cyberloli/decololi: a play

Craig Dworkin: Cyber and Decora Lolita? I’ve noticed two sub categories of lolita that seem fairly new, because not a lot of people do it, and they are not mentioned on most lolita websites. These two styles are apparently hybrids, one combining lolita with the style known as Cyber,and one combining lolita with the style known as Decora.

Should these hybrids be considered lolita subcategories, or should they just be called cyber-lolita and decora-lolita mixes? Do you think they will grow in popularity, or will they simply be a passing fad? Should these categories be added to the style pages of the lolita handbook

Feel free to share your opinion of either style, and if you know when or how the other categories of lolita emerged (like country) feel free to share that as well. For that matter, does anyone know what the original lolita style was? I’d love know who originally started dressing like that (and don’t try and tell me it was Mana) or see the first ever picture of a lolita!

Barrett Watten:
Are there any more examples of cyber lolita? What you have there, despite the petticoat and knee-socks, does not look like lolita to me in any way. That’s just clubwear.

Kenneth Goldsmith: I think decora-lolita is legitimate, and I’ve seen it done a lot. Mostly I think it’s okay because the main difference is in the makeup and accessories. They’re still adhering to the clothing guidelines, for the most part.

Looking at more photos on deviantart of cyber-lolita, it seems more of an offshoot of erololi to me. While, yes, it is cute, it’s not really lolita. The skirts are all far too short. While erololi is seen by some as legit and some as not, some of the time the skirts are longer. All the cyber-lolita I saw had extremely short skirts. I think that you might be able to do a nice cyber-lolita but the ones I saw were more ‘club wear inspired by lolita’ than ‘lolita with club wear touches’, imho.

Rodrigo Toscano: I’ve never seen a decent example of cyber lolita. Ever. I like decora lolita however, it works really well with brands like Angelic Pretty that love bright colors and patterns.

Well, from what I’ve heard and read it started with the brand Pink House which is considered more natural-kei.

Craig Dworkin: Do you think that cyber lolita could happen? It seems as though it could become a style, if someone really applied it properly. I would call it in its infant stage, if it could be developed more. I think it has potential.

Kenneth Goldsmith: I’ve never really liked Decora, but I think that it looks better as a lolita fusion. Thanks for the info, Rodrigo Toscano! ^_^

Joan Retallack: Cyber lolita and decora lolita are subcategories of lolita, but unless you know tons about cyber or decora I wouldn’t recommend trying either. They’re extremely advanced forms of lolita that combine different style aspects from other fashions. Cyber and decora are also very specialized styles, like lolita, so if you’re doing it wrong with cyber or decora, you’ll be doing it wrong even if you’re doing lolita with it right. Decora especially. It’s not just wearing a bunch of hair accessories.

Rodrigo Toscano is right, I’ve never seen cyber done right. Ever. The picture you posted is pretty much just a goth chick, neither lolita or cyber (just look at her skirt, it’s completely wrong, and dreadfalls does not cyber make). Lolita started as an offshoot of the otome/natural kei movement, and Pink House is one of the relatively accepted “birth brands” of lolita. Basically natural kei was inspired by Little House on the Prairie and Prairie/Victorian looks.

All in all, when you’re just beginning it’s extremely hard to balance what is one style let alone becoming an expert on two. Unless you have a very well rounded idea of what is acceptable in both fashions you’re attempting (decora, lolita and cyber), I wouldn’t try it. I don’t even know that much about cyber and decora, so I really have no interest in trying to attempt a fashion I don’t understand and failing miserably, lol.

Juliana Spahr: I would like to see a good example of cyber lolita some day because I think the concept could be very interesting, but unfortunately I have yet to see that. Most of the time, I just see people with synthetic lace sewn to regular revealing cyber clubwear. It seems like a lot of people who attempt this don’t know much about lolita.

As for decololi, I really like it. I see it done well much more often and I think all the deco accessories work really well in sweet lolita… however, decora has its own set of rules and DOES involve coordination, much like lolita. It’s not a free-for-all of colors and layering.

Kenneth Goldsmith: It’s really too bad cyber-lolita hasn’t been done that well yet because it seems like it could work out nice if done properly with just a slight cyber influence. Juliana Spahr, maybe you should attempt one. =)

I just had an idea! This would be a very good fashion challenge. Take a bunch of girls wearing similar basic lolita outfits and have them try to emulate diffferent styles by altering the outfits and using different accessories. It could be a lot of fun to see how people interpreted the different sub-categories of lolita from the same basic outfit.

Rodrigo Toscano: I don’t think cyber lolita will ever really work to be honest. The styles are just so different, especially in terms of modesty and color schemes. I think it would at least be really hard to do without looking just cyber or just lolita, they’re both styles with really strong almost opposite ideas. I may try to do some polyvore sets, though, just for fun.

Marjorie Perloff: That’s an interesting site. I’ve been thinking of trying to do some Japanese Street Fashion meetups either at cons or just photoshoot themes. So I was thinking it might be interesting to try at a meetup. Could work with other styles of JSF as well. Please let me know if you post those sets, because I’d like to see them. =)

Craig Dworkin: Oh don’t worry, I definitely won’t be trying Cyber or Decora, (I’m a lover of Classic) but I think it would offer a good challenge to try and blend Cyber with Lolita, since, as you said, they are rather different, but I think it could be accomplished.

Joan Retallack: Oh, certainly. With Decora. I have my reservations about Cyber, though. Decora is more easily mixed (I’ve seen a few really awesome examples of deco-loli), but a true mix of Cyber and lolita might not be reasonably achievable. They are very different styles. Someone who is very versed in both styles probably could do it however. I really haven’t talked to many people that have a great interest in both, though. I don’t forsee it happening any time soon.

Craig Dworkin: Then I shall make it my goal! *this is the part where you see the fire burning in my eyes* I love a challenge! And while I may not wear it, I will certainly design it! MUHUWAHAHA! All I need now is research! *runs off*.

Jonathan Skinner: I can’t see a proper crossing of the Lolita and Cyber styles myself, but sometimes people can amaze you with what they can accomplish with fashion. I can’t say if it would ever really be recognized as a proper Lolita sub-category, considering the flack that Ero-loli receives, but if Punk can earn itself a sub-catergory, then Cyber seems to stand a pretty good running (as extreme as that sounds).

I would be curious to see how one would make Cyber fit a Lolita silhouette, so to speak. Also, would you use LED rope with plastic ruffles instead of lace? It’s kind of interesting to think about it. Oh, the blasphemous possibilities.

Craig Dworkin: I’m not having much luck finding information on Cyber. Is there a Cyber Handbook like theres a lolita handbook? ^_^() or anything else that could help me, for that matter, please give a link!

Today was hot

and no one wanted to go out and play, and I couldn’t work on my project any more, because it was starting to derange me, so I made a skirt out of this beautiful ironic fabric I bought in Japan. It has DEER and KITTIES on it as well as birds (PTARMIGANS, to be exact), flowers, and butterflies. It took me just a few hours to make it, and I’m rather proud of that.

I'm getting to be a quicker sewist

The project I’m working on is modeled on episodic situation comedies, vaudeville, and variety shows. It incorporates not only the usual benshi ventriloquism and commentary but also autobiography, video collage in which characters “interact” and I “interact” with them, a combo of “home” movies (with select poets making cameo appearances) and found footage, and, of course, poetry & song. Also: porn & burlesque (both retro & highly manipulated so as to be “arty”) for your delectation.

It will make its debut July 11th at the Bowery Poetry Club, at 6 pm, as part of the new and exciting P||R||O||J||E||C||T||I||O||N||S series curated by Jeremy James Foxtrot Thompson & Paolo Javier. O please come!


New: Jonathan Skinner on the conference!

New: Joan Retallack on the conference!

New: Soma Feldmar’s notes from the conference!

New: notes on the conference from Bruce Andrews!


A beautiful verse write-up of the rethinking poetics conference can be found here, from John Keene. Perhaps the most comprehensive recounting so far.

Stephanie Young writes copiously and sensitively about her experiences at the conference, and includes the text of her presentation.

Kasey Mohammad’s summation, as well as his presentation notes.

The following presentation texts or notes from the conference were posted as facebook notes, so I’m not sure which of these links are available to the wider public:

Joshua Clover

Chris Nealon

Juliana Spahr

Jennifer Scappettone

Ben Friedlander

Rebecca Wolff

I have promised myself that I will not spend time writing up a recap, because I need to focus on a new benshi as well as a manuscript edit. Still, I haven’t been entirely able to shut up about my experience of the conference. Below find my facebook updates and comments. There will be a ghostly feeling reading these out of context, because I have ellided my interlocutors out of respect for their privacy:

I just think… you can’t rethink poetics…very well… in the same old theatre of power.


@xxxxx: not a bad thing. The problem was that the conference only represented very few of those practitioners, who were doing the entirely unexpected thing of serving up doses of what many of us surely already knew their positions to be. It was a form of brand enhancement. There wasn’t much of what I would call actual //conferring//. To confer with each other, we would need a different structure than an ocean of many listening more or less passively to a few. Add to this the (to me, often) alienating-by-definition (not necessarily in a bad way as this is how the academy defines itself and creates an inside/outside) academic discourse that was really so different from the impassioned way that most of those same people are delighted to put forth their ideas at a bar, and the whole thing struck me as a bit of a circus, and I don’t mean that glowingly. In a circus, animals are trained to behave in certain ways, and although their behavior may impress us, we are also aware of how they were tamed and subjugated into being able to produce those behaviors. The poetics-izers at the mics were, with some exceptions, seeming not to question the mode of their own discourse (and indeed why should they, since many of them have been preparing all their adult lives to speak such a language), which strikes me as a bit of an anti-poetics stance from the get-go. Several people who I felt did that //less// in this context were Tonya Foster, Charles Bernstein, Susan Howe, and of course Lisa Robertson, whose presentation was the only one that moved me as I wanted to be moved by the proceedings. Others performed their academic discourse roles brilliantly and were noteworthy for having been CLEAR while still fully inhabiting “the professorial”: Steve Evans (although I missed some of his talk), Ben Friedlander, and Kasey Mohammad, whose facility in the role bordered on the elegantly parodic.

Ah well, here I am going on about the conference when I thought I had almost talked myself out of writing up a response to it…


But the question is: why were people not (generally) rethinking (the entire conference was not completely devoid of freshness)? Was it complacency, or was it some kind of (possibly professional) fear? Or was it that the structure of the event precluded it? I think perhaps it might be a combination of all three of these factors, and perhaps a few more.


XXX, Flarf and Conceptual poetry were only mentioned in passing a few times. These poetries were certainly not the focus of the event. It struck me though that in many cases //poetry// was not the focus of the event. One lunchtime companion commented that instead it seemed like a number of dilettantish expositions on topics outside of poetry. Poetry and poetics are perhaps capacious enough to absorb all “topics”… but even so…


XXX, I share your cynicism to some degree, but I also want to try to bracket it. My desire for the conference was to be exposed to some paradigms from which to consider the making of poems. I don’t know that I desired or expected a “re-thinking,” although the startle of that would have been interesting, if it had actually happened. Instead, I feel like I got a little (very little) of what I wanted: the apt or beautiful articulation of what it is to write poetry and be in poetry. In poems, I mean. Then I got a lot of what seemed to me to be pre-packaged positioning: that is, I knew what to expect of the schtick of a given person, and they delivered that. This was not startling. As theatre, it was fairly entertaining, because I am interested in all of these people as people, although the academic language was sometimes, or even often, as BKS pointed out, too baroque. I was disappointed that no one self-reflexively questioned the baroqueness. I don’t dislike the baroqueness (and indeed, to say so would only reek of sour grapes on my part) (wait: that’s wine), but I do feel that it is a club language, and I’m not myself so fluent in it, so there were moments I sulked about that, but that’s my “fault” in that the decision not to become engulfed in that language reflects my life and my aesthetic choices. I do think, no, I know, that there is an awful lot we can say about the experience of being in poems and also analytically about the phenomenon of poems-in-the-world without being so terribly baroque, and some of the presenters certainly did that.


XXX, it strikes me that there is baroque, and then there is baroque. There is baroqueness as form (which THRILLS me), and then baroqueness as code, to which I have several reactions: annoyance, admiration, feelings of exclusion & inclusion, to name only a few. I don’t privilege, you know, “plain language.” Still, a conference is, at least … See Moreprimarily, an arena for spoken discourse, and as such might do well to (as Chris Nealon noted, although I felt his presentation was quite baroque, in the second sense) give more thought to the rhetorical than the linguistic. Presenters at a conference should (I guess) look to “win hearts and minds.”


Andrew Schelling spoke of his “work with the warblers.” Of course, that set my mind to warbling.


I wanted to make a space for gratuitousness. Utter uselessness: unashamedly unjustifiable.


I wanted to make a space for decadence. The point of the work not to do good, but to do mischief.


Nada Gordon keeps chewing over this conundrum: [Mark Nowak]”The point is not just to interpret the world, but to transform it.” / [Steve Evans] “You’re not going to change the world that you haven’t significantly reinterpreted.”


One of my favorite audience questions, from a guy named Joe with a kind of Shiva bun: “Isn’t the inhuman where all the action is”?


At one point a tree pruner set to work just outside the window in back of the panel of presenters. Watching him swing about on his rope, I thought of Carolee Schneemann’s “Up to and Including Her Limits.”


The grandes dames, at one point, seemed all to cluster together in the equivalent of box seats: Susan Howe, Joan Retallack, Rachel Blau du Plessis, Marjorie Perloff…


The “epiphany” of the School of Quietude finds its parallel in the “good work” of the Post Avant. Noting, just noting, that these are both in a sense “outside” the poem (although maybe less so in the former).


How? What about trying a task-based conference? (This notion is taken from the sort of task-based language teaching practices I use in my classrooms every day to maximize participation & individual talking time) Participants volunteer. A call for prompts is sent to participants. ON THE DAY OF THE CONFERENCE (not before, to prevent preparation & rehearsal), groups of no more than five are RANDOMLY ASSEMBLED and the prompts RANDOMLY DISTRIBUTED. The groups would sequester and discuss: CONFER. The day or days would finish with a report, which could take either a critical or creative form. Just a thought.


[upon saying it would never work]

I guess I shouldn’t be so defeatist? 🙂 I suspect it wouldn’t work because participating in such a conference would offer no particular cultural cachet and wouldn’t help people to strengthen their brand messages. Then you have all the issues of individual egos and interests… for example, someone doesn’t WANT to address a particular prompt and wants to switch groups…but that group doesn’t want that person in because he/she is an alpha male/female and would tend to dominate… and even in the groups that DO work, more or less, they still have to go through the process of discovering and working through internal dynamics before much can get done. I took a course in this once. Group dynamics are fascinating, but HARD TO DEAL WITH, and unless everyone involved has a certain amount of patience and equanimity (I, for one, do not) tasks like this can be very trying. What I love about the idea, though, is the experiment of seeing what would happen when all those very different and very brilliant minds rubbed up against each other. The outcome would be impossible to predict… and that… I feel… is a positive value, too.


NB: I had lots of fun at the bar afterwards drinking blackberry martinis.

Yesterday’s ensemble: a print with a print/ Americans Need to Be More Mortified

Gross dark sticky liquid all over the train floor this morning (oh and hey all over the ocean, too, what do you know about that?). What’s the matter with this city? This country? Americans need to learn to be more mortified. Mortification is the key to social harmony, I think.

Here on the raped earth, I’m sneezing.

Subway poster of a small boy agape at a large carnelian-colored shiny frog. The caption: “Our mission is to make sure moments like this never become extinct.”

As if the purpose of ecological conservation were primarily to maintain human delight and fascination (NB: that of small boys.) It’s like Michael Jackson saying, ever so feyly, “I love this planet.” Whether or not an eccentric celebrity “loves” the planet is quite beside the point. Isn’t that obvious?

Americans need to be more mortified. This vulgar vulgar city. Punctured casings: spew. I’m a little unsteady on my unicorn still: still in jet lag’s gaping maw. Ipod as new ghetto blaster. He claims the confined space with sound – HIS sound (another analogy of rape).

Well, no wonder I am so prone to escapist fantasies. On this gross, dark sticky train with its spilled gross dark sticky liquid.

Cop comes by and shuts him up. I’m terribly grateful for the repressive forces of the state for once.

button skirt

I sewed the skirt out of a material covered with a print of buttons. I keep meaning to sew real buttons onto the skirt as well, to create a collision between the object represented and its representations. But I am characteristically impatient and always want to move on to other projects. The jet lag doesn’t help much with the irritability quotient, ugh.

Inspiration for print + print = Japan. Kimonos and chiyogami:

This theme at Narita, Terminal 2:


Japan. Oh, Japan.

Almost finished with The Savage Detectives. It’s very wonderfully written. Sometimes I am annoyed by its beat-infused ethos. But no matter.

Why Japan?

Diana asked me on facebook the other day what is so great about Japan. She said that she had never had any desire to go there, and requested that I “do tell” what its attractions are for me. I didn’t respond, in part because I didn’t quite know where to begin. My response would not have happily fit into a comment stream, I think; my responses to Japan are so complexly layered, like so much filo, with emotional, sensory, intellectual, and linguistic memories and impressions in between the fine sheets… that any glib or simple explanation would not even begin to do justice to them. I certainly can start, though, with a simple list.

1) Japanese society is an elaborate theatre of manners. Masks and role-playing permeate all facets of life there. You see it in the fervent and efficient way people do their jobs, with precision and ceremony. I am thinking, for example, of the hotel clerks at Hotel Sakura Fleur Aoyama who, when we returned from our adventures on a hot day, made a great show of wiping the outside of our complimentary bottles of mineral water with a clean and perfectly folded white towel. Or the woman at the station somewhere out along the Takasaki line who, as our train left for the next station, bowed in perfect slow motion like a butoh dancer at curtain call. These discrete moments of fastidious performance are more or less endless. In Japan, you don’t need to go to any performances (although, if you have time, you certainly should!) because the whole society is being performed all the time. This might be said of any society, I suppose, but in Japan, the simulacrum really is the message: ukiyo.

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“Cosplay” is not actually a new phenomenon. Lolita wear has been around for as long as I remember, in some form or another, although it’s true that it leans a bit more toward the gothic now than it used to. Kids were dressing up and hanging out in Yoyogi-koen back when I first went to Japan in 1988, and presumably long before that as well. It’s just that in recent times, it has become more and more formalized and explicit. Cosplay is Japan, really, whether it’s the colored himo around an obi, a construction worker’s tabi, a stiff salaryman suit, or the bizarrely blonde wigs and coifs of the doll-like Shibuya girls…it’s Hallowe’en all the time in Japan, and that suits me just fine. The details of presentation and performance are paramount, but they aren’t shallow: they are deep signifiers, that say: this is the role I play: this is how I fit in to the machine //or// this is the elaborate way that I cope with having to be in the machine, my (sometimes extreme) reaction to it. Almost no one is slovenly, or “natural” (although sometimes they are faux-natural, like the stylized Japanese hippies) (and except, arguably, children), or tiresome to look at, at least from my perspective. One argument for going there, then, might simply be to behold Japanese people.

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2) Design is everywhere. Really: everywhere. On every train strap and t-shirt, every package and envelope, on every bit of signage… I remember feeling this keenly at many moments, but especially in regards to toilets. Everyone knows about the superior technology of the Washlet, how it will clean your nether orifices with warm jets… but even beyond that… I remember going into one of the restrooms inside Ueno station after a gruelingly long train ride back from an onsen in Gunma, and being delighted to find that the restrooms were entirely done in PURPLE, these sort of curving deep purple stalls with faux-wood accents. Charms and fascimiles (such as the plastic food) are ubiquitous. Gary and I were delighted to come upon, just outside of Shibuya station, a whole rack of dangling charms labeled REAL DOG. Each charm featured a miniature, adorable, realistic little dog of a different breed. The existence of this rack of charms was quite a typical thing, quite like the ever-present “gumball machine” style toy dispensers, into which one puts 200 or 300 yen, rotates the handle, only to get, for example, a miniature plastic replica of a traditional demon, or a fluffy toy of a kangaroo rat, or a kewpie doll disguised as Jungle Taitei (known in English as Kimba the white lion)…

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3) It’s a cartoon. This point is related to both point #1 and #2. Not only are cartoons everywhere (you really can’t go two minutes without seeing something that is literally a cartoon), but there is something also cartoonish in the exaggerated theatricality of the place. Marianne said she can’t find an entry point for the aesthetic of cuteness that is so key to this cartoonishness. For some reason, perhaps because I was there so long to begin with, or perhaps just because of who I am, I have no difficulty immersing myself in the qrotesquely exaggerated fetishized adorable pathos that the Japanese worship in the forms of big-eyed, large-headed creatures and girls in bright colors and with fluffy textures. Life (see point 1) starts to imitate the cartoon, to become the cartoon. I saw so many hairstyles on boys, in particular, that seemed to have been adopted right from the pages of a manga: hair spiky in one section, perhaps, with another section swooping off to a dramatic angle, exactly as a manga hero’s would.

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4) The natural beauty is unparalleled. Lush dramatic mountains, bright clear rushing water, ferny riverbanks, twisted pines, hollyhocks, leaves leaves leaves blossoms blossoms. Maples. Always maples. Spires of cypresses. If this natural beauty feels itself a bit like a stage setting, it is not diminished by that. In the countryside the air is clean and rejuvenating. The sulfur of the water, even the water that comes out of the tap in Tokyo, made my skin feel instantly unusually soft. Thanks to the generous volcanoes for all of this fertility and loveliness. Beautiful straw. Beautiful rice. Beautiful. Beautiful.

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5) Maximum sensory stimulation: lights, colors, sounds, smells, clutter, arrangement, designs, tastes (see the post just above this one). I almost feel as if one hasn’t completely lived until one has been at Shibuya crossing at night. It’s actually really a bit too much, especially in Tokyo but outside it, too. I know sort of how to maneuver within the (sometimes very beautiful) welter of confusions. I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone who has no experience of Japan to deal with it all… although everyone I had come stay with me when I lived there quite simply… loved it. At the moment, New York in comparison frankly feels to me like a bit of a boring shithole, but then, I’m in reverse culture shock mode, I guess.

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I’m not sure if all this even begins to answer Diana’s question. I can’t think of anyplace else that so interestingly juxtaposes the new, even the futuristic, with the ancient, that offers such a range of sensory experience, whose natural beauty is so exquisite and whose cities are so overwhelmingly absorbing. I don’t really know why one would go anyplace else, I’m tempted to say, except that I do know: each place proffers its own novelty. But for me, Japan never bores, and never did (although it sometimes infuriated) even in the long time that I lived there. Gary and I have decided to go back at the very least every three years, and, trust me: I’m counting the days.

some of the things I ate in Japan

mentaiko spaghetti
“canapés” on saltines with, hmm, ikura, and plum jam & brie
variety of puffy breads & pastries from the convenience store including cranberry and cheese bread, walnut & chocolate bread, almond and coffee bread, choco-swirl bread, chocolate croissant, bread with chestnuts and black bean paste
sukiyaki with two different broths
maitake soba zaru
strawberry yogurt
matcha parfait
crème anmitsu
fruits parfait
crab pizza
mentaiko udon
yaki saba (mackerel)
variety of pickles
beef curry
yaki-masa (trout)
kuro-goma tai-yaki (fish-shaped mochi cake with black sesame filling)
sashimi & nigiri galore: sake, toro, iwashi, hamachi, etc. etc. etc.
daikon with miso filling
shiso leaf filled with sweet strong miso
several varieties of ramen (the best was Kyushu style)
bear soup (yes, bear soup. it was incredibly good)
umi no satchi spaghetti
hotate salad
a whole variety of salads, involving potatoes, corn, konyaku, etc.
asparagus & shiitake stirfry
aji-fry teishoku
unagi donburi set
senbei & arare galore
meiji chocolate almonds
matcha float
yakitori including shishito & shiitake
chawan mushi
chicken terikayi donburi
agedashi –dofu
mitarashi dango

This is only a partial list. The extraordinary thing is, get this, is that despite my having consumed all this, which you may have noticed includes an obscene number of desserts, I didn’t gain any weight. Maybe a pound. But wow.


I’ve been too bewitched and bewildered by Japan to blog.

If you’re interested and patient, you can look through my hundreds of flickr pictures by clicking the flickr badge to the right.

Just two more days here. Oh, how I will cry to leave this place…