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Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Uncut Version)
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Uncut Version)
DVD ~ Will Friedle
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 73.68
8 used & new from CDN$ 2.89

5.0 out of 5 stars They've finally released the original, April 21 2002
(Note: I'm referring to the uncut version with the black border.)
I beg to differ with other reviewers: this film, while not for 5 year olds and similarly-aged tykes, is well suited for older kids, because it teaches them a valuable lesson about the entertainment they're accustomed to--one they must learn anyway to avoid a world of make-believe and patronization. It teaches them the truth behind the popular fantasies of superheroes--namely that even the best and brightest of us can grow dimmer with age, and suffer trauma and horrifying memories; that even the best and brightest of us are prey to the fundamental limitations involved in being human.
With television we allow our children to watch portrayals of superheroes where a brave and invulnerable hero fights dastardly villains who will always return to pester him. The villains never actually commit crimes redolent of those committed in the real world, children are never harmed, and though people get hurt, no one ever dies.
The original version ROTJ starts out with this mode in mind, and then destroys it. All our accepted conventions are brutally taken from us, and we are forced to accept what we'd prefer not to. The violence-totally unglamorous-of the flashback sequence is rooted in deeply moral truths: we get no enjoyment out of it but only a rising horror, and sit back nearly as traumatized as the characters onscreen. Here, every death counts--every blow inflicted flies out from people pushed to limits of anger, hatred and fear.
ROTJ will not harm your children, but might destroy your children's faith in conventional super heroics, because it applies the harsh light of moral reality upon a potentially dangerous, delusive fantasy. Children, who excel in make-believe, are quick to see through the lies of adults when prompted to do so.
So kudos to Paul Dini, whose scripting career has showed he isn't afraid to go over the edge. His film can be seen as the endgame for Batman: the hero can no longer remain perpetually young but grows old and enfeebled; his surrogate family rejects him, the worst imaginable incident of his career occurs, lives are taken, people are forever scarred, and the fragility of human lives and affections are brought painfully to notice.
So please, see this BEFORE the cut version. The edited version was reworked by only a few minutes, but it takes only a few delicate cuts to do major damage to movie this carefully put together and thought out. A heart surgeon can kill his patient with just one misplaced slice, and a good censor can destroy the heart of a film with just a few canny moves. Anyone who defended the edited version without having SEEN the original was simply whoring for the WB.
Some of these ignorant viewers have used the argument that leaving out violence strengthens the films impact, since "what you can't see is more genuinely terrifying than what you can." But this is NOT something as silly as a matter of some blood being removed-this goes much deeper. Because we never expected in a million years to see what we see in the flashback sequence, viewing it forces us to confront events so unsettling and unexpected that we couldn't feel their impact if they were hidden from us. The violence has not been merely toned down--the entire direction of the film has been altered and serious issues have been evaded. They didn't simply cut this film, they remade parts of it.
What happen to Robin (Tim Drake) is what this film turns upon, and the WB made what happened to him a thousand times less shattering by chopping out and then totally changing his most climactic act. In doing so they intentionally absolved him from the moral responsibility and complicity involved in the film's violence and how it's presented.
The people who argued that such butchery was for the best essentially admitted that they didn't care about how violence of an unsettling nature was treated in a movie-they just were alarmed at the notion of upsetting violence, so they decided it shouldn't be there. They just assumed that what was a matter of moral examination was simply one of extra gore. They didn't mind that a faceless company stepped in AFTER a film has been made, forced its makers to bowdlerize it, and then tried to pretend the true film never existed. (Paul Dini was understandably [upset].)
Think about this: the only reason you can see this film is as it was meant to be was because the WB corporate leadership didn't step in to delay the original's release soon enough to prevent screener copies of the original from being sent out. (As custom with movies about to be released.) So when the cut version premiered, fans alerted by the screeners call foul, raising a huge outcry. That is why you can now see this film as it was created and all that prevented the WB from pretending the original version never existed. What the WB practiced was post-production censorship-that of the worst kind. Had they stepped in during the scripting stages, the filmmakers could have fully reshaped the movie to fit the changes. Instead they were forced to edit at the last minute and insert new scenes into sequences that didn't fully fit. It's thanks to the dedicated fans that cared enough to speak their hearts that we can see this film in its genuine form. As for you cowards who, without viewing the original, argued the cut version forced upon the filmmakers the more effective and a wiser choice--may you, who colluded in corporate thuggery, get what you fully deserve.
And as for those of you with open, clear minds and a respect for the intelligence of their older children: be responsible parents and watch this movie with your kids before discussing it. You'll have a lot to think about.

The Galton Case: A Lew Archer Novel
The Galton Case: A Lew Archer Novel
by Ross Macdonald
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.96
32 used & new from CDN$ 3.68

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lost Boy, Jan. 22 2002
This novel was also anthologized in the "Archer At Large" omnibus, which contains a revealing, fascinating foreward by MacDonald, who stated that The Galton Case was his "break-through book." And then he diclosed the numerous--and poignant--autobiographical parallels he had with the novel.
The Galton Case has a realistic, painful and angry intensity not present in any other Archer novels I've read--perhaps because MacDonald had put more of his life and sorrows into this book than in any other; into the examination of how the sins of the fathers ruin their sons' lives. For MacDonald every family is riddled with moral cancer: skeletons can never be fully shoved into the closet, especially because Archer, relentless and haunted, will bring them back to life.
It's true that MacDonald basically wrote the same work throughout most of his novels. All work out the same issues of buried identity, familial guilt and moral corrpution. This is not an entirely damning fact--it just means that Archer was a limited, minor artist (like Hammett and Chandler) and that he was fixated with a primal story that he retold continually. "The Galton Case" may be the finest version of that story--the most wounding, convincing and saddening.
As a stylist, MacDonald lacks Hammett's laconic grace and Chandler's brilliant flamboyance. Parts of this book can be awkward, while other parts display figurative language of uncommon acuteness and insight. MacDonald chose to work with a sparer, elegantly economic and less sensationalistic style--his sentences literally work up a quiet storm.
As a storyteller MacDonald is deeper, more human and more interesting than either Hammett or Chandler--because he is genuinely intersted in other people besides his detective. He doesn't make Lew Archer cooler(Sam Spade)or simply better (Philip Marlowe) than his clients. Archer is more like a hard-boiled, tough detective-shrink dealing with clients whose neuroses can be dangerous. His plots are neither ingenious displays of dedeuctive/inductive insight (a la Sherlock Holmes) or outrageously complicated messes (as in Chandler). Instead they resemble the gradual construction of a scandalous family tree, with hidden connections and relations acumulating into a damning account of old sins.
Unlike Spade and Marlowe, Lew Archer genuinely gives a damn about and sympathizes with his clients, who must deal with the horrible buried truths he discovers. MacDonald's true subject is in how families and friends are capable of hurting and crippling each other. The Taiwanese film director Edward Yang once gave a chilling coment on human relationships:"The bombs we plant in each other are still ticking." That quote goes striaght to the heart of MacDonald's mystery novels. They possess a fundamental humanism that's often missing not only from most crime stories, but from most novels and movies period.
You'll notice that I really haven't said anything in specific about "The Galton Case." The less you know about it before reading it, the better. Enjoy the story, and how it pierces straight into its target.

Dream Boy: A Novel
Dream Boy: A Novel
by Jim Grimsley
Edition: Paperback
27 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Very well done, Oct. 9 2001
This review is from: Dream Boy: A Novel (Paperback)
This short, remarkable book moves with a style of its own, and is quite an achievement. Grimsley is an assured stylist who gets away with what a lot of writers usually don't--continually using the present tense and sounding natural. Lots of people have used the adjective "dreamy" in regards to "Dream Boy"--like a dream the book is both ambiguous, hazy and soft and also truly vivid, hallucinatory, and deeply felt. Grimsley has the gift of quickly establishing character in a few strokes, and his protagonists Roy and Nathan are both spectres and boys you probably encountered growing up.
It's possible to say that a book sounds "right" without having personal connection with its subject matter or any biographical footing, and this book feels right up until its climax. After that, the ensuing events are up to personal interpretation. I personally believe that the book's last chapters aren't meant to be taken at face value, but on the other hand, had Grimsley removed them the book might have been too painful to bear. "Dream Boy" lives up to the nature of dreams and their ability to provide safety one moment then remove the trap door and cast us into a realm of horror and blindness. The book is paused mid-way between those extremes, and the result is an everday unworldliness. Very highly recommended.

Richard III
Richard III
VHS
2 used & new from CDN$ 14.97

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest Shakespeare films..., April 29 2001
This review is from: Richard III (VHS Tape)
Only two of Orson Welles' Shakespeare films rival "Richard III" for the title of greatest Shakespeare movie ever made. That said, Olivier's film may contain the most sheerly enjoyable performance any actor gave on film. His Duke of Gloucester is the definitive performance. Elia Kazan once said Olivier had a certain girlish quality, and that quality is used in the film: His Richard is seductive--a prancing, charming monster whose voice sounds like "honey mixed with razor blades." But one look into his black eyes, framed by false hawk nose, violently angled eyebrows and fright pageboy wig, will tell you that he's also stone-cold pure evil. Richard enacts all our homicidal, plotting fantasies as he cheerfully knocks off all his stuffy relatives and rivals.
Olivier emphasizes the black comedy and wittiness of Shakespeare's play, which he cut and refashioned into a star vehicle for himself. Though Sirs Gielgud, Richardson and Hardwicke co-star, they don't make much of an impression. (Blame that on Shakespeare too) Interestingly, Olivier later regretted not having cast Orson Welles as Buckingham.
You experience two major innovations concerning the filming of Shakespeare: the first is Olivier's old custom of using extremely stylized, artificial sets, thereby making Shakespeare's stylized, artificial verse fit in with the settings. The second is the source of Olivier's triumph: he delivers his soliloquys directly to the camera. This daring move destroys the fourth wall and takes true advantage of what the movies offer. He becomes our friend and confidante and we become complicit in his mounting evil. The production values are top-notch: we get deliriously vibrant technicolour, William Walton's pompous, irresistible music of pageantry, and the book-of-hours sets. And through those sets Olivier's camera subtly glides and skulks like the snake Richard himself is. Olivier is still an underrated director, and his grasp of the frame's spatial properties is excellent: he knew how to move the camera into and out of the frame for maximum impact. For an example, look at the moment Richard finally becomes King, and his satanic powers become unbottled: He slides down the bell rope to greet his minions, and expecting to shake his hand they approach, only to fall on their knees when Richard silently demands they kiss it. As they sink downward, the camera flees backward until the awful composition is complete, with half a dozen men in black on their knees as Richard presides all in the center of the frame: on twisted and bent legs as the bells announce the triumph of evil.

Casino Royale: Part One
Casino Royale: Part One
by Ian Fleming
Edition: Audio CD
5 used & new from CDN$ 4.35

5.0 out of 5 stars Enter James Bond, Dec 28 2000
This review is from: Casino Royale: Part One (Audio CD)
It's hard to believe the book is nearly 50 years old but it is. This novel marks the entrance of James Bond into the world. The real Bond doesn't have much to do with his movie counterparts--he's colder, more ruthless and has no charm or humor. He's also a deeper character. 10 years later at the end of the Bond cycle he would grow and become more humorous and personable, (See "You Only Live Twice") but here meeting him may be like taking a cold shower if you're only familiar with Connery, Moore, and etc.
As the prototype novel of the Bond series "Casino Royale" has less action and more concentrated violence than the future books. Its mood is claustrophobic but it's grasp of defined character is somewhat airy. Bond is not quite fully fleshed out--what we can grasp is that he believes himself a professional but often loses or comes close in both love and business. He speaks like a misoygnist but falls very badly for women; he plays cards like a pro but needs to be bailed out. The other characters are also compelling--Leiter and Mathis are agreeable national stereotypes, while LeChiffre is the first of Fleming's great villains--subtly monstrous and grotesque to the point of being king devils, not people. Fleming never wrote a convincing female character until he spoke in first person for the heroine of "The Spy Who Loved Me," but Vesper Lynd is one dimensional in a non-shameful way.
Fleming's style isn't yet fully formed, but it's still evident. No one has written better scenes of torture (And this undoubtedly one of the most harrowing torture scenes you'll ever read) or card games than Fleming, and as an action writer on the whole he was undoubtedly a master, and deserves to be acknowledged as one. At the moment his literary reputation is quite low. Fleming was hardly the reactionary super-evil crypto-fascist, rabid-racist, hyper-misognyist, ultra-snob that some have claimed him to be (In books full of astoundingly stupid errors and lazy readings), and the coming years will hopefully force many to fully note his many flaws and his considerable strengths. He deserves the same ranking as Chandler or Hammett--minor artists, but artists none-the-less.
The biggest difference from the later novels is the degree of moral exploration Bond undergoes. The novel's supposed climax is engineered to come very early, and Fleming daringly gives an entire chapter for Bond to afterwards think--he actively questions his job and the role he plays in the entire Free World/Soviet struggle. Beyond that he questions the nature of evil. After CR, Bond never attempts this sort moral exploration again, and the future novels as a result aren't as deep. There's a reason for this....
Fleming's master stroke was his realization that a convincing adventure tale in the spy genre could not arise from the conflict between the ideologies of the Soviets and the West. It was too much of a gray area and Fleming did not want to be a political writer--he wanted to create myths and fairy tales for adults, and he turned out to be the best writer of the century in doing so. So Fleming decided that Bond would not fight against Communist spies but rather the organization of terror that made them spy--evil fantasy villains--so he created SMERSH as Bond's opponent. He would use them as villains until the lessening of cold war tension enabled him to create an even less political replacement--SPECTRE.
The first part of the novel thus details Bond fighting against Communist agents, but Fleming builds the climax early. Afterwards he builds another tale dealing with the ramifications of the first. During this he has Bond question his role, and by the end, with its shocker finish, Bond has renounced the role he has questioned and decided to from now on go after the force that makes spies spy. Having created an all-purpose group of fairy-tale villains for Bond to fight in future novels, Fleming has no more need for any further moral exploration by Bond--the knight doesn't bother wondering whether he should slay the dragon.
That I think is why Fleming's friend Raymond Chandler always said that he had never bettered "Casino Royale" and to an extent I agree--the novel marks the point where Bond is in between the realistic world of betrayals and moral ambiguity and the thrilling world of surrealistically evil villains and larger-than-life exloits. Bond never returns to this point again, and we are deprived of the pleasure of seeing him walk that edge.

Batman Beyond:Return of the Jo
Batman Beyond:Return of the Jo
VHS
2 used & new from CDN$ 14.87

5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Film, but for God's Sake get the uncut version, Dec 2 2000
This is a review of the original version. The version you'll see if you enrich the WB's coffers has over 30 cuts. Some sequences have been thrown out or defanged.(The fellow here whos ays it isn't watered down hasn't actually seen the original) A major, haunting death scene and a minor one have been mutilated and reworked, destroying all the symbolism and impact they formerly had. What you will see is a pale shadow of the original. I advise you to seek out an uncut copy(Stay away from all the mislabeled Canadian copies as well.) The following review is solely of the uncut original, not the disappointing corporate cop-out.
Contrary to an earlier post, this film, IS for kids, provided that they are mature and sensitive. ROTJ has so much feeling and depth to it that it puts most of what many adults watch to shame, so make sure to discuss it, or better yet watch it with the kids.
This is a movie about time, anguish, torture, secrets, and the bonds between teachers and students and enemies and friends. Deep emotion is extracted from what would otherwise be ordinary cartoon melodrama. (and in the cut version that's what it is) It explores the relationship bewteen the Batman and Joker--one of mutual hatred--as well as the consequences of being or having been a hero for a span of many years. Our myths and stories are never as affecting than when they no longer stop time. This is not a story where everything goes back to normal in time for next week's episode, but one that depends upon how people age and change, and at times it's quite poignant. The story of both Bat-family and the Joker revolves around carefully constructed opposites and paralells having to due with love, civic duty, family, order and chaos: similarities and paralells that are destroyed in the mutilated, reworked version.
Central to the film is the flashback sequence that reveals what happened to Robin and the Joker. What happens to Tim Drake are among the most harrowing, haunting scenes in the entire history of Batman, and they have stayed on my mind for days, especially a prolonged, heartbreaking laugh of which I cannot speak further of. (And which is drastically shortened in the cut version, which throws out almost all of the scenes I speak of.)
The film is mighty flawed in some ways--the method used to bring the Joker back is silly and unbelievable. Still, what the WB has done to the film is an atrocity. I expect this sort of butchery and mutilation when it comes to Hollywood Studios in the 20's and 30's ("Greed," "Baby Face," etc.) but not in our age. The original film is a powerful, moving work. I hope that's what you see. (For more info, please contact iamanatullah@yahoo.com)

You Only Live Twice
You Only Live Twice
by Ian Fleming
Edition: Hardcover
20 used & new from CDN$ 5.65

5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the most interesting work involving Bond, Sept. 20 2000
This review is from: You Only Live Twice (Hardcover)
People either are wild about this book or think it's very weak. This is one of those Bond novels that are simply too moody and weird to be made into a popular film, and the movie of the same title shares next to nothing with the book.
There's an advantage in reading all of Fleming's Bond novels in chronological order, because the sum is greater than the parts. They form a loose story arc detailing Bond's growth and changing world it occurs in, from the cold, ruthless, humorless spy of "Casino Royale"--in an age when the British Empire still carried some of its old weight--to the witty, sardonic and damaged agent of YOLT, in an age when British intelligence has to work around(because it's otherwise at the mercy of) the American empire.
This book has been called a an allegory of rebirth and a version of the fertility myth, and considering how weird it gets by the end those remarks are probably true. Bond begins at the most depressed, hopeless stage of his life(Let's see 'em show that in the movies!) and ends as an almost total blank slate--devoid of memory, nationality, and(for a short time) sexual prowess. In between he burns away the grief and rage caused by his wife's death by finally confronting the evil,nearly satanic Ernst Stavro Blofeld. He passes out of this book as a new man, ready to be re-molded. All this would probably distress the fans of Bond who know him more by the movies: actually it would strike anyone as weird, for while YOLT still bears some of the cloak-and-dagger, cosmopolitan sheen one finds in other Bond stories, its final chapters seem as though they occured outside of the modern world altogether and rather in a primordial fog. This contrast between the ultra-sophisticated and the earthy, spartan ways of life is present in most of Fleming's Bond stories, but it takes precedence here.
It isn't a perfect book--much of the center is taken up with a long travelogue of Japan, which is fun but a bit of a sidetrack, and results in the book being broken-backed.(It's based on Fleming's own tour of Japan, and the characters of Dikko Henderson and Tiger Tanaka are based upon the two friends who showed him around) But ultimately it's one of the most impressive Bond novels--deeply symbolic, unsettling and weird in the way Fleming's best work always is. His skill as a journalist-turned-writer is evident. The Bond novels, as opposed to most of the movies, are not simply simple entertainment--what they have to say about affluence, class, lifestyles, and the age they occured in will be of much interest as the years progress, and there's a lot to be discussed. Provided that we realize that Fleming had his predjudices and unsavory sides, the books remain rich and compelling. Unfortunately, Fleming fumbled upon finishing the story of Bond's recreation in the novel he wrote afterwards, "The Man with The Golden Gun," an unfinished, shoddy work that simply reinstates the status quo. This novel however is a testament toward all he worked for, and it seems clear to me that the ending, rather than being jarring and flaccid, is obviously what the entire book works toward, and the final chapters are among the best stuff Fleming wrote.

The Benchley Roundup: A Selection by Nathaniel Benchley of his Favorites
The Benchley Roundup: A Selection by Nathaniel Benchley of his Favorites
by Robert C. Benchley
Edition: Paperback
32 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A genuinely great American humorist, Sept. 9 2000
I only found out about Benchley from a short book on Algonquin Round table quotes but I'm very thankful for it--it's shameful that Benchley has basically been forgotten. Why on earth should such a gifted, briliant comic writer be so little known nowadays? There's simply no reason I can think of. He's just as good as Perelman or Thurber, and he deserves much wider reading. This anthology is a pretty good collection of his work, featuring most of his more popular and beloved pieces. What one notices about Benchley is that he really isn't quite so gentle and affectionate in his humor as those who remember him say--he was the original master of what he termed the "dementia praecox" (crazy written humor basically)and when he applies this to ordinary life or parodies bad writing he can be quite cutting. His style is just about perfect--simple but carefully constructed to wring every laugh it can out of subtleties of phrasing and syntax. His parodies of academic writing are among the greatest ever, effortlessly exposing the bad ideas, pretension and willful obfuscation that lurk beyond so many professors' works. His humor is that of a good natured man so bewildered with the modern world that he defends himself with humor, and depending upon the situation that humor can be quietly observant or fast and crazy, therefore reducing its target to nonsense as well. This book needs to be re-printed with a beter cover, and it wouldn't hurt to add more stories to make it a definitive overview of the man's work. Having done so, the book should be aggresively marketed so that it ends up in the humor section of every bookshop in the land. It's the least Benchley, one our greatest American comic writers, deserves.

Jude the Obscure
Jude the Obscure
by Thomas Hardy
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
16 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Lost souls, Aug. 29 2000
It's harder to see why such a fuss was kicked up over this novel. But its power is still intact, and the book I belive probably deserves another reading in order to truly appreciate all its greatness. Hardy was a writer ahead of his time. His outlook remains quite modern. His world is one where God either is indifferent or absent, and men are left at the mercy of society and nature, neither of which go out of their way to be kind. Both Jude and Sue are deep enough and have enough stature to be genuinely heroic characters. At the same time you feel they are so realistic in their personalities and aspirations that they probably existed in the thousands, and people like them are still around today--Jude with his longing for a decent education that is never fulfilled, Sue with her modern neuroticism. They are ahead of their time as well, and they end up at the mercy of the social constrictions and prejudices of it. There are no real villains or evil people in the novel--Hardy's vision is sharp enough to realize that the roots of the problems that make life miserable for people lie deeper than at an individual level: that is why this book was so hated, and still gets bad marks from some. What I felt in reading this book was a feeling that Hardy was describing life as it often really is--full of squashed hopes, undeserved suffering, and cruel twists of fate. His vision is certainly dark, but it is a needed corrective. Hardy as a writer manages to be eloquent and clumsy at the same time, and I wasn't moved by the book as much as I thought I would be.(Perhaps on second reading I will) But I greatly admire the inner strength and nerve it took to write this book and hold his convictions. Hardy was not afraid to throw up his hands at the more meaningless moments of existence and say "That's how the world is! What can you do?" At the same time, the love he had for his characters, and the tenacity he had and gave them, ensured that they would still strive, and try to live their lives on their own terms...because in the end that is all any of us can do. "Ripeness is all."

Naked Spur
Naked Spur
VHS
5 used & new from CDN$ 21.99

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the finest westerns., July 26 2000
This review is from: Naked Spur (VHS Tape)
Anthony Mann was known for his great psychological westerns--thanks to him, and the two writers who turned in the script, this film is especially riveting. The film tightens the screw upon five characters until the pressure becomes unbearable, and part of what makes the film excellent lies in the way it is concerned with how people interact in close quarters; the way they bond through examining what they owe each other and how they respond to each other's close proximity. If the characters--apart from Stewart's--remain two dimensional, the manner in which they interact is very much drawn from the way real people would. Janet Leigh cannot redeem her character's more hysterical moments but otherwise shows sensitivity in her part--you can detect her thoughts move. Meeker is okay, and Robert Ryan is problematic--he was a highly intelligent actor and here decides to play the outlaw part jovially. Sadly he winds up sounding forced--when less jovial he is very good--unlike the actor playing the Prospector, who is fatally wooden. It is Stewart who gives the movie greatness. Unlike John Wayne, who gave the impression of superhuman girth and will, Stewart looks and acts like an upstanding citizen--until he is pushed to his limits, and out arises an intensity that is frightening. Throughout the film he reels his dangerous feelings in and is taut and seething(even his body language is forcibly restrained)--Stewart is always best when straining himself, both physically and mentally. By the end, when he fights for his own humanity, he shocks us by arriving at the point where he can strain himself no further and what results is a wonder to watch. John Wayne could never get away with what Stewart manages here. (He'd have been scared off) Please watch this film and form your own conclusions too.

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