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Arts and Culture: Roger Bong

Aloha Got Soul is a record label based in Hawaii specializing releasing in funk, soul, jazz, and R&B music and is run by couple Roger and Lei Bong. Aloha Got Soul started as away to to pay homage to older soul/funk Hawaii musicians by re-issuing vinyl records from the 1970’s. Recently Aloha Got Soul has been focusing on releasing music from new Hawaii-based artists. Roger and Lei feel a big part of their label is forming connections with artists, both young and old, to foster a community locally in Hawaii and present it on a global scale. In addition to Aloha Got Soul, from mid-to-late 2018, the Bongs formed an online radio station called Central Pacific Time which was located at BoxJelly. Before they left we had the opportunity to sit down with Roger Bong and discuss his vision for his record label Aloha Got Soul.


Was there like a pivotal moment in your life where you decided to follow your passion?


Roger: There was a time when I was trying to work a day job while doing Aloha Got Soul at the same time. I knew that if I was going to continue doing both of them, they would both suffer. I needed to choose one or the other. It wasn’t fair to my own business if I did not dedicate 100 percent to my project. It also wasn’t fair to the company that I was working at. That’s when I decided to let go of my day job and work on Aloha Got Soul full-time. The hardest part about the decision was a leaving a job with steady paycheck. When youʻre working for yourself you have to make things happen.


If you were giving advice someone who want to be an entrepreneur, what advice would you give them?


R: Try to utilize the resources that are out there, whether it’s reading stuff or just reaching out to other independent record labels.


How did you start Aloha Got Soul?


R: I started Aloha Got Soul as a blog to document records from Hawaii in the seventies and the eighties. These records, primarily consisting of funk, soul, r&b, and jazz, are now out of print. A lot of people say that the 1970s was a period of Hawaiian music renaissance. During this time there were a lot of fusions of genres happening and a lot of underground content coming out. So, around 2010, I started a blog promoting the underground music in Hawaii during the 1970s. I became friends with a lot of artists that I featured in my blog. I noticed that people frequently were asking where they can get copies of the records on my blog. Thus, the label started out of this necessity to re-issue out of print music so that people today can hear it, own it and love it. In turn, the artists can also reap the financial benefits financially, gain new fans, and make new connections.

Leimomi is your personal and professional partner. What’s the hardest part of working as a couple?


R: The hardest part is just always being in an environment where our conversation might be about business. When we’re at the BoxJelly, we’re going to talk about business. At home we’re just trying to enjoy ourselves. Working as a couple is all about that balance between life and work.


What’s your workflow like?


R: Well I make a list of tasks to do and I try to organize them by priority. I organize each tasks with a letter such as A, B or C, with A being the top priority. B being secondary and then from there going in and adding numerals. For example, A-1 is very top priority. I try to do that every morning.

It’s actually from this book that was written in like the eighties. I just found it randomly at a thrift store. The guy who created the system was actually living in Hawaii. I remember picking up the book and turning to a page when he’s talking about swimming across the channel at Hanauma bay. This guy was writing about Hawaii. I thought that it has to be a sign.


What’s your favorite thing Aloha Got Soul has released so far?


R: My favorite thing is always what’s next. As of right now in (November 2018) Iʻm into an artist named Jah Gumby. He’s the bass player for a local reggae band called Glow the Mark. They’ve been around for around 20 years.


What inspires the vision for your label?


R: The difficult thing about being an entrepreneur is having that daily inspiration or motivation to keep doing what you’re doing. For me, I always think about a lot of the older musicians and as time passes, they’re getting older. Soon we won’t have the opportunity to re-release their music and preserve this piece of history. Also, Iʻm really inspired by community aspect. I get the opportunity to make connections with people around the world and locally through music.


Define being based in Hawaii?


R: Being based in Hawaii makes you very resourceful. We’re kind of isolated living on an island. We have to work with what we have. Honolulu has the vibe of a really big town.


Describe your experience working at BoxJelly?


R: The best part of our experience was that we had the opportunity to be a connected with online radio stations all around the world. We saw ourselves as part of a community with stations such as Worldwide FM in London, Red Light Radio in Amsterdam, and The Lot Radio in Brooklyn. These networks became an inspiration for us to do something similar in Honolulu. So in January of 2018, we launched an online radio station called Central Pacific Time. Around that time, we also met Rechung. He really dug what we were doing and he offered to bring us into the BoxJelly. For us, it was validation that we had a great idea. Here’s this guy who believes in us and our mission. He was willing to support us and help us foster this community. In March, we moved in. We had people coming through doing shows on the radio station. The experience has been a open and freeform place to work.

If you had to match a song to capture BoxJelly’s vibe, what would it be?

R: I couldn’t do just one song. It would have to be a whole mixtape. There are so many different things happening in BoxJelly. You have entrepreneurs and small businesses working out of the space. BoxJelly is connected to the Fishcake store and Morning Glass up front. It’s just a big mixture and it’s always thriving.


Entrepreleader: Rumi Murakami

Designer Rumi Murakami, long time BoxJelly resident Atelier, is creating clothing that merges high quality, timeless design with functionality and comfort. Taking inspiration from Hawaii’s tropical climate and growing urban environment, Rumi keeps her designs clean and cool. She aims to create clothing that is wearable without sacrificing style. She and Matt Bruening recently teamed up for a runway show at the Hawaii State Art Museum where their collections were turning a lot of heads. This week, she’ll be launching her online store. We had a chance to sit down with Rumi to talk about the show and her design practice.


You had show at the HiSAM in November 2018. Could you tell me about what inspired the work?

Rumi: The name of the show collection is Paper. Matt Bruening approached me about doing the show. Aly Ishikuni, co-founder of Art+Flea and Mori, got approval from the museum and we held it there. For this collection, I tried to think about using the fabric like paper, so I tried to stay really like angular, square and simple. Nothing too literal. I like things that have a little more subtle message.

In addition to that theme, I want clothing and fashion to be accessible to everyone and I think the museum during First Friday was a good venue to show the people that fashion is a viable business in Hawaii and that it doesnʻt need to be about aloha wear or ocean culture.




What is your workflow and how do you project manage?

R: I’m much better if I have a deadline otherwise I can drag the process. I think with a lot of creative processes, it’s hard to tell when you’re done. Typically for fashion when you’re dealing with a collection, you have your theme and your fabrics.  I enjoy the process of being limited to the fabrics. By that I mean picking out fabrics and trying to stay within the theme and again, try not be too literal with the theme either.

In the end, people have to wear these clothes so they have to make sense This is where I feel like art and design kind of go their separate ways. I don’t consider what I do art really. It’s definitely more design because it’s got to be functional. It has to be practical, it can’t be so weird that it’s distracting or you can’t move around in it.I want the clothes to be easy to wear but,I also want to offer something a little different and possesses a timeless quality. I also want everything to have pockets. If I can get a pocket in there, there’s going to be pocket there because it is necessary.


Has being in located in Hawaii influenced your designs?

R: Absolutely. I’m originally from northern California originally and so everything was lines and really tailored and layers and buttoned up colors. The environment and the culture has forced me to simplify my designs. We’re in a tropical climate and because of that we’re casual. I want to make tailored separates work in this climate. I still do some of things that I did in California, but it took me years to understand even how to dress myself here and what works and what doesn’t.

What do you want your viewer to understand about your work?

R: I think it’s important that the person who is wearing the clothes feels good. I use really high quality fabrics and natural fibers like cotton and linen. I want my work to come across as quality and really well fitting clothes. Clothes are supposed to feel good and make you feel good, right?



Do you have any advice to anyone who’s an aspiring designer?

R: Just keep working, keep doing, and keep producing. Even if you start small. Even if it’s a couple t-shirts or a couple pairs of shorts. Whatever it is that you’re doing, just start small and keep working. It takes a lot of hard work and you have to persevere. Talk to as many people as you can. When someone asks you what are you up to, reply like you own it. It took me a while to finally say that I’m a clothing designer. You have to  say it, claim it and put in the work.

Establishing yourself takes time. Everything takes longer than you think it’s going to. You have to establish your reputation so people trust you. This means as a designer, you have to be in it for the long haul.

Check out Rumiʻs online store!




Arts and Culture: Lauren Trangmar

Lauren Trangmar is an artist with a focus in design work. Lauren feels working in design gives her the opportunity to work in a multitude of mediums such as drawing, painting, and printmaking. She creates fine-line illustrations influenced by the line work of 17th century European cartographic illustrations. Being a designer who can work with a diverse set of mediums gives her the opportunity to display her pieces in both the fine art and commercial art worlds.

Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your passion for art? 

I’ve always wanted to be an artist. At a young age my parents supported my dream but they told me I wouldn’t make any money as an artist. When I started college I really wanted to pursue a painting major. My friends told me that I should go into graphic design because it was one path where I could make a living while making art while continuing to paint on the side. One of my design instructors told me “well you can paint in my class, you can draw in my class, you can do a film, and use it in your design.” I thought to myself that if I can do everything in this design class, then I’m going to do it.  Being able to work in different mediums felt like a super power as Iʻm able to mesh both my art and design skills together. Existing in both the design and art world also gave me the ability to market my pieces to both audiences. For the 2015 Artists of Hawaii Show, I did a series of illustrations and the Museum bought the original illustrations and put it in the archives. Then, I made print copies of my original illustrations in a big quantity and sell in different shops like Fishcake

How do you market yourself as an artist or a graphic designer?

I make most of my connections through word of mouth. I have been really lucky. People come to me for my distinct style. I’ve also gotten a lot of work from the Artists of Hawaii show. The owner of Aloha Green Apothecary saw my work at the museum and asked me to jump on their project. With Aloha Green Apothecary, I was creating various illustrations to represent different strains of cannabis. It’s really interesting because I didn’t know a lot about cannabis at all. I had to do months of research about cannabis. I went through all the crazy names of the different strands and then imagined what I could to do to visually interpret them.

I make most of my connections through word of mouth. I have been really lucky. People come to me for my distinct style. I’ve also gotten a lot of work from the Artists of Hawaii show. The owner of Aloha Green Apothecary saw my work at the museum and asked me to jump on their project. With Aloha Green Apothecary, I was creating various illustrations to represent different strains of cannabis. It’s really interesting because I didn’t know a lot about cannabis at all. I had to do months of research about cannabis. I went through all the crazy names of the different strands and then imagined what I could to do to visually interpret them.

How does the materials you work with inform your work?

I’ll often scan my drawings into the computer a work things out digitally, then I’ll print the new image and print on top of the digital illustration. It’s a back and forth process between illustration, digital work, and printmaking. I tend to do this process with a lot of my projects. 

I do this a lot when I’m illustrating for Flux magazine . I would first draw and paint with watercolor on tracing paper so I could see through it and then I would stack the layers up and I would scan each one into photoshop. In photoshop I can play around with it a bit more to  figure out how it’s going to look.

What is your work flow for doing art and how do you project manage?

When I start a freelance project I tend to intensely sketch out ideas for weeks. Once I have an idea, I go into the production phase and follow up with regular clients meetings. There are lots of up and down times depending on what stage I’m in with my projects. For example, last week I barely left my studio. However, this week I’m taking meetings and installing work. I make sure to meet my deadlines. Usually, the work I do for magazines like Flux, they want it in a week or two so I’ll Intensively work on those. While I work on projects with short deadlines, I’ll also take on a bigger project that will take months. For example, the Aloha Green Apothecary project has been ongoing for about a year now. That being said, I often like to take breaks from the longer projects to focus on shorter projects.

Do you have a favorite book, film or artist, which inspires you?

A lot of my work is influenced by 17th century cartographer Andrea Cellarius. Andrea Cellarius creates these crazy star maps filled with detailed drawings of mythical creatures and planets. I’m constantly looking at his work. I went to the library and I got to look at a massive book full of his print ads. You’ll see his influence in the work I made at the museum.

What does it mean to be an artist in Hawaii?

Wherever you are, the people and experiences you’re exposed to are going to inform your work. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work with Aloha Green Apothecary or have my work in Fishcake. Also, the teachers at UH gave me the freedom the explore different mediums within my design practice.   

Have you ever doubted your art practice?

l doubt my practice all the time. I’m friends with people who are at all different levels in their careers. They all share their doubts and struggles with me and this has helped me get over my own fears.. I learned that doubt is something that never goes away no matter what stage you are in your career. You have to figure it out, keep going and learn from your mistakes.

What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?

Don’t give up. Just embrace the fear and do it anyway. I’m scared all the time. I have projects and I tell clients “yeah sure I’ll do it.” Then I go back to a blank piece of paper and I think to myself, “how am I gonna do that?” Sometimes when you’re working for a client, the hardest part of your job is reading their mind and bringing it out onto the page. I feel like I have to turn into a mind reader, I never know if i’m going to get it right. So I’m always a bit nervous, but I just keep working for it.


Atis Puampai

Photograph by Kent Nishimura (


Artist Atis Puampai is focused on observing perceptions of time through the lens of his modified cameras. By taking pictures that display the motion of the earth moving around the sun, Atis uses photography to observe the way humans experience time.  He also takes photos of his surroundings during his daily journey from home to work to focus on the banality of time. Instead of using digital cameras or computer programs to edit his photos, Atis constructs film cameras from recycled camera parts to create his desired effects. His personal philosophy towards his practice is to use any resources you have to observe everything around you. In this vein, Atis taught himself photography by using his friendʻs old camera and learned photo techniques through trial and error. Though Atis has been mostly self-taught, he recently received his Masters in Fine Art (MFA) from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The MFA program gave Atis a better understanding on how to fully conceptualize his artworks. I asked Atis to sit down with me in the BoxJellyʻs conference room to further discuss his art practice.

Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your passion for art?

Atis: After I graduated from high school one of my friends gave me my first camera and I immediately got hooked. I just kept taking pictures of my buddies, skate friends, and anything in general. I was the typical shutterbug. During that time I took rolls and rolls of film. Everything I know about photography is from trial and error. All the worst things that can happen when you pick up photography happened to me. For instance, I used to load film incorrectly into my camera to the point that I wasn’t able to wind my camera. I had to learn to deal with different light sources without a light meter. I ruined a lot of photos discovering the difference between sunlight and sunlight on a cloudy day. I tend to learn things better when I make mistakes. I also learned a lot from my friends who were photographers. I would show them my photos and they would tell me what was wrong and how to fix them. .


How does the materials you work with inform your art practice?

Atis: Going through the MFA program at UH really taught me to be critical on my thoughts towards photography and my process for creating photos. For example, when people take pictures they say “Iʻm going to shoot a photo.” I remember my old photography professor would say “Its not shooting photos, you’re not capturing the images. You’re making pictures by collecting information around you.” So the whole idea of photography for me is about observation and collection. My artistic vision comes second to the observation. Also, I’m always trying to figure out how I can keep things simple and work with materials I already have. I create photos from cameras that I craft from salvaged camera equipment. One comment I got when someone saw my modified cameras was “Itʻs like seeing a caveman discover photography for the first time.” I took that comment and thought, how do I move through the history of photography using  my intuition? I make my cameras and “discover” various camera effects and craft my camera to achieve desired effects. In the act of making I often wonder do I need a shutter or other basic functions to bring my ideas into reality.


What ideas are you exploring with your art?

Atis: Iʻm exploring different perceptions of time. For my project titled “Earth at 970 mph” I took photos of the sun to show the earth in motion in relation to the sun. The sun is something that is constant and anybody can locate. We watch it rise and fall everyday. However, we rarely think about the motion and the rate we are moving around the sun. As the sun stays the same, we humans are moving and evolving. This calls into question our human significance. I took these photos at Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea is monumental and a specific location. Iʻm also trying to find the magic of being at Mauna Kea in my everyday routine. I take photos of my route from home to work. By taking pictures of my daily route, Iʻm also exploring the mundaneness of time.

What is your work flow for doing art and how do you project manage

Atis: My workflow is sporadic. I go on these spurts where I work everyday. It’s like pringles. Once you start you can’t stop eating them but once your done you can go a long time without pringles. While working on a photo series I try to explore numerous ways to approach the concepts I’m interested in at the time. Once I feel like I have said everything I can about the concepts, that is when I known a photo series is completed.

What does it mean to be an artist in Hawaii?

Atis: Being an artist in Hawaii has made me very resourceful. Hawaii is in the middle of the ocean and has a very iconic location. Hawaii also has a strong connection to the themes of an idyllic paradise and tourism. As an artist I take it as a challenge to create photographs in Hawaii with concepts that can be applied anywhere.


Is there a piece you would like to be known for?

Atis: I would like to be known for my concept of exploring different perceptions of time and my modified cameras. My thesis series “Project: ANCIENT LIGHT” focuses on the fact that the light coming from the sun is 10,000 to 100,000 years old. The light that the earth receives now is older then all of written human history. With “Project: ANCIENT LIGHT” I’m exploring time past our human experience.

Do you have a favorite book, film or artist, which inspires you?

Atis: Artist Hiroshi Sugimoto is a big inspiration. He’s a photographer and he also explores the themes of time and space. His work is super polished.  I see him as a foil as I work the other way; really rough and raw. Stylistically, my photographs are inspired by Sugimoto. Sugimoto lets the concepts of the work take over so what visually comes out is purely the concept.

Have you ever doubted your art practice?

Atis: I have always doubted my art practice. I believe there will always be doubt. Anyone who is a creative, musician, or artist will doubt their practice at some point. I feel like I’ve done my best work when I felt the most doubtful. If your so sure of the work you create it might be too formulaic. If I doubt my work but I’m honest with it, I think people will be able to at least resonate with what I create.

What advice would you give to an inspiring artist?

Atis: Get ready to struggle, but as artists we will struggle together.

Check at more of Atis Puampaiʻs artwork at


06/023/2017.  Seven second exposure. Elapsed time: 0 min.

30″x40″. Archival Pigment Print from Fujifilm FP-100C Instant Picture.


BoxJelly x Fishcake Artist in Residence: Call for Artists Spring 2019




DEADLINE: January 11, 2019

Since 2011, Box Jelly has functioned as a collaborative workspace for a diverse set of professionals. Our mission is to provide a carefully curated physical space that cultivates and enriches our communities. As a coworking space, we understand the importance of a dedicated work area. This is why we’re opening up our resources to upcoming artists.

The Box Jelly/ Fishcake Artist in Residence Program is a development platform for those transitioning into professional artists. We intend to accomplish this by providing ample studio space, utilities and a supportive community of like-minded art professionals to foster resident artist’s creativity.


We are now accepting proposals for BoxJelly+Fishcake Artist in Residence (AiR), a 6-month opportunity to create new work for a solo exhibition in Honolulu, Hawaii in the heart of Kaka’ako, an urban neighborhood with proximity to the beach, shops, restaurants, bars and local events.

We’re looking for bright, enterprising creatives who work in contemporary art practices and forms with big ideas and the ambition to execute them.


The six-month residency runs from February 1st 2019 with culminating show to be presented in August 2019.


The residency includes:

  • A workspace (a clean studio space suitable for artists and designers working in digital arts, video, photography, illustration, fiber arts and textile design).
  • A solo exhibition at The BoxJelly, the premier co-working space for urban creatives in Hawaii! We will provide press, marketing and hosting costs of the opening reception. All sales from the exhibition go directly to the artist.
  • BoxJelly Dedicated Studio membership (a $4000 value).
  • Creative mentoring with the BoxJelly and Fishcake team.
  • A one-on-one portfolio review with Fishcake Art Curator Keiko Hatano.
  • Consultation with Fishcake Co-Founder and Chief Creative Maura Fujihira and Fishcake Showroom Manager Cassie Louie on selling artwork and design products.
  • An opportunity to earn a spot on Fishcake’s roster of local and international artists and designers.  Fishcake sells artists’ work in two retail locations, as well as direct to homeowners and businesses through their interior design studio, Fishcake Works.

The residency does not include exhibition costs, artist stipend, transportation or housing. We cannot offer a visa for international applicants.


Submissions must include:

  • The application form
  • Project proposal: 1-2 pages in length, outlining a plan to create a body of work to enhance BoxJelly’s space. Include a detailed list of techniques, materials, and outlining project logistics.
  • Artist’s CV
  • Digital zip file containing 5-10 samples of your most recent work with an inventory sheet
  • Artist Statement
  • Other Supportive Material (optional)


Please email your application and materials to 


DEADLINE: January 11, 2019


Artists in Residence, in Conversation: A Recap





Last Wednesday, in collaboration with Fishcake, the BoxJelly kicked off a fun evening of raffle prizes and info-packed conversation with its inaugural artist in residence, Amelia Samara and Laurie Sumiye, our second artist in residence and newly appointed coordinator of the program. Through this presentation- style conversation, audience members learned more about this unique opportunity and what it takes to become our next artist in residence.


The two artists started by introducing themselves: Amelia grew up in many places, a factor which she attributes to shaping her work and interests. She remarked that while in school, there was perhaps a disproportionate amount of emphasis on the conceptual aspect of art while very little to no attention on the business side.  After graduating with BFA in Fiber Arts from University of Hawai’i, she tried to grapple with how to actually make a living as an artist coming from a background where “making beautiful art for the sake of just making beautiful art is not encouraged.”


Born and raised in Mililani, Laurie Sumiye took an 18 year hiatus from the islands until returning to the Big Island where she began a documentary focused on an endangered native Hawai’ian bird called the Palila. During her time away from Oahu, she pursued an undergraduate degree in Art and Communication, worked in web design and advertising, and then earned a filmmaking degree at Hunter College.






Both artists agreed that this residency provides the unique opportunity to understand the professional side of your career as an artist. With a very supportive network of people from both the BoxJelly and Fishcake, you will have people to talk to and bounce ideas off of. The program provides a chance to explore and develop your practice, but also works within a mindset that reassures you that it is okay to create something to sell. Amelia commented that it was a pretty intuitive process, which she entered without knowing exactly what she wanted to do, although artists are required to submit a proposal as part of the application process. While Laurie noted that the program helped keep her on track, by setting deadlines (now 3 months, instead of 6) it also helped her engage with an audience, and connect what she is interested in with a local audience. She now feels that she is at a point where where her art making is a sustainable career, and left the audience with a statement: “It’s possible to live in Hawai’i, to make a living doing what you love *and living in Hawai’i*. You don’t have to go somewhere else, and there’s support for what you do [here], that was my biggest revelation.”


Applications are due June 15 at midnight. More information about the program can be found here.


The event was live streamed on Facebook, watch now:  link:


Below is an outline that highlights the types of questions asked in the conversation and by the audience along with it’s corresponding times in the live stream recording:


14:40 — What was the process like of having an exhibition at the BoxJelly and the selling work at Fishcake?


18:30 — The most surprising thing?


22:40 — What’d you do after the residency and how did it help you move forward in your practice?


24:50 — Did you find that in being in this space, in this community, affected your art at all?


28:24 — Tension between commercial aspect of selling vs. conceptual, conversation-sparking art. Is there one?


29:39 —How Laurie chose birds as her subject.


36:39 —What would be useful to know for applying if you had not done this before? Whats required of the artists?


43:00 — Lessons learned as program alumnae. If you could do things differently knowing what you do now, what would you do differently?


48:09—Pricing work?


Solo Exhibition by Artist in Resident Amelia Samari

Same Same But Different

Amelia Samari

September 15 – March 10



“Same Same But Different” is a body of work completed over a six month Artist in Residence by fiber artist, Amelia Samari. Commonly used to trick consumers into buying counterfeits, the phrase “Same Same But Different” means something is functionally or aesthetically the same as something else but differs in methods of implementation or minor details. As this concept applies to the body of work, the figures displayed bear a strong resemblance to the bags and baskets that Samari makes and sells yet they do not serve as functional vessels. By removing the original functionality from the vessels while maintaining a similar aesthetic, utility takes second to form, thus forcing the viewer to decide what what the objects represent.READ MORE


Function Follows Form

I find myself coming back again and again to the vessel, asking myself why I am attracted to it. I’ve always been curious of the functional side of art making. I’ve also enjoyed the process of making vessels that get everyday use; artwork that is not just displayed on a wall or placed on a shelf but rather artwork that is integrated into one’s life. READ MORE


On Creative Inspiration

I’ve been out of the country for the last five weeks, and for five weeks I have drifted in and out of the frustration of not being in my studio and not having access to my sewing machine. Traveling through Europe, I found myself surrounded by an abundance of beauty and with every step, trying, almost desperately, to find a source of inspiration. READ MORE


The Crossroads between Utility and Art

When I come across someone who may be interested in buying one of my baskets, they often ask: “what do I use them for?” I always find this question interesting. Generally, I answer with “whatever you want.” If my first answer doesn’t seem to please them, I follow with something comical like “keys, pens, TV remotes, phones, jewelry, decoration”. READ MORE