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The Benefit And Popularity Of Trail Life – With John Stemberger:  Would the world be a better place if there were more “true” men? Where can a boy enjoy fellowship and adventure in God’s creation, while developing character and learning life-skills? Tune in to hear John Stemberger discuss the history and incredible growth of Trail Life USA!

Air Date: 08/17/2021

Guest: John Stemberger

On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton


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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.

Faith and the Culture

Rick:

Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live. We’re talking about all the hot topics of the day from a biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective. 

We’re here with David Barton, America’s premier historian and our founder at WallBuilders, Tim Barton is a national speaker and pastor and president of WallBuilders, and I’m Rick Green, I’m a former Texas legislator and America’s Constitution coach.

Check us out at wallbuilderslive.com for more programming, for more information, for the opportunity to actually to share the program with your friends and family. You can just grab the links there, help get the truth out there. Folks, it’s going to take every one of us being a voice of truth in this current cancel culture. 

So thanks for listening, and thanks for sharing the program. And while you’re there at wallbuilderslive.com, please consider making that one-time or monthly contribution.

David, and Tim, later in the program, John Stemberger will be with us to talk about “Trail Life”, how much it’s exploded over the last year or two. Of course, some will say oh, that’s all those toxic masculinity guys, they’re just bunch of guys getting together out in the woods taking their boys out there, and it’s just not good. I would argue we need more of that, not less of that.

David:

You know, there’s something that’s really has been on my mind for the last few years since I heard the stat. And that was that if any enemy ever detonated some type of slight nuclear device, which we know a lot are tried to do in America, dirty bombs, whatever, but if they did that at a power side, and the power grids went down, they’re predicting that 90% of Americans would die within one year simply because they don’t know how to live without power and electronics, etc.

So Many Benefits to Country Life

And I’ve thought about that over and over and thought, you know, this is why it’s really good for even city folks to know something about outdoor country life, to be able to have some chances of survival, some chance of being able to live off the land. So I’m not trying to sound like one of the guys who just goes and hides in Alaska or wherever, I’m just saying from the standpoint of knowing some of the country life, there’s so many benefits to it, the benefits of accountability and what you learn with cause and effect and consequences, and ideas do have consequences, and the hard work ethic, there’s just so much good there.

And so I think about some of the young men that are growing up in cities that have no clue of this, when we did some stuff with young people in New York City, literally, the young people were absolutely amazed when we told them that actually, milk and jugs doesn’t come from manufacturing plants, it actually comes from cows, and they had no idea. 

So one of the groups you’re working with started taking young people out to the country, and letting them actually see cows, and they didn’t know that. They were city kids and just had no clue on so much of what a lot of people considered normal life.

So I think what goes with “Trail Life” is something that can be extremely beneficial. No matter where you live with your country, person or city person, that can be something really, really good.

Tim:

Well, let’s also be clear. And you know, we’re talking about masculinity, the notion of toxic masculinity, a lot of times people who are accusing someone of toxic masculinity or who criticize the notion of masculinity as being toxic masculinity, I would love to know the definition from them. 

What do you think is the difference between masculinity and toxic masculinity? Like, where does it cross the line?

Because we also live in this culture, it used to be in masculinity, that one of the things about men is we recognize men certainly are supposed to be the warriors, they’re supposed to be tough, they’re supposed to be able to endure things. But part of the reason we were supposed to be tough, and warriors and endure things was so that we could offer the strength that God has given us for those who needed strength in their life. 

Toxic Masculinity? 

So whether it would be for our families, whether it be right as the husband offering string through his wife, the father offering strength to the children, even this notion of opening door for women, like is that now under toxic masculinity? I would just love to know, how are we defining this now?

Because certainly, we could look at a lot of males, and I’m saying males instead of men because there’s a lot of adult males, who I wouldn’t consider men because they’re so immature in their behavior. Masculinity in and of itself, is not a bad thing. And this is where I would love to know, how are we defining this? 

What are we saying is bad? And even, you know, dad, as you were pointing out, the idea that people can get outside in the country and the benefit that does for them, there are so many practical benefits that we could go through, as you mentioned, even learning how to work with your hands, learning to live off the land, learning that you’re toiling and you see the fruits of your labor.

But I would point out even in Romans 1, where the Apostle Paul said that, if you go out into creation, you can learn about God from creation, even the intricacies of the Godhead are found in creation. One of the things we’ve long talked about is if you look in cities, the vast majority, if not, the entire population of atheists will be found inside of cities, you don’t find farmers that are atheist. 

Because if you are out in God’s creation, it is very evident to you that there is a God; it’s very evident to you that the things that are happening around you that there is something beyond you, there is somebody beyond you make those things happen. And this is where beyond the practical benefits in your everyday life of that the cause and effect, the consequence, the work ethic, whatever else there might be, there’s also a spiritual depth to being able to spend time in the country and having that revelation.

And so, you know, as we talk about, again, this notion, where there’s toxic masculinity, I would say the biggest problem with masculinity in the world today is there’s not enough masculinity in the world today. The reason we’re seeing so much evil, the reason we’re seeing so much abuse is because there are not enough men standing up and stopping those abuses, stopping those evils. 

We Need Real Men

Because a real man is someone who is very capable of inflicting great harm, and they save that for a moment when they have to protect the innocent, protect the weak, protect the vulnerable, and then they are willing to do great damage on behalf of those who are in need.

Rick:

Amen.

David:

You know, that’s an interesting concept you got, Tim, in the sense that I was thinking even back through a number of stores in the Old Testament where that you had leaders, whether it was like Joshua, whether it was like Gideon or other saying, hey, you males need to start acting like men. And they actually kind of made that distinction that you need to get a backbone, you need to stand up, you need to show some leadership, you need to take on some responsibilities.

And so it’s interesting with you saying that I was just thinking of all the accounts in the Old Testament, particularly, but I was also thinking in New Testament where it tells Christians you need to endure hardship as a good soldier, and it goes through all of these analogies of soldiers. 

And I think we would definitely acknowledge that soldiers are trained in a very different way than citizens are, and they are trained to endure hardship, and be able to be tough in places, mentally tough, physically tough, etc. And those are the type of analogies the Bible gives us is alright, and don’t be a male, be a man, and don’t just be an individual, be a soldier.

And that kind of mentality is the kind of stuff that you get from the outdoors from groups like “Trail Life”. I mean, it is so significant, Tim, as you mentioned, you just don’t hardly find atheists in the country, that same group in New York City where we were talking about so many of those kids, they had no clue of the outdoors or the country or anything else. It was also striking that at the time, New York City had the seven largest mental institutions in the world.

And as I stood on top of the Empire State Building, and other tall buildings, you could look, I don’t know how far New York City is from one side to the other, maybe 30, 40, 50 miles. So there’s so much there that as you look in every direction, all you see is what man has made, it’s the creation of man. 

And certainly, there are a Central Park there. And Central Park is the large park there in the middle of the city that does have greenery and does have trees, and it’s got the zoo, and it’s got so many things there. And actually, that’s where people want to hang. That’s where they want to go. They want to be there.

Character Development

So there is this thing, I think in our nature, where we will respond well to nature. A lot of people don’t know much about it. They’re kind of scared of it. They’re kind of scared of that type of life. But I think “Trail Life” is something that really is good at helping young people understand some of those consequences, what’s outside the city, if you will.

I don’t think it matters, whether you’re from the country or from the city, everybody needs this kind of training that you get with “Trail Life” and the kind of growth and exposure and what it does to help your character as well.

So I think this is a tremendous organization doing some really good stuff. And I think it has consequences far beyond what we just think of in terms of hey, we get to go camping in the outdoors. I think it really does help develop a character and help develop maturity and other things that every individual needs.

Rick:

Yeah, just being just well rounded, and being put in situations where you build great relationships, you learn how to do things that you wouldn’t normally learn how to do. I mean, it’s just, they do fantastic work. And the kids love it. I mean, you can just tell. And so look, guys, really encourage all the dads out there, check this out. 

You’re going to love this interview. John Stemberger is going to catch us up on what’s been going on with “Trail Life”, how they got started, how big it has become, and what you can do to start a troop right there in your community. Stay with us, you’re listening to WallBuilders Live.

A Moment from AMERICAN HISTORY

This is Tim Barton from WallBuilders with another moment from American history. Many today assert that religion is something private, that it has no place in the public square, and that it is incompatible with government. But the Founding Fathers believed exactly the opposite. They held that religion was absolutely necessary in order to maintain our free system of government.

For example, John Adams declared “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.” And signer of the Declaration, Benjamin Rush, similarly affirmed “Without religion, there can be no virtue, and without virtue, there can be no liberty.

The Founding Fathers understood that limited government required public morality from the people and that public morality was produced by the Christian religion. For more information about the Founding Fathers views on religion and public life, go to wallbuilders.com.

Rick:

Welcome back to WallBuilders Live. Thanks for staying with us. Always good to have John Stemberger with us, he heads up the Florida Family Policy Council, does incredible legal work. And most importantly to today’s radio program, he helped to start Trail Life USA after many years with the Boy Scouts. John, always good to have you, brother. Thanks for coming on.

Welcome John Stemberger

John:

Hey, Rick, great to be with you, man.

Rick:

And how can I forget, I give that long laundry list of all the stuff you’re doing and heads up our Patriot Academy for the southeast part of the country.

John:

Yeah, Rick, real proud about that. That it’s gone to Texas, but excited at the same time because I want to see how it goes on with that week long intensive.

Rick:

Well, we’re looking forward to having you and having you share with the students as well. Hey, listen, John, look, this was not a decision made lightly several years ago when you left the Boy Scouts and helped to start “Trail Life”, and we’ve talked about that on the program before. But give us a quick recap on that, and then the incredible growth this last year for “Trail Life”, let’s talk about that as well.

John:

So the history is in 2012, the Boy Scouts made a decision to reopen conversation actually early 2013 on whether they should openly gay young people to express themselves and communicate this openly and loudly to their peers. We did a national battle to try to stop them from doing that. We didn’t win that because they rigged the thing by having basically the professionals hand select the delegates, even though the scout masters overwhelmingly said don’t do this.

Anyway, as a result of that, tens of thousands of people were following on my honor, which is the movement we had. And as a result of that was birth Trail Life USA. So we’re very excited about that. 

And now there’s about almost 900 troops in all 50 states. We just entered into an agreement with Christian Service Brigade, which exists primarily in the northeastern states, they have several hundreds of troops, and we’re inviting them to come now in the “Trail Life”.

40,000 And Growing!

Rick:

And just to be clear, when you say 900 troops, that doesn’t mean 900 troopers, that means 900 groups?

John:

Yeah, that’s right. 900 troops, about 40,000 people.

Rick:

Wow. 40,000!

John:

We’re very excited about it. It’s been growing. Even through COVID, it’s growing. Every time the Boy Scouts sadly destroyed themselves even more, we see more troops being started, more parents saying, hey, we want to trust a Christ Centered Church-based program that are actually run by men and not women in Trail Life USA. And so we’re just thrilled about what we’re seeing around the country.

Rick:

So you still get the outdoors, you still get the training, you still get the fellowship, you still get the brotherhood, you still get the leadership, all of those things, but you still get the biblical perspective and not this crazy agenda of the Left that’s literally trying to steal our children?

John:

That’s right. And we just recently integrated worldview principles throughout the entire program. Every batch, there’s a discussion about some philosophical principle that undergirds Christianity, all the ranks, all the troop masters minutes, everything now is going to be fused with a biblical worldview. And we’re focused on adventure, character, and leadership. The boys love the adventure. 

The parents love the character. And out of that comes leadership. And it’s really teaching life skills. I mean, sports are great. But this is teaching you how to do life, how to think about life, decision-making, leadership. And it’s just not pound for pound in terms here young person’s development. There’s really nothing better like it.

Trail Life: An Amazing Program

And I did ROTC, Junior ROTC, I did scouting, I did lots of sports and things. But “Trail Life” is a remarkable program. I’ve seen what it’s done for my own sons, Rick, and it’s transformative.

Rick:

Traillifeusa.com is the website. 70% increase in new members over this time last year, that’s massive. I mean, just from an organizational perspective, how’s everybody handling that? That’s a big growth?

John:

Well, we are high speed, low drag: everything’s automated, unlike in the Boy Scouts where everything was paper. So we are totally out of the old school and into the new school in terms of being computerized. And everything is using apps and online processes, and so we’re able to handle a capacity with very little overhead and little staff.

Rick:

That’s really, really good stuff, man. You know, I’m thinking about even my grandkids coming up now this new generation of children that need exactly what you just described, adventure, they need character, they need obviously leadership and to have a Christ-centered masculine, I mean, we need the masculine training too. You know, I mean, like everybody’s afraid to talk about that. I think we need to talk about that.

John:

Yeah. Yeah. That’s right. And in our program, the older boys, it has to be man-o, man-o. There cannot be women running our program. And many Scout troops who go in, there’s women everywhere, not that women have a place in “Trail Life”, we want them, we need them. 

How Do Boys Learn to Become Men?

But in terms of the direct contact with the boy, we want men, because boys cannot learn how to become men unless they are hanging out with other men. And to have five, six other men speaking into my son’s life in addition to me to share my values, that’s priceless. There’s nothing you could buy that’s more important than that. And it’s transformative for the young man.

And so when you sit around a campfire, when you’re looking at the beauty of God’s creation, all the cell phones are down, that’s a big deal, no technology on the outdoor stuff. I mean, it’s time to be reflective, let the Holy Spirit to speak to you when you can’t hear him otherwise, because you got music playing and all these games going on. It’s just so much about it that is old school and really, really kicks into the character of God and the young man’s life.

Rick:

And to all the ladies out there, please American Heritage Girls is kind of a sister organization or a lot like what “Trail Life” does in replacing the Girl Scouts that have really gone leftist as well. American Heritage Girls need to get somebody on about that, because we’ve seen great results from that as well.

But John, man, I’m thankful to you and the other men that started this several years ago, I’m excited to see the growth. I’m excited for my grandkids to be able to be a part of it. I wish all my boys weren’t already grown. But thank you, man, for what you’re doing. I know God’s doing a great work through this. Trailifeusa.com, again, is the website.

Last thing I’ll ask you is how difficult is it for somebody that doesn’t have one a troop in their neighborhood, in their community that wants to start one, what’s the hurdle like? What would you say to those men out there that are listening and saying, hmm, I wish I had one of those? I’d love to start it.

Find a Troop Near You

John:

Yeah, check online, there’s a huge map that shows all 900 troops. And if there’s not one close to you, for $99, you’d get a kit, you need at least three men to the leadership positions that are administrated, can be held by women, these three men and then five people to start a troop. 

And we’ll we have staff that can walk you through it. We have online training with everything you need and a kit that we’ll mail you. So it does take some commitment, but it’s not difficult.

Rick:

Love it. Love it. I just pulled up the map as you were saying that, I love seeing all those red dots. Man, they’re everywhere. And I’m looking here, right here in my hometown of Dripping Springs, there’s one. 

That’s awesome. I love it. I love it. John Stemberger, God bless you, man. Keep up the great work. Keep up the good work at the Florida Legislature and all the different things you’re working on. Appreciate your time today to talk about “Trail Life”.

John:

Thank you, brother.

Rick:

traillifeusa.com, traillifeusa.com, go check it out today. We’ll be right back with David and Tim Barton.

Biographical Sketches

Hi, friends, this is Tim Barton of WallBuilders. This is a time when most Americans don’t know much about American history or even heroes of the faith. And I know oftentimes we, parents, we’re trying to find good content for our kids to read.

And if you remember back to the Bible, to the book of Hebrews, it has the faith Hall of Fame where they outline the leaders of faith that had gone before them. Well, this is something that as Americans, we really want to go back and outline some of these heroes, not just of American history, but heroes of Christianity in our faith as well.

I want to let you know about some biographical sketches we have available on our website. One is called The Courageous Leaders collection. And this collection includes people like Abigail Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Francis Scott Key, George Washington Carver, Susanna Wesley, even the Wright brothers. And there’s a second collection called Heroes of History.

In this collection, you’ll read about people like Benjamin Franklin or Christopher Columbus, Daniel Boone, George Washington, Harriet Tubman; friends, the list goes on and on. This is a great collection for your young person to have and read and it’s a providential view of American and Christian history. This is available at www.wallbuilders.com. That’s www.wallbuilders.com.

Rick:

We’re back here on WallBuilders Live. Thanks for staying with us. Thanks to John Stemberger for joining us as well and for doing great work at Trail Life USA. 

Boy Scouts: The Sad Story

Check out that link today, we’ve got at wallbuilderslive.com and get a trip started in your community. Back with David and Tim, and guys, look, get out there and experience the laws of nature and nature’s God. And this is a great way to do it.

And so glad “Trail Life” has exploded and is replacing, well, let’s just say as Dennis Prager says the Left destroys everything it touches. And unfortunately, you know, Boy Scouts used to do everything we’re talking about right now in such a great way. 

I mean, I used to hire, if you were an Eagle Scout, man, you got a job in my Capitol office, I didn’t even have to look at anything else. And they have just destroyed that. And thankfully, “Trail Life” is filling that vacuum.

Tim:

Yeah, one of the interesting things that John said was that even though there can be a place for women in the troop, that women are not the leaders of the troop, that men are going to be one leading the boys so that they can show the boys what it is like to be a man, how to be a man. And it’s so interesting, because I actually know some women who are the leaders of Boy Scout troops right now. 

And I’ve often thought, right, I mean, even though you might create a safe environment for these boys to come hang out, that woman cannot instill masculinity in that boy, because she has femininity, she doesn’t have masculinity. And actually, if you have really masculine women, that’s a different problem.

The reality is, you need men to instill masculinity into boys helping show them how to become a man and something that a woman cannot do in the same way that a man can do. It’s also part of the reason that when God designed the family, there was a father and mother. You actually need both dynamics in the family. 

You need the masculinity. You need the femininity. But masculinity can instill and bestow masculinity, femininity can instill and bestow femininity, but they don’t cross over. And so the fact that “Trail Life” actually has leading the troops is a very good thing for a boys troop.

“God and Country” 

David:

Rick, what you said about the left destroy and everything it touches really is a great point. Because it’s really in some ways tragic that we need “Trail Life” right now, but it’s because the Boy Scouts have failed so miserably. And they started out with such a good perspective, such a good approach: Baden Powell and what he did with young man in England, and then it came to America and what happened here with scouting. 

You know, as you said, if you’re an Eagle Scout, man, that’s top of the line. That’s character. That’s all sorts of stuff.

Tim:

Okay, just pausing back up, who’s Baden Powell? I have no idea. I assume that’s somebody related to Boy Scouts?

David:

Yeah, he is the founder of the boy scout.

Tim:

Okay.

David:

So he is the founder of the Boy Scouts. What is it, 1902, or something of sort, way back?

Tim:

You’re asking me?

David:

I think it goes back that far. And that’s recollections, facts could be wrong in that, but it goes back always. And it really was about getting connected to God and supporting country. God and country used to be the motto.

Tim:

And it was part of a movement through a church, right?

David:

It was a religious faith movement, it’s sure it was.

The Leftist Steered the Organization Off Course

Tim:

Because there were a lot of churches that were embracing this, in fact, even I know in the last couple of decades, a lot of times, troops have met in churches. And this might be something that’s more common in the south. I’m not sure how it was in the north. 

But I know that even as we were traveling as speakers, we go different directions. Every now and then we’d be to church, and they would have a Boy Scout troop that would meet in that facility.

And so I’ve always associated the Boy Scouts with churches, because for the last several decades, that’s where I’ve seen their troops predominantly was going to be in a church facility. And that’s why it also seems so crazy as the Boy Scouts started embracing such unbiblical positions and going such a liberal crazy direction, it didn’t make sense. But again, backing up, the founding of the Boy Scouts was certainly a biblical notion that they were trying to instill and raise up godly young men.

David:

I was in the scouts in the early 60s, so we’re going back now nearly, you know, was it nearly 60 years there abouts, so maybe more than 60 years. And as far as I recall, every troop met in the church, or if it didn’t meet in church, it was led by church leaders. And so there was that element of God and country and that was part of the motto at that point. But as leftist took it, it really went in different directions.

And so now you’re looking at the fact that over the last decade, maybe 15 years or so, the Boy Scouts, I was seeing stats say that the sexual predators among the Boy Scout is just rampart. They’ve identified nearly 8,000 sexual predators who molested some tens of thousands of young boys in scouts. And so there are hundreds of lawsuits going now. Boy Scouts is trying to offer settlement and hundreds of millions of dollars.

One of the things that has been their legacy for so many years is they really have so much of the Norman Rockwell collection. And Norman Rockwell was a painter back in, I guess, really the 1930s, 40s, 50s. But he was kind of like the epitome of what America was and people loved his stuff. And the Boy Scouts have so many of his originals. And now they’re having to kind of hawk that off to get money to do the settlements.

Competition Causes Improvement

So they have so left their foundations, because one of the things that Boy Scouts used to say was you need to be morally straight. So there was character. There was God. There was morality. There was the outdoors. There was masculinity, recognize male and female. 

So there were so many good things to it. And that’s what “Trail Life” is now picking up is what the Boy Scouts used to be.

Tim:

Yeah, and this is one of the things that’s very positive, dad, you mentioned even before the interview with John was that one of the great things about the free market is when you see problems, then in the free market people can step up and offer solutions and oftentimes offer competition. 

And whenever there’s competition, there’s two options: either you get better or you go out of business. And right now it looks like the Boy Scouts are going out of business.

But with the current ideology, and by the way, this is not to degrade or speak down to anybody who’s listening right now, if you’re in the Scouts, right, maybe there’s some troop leaders out there who are in the Scouts, if you’re trying to do it the godly way, we encourage you for doing it the godly way. 

We’re just going to say that that’s not the direction the vast majority of the Scouts are going, is not the direction the vast majority of troops are going. There’s a lot of issues in that also.

You know, Rick, as you mentioned, it used to be that you could look at Eagle Scouts and go man, these are the upstanding people, these are the people that we can hire and not have to worry about their character, their work ethic, how they’re going to do as a team, because you knew they had learned all that, they’ve been trained in all of that.

And so again, if there’s Eagle Scouts listening, right, we’re not trying to disparage you for what you did, but we’re recognizing that right now where the Boy Scouts of America are is not the same place they used to be. And the good news is, there is an organization that is faith-based and is restoring all of those values that the Boy Scouts have largely abandoned. 

The Benefit And Popularity Of Trail Life – With John Stemberger

And “Trail Life” is having great success. I think as John mentioned, you know, they’ve had a 70% increase over just the last year or so. They’re reaching out to literally thousands upon thousands upon thousands of boys from these different troops to come and join what they’re doing to have these biblical, godly things implemented for them. So I’m very encouraged seeing the growth of “Trail Life”.

And you know, even Rick, as you mentioned, it would have been great if there would have been around when your kids were younger, I’m thinking this would have been great for me to do although for, I guess all of us, we kind of grew up in the country. And so a lot of this was almost instinctive; we’re going out and camping and building fires and living off the land. But doing it with other boys would have been even more fun. Either way, I’m really excited to see the growth and success of Trail Life USA.

Rick:

Well, again, we encourage people to take this ball and run with it. Man, this is a great opportunity to get something going in your community. Especially if you have young boys, is a great way to get them active, it’s great father-son time, it’s great way to build relationships with other young men in the community. But maybe even if you don’t have a young man in your home, but you can help out at a local church and start a troop like this, you can be a part of that. So be sure to go to that link at our website today wallbuilderslive.com and get involved with Trail Life USA, you will be glad that you did.

Folks, you can visit our website WallBuilders Live for more, you can get programming for the last few weeks, you can also make a donation there, and that’s the place where you can also grab those links and share them with your friends and family because it’s going to take us as individual speaking truth. 

In fact, if you haven’t done biblical citizenship, you really ought to do that class in that third week when David talks about how important it is to find truth which is hard to do these days, but then speak that truth and fight for that truth. 

And that’s going to have to be something a mantle that we’re all willing to take up, that we’re all willing to participate in. And for you, you can be a part of it right here at wallbuilderslive.com. Thanks so much for listening today to Wallbuilders Live.