the same morals as what the bible story teaches (but how many people besides me do you know that actually read bibles and not just for certain passages?) so the audience is none the wiser.

I call that method 'passive' subtextual story telling. The hidden meaning is just a backdrop to add a level of meat to the story. This is what most writers/directors use. It's most simple form is where the writer takes an event like a car crash or personal experience and retells it to convey the same emotion and learned lesson. A writer who faced depression, attempted suicide and all that fun stuff will find a way to share it in a easily grasped generality. Batman would fit here with the obvious overtones of depression, isolation, etc. If you ever saw (or read) Stuart Little you would find it's actually a complicated story about a child dealing with adoption - the writer (and later the director of the movie) were both adopted and wanted to share that emotional construct.

The flipside is 'active' subtextual story telling - both are passive in nature but while passive story telling just offers a substructure to build on the active story takes it a huge step in a different direction. This is where the writer is going to take an event in history (birth of America) or a thought process that's generally well known (religion) and study it to a degree that actually allows them to philosophize and educate others but in a hidden way so as to not come across as a soap box preacher and allow the viewer to gain their own insight and opinion from it. This Kubrickian process is the same as what was done with things such as the multiple versions of the bible and even the structures of governments within world powers (balancing the masses).

But it's most common form is ads and commercials where groups of designers come up with a campaign based off the wants and needs of basic human elements and covertly establish a level of social acceptance in order to sell a product (even lying to do so) - but they, like Kubrick, will first sell you its idea and concept - causing the viewer to gain his or her own opinion on whether they want it or not which isn't entirely your own since what you know about it was dictated by its source which raises our inability to trust our own judgment and rely on the social acceptance aspect and when its done really well you can have an entire nation or even the world buying a drink that actually tastes bad or a 600 dollar MP3 player.

The story teller doesn't want to lie to you so instead of trying to get you interested in some meaningless product there's a deep significance and morality such as human life, social climate and understanding, dynamics of faith Vs. reality and whats applied to life or gaining a fully encompassing understanding of the ideals of a historical event that would normally take volumes upon chapters and hours of education in a relatively short period of time and in a way that you weren't conscious to because just like the ad designers who used tried and true psychology with images and sound to attack your subconscious the master story teller applied the same rules - suddenly seeing a movie that has nothing to do with God or the ideal of God has actually given you a significant understanding of the ideal of God.

what do you think?
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Fri, July 6th, 2007   #2
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The absolute silence in this thread has taught me two things.

1.) No one here cares about story telling methods.

2.) DJ thought rong. Very, very rong.
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Fri, July 6th, 2007   #3
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There's a lot of stuff in your thread and no one has any idea how to respond to it.
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Fri, July 6th, 2007   #4
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Me: Dex was just awesome, I was so pissed when it got canceled. It was the first modern cartoon I saw where I thought "Wow this is good". The hidden stuff about family, upbringing even sexuality and incest was written so well that people fell in to it and, the older the viewer, the more they understood. Just plain genius.

I'm not sure how much of what we caught is the same, but I never got any impressions of incest and sexuality. Which episodes have moments that imply this? What's shown?

I agree with some of what you've written here. To get one thing straight, though, does passive subtextual storytelling includes both biblical themes and personal experiences, yes? When I first read this, I was confused, and thought you were implying that all stories in this category had biblical roots.

I think what you're saying is insightful and applies to many stories, but insisting that all stories can be categorized into two subgroups is a pitfall. How do you categorize something that's completely irrelevant? Where do the stories (as random and assanine as they are) of something like Aqua Teen Hunger Force fit into all this?
Quote:
But it's most common form is ads and commercials where groups of designers come up with a campaign based off the wants and needs of basic human elements and covertly establish a level of social acceptance in order to sell a product (even lying to do so) - but they, like Kubrick, will first sell you its idea and concept - causing the viewer to gain his or her own opinion on whether they want it or not which isn't entirely your own since what you know about it was dictated by its source which raises our inability to trust our own judgment and rely on the social acceptance aspect and when its done really well you can have an entire nation or even the world buying a drink that actually tastes bad or a 600 dollar MP3 player.

How does this fit in with "event in history (birth of America) or a thought process that's generally well known (religion) and study it to a degree that actually allows them to philosophize and educate others but in a hidden way so as to not come across as a soap box preacher and allow the viewer to gain their own insight and opinion from it"?
Quote:
The story teller doesn't want to lie to you so instead of trying to get you interested in some meaningless product there's a deep significance and morality such as human life, social climate and understanding, dynamics of faith Vs. reality and whats applied to life or gaining a fully encompassing understanding of the ideals of a historical event that would normally take volumes upon chapters and hours of education in a relatively short period of time and in a way that you weren't conscious to because just like the ad designers who used tried and true psychology with images and sound to attack your subconscious the master story teller applied the same rules - suddenly seeing a movie that has nothing to do with God or the ideal of God has actually given you a significant understanding of the ideal of God.

Are we watching the same ads? I just don't see how this can be the case. And there must be some degree of customer satisfaction with iPods and drinks. We're not so blind as to continue to do something we know is unpleasant and unnecessary because it's socially acceptable.
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Sat, July 7th, 2007   #5
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Originally Posted by Sacred Jellybean
I'm not sure how much of what we caught is the same, but I never got any impressions of incest and sexuality. Which episodes have moments that imply this? What's shown?

ahem. "Helloooooooo! Dear brother! What have you got there!? (Nothing... nothing! You only see AIR!) Dont be silly - I love you very much! *touch* *breaks* ....I guess I shouldn't touch." Not to mention episodes where Mandark would be in love with Dee-Dee and Dexter would try to understand and see Dee-Dee as an attractive person (which would disgust him), several episodes have Dexter using Dee-Dee in his 'experiments' and then feeling bad afterwards or realizing the consequences of it (then have to rescue her and apologize), learning that its family and not just some girl that lives with you. These are all principals taught to siblings especially in therapy when the siblings start to experiment on each other sexually.
Quote:
I agree with some of what you've written here. To get one thing straight, though, does passive subtextual storytelling includes both biblical themes and personal experiences, yes? When I first read this, I was confused, and thought you were implying that all stories in this category had biblical roots.

Yes, but its not limited to the bible or personal experiences, it can be a retelling of any particular instance even a different story (like star wars using 7 samurai, etc). I was saying that using bible stories is usually where story tellers go first to base the passive hidden meaning because, well... can you name any other source that's been around that long or that popular?
Quote:
I think what you're saying is insightful and applies to many stories, but insisting that all stories can be categorized into two subgroups is a pitfall. How do you categorize something that's completely irrelevant? Where do the stories (as random and assanine as they are) of something like Aqua Teen Hunger Force fit into all this?

I was saying two categories of serious story telling, not grouping everything together in those categories. There are movies/books etc released all the time that dont fit in to those two categories at all but more often than not are not serious. On the other hand, cheap romance novels will still contain hidden meanings for the reader (usually a woman) where the main character (also a woman) has to deal with day to day life that becomes directly translated to real-life -> alot of moms find it hard to feel attractive or sexy, the main character in the story cant afford makeup and lives by the docks with her father, always a mess and smells like fish... but lo and behold the handsom male from 'over seas' who has money and power causes her to steal dad's money and buy make up and nice dresses so the over seas hunk will like her ets tells her she's the most beautiful girl he's ever seen, she lies and says she's an aristocrat and then suddenly he and the young strapping dock boy who's loved her for years as she is (secretly) get in an argument over her and she always wanted love but now its too much for her, etc. Same thing with soap operas. Its cheap story telling but its based on what women want now and whatever they have to deal with getting in the way. Even Aqua Teen had a few episodes of hidden meaning on a simple scale for purposes of humor. South Park is generally the best at that though.


Quote:
How does this fit in with "event in history (birth of America) or a thought process that's generally well known (religion) and study it to a degree that actually allows them to philosophize and educate others but in a hidden way so as to not come across as a soap box preacher and allow the viewer to gain their own insight and opinion from it"?

It most likely does not, most writers dont take things to levels a serious story teller would and they're hidden meanings are subconscious at best - characters fighting mom and dad avatars, characters that have been in prison or murdered people years ago but really have 'good hearts' and here's the story of how they got that good heart, etc. These are writers telling personal experiences in to the characters and story. You can tell the difference between the hidden meanings on purpose and the ones done out of subconscious need of the writer because the latter is disjointed and doesnt sell its context very well - its not a fluid story hidden beneath the main story and just flashes up now and again. While the serious story has two (or more) distinct stories happening at the same time, one being hidden.
Quote:
Are we watching the same ads? I just don't see how this can be the case. And there must be some degree of customer satisfaction with iPods and drinks. We're not so blind as to continue to do something we know is unpleasant and unnecessary because it's socially acceptable.

Mountain Dew tastes like neon horse urine and people buy it in droves because its socially accepted as a popular high caffeine drink (losing ground now to energy drinks), hey we're gonna be up all night on this thing pick up some snacks and mountain dew, but in every taste test around the country when people drank Mountain dew without being told what it was it was nearly disgusting to them. No one needs an mp3 player but apple will tell you that your life without one is practically boring, in fact an ipod can ADD to the quality of your life and effectively make your life better. Why? Well lets watch these socially acceptable people who've been professionally trained to dance (in silhouette). Look at how much fun they're having, how much better life is, because they're featureless you can just, right now, imagine yourself being that person, having that fun, do it now. Viewer will ask themselves "well I do d/l music.... but do I really want an mp3 player?" and whoosh, their fate is sealed. When they arrive in the store and get the 30 dollar 512 MB player within 6 months they'll be deciding on if they want the white or the cherry red ipod because Chris (classic white with the Pantera skin) and Jane (hot pink) and Terrance (dark purple) in accounting have them and god dammit they have fun with life but can i afford one? i'll save up! *insert feeling of being in a club* Smoking tastes horrible, it makes you feel dirty physically, it makes your breath nasty and yet everyone who started did so to be accepted socially - everyone hates anyone who spends too much time watching TV and yet we all find ourselves glued to it for whatever show it is that we like (which was built by demographics and particular audience so it was just a matter of time before you started liking the show) and so on and so on. If it has some bearing on allowing you to be a part of society in a particular category that generates a sense of ID you will do it, even if its stupid, uncomfortable, tastes bad, or is immorally expensive. You cant escape its grip. Of course there's a trust factor; Microsoft tells you the XBox 360 is the future of video games and just look at how those non-geek neat ppl Jump In to the fun and hey, only cool people watch TRL and look, they're playing 360 so damn, I should think about getting one. *it breaks, they all break, its even on the news that all of them are breaking, your father who never knows anything about video games and cant tell a Mario from a Sonic tells YOU 'hey that new xbox breaks alot' and now the little club you joined of 360 owners, friends at school/work the neat ppl on MTV all feel jipped and stupod and whoosh, sales are down.

But the reasoning behind commercials and ads being a big window in to showcasing hidden meanings and actively (subconsciously) selling you the idea or concept is that they're designed the same way as serious films and books. A movie like 2001 wants to teach you the principals of understanding God and reality but never mentions God, keeps it as a secret story behind its curtains for the viewer to uncover and possibly be affected by it subconsciously, its been designed to cause that. Well made commercials spend millions doing the same thing - in a 60 second spot you just see some action taking place and then hey try Mentos. But subconsciously the words used in the song "Nothing gets to you, staying fresh staying cool" oh and hey he has friends, he has fun, he's even looked up to. You may even find yourself humming or whistling the song while you're out when you want to stay cool or when you feel like nothing can get to you or when things are getting to you and you need to keep your cool (like going to a job interview). your mind has coupled the images and sounds with the emotion and hopefully (for the company) you've coupled that emotion to the product so you associate the emotion with eating the mints. heavy story telling relies on the same principals. What are you doing, Dave? You've always been the caretaker. Me so horny, etc these are words, images and etc that specifically try to associate themselves with particular emotions and cause a subconscious (and then conscious) response.

I sorry for being confusing its kinda complicated.
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Sat, July 7th, 2007   #6
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Hey, lazy, you should hear what I've got going in my scifi story these days. It's some pretty crazy stuff.
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Sat, July 7th, 2007   #7
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It's also possible you may have looked into that a bit too much. That's an... interesting interpretation, but I'm not so sure the guy actually intended that it was seen that way. I certainly didn't get that impression. I suppose one way would be to ask him, or barring that, check out interviews and such on those DVD collections.

http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/2007/07/hey-libertas.html

Here's something to think about. There are many times someone will try to get a philosophical or political message out of something, and sometimes it's clear that a message was intended (MASH anyone?). Sometimes though, the creator just wanted to make a story about city smashing robots. Sometimes the meaning someone sees is merely projection.

I would also argue that sometimes a story can be direct and straitforward (Lord of the Rings, which while many interpret it as strong allegory, the writer strongly denied it was anything more than what it was at face value, a story of magic and legend, and he denied allegory to his dying breath) and still be very good. Not everything has to be symbolic. That said, sometimes heavy symbolism makes a great story too. Silent Hill 2 for example.

A more direct example of an intended hidden meaning would be like in that episode of Powerpuff Girls where they make that new friend and explain to her that they were created in a lab accident and she tells them "oh yeah, my parents tell me I was an accident too". There's something that doesn't really take much invention to see a meaning there, and if that was unintentional, I'd be rather surprised (because then the joke wouldn't make sense).

Finally, it's not always how the creator actually intends the thing to be interpretted. I often get a different meaning from stuff than the creator wanted, and that's fine. Take from it what you will. What it DOES say is art is a very bad way to try to initiate communication with foreign persons, simply because it's so open to interpretation and easy to perhaps misunderstand. There's very few set rules, so you are as likely to offend as enlighten, or at the very least confuse the heck out of someone. When the walls fell... Darmok and Jallad at Tanagra. His arms wide! The sails unfurled.
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Sat, July 7th, 2007   #8
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The story of Pinocchio is actually an allegory for the life cycle of child to adult.

Pinocchio starts out as nothing more than a puppet on strings controlled by the man who created him. While sticking to what's obvious, Geppetto, Pinoccio's father, controls him and seeks to guides his actions as a child. The same goes for every parent, they want to protect their child and not let any harm come to them and so there is often a large amount of control.

However, as Pinocchio "ages" he seeks out more individualism, i.e. he becomes a teenager, and "cuts his strings", with the help of some fairie dust of course. Unfortunately, he has little interest in school and quickly falls in with the wrong crowd, who constantly use peer pressure to get him into trouble.

This trouble, eventually leads him to wandering entertainer who takes advantage of Pinocchio and puts his talents on display. This can be allegory for a lot of different things, though nothing specific comes to mind.

Pinocchio eventually falls in with a group of other rebellious children who take delight in tearing things up and indeed are encouraged to do so. However, there actions turn them into donkeys that are carted off and put into slave labor. The best allegory for this is drug abuse. It's fun at first, but as things progress you become addicted and eventually resort to crime to feed your habit. The children-turned-donkeys work for the rest of their lives to pay for the high they obtained from destruction.

What brings Pinocchio back is word of his Geppetto being swallowed by the whale. In his first act of true individualism, he goes after the whale and is swallowed by it in order to help his father.

In helping his father escape the whale, he is no longer a puppet, whether with strings or without, and has become a true individual capable of making his own decisions without relying on others to tell him what to do. In other words, he has stopped being a child and has become an adult.
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Sun, July 8th, 2007   #9
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Originally Posted by Dark Jaguar
It's also possible you may have looked into that a bit too much. That's an... interesting interpretation, but I'm not so sure the guy actually intended that it was seen that way. I certainly didn't get that impression. I suppose one way would be to ask him, or barring that, check out interviews and such on those DVD collections.

Here's something to think about. There are many times someone will try to get a philosophical or political message out of something, and sometimes it's clear that a message was intended (MASH anyone?). Sometimes though, the creator just wanted to make a story about city smashing robots. Sometimes the meaning someone sees is merely projection.

I'll check out the commentary! Its possible to be totally off but that's the gamble. If you seek out the hidden contexts of the story you may fall short of reaching for what the writer was shooting for while piecing it together. That's why I use this method:

-Notice of first hidden context
-What scenes back it up as the hidden context?
-Can the hidden context be proven in a logical order?
-Does the fluidity of it allow you to use the scene in a logical order to create the full hidden story?

I stayed up late one night with minka and we watched Alien, she hates horror movies with too much gore but she likes Alien/Aliens (didn't care for Alien3 that much but neither do I, my friend butte came up with this awesome idea where Alien 3 was an iconic dream that Rip had while in cryosleep, i'll see if he'll type it up and lemme post it) and I sought to completely map the hidden story and created the above rule. The one thing I keep trying to figure out is the balance of giving it away and keeping it secret, should there be a key under the mat so to speak that clues you in to the hidden meanings? Or should it be kept as far from the audience as possible? Finding that balance is hard, sometimes it's stupidly obvious in movies but people dont get it all. I mean in Alien its a no brainer that the aliens look like dicks but other than "hey lmao they look like dicks!" they dont go any further to see the story of a woman facing her sexuality or dealing with a male oriented world..... and I just ranted for no raisin! Woopy ;D


Quote:
I would also argue that sometimes a story can be direct and straitforward (Lord of the Rings, which while many interpret it as strong allegory, the writer strongly denied it was anything more than what it was at face value, a story of magic and legend, and he denied allegory to his dying breath) and still be very good. Not everything has to be symbolic. That said, sometimes heavy symbolism makes a great story too. Silent Hill 2 for example.

I agree completely, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. But Tolkein definitely dipped in to passive story telling - I mean srsly, the arab and celtic influences, the WW2 references, he used alot of real life to structure the Rings world. Whether it has any hidden story would be up for debate (just thinking outloud: There could be a message there about government, single ruling powers/governments of the people, etc, i'd have to look in to it more) but he obviously crutched on retelling real-life events and peoples just as much as Lucas does, but that brings up a weird factor I think you were getting at below that you can offend people - Jar Jar being the 1920's negro slave taken right out of Gone with the Wind and Watto the Big Greedy Jew Reference but then again dealing with a writer director who blatantly copies other films might have done exactly that with those characters and then the flip side is that the *recognition* of the stereotypical imagery is misplaced and blown out of proportion but seeing a big-lipped brown skinned character that lives on a jungle planet screaming "MEESA PEOPLE GONNA DIE!?" you have to wonder.
Quote:
A more direct example of an intended hidden meaning would be like in that episode of Powerpuff Girls where they make that new friend and explain to her that they were created in a lab accident and she tells them "oh yeah, my parents tell me I was an accident too". There's something that doesn't really take much invention to see a meaning there, and if that was unintentional, I'd be rather surprised (because then the joke wouldn't make sense).

haha I love that episode if its the one you're talking about, sometimes when I do something stupid I throw my hands up and yell "BUNNY" in a retarded voice (no one gets it). But yup. The trick is that when dealing with comedy you have to take the beats in to consideration. It could have just been a joke because of the timing involved but I agree that the joke wouldn't make sense *logically* if it wasn't referring to itself (although that happens in comedy all the time where breaking logical rule just adds to the humor *Spock explodes*) but if we use this:

-Notice of first hidden context
*joke involving word play on 'accident' referring to an unplanned pregnancy

-What scenes/aspects back it up as the hidden context?
*single parent home?

-Can the hidden context be proven in a logical order?
*?
-Does the fluidity of it allow you to use the scene in a logical order to create the full hidden story?
*?

Is the episode on youtube anywhere? or in pieces. If we break it down we might be able to prove an entire hidden story (seeing as its the same director as Foster's/Dex it should piece together nicely)
Quote:
Finally, it's not always how the creator actually intends the thing to be interpretted. I often get a different meaning from stuff than the creator wanted, and that's fine. Take from it what you will. What it DOES say is art is a very bad way to try to initiate communication with foreign persons, simply because it's so open to interpretation and easy to perhaps misunderstand. There's very few set rules, so you are as likely to offend as enlighten, or at the very least confuse the heck out of someone. When the walls fell... Darmok and Jallad at Tanagra. His arms wide! The sails unfurled.


Nice quote. But I think i'm misreading something...


...are you foreign? I've had this.....


...odd feeling.... that you might be somewhat..........


oriental......?


Or did you just mean foreign in that people outside the circle of the creation of the art (or otherwise untrained) will find the interpretation difficult? This is extremely broad imo but at its most simple form our own space program has a set rule book on finding intelligent life and how to initiate communication using shapes and colors similar to how studies communicate with higher animals like dolphins, gray parrots, apes and blonds. woah, dejavu!

grumble grumble/ There's a write up on Pinnochio about its contexts that blew me away, i'll try to find it I think you'll dig it.

I remember being in film school and having this rant about how the evil dude turned them to donkeys to represent the hard labors in life, being faced with go-nowhere jobs and the like and one of the people in the discussion said "I think it was just saying if you act like an ass you turn in to an ass." Cue red bull out of nose.
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Sun, July 8th, 2007   #10
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"I think it was just saying if you act like an ass you turn in to an ass."

A very literal person, I see.
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