Family Stuff

So the wife and kids have been up here in New York just over three weeks at this point. We’re figuring out what it’s like for Anne to be a stay at home mom while also developing new relationships herself. We're figuring out what it's like for our older boy to start a new school while the younger one is home and no longer in daycare. We’re learning what it’s like to build a new life somewhere.

So much of why we left what we knew is wrapped up in forcing ourselves to grow. It's been a dance of learning something new while also maintaining responsibilities. While I want to say Anne the Wife and I have done a decent job so far – both as a couple and as parents – it still feels like we're constantly stepping on each other's toes.

By default I lean into what's comfortable. Obsessing over money and finances has always been a warm blanket for me. That's not to say I'm an expert, but I can sure as hell build out a spread sheet and balance a checkbook. A very close second is losing myself in trying to make an image. So much of my time over the years has been experienced through a view finder or monitor that honestly it's much easier to keep moving forward behind a camera than not.

Being a good dad and husband: f*ck that's hard. As much as I'm expecting to grow professionally and creatively in this new season, the biggest challenges so far have been centered around family. Anne and I have been at it long enough that we can squabble and work it out, but there's no diplomatic or elegant way to say I count it a win when I make it through an entire day without wanting to strangle our kids. At six years old Elliot is coming more into his own and making his own decisions. Flynn is 19 months old and can't talk so yelling at the top of his lungs seems to be the next best thing. How that kid still has vocal cords is beyond me.

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While I've been pushing hard to make new professional and creative relationships, Anne has been just as intentional about connecting with other young families also living in the city. It's been a trip peeping into other family dynamics and trying to gleen what we can.

Surprisingly, one of my favorite things about Instagram has been seeing other creatives who also happen to be dads work out and share how they stay creatives while also trying to raise tiny people. You'd better believe I screenshot the hell out of these parental nuggets. And seriously, thank goodness for the whole AMA thing.

Dallas this time

Growing up in Oklahoma City, Dallas was the cool older brother we looked up to. It's where you bragged about going before the school year to buy new clothes at the "good stores." They also had the closest Starbucks when people were losing their minds about Frappuccinos. As someone from Oklahoma City, Dallas was always the varsity quarterback who hung out with cheerleaders while the rest of us cleaned up the used towels and sweaty uniforms.

There was a season when my dad worked for company based in Dallas. He'd work from Oklahoma City but make the three hour drive down a few times a month. His boss rocked the slicked back hair, drove a red Ferrari, and had a sweet pool in his backyard; there's no way that guy didn't do tons of coke. He killed himself a few years ago.

Doesn’t seem like much changed as I got older. Oklahoma City has grown and there's some great things happening there, but in my mind Dallas was still better than where I was from. There was something there that we'd never live up to and we'd never be good enough to do more than just visit.

Last week had me in Dallas for a job and this visit to my hometown's cooler older brother felt different.

Thank goodness for the Running Robot guys and them keeping me so busy in what’s typically one of the slowest seasons of the year. I'd show you some behind-the-scenes photos from our shoot and a few frame grabs of the interviews, but good grief if you've been following along you've seen enough of that already.

Somehow I'd traveled to Dallas with a TSA sized bottle of magical powers. On multiple occasions people who had no reason to be impressed were somehow wowed when I said I was "in town from New York." It wasn't like I was being superfluous in offering the information but small talk normally comes back around to "so where you from?" It didn't seem to matter that I also included "but I just up moved from Oklahoma a few months ago."

Dallas would've been the logical step both personally and professionally to this Oklahoman. Surely there would've been more professional opportunities for me, Anne would've easily made more money as a teacher, and my parents would've much rather we moved their grandkids across the Red River. A handful of friends made in college and during that weird season afterwards now live in Dallas and I wish we saw them more often. I’ve also had a few Dallas based clients over the years and I wish I saw them more too.

I can say with all honesty that Dallas was never really somewhere I wanted to live. There would always be that cooler older brother thing constantly overshadowing anything we'd ever accomplish. Somehow in signing that lease to our Brooklyn apartment we're now part of something allowing us to escape where we're from – at least in other people's eyes who've not lived in New York. Dear God don't I pray that never sinks in personally. But if it helps, I'm all about it.

I'm still hustling to connect with new clients and creatives in a new city that's incredibly expensive. I honestly feel like I'm making some progress but my bank account has only noticed an uptick in my coffee shop spending. I've shot a handful of images I'm proud of and good grief I feel like I'm learning a ton. I've always known there's some kind of magic here and I sure hope I end up finding a bottle or two.

Not quite al dente

Good grief I'm ready to start shooting again. I've worn out my excuses and my camera gear is still sitting in the closet in well protected cases. I'm off again this week with Running Robot shooting more interviews for one of their clients; this week has us in Dallas, TX. I'm pretty sure my RED thinks I've forgotten about it – I haven't and neither has my bank or insurance company.

I've connected with quite a few people here in New York and started the process of shooting something soon. None of those noodles have stuck to the wall just yet, but I'm hoping something will be done cooking soon so we can move on with the process.

Even this freakin' blog post is a bit undercooked: there's no plan or outline, I'm not out to say something specific, and I'm pretty much just ticking this week's box of "Did you write something?"

I'd read something a couple weeks ago via the Musicbed blog that felt just about right:

If we are going to create the same quality of work as those we admire most, I believe we must give ourselves time to develop. In our day and age, there seems to be a need to be constantly producing and posting new work. I find this pressure to stay relevant can be depleting, and ultimately can hinder the integrity and caliber of the work. - Amy Gardner

Talk about cooked noodles.

I feel like it's very real that you need to be practicing your thing. More than anything I've been writing a good deal more this last bit. No one is hiring me to be a writer, but it's still a knife in my creative kitchen. As per usual I've procrastinated until Sunday afternoon to write for Monday's 10am-ish deadline and I'm kinda glad I did considering a quote from Catholic Priest John Chapman embedded in this morning's church service:

"Pray as you can, not as you cannot!"

I'd like to be shooting more, but right now I can write. With everything going on in my current circumstances I can sit down with a laptop or notebook and pen and crank something out. Earlier this week I had some time to collect a few visual references and start down the road to making something. Right now a good part of that "making something" process is writing and I'm sure the cameras will be fired up soon enough.

One Year Later

Last year around this time a goal of mine was to write a weekly blog post. It's not like I had something to say, but more the idea of setting up false deadline each week forcing myself into making stuff. It's been a full year now and thankfully I've stuck to the plan – for the most part.

2018 had me shooting some of my favorite images and pushing myself with personal work, but good grief it was f**king tough personally and professionally. Uprooting and moving to New York City is unquestionably the hardest thing I've ever done. No amount of planning and prep would've been enough but we followed through and did the thing. We're all in New York now and floored at the possibilities ahead. Still, I'm not sleeping well considering all the unknowns.

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A sickly and slightly overweight version of me has followed me around the last year or so whispering "Hey dummy, how you going to pay for all this?" He's stinking up and stretching out my clothes while also shooting footage with my name on it that's just bad enough for people to not hire me again. On top of that I've somehow started following this waste of time – and his friends – on Instagram and can't look away. I'm constantly reminded that he's on much better projects than I am and people are lining up to work with this turd fest only to have him flake out for another project in some other exotic location. I'm not too upset with his success though – he's still sick and overweight plus his footage is out of focus and not framed well. Oh, and all his stuff looks like everyone else's.

By no means am I the day to this dumbass's night: I'm not the hero my dog thinks I am, I for sure need to be running more, and good grief I'm ready to be spending more time on ideas rather than trying to "move to New York City." I've mentioned it before, but I'd met with a director not long ago who asked me something along the lines of "What are your goals? What do you want to do?" I just remember the ocean of sheer panic I fell into while trying to even mumble something intelligent. Even my desk stapler would've known I was failing at being a person at that moment.

"Screw you stapler. What have you done with your life?" - Me

I'm a fan of routines and the false deadline of a weekly blog post has been good for me; it'll not see the chopping block anytime soon. I'm also a fan of Chuck Close's idea about inspiration being for amateurs.

"Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will — through work — bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art idea.’ And the belief that process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today, you know what you’ll do, you could be doing what you were doing yesterday, and tomorrow you are gonna do what you did today, and at least for a certain period of time you can just work. If you hang in there, you will get somewhere." - Chuck Close

See you next week...

"Happy Xmas" - Vevo & Contrast FIlms

"Hey dude! Wanted to see if you’re available to cam op on a multi-cam thing this Wednesday in NYC. Should be a fun one!" - Jordy Wax, Contrast Films

Anne the Wife and I have been super quiet about our decision to move to New York City. That being said, I've been hustling behind the scenes the last year or so in reaching out to other creatives. Turns out freelancing without connections is called "unemployed."

One of those cold emails, direct messages via Instagram, and/or bat signals was to Micah Bickham at Vevo. That led to a phone call while I was in Las Vegas for NAB which led to an introduction and quick face-to-face with Jordy Wax at Contrast Films – he was in Vegas for NAB too. All that nonsense plus plenty more along the way gets us to the other day.

Jordy shot me an email late Saturday night about cam op'ing on a "multi-cam shoot in NYC" on Wednesday morning; not much detail outside that. If you've been following along for any period of the obvious answer was a polite and collected "Yea man! I'm in" while FREAKING OUT ON THE INSIDE AND HOPING THEY DON'T FIND OUT YOU'RE A FAKE. A few emails, a callsheet, and a Google search later it turns out to be a shoot at Electric Lady Studios with with Miley Cyrus, Mark Ronson, and a special guest.

"Good job team. Looks like our work here is done and we can pack it up. No need to try and do anything else to professionally top what I got to do a month into moving to New York." - Me

There's no need to try and explain how big a deal Electric Lady Studios is – just know we've all heard music recorded there. There's no way I was going to be late so I figured being thirty minutes early was a solid balance between "professional" and "Oh God, who is this guy?" The space was buzzing with an army of people who all seemed to know what they were doing. Then there was me, the nervous mid-semester transfer student trying hard to to "play it cool" while simultaneously fighting back the urge to projectile vomit out of excitement.

There were five or six Alexa Minis setup with Vantage Hawk anamorphic lenses on various tripods, sliders, and one prepped for a Movi Pro. I straight up stood next to the camera with the biggest lens because it was the most out of the way when Micah – who was directing all this nonsense – walked up and assigned me to it. "So you're going to be on Camera 1. 85% of your shots will be following Miley with some slow zooms. You've shot live music performance stuff, right?"

I’ve had shoots and editing work with existing clients since I’ve been in NY, but shooting on this project was technically my first paid gig after moving to the city. Honestly I couldn’t have asked for a better situation and I’m incredibly thankful. It's not like I've never worked on big sets with high-profile celebrities and high-end gear. More than anything this just felt like a door opening after patiently knocking for more than a decade.

There's no shame in admitting I was floored to be and work in the same room with creatives I've followed online for years – as well as others I got to meet and follow now. There's also no shame in admitting I had no idea who the long-haired guitar player was they were all tripping out about – my bad.

Fun bonus fact about the scheduling of this shoot: I'd already been booked for a project in Phoenix the next day and thankfully I'd booked a flight out of NYC later Wednesday afternoon. Scheduling somehow threaded the needle on this one with the morning Vevo shoot in Greenwich Village giving me enough time to get back to Brooklyn, get Clara the dog to the pet boarding place, and me to the airport with my gear in time to catch the direct flight to Phoenix. Thanks science.

Phoenix and Red-Eye Flights

This week had me booked again with Running Robot to shoot out in their home turf in Phoenix, AZ. Being used to flying out of Oklahoma City all these years, it was a bit of a hike from New York to that part of the country. Flying out Wednesday afternoon got me there in time to get to sleep that night, pick up rental gear the next morning, the actual shoot, return rental gear, then race back to the airport for a red-eye flight back to NYC Thursday night.

Big fan of lensrentals.com and how easy they make shipping across the country. For this trip it was easier to rent and ship a similar tripod to a local FedEx vs. me traveling with mine. For grip and electric, I connected with MP&E Equipment Rental out in Scottsdale. They're 30-40 minutes outside of Phoenix but the scenery was worth the drive.

Speaking of Scottsdale, Chris Fenner – a solid Instagram follow and car enthusiast – introduced me to Four Coffee and their rubber stamps. Have I mentioned I've got a mild obsession with collecting rubber stamps from coffee shops? It's a thing and filling up my notebooks...

Once again, we were rocking the two camera interview setup: Canon 5D Mark III with a 70-200 lens for the tight; Canon 7D with a 24-70 for the wide. They also had me shooting a third camera through the interview to act as additional B-roll for the edit. The Running Robot guys booked a conference room in a downtown Phoenix co-working space. Three of the four walls were floor to ceiling glass so reflections were a real issue.

Slowly but surely I too am preaching the good news of working with these 4' Quasar Crossfades. The slim profile let me get the backlight in a tight spot between the talent and glass wall. The skimpy dimmers from by rental house were unusable trash, so instead I used some gaffe tape on the fixture to make a small skirt on the light cutting back some of the output. Oh, and the baby pin mounting option and rubber bumpers on each end of the tubes – so rad. The hodgepodge of color temps flooding the glass room from everywhere was a hot mess. I still feel like the color on these fixtures is a bit more red than I'm used to, but it's an easy fix in camera or post. My iPhone Xs was having issues too getting the color temps correct in my BTS photos. Side note: we had to rig the audio boom pole to a light stand via spring clamps because we felt like it (and didn't have the proper mount anyway).

Can we talk for a moment about red-eye flights? They're pretty awful – but still have their place. By all means it was my choice in scheduling because I wanted "the experience." Plus I knew it would help budget-wise seeing as how expensive all this is. Plus (plus) I'd already scheduled a couple meetings back in NYC knowing I'd be back in time thanks to flying through the night. The air travel part isn't that bad. Yes, it sucks trying to sleep on a plane, especially on a rough flight and next to a seat mate who isn't into "personal space" or "boundaries" or "jackets without massive shoulder pads." Some solid red-eye flight tips are only a Google search away and I know what I'll be doing next time – i.e. neck pillow, window seat, glasses instead of contact lenses, etc...

For me the rough part of flights back to NYC is actually getting from the airport back to my place in Brooklyn. There's a tipping point between in the financial benefits of public transit ($15-20 and 60-90 minutes) and time and comfort of just hiring a car from the airport ($50+ and 30-40 minutes). It was seriously a trip stumbling into my now regular coffee shop knowing only a few hours earlier I was standing on the other side of the country (Phoenix to San Francisco to Newark). I was fried for my 11am meeting in Manhattan, but it still went well. I was two coffees in before my 1:30p back in Brooklyn, but again, it went well too.

Philadelphia for a Night and Day

Just before moving to New York a client I've worked with the last few years reached out about a quick shoot in Philadelphia. No question – let's go. I knew I'd already be in Brooklyn at the time so I did the normal thing and looked for flights, this time out of New York City. Google Maps made fun of me and let me know Philadelphia is a two hour drive from the city.

"Don't be dumb, get a rental car." - Google Maps (pretty much).

Booking a car and picking it up in my neighborhood – easy. Driving in and around NYC and trying to park – I'd rather lose a fingertip in a fight with a table saw.

Not having to fly my gear on this shoot allowed a bit of wiggle room with my grip and electric budget. All the cool kids on the internet shoot with those fancy Quasar LED tubes but it's tough getting your hands on those Jedi laser swords in Oklahoma City. This is where Lightbulb Grip & Electric comes in. By far they were more than accommodating in my small order and made sure I had what I needed and knew how to use it. They set me up with two 4' Quasar Crossfades, dimmers, clamps, and c-stands.

After more than an hour trying to drive the four or so miles from Park Slope to the other side of Brooklyn to pickup the gear at Lightbulb, I was off to Philadelphia and working up fresh 'Yo Momma' jokes for the next table saw I came across. Good lord it was weird being out of the city after not being more than six to eight miles from my apartment for nearly a month.

It was dark by the time I got to my hotel in downtown Philadelphia and paid the $30 for overnight parking. I bundled up and headed out with a camera instead of camping out in my room because, again, that's what the cool kids do (I'm told). Word to the wise, the National Park Service Rangers – or at least the hired overnight security guards – will yell at you if you're walking too close to the chain railing on the street next to Independence Hall. Also, make sure your headphones aren't up too loud so you can hear them yell at you the first time. Oh, and they're not up for jokes if you're trying to lighten the mood and get them to stop yelling at you.

The actual shoot the next morning and reason I was in Philadelphia went very well. We were shooting another two camera interview for a series of client videos. It's not like these things come with a built in location scout, so I showed up with my normal Rock-N-Roller cart full of gear. Thank goodness for carts. We had to park in a garage a couple blocks away and then use a service elevator to get where we needed to be in another building. Luckily I was able to get all my nonsense from the car to where it needed to be in one trip.

So those Quasars... I'm a fan. We were shooting in a white room with plenty of daylight bouncing around. If I'd just had my trusty tungsten ARRI kit (650/300/150) I'd be freaking out knowing the gel and diffusion death march I'd be putting it through in getting the color and softness I wanted while praying it still had enough horsepower to overcome the ambient light coming through the windows. Those Quasar Crossfades were soft, bright, and I was able to quickly dial in the color temperature to what I wanted. They also weren't hot so the talent wasn't melting and I didn't have to wait for them to cool off before packing up. They felt a bit more magenta than I was use to, but that could've been how my monitor was setup. I've heard the color temp warms up a bit as they're dimmed down, but I had them at full blast. Seemingly the only butt-pain in using these lights in a travel kit would be hauling around c-stands; surely there's an easy solution to that.

Clara the dog is up here with me in NYC and needed to be boarded overnight while I was gone. That was a whole thing too, but it was a great experience with both the neighborhood vets office and the actual boarding facility. I'm assuming you're not here to read about my dog, but I will say she had a good time riding the subway. You're not supposed to have a dog on the train without them being in some kind of carrier – which again is a whole thing – but she immediately made friends on the train and surely made it on at least one more Instagram account.

Latenights @ Lightbulb: Metro Camera Cars

So straight up one of my big attractions to New York City is the concentration of filmmakers and opportunities to make stuff. Good grief the number of emails, direct messages, and coffee meetings I've been able to make the last few weeks has been fantastic. One of those coffee meetings was with a guy I met during the Film+Music Conference in Ft. Worth this past September. Dustin Ward is a Brooklyn based filmmaker and cool enough to point me towards Lighbulb Grip & Electric. Along with being a rental house, they do these free events called Latenights @ Lightbulb: Free Education for Filmmakers, by Filmmakers. Up this past week was Metro Camera Cars.

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Just a heads up, this isn't a paid post and I've not worked with these guys – I did get a chance to meet them though. They've got a cool thing going and I'm down with what they're trying to do.

By no means am I swimming in budgets with cash to burn. I've had projects where we needed a driving shot and I've done my fair share of "let's-hang-the-camera-guy-out-the-car" setups to – hopefully – get what we needed. More often than not it wasn't safe, the shot looks like garbage, and again, hanging someone out of a car isn't safe. The guys at Metro Camera Cars are out to make "high-end, dynamic, fluid camera movement accessible for all budgets... With skilled drivers and technicians, [their] goal is to increase your production value while decreasing risk."

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Cutting to the chase on all this, they've got fully motorized jib arm with a DJI Ronin 2 attached to the business end of it – you provide the camera and lens package. That whole setup is attached to a blacked out Honda Fit piloted by a stunt driver and filled with all kinds of gadgets and crew to make all the fluid and dynamic camera movement nonsense happen. Through their presentation they ran us through their gear, the basics of working with a camera car, and a solid Q&A session. Afterwards we all bundled up and went outside to actually see the setup. I've included my notes from the talk below.

Am I planning to hire out a camera car for an upcoming shoot? No. Do I now have a better idea as to what goes into a shoot with a camera car and a group to reach out to that would do a great job, especially with a tighter budget? Yes. Oh, and did I meet a solid handful of likeminded people who I may get a chance to work with at some point? Again, yes.

Two Weeks In

So two weeks in to living in New York City at this point. I'm nearly done unpacking and good lord I hope we're close to done spending the crazy money necessary in a cross-country move like this.

I've gone from an un-Godly amount of effort and work the last year and a half to get to this point and now that I'm here, it's a bit disorienting. Thank goodness I've already got a few friends and contacts up here answering my emails and direct messages and also introducing me people they know. Thankfully I had a conversation with a director I met the other day and he asked "What are your goals? What do you want to do?" A day or two after that conversation I honestly reached back out and apologized for the mangled stream of consciousness I laid out. After all that I've been through the last few months – emotionally, physically, and financially – I'd pretty much put that first impression performance up there with a dog bringing home the rancid parts of a dead bird it found in the street. Woof...

This is such an unusual time in my life. I'm an adult without a regular job living in a new city in a different part the country without the most important people in my life. The family and I have regular connections via phone calls, video chats, and text messages, but it's very weird knowing I'm physically removed from some of my responsibilities as a parent and husband. Obviously I married up considering how much a rockstar she is and has been throughout our relationship – especially the last few months. Anne the Wife will be working the next couple months and I've got quite a few invoices out, but I can imagine we'll soon be living off savings – at least in part.

This is normally the start of my slow season professionally. That's part of why we decided I should move up a couple months before Anne and the boys do. Thankfully I've got some work the next few weeks with existing clients. I'm supposed to be on a shoot in Philadelphia next week followed by a potential job in Kansas City; I've also got some editing work needing to be done.

Creatively, I'm ready to burst. Short of a few personal projects this past summer I've not had the margin or the outlet due to family responsibilities and prepping for the move. Now that I'm here and the tornadoes of the past season are spinning down I want to be part of a creative project so bad I can't stand it. I heard someone say something yesterday about wanting something so bad that their body hurt. I may not be to that point just yet, but I'd be completely lying if I said I wasn't nearly vibrating after seeing a full block of production trucks and trailers in my neighborhood last week. It took just about all of me to not walk up to the nearest person wearing a walkie and ask if I could just stand there with them. No question I'd have gotten the Production Assistant coffee if they wanted.

I've been intentional about going out with a stills camera in addition to always have my iPhone camera at the ready. It's fascinating seeing the subtle differences in how the existing light works here, especially with the sun going down around 4:30p. For one, that's mind-bending to me considering Oklahoma's daylight hours. Two, the afternoon light makes for a gorgeous backlight during the steady flow of people making their way home. Oh, and the street lamps everywhere are making for super interesting light and shadows. Good grief, I can't wait to get on a project soon.

Now a New Yorker

So I'm learning what it's like to not own a car. I'm also learning how to care for a dog while living in a small apartment with no yard. Oh, and my wife and kids are now 1500+ miles and a two-and-a-half-day drive away from where I live. It's been exactly one week since Clara the Dog and I moved into an apartment in Brooklyn, NY.

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Anne and I have been super quiet about all this, but nearly 18 months ago we decided to uproot our family and move to New York City. It's been something I'd considered since my time in college; Anne and I have been talking about It for nearly 10 years.

A number of factors finally broke surface tension of actually committing to the move: I felt like my work and creative growth had plateaued; Oklahoma is 50th in the nation in teacher pay and the public education system – short of a few bright spots – is a hot mess; The world is a big place with lots of ideas and dIfferent kinds of people. Anne and I feel like we need to make sure our two kids know and experience that first hand.

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GOOD GRIEF it’s been a hard few weeks and months thanks to all the pressures, excitement, and anxieties riding shotgun with a cross-country move – not to mention doing all this with two small children and no steady jobs lined up.

The cost of just about everything here in NYC is quite the cold shower from how inexpensive it is to live in Oklahoma. I’ll still be freelancing and thankfully I’ve got some work already lined up. Anne is planning to take a semester off from teaching to help settle into a new city with a young family. We’ve got a bit of a financial runway after selling our house in Oklahoma City as well as both our cars, but we’ll get to the end of that soon enough.

Anne is a teacher and she's staying with the boys in Oklahoma City till the end of the year to finish out the fall school semester. The next month-and-a-half are an opportunity for me to hit the ground running here in New York to develop the relationships needed as a freelancer. Clara the Dog and I'll make the two-and-a-half day drive back to OKC for Christmas and we'll all come back afterward as a full family to our new home – crazy...