The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘sunnyside

given much

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It’s National Brownie Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a note – this post was originally meant to be published yesterday, and was written in two distinct sittings – I’ll get to the reason why a bit later at photo number five…

So – The other day I was hanging out with a photographer pal of mine, and she asked if I’d be interested in going to “shoot the 7” with her, an entirely wholesome activity of the sort which one readily agrees to. We met up in Astoria, rode to Willets Point and then back to 103rd street, where we debarked the train for luncheon at an eatery of my acquaintance which serves food of the Latino typology. One torta later, we were back on the 7, riding to and fro while chasing opportune lighting.

Who do you think I run into?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the 40th Lowery Street stop, Santa Claus was waiting for the train to arrive. One greeted this seasonal master of the elves, and inquired if it was kosher to collect a shot or two of it. Never piss off Santa. He’s not always a nice guy, and you don’t want to end up on that naughty list. Incidentally like god, Santa is an “it,” not a “he,” as metaphysical beings are not gendered. You don’t refer to the burning bush as “him.” What you see when a Saint, Angel, Savior, or Djinn presents themselves is all that the limited senses of men can perceive and interpret of the thing, the event horizon of something existing in multiple dimensions simultaneously, which our brains can only render as being a jolly fellow in a red suit. Santa is a dragon, an exploding star, a single quark – all at once.

The eidolon of the Yule answered my request in the affirmative, and it didn’t even cost me a glass of milk nor a cookie.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is opined that the children this creature (whose syncretic origins tie him back through time and space to the Pagan God  Odin in the northwest of Europe and the 2nd century Saint Christian Nikolaos of Myra) defines as “good” receive toys and other decadent gifts. Those whom it has arbitrarily labeled “bad” receive a lump of coal. Occultists and certain Christian sects will inform that Santa is not this entity’s true name, and that “Santa” is just an anagram.

It is said that there are a pair of brothers who used their lumps of coal as the seed with which they founded a petrochemical empire, and rose to National political prominence. When life, or Santa, gives you lemons…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wouldn’t be me, incidentally, if I didn’t try to ruin Santa Claus for everyone else by talking about the deep historic roots of the entity nor remind all of you that there’s a difference between the Mediterranean and Near Eastern “Christmas” and the “Yule” celebrated by the barbarian Normans. Most of what we associate with “Christmas” is actually Yule.

Christmas Eve was once called Mōdraniht by the same Northern European cultures that believed in Norns, Hamingja, the Fylgjur, and variants of Odin. These same people also dug Thor and Freya, whom they turned into Saint Michael and the Blessed Virgin Mary in Christian times, but there you are.

from wikipedia

Scholars have connected the month event and Yule time period to the Wild Hunt (a ghostly procession in the winter sky), the god Odin (who is attested in Germanic areas as leading the Wild Hunt and, as mentioned above, bears the name Jólnir), and increased supernatural activity, such as the aforementioned Wild Hunt and the increased activities of draugar—undead beings who walk the earth.

Mōdraniht, an event focused on collective female beings attested by Bede as having occurred among the pagan Anglo-Saxons on what is now Christmas Eve, has been seen as further evidence of a fertility event during the Yule period.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, as to the question of why this post originally meant to publish yesterday on National Cotton Candy Day rather than today… HOLY SMOKES was a humble narrator laid low by some sort of rapid onset stomach bug after attending a Christmas party in the City on Tuesday. This felt a bit more like food poisoning than a virus. I blamed one of the Billion Oysters guys, whose hand I shook when he took a break from shucking shellfish for the Xmas party, while laying there in a hallucination plagued state as my digestive system purged itself. It could also have been touching something on the subway, but I needed someone to blame, so the oyster guy got the nod.

“Both ends” of my inner worm were exit points, if you know what I mean.

Couldn’t hold down a sip of water, and I enjoyed deep bodily chills as well as fevered sweats while repeatedly running towards my porcelain throne. The time in between explosive exhalations was spent sleeping and suffering. Over a 24 hour period, all I could hold down was a bit of Gatorade, a banana, and about half a bottle of Pepto Bismol.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At this moment, one seems to be on the mend, but bodily weakness and a general turpitude prevails.

Imagine it… a humble narrator so enamored of a waterway plagued by raw sewage… laid low by a simple handshake.


Upcoming Tours and events

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 8, 2017 at 11:00 am

after action

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It’s National Have a Bagel Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Encountered at the corner of Hunters Point Avenue and 36th street, which is at the “angle” between the Blissville and Sunnyside sections of LIC here in Queens, this formerly cool car appears to have suffered through some sort of catastrophic event. You’ll notice that there’s more than few odd things about this scene. My reckoning, at least, is that I can’t imagine that this immolation of an expensive auto was desired by its owner – but who knows?

Kids these days. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This was a fairly thorough fire, by all appearances, but one that was quite selective in terms of what it consumed. Little green cards with NYPD logos on them were visible on the heap, instructing “Do Not Tow” and proclaiming the wreck as being “evidence.” The vehicle is of the Mercedes sedan type, or at least it was. This puppy is likely going to be seen somewhere along Newtown Creek in the coming weeks, squished into a pile of castoff vehicles at one scrap yard or another.

Anybody out there missing a black Mercedes sedan?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That had to be some sort of super hot fire, in my eyes, to have melted away the engine bonnet.

Apparently, though, that’s what happened. In some ways, it visually reminds one of that mysterious phenomena called “spontaneous human combustion.” That’s the one where a body is found that’s been partially burned all the way to ash but the flames were super selective, leaving behind a hand or foot that is otherwise unharmed, and with little damage to furniture or wall hangings in proximity to high temperature combustion. To get human flesh to ash, crematoriums create fiery environments that are 1,400 to 1,800 degrees fahrenheit. How can something anywhere even close to an environment of that temperature not get scorched?

I mean… this blaze was hot enough to melt the engine hood, parts of the engine, and the entire interior cabin – but the tires are perfectly intact? Weird.

Steel melts at 2,750 degrees fahrenheit, I’m told.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 4, 2017 at 11:00 am

systematic collection

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It’s National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So – last week I had a few things to do over in the Hunters Point section of LIC on a particular afternoon. A short and rapid scuttle ensued, one which saw a humble narrator hurtling south towards Skillman Avenue in a staggering pursuance of arrival in certain points found westwards of the almond eyed Astoria he calls home. Avoidance of perambulatory transit through Queens Plaza has become a “thing” for me, as the alternative route – using Jackson Avenue – is less visually interesting, and is also a somewhat harrowing journey on foot due to omnipresent construction and heavy vehicular activity.

Besides – I have zero opportunity to shoot shots of trains using the Jackson Avenue route, and I know where just about every hole in the fenceline along the Sunnyside Yards can be found. I always advise those dear to me to “stand behind something” while waiting for the traffic signals to change and allow access to cross this Northern Boulevard, I would mention, so in the interest of practicing what I preach – one ducked down and cowered behind a fire hydrant (pictured above). 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

OK – Steinway Street in Astoria is analogous to 39th street in Sunnyside, and the two are connected by one of several truss bridges that span the Sunnyside Yards. It’s actually fairly “good cardio” walking over the 39th street span if you lean into it and push towards the apogee of the thing. At the top of the arch, there’s a worker access road that would carry Amtrak and other railroad employees down into the railyard, and that’s where I spotted a percussionist practicing his craft.

Naturally – One did not wish to interrupt his reverie, so I cannot describe who the fellow was, but he was positively “rocking out.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Observedly – It was a three piece drum set which this gentleman had set up for himself, and despite having noticed a humble narrator photographing him, he never skipped a beat.

Y’know – This sort of drum kit is relatively modern in origin, and whereas it is quite familiar to modern eyes, it was only originated in the 1860’s. It’s called a “trap drum” or “double drumming” kit, and prior to the semi modern era, each one of the instruments on view (base, cymbal, snare) would have required an individual musician to operate. The trap drum innovation was conducive to the development of the musical schools of ragtime, jazz, and rock-n-roll, I’m told.

But – I digress.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Then – Although I wish I could tell you that one got caught up in the wild al fresco rhythms offered by this anonymous percussionist, as mentioned at the top of the post – I had things to do and places to be. Utilizing one of those aforementioned holes big enough to stick a lens through – in the fences of the Sunnyside Yards – and which I keep a constantly updated mental map of, to capture a shot of Amtrak’s Acela train passing through the Harold Interlocking on its way towards Manhattan. It’s the busiest train junction in the United States, actually, the Harold Interlocking. The Mayor wants to build luxury housing upon a deck on top of it. Please vote for someone else today.

Ultimately – I had places to go, and headed west into the setting sun, scuttling along with a camera in hand.


Upcoming Tours and events

Exploring Long Island City, from Luxury Waterfront to Abandoned Factories Walking Tour,
with NY Adventure Club – Sunday, November 12th, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Long Island City is a tale of two cities; one filled with glittering water-front skyscrapers and manicured parks, and the other, a highly active ground transportation & distribution zone vital to the New York economy — which will prevail? With Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour, with Atlas Obscura – Sunday, December 10th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Explore NYC history, hidden inside sculptural monuments and mafioso grave sites, as you take in iconic city views on this walking tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 7, 2017 at 11:00 am

stymied appetites

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It’s National Seafood Bisque Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One loathes the fact that the Queens Cobbler, a probable serial killer operating on both sides of the Newtown Creek who leaves single shoes behind as a taunt to both community and gendarmes alike, left this stiletto heeled shoe behind at the very same Astoria saloon at which a humble drinks his troubles away. Just last weekend, on a night when I had brought my little dog Zuzu out with me for an evening of commiseration with the neighborhood commentariat – as I was walking my trusty canine around the corner to allow for a moment of her lavatorial relief – this scene was encountered.

Should you find a singular size 11 Merell hiking boot displayed prominently somewhere in North Brooklyn or Western Queens, that means the Cobbler has finally zeroed in on me and that you’ll need to find a replacement for this – your Newtown Pentacle. If you see a headline saying “blogger catches killer” then it’ll mean I got the best of him or her.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been working on a Newtown Creek event, one which is not public facing I’m afraid, assiduously over the last couple of weeks and is highly distracted. Due to this – and other obligations – one hasn’t had a lot of “me” time. One of those many obligations recently saw me attending a rather contentious meeting with environmental officialdom in Sunnyside, where I noticed some fellow doing his job in the rain at a local tire shop on 39th street.

The “G” bomb, which is the term I use for the unfolding wavefront of so called “gentrification” has observedly hit the street side auto industry hardest in recent years. Gas stations, taxi yards, tire shops, mechanics – have all been disappearing at a rapid rate in recent years. They occupy large lots and generally have shallow pockets, a pair of factors which are quite attractive development opportunities for the Real Estate Industrial Complex.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A Subway conductor recently told me that MTA employees absolutely hate it when shots like the one above are captured. They are especially enraged when their faces are recognizable. One plans on continuing to photograph the men and women who operate the system, however. Just last night, when a token booth worker at Fulton Street made me miss two trains so that he could complete a phone call with his wife before performing the transaction to charge up my Metrocard, I didn’t take his picture as I was particularly “geared up” with a tripod and bag of lenses and my hands were full.

Another reason for me to enjoy enraging the MTA workforce with photos captured involves the weekend habits they employ, announcing that a train is going express to some extant locale just after the subway doors close at Queens Plaza, negating any chance of not visiting Forest Hills or Briarwood.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 19, 2017 at 1:00 pm

deliberate effacement

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It’s National Double Cheeseburger Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Often, it seems as if all of Western Queens is a “work zone,” and it’s impossible to go more than a few blocks without seeing the telltale “high visibility” orange vests and barriers of one work crew or another. The folks in the shot above work for a company called “Hecla,” and they were doing some sort of street work that involved setting down a large concrete pad into 48th avenue, adjoining a bus stop.

As a side note, I associate the word “Hecla” with a very active Icelandic stratovolcano (a volcanic ridge, actually, which rises nearly 5,000 feet high) which medieval Europeans believed to be the entrance to hell. The Icelandic spelling is actually “Hekla,” but both spellings are apparently used for this subarctic fire mountain. The most active part of the Hecla stratovolcano is a fiery fissure called “Heklugjá.” “Hekla Fell” is where witches are still meant to gather at Easter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given that Queens sits nestled in a combination of elluvial deposits and post glacial rubble piled up around a “Y” shaped ridge of Manhattan schist and other hard rocks that form a very long island, we don’t have to worry too much about magma exploding out of the manhole covers anytime soon, but one thing I’ve learned over the nearly two decades I’ve lived hereabouts is to not take much for granted. You never know what’s going to happen next.

Would not be surprised one little bit – for instance – if a group of witches gathered at the corner of Greenpoint Avenue and 43rd street, pictured above, on Easter. Occult tradition states that between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the throne of Heaven is empty and that the elder devil Satan is free to do his thing. People confuse Satan and Lucifer all the time, by the way, which annoys me.

As above, so below. Satan is the “adversary” to Yahweh the father (Old Testament), as Lucifer is to Jesus the son. The whole Holy Ghost trinity thing is what gives heaven’s armies their edge, and why Christians fear the coming of the antichrist, which will even the odds between the two sides.

But I digress. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I think all of the construction Orange is pretty cool, visually. I wish that instead of the sapphire glass which will inevitably be clad around the tragically named – and branded – 5ptz residential luxury tower in LIC, they’d design in some nice orange motifs.

Orange reminds one of hell, and fire, and the consequence of embracing one or more of the seven deadly sins – greed, avarice, and so on. Christian scholar Jeffrey Burton Russell posits that the devil’s incarnation in the modern age isn’t the Bronze Age Satan, nor the medieval Lucifer – rather it’s either the lord of lust called Asmodeus or the demon God of greed called Mammon.


Upcoming Tours and events

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura – Saturday, September 23rd, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Join us on the wrong side of the tracks for an exploration of the hidden industrial heartlands of Brooklyn and Queens, with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 15, 2017 at 11:00 am

tentative measures

with 3 comments

It’s National Orange Blossom Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another day, another commute. One’s life is odd, and each day brings its own sort of challenge.

I didn’t have any paying work one recent weekday, so when a Manhattan based anti gentrification activist emailed and asked if he could meet up with me to discuss the DEP and their CSO’s in Greenpoint and LIC… well, how could I say no to something like that? We met at Dorians in LIC, I had a cheeseburger and a cup of black coffee. On the way home, I had to stop off in Sunnyside to see a guy about a thing, so I hopped on the 7 across the street from Dorians at Vernon/Jackson.

As a note, I sometimes use “Vernon Jackson” as an alias.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m trying to come up with a term to replace “gentrification” at the moment, as I don’t think it’s apropo to describe what’s happening in Long Island City and the East River coastline of Brooklyn (et al) in modern times. According to the dictionary people, gentrification is defined as – “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.”

That’s not what’s happening in Long Island City. At all.

Gentrification is something that “happened” in East Harlem and the Upper West Side, Bushwick and Williamsburg and Park Slope, but back in the 1990’s. What’s going on now… we don’t have a name for it, yet. Longtime Newtown Pentacle commenter and reader “Cav” has suggested “development rampage.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, let me qualify my statements with this – unlike normal people, I don’t exactly have “feelings.” Rather, and especially when behind the camera, I try to be some sort of extraterrestrial thing recording the antics of you drunken man beasts in a quite separated, sterile, and utterly emotionless manner. When not shooting, I don’t run around waving signs, chanting chants, or spouting sophomoric “poli-sci” nonsense about “the youth” or “verbal activists.” If I need to get something done, or fixed, I “show up” and get involved in the process of fixing it.

I don’t think that what’s in your pockets is somehow mine by natural right, and I wouldn’t dream of telling you what to do or not do with your own property. Like most Americans, I want to be left alone to mind my own business without input from you, the government, or anybody else.

Saying all that, I may not like what you do with your personal property, but just as I would insist regarding my own “stuff” – it’s none of my business what you do. Key word in that statement is “business.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It always pisses off the officialdom types when I refer to “my property” and question them about their stewardship or management thereof. A good political operator working for the Government will respond positively to me when I refer to them as “my employees,” whereas others will sneer at me and adopt a tired expression. When we’re talking about Sunnyside Yards, that’s the very definition of “our collective property,” however. Amtrak and MTA don’t own the yards, the public does, and the two agencies are meant to represent our collective interests. The only part of the yards which are in private hands is on the 43rd street side, and it’s owned by General Motors. With a phone call and a quick Wall Street transaction, I can own some “buy in” of General Motors too.

Ultimately, if it’s government land, WE own it. Maybe… just maybe… before any sort of deck thingamabob is built on our property, there should be a vote about disbursing it for the usage of the real estate industrial complex?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It always makes my fellow riders a bit uncomfortable when they see me pressed up against the window of a subway car, furiously working the shutter button on the camera. This is something I’ve never quite understood. People often react to the presence of a camera in the same manner as if I was carrying a firearm, and God forbid you get a shot with some random person in it who has decided that you’ve just stolen their soul or something. The odd thing about this, to me at least, is that half the train population seem to be taking “selfies” and it’s fairly common for people to use their phones to take shots of every amusing or wry thing they see these days.

Me? I’m just the guy taking pictures out of the dirty windows on the 7 train, trying to make some productive usage of the otherwise wasted time as I travel from Hunters Point – where I met a guy to talk about a thing to Sunnyside – so I can go see another guy about a different thing before heading home.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Maybe I’ve just gotten used to being photographed and videoed over the last decade, but it really doesn’t grind my gears if someone takes a photo of me – especially if I’m doing something outlandish in public.  It’s something that happens all the time during my tours of Newtown Creek, and I do turn up in newspaper articles periodically, commenting on this event or that so I guess I’m used to it. My understanding of things, law wise, is that if you’re in public you have no basic right to privacy. It’s the pretext which the cops and others use when installing street facing security cameras, and the only “rule” surrounding the photography of the public sphere is that you can get in “libel” trouble for assigning an editorial meaning to an image that isn’t inherent. There’s also a whole set of rules about private property, but that’s a different tale.

Example – you’re coming out of a pharmacy and pop a physician prescribed pill you just purchased, and I present it with a caption saying “well known drug addict Joe Blow popping pills again.” That’s libelous, and bad journalism, as I don’t know for certain what sort of pill it is and whether or not it’s habitually consumed, nor whether or not Joe Blow is an addict. All I actually know is what happened in the 1/500th of a second when the shutter was open.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Deep existential wandering, such as that contained in this post, is also one of the ways a humble narrator passes the time during the random series of subway connections which allow one to maintain his odd lifestyle. The bullet points of this post are “wow, look at all this construction and we have a looming infrastructure crisis on the horizon,” “must come up with a term to replace gentrification,” “what’s up with all these communists wackos suddenly emerging from the woodwork in Western Queens who have been emboldened by Trump’s surprising victory,” “must oppose the decking over of the Sunnyside Yards in every possible way,” “people are staring at me on the train while I’m shooting,” and so on.

What can I tell you, I’m all ‘effed up.

I was also a bit gassy after eating that cheeseburger at Dorians in Hunters Point, and had been suppressing the emergence of a colossal fart for the entire ride on the 7. Here at 40th street, as the next 7 was pulling in, I let it rip. It would have been bad form to do so in the confines of the subway car.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

inappropriate interludes

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It’s National Cupcake Lovers Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The lonely path one such as myself walks often reveals hidden facets of the great human hive which are unnoticed or uncommented upon by most. An often quoted line from the 1980’s film Buckaroo Banzai is “no matter where you go, there you are,” and that’s something I couldn’t agree with more. Under the LIRR tracks at 43rd street nearby Barnett Avenue, an enterprising family has been collating the collections of the neighborhood “Canners,” who harvest recyclable beverage containers from residential trash. These containers are literally “money left in the street” and prove out the old aphorism that the streets of NYC are paved in gold if you’re willing to work hard enough to get it.

I first became aware of the “collectors” around twenty years ago when I was working a night shift and living in Manhattan, and I’d encounter trucks filled with bags of bottles. The exchange rate was three or four cents a can (depending), as opposed to the five cents you’ll get at a redemption center, with the extra pennies compensating the truck driver and saving the canner the hassle of using the slow and often out of order bottle redemption mechanisms found at supermarkets.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s a timing thing, getting the blue arc of electrical energy that lights up the train on the local Queens bound track at Queens Plaza. Cannot tell you how many times I miss it, even though I can utterly predict when the flash will occur as the R line local enters the station. My normal predication is to walk home to Astoria, from Queens Plaza, but at night you need to be worried about the pestilential Vampires who are known to infest the area. The 108th and 114th precincts will both deny the existence of this crowd of blood drinkers.

There’s also teenagers, who are wildly unpredictable creatures given to sudden flights of fancy and best avoided.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As far as I’ve been able to discern, the only vampire we’ve got locally here in Southern Astoria is my pal Matty, pictured above. The shot above was captured just as he was about to lean in and suckle on my jugular, and I surprised him by suddenly spinning around to catch him in the act before he distended the fangs. Legend has it that Matty has been “living” in the neighborhood since the 1880’s, but it isn’t clear if he was already a nosferatu when he arrived or if it’s something that happened locally. No one, not even Matty, is sure where he nests – but as soon as the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself ducks below the horizon, he appears.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 13, 2017 at 12:15 pm

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