Monthly Archives: April 2010

VACT's Etch-YOUR-SketchOFF2?#$% now features friendly rivalries

Asians are talented in sketch comedy too!

I chatted with VACT's founding creator Joyce Lam last week.  There is big drama for this year's Etch-YOUR-SketchOFF2!#$%.  One of last year's comedy sketch teams has split into two new teams for 2010.  That's right… dramedy is happening!  Members of last year's Darin' Joes, have formed new teams.  Fane Tse has helped to form new team Angry Asian Men. Josette Jorge was also with Darin' Joes last year but has returned to SFUU Man Chu.

Will there be a comedic show down?

Other teams competing are: Beef Noodle Soup, Laughing Make Mind Dangerous, Banana Drama, Asians Bleed Red, The Yangzters.

Of special note: Tricia Collins is performing with SFUU MAN CHU.  Tricia co-hosted the 2010 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner with me.  She is one of my favorite Vancouver actresses – having performed in her solo show Gravity, as well as Firehall Theatre's Ecstasy of Rita Joe and Urban Ink Production's Hunted.  She is also a writer, contributing to Ricepaper Magazine and Completely Mixed Up: An Asian North American Mixed Race Anthology.

35 performers will be on stage.  Mostly Asians with some members of non-Asian minority groups, representing token inclusivity and plain old friendship between races.

Check out the VACT website:

Etch Your SketchOff 2 Logo

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 – Vancouver Rice Bowl Competition
Thursday, April 29, 2010 – People’s CHOYS Award
Nightly at 7:30 PM

Buy your tickets online now!

Tickets are $15 each!

Buy Group Rate tickets online now!

Be a Friend of VACT

Wed Apr 21, 03:15 PM by editor

those who have enjoyed our shows and want to support us financially –
we are recognizing our fans with special benefits.  Depending on your
friendship level, you will receive premium reserved seating upgrades,
recognition in the programs, opening night tickets and invitations to
cast parties, signed productions posters and special concierge
ticketing services & privileges.  Our way of saying thank you to

For more details, click here.

2010 BC Book Prizes: Fred Wah wins Poetry Prize

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Fellow nominees for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize: Larissa Lai for “Automaton Diaries” and Fred Wah for “Is A Door”.  Fred will be interviewing Larissa Lai for an upcoming issue of Ricepaper magazine.  Fred was the eventual winner of the poetry prize!  The banners of each prize hangs in the background.

was great to attend the 2010 BC Book Prizes. Very happy to see my
friends Fred Wah and Larissa Lai nominated for Dorothy Livesay Poetry
Prize – Fred won! and Charles Demers was nominated for Hubert Evans
Non-Fiction Prize.

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My pals!  Fred Wah with Cara Ng and Charles Demers – who was nominated for the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize.  Charlie was going around saying I was responsible for his expected niece/nephew.  In actual fact, Cara's brother met his wife on the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team.  Fate took its course as they fell in love, married last year, and are expecting a baby this year.  I am still trying to recruit Charlie and Cara and Fred to the dragon boat team.  We will have the “most literary” and “most poetical” dragon boat team in Canada!

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas and Masako Fukawa &
Stanley Fukawa, and Dal Richards
nominated for Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award. Great to make new
friends with many of the authors such as Ian Weir, Lori Culbert, Ehor

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Todd Wong, Masako Fukawa &
Stanley Fukawa – authors of 
Spirit of the Nikkei Fleet: BC’s Japanese Canadian Fishermen”, and Ann-Marie Metten.  Ann-Marie and I are the executive director and president of Historic Joy Kogawa House Society.  We invited Masako and Stanley to come do a reading at Joy's childhood home.

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Terry Glavin, last year's winner of the Lieutanant Governor's Award for Literary Excellence, accepts for Stan Persky, the 2010 winner!  Shirley Yew, president of the West Coast Book Prize Society and Lt. Gov. Steven Point present the award.

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Ian Weir, author of Daniel O'Thunder – nominated for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, chats with Charles Demers nominated for non-fiction.

And always great to spend some time with Shelagh Rogers!

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Shelagh Rogers emceed the BC Book Prizes Gala at Government House.  I emceed the BC Book Prizes Soiree back on April 7th, in Vancouver.  Shelagh is a great supporter of Historic Joy Kogawa House and the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.  I hope soon to have a Gung Haggis dinner in Nanaimo or Gabriola Dinner with Shelagh as my co-host!

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And of course there was dessert!

What does an “Illegal Immigrant” look like in Arizona?

What does an “Illegal Immigrant” look like in Arizona?

Arizona governor passes new bill giving the state more powers to detain anybody looking like an “illegal immigrant.”

the Phoenix Coyotes are trying to beat the Detroit Red Wings by
reporting the Wings' players from Sweden, Canada, Russia, Finland,
Norway and Czech republic. But even the Coyotes team are dominated by Canadians with Czech, players easily outnumbering the lone 4 Americans.

this new Arizona law isn't about racial profiling, says their Governor.
It's about reporting somebody you think might be an illegal
immigrant… who can then be legally detained. Just easily enough so
that maybe top scorers Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom, Holmstrom or
Bertuzzi could be detained to miss a hockey game.

In Canada we
had the FLQ crisis that gave police extraordinary powers. Bush called
9/11 a threat to homeland security and brought in more police powers.
In Arizona they now have the Arizona Immigration Bill. Not surprising
when the Arizona State legislature voted this week to bar presidential
candidates from the state's ballot unless they produce a U.S. birth
certificate – which will force President Obama to prove he was born in
Hawaii and is not an illegal immigrant himself.

Immigration, detention and deportation issues are explored in the Neworld Theatre play Ali & Ali 7. Check it out!

Ali & Ali 7: RCMP, Immigration and tasers – Oh My!

Ali & Ali 7 Return to the stage for another outrageous skewering of Canadian Multiculturalism

Created and performed by Camyar Chai, Guillermo Verdecchia and Marcus Youssef
Co-starring Laara Sadiq and Raugi Yu
Directed by Guillermo Verdecchia

at the Cultch’s Historic Theatre
Apr 14–24
Tickets for Cultch Performances available at 604-251-1363 or

at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts’ Studio Theatre
April 28 – May 1
Tickets for Shadbolt performances at 604-205-3000 or

Ali & Ali are to Canadian multiculturalism what Wayne & Shuster
are to Canadian culture.  They poke fun at ourselves, to help us laugh
at the absurdity of our history and culture.

But in today's world, Wayne & Shuster, comedy kings of the 1960's and 1970's, have given way to Kids from the Hall, and Russell Peters.  Canadian culture is no longer white and red, our cultural diversity includes black and yellow and pink and especially brown.  Canadians also come from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Azerbaijian.  Wayne & Shuster used to make fun of foreign accents.  Camyar Chai and Marcus Youssef as brown immigrant refugees from the fictional country of Agraba, take ethnic jokes to a whole different level – but with some very serious political commentary.

was my first time at Ali & Ali. I really enjoyed reading the
published play Ali & Ali and the Axes of Evil.  I couldn't stop laughing at some of the bits about Asian Heritage Month, and the Scottish stage manager.  For the 2010 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner, I had invited Marcus Youssef to read/perform an excerpt with comedian Charles Demers.  So I wasn't going to miss them.

The show opens with a montage of  current world leaders from Libya, USA, and Canada.  It's a tribute rap to Moammar Gadhafi.  Wow… we are definitely in a different cultural perspective here.  The play is interactive with the audience, asking questions, getting responses.  Surprise!  They are spoofing and utilizing experimental theatre audience participation as well as Bertolt Brecht's agitprop theatre.

Ali & Ali are presenting a show to the audience.  They introduce their assistant as Yogi Ru, in actuality Vancouver actor Raugi Yu.  Raugi is the straight man to this zany duo, even dressing up as Obama's Portuguese Water Dog. 

Along the way, an ethnic South Asian RCMP officer (Laara Sadiq) appears, to charge
Ali & Ali with illegal immigration to Canada.  A kangaroo court (or
would it be a “moose court” in Canada?) ensues and Ali & Ali must
defend and explain themselves. This is where the character of Raugi steps up as an interpreter to
explain the actions of Ali & Ali to the RCMP officer.  But true to
Ali & Ali interpretation and misinterpretion, as Canadian
sacred institutions
such as the RCMP are poked with scenarios including tasers and cultural sensitivity
training. Broad outrageous humour got loud laffs from the audience –
especially the puppet show!

Ali & Ali poke some fun at Barak Obama's New
World Order. The puppet show took on a weird outrageous vibe, as talking heads of Afro-American movement cultural icons, criticize Obama policies in the White House.  It would have been nice if they had been able to identify who their “Jiminy Cricket” conscience guides were, as many audience members are probably not versed in Afro-American revolutionaries such as Malcolm X and Angela Davis.  

Some serious topics are addressed such as
prison detention & torture, illegal immigration and deportation.  This show uses the slap stick humour to set up and explain the underlying social commentary.  How does a normal human being cope with being detained in prison on unspecific charges?  The balance between the serious and absurdist swings back and forth, eliciting emotional reactions from the audience.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  There are many in-jokes, dependent upon the audience's knowledge of many things.  It is like a television channel-flipping barrage of issues.  But the play succeeds in informing the audience about our country's detention of prisoners, and it creating new cultural perspectives of multiculturalism.  Sometimes, how you see the world really does depend on what colour your eyes are.

Definitely not for everybody – but neither was Monty Python or Wayne & Shuster.

Check out the Neworld website:

Friends of Foo's Ho Ho – A Moment to Remember “For Sam”

Memories of Chinatown's golden age and chef James Sam took place at Foo's Ho Ho Restaurant on Thursday, April 18th.

A Moment to Remember” was billed as a celebration of the
life of the late James Sam, better known as “Sam”, former chef and
owner of Foo's Ho Ho Restaurant.  The Friends of Foo's Ho Ho ad-hoc committee has been gathering friends to raise the profile of Chinatown's last traditional Cantonese pioneer cuisine restaurant in Vancouver Chinatown.  Jim Wong-Chu and Jacqueline Young have been spearheading the group which has been holding monthly dinners.

This was a special event because it recognized the contributions and talents of James Sam, who used to be the head chef at WK Gardens, Marco Polo and Foo's restaurants before starting his own restaurant up the street.  Sam re-opened the abandoned Ho Ho Restaurant site a number of year's ago, and re-named it Foo's Ho Ho.  Last July, Sam went to the hospital for cancer treatment, and word spread in the community that Foo's Ho Ho would close soon.  My friend Jim Wong-Chu sent out invitations for a “Last Night at Foo's” which I blogged about

This night's dinner was full of gaiety and celebration with 100 seats.  Lively jazz vocal music greeted arriving guest courtesy of pianist Bob York and vocalis Phyllis.  Wes Fung greeted people at the door.  Emcee duties were performed by Todd Wong – me!

Special guest speakers included Dr. Jan Walls – former director of SFU's David Lam Centre for International Communication, James Wright – general director of Vancouver Opera, and Jim Wong-Chu – community leader, who is spearheading this movement to revitalize and recognize the Foo's  Ho Ho Restaurant and it's culinary importance to Vancouver Chinatown and BC history.

Dr. Walls is renowned for his clapper tales – an ancient form of Chinese rhythmic poetry, similar to contemporary rapping.  He was once invited by Yo Yo Ma to perform in Boston. Jan is always a favorite at Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner events.

Mr. Wright talked about how Vancouver Opera has built tremendous community outreach programs for their major productions such as Madama Butterfly and Nixon in China, as well as for Vancouver Opera Touring Ensembe's traveling productions of Naomi's Road.

A power point display about Vancouver Chinatown with quotes of people talking about Chinatown and Foo's Ho Ho was created and presented by Ewin, Fanna and Larry.

Karen Lee-Morlang performed songs by Gershwin and Jelly Roll Morton.  I joined her for a short rendition of “As Time Goes By” as we lit sparklers on a cake for Sam's birthday anniversary.

Cheers, Todd

BC Book Prizes Soiree is a friendly, casual but exciting literary event

It was fun to host the 2010 BC Book Awards Soiree on Wednesday night.  It is indeed one of my favorite events because I get to meet new writers, greet writer friends, buy some new books, pick up some great silent auction prizes… and the organizers are always so friendly!

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Todd Wong hosts the 2010 BC Book Prize Soiree, making announcements with Selina Rajani, vice-president of the West Coast Book Prize Society – photo Nagai/Wong

This time as host, it was much busier.  Before going over the evening's script, the first thing I had to do was find my girlfriend Deb, to borrow her credit card to pay for the parking downstairs.  At past events you could always put money into the meters for 2 hours, and not worry.  But with extended meters until 10pm on busy Robson St. I don't take chances anymore.

Event producer Fernanda Vivieros had the updated scripts ready, and I acquainted myself with the room and who was there.  A good cross-section of BC's literary community of authors, publishers and organizers.  I said hello to publisher Scott McIntyre, organizer Linda Johnston, greeted author Larissa Lai who we featured at the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner this year, and waved to David Chariandy – author of Soucouyant (2008 nominee).

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Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, nominated for his Haida-Manga book “Red” wears an Asian-inspired jacket with frog buttons, while I wear a dragon themed waist-coat and Ancient Hunting Fraser tartan kilt. – photo Wong

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Some of the 2010 BC Book Prize nominees stand at the front as we give a toast to them – photo Nagai/Wong

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Todd Wong and Rolf Maurer toast to Stan Persky – photo Nagai/Wong

The best literary moment of the evening was Rolf Maurer's speech about Stan Persky.  He recounted the importance of Stan to our BC Literary community.  The jury stated that:

“We have chosen Stan Persky as the recipient of the 2010 Lieutenant Governor's Award for Literary Excellence because of the intellectual and moral integrity he brings to his work as a writer who engages with some of the most difficult questions facing society, and because of the great contributions he has made to the literary canon of Canada and British Columbia.

His numerous books and his trial-blazing efforts in creating literary journals and a forum for public engagement – not least New Star Books and the Georgia Straight – have helped develop British Columbia's literary community into what it is today.

Stan's bravery as a philosopher, a polemicist and a story-teller, leap from the pages of his twenty books.  Stan Persky is our Socrates.”

And indeed Persky has touched my life – first as my instructors for Political Science and Philosophy at Capilano College (now Capilano University) in the 1980's.  Stan became the original editor of The Solidarity Times, during the Operation Solidarity movement protesting the Socred government's restraint program. It was natural since Persky had written the book “Son of Socred” about Premier Bill Bennett.  During 2007, I found myself at the forefront of the historic Vancouver library strike when I organized a writer's series, inviting Vancouver writers to speak to the striking library workers. Stan came and stated he came to speak at the library because his “books are locked up and unavailable to the public.”

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Ricepaper managing editor Patricia Lim, Todd Wong, author Charles Demers – nominated for Vancouver Special (an essay collection about Vancouver's neighborhoods which features 2 paragraphs about Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner and Todd Wong) – photo Wong

And books!  I always walk away with new books in my hands.  This year I purchased Charles Demers' Vancouver Special, Spirit of the Nikkei Fleet: BC's Japanese Canadian Fishermen by Masako Fukawa with Stanley Fukawa, and Red by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas.  And Larissa Lai also signed my copies of her nominated poetry collection Automaton Biographies.

Hosting BC Book Prizes Soiree tonight and Friends of Foo's Ho Ho tomorrow night

It's a busy week for great events. 
Tonight I am hosting the BC Book Awards Soiree at the Listel Hotel. 

I have read the script, and I am very happy that I get to announce the 2010 winner of the Lt. Gov. Excellence in Writing Award.  The two previous winners were friends Gary Geddes, and Terry Glavin.  I can only hint that I also know the 2010 winner…. somebody I've known for more than 20 years!

The BC Book Prizes Soiree is always a lot of fun.  There are great silent auction and door prizes.  You can purchase the nominated books, and ask the authors to sign them.

This event is free, but you are encouraged to sign up for a membership of the BC Book Prizes Society

Listel Hotel
1300 Robson St.

Meanwhile… tomorrow night is the first Friends of Foo's Ho Ho fundraiser. 

The ad hoc group “Friends of Foo's Ho Ho have had a number of social dinners so far.  But this one is a biggie that you don't want to miss.  Special guest speakers include Dr. Jan Walls, James Wright (Vancouver Opera), Chuck Lew, Jim Wong-Chu.  There will be special musical guests.

And I am the host!  I have memories of eating at the Ho Ho Restaurant back in the late 1960's and throughout the 1970's.  Should I bring my accordion and play “Chinatown My Chinatown?”

Foo's Ho Ho Restaurant  (upstairs)
102 E. Pender

Contact me if you would like to sit at my table.

Cheers Todd

Friends of Foo's Ho Ho – Dinner to celebrate Life of James Sam and great Chinatown History

Friends of Foo's Ho Ho
Moment to Remember” is a celebration of the life of the late James Sam,
better known as “Sam”, former chef and owner of Foo's Ho Ho Restaurant.
Master of ceremonies and Chinatown longtimer, Gary Lee, will be among
those contributing stories about “Sam” and his landmark Chinatown
restaurant. Please join the Friends of Foo's Ho Ho in this inaugural fundraising dinner. Cash bar.

Thursday April 8th, 2010 at 6 pm – Foo's Ho Ho upper dining hall.
Tickets $50/person – RSVP by April 7th, 2010.

For information and tickets, please contact Jacqueline at:
Telephone: (604) 395-4274

Please indicate if vegetarian options are required.

See more

Time:Thursday, 08 April 2010 06:00
Location:Foo's Ho Ho upstairs

Monkey King comes to East Vancouver – House Festival's “Chasing the Monkey King”

Subject: Kung fu on the roof, music for the heart, tea for the soul
heard right. If you weren't tempted by the gorgeous music, the
delicious tea, the enthralling stories, the mesmerizing contact
juggling and the challenging calligraphy workshop, then perhaps the
idea of seeing incredible martial arts on a rooftop will incite and
excite you to partake in this once in a lifetime In the House show.

April 5th, we invite you to “Chasing the Monkey King” to experience
echoes of ancient China through a thrilling range of performances and

Date: April 5th, 2010
Time: There are 3 shows
available. When purchasing tickets or reserving, please make sure you
let us know whether you want the 7 pm, 8:15 pm or 9:30 pm show. There
are a maximum of 30 people per show so don't miss out!.

Where: 2495 Wall St.

Tickets: $18 adult
$13 kids and members

Tickets and information on In the House are available on-line at;

Starting the Easter weekend in Vernon: Visiting Betty McChan and Helmut's Sausage Kitchen

Here I am, back in Vernon, or more specifically Coldstream for the 2009 Easter weekend.  My girlfriend Deb and I drove up yesterday to spend some time with her parents and their border collie dogs.

It was a long tiring trip through the light rain, light snow on the Coquihalla and Connector highways.  Thankfully, there wasn't a snow storm.  We didn't get the big windstorm that hit Vancouver, but there were moderate winds pushing the car along the highways.  Lots of Canadian content on the cd player including Michael Buble's “Live at Madison Square Garden”, Bruce Cockburn's live solo album “Slice O Life” and Gordon Lightfoot's “Gord's Gold.”  After hearing that Lightfoot had re-written his lyrics of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, I have decided to write new lyrics to his classic “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” to include a Chinese-Canadian perspective.  Maybe I will call it Chinese-Canadian Railroad Trilogy or Chinese-Canadian Railroad Tragedy… we will see how it pans out.

One of the first things I did upon arriving at “The In-Laws” was to pet all the doggies greeting our arrival.  Val literally jumps on me, trying to lick my face, while the younger dog Tess simply brings me a pine cone to throw for her.  Finally, she has somebody to throw pine cones for her again.  Definitely a “fetchit” dog! 

Next I walk down to private dock that sits on Kalamalka Lake.  It's a beautiful lake, nicknamed the “Lake of Many Colours”.  I am hoping to do some paddling this weekend in canoe or kayak.  But now, it's time to socialize, catch up on news, then have a great dinner. 

After dinner, we fall asleep watching Disney's “The Princess and the Frog” .  Darn – I had really been looking forward to the movie, with its portrayal of jazzy cajun spiced New Orleans, and its inaugural debut of African-American characters and culture.  Maybe it is too politically correctly sanitized, or stereotypically traditional, or maybe my sense of disbelief cannot be suspended.  A talking firefly that survives multiple hits, and never becomes bug splat?

Saturday, I wake up to the heavy splashing of white capped waves on Kalamalka Lake.  No kayaking today.  I joke that maybe I could take a kayak out and surf the waves to Alexander's Pub, and somebody could come pick me up.  No takers.  Chances of being cold and wet are high, and I dislike the combination terribly.

There are no dim sum restaurants in Vernon.  Too bad…. but I have a wonderful lunch date with Betty “McChan” and her husband Don.  Betty is a former Canadian National Highland Dance Champion…. and she is Chinese-Canadian.  The picture I saw of her, was an archival copy of Chinatown News from the late 1950's.  I first met Betty in 2006 when she came to Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.  This past New Year's was the first time we visisted in Vernon.  We have a wonderful chat about Gung Haggis Fat Choy, local Vernon Viper hockey, Larry Kwong the first Chinese Canadian to play in the NHL, dim sum, tai chi, and whether or not Betty will borrow, hire or purchase a Chinese Lion dance costume. 

For our first visit to Betty's place, just after New Year's, she had made a wonderful classic Cantonese style Won Ton soup.  This time it was her husband Don in the kitchen.  He made a delicious omelette with a side dish of corned beef hash brown potatoes.  Spontaneously, I asked if he had ever made a haggis hash.  He hadn't, but he liked the idea.  I told him about the a capella group The No Shit Shirleys who had performed at the 2006 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner, and how whenever the group performs their version of Mo Li Hua (Jasmine Flower) they tell the story about haggis-fried rice that they had at the dinner.  They thought it was soooo delicious.  Betty and Don had attended that dinner and they thought The Shirleys were wonderful performers, and the fried rice was good too!

On my way back to my Vernon home-base, I spot the Vernon Sausage Company, and it's delicatessen Helmut's Sausage Kitchen.  I have tasted some of Oyama Sausage at Salt Tasting Room in Vancouver, and decide to purchase some local tastes for tonight's appetizer plate.  I select a few slices of the Soppressata salami, Prosciutto Westphalia,
Bauern schinken (a cured beef), 1 slice of the huge corned beef, and 6 slices each of the Helmut's
Farmer Salami and the Kirsch-Salami.  I also pick some cheeses: Provolone,
Smoked Gruyere, and Smoked Gouda.
  The meats only cost me $3.12… wow!  It's a wonderful cured meat and cheese platter.  Everybody is complimentary.  And much cheaper than going to Salt Restaurant, but without the incredible comfits and sauces that they match to their platters.  I eat so much that I don't have as much room for the wonderful turkey dinner we have. 

Hmmm…. did I use the word “wonderful” too many times.  I like my visits to Vernon.