Tautology

dovlatov socks

“Dovlatov: I prefer being alonе, / but with somebody next to me.” Image courtesy of SPBsocks. This pair of socks sells for 370 rubles or approximately €5.

Petersburg fashionistas with a snobbish vibe have an additional option available to them: socks emblazoned with quotations by local writers. Socks of this sort have recently gone on sale at SPBsocks, where you will find Joseph Brodsky socks, Fyodor Dostoevsky socks, and Sergei Dovlatov socks.

One of the Dovlatov socks proclaims outright, “I prefer being alone.”

There thus won’t be any more questions to the second sock, whether it is at large under the bed or lost during the wash.

“Dovlatov is the most popular. The recent anniversary, the unveiling of the monument to him in Petersburg, and the 1980 fads have all benefited the writer. We have chosen ironic, edgy quotations. You don’t get anywhere nowadays without a little controversy. Breaking the mold increases sales,” acknowledges Svetlana Suetova, founder of SPBsocks, an online designer sock store, which also runs a showroom in the Golytsin Loft at Fontanka Embankment, 20.

Source: Delovoi Peterburg

____________________

Regardless of whether one is a writer or a reader, one’s task consists first of all in mastering a life that is one’s own, not imposed or prescribed from without, no matter how noble its appearance may be. For each of us is issued but one life, and we know full well how it all ends. It would be regrettable to squander this one chance on someone else’s appearance, someone else’s experience, on a tautology—regrettable all the more because the heralds of historical necessity, at whose urging a man may be prepared to agree to this tautology, will not go to the grave with him or give him so much as a thank-you.

[…]

The philosophy of the state, its ethics—not to mention its aesthetics—are always “yesterday.” Language and literature are always “today,” and often—particularly in the case where a political system is orthodox—they may even constitute “tomorrow.” One of literature’s merits is precisely that it helps a person to make the time of his existence more specific, to distinguish himself from the crowd of his predecessors as well as his like numbers, to avoid tautology—that is, the fate otherwise known by the honorific term “victim of history.” What makes art in general, and literature in particular, remarkable, what distinguishes them from life, is precisely that they abhor repetition. In everyday life you can tell the same joke thrice and, thrice getting a laugh, become the life of the party. In art, though, this sort of conduct is called “cliché.”

Excerpted from Joseph Brodsky, “Nobel Lecture,” December 8, 1987, trans. Barry Rubin. Source: Nobelprize.org

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Another End of an Era: Pinta Shot Bar to Close in Central Petersburg

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Pinta Shot Bar on Stremyannaya Street in Central Petersburg

In the last ten or fifteen some years, signs of the city’s extinction have been coming hot and heavy, tumbling into view one after another. A few more years, and there will be nothing left of the late-Soviet and perestroika-era Leningrad/post-perestroika Petersburg where we misspent so many years of our youth and felt perfectly at home, despite the fact the ex-capital of All the Russias could never be described as homely. TRR

* * * * *

One of Petersburg’s Oldest Shot Bars to Close on Stremyannaya Street
Bumaga
June 27, 2017

One of Petersburg’s oldest shot bars [ryumochnaya], located at 22 Stremyannaya Street, is closing. [Known officially as Pinta or “The Pint,”] it has been in operation for over thirty years.

Sources at the bar confirmed the bar’s impending closure to us, but refrained from revealing the rationale behind the decision. According to unconfirmed reports, the establishment has been purchased by a third party. It will close on Sunday.

Urban legend has it the shot bar on Stremyannaya was frequented during different periods by writers Sergei Dovlatov and Joseph Brodsky, and rock musician Mike Naumenko, since it was near the popular so-called Saigon Café. Historian Lev Lurye told Bumaga that Brodsky and Dovlatov were unlikely to have visited the bar. It opened in the mid 1980s, after both had emigrated from the Soviet Union.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Ksenia Astafieva for the heads-up. Photo courtesy of Foursquare and Ksenia N.

No Poet Is Illegal, No Poem Is Extremist

Poet Alexander Byvshev. Photo courtesy of OVD Info
Poet Alexander Byvshev. Photo courtesy of OVD Info

New Criminal Charges Filed against Ex-Schoolteacher Alexander Byvshev
OVD Info
January 17, 2017

On January 17, 2017, police searched the house of ex-schoolteacher Alexander Byvshev in the village of Kromy, Oryol Region. During the search, law enforcement officers confiscated a computer and other information storage devices. After the search, the suspect was interrogated at the local office of the Russian Investigative Committee.

As Alexander Podrabinek wrote on his Facebook page, Byvshev has again been charged under Criminal Code Article 282 (inciting enmity or hostility, as well as humiliation of human dignity). The charges were filed in connection with Byvshev’s poem “On the Independence of Ukraine,” which was published in February 2015 in several Ukrainian periodicals. As Byvshev himself noted, the poem is a “polemical response” to Joseph Brodsky’s eponymous poem.

On July 13, 2015, the Kromy District Court found Byvshev guilty of inciting ethnic hatred (Criminal Code Article 282.1) and sentenced him to 300 hours of compulsory labor for writing poems supporting Ukraine. He was also forbidden to work as a schoolteacher for two years. In autumn 2014, after one of Byvshev’s poems was declared extremist, Rosfinmonitoring placed Byvshev on its list of terrorists and extremists, and his bank accounts were blocked.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Today’s Sponsored Post

“Government of St. Petersburg. Import Substitution and Localization Center. Rosa, 941-6453. Made by Us, Made for Us. Open Your Own Office at the Import Substitution and Localization Center. www.importnet.ru. Lenexpo, Pavilion No. 4.” Photo by the Russian Reader

Since I have to pay the bills like any other tiresome kvetcher and blogger, today’s post is sponsored by the Petrograd Import Substitution and Localization Center, and by lonely Rosa, who can be reached at the telephone number listed above.

Remember, whatever it is you need, cheese or sex, keep it local! Don’t import when you can make it yourself!

__________

Landwehr Canal, Berlin

The canal where they drowned Rosa
L., like a stubbed out papirosa,
Has almost virtually gone wild.
So many roses have moldered since that time,
It is no mean feat to stun the tourists.
The wall, concrete forerunner of Christo,
Runs from city to calf and cow
Through fields blood has scoured.
A factory smokes like a cigar.
And the outlander pulls up the native gal’s
Frock not like a conqueror,
But like a finicky sculptor,
Getting ready to unveil
A statue fated to live a while
Longer than the reflection in the canal
Where Rosa was canned.

Source: Radio Svoboda. Translated by the Russian Reader

Karl Liebknecht, Warmonger

Petersburgers have lately been up in arms over a decision, by the municipal toponymic commission, to name a newish bridge over the Duderhof Canal, amid the new estates in the city’s far southwest, the Akhmat Kadyrov Bridge. The decision was recently confirmed by the city’s governor, Georgy Poltavchenko.

Little do Petersburgers suspect (or, rather, care) that for almost the past one hundred years they have been living cheek by jowl with a munitions plant named in memory of German socialist and anti-militarist Karl Liebknecht. TRR

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[Modern militarism] wants neither more nor less than the squaring of the circle; it arms the people against the people itself; it is insolent enough to force the workers . . . to become oppressors, enemies and murderers of their own class comrades and friends, of their parents, brothers, sisters and children, murderers of their own past and future. It wants to be at the same time democratic and despotic, enlightened and machine-like, at the same time to serve the nation and to be its enemy.
—Karl Liebknecht

Karl Liebknecht Leningrad Mechanical Plant JSC. Photo by the Russian Reader

Karl Liebknecht Leningrad Mechanical Plant JSC is a leading machine-building enterprise of the military-industrial complex, supplying the army’s demand for empty armor-piercing tank ammunition shell casings.

The company manufactures advanced products for military use, popular on the international arms market, works on state defense orders and in cooperation with other plants, and produces non-military products and consumer goods.

snaryad

The Karl Liebknecht Leningrad Mechanical Plant is the only company in Northwest Russia specializing in the production of artillery shell casings.

We successfully execute important state commissions and make a significant contribution to the defensive power of our country and friendly nations.

Source: Karl Liebknecht Leningrad Mechanical Plant JSC. Photo courtesy of the company’s website. Translated by the Russian Reader

___________________

Russia is interesting from this point of view. The high state of tension in its international position has forced it to introduce universal military service, while as an Asiatic-Despotic state it is faced with an unequalled internal conflict. The internal enemy of Tsarism is not only the proletariat, but also the great mass of the peasantry and bourgeoisie, even indeed a large part of the nobility. Ninety-nine per cent of Russian soldiers are by class position bitter enemies of Tsarist despotism. A low level of culture, national and religious conflicts, and also contradictions in economic and social interests, together with the more or less subtle pressure exercised by the extensive bureaucratic apparatus as well as the unfavourable local organization, the inadequately developed transport system and other things: all these represent an important check on the development of class-consciousness. There exists a much attacked system of elite troops, who are provided with every facility: the gendarmerie, for example, and especially the Cossacks, which effectively constitute a special social class on account of their good pay and other material provision, of their extensive political privileges, and of the arrangement by which they live in a semi-socialist community; they are thus closely bound in an artificial way to the ruling classes. In this way Tsarism tries to secure a sufficient number of loyal supporters to offset the ferment which has penetrated deep into the ranks of the army. And to all this, to these “watchdogs” of Tsarism, there must be added the Circassians, and other barbarian peoples living in the empire of the fist, who were loosed over the land like a pack of wolves in the Baltic counter-revolution, together with all the other numberless parasites on Tsarism, the police and their accomplices, and the hooligans and black hundreds.

But if in the bourgeois-capitalist states the army based on universal military service and designed as a weapon against the proletariat represents a frightful and bizarre contradiction, the army based on the same system under the despotic Tsarist system of government is a weapon which is necessarily turned more and more with crushing weight against the Tsarist despotism itself. The experiences of the anti-militarist movement in Russia can therefore only be applied to the bourgeois-capitalist states with the greatest of care. And if the efforts of the ruling classes of capitalism in the bourgeois-capitalist states to bribe the people to fight against itself—to a great extent indeed with money actually taken from the people—are finally doomed to failure, we already see before our very eyes how the desperate and pitiable attempts of Tsarism to buy off the revolution by bribery are suffering a rapid and wretched fiasco in the tragic world of Russian finance, in spite of all the attempts of unscrupulous international capital to save the régime. The question of financial loans is certainly an important one, at least for the tempo of the revolution. But if the revolutions cannot easily be made, it is even less easy to buy them off, even with the means available to the big capitalists of the world.

Source: Karl Liebknecht, Militarism & Anti-Militarism 

____________________

Our Company
When it was founded on October 15, 1911, Karl Liebknecht Leningrad Mechanical Plant JSC was called the Parviainen Russian Society for the Manufacture of Shells and Military Supplies. Subsequently, it had a number of other names featuring the phrase “Karl Liebknecht Mechanical Plant.” By decree of the Council of People’s Commissars, the company was nationalized on June 28, 1918. In different periods of its history, the plant has been part of the Soviet Ministry of Machine Building (First Chief Directorate), the Department of Munitions and Special Chemicals at the Ministry of Industry, the Committee on the Russian Defense Industry, and the Russian Ministry of Defense Industries (from 1992), the Russian Federal Economics Ministry (from 1997), the Russian Munitions Agency (from 2000), and the Department of Munitions and Special Chemicals at the Russian Industrial Agency of the Ministry of Industry and Energy. From August 2008 to the present, the company has been been overseen by the Department of the Conventional Weapons, Ammunition, and Special Chemicals Industry in the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Source: Karl Liebknecht Leningrad Mechanical Plant JSC. Translated by the Russian Reader

 klmp-1
Modern-day street view of the Karl Liebknecht Leningrad Mechanical Plant. Courtesy of Citywalls.ru
klmp-2
“Karl Liebknecht Leningrad Mechanical Plant JSC.” Sign at the plant’s main entrance. Courtesy of Citywalls.ru
“No one is forgotten, and nothing is forgotten.” Part of a memorial to plant workers killed during WWII, in the plant’s courtyard. Courtesy of Citywalls.ru
Another monument, without a signature (perhaps the founder of the factory).
“Another monument, without a legend [sic], (perhaps the founder of the factory),” writes “liubliupiter,” the user who shot and posted these photos of the plant and its premises. Courtesy of Citywalls.ru
klmp-5
Ironically, the brother and sister-in-law of the plant’s founder, I. Parviainen, Peter and Anna Parviainen, sheltered Vladimir Lenin at their house in the village of Jalkala, near the resort town of Terijoki, just across the then Russian-Finnish border, in August 1917, when the Provisional Government put out a warrant for Lenin’s arrest. Likely as not, however, this is probably not a monument to Peter Parviainen’s industrialist brother, but to Karl Liebknecht, of course. Courtesy of Citywalls.ru
The revamped Karl Liebknecht Plant of the future. Courtesy of Wikimedia
An illustration of a revamped Karl Liebknecht Plant of the future. Courtesy of Wikimedia

____________________

Resolution Adopted by an Assembly of Workers at the Old Parviainen Plant, April 13, 1917

We, the 2,500 workers of the Old Parviainen Plant, having gathered on April 13 for a general plant assembly and discussed the current situation, have resolved as follows:

1) We demand the removal of the Provisional Government, which acts only as a brake on the revolutionary cause, and hand over power to the Soviets [sic] of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies;

2) Relying on the revolutionary proletariat, the Soviet [sic] of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies must put an end to this war [my emphasis], which has benefited only the capitalists and landlords and weakened the forces of the revolutionary people;

3) We demand the Provisional Government immediately publish the secret military agreements entered into by the previous government with the Allies;

4) That a Red Guard be organized and all the people armed;

5) We protest the issuing of the so-called Liberty Loan, which actually serves to subjugate rather than liberate;

6) That the printing presses of all the bourgeois newspapers leading the campaign of hatred against the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and the workers’ press be requisitioned and handed over for use by workers’ newspapers;

7) Pending the requisition of the printing presses, the following newspapers should be boycotted: The Russian Will, The New Times, The Evening Times, Speech, The Day, The Little Newspaper, The Kopeck, The Living Word, The Modern Word, The Petrograd Gazette, The Petrograd Leaflet, The Petrograd Newspaper, and Unity;

8) We protest against England’s interference in our domestic affairs and the detention of emigrants;

9) That all food products be requisitioned for the needs of the masses, and fixed prices be set for all consumer goods;

10) That peasant committees immediately seize manorial, demesne, imperial, and monastic lands, and the tools of productions be handed over to the workers;

11) We protest the withdrawal of revolutionary troops from Petrograd;

12) That it be recognized the Provisional Government can in no way arrange for the issuing of pensions to former ministers and their families, indigenous enemies of the people.

Source: media.ssu.samara.ru. Translated by the Russian Reader

The so-called Old Parviainen Plant was located on the Vyborg Embankment. Correspondingly, the so-called New Parviainen Plant, the current Karl Liebknecht Leningrad Mechanical Plant, was located on Chugunnaya Street, roughly two kilometers to the east. TRR

Source: Wikipedia

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The Red Guard of the Old Parviainen Factory, circa 1917. Courtesy of Fotografii starogo Sankt-Peterburga (Photographs of Old Saint Petersburg)

______________________

Landwehr Canal, Berlin

The canal where they drowned Rosa
L., like a stubbed out papirosa,
Has almost virtually gone wild.
So many roses have moldered since that time,
It is no mean feat to stun the tourists.
The wall, concrete forerunner of Christo,
Runs from city to calf and cow
Through fields blood has scoured.
A factory smokes like a cigar.
And the outlander pulls up the native gal’s
Frock not like a conqueror,
But like a finicky sculptor,
Getting ready to unveil
A statue fated to live a while
Longer than the reflection in the canal
Where Rosa was canned.

Source: Radio Svoboda. Translated by the Russian Reader

800px-RosaLuxemburg2a
Rosa Luxemburg memorial at the site where she was thrown—either dead or alive—into the Landwehr Canal, Berlin. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Invitation to the Voyage

border guards-1
Action figure of a Russian border guard and seal of the Russian Border Guard Service

Boris Vishnevsky
Facebook
May 13, 2016

I have sent this to the Echo website. I hope they will post it soon.

I ask you to repost it.

Friday the thirteenth is a black day in the calendar.

It is no coincidence that on the same day the editorial staff of RBC, one of the best and most professional Russian media outlets, was gutted, the latest paranoid law bill authored by Irina Yarovaya was passed by the Duma.

First, if the bill is passed into law, the Federal Security Service (FSB) will have the right, after issuing a so-called official warning, to ban any citizen from traveling abroad for five years.

For your information, according to FSB Order No. 544, dated November 2, 2010, this “warning” can be given “to an individual in the absence of grounds for criminal prosecution in order to prevent the commission of crimes.” Only “pre-confirmed information” about the “outwardly (verbally, written or otherwise) manifested intent to commit a specific offense in the absence of signs of preparation to commit a crime or an attempt to commit a crime” has to exist.

Let’s translate this from legalese into Russian. There are no signs a crime is being prepped, there are no signs of an attempt to commit a crime, and there are no grounds for criminal prosecution. There is only “information” about the “intent to commit a crime,” information that has appeared out of nowhere and has been obtained god knows how.

Under such rules any undesirable or dissenter can be subject to a “warning,” including people shopped by informers to our beloved secret police for “verbally” or “otherwise” (say, by the look on their face) expressing the intention to commit a crime.

Second, criminal liability will be introduced for “failing to report a crime,” meaning for failing to shop someone to the secret police. As Igor Yakovenko has aptly put it, this will turn “squealing into a civic duty.”

Third, revocation of citizenship would be stipulated for crimes of a “terrorist and extremist tenor,” despite the fact that opposing the authorities is easily classifiable as “extremism.”

All three provisions are blatantly unconstitutional, but they were confidently passed in the first reading, with opposition from an overwhelming minority consisting of Dmitry Gudkov, Sergei Petrov, and Ilya Ponomaryov’s voting card.

You can bet your boots there will be a second and third reading, and the president will sign the bill into law.

I would like to say the Constitutional Court would be bound to quash the law, but considering how it has behaved in recent years there are no grounds for such political optimism.

The darkness is deepening.

However, that always happens before the dawn.

Boris Vishnevsky (Yabloko Party) is a member of the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly. Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade Nastya for the heads-up.

Border Guard Service veterans celebrating their professional holiday, May 28
Border Guard Service veterans celebrating their professional holiday, May 28

L’invitation au voyage

Mon enfant, ma soeur,
Songe à la douceur
D’aller là-bas vivre ensemble!
Aimer à loisir,
Aimer et mourir
Au pays qui te ressemble!
Les soleils mouillés
De ces ciels brouillés
Pour mon esprit ont les charmes
Si mystérieux
De tes traîtres yeux,
Brillant à travers leurs larmes.

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.
Des meubles luisants,
Polis par les ans,
Décoreraient notre chambre;
Les plus rares fleurs
Mêlant leurs odeurs
Aux vagues senteurs de l’ambre,
Les riches plafonds,
Les miroirs profonds,
La splendeur orientale,
Tout y parlerait
À l’âme en secret
Sa douce langue natale.

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.
Vois sur ces canaux
Dormir ces vaisseaux
Dont l’humeur est vagabonde;
C’est pour assouvir
Ton moindre désir
Qu’ils viennent du bout du monde.
— Les soleils couchants
Revêtent les champs,
Les canaux, la ville entière,
D’hyacinthe et d’or;
Le monde s’endort
Dans une chaude lumière.

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.

Source

A special day for border guards was established by presidential decree in 1994
The special holiday for Russian border guards was established by presidential decree in 1994

Invitation to the Voyage

Let us leave this tiresome clime
And quit cities made of stone,
Where you are cold and bored,
And sometimes even scared.

The flowers are softer and stars brighter
In the land where the Southern Cross shines,
In the land rich as the dowry chest
Bestowed on enchanted brides.

We’ll build a house taller than a fir,
And face its corners with stone,
Mahogany will panel its walls,
And we’ll put down rosewood floors.

And among the scattered paths
In the vast rose garden
The speckled beetles’ backs
Shall flicker like the stars.

Let’s leave! Unless you do not need
In that hour when the sun has risen
To hear the terrible ballads,
The tales of Abyssinian roses.

Of ancient fairy queens,
Of lions in crowns of flowers,
Of black angels, and of birds
What weave their nests amid the clouds.

We shall find an ancient Arab,
Chanting in a singsong drone
A verse about Rostam and Sohrab
Or the virgins of Zanzibar.

And when we tire of fables,
Twelve slender little Negroes
Shall dance round us in a whirl
And never want to rest.

And magnificent chieftains,
Decked out in ivory gear,
Shall come to visit us
When in spring the rains begin.

In the mountains merry, where the winds
Cry and shout, I shall chop the trees,
Cedars, redolent of resin,
Plane trees spanning to the skies.

I will alter the streams
Of rivers flowing down the hills,
Teaching them now to please
Me according to my will.

And you, you shall have flowers,
And I will give you a gazelle
With such gentle eyes
That it seems as if a flute trills.

Or a bird of paradise, prettier
Than roses and summer lightning flares,
To flutter over your miraculous
Dark blond bonnet of hair.

And when Death comes, slightly sad,
Sliding along the fateful line,
To stand at our threshold,
We shall say to Death, “What, it’s time?”

And, neither longing nor dreaming,
We shall go to God’s highest paradise,
Clear smiles on our faces, recognizing
Everywhere familiar climes.

Original

The Border Guard Service, created in the 18th century, was a separate ministry until 2003, when it became a branch of Russia's Federal Security Service
The Border Guard Service, created in the 18th century, was a separate ministry until 2003, when it became a branch of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB)

Invitation to the Voyage

Start by taking a brick and shattering the glass.
Go from the kitchen (mind the steps!) to the dining room.
Sweep Peter Ilyich and Beethoven from the baby grand,
Unscrew the third leg. That is where you’ll find the loot.

Don’t traipse into the bedroom, don’t rifle the chest of drawers,
Lest you start to masturbate. The bedroom and the wardrobe
Smell of perfume, but except for rags from Dior,
There’s nothing you can hustle in the Old World.

Two hours later, when they announce the flight,
Don’t bolt for the gate. Stretch your legs and feign boredom.
In any crowd of passengers you will usually spy
A Jew with forelocks, kiddies in tow. Join their hora.

The next morning, when Zizi pulls up the venetian blinds
And tells you the Louvre is closed, grab hold of her wet curls,
Bury her stupid mug in the pillow and, snarling, “Bite!”
Do to her the thing that deprives the soprano of her trills.

Original

border guards-5
Action figures of a modern Russian border guard (with dog) and an NKVD border guard

Images courtesy of the Telegraph (“Vodka and swimming at Russian Border Guards’ Day celebrations”) and One Sixth Warriors

Kena Vidre: What Was Frida Vigdorova Like?

Kena Vidre
What Was Frida Vigdorova Like?

I liked the articles of hers published in Pravda the year before the war. I was then in the tenth and final grade at school.

There was already something special about these early articles. They were bereft of the usual Soviet phraseological coating. They showed an understanding of the psychology of teenagers and a respect for their individuality, and there was not a whit of edification and treacle in them.

We met on May 1, 1941, at the birthday party of my schoolmate Lena Konyus, a relative of Frida’s.

Frida Vigdorova, early 1960s. Photo courtesy of Alexandra Raskina
Frida Vigdorova, early 1960s. Courtesy of Alexandra Raskina

How sweet she was! Still girlish in appearance, she was short, had a lovely upturned nose, shining brown eyes, and dark hair cut short, a stray lock of it jutting across her forehead. The strand remained in place for the rest of her life, going grayish only towards the end.

It is quite easy to understand Kornei Chukovsky, who when he first met Frida in the hallway at the Pravda offices, took her by the chin and asked, “And what grade are we in?”

“I teach tenth grade,” she replied.

Chukovsky was taken aback and apologized profusely.

According to Frida, this was how they met. The encounter would grow into a passionate friendship. Chukovsky survived Frida by several years.

Continue reading “Kena Vidre: What Was Frida Vigdorova Like?”