Posts Tagged ‘David Quammen’

Kij Johnson, “At The Mouth Of The River Of Bees” (2012) & David Quammen, “Natural Acts: A Sidelong View Of Science And Nature” (1985, 2008)

April 5, 2016

At the mouth fo the river of bees

Many of the stories in this collection feature an imaginary intersection between humanity and the natural – an unknowable, unmovable force that individuals and whole societies build their identities around. Take for example, the longest (and probably best) of Johnson’s stories, “The Man Who Bridged The Mist”, which uses a fantastical and mostly unexplained concept (the titular mist, which isn’t even really mist) to demonstrate the extent of that intersection, as well as the tenacity of human progress – a public works project with both historical and individual significance. The people at the cusp of the mist have formed economies and individual identities based on their relationship with the mist (most importantly with the Ferry family, the names being the most explicit example of how important occupation and trade is in that society, an idea that reminds me of other books), and the building of the bridge will inevitably impact them both positively and negatively. Even more so, when one’s idea of death (as Rasali’s is, informed by whole generations of her family) is determined by seemingly insurmountable cosmic forces, the realization that it can and will eventually be “tamed” is a cultural shock – the full extent of which is only revealed gradually to the titular man, Kit. Most of the story devotes itself to more “mundane” tension of hiring and building, and the dangers that come not from poisonous foam or massive unseen marine monsters, but workplace accidents – and in those moments we see not just the contrast between the human ingenuity we know and the strange world that is established (and it is tense when they come together – the use of dynamite possibly attracting the attention of the aforementioned monsters, for example, even if it is only for a moment), but also how those accidental deaths are perceived by Kit (who assumes a high level of responsibility as the designer) and the locals like Rasali. There is a level of knowledge that comes with living so close to an untouched (or untouchable) natural world, but it’s also shown how an outsider can learn to appreciate it as well.

Characters defining themselves through a fantasy projection of nature is present in other stories as well, such as the title one – showing another unexplainable natural phenomenon, but one that brings willing individuals a “natural” way to handle grief (taking back its own, animal returning to animal, providing true comfort and peace.)The idea of this mysterious animal power being a gift is also present in “26 Monkeys, Also The Abyss” – it seems that allowing these representatives of the natural world a level of autonomy and privacy proves emotionally beneficial. More like “Mist” specifically, “The Horse Raiders” efficiently establishes a fictional society that seems to be undergoing radical changes (this time instigated not by human development, but by purely unguided changes in the environment), which in this case instigates violence between different groups – but, as with the other story, there remains possibilities for the future. Understanding and working within these dynamic ecosystems is important in those stories, much as they are in the smaller-scale ones.

The intersection plays out a bit differently in “Fox Magic”, “The Cat Who Walked A Thousand Miles”, and “The Evolution of Trickster Stories….” – the first two being told from the animal’s perspective (both are based in Japanese folklore as well), while the last one includes both human and animal sides of the story. These present whole animal mythologies and societies developed alongside humans, crossing paths out of necessity – “The Cat” requiring human assistance as it pursued its own goals, the “Fox” using its illusions to blur those lines out of love, and the dogs finding themselves outcasts once they learn to think and communicate as we do. While many of the other stories show a notionally optimistic outlook of how we and the rest of the animal kingdom can coexist, only “The Cat” seems to unambiguously fall along those lines – and likely only because its protagonist sees humans as just a part of its world. “Fox Magic” ends in tragedy, as even in love such subterfuge can only be temporary, and “Evolution of Trickster Stories” shows that the relationship between humans and animals they seem to care about can be strained when the terms of that relationship changes, revealing that there have always been grievances we refuse to acknowledge. What seems to be suggested in these is that while humans and other creatures can coexist, it needs to be based on (once again) understanding, and the coercions at heart of existing cohabitation are our primary obstacle.


Interestingly, many of the columns reprinted in Natural Acts read like precursors to Quammen’s books – some of them are directly referenced (“The Megatransect” is referenced in Spillover, for example, and “The Post-Communist Wolf” covers some of the same ground as Monster of God in a reverse way, too, “Planet of Weeds” is a sort of follow-up to the previously published Song of the Dodo), but in terms of general subject and style they show Quammen’s talents and areas of interest. It’s not simply informing us of some quirky facts about animals or questioning humanity’s part in the natural cycle – Quammen loves context and loves specific, and the longer the columns run, the more he can indulge in both. The first batch of columns are able to quickly establish a unique angle – can a giant octopus be stressed out? How does a butterfly evolve to drink blood? How exactly does hypothermia work? – and in their (relatively) short word count find a sympathetic angle, one that balances the fascinating scientific and human sides of every story. As a regular columnist is wont to do, these stories can involve a personal angle as well – “Jeremy Bentham, the Pietà, and the Previous Few Graying” does this, as one example – but in most cases they focus on others directly involved in the subject in as much detail as the science itself.

There’s an equal fascination with the people who involve themselves in natural studies or who choose to integrate themselves into the wilderness in some way, or even the people on the margins. The articles demonstrate a knack for sketching out the personalities of the people involved – be they interview subjects, travel companions, or historical figures – the people involved are worthy of detail, seemingly independent of their impact on the topic at hand, just so we can get the clearest picture of the scope of each story, the micro and the macro. This goes for setting as well – “Ying and Yang in the Tularosa Basin” finds time not just for the curiousness of the White Sands, but also a local motorcade, the nearby site of the A-bomb tests during World War 2, and the stone art of the mysterious Mogollon people, all of which are important to understanding the beauty and history of the region. “The River Jumps Over The Mountain” is about poetry, a Grand Canyon rafting adventure, the shaping of the canyon itself, escape from a troublesome life, and the strangeness of going away and having the world change in your absence – the scientific, personal, historical, and human interest parts of the story seamlessly flowing into each other. None of these things need to be separate, treated as their own story, even though our need for compartmentalization and efficiency might dictate they be – all of these things inform each other, and one of the joys of Quammen’s writing is that it knows that, and exhaustively integrates the facts and questions of those systems – otherwise, we might not properly understand why these things happen and why we, or someone else, might care.


David Quammen, “The Song Of The Dodo” (1996, 1997) & Leslie Stein, “Bright-Eyed At Midnight” (2015)

September 10, 2015


Amongst many things, The Song Of The Dodo is about a history of a scientific idea, its extrapolation, and its many permutations. The reason why the first section of the book (and, rather subtly, the later sections) focuses so heavily on Alfred Wallace is not just because Quammen feels he has been duly undervalued as one of the founders of evolutionary biology (at least compared to Darwin), but also because the evidence and experiences he alone had provide the basis for pretty much everything in biogeography. He investigated different island environments (and comparable continental ecosystems), and sought to answer how place changes different aspects of species – and following his ideas was a calvalcade of other scientists, in both field biology and statistics, who took them further and further, finding how consistent the “rules” of biogeography were, and that they could be applied even more broadly. Island biogeography isn’t just AN important idea, but one of THE most important ideas in modern evolutionary biology, helping illuminate the core phenomenon of organisms: evolution and extinction.

Of course, it’s the latter of those two that gets the bulk of the focus in the book, being the major biological issue of our times (even as far back as 1996!) As one would expect, humans have played a major part in the mass extinction of island species (just look at the titular animal), but what’s more interesting is what Quammen learns about the specificity of island extinction, and how isolation directly affects such things. Take the concept of ecological naivete, where particular animals have lived without natural predators (increasingly remote islands often leading to lower populations of carnivorous species who have greater needs) for so long that they are seemingly unable to identify anything as a threat – this was observed by Wallace and Darwin in their time, and Quammen finds it still among the birds and tortoises. Combine that with the smaller living space leading to smaller populations – even a stable island population might be considerably rarer than most mainland species – and it becomes painfully clear how even one change, especially the introduction of human or non-human hunters, can easily devastate island species.

But even so, there’s a surprising resilience in island species, and the information to replenish population numbers when some are eliminated is one of the most important aspects of their study – the destruction of Krakatoa and its reformation as Anak Krakatau providing a perfect example of how an island is repopulated. That an island can be reclaimed by various species so relatively quickly is why, as Quammen explains at the end of the book, the loss of species (usually balanced by gains through speciation) is growing at an alarming rate – through the microcosm of islands, we have become aware that (as is still being written about today) we are in a period of mass extinction, related to a number of changes mostly brought about by us. The latter parts of the book move into explaining this, and applying island concepts to mainland (especially in the area of conservation, where isolated ecosystems, separated by open land, are treated almost exactly the same way as islands) – the transition very subtle, though set-up by Quammen in the first section especially. This was not just about island biogeography; or, more accurately, island biogeography was never just about islands – its a field that has vitally important information for all of biology. Earth is, after all, just a series of islands of many different sizes.


Although very different in format, Bright-Eyed At Midnight has many of the same qualities as Stein’s Eye Of The Majestic Creature comics: the way it portrays day-to-day living, drifting from events of varying significance, going back and forth in time. There are some things in the comics that seem like they’d be more important than others, like the bouts of insomnia early on or Stein quitting her job near the end, but the egalitarian outlook of the strips means that they become part of a broader context rather than as definitive events – all the things that are drawn here seem equally important to each other, even if they don’t obviously connect. The flow between the strips is less demarcated in the book than they there on the web – days seem subsumed by the cycle of events, which follows a very identifiable rhythm (see the number of pages that begin or end with her in bed, or drawing one the page that we are currently reading) – there are job stories, band stories, comics stories, ongoing internal monologues, bleeding into each other from page to page. The ritualistic/on-the-fly nature of the project kind of necessitates this – each page is a reaction to that specific day, and so the multitude of experiences constantly overlap each other, giving the book a natural non-progression.

There’s also a charming handmade quality to the comics here – again, being daily made Stein use an evolving minimalist style, but that allows her to experiment with her use of watercolours, collage, and text, giving each day a distinct feeling. The speed-and-ease-oriented drawings give the pages extra space and freedom for those elements to really shine through even more than in something like Eye of the Majestic Creature. Some pages, connected or disconnected from what came before them, become a splurge of scribbles, paint splotches, and disembodied forms – and some days, that is an exact representation of one’s outlook. Despite being originally posted online, every comic proudly wears its physicality, the use of whatever materials seemed to be nearby – the colours and layouts of the pages straddle the line between spur-of-the-moment and innately considered.

Which is probably the most interesting part of going through these strips again, in book form: being given the opportunity to see how those elements came together outside the scheduled production these comics had when they were being posted. They were not meant to be read together in this fashion when they were being produced (as we can tell just by seeing the context of Stein’s drawing in the comics themselves), but they (maybe only sort of) accidentally feel part of a continuum. That was probably one of the aims when compiling the strips, but it manages to do that without compromising the original aims of the daily comics.


Endnotes for 2014

January 17, 2015

I have some more focused book posts I’m planning to get around to, but on a whim I also wrote some paragraphs on many of the books I read in 2014, including a few that didn’t end up on the site, and some quick additional thoughts on ones that did. So, here is my 2014 Year In Review round-up:

The first thing I read this year was The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, something that I had been holding off for a while despite having no real reason to hold it off. I didn’t write a post because I didn’t feel I could flesh out any of my ideas into anything coherent or interesting. I found it particularly interesting to read a piece of historical fiction that essentially rewrites some of the history of something relatively minor, maybe something that many of the readers wouldn’t even notice. I still am parsing, trying to determine what I think about this in terms of a medium that still grapples with the truth of its own founding narratives.

I read two books about the natural world back to back – David Quammen’s Spillover and Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction. The things I learned from Quammen’s book, which was from a few years ago, turned out to have startling relevance a little bit later in the year. Despite being a 2014 book, the things Kolbert wrote about did not seem to have as much import this year when faced with some more immediate issues, although it is an ongoing condition that remains to be grappled with. Reading them together was one of my first thematic duets this year – the role of man in the precarious and hostile environment we have mostly engineered for ourselves, fundamentally changing the natural system in many ways.

I managed to write a short thing about a Michael DeForge comic I read this year, after failing to come up with a proper response to Mostly Casual last year. Ant Colony (which I followed in webcomic form as it was being posted the year before) seemed a little more straightforward, and I could find a couple dumb things I wanted to mention about it, but I’m still terrible at discussing comics in a half-intelligent way. I also read A Body Beneath, but obviously didn’t write anything about that for the same reasons as Mostly Casual.

I watched a little over half-dozen giant monster movies earlier in the year, and wrote about those as well. It’s a genre that I have a longstanding affection for, and falling for a multimedia blitz like the mark I am, I decided to use it to brush up on my stuff. This was supposed to lead up to me going to see the new Godzilla movie, but that didn’t happen because that would involve leaving my house. This also led me to read August Ragone’s Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters, which is a beautiful, utterly essential book that reminds me on every page why I love these stupid movies.

One author I decided to begin reading this year was J.G. Ballard, and I started with one of his novels (Concrete Island) and a collection of his short stories. The short stories provided some crucial context to development of his style and themes – even when he was working with more standard genre trappings, he had a knack for finding jarring, inward-looking story angles, and crafting claustrophobic environments. By the time we get to the novel (which I read first), he had transposed those ideals from the science fiction realm to a contemporary “realist” one, but with essentially the same results.

I read another volume of the Judge Dredd Complete Case Files, 07, which I forgot to write about, to be honest. It’s way more of a procedural volume, without any real major developments in the series ongoing, but since it’s those kinds of stories that make up the bulk of Dredd (and allow for more of the stuff I like from it – namely, the dark humour), it’s good to see what the creators do with their “free time” between epic storylines. The art is all over the place, leaving some interesting stylistic changes (the haunted house story in particular) and some less-than-interesting examples (a lot of the latter part of the collection), with the regulars like Ron Smith putting out their consistently good work.

My light summer reading was Matt Taibbi’s The Divide, which like Quammen’s book, had a lot of material that became in-your-face relevant by the end of the year. Questions of how policing in America is used against certain classes of people has finally become one of the most important social questions for everyone, rather than just the direct victims, and The Divide provides many disturbing examples of how the system has been set up like this. It’s not the whole picture, to be sure, but it’s an important piece of it. Reading 2011’s Griftopia gave me even more insight into some of the systems Taibbi described in his later book.

For one reason or another, I decided to go crazy with my Stanislaw Lem reading this year – I read four different books by him: one novel, one short story collection, one book of criticism, and one literary experiment, all the different forms Lem is known for. It’s pretty easy to look at all four of them together as Lem’s mission statement for science fiction: His Master’s Voice is his take on “first contact,” Mortal Engines covers artificial intelligence using older literary forms re-contextualized as science fiction (mocking those conventions in the process,) Imaginary Magnitudes* (which, despite its gimmick, is pretty much a collection of science fiction short stories in its own right) demonstrates how the genre can be applied outside standard literary modes, and Microworlds well, states its purpose pretty openly, attempting to form a basis for actual literary criticism within the genre. Even without many of his more well-known works, one could easily understand many of Lem’s pervading themes and stylistic tics just from these four books.

*To be discussed further at a later date.

David Quammen, “Spillover: Animal Infections and The Next Human Pandemic” (2012)

March 19, 2014


Much like his last book, Monster of God, David Quammen’s Spillover is a chronicle of the ways human and non-human animals interact, and the implications therein. In the case of Spillover, the subject is zoonoses, infectious diseases that cross over from animals to humans – a more modern-leaning subject than Monster of God, but one that still encompasses some of the major ongoing events in recent human history. The constant struggle with diseases like ebola and AIDS and the more recent stories of SARS and avian flu often become background noise after a brief period of hubbub, but their shadows always loom – they are problems that seem to be the eternal foes. These diseases seem to be the issue the world does not want to talk about, and as the subtitle suggests, it’s the one that always has the possibility to return to the forefront. There is, then, an initial urgency to the way the book explores all these different events, trying to find any threads to connect them, and possibly find answers to what’s next and what we could do about it.

Quammen’s books tend to lavish equal attention to both animals and the humans that interact with them on a regular basis, using these stories to uncover the convoluted ways the natural world functions, and Spillover is no different. The victims of the diseases, their loved ones, and the scientists who have ongoing missions to research those same diseases in a multitude of fields are all provided with their own individual stories, portraying the broad ways these epidemics affect people, right alongside the naturalist reports on how infections originate and affect their animal sources. Bot kinds of narratives are important, as the way the diseases ultimately come to their apex is through a the complicated movements of all species involved – viruses transferring from one species to another, sometimes amplifying the infectiousness, and then brought into contact with humans through various means. Usually, those means come back to us – we take up the land and force the movements of species, we find new animals to turn into pets or gourmet items, and while not mentioned as much in this book (but still set up as an explanation) there’s the changes imposed by climate change as well. Sometimes, too, these interactions are ancient, but have only recently began spreading illnesses, or the illnesses have only recently (historically-speaking) become potent in humans – giving the whole thing a sense of inevitability. Just like how violent encounters between humanity and alpha predators are unavoidable while they share space, so will germs be shared as we come in close proximity with other species.

All of these elements contribute to one of the other recurring themes Quammen sees in these stories – that trying to predict the emergence of these diseases may be impossible, given the level of complexity of their transference between species, and the chance alignment of factors that allows them to flourish. Every section seems to leave you with as many questions as answers – the diseases are ongoing cases that flare up and disappear over periods of years, and so investigators only real have so much time to figure out what’s going on. While the animal sources of the germs are sometimes found, it is difficult to tell if something is the point of origin or simply the current reservoir host – the cases of both SARS and Lyme Disease show how sources can be misidentified or shown to be more complex than originally thought (that many of these diseases have bats as reservoir hosts on several different continents is a inconclusive thread in itself.) In cases where the reservoir host is found, there are questions that remain – for example, why certain people are infected while others are not, or why only certain animals show symptoms. The possibility of infection and increased virulence among humans (and its the idea of humans being able to pass these infections to each other is treated as the real turning point) is itself highly convoluted, with cultural practices both ancient and modern suddenly allowing the viral invaders in, and the interconnectedness and access to long-distance travel bringing those same microbes all over the world all made to be major components of the pandemic process. The survival of these diseases is predicated entirely on travel, from within and without a species, and we are in a special position in this age to give them opportunities never before possible. But that’s real all we can say for certain – it’s a possibility.

Going back to the subtitle, there can be no real prediction of the next “Big One” – while we are knowledgeable about several candidates, and have been making preparations to deal with them, there’s really no telling if one will re-emerge, or if a new one will suddenly appear somewhere in the world, or if a previously benign one suddenly be amplified. The way organisms act and react is incredibly chaotic, and one change in the environment or chance quirk of evolution can create an unexpected chain reaction. This is very well demonstrated by the very nature of the RNA viruses, which the book goes back to repeatedly as the source of some of the most devastating zoonoses – their ability to adapt to new hosts relies on their decidedly unstable genetic coding, which often produces rejects, but can also allow them to change in highly beneficial ways (highly beneficial to the virus, that is.) A simple rearrangement in the building blocks of life, and a common virus in wild primates suddenly becomes HIV. Life is never very conducive to our attempts to understand it.

But, all that said, the book never turns fatalistic – as mentioned, we can use the knowledge we have gathered to help us contain or control future outbreaks. The oft-referenced equation that determines such outbreaks in populations is never refuted, but simply has the aforementioned complexities factored in. As one of Quammen interviewees states, humans themselves can be considered an outbreak – our numbers having exploded in recent years – and, much like the viruses, have a great ability to adapt to circumstances.

David Quammen, “Monster of God” (2003)

May 30, 2012

I mentioned in a previous post that I’m not a big fan of the subtle anthropomorphically-tinted view of nature often found in discourse, especially environmental discourse. I think it is unnecessary, quasi-New Age nonsense that robs the natural world of much of its majesty and puts humanity at an unjustifiable distance from the rest of the universe. Thankfully, this is something Quammen avoids in Monster of God – while he’s certainly interested and sympathetic with the world’s alpha predators, his text is light, non-reverential. It’s precisely because he’s interested in these animals and their relationship with humans that he can’t “sentimentalize” them – because sometimes that relationship is violent, and involves large carnivorous animals killing and eating people. That’s part of the fun, isn’t it? They’re the very real incarnations of the terrible monsters of our imaginations, which is why there are several tangents about the monsters of various cultural legends and (in the final section) of movies; they are simultaneously our victims and our victimizers, and have been so for millennia. There’s certainly something to be awed here – but it’s completely balanced out by the realization that this is nature at its basest, which Quammen wholeheartedly embraces.

Quammen’s approach to the material also reflects one of the sub-themes of the book – which a class-focused look at that human/man-eater relationship, well-communicated by the down-to-earth, empathetic view. In every section of the book, he talks to a group of people who are forced by tradition or circumstance to make a living alongside these animals, almost always low-income farmers – and it’s in these frank conversations where we learn that it’s hard to see the majesty of the predators when they eat your livestock, or your dog, or your family. Even so, it’s not always a wholly negative relationship being portrayed here – many of locals seem to have high regard for these animals, many having a religious tradition that does so (although there might be some problems there as well – Quammen mentions that while the North Australian aborigines he talked to were part of a group that see the gigantic Saltwater Crocodile as their chosen spirit animal, that can put them at odds with other aboriginal groups who do not, and might not be as willing to overlook crocodile attacks) or simple respect for nature. Not that their views are shown to matter in the bigger picture, as the animals being discussed (the Asiatic Lion, the Romanian Brown Bear, the Siberian Tiger, and the aforementioned Saltwater Crocodile) are or were heavily endangered, and are often government-protected in some way. This leads to another relationship in the book – between the locals and the environmental agencies tasked with monitoring and protecting these animals for various reasons. In the case of the bears and the crocodiles, the reasons are so they can sustain themselves by selling off the license to shoot those animals for fun and profit. It’s a cold, hard reality about how endangered animal protection often has to operate – and it seems especially sad in the instance of the Romanian park ranger who watches over the bears and even gives them names. Both the locals and those experts and government employees make up a colourful cast of the book – an amiable bunch, as lovingly-portrayed by Quammen, quirks and all, as the animals.

But what about that class focus (as well as the profit motive seen in the government protection) I mentioned? This is an especially interesting observation the author makes – tyng the ancient tradition of the great monster-slaying hero like Gilgamesh and Beowulf to the more recent tradition of imperialists and tyrants, who see themselves in the same way. The idea is that these “real monsters” are seen by those seeking power, especially the white explorers from the past couple centuries, as something to be conquered and used to subjugate the locals who fear/revere them. So warriors once proudly boasted about how many lions they’ve killed; so Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausecu made a habit of shooting bears (with assistance). And this trend continues to this day – as Quammen notes, the go-ahead to shoot many of these dangerous beasts ain’t cheap, certainly out of the price range of the people who have to put up with them, and making the act of killing the biggest-and-baddest of the animal kingdom a “luxury” of sorts to the rich and powerful. The imperialist angle of it maybe only be in the background these days, but the class issues are still all too clear: killing man-eating critters is something for rich people to do for fun. And those rich people are the ones Quammen doesn’t talk to – we get the perspective of the farmers, the government scientists, the park rangers, and the guys who make a living pickling crocodile heads for biker gangs; but the people who pay to go out and shoot the things are kept at a distance.

But the book is not just putting them at a distance – it’s also doing the same to the readers, as Quammen recognizes that he himself, and the English-speaking audience, are not separated from this class divide, either. The fascination with the alpha predators shared by Quammen, the imperialist hunters, and the Western culture at large all originate far from the actual presence of these animals. Of course, we have some big predators over here, but none on the level the lion, crocodile, or tiger; as well, mass urbanization has made it so that our interaction with predators big and small are kept to a minimum (although not entirely – back to the bears, one chapter chronicles a neighbourhood in Romania where bears regularly raid people’s garbage, much to the delight of tourists; but, as noted in some of the stories of grizzly attacks in Yellowstone, this crossing of the urban threshold may not be a good thing). We the readers are implicated in this – our interest in or even affection for these animals often goes without really considering the people, who as mentioned are usually poor farmers, who have to put up with them. It’s a human socio-political ecosystem, whose own history is intertwined with that of the animal’s. And of course, it’s all these considerations, the human animal and the non-human animal, taken in tandem that makes Monster of God so compelling.

The preservation of the alpha predators is certainly something that Quammen is advocating, with the final section providing some of the experiments that show how taking the top off a ecosystem can be incredibly damaging (which the book portrays mainly by conflation, but can be seen directly in the depletion of sharks and the rising numbers of jellyfish in the world’s oceans). But that’s the scientifically rational why, which is only part of the argument. It’s made quite clear that the developing human culture has always been taken with these animals, and if current trends continue, we would be losing something. That sounds very close to that sentimentalizing, but in this case, it feels earned – these aren’t prettied-up images of nature, and the book seems to accept that tough decisions must be made in some cases to keep these things alive (like the bear and crocodile hunting). It’s less about telling us why we should love these things, but why we do anyway. Humanity and the great monsters of nature are an inseparable pair, it seems.