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Thursday, 19 September 2013

FLORENCE IN FLOWERS, Cracow 10.08.2013

Flo – Fascinating Lovely Object gave a unique and unusual concert in Cracow, one summer Saturday. I won't forget being there! As well as other 40 000 people, all ages, not only Polish, male and female – true fans what we proved by singing along every song...



Florence became FLOWERence after she was surprised by Polish Fanclub action spread via Facebook: lots of participants wore wreaths on their hair and when the vocalist ran from the stage to the audience she collected many of them. Going back to the microphone she willingly used the garlands to decorate herself and the stand... That was touching and impressive, exactly like her reaction some minutes later – while Florence was singing What the Water Gave Me first row of fans unfolded banner ‘What Florence Gave Me?’ and hundreds of people raised up slogans answering that question...

We learnt that this beautiful and phenomenal British singer is not ‘stiff upper lip’ at all but very emotional, rather spontaneous and even impulsive. Some hours before, at the backstage, she and the whole Machine met young Poles who had started the Fanclub and got a very extraordinary present from them – a bag of glitter. Flo didn’t resist using that during whole concert – on her skin, rest of her band or nearest spectators... Unfortunately I wasn’t close enough but somehow after the concert, emerging from the mass of audience I did catch a grain of this ‘stardust’ on my clothes:)

18 days after the gig FLOWrence celebrated her birthday and from Polish fans she received this enormous poster – I really appreciate imagination, organisational skills and creativity of young organizers responsible for the event:

 
What Florence and the Machine gave me? Well, I'd say mental freedom when I hear Shake It Out and feeling of psychic unity with my best friend while sharing emotions, admiration, ecstasy coming to us with that music...


In Galaxy of the Lost I wish you Cosmic Love, which gives you Breath of Life Between Two Lungs, All This and Heaven Too... I wish you Bird Song about Bedroom Hymns... I wish you Gravity of Love so Heavy in Your Arms, that Never Lets You Go... I wish you Lover to Lover in No Light at night... I wish you Addiction to Love in Your Best Dress, Pearls and Roses...I wish you Falling and Swimming and Howl...


Friday, 28 June 2013

HOW TO BECOME A TEACHER IN ONE MONTH and survive…;)

We have been warned that the CELTA course is intensive. We have been supplied with pre-course information about timetables and requirements. We have researched it's a level 5 qualification equivalent to the beginning of the second year on a university first degree course based on the Cambridge franchise and compressed into 20 days. Yet we didn't believe it all until the very first days... I personally planned a lot of appointments for evenings; one coursemate from abroad wanted to learn Polish in the meantime; another one chose couchsurfing as the free of charge accommodation and had to move every couple of days.

But there was no meantime. There was no spare time. In fact there was too little time for maintenance of vital functions like sleeping or eating. Some of us slept 2-4 hours per night. Some of us lived mostly on coffee and cigarettes. Agreed: it is NOT possible to imagine the CELTA course until it becomes your reality! But what a satisfaction you get when it’s over! And... somehow right after the last day you start missing it... That’s why I decided to press on a slow release button in my memory and write down these:

 CELTA survival know-how tips from a May-June 2013 participant:
·  Choose the right place – I don't know how many British Council institutions around the world are located like the one in Cracow, Poland. It’s situated in the Main Market Square, facing Adam Mickiewicz's monument, in the middle of Royal Way from Matejki Square to Wawel Castle, literally in the heart of Old Town. The building itself is magnificent, historical and antique with spectacular wooden ceiling and opera-style chandelier. As a Pole I was proud to present the best of Cracow to foreign colleagues (sometimes probably to bore them with bits of history and architecture;) every day just while stepping out from the shadow of BC gate to the sunny square full of life and music.
 
·  Choose the right time – we were this lucky group which had one additional free day on 30th of May as it was the Corpus Christi holiday. It gave us some extra time to catch a breath of life’ and overcome the workload shock at the pretty beginning...
 
·  Prepare for challenging weather – due to worldwide climate change it's not foreseeable anymore. We had two weeks of very English weather with cold showers or niggling drizzle all days and nights. Then tropical sun started shining and burning so that all non-residents experienced the full amplitude between 5 and 35 degrees Celcius.

·  If you are a teacher in service – prepare for elimination of your worst habits and ‘throwing some of your sacred cows out of the window’. To me it was one of the most valuable teaching experiences: interiorizing that freer practice (fluency) is just as important as restricted practice (accuracy); that echoing is no good at all and that IWB is soooooooo useful!

·  If you are a native speaker – you may feel pressure that you should know your mother tongue better... prepare to hear from your Tutor statements like this: sometimes you think you know something but in fact you don't know. Don't use your brains – use a dictionary instead;) 

·  Decide in advance if you want to sacrifice some of your healthy lifestyle for fun and socializing. I stayed in a place with no Internet access thus I managed to sleep 6-8 hours per night, completing all my coursework in British Council's computer room. But I missed a lot of night chats, f.ex. when at 4 am one of the trainees posted a question where is word stress in this sentence? and received four totally different answers… I also almost regretted my non-smoking when during last week it occured to me how much relieve a quick ‘group cigarette ritual’ can give...

·  Cooperate, not compete I got the impression of a very unique group which every single member enriched so much! I felt the support and inspiration at all times: lessons, sessions, inputs, lunch breaks, evenings, mornings... On the last day we all managed to have farewell dinner together; then we all met in a night club again – even people leaving on Saturday morning! It was a special night of summer solstice, at which we gained our post-course catharsis by relieving all stress and pressure... I'll remember forever the moment when T. chested, mapped out and did demo of pole dancing or, after we drilled, backchained and practiced club's name (quite difficult to pronounce for non-Polish), A. asked me if the two apostrophes indicated word stress. The answer was: Yeah, and this line below shows intonation pattern!’ 

·  Trust your Tutorsall of Cracow Celta Trainers are simultaneously charming while requiring the highest quality – and that’s what I call teaching mastership. I entirely admire their ability to follow every single lesson minute by minute while taking accurate notes and not only skimming but also reading the lesson plan for detailed comprehension... That's not only multitasking, that's extreme long and divided attention span! ‘Verba docent, exempla trahunt’ – I experienced plenty of good examples in this theory-practice-reflection CELTA cycle thanks to them.

Wake me at midnight and I’ll tell you with no hesitation what PPP TTT TBL or ‘thru-textmean. I feel I got it all: self-awareness, firmness and flexibility. Now I know: no pain = no gain; no suffering = no satisfaction! CELTA was worth it!

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

SHAKESPEARE SHAKES IN HIS GRAVE...



I’m a faithful fan, huge admirer and loyal lover of British and American method ‘how to make high literature more teenager-friendly’. This trick is easy, simple & plain: films, movies, TV versions, adaptations. With very significant ending ‘S’ emphasising plurality, yes, especially for title Shakespeare. According to Wikipedia source this England-born king of tragedy is ‘the most filmed author ever in any language’ with around 500 film versions of his plays produced until today.



Dramas are meant to be watched not read. Mostly by adults not adolescents. Yet the obligation of school is to introduce classic belles-lettres to underaged, usually by teachers of mother tongue. As a schoolmistress of Polish I do know something about it... Since the moment I saw Romeo/Leo di Caprio and Juliet/Claire Danes in 1996 I’ve felt jealous of this wide range of screenings to which my English or American analogues can refer during their lessons. Not only the eternal author of Hamlet is honored this way. At least every decade new versions of evergreens by Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens are made. There are 15 Jane Eyres (I watched 5), 10 Pride and Prejudices (I saw 3), 5 Emmas (I viewed 2) but the absolute record-breakers are Oliver Twists in the number of 20, including also musicals, cartoons, miniseries and animated films.


My first and beloved Jane Eyre was Charlotte Gainsbourg, again in 1996, happy time of my Cracow studies:) I found everything so ideal and perfect in this movie that I completely couldn’t understand why on earth some other director attempted to create another one only a year later? Now I know: it’s a constant challenge for crew and cast; it’s a good way to make the drama or novel everlasting for younger and younger audience; finally it’s looking for – finding – presenting universal content in contemporary form.

Back to title William, prince of comedy. It’s such a pity that most Polish students connect him only with bloody Macbeth, a must read at their age of 16! OK, maybe also with Romeo & Juliet, an all-time archetype of unrequited love... Why not Midsummer’s Night Dream with the conventionality of marriage discussion? Why not The Taming of the Shrew with the possibility of feminist discourse? Why not Twelfth Night, or What You Will with timeless qui-pro-quo theme?  Why death and murder instead of fun and laughter? Especially since there are teenage-targeted adaptations which I recommend all language-learners, both before and after 18th birthday.


 

If you never heard of She’s the Man or 10 Things I Hate About You, just read the poster and watch the trailer. Long-lasting but also life-teaching laughter is guaranteed! I wish we had similar screenings of Polish classics too...

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

SMART IS SEXY! SEXY. SEXY.



Brainiac, nerd, geek, freak, oaf, awkward – these words are no more insulting in the global universe of mass culture and entertainment. How did it happen? Who caused that? Well, that would be producers of The Big Bang Theory TV series, as they created six former victims of school bullying, characters now-aged-around-30 and made them most popular sitcom protagonists in this century. Plus one former female bully, who very quickly felt the need to adjust to the genius of her neighbours. Highest intelligence versus common sense; gender, racial and scientist stereotypes taken to their extremes; warm caricature of Generation Y connected with osmotic integration of its values into modern society – these are my reasons to watch and adore ‘Big Bang’.

Not only mine! Adolescenting teenagers and philosophy doctors, feminists and conservatives, middle-level educated housewives and busy computer specialists – around 20 mln people worldwide watch new parts of 6th season week by week. At present at least some percentage of this six zeros number can’t wait to a 134th (!) episode. I’ve done some research on that matter and found out three most popular adjectives used in description of the series.

HILARIOUS

What exactly does ‘bazinga’ mean? Urban online dictionary explains: A catchy phrase to accompany your clever pranks. This word belongs to Sheldon, the funniest character in all ratings/surveys of both viewers and critics. Perfidiously, he’s the one who doesn’t understand sarcasm and is totally unable to laugh wholeheartedly. That’s the contrast effect! On YouTube there are tens of ‘Sheldon’s Best’ shots as well as Penny’s, Leonard’s, Howard’s, Raj’s and so on. Honestly, each particular scene which I had remembered as tremendously entertaining, I could find cut and uploaded there. For instance that one. Only a minute short but provides you with full-health portion of laughter:


SO TRUE

Whether we call them theoreticians or practitioners, Big Bang characters are just who they are, not pretending to be someone else, someone better. Self-assured as scientists, lacking some social skills in outside world but also trying to find solutions in harmony with themselves. That way they also popularize mental self-knowledge about sources of various psychical problems. Wide audience learn about Oedipus complex, selective mutism and Asperger's syndrome thanks to these ‘role models’. Thinking about it I paid attention to their mothers and fathers’ figures – yes, loads of food for thoughts...

What else? Fascinating fact that the actress playing Amy in real life holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience too. She truly is a woman with big brains! Thanks to her ‘serial colleagues’ I discovered I’m sapiosexual and that’s a nice feeling;) Sapiosexuality is a behavior of becoming attracted to or aroused by intelligence and its use. Example: Me? I don’t care too much about the looks. I want an incisive, inquisitive, insightful, irreverent mind. I want someone for whom philosophical discussion is foreplay. I want someone who sometimes makes me go ouch due to their wit and evil sense of humor. (…) All the ‘i’ words from that definition greatly correspond with ‘Shamy’ & ‘Lenny’, don’t they? One small flaw: as a female I just pity the directors present mostly girl-hunting... Where could I find any clues how to pick up a male nerd, if not there?

TRENDSETTING

OK, I don’t insist that this sudden, inexplicable fashion for thick rimmed glasses had its beginning in ‘Big Bang’. Still, I believe the series helped to popularize some games: floor, board, RPG or computer and also created new ones: 3D chess, ‘paper scissors stone spock lizard’, ‘element quiz’. I’ve also read that more and more students choose to study Physics in the USA nowadays with Pasadena and California Institute of Technology on their minds. Therefore I feel entitled to make the statement: as Big Beat changed the music world once and forever, such is the current influence of Big Bang on western population. Authentic and jolly when describes reality, inventive when creates new trends for both VL and RL. So... It’s all FYI, KMN, I’m AFK!

Sunday, 31 March 2013

AMOR OMNIA VINCIT? ARS OMNIA VINCIT!


Orpheus was a gifted musician and singer (I believe he was a Justin Bieber of his times;)). As Apollo’s apprentice he played lyre and sang beautifully – louder and better than the infamous Sirens, what he proved during Argonauts’ Quest. He also loved his wife-to-be the nymph Eurydice like mad Unfortunately at their wedding something very bad happened: the bride was chased by a brute rapist satyr, in her attempt to escape she fell into a nest of vipers, got bitten and died. After death – like all ancient Greeks – she disappeared in this mythical underworld abyss, kingdom of black god, Hades.

And her loving husband went after her! And he performed the deed that occured never before! 

The minstrel charmed with his supreme musical art not only fearsome hellhound Cerberus, but also King Hades and Queen Persephone – so touched they were that they allowed Orpheus to take Eurydice back to life. (Yes, we can call this resurrection...) Although there was one simple condition – he  had to walk first and play and sing but couldn’t look back... He had to believe that his sweetheart was following him as in the land of dead she was mute and rather not very lively... So he went first and played and sang, she was behind him. Through the black kingdom they wentacross the river they went… over the forest they wentyet at the moment they reached the border between under- and upperworld Orpheus looked back.

And that was the moment Eurydice was taken from him for the second time and forever! Oh, so disconsolate and somber he became!


 The myth doesn’t explain why this poor lyre-player fell behind. He just looked, risked, failed. What for? We may try to interpret that by ourselves. To me one of the best artistic translation of the story is a painting by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. To me this picture clearly shows that death is always problem of the alivethese who suffer because their beloved died. To me Eurydice here doesn’t show great willingness to re-live, she looks rather passive. Orpheus is strong and active for both of them, tightly holding his wife’s wrist, maybe afraid of losing her again. Yet it didn’t work, he lost her again... Too impatient? Too self-confident? Or on the contrary too insecure?


Whatever the reason, in my opinion this story tells us that love doesn’t prevail all. We have to accept death and even the greatest affection cannot change that. However art can. Orpheus lost as a lover but won as an artist. Until today he’s widely recognized as a powerful archetype of divine, cosmic artistry, stronger than time.

Did antique people believe in Resurrection like we catholic believe? I doubt that. In their world it was more like general reincarnation, circle of life, spring – summer – autumn – winter – and spring again attitude. For them Easter was a festival of fertility and the rebirth of vegetation. More to do with Persephone than Eurydice... Honestly, if I was given a choice between resurrection and reincarnation, I wouldn’t know what to choose...

Sunday, 10 March 2013

THE VOICE OF COLOURS

In 2012 I was particularly fascinated by three songs which were released independently to each other yet according to me they have something in common: truly artistic videoclips connected with body painting on vision. When I realized that, I conducted a small 'experiment': watched them all one by one with no sound, trying to forget the lyrics. They say "A picture is worth a thousand words" so what exactly did I see?


Symbolic Polica – in searching of its sense I imagined four elements dancing around the old lady: alight air, fascinating fire, solid soil, wild water. Another words sources of our nature, human and animal shapes in one being... Also the visualisation of fact that every meeting leaves a trace - outside, inside... The most mysterious moment to me is this 'star circle' of girls in white costumes. Perhaps they symbolize innocent life, getting more and more colours of existence, until black death comes? They are mixing, exchanging, united in one dance, making the same yet different movements on and on... The video is touching and impressive, I'm not ashamed to admit it makes my eyes wet and gives me shiver-fever – that eventual esthetic thrill...



Sad story of Gotye and Kimbra – starts with dull, pale colours; geometrical shapes, sharp lines. The only strong colour – green – seems to be connected with a woman; the way they stand suggests total lack of communication; at the end she clears herself of any paint and goes away. Maybe she gives up on hope... As for him wearing colours of the background in a cameleon way is safe but also imprisoning, according to me it makes him stiff, not flexible, so closed in his sadness, so impenetrable to her point of view... And somehow the way they stand: man en face, woman side-face, corresponds with that facebook’s drawing, which I found thanks to Kasia J., a teacher of German:

Conclusion: at some point male-female communication is not only impossible, but also impracticable and unbelievable... You just have to give it up...

Dancing with colours – are they antagonists or counterparts? I don’t like the idea that love is continuous fight full of frustration but they both seem to be equal in this struggle and that's what appeals to me. The man is like chiseled, I do agree, but somehow mostly P!nk attracts my attention: she seems to be ready for rivalry, then down to her feet, then up in a 'champion pose'... Kind of sporty behaviour? But is it a fair play or rather a dirty dance? Still, all the time they stay close to each other and exchange body colours - that appears optimistic... Although if they were a true couple in a real relationship, I would advise them non-violent communication training;)


All in all I simply love these videos. People, who created them, firmly succeeded in harmonious combination of lyrics, tunes, movements and colours. I wish that to be a new trend in show business! I wish to see more and more clips following this path of creative expression. I hope I will:)

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Little Red KILLING Hood...



Warning: this post contains details about plot events of “HardCandy” – a 2005 psychological thriller movie. I rather recommend you not reading it before watching the film as even the smallest piece of information concerning twists or climaxes (yes, more than one!) will spoil bewilderment / shock / confusion / uniqueness (altogether let’s call it ‘pleasure’) of experiencing that independent production on your own...

It lasts 100 minutes. 99% of the time is led by two main characters, 14-year-old Hayley (perfect Ellen Page) and 18 years older Jeff (genuine Patrick Wilson). There are only 9 minutes of music. Rest is dialogues, speeches (but not preaches!) and silence...


Opening scene: as I am following the online chat between Thongrrrl14 and Lensman319, the picture which comes to my mind is of a bad-looking, sinister deceiver – exactly like from this social advert ‘you never know who’s on the other side’.

First twist: the moment Jeff the photographer meets Hayley the teenager at a public cafe, he turns out to be very nice, charismatic and likeable, so positive and sensitive – not dangerous at all. When the girl comments: You just don't look like the kind of guy who has to meet girls over the internet, he simply answers: I think it's better to meet people online first sometimes. You get to know what they're like inside. When you work as a photographer you find out real quick, people's faces lie. But so instantly they both behave more and more flirtatious and teasing – the teenager in a such sweet, naive way – I feel the tension grows. He invites her to his home and she agrees – yep! Gotcha! In a while I expect the horror to begin...

Second twist: ...but surprisingly at man’s house the young guest takes the initiative. With some intoxicant in the alcoholic screwdriver she poisons the adult, ties him to the chair, prepares some torture instruments. Woo hoo! Wait a minute! Who’s the villan, who’s the victim?? Hayley accuses Jeff of being a pedophile but he pleads himself unguilty. Quite convincing and empathic he is, isn’t he? And she... still intelligent, but more and more diabolic, scurvy, spiteful... That's that whole nature versus nurture question, isn't it? Was I born a cute, vindictive, little bitch or... did society make me that way? – hearing these words from her mouth I started asking myself: what the hell? Perhaps it truly is an act of blind revenge towards an innocent person??

First climax: here comes the time when tiny 14-year-old puts on a doctor’s apron and very seriously gets herself and her ‘patient’ ready for performing a... castration. I am uneasy. Even though I agree with what she says in general, I can’t help feeling sympathy to the exposed, helpless guy. But maybe it seems a kind of ‘catharsis’ for all underage rape sufferers, when they listen to arguments like this: "She was so sexy. She was asking for it." "She was only technically a girl. She acted like a woman." It's just so easy to blame a kid, isn't it? Just because a girl knows how to imitate a woman does not mean she's ready to do what a woman does. I mean, you're the grown-up here. If a kid is  experimenting and says something flirtatious, you ignore it. You don't encourage it. If a kid says, "Hey, let's make screwdrivers," you take the alcohol away and you don't race them to the next drink!

Jeff, horrified and sweating, tries his best negotiating skills: You're getting yourself in terrible trouble. If you cut me in any way, you won't forget it. It changes you when you hurt somebody. The things you do wrong... They haunt you. You wanna remember this day when you're with a guy on a date? Or on your wedding night? 'Cause I promise you, you will. Don't do that to yourself.

Hayley reacts with nasty laughter: You know, that is so thoughtful. You are speaking to me so selflessly. I mean, you just don't want me to castrate you for my own benefit? But then, when she says: I am every little girl you ever watched... touched, hurt, screwed, killed – it does sound painful and heartbreaking...

OK, I depicted like half of the film. I assure you, watching the second part is sitting on the edge too. I’m also leaving you with questions, doubts and enigmas: is Jeff a pedophile or not? Who’s Hayley for real? Why is she wearing a red, hooded sweatshirt at the very beginning and ending? What does the title mean? Final death is a suicide or murder? Eventually, how do you find the whole movie?... Cause I personally admire totally everything in it. After seeing numerous times it still is my favourite cinematographic masterpiece ever.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

MIDDLE-EARTH – MIRACLE OF CREATION

Release of ‘The Hobbit’ in cinemas coincided in time with our talks about Bible at Petrycy High School. Therefore we discussed Tolkien’s fantasy masterpiece – the unexpected journey and also the sequel trilogy – as a deep-levelled reference to the Book. Some people may consider this tale about wizards, dwarves and magic to be pagan but author negated that by himself:

The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like 'religion', to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.


The story

Although first Bilbo then Frodo happily live in idyllic, paradise-like Shire, in some point of their existence they both need to make a choice: either stay in their solid, stabile, peaceful place or leave for precarious, perilous, insecure adventure... Isn’t that an alternative we all face while growing up? Less or more voluntarily we have to quit our safe world of childhood and begin the never-ending travel to find ourselves again – to prove what we are, to test what we can become, to try what we can change around us. Life is quest, to live means to look for the meaning of life and once you found it, you fulfil the task, carry your burden until the end  – that’s what the nation of Israel taught us thanks to their linear concept of time.

 

Each of us has a share, everybody has a talent to use in this journey. Sometimes ‘bigger’ and more exposed, like Gandalf’s sorcery or Aragorn’s royalty; sometimes hidden as hobbits’ pure hearts. Finally it’s their ‘small hands which did great things’ by destroying fatal power of Sauron, comparable to David against Goliath or Moses against Pharaoh. So it’s us who decide whether to bury God’s gifts underground or risk using them interpersonally (inter-speci-fically in case of hobbits dealing with men, elves, trolls and so on). Not to risk at all is the biggest mistake – according to the Parable of the Talents – when you risk for a good cause, you can make mistakes too, but they all will be forgiven. Tolkien’s epic novel is full of confession, mercy and forgiveness acts, not only Boromir’s yet also Bilbo’s, Sam’s, Frodo’s... Beside we remember numerous moments when these last three characters together with Gandalf have mercy on Gollum and how this disgusting creature saves them all at the very end...

 

What a tale we have been in, Mr. Frodo, haven't we? reflects Samwise Gamgee on the slope of fiery cascading Mount Doom, caressing his friend’s four-fingered hand. ‘I wish I could hear it told! Yes, that is my wish too, living the life of which I am not ashamed or afraid to tell...

The symbolism

There is a wide multitude of various texts revealing themes, motifs, symbols in 'The Lord of the Rings' and its prequel. I just want to summarise few of them:

Ring of Power – gives you virtual freedom of being invisible but at the same time enslaves you, exactly as a sin does with human free will; it destroys relationships and ability to make independent choices
Smeagol and Deagol – Kain and Abel, offence of jealousy between brothers - every sibling knows that feeling...; ring is the tempter here
Sauron - tormenting, tyrannizing evil without any real form or shape; its eye opens into nothing
Saruman – fallen angel, serf of satan



Elves – angels, who are physically perfect, essentially immortal, unreachable beautiful, marvelous and mysterious
Hobbits – children, innocent and small yet living their own fabulous lives in Shire, which is an example of ideal, rural community
Aragorn and Arwen - models of liege lord and lady, sublime monarchs loved by their people
Gandalf – sign of Jesus Christ, as his return is similar to resurrection; but also acts as a pope in Middle Ages, when crowns the king
Battles and conflicts are images of the spiritual war - the struggle against evil we all fight every day
Undying Lands - afterlife, eternal happiness

Dear Readers, feel invited to search for other meanings connected with Bible and cultural traditions. Don't hesitate to share them with me, cause I find this topic very intriguing. Many thanks in anticipation!