Category Archives: Art

“Griffin & Sabine”: believe in magic

Remember the joy of pop-up books? The books that were tactile and interactive? What a wonderful way to connect with what you’re reading! This is why I am so glad that one of my good friends recommended that I read Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock. It had envelopes and letters you could actually touch! I loved it.

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Source: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/381102.Griffin_and_Sabine

Bantock writes and illustrates a creative idea: a woman writes postcards (which she creates) to a man in a completely different country and they begin a beautiful friendship. There is romance. There is mystery. There is despair. There is magic. There is hope.

Griffin and Sabine write letters and postcards back and forth, exploring their extraordinary relationship. As a reader, it’s so lovely to slow down and read mail. You have to actually open the envelopes in the book to read the handwritten (cursive) letters. I found it such a beautiful and intimate experience that let me be a nosy neighbour and eavesdrop on someone else’s conversations. Griffin creates postcards in a shop in London. He is an artist, but didn’t fully agree with the art school’s ‘art for art’s sake’ philosophy. In fact, at one point in the book Sabine encourages Griffin to explore his darkness. She almost gives him permission to explore his depression through his art, that he sells on postcards.

goldfish
Source: http://www.geocities.ws/kimkronk/SBA1/nickbantockart.htm

Sabine is an interesting character, and she knows it. She lives on the island Katie in the Sicmon Islands in the South Pacific. Yet she doesn’t always exist there. She has a strange and mysterious connection to Griffin: she can see when he draws. She can’t see Griffin, but she sees his art as he creates it. Weird, right?! But so fun!
Sabine is an artist of her own and also creates postcards and stamps.

gekoprint
Source: http://www.geocities.ws/kimkronk/SBA1/nickbantockart.htm

I am so grateful for the experience that Bantock created in this book. You have mystery, you have magic, you have beautiful art, you have intimacy. Reading the letters and thinking about that ‘what if’ scenario: what if there was someone you had a connection with, but had no way to express that connection or make that connection a reality? What if we are all alone because we aren’t able to accept that life might not be reasonable and might in fact be magical?

The hope for the unexpected is something that is hard at times. We get run down by life and we become emotionally and spiritually exhausted. I think it is during these dark times that we miss the joy and the magic of simple connections. In those moments we are hoping for something big and dramatic to come into our lives (as Sabine enters into Griffin’s life), yet I don’t think it needs to be that dramatic.

What if a life-changing, life-altering, life-affirming moment and expression happens in the smallest way, to nudge us and remind us that life is worth the living. Maybe these small, daily miracles (a butterfly, a great memory, a delicious tasting meat, a smile from a passer-by) are the ones we need to be looking for and appreciating. I suppose that is why depression is so brutal: you can’t take the miracles for miracles because you don’t have the energy or the hope to believe that things will get better or that life is beautiful.

So hold on to those small miracles when you are able to see them for what they are! And hope for magic!

magic
Source: https://www.behance.net/gallery/24293989/Believe-in-Magic

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“Out of Our Minds”: sci-art-ence

We must learn to be creative.  Innovation comes from creativity which is sparked by imagination.  In his book Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, Sir Ken Robinson builds a powerful argument for the need in our society to shift how we see the role of creativity in education and in the workplace.

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Source: http://www.amazon.com/Out-Our-Minds-Learning-Creative/dp/1907312471

I started to type some of the key points I read in the book and ended up with a large list (which is might just keep at the end of this post, sorry!).  As a relatively new teacher (ending my 6th year) I am very aware of the tension happening in education right now.  The Government and other are realizing that collaborative work and innovation are essential for our learners.  Yet many educators and parents are holding back, desperate to keep the old model and tradition (reading, writing, ‘rithmetic).  As Robinson says, they are “Far from looking to the future, too often they are facing stubbornly towards the past” (Pg 47).  Yet as a classroom teacher I notice that my students are not able to creatively problem solve, even simple everyday problems, on their own.  They are having trouble transferring their skills to new projects.  They want yes or no answers and can’t handle ambiguity.  Sounds to me like they need more work with creativity!!

I am about to meet one of my professional goals of learning how to encourage creativity in my classroom and I am excited about the opportunity I have to work with Learning Through the Arts.  It is a collaboration between the school board, artists, and schools where artists help teachers to infuse creativity and the arts into any area of curriculum possible!  I know that arts are seen as an add-on that isn’t truly respected, yet I know that the arts are essential to our experiences as humans.  Sadly, “The arts are seen as disposable extras in education; something optional to do with self-expression, relaxation and leisure” (63).  Yet why can’t self-expression, relaxation, and leisure be part of Math, Science, ELA, Social??  Why are we separating students from making personal connections?

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Source: http://www.stockphotos.ro/mural-art-classroom-image15732739.html

I also appreciate Robinson’s discussion about the importance and value that our society has placed on traditional post-secondary education.  He states that “The narrow focus on academic ability and particular disciplines in schools inevitably marginalizes students whose real interests and abilities lie in other domains” (250).  Not ever human is meant to study at university.  Not every student is meant to study at college.  Yet as a society we look down on those who had the creativity and know-how to make it and be successful without being educated.

I am encouraged by some of the advances that I see within my own school system.  They have a Career and Technology centre where students can explore and get involved in all kinds of different areas of learning.  Also, in the CTF courses in Jr High, the curriculum is all about adapting to and creating in the midst of challenges.  I believe that if teachers can get on-board with this kind of planning and teaching then it will influence the core subjects as well.  Robinson writes that “If we fail to promote a full sense of people’s abilities through education and training, some, perhaps most, will never discover what their real capacities are” (123).  Yes the basic are important, yet how do we teach to humans instead of vessels that need filling?

US-Education-Scam-Image-1

Source: http://meebal.com/the-great-us-education-scam/

Yes I believe that education is important.  Yet I also believe that we are doing a disservice to some of our students by not catching up with culture: we need to teach kids how to use imagination and innovation to create solutions to complex problems using skills they learn.  There needs to be engagement, buy-in, and a connection to what we teach.  Indeed, “Creativity is not about a lack of constraints; often it is about working within them and overcoming them” (266).  So let’s change together for the better: teachers, parents, Governments, and businesses!

ken-robinson-ted-talk

Source: https://thesnagel.wordpress.com/tag/creativity/

“David was dancing before the Lord with all his might” (2 Samuel 6: 14).

My Reading Notes:

“everyone has huge creative capacities as a natural result of being a human being.  The challenge is to develop them.  A culture of creativity has to involved everybody not just a select few” (4).

“Current approaches to education and training are hobbled by assumptions about intelligence and creativity that have squandered the talents and stifled the creative confidence of untold numbers of people” (8).

“education is meant to guide us from childhood to maturity.  It should be high among the ways in which we realize our creative abilities.  More often it is why we lose sight of them” (16).

“our best resource is to cultivate our singular abilities of imagination, creativity, and innovation.  Our greatest peril would be to face the future without investing fully in those abilities” (47).

Education systems: “Far from looking to the future, too often they are facing stubbornly towards the past” (47).

“If creativity is to become central to our futures, it first has to move to the heart of education” (49).

“The arts are seen as disposable extras in education; something optional to do with self-expression, relaxation and leisure” (63).

“The requirements of university entrance have had a direct influence on the nature of the school curriculum and on forms of assessment and public examination..Those who go to university rather than straight into work or vocational training programs are always seen as the real successes of the system” (65-66).

“I know artists, business leaders, dancers, sportspeople, and many others, whose accomplishments, intelligence and humanity are as substantial as anyone I have met with a post-doctoral degree” (66).

“The creative capacities of generations of people have been sacrificed needlessly to an academic illusion” (79).

Enlightenment thinking (technology and medicine advancements): “There has been a heavy price too, not least in the schism of the arts and sciences and the domination of the rationalist attitude, especially in the forms of education to which it has given rise” (98).

“The modern world view is still dominated by the ideology that came to replace medievalism: the ideology of rationalism, objectivity, and propositional knowledge.  These ideas frame our attitudes and theories every bit as much as myth and superstition underpinned the painstaking calculations of the medieval astronomers” (107).

“The creative process is not a single ability that lives in one or other region of the body.  It thrives on the dynamism between different ways of thinking and being” (122).

“If we fail to promote a full sense of people’s abilities through education and training, some, perhaps most, will never discover what their real capacities are” (123).

For Robinson, creativity is “The process of having original ideas that have value” (151).

“Facilitating creative development is a sophisticated process that must find a balance between learning skills and stimulating the imagination to explore new ideas” (161).

“The intellect cannot work at its best without emotional intelligence” (186).

“It is through feelings as well as through reason that we find our real creative power.  It is through both that we connect with each other and create the complex, shifting worlds of human culture” (196).

“Creativity is about making connections and more often than not…it is driven by collaboration as much as, if not more than, by solo efforts” (212).

“The narrow focus on academic ability and particular disciplines in schools inevitably marginalizes students whose real interests and abilities lie in other domains.  Cultivating the full range of students’ talents calls for a broader curriculum and a flexible range of teaching styles…One of the roles of education is to broaden and stretch the interests of students, into areas for which they many not have a natural affinity: it is equally important that they feel their own natural abilities are properly engaged and valued” (250).

“Schools can no longer be academic ghettoes” (264).

“Creativity is not about a lack of constraints; often it is about working within them and overcoming them” (266).

“There are many good teachers whose creative instincts are curbed by standardized education and whose effectiveness is diminished as a result.  A creative culture in schools depends on re-energizing the creative abilities of teachers” (267).

“Teaching for creativity involves asking open-ended questions where there may be multiple solutions; working in groups on collaborative connections between different ways of seeing; and exploring the ambiguities and tensions that may lie between them” (269).

“Assessment should support students’ learning and achievements.  In practice, it tends to dominate the priorities and general ethos of education” (275).

“We must learn to be creative” (286).

 

“On Thin Ice”: ancient and modern

Recently I had the opportunity to take part in some Inuit culture traditions. Through a program called CONNECTIONS, attended through the school I work at, I was able to go out to see what the program was all about and the day I went was devoted to Canada’s first peoples: First Nations, Metis, Inuit. Zinour Fathoullin (pictured leading drumming and dancing below) lead us in several different Inuit arts. We learned how to drum using a Qilauti (a traditional Inuit drum). We learned how to dance some Inuit dances, including a walrus (where you lay on your back, fling your feet over your left shoulder, lay on your stomach, flip over, and start again). The dancing and the drumming allowed me to understand a lot more about Inuit culture. Seeing Inuit culture and traditions together allowed me to have a better appreciation for those who live up North. When I came home, I stumbled upon this fabulous video from the North West Territories with video and interviews.

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Source: http://blackandlightimages.smugmug.com/Connections/Presenters/Zinor-Fanouth/i-Bfr7r9N/A

At this same presentation, Zinour Fathoullin got the students throat singing. I had already heard throat singing because of Tanya Tagaq coming onto my music radar during the Canadian Polaris Music prize. I found it so interesting to learn the history behind the singing: throat singing was a competition between women to see who could come up with the most animal noises. Also, Zinour shared with the students an ajai jaa (a personal song or chant that tells a person’s life story). As he sang, he drummed and danced and it was so powerful and beautiful.

While leaving school for Spring Break, I came across Jamie Bastedo’s book On Thin Ice at the school library and I knew I had to read it. Bastedo is, according to his publishing company, a biologist turned story teller. The novel centres around a teenager, Ashley, who lives in Canada’s North, and is the daughter of an Inuit man and a French/Irish mother. Bastedo’s novel tells the story of Ashley’s vivid dreams about polar bears, her artistic ability to draw polar bears, the polar bear hunts of her community, and the magical and mysterious connection she has to the polar bear. From the perspective of Ashley’s dream journal, the story of her every day life, and the perspective of a mystical polar bear, readers are able to get an amazing glimpse into a culture that is both beautiful and powerful.

ice
Source: http://www.amazon.ca/On-Thin-Ice-Jamie-Bastedo/dp/0889953376

Throughout the novel, Ashley is both terrified and memorized by the polar bear. Her dreams turn from nightmares into something more mystic and magical, leading her to develop a new relationships with her mysterious Great Uncle Jonah. As she dreams, she draws her visions of the polar bears and becomes known in the community for her art work. In fact, at the end of the novel, she is honored and respected by her community as they recognize the power of her artwork. She learned that her Great Uncle Jonah has carved several polar bears from the soap stone found under their town. She learns that her father is a gifted polar bear hunter. She learns that her Aana (Grandmother) is able to interpret her drawings. Ashley also finds meaning, healing, and belonging as she learns to drum, sing, and dance. At the end of the novel she realizes the importance of the stories and traditions of those who came before her and she allows herself to take on a role that at first, seems to not fit. At the beginning of the novel her mother and Aana find an old, fur, patchwork coat in the dump and continue to patch it and add on to it until at the end, the coat represents who she is: a mix-match of blood, generations, and cultures.

bear
Source: https://www.pinterest.com/marciamacd/aboriginal-art/

Overall, I loved Bastedo’s novel. I found the stories of the changing climate and its affect on the land (permafrost melting), the ice (the ice becoming unpredictable), and the animals (the seals and polar bears running out of traditional habitats) disturbing and I realize the passion with which Bastedo writes. He shows the dangers and the unpredictability of the future, yet he also ends with hope. He ends with the new generation of Inuits taking over from their elders and being able to blend science/technology and tradition in a way that celebrates and continues an ancient culture.

As with many First Nations, Metis, and Inuit tribes/nations, the hope rests in the people and in the youth.

youth
Source: http://www.nunatsiaqonline.ca/stories/article/65674photo_inuit_youth_take_their_message_to_durban/

“And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

“For the first time visitor to the north, these first impressions imply that Inuit have thoroughly embraced the benefits of modern life. This is true but it is important to note that in doing so they have not left their complex and ancient culture behind.” (http://www.uqar.ca/files/boreas/inuitway_e.pdf)

polarbear
Source: http://hamaariihindii.wikispaces.com/%E0%A4%85%E0%A4%B2%E0%A4%BE%E0%A4%B8%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%95%E0%A4%BE

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”: playing with time

Time Change just happened last week. I am struck every time we change our clocks of the absurdity of time and the paradox of the weight and yet the un-importance it carries. Sometimes an hour seems like a week and a week can seem like a day. So why is it that we, as humans, are obsessed with immortality and living forever, breaking free of time.

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Source: i.weirdnutdaily.com/6tj

Einstein spent a lot of time thinking about time. In his special relativity theory, he concluded that time could speed up or slow down relative to how objects move near each other. So, someone in space would age slower than someone on earth. This idea of becoming immortal seems to be something that science and writers of science fiction spend a lot of time thinking about. In Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, some of the Peculiars in the world decided to join their powers together to create immortality. Of course it turned out horribly wrong (just as Frankenstein’s experiments with creating life go horribly wrong!) and they ended up turning themselves into monster that lived forever to hunt down and eat other Peculiar people, thereby killing off the ‘race’ they themselves came from. (I also can’t help but think of the Reevers from Fire Fly.)

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Source: http://www.readingteen.net/2011_06_01_archive.html

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is not my first time travel experience. I have read Outlander and I saw the first season of the new Doctor Who, but this is my first book that seemed to treat time travel like it was normal, like it was common place thing that happened all over the world. In Ransom Rigg’s created world, groups of children and adults all around the world live in different time loops in order to keep themselves safe from the deranged time experimenters who have become evil and live on the blood of peculiar people (people who can float, create flames, lift heavy things, become invisible, etc). Think X-Men because all the ‘Peculiars’ live together, but then think that they don’t age physically in a time loop, like Groundhog Day.

Overall, Riggs creates an interesting world on an interesting idea. Throughout the novel he includes bizarre and strange black and white photographs that he found or borrowed from friends. At times throughout the book the connections to the photographs become clunky and forced, yet the photographs were my favourite part of the book!

photos
Source: http://blogs.seacoastonline.com/seacoast-nh-books/2012/01/19/miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children-by-ransom-riggs/

As I was reading this book I kept thinking back to another book that looks at time and space and immortality: Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. Lightman writes about the idea of time and becoming immortal in a mortal world: “Such is the cost of immortality. No person is whole. No person is free. Over time, some have determined that the only way to live is to die. In death, a man or woman is free of the weight of the past. These few souls, with their dear relatives looking on, dive into Lake Constance or hurl themselves from Monte Lema, ending their infinite lives. In this way, the finite has conquered the infinite, millions of autumns have yielded to no autumns, millions of snowfalls have yielded to no snowfalls, millions of admonitions have yielded to none” (94).

Throughout Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children the idea of immortality and the pain that came with never aging was apparent. So again, why do we as humans (in general) ache for an infinite life when in reality the finite life is full because it carries with it the immediacy of time. For the immortal, time has no meaning.

Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change. (2 Peter 3:7-8)

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Source: http://beautywithtimefades.tumblr.com/post/32752407242/time-never-slows-down-for-anyone-make-every

“An Audience of Chairs” Part Two: keep on shining

As I finished An Audience of Chairs I couldn’t help but have Third Day’s song “Keep on Shinin’” in my head. This idea of struggle and dashed dreams fits well with Joan Clark’s novel.

You’re bruised and you’re battered, your dreams have been shattered
Your best laid plans scattered all over the place.
Despite all your tendencies, God sees it differently;
Your struggle’s a time to grow.
And you, you’re a miracle, anything but typical.
It’s time for the whole wide world to know.

shining
Source: neoweltschmerz.buzznet.com

Moranna struggles in this novel. She struggles a lot. People abandon her, trick her, scare her, and ignore her. Yet despite all that she goes through, she remains consistant and does learn more about herself. Even when she is going through a breakdown, she seems to keep the essence of who she is at her core and learns how to avoid further breakdowns.

At the end of the novel, Moranna “Mad Mory” MacKenzie finally gets to visit with one of her daughters. Earlier in the novel her husband takes away her daughters while she goes through a mental breakdown and she does not see them until her daughters are adults. She longs to see her daughters and feels their absence like a physical pain. Through her struggles with the loss of her daughters, she learns how to live with herself and how to enjoy life. I love the lines that Clark writes on the last page of this novel:
“By the time her daughter and granddaughter reach the veranda, the purple wig, pink bathrobe and red lace blouse have been stuffed beneath the chair and Moranna stands before them in a T-shirt and kilt, her unraveling braid falling partway down her back. She is a woman who has played many parts in her life but is at last content to be none other than herself” (350).

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Source: mindbodysmile.com

Moranna is not alone in her struggle and growth: she has people who help her along the way. In a conversation with my friend who lent me this book I had no trouble saying that my favourite character in An Audience of Chair is Ian MacKenzie, Moranna’s father. This man supports his daughter: he takes her to the hospital when she has her breakdown because he doesn’t want her to end her life like her mother ended hers, he admits her to the hospital yet makes sure that she is free to leave when she chooses, he leaves her his summer home in the woods on Cape Breton Island, he sets up a trust fund so that all of the taxes and utilizes of the house will be paid, he brings her groceries even when she hides and refuses to speak with him. He does not abandon his daughter and gives her space and time to find herself.

This idea of time and space is given by my second favourite character in the novel: Bun. Moranna finds a man who understand her, gives her space, listens to her, accepts her, and never tries to fix her. They co-exist together without expectations, rules, or judgment.

I think one thing that I appreciated most about Clark’s novel is the prominence and importance of art. Moranna expresses herself and finds healing and purpose through art. Yes, she had her children taken away from her because she lost track of time while illustrating a novel, yet carving her ancestors into wood and selling them allows her to connect with her present and her past in a unique and healing way.
sculpture
Source: theexpressionist.com

After finishing Clark’s novel I am left with gratitude for the people who support me in my own life and also gratitude for art and how it tells stories in a way that we can connect with.

“Truth is only to be had by laying together many varieties of error” (Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own).

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

cape.breton

“The Forest Lover”: connections

I can’t remember when I first saw an Emily Carr painting. It may have been in High School during Art History; it might have been in Winnipeg during a Native Art unit; it could have been earlier than that in a book, in a museum, or on TV. What does matter is that ever since I saw my first Emily Carr painting I have felt connected to her as a painter, as well as to her paintings and to her philosophy of painting.

Carr
“Self-Portrait,” 1938-39
Source: http://www.svreeland.com

While thinking of Carr’s works I can’t help but ask this question: Have you ever tried to retell someone else’s story? I know I have and it never goes well: you forget important details, rearrange the events, change names, and skip seemingly uninteresting elements. I think that is what caused Carr so much angst about her passion to paint from her experiences of Native villages. In fact, one of the main draws I have towards Carr’s artwork is her ability to share her experiences. She does not retell stories (like detailed images of First Nations’ totems or carvings) because the stories do not belong to her, yet she shares with the viewer her experiences of these stories.

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“Thunderbird,” 1942
Source: http://www.ago.net

After I graduated from University, I decided I needed to go on my own and rejuvenate. I chose Victoria because it meant that I could visit Carr’s house, walk the streets she walked, and visit Beacon Hill Park.
beacon

Although I did not love The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland (I don’t like her writing style), I couldn’t help but finish this book for some of the insights it gave me into Carr’s motivations for painting and her philosophy about representing nature.

Carr was a radical and I know that she did not fit into Victorian society, in both senses of the word (the ideals of the time and the city). She was unique in that she experienced God in nature and wasn’t afraid to talk about it openly: “I get a sense of some presence breathing there [Stanley Park in Vancouver]. God’s too big to be squeezed into a stuffy church, but I feel Him there in the spaces between the trees” (pg. 56).

Later in the book, Vreeland writes that “God breathes in the forest” (pg. 140). For Carr painting was making that connection between God, artist, art, and viewer. Her experiences in different Native villages and in the forests of British Columbia were deeply spiritual and she struggled with how to express her connection with others. When asked in the novel why she paints totems she replies, “To express their spirit, or my response to them. To make them send the drumbeats I hear when I’m standing in front of them” (pg. 133).

One of my favourite Carr paintings is “Indian Church.”
indian.church
“Indian Church,” 1929
Source: http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca

In the book, Vreeland has Carr ask, “Don’t you want to just inhale those colors?” (pg 55). I feel that connection between the spirituality she grew up learning about and the deeper spirituality she experiences while in the forest and in creation in her painting “Indian Church.” Carr did not shy away from God in her eccentric lifestyle, yet instead embraced God and His creation, both in people and in nature. Through Vreeland’s book I was able to gain a better understanding of my favourite Canadian artist and even question myself about where I find Spiritual connections in my own life.

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“Old Time Coast Village,” 1929-30
Source: http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca

One of my summer projects around my apartment this year is to get my print of “Indian Church” framed so that I can be reminded of Carr’s desire to share her experiences and spiritual connections with nature.

I think that one’s art is a growth inside one. I do not think one can explain growth. It is silent and subtle. One does not keep digging up a plant to see how it grows (Emily Carr).

See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. (Matthew 6: 28-29)