Circular on Trading Margin Update for SC1810 and SC1811
Circular on Trading Margin Update for SC1810 and SC1811
Sebi eases upfront margin collection norms
Margin Trading: The New Tighter Rule by SEBI (Dec 2020
Sebi relaxes upfront margin framework - The Economic Times
How things will change for intraday traders post the
MT5 international foreign exchange trading platform, recently the foreign exchange gold market is also on the rise
What is the foreign exchange market?Foreign exchange market (FOREx market) refers to the place or network where foreign exchange transactions take place.Mainly between local currency and foreign currency, foreign exchange transactions between different currencies.The foreign exchange market can be divided into two parts, namely the inter-bank foreign exchange market and the retail foreign exchange market.Interbank foreign exchange market can also be acquired as an inter-bank wholesale foreign exchange market, which is the uppermost market in foreign exchange transactions and the market for foreign exchange transactions among Banks, forming a relatively centralized foreign exchange market.In the interbank market, there is no such thing as margin trading.Retail forex market refers to the market between forex trading institutions and their clients. The most basic class in this market is individual traders, characterized by wide and dispersed distribution. The modern international foreign exchange market is generally distributed in major cities in the world, such as London, New York, Paris, Vertical, Zurich, Wellington, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong and other world-famous financial centers and foreign exchange centers. The interconnections and influence of these centers form a foreign exchange network covering the whole world.Due to time zones and time differences, such a horizontal global market is almost always open and close one after another, forming a circular 24-hour foreign exchange market.In the global market, the UK, the US, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan accounted for 77% of the global forex trading volume.At present, China's foreign exchange market is a market system centered on the inter-bank market. In the foreign exchange market, the exchange rate fluctuation refers to the exchange rate of changing currencies. The change in exchange rate is the decrease in the value of one currency and the increase in the value of another currency.A currency does not become a waste of paper, or even a dwindling currency, but it will always represent a certain value, unless the abolition of the currency is declared.You've had negative interest rates, you've had a plunge in stocks, you've had zero futures, you've had real estate, you've had a question mark as an investment hedge, and in many cases rents may not be worth the mortgage index.For domestic investors, the currency market is the most "clean" speculative market with little risk but great opportunity. Investors need not bother in the performance of each stock, futures long-short don't have to worry about both sides of the insider trading, daily turnover of huge, make any also does not have the dealer's courage, soros, buffett can learn about the information, as well as ordinary investors can learn, global investors and speculators are in the same time looking at the same price and graphics, several thousands of marketmakers network trading platform and the world millions of investors and speculators have together.
TLDR LVT is imcomplete and cannot explain everything, even with extreme mental gymnastics, and therefore it is rejected by professional academics. Main points of objection include the inability of the LVT explain why skilled labour is more valuable than unskilled labour, how sentimental goods have more value to individuals, and how surplus value necessarily needs to refer to market prices. Moreover, terms like "labour embodied in the commodity", "socially necessary labour" and "labour-power" conceal the hidden inconsistencies of the theory. ...................................................................... Value is the amount of benefit a good or service provides, while the price is the amount of payment offered as part of an exchange. Moreover, value can be subdivided into use value and exchange value. For instance, a fine-tailored suit has very high use value to whomever the suit is tailored for, but it has very low exchange value, as I would not be interested in exchanging something with use-value for a suit that does not fit me. Similarly, paper dollars have no real use value but high exchange value, meaning they are only valuable to us because we can exchange them for something else. Thus I would say that in an economy of 2 trading individuals, the market price is the exchange value expressed in terms of another commodity. LVT really struggles in explaining or finding a logical relationship that would show how prices arise from values, and has been dubbed the transformation problem. Menger criticises the attempt to ''solve the problem of discovering the causes of an alleged equality between two quantities of goods'', stating that as a result, the science of economics has suffered incalculable damage. He further states:
If goods were equivalents in this sense, there would be no reason, market conditions remaining unchanged, why every exchange should not be capable of reversal. Suppose A had exchanged his house for B’s farm or for a sum of 20,000 Thalers. If these goods had become equivalents in the objective sense of the term as a result of the transaction, or if they had already been equivalents before it took place, there is no reason why the two participants should not be willing to reverse the trade immediately. But experience tells us that in a case of this kind neither of the two would give his consent to such an arrangement.
In other words, if the value of two commodities is objective and the commodities are in such quantity to have equal value, there is no reason why we should want to trade at all. This is of course not what we observe in human life. A more fitting explanation as to what gives commodities value is the ends towards which they serve. In other words, value is the significance or importance a good has for us because of our understanding of the causal relationship between the utility of the good and the satisfaction of our needs. Thus, bread has value only in as much as it is a means to satisfy the ends (our hunger). A wine maker will trade wine for wheat if the utility of wheat exceeds his utility of wine. If he produces 40 units of wine, but the full satisfaction of his needs only requires 30 units, he would find the remaining 10 units have no use value to him. In fact he would try to get rid of them either by exchange or by simply pouring the wine out, as it becomes invaluable to him. Menger actually described how, once human needs are fully satisfied, the goods lose their value to them and cease to be economic goods. So long as the amount of fresh water in the brook far exceeds our demand for water, we are quite content wasting it.A unit of water would therefore in this scenario have no value to us (marginal utility). ''But water is objectively valuable, because it's essential for life!'' So is oxygen, yet we have no value for a unit of air. However, to a man on the brink of death by dehydration, a glass of water would be more valuable than a tonne of gold. This is because the total utility of water is greater than the total utility of gold, and it is only when water is abundant does gold become more valuable to us than water. ...................................................................... Socially necessary labour, non-labour commodities
It would also be impossible for us to attribute value to goods when we know that we are not dependent upon them for the satisfaction of our needs
Mudpies are the typical popular version of this argument. Marx in particular enhances the LVT specifying that it's not labour, but rather socially necessary labour that gives value to the good. Since mudpies are not socially necessary, any labour that goes into their production is unnecessary, and therefore mudpies are not valauble. However, this is a problematic statement. Nozick criticised the ''socially necessary'' qualifier as hiding the subjective judgement of necessity. Indeed, what is socially necessary seems to be simply whatever is in demand. A labourer working hard producing mudpies is not employing his labour in a socially necessary manner, and what is ''socially necessary'' would actually be determined by looking at whether there is actual demand for the product. Thus we are still using supply and demand, just in a roundabout way. How else would we know what is socially necessary? Another place where LVT fails or needs to make special cases are in the areas of commodities provided for by nature. If a volcano spits out a perfectly shaped and sized pumice rock, we would have to assume its value is 0 because no labour went into creating it. This is once again answered by Marx, as it is not actually the amount of labour that goes into a commodity's production that determines it's value, but rather the labour embodied in it.
The labor, however, that forms the substance of value, is homogeneous human labor, expenditure of one uniform labor power. The total labor power of society, which is embodied in the sum total of the values of all commodities produced by that society, counts here as one homogeneous mass of human labor power, composed though it be of innumerable individual units
Basically, what determines the value of pumice is the total amount of labour it took to produce and/or extract all the pumice in the world, or otherwise, the average amount of labour that a pound of pumice needs. A meteor containing a pound of pure gold falling from the heavens does not infact have no value, because it takes x amount of labour to normally mine a pound of gold in Peru. If you are finding it hard to follow these mental gymnastics, you're not the only one. ...................................................................... Labour LVT struggles or fails to explain why skilled labour is more valuable than unskilled labour. Apart from the fact that it is actually impossible to reduce skilled labour into unskilled labour, the attempt to explain why skilled labour is more valuable than unskilled labour given that value is determined by the amount of labour embodied in a commodity would necessarily lead us to conclude that skilled labour is more valuable than unskilled labour because skilled labour has more labour embodied in it. This is a nonsensical conclusion, and I would argue as long as the transformation problem remains unsolved, there is no way to explain just why skilled labour is more valuable than unskilled labour without referring to market prices, wage-pay or exchange values. As Paul Krugman states, a theory ought to explain why a particular occurence is observed, not just assume it. Marx was accused of circular logic for trying to explain how skilled labour is more valuable than unskilled labour by looking at the wages they collect (since LVT is supposed to explain why the productivity or wage of skilled labourer is higher than that of the unskilled labourer). How else can we determine how much more valubale an hour of service of a doctor is than the service of a gardener? It is claimed that labour is not a commodity, but labour-power is. Workers do sell their labour, instead they sell their labour power. Labour is simply the capacity, while labour power is the act. Once again, we have to go through incredible mental gymnastics It makes no sense, because workers cannot sell that what is not a commodity. The central role of why labour is the only source of value creation is not logically demonstrated, and therefore makes as much sense a paper-value theory
The organic composition of capital would be the ratio of non-paper means of production to paper, and it would be asserted that only paper created new value, and therefore surplus-value. The whole of Capital could be rewritten, substituting 'paper' for 'labor'. Exploitation of paper-owners would occur because they do not really sell their paper, but rather their 'paper-power'. Goods requiring no paper inputs would be regarded as having 'imaginary prices', just as Marx regarded salable goods which require no labor inputs.
Criticism of this of course states that what all commodities share in common is labour, not paper or grain, and therefore labour is the only source of value. However, it is clear that not all commodities were produced by labour - a meteorite of pure gold, a volcano spitting out diamonds, or the seawaves depositing a precious pearl. No labour went into producing these commodities, yet they very clearly are commodities and would instantly be recognised as such. Thus since labour is in fact not a feature shared by all commodities, the claim is dismissed. You could just as likely claim that no-labour commodities have inaginary prices as you can claim that non-paper goods have imaginary prices, and therefore paper is what creates value ...................................................................... Surplus value and exchange-value Further criticism of LVT involves the idea that the notion that workers produce surplus value must necessarily assume it refers to exchange-value, since the amount of value exploited is determined by comparing exchnage value of the product of labour and the exchange value of the wage. However, as discussed above, exchange values are subjective, since exchnage values are simply an indirect way to satisfy one's needs by exchanging a commodity without use-value for a commodity with use-value. Since use-value is subjective by definition, as it is simply the amount of utility that an individual gets from a good given his circumstances, it follows that exchnage values must be subejctive too. Another problem is what seems to be anti-chrnological explanation of exploitation and value. For if the value (as expressed in equilibrium price) of a bottle of wine is $10, but it took $9 to produce it, isn't it logical to assume the value of labour is in fact $9, and rather than the worker being exploited by not being given the market price of the good ($10), it is in fact the consumer who is exploited by having to pay an additional price (profit) on top of the good? The argument for this sequence of events to me is obvious when we look at the fact that the exchange value of the same good can vary in different areas and at different times. If the wine sells for below $9, the worker's wage does not shrink because the capitalist must extract surplus value. This is because the worker is paid before the product is sold, i.e before value was ever extracted. To argue from reverse would be to claim pearls are valuable because men dive for them, rather than what I hope is clear that men dive for pearls because they are valuable. In other words, pearls have value before any labour went into extracting them. Notice how much easier it is to explain these phenomena is we are to assume value is subjectively determined. For example, to explain why we value a medal or a trophy, limited-edition figurines, collectable items or stamps, old photo albums and other goods of sentimental value using LVT is I would argue an impossibility. This leads me to the final point: Occam's razor is a principle employed in all sciences that states if two competing hypotheses seek to explain a phenomenon, the one which makes least assumptions is preferrable. In practise, this discussion is still a debate in professional economics , and to fully present all arguments and counter arguments would be equivalent to writing a thesis. In this situation I feel it is justified to appeal to authority and say: If we are to accept the scientific concensus that climate change is happening, or that vaccines work, why do we reject the academic concencus that LVT simply is an incomplete theory that cannot explain everything?.Even economists sympathetic to Marxism (and therefore LVT) agree that given what we know today, LVT simply cannot explain everything. Joan Robinson descibed the theory as ''logically a rigamole of words''. In conclusion, I simply cannot accept LVT over SVT, and as a result, the entire Marxist doctrine seems to me to be founded on false assumptions.
Night before the model release I got super drunk and read The Signal and The Noise. These are the notes I found when I woke up
More information, more problems Invention of the printing press allowed knowledge to accumulate across generations for the first time. Previous methods of transmission (verbal, scribed) were error-prone and degraded over time. The industrial revolution began largely in countries that had a free press. For the first time in history, per capita wealth begins to increase and living standards rise to match. How strong is the link between printing press and industrial revolution? Computer revolution produced a temporary decline economic and scientific productivity, as measured by proxies such as research cost per patent filed. Took some time to realize that computers are not magical, and to figure out what they are good for and how to effectively use them. New fashion for Big Data. Predicts a similar trend - currently hyped but will eventually crash and then finally level out, as we figure out what kind of problems Big Data is good for. Prediction domains: weather, earthquakes, economy, medicine (2/3 of positive findings fail to replicate). In some of these fields there has been steady progress. In others there has been none. Why? Availability of more information is not always good. Coupled with confirmation bias, gives more opportunities to fool yourself. Eg the more informed people are about global warming, the less they agree with each other. New methods of communication spread misinformation just as fast as information - faster if it appeals to bias. Cannot make objective predictions. Always tainted by perspective. Does not mean nihilism - indeed, pursuit of the objective truth is the vital first step. But the second step is to realize that you perceive the truth imperfectly. A catastrophic failure of prediction Housing bubble. According to ratings, only 0.12% of CDOs were expected to default. In reality, 28% defaulted. Ratings agencies claimed ‘noone could have seen this coming’. Google searches for ‘housing bubble’ increased 10x from Jan 2004 to summer 2005. The phrase ‘housing bubble’ appeared in the new 8 times in 2001, but 3447 times in 2005 ie about 10x per day. Ratings agencies were paid to rate CDOs, and customers would send more custom to the agencies that gave the best ratings. Clear misalignment of incentives. A 2005 memo inside one agency simulated a crash of similar magnitude to what later happened, and concluded that there would be no problems. Fault in their rating model was that it assumed odds of each mortgage defaulting were independent. Roughly true during good times, but not during crashes. Risk - a danger with known odds eg most gambling games. Uncertainty - a danger with unknown odds. Ratings agencies presented systematic uncertainty as risk, which the banks then made presumed safe gambles on. There have been very similar bubbles in other countries. Using that data for simulation would have predicted the risk. Crash magnified by huge leverage, ~30x for major banks. Meaning that only need the price to drop by 1/30 to wipe out their safety margin and make lenders nervous. In March 2007, Lehman Brothers still believed in a housing ‘hiccup’ and continued to invest. Federal stimulus justified by a model showing projected unemployment rates with and without stimulus. Reality was far higher than either. If historic accuracy rates for such projection had been taken into account would have been much less convincing, but reality would have just fallen inside the range. Prediction failures due to using out-of-sample data: Home owners predicted prices would continue to rise (there had never before been such a large boom in the US) Ratings agencies and banks failed to predict correlated default rates (they had never rated such novel and complex) Hardly anyone predicted that a US housing crisis could cause a global financial crisis (the financial system had never been so highly leveraged before) Economists and policy makers failed to predict the severity of the impact (financial crises causes more severe and long-lasting impacts than over economic crises) Complex models can exhibit non-linear effects - small mistakes can cause huge mis-predictions. Large amounts of data can exacerbate over-confidence. Intuitively feels like error should shrink with so much data, but we forget eg model error or sample error. Are you smarter than a television pundit? Political pundits on a talk show make predictions, do no better than random. Retells Tetlocks research on predicting fall of USSR and other major events. Foxes and hedgehogs. Hedgehog pundits making predictions did worse on questions where they had more info. Hedgehogs like to construct stories, and are confident if the story is coherent and fits well. More data gives them more details to cherrypick, making the story fit better and increasing their confidence. FiveThirtyEight. Only impressive because the bar was set so low. Nate Silvers strategy in general is to pick areas where the bar is so low that improving it is easy. Worth thinking about, in terms of future direction. What areas are sorely lacking in skills that I have? Principle 1: Think probabilistically. There is noise, and you must account for it. Principle 2: Todays forecast is the first forecast for the rest of your life. Don’t be afraid to change predictions in the face of new information. Principle 3: Look for consensus. Being the lone dissenter who is proved right is rare. If you prediction is different from that of other similarly informed forecasters, you should worry. Beware of magic bullets. Reality is complicated. Any model that claims to boil it down to a few variables should be regarded with suspicion. Quantitative methods are not magical. Don’t forget model error and sample error. Unknown unknowns can kill you. Don’t ignore qualitative information. Code it and use it. Some research suggests using a structure approach where possible to enforce discipline eg interviewing candidates is more successful if the interviewer has a short list of attributes and records marks for or against on the spot. Improving objectivity is hard. Acknowledging that your view is subjective is the first step. All I care about is W’s and L’s Baseball forecasting. Not just a matter of crunching numbers. Interpreting requires deep knowledge of the game and of player psychology. Scouts are still crucial for adding qualitative information to the pool - demonstrably improving forecasts. For years you’ve been telling us that rain is green Weather forecasting has steadily improved over time. Non-linear system to increasing computational power has declining returns. Weather Service still uses human input - visual pattern matching for catching and correcting outliers - improves forecasts by 10% for temperature and 25% for precipitation. How to judge a forecast service. Accuracy - how often is it correct. Honesty - was it the best forecast they could make, or was it tweaked for other reasons. Economic value - does it help people make better decisions. Some commercial weather services optimize for number of angry customers rather than accuracy eg wet bias - increasing rain prediction from %5 to 20% because people get mad if you say 5% and then they get wet. Can detect this by looking at calibration curve. Weather forecasts are less and less accurate over time, to the point that by 9 days out they are less accurate than just predicting historical averages. Possibly because of feedback loops in the model itself? Many local forecast services are significantly worse than the national ones, and they don’t care. Claim noone trust them anyway - kind of circular. Many people refused to evacuate for Katrina. One of the reasons is that many people didn’t believe the forecasted severity. Eroding trust in forecasts can cost lives. Desperately seeking signal L’Aquila - taking scientists to court over failure to predict earthquakes. No success in earthquake prediction so far. None likely any time soon. Many examples of prediction systems looking good, but only as a result of over-fitting. Do know that magnitudes in any given region follow a power law. This would have been sufficient to put small but frightening odds on the Fukushima earthquake happening at some point. Instead they overfit on a few datapoints near the end. Many rationalizations were given for why the model was different from the normal model eg unique rock composition of the area. This is a common duality. In many system we cannot even theoretically predict individual events, but we can still easily predict stochastic trends. How to drown in three feet of water Grand Forks flood. Predicted water level was just below levees. But uncertainty was not communicated - actual prediction showed 35% chance of topping the levee. Communicating uncertainty is vital. Typical overconfidence story. Economists asked to make predictions with confidence ranges. Reality is way outside the ranges. Many well-regarded indicators of economic health did not predict the 2007 recession despite working well for the previous two recessions. Overfitting again?. Also often give false alarms. Goodhart’s law - theory that once an economic measure is proposed it quickly loses it’s value, as policy makers begin targeting it and artificially distort the signal. Observer effect. Economy changes on long scale too. Incorrect models of the 2007 recession were calibrated on recent data, but from 1983 to 2006 the US saw uncharacteristic growth that may not be maintainable by any economy. Also no major recessions during this period. Models were calibrated on an outlier. Data is not enough. Have to understand what’s going on behind the data to know if you are in-sample. No amount of statistical magic would be able to make correct predictions from the 1983-2006 data. Economic data is noisy too. Frequently gets major corrections years after the fact. How can we reduce the bias in economic forecasts? Supply-side - create markets for good forecasts eg prediction markets. Demand-side - educate people to be able to judge forecaster accuracy. Role models H1N1 outbreak in Fort Dix. Predictions that it would be widespread in the next flu season - secretary of health predicted that 1M Americans might die. Mass vaccination program for $180m. That summer, no signs of H1N1 in southern hemisphere. Administration doubles down on vaccination with dramatic PSAs. ~500 vaccinees develop Guillan-Barre syndrome - 10x the rate in usual population. Program shut down. Never any other confirmed cases of H1N1. Appeared decades later in Mexico with 1900 cases and 150 deaths. Huge reaction followed. But nowhere near as virulent when it hit US - normal numbers of deaths for flu season. Cannot reliably estimate infection rate / death rate until disease is widespread, at which point it is too late. Forced to extrapolate from early cases. Reported fatality rate in Mexico was likely high because only severe cases were actually diagnosed. Predictions can be self-fulfilling or self-cancelling when they interact with the system being predicted. Eg pandemic predictions may look alarmist because if they are early enough the pandemic is averted. Eg news reports of swine flu may have increased diagnose rate, exaggerating the real infection rate. SIR model to simple. Eg serosorting in gay men in SF. Eg Fort Dix has higher R_0 than normal environments for any disease. Eg measle outbreak in Pittsburgh because, while population overall is vaccinated to the point of herd immunity, non-vaccinated people occur in clusters. SimFlu - agent based simulation. Currently limited to ‘modeling for insights’ rather than prediction. All models are wrong, but some models are useful. You have to simplify something to not just end up with a copy of the system. Less and less and less wrong Anecdotes about a foxy sports bettor. Bayes theorem. Sometimes Bayes theorem shows you that the evidence is so huge that the prior barely matters. False positives. More data = more hypotheses. Possibly correlations between variables increase quadratically with number of variables. But number of true hypotheses is constant. Harder to filter the signal from the noise. Not entirely convinced by this. Big Data also means many more samples of the same variable, which allows teasing out more subtle correlations. Rise of Frequentism. Fisher contended that the existence of the prior in Bayes rule allowed for bias. Frequentist statistics were supposed to remove that bias, but instead just hit it. Also does not allow accounting for bias in experiment selection. Bayesian updates from any prior all converge towards truth as samples increase, just at different rates. Currently starting to see progress away from significance testing as gold standard. Rage against the machines Long discussion of how computers play chess. Key to beating a computer (back when they were beatable) was that they could look further but had worse heuristics, so push them into situations where they choose tactical wins that are also strategic losses. A/B testing at google. Measure search query quality with survey team and train model on results. The poker bubble Poker involves approximate Bayesian reasoning about opponents hand. Expert players attempt to exploit systematic mis-predictions in opponents eg confusing ‘unlikely’ and ‘impossible’. Bluffing and aggressive play is on the rise - makes it harder to gain information from your actions. Psychological challenge of professional poker. Luck has a huge effect, so actual skill is hard to see without many months of data. If you can’t beat em… Prediction markets and group predictions. Average forecast may be better than individual, but that’s not the same as good. Group predictions only work well when predictions are independent (can be feedback loops in predictions markets). Some individuals may be better than the group forecast. Efficient-market hypothesis. Variants: Weak. Stock market prices cannot be predicted from statistical analysis alone. Semistrong. Predictions using only public ally available information cannot consistently beat the market. Strong. Predictions using even insider information cannot consistently beat the market. So why does so much trading happen if it’s not profitable? Strong form is empirically false eg members of Congress consistently get returns 5-10% higher than market averages. Addendums to efficient market - cannot consistently beat the market on risk-adjusted gains after transaction costs. Bubbles happen. They can maybe be predicted eg by P/E ratios. But making money from them is difficult for technical reasons. “The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent”. Efficient market hypothesis does not hold over the long term, because not enough exploitation of predictable long-term patterns. Traders need to demonstrate short-term returns to keep their jobs/clients. Fun simulation - assume traders are perfectly rational but overconfident. Results in lots of trading, lots of volatility, strange correlations and below-average returns for active traders. Trading profits come from “noise traders” - inexperienced, non-professional traders. Like fish in poker. There has to be a sucker at the table. Of course the sucker doesn’t care much in this case, because they don’t mind get suckered for 0.5% in exchange for liquidity. So professionals do make money, but to beat the market you have to be as well educated/trained/resourced as them. You probably aren’t. A climate of healthy skepticism Similar criticism of MRA as seen in Mindware. Predictions are much stronger when backed up by understanding of the underlying system, rather than just data. Huge confidence that greenhouse effect exists. Expect to see noise in the data. A single datapoint does not outweigh all the other evidence. “It snowed in July, so much for global warming.” Healthy skepticism in climate science is generally directed at computer models. Broad consensus on current state of the climate and on the physical laws, and that the climate will get more energetic. Less agreement on exactly what the consequences are. Initial condition uncertainty - what state are we in now? Scenario uncertainty - what input variables will change in the future? Structural uncertainty - do we understand the problem correctly? These vary over time and there is a sweetspot around 20 years out where uncertainty is minimized. No idea where this magic number came from. First IPCC report in 1990 should have sweet spot in 2010. It’s predictions are beaten by a model that simply looks at CO_2 levels and temperatures and extrapolates linearly. This suggest that the complexity of current climate models may not be justified. Problem of how to publicly present these predictions. A scientifically accurate level of uncertainty would not be effective at persuading the public. What you don’t know can hurt you Pearl Harbour. Had the data that suggested a possible attack, but were not able to even generate that hypothesis. Similarly for 9/11 attacks. Similar to Superforecasting chapter on how to generate good questions. Deaths in terrorist attacks also follow power law. Like Fukishima, could have used that to imagine an attack on that scale being plausible. Debate on whether similar analysis suggests that a nuclear or biological terrorist attack should be considered a plausible threat.
Hello, dumdums - It's me, Fuzzy. Welcome to a bright new day. I hope you all had a productive start to the week, alternating between crying yourself to sleep / awake, relentlessly beating your meat and waiting for the markets to open. As promised on Friday, today in the neighborhood we're going to be working through a full breakdown of everybody's favorite low-rent purveyor of curly fries, pinball and sticky-carpeted sadness - Dave & Busters ($PLAY), as suggested by u/leonardnimoyNC1701. Sadly, the question of whether he's a $PLAY bagholder or just a big fan of Street Fighter 2 and shitty beer remains unanswered. Anyway, let's do this. A couple of reminders for the first time readers and slow learners in the audience (which I imagine applies to most, if not all of you):
I will answer any legitimate question I get asked about the post, no matter how stupid (as long as it is sincere or at least funny). Sometimes it takes me a couple of days but I get around to everybody eventually. I do this because getting flamed by someone who knows what they're talking about is the only way to learn - it's how I learned, and it works. But remember - I don't give advice for free. So please don't ask me what to buy (long $ONIONS), if your 95% OTM option is fucked (almost certainly, unless you're long $BA) or for a strike/exp ($SPY 69p 4/20 blaze it) because I'll just have to repeat that in the comments and you'll look like a big dummy.
The fact that I am posting this is not indicative of any view I have on D&B one way or the other; this was just the most upvoted ticker in Friday's post. I do this shit because (i) I enjoy it and (ii) I want you retards to learn how to do your own legwork.
Most upvoted ticker / financial concept in the comments will get the next breakdown. This will likely be market open Monday next week as I have some more basic financial literacy I'd like to ram down your throats before then.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly - u/pokimane. Girl, WSB is getting a little crazy. Why don't you and me get out of here; my offer to tell you which stonks to buy remains open (as do my DMs).
OK - on with the show. This is actually a pretty interesting case study; D&B have in the last month (i) successfully warded off some adverse interest from KKR (ii) closed all their locations (iii) lost 90% of their equity value and (iv) against all odds, smashed earnings. Plus, like many of you bagholding autists, as a result of the current market they've also had to open themselves up to taking some deep PIPE - although in their case, that stands for a Private Investment in Public Equity (rather than the more... literal version of 'pipe' that ends with you, your desperation finance OnlyFans channel, and that one 'won't take no for an answer' subscriber named Chuck). Don't worry; I'll explain all of this as we go along (other than the Chuck thing). TL;DR? Fuck you. This will take you 10 minutes at most to work through and you'll learn something. Okay. Ready? Let's do this. 1.Things You'll Need To Play Along At Home D&B Credit Agreement D&B 10-K Some music A drink (at this time in the morning, it may be some coffee; that said, Fuzzy don't judge). 2. High Score? D&B Target Review As always, it's important to understand the entity you're considering when you're doing a breakdown like this. So, D&B run all-in-one restaurants / bars / arcades; they've got 136 locations in 39 states. That's it. Not exactly a diversified business model, but hey, whatever works. The revenue breakdown is like this:
Food - 28% of revenue OKAY
Booze - 13% of revenue WOULD HAVE THOUGHT BOOZE WOULD MAKE UP MORE AS IT'S TYPICALLY A HIGHER MARGIN IN HOSPO BUSINESSES
Arcade games - 58% of revenue. HOLY SHIT, THAT'S A LOT OF PINBALL. THE SPLIT HERE IS 72% TICKET GAMES ('REDEMPTION GAMES - THOSE PLAY TO WIN TICKETS THINGS LIKE WHACK-A-MOLE), 27% NON-REDEMPTION GAMES (VR, SHOOTERS, ETC) AND 1% BILLIARDS AND BOWLING. THIS IS ACTUALLY A PRETTY GOOD SPLIT AS THE REDEMPTION GAMES ARE A CIRCULAR ECONOMY - THE PRIZES YOU WIN ARE BOUGHT BY D&B WHOLESALE AND PRICED THROUGH THE ROOF I.E. THE TOTAL REDEMPTION VALUE OF TICKETS WON FAR EXCEEDS THE RETAIL PRICE OF THE ITEM YOU'RE PAYING THEM FOR.
OK. So the takeaway here is that no money is coming in other than in the pockets of people who walk through the front doors of each store. Before we dive into this, let's look at why they had an earnings pop (reporting Q4 and FY 2019, not Q1 2020):
Total revenues increased 7.1% to $1.355 bn from $1.265 THAT'S A GOOD YEAR
Number of stores increased 12.4% to 136 from 121 AGGRESSIVE EXPANSION MEANS A LOT OF POTENTIALLY WEAK / CASHFLOW NEGATIVE OR NEUTRAL LOCATIONS
Comparable store sales decreased 2.6% OKAY. THESE GUYS ARE PROBABLY THE DOMINANT PLAYER IN THEIR CATEGORY ANYWAY.
Net FY 2019 income totaled $100.3 m, or $2.94 per diluted share (they have 34.1 million shares outstanding), vs. net FY 2018 income of $117.2 million, or $2.93 per diluted share (40.0 million shares outstanding) OKAY
EBITDA increased less than 1% to $280.5 million from $279.3 million LIKE I'VE EXPLAINED BEFORE, EBITDA IS NOT ACTUALLY A RELIABLE INDICATOR OF COMPANY FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE BECAUSE OF THE WAY IN WHICH THE CREDIT AGREEMENT AND/OR COMPANY ACCOUNTING STANDARDS AND FINANCIALs PERMIT IT TO BE CALCULATED. HERE, THEY TOOK (AMONG OTHER THINGS) A $7M WRITEDOWN IN EXECUTIVE STOCK OPTIONS AND A $1.183M WRITEDOWN IN ASSET DISPOSAL (EVEN THOUGH THEY ONLY CLOSED ONE LOCATION IN FY2019), AND A $20M WRITEDOWN FOR 'OTHER COSTS'. RIIIGHT.
So what we can see here is a business operating an aggressive expansion strategy that leases almost all of its locations and is operating on a pretty thin margin. Good earnings caused a pop on the equity price but that was for a non-corona quarter and they'd already lost 90% of the value of the shares. I wonder what effect the ol' bat flu is going to have on their business? Well, we already know they laid off 90% of their employees - let's see what else they've got planned:
"We cannot predict how soon we will be able to reopen our stores and, as, our ability to reopen will depend in part on the actions of a number of governmental bodies over which we have no control. Moreover, once restrictions are lifted, it is unclear how quickly customers will return to our stores, which may be a function of continued concerns over safety and/or depressed consumer sentiment due to adverse economic conditions, including job losses. Considering the significant uncertainty as to when we can reopen some or all of our stores and the uncertain customer demand environment, in addition to the actions described above, we: •have begun discussions with our landlords, vendors, and other business partners to reduce our lease and contract payments and obtain other concessions; •are in discussion with our lenders to obtain covenant relief to avoid events of default; and •are in active dialogue with multiple potential investors to secure additional sources of financing."
Sounds super healthy. Teaching moment. Here's a really important part that would be easy to skip over. Like I've explained before, when you sign up to a Credit Agreement, it comes with a lot of rules. You have to do certain things at certain times in order to keep your banks happy. If you break them, bad things happen. So when you know you're not going to be able to comply, you need to get a waiver. Anyway, one of those rules is delivering them a set of audited financials every year. Seems like D&B had a preliminary conversation with their auditors that... did not go well. How can we tell? Well, in February they sought a waiver of the obligation to deliver these financials to their lenders this year. Why would they do that? The auditor's main job is to tell you that the business is capable of operating as a 'going concern'; i.e., that everything is in order and they're not about to go under. So D&B wrote to their banks and asked... not to send this. They spell it out for you in the 10-K:
While our lenders have granted a waiver of any event of default associated with receiving an auditor’s report **indicating a substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern** in connection with our year-end audit,
They go on to talk about how if they didn't get a waiver they would have had to file for Chapter 11. Now, they did get a waiver, so Ch. 11 isn't incoming, but it's important info to realize how precarious the situation of this business is. They have $99,000,000 cash on hand, no revenue, continuing lease expenditures, and about $750 million debt exposure. That's..... bad. They also are getting clipped about $5.5 million a quarter on interest payments. 3. What's One More Quarter? A D&B Debt Breakdown D&B actually have a pretty basic debt structure. They currently have $266.5m outstanding under the TL (10-k, cross-ref the definition of "Term Loan Commitments") and the full $500m drawn under the revolver (8-k in March, cross-ref "Revolving Credit Commitments"). As of Feb the spread on the loans was L+150 (10-K) but the full draw on the revolver will have pushed their latest borrowings to L+200 as they've now exceeded their leverage step-downs ratios (see the definition of "Applicable Margin" in the Credit Agreement, cross ref definition of "Total Leverage Ratio"). You can calculate total leverage for $PLAY like this: Total funded debtminuscashdivided byEBITDA (see definition of "Total Leverage Ratio"). The facility is maturing in Feb 2022; so they've got 18 months to pull together nearly $800 million in interest and repayments. Hmm. Sounds like they'll be needing some cash soon. Well, we know they've tapped out their revolver; so that's gone (and they couldn't draw that to repay the TL anyway as they mature at the same time plus there are restrictions on use of proceeds in the Credit Agreement for things like this). The big question here is what kind of additional debt they can incur under the facility. As we discussed in our $SEAS and $F breakdowns, credit agreements permit you to go out and incur additional debt only under certain circumstances, using dedicated 'baskets' found in the negative covenants of the document. Normally these have their own dedicated section but this CA has a bit of a weird structure so they're lumped in with all the other covenants. You can find them in Section 8.07 (Borrowings). The key baskets we're looking for come in three categories: (i) incremental debt (debt that can be incurred *outside* of the facility (ii) general basket debt (this is known as a 'freebie' or 'dollar' basket and is just straight up debt they can incur without getting permission from the banks (iii) ratio debt (debt they can incur when they are in compliance with a certain leverage ratio). Let's work through them one by one. Incremental Debt - Let's go to Section 1.16. You can see here that they can incur "New Term Loans" (incremental debt) in an amount up to $**150m + as much as they want provided they're in in compliance with a secured leverage ratio of 2.50:1.00**. They've blown through this so we can safely say this debt incurrence is capped at $150m. There are a couple of other random more technical builders related to cash-flow sweeps and declined proceeds which I won't go into, but I'm listing them here to be complete. General Basket - Back to Section 8. See if you can spot the general basket. It's in (k). The cap here is the greater of (i) $20 million and (ii) 10% of the EBITDA. 10% of EBITDA is bigger here, so it's about $28 million. Ratio Basket - Unlimited capacity subject to Total Leverage Ratio compliance of 3.50:1.00. They're justttttt in compliance with this so they can tap some of this basket if they wanted to. This is in section 8.07(n). They're also dealing with a 'financial covenant' that requires them to be in compliance with a Total Leverage Ratio of 3.50:1.00 and a Fixed Charge Coverage Ratio of 1.25:1.00. They are 99% likely to seek relief from these covenants even though they're currently in compliance (because their EBITDA is going to fall dramatically) and they indicate in the 10-K they're already exploring this. 4. $PLAY Wants The $PIPE So we can see that $PLAY is limited in terms of its debt flexibility and they're going to need some more money to keep going. Now, earlier in the month they resisted some adverse interest from private equity buyers by adopting a new shareholder rights plan commonly known as a 'poison pill') which attempts to limit the amount of shares that can be owned by a single buyer by forcing them to pay double the market price once they reach a certain ownership threshold (here, it's 15%). This forces anyone who wants to deal with a potential $PLAY acquisition to play nice with the board rather than just try and buy up common at the discount corona-prices. Think about it like the fat friend at the bar. It's there to prevent the cute, distressed opportunity from getting into more trouble than it should. Even though $PLAY wants more cash, it wants to get it on its own terms. But now, $PLAY's sobered up, and, with the security blanket plan in place - surprise - they've dolled themselves up, put on their cutest outfit, and they're out trawling for investments. What they're exploring is referred to as a PIPE - private investment in public equity. This is a pretty ballsy move and its often referred to as financing of last resort because it's risky and expensive; it involves $PLAY putting together a block of preferred equity priced substantially below par, couple it with warrants or other securities, and then sell it to a single investor. This puts them in bed with that investor for a while and pisses off the common stock holders, but can have the effect of driving up price of common due to renewed interest in the long term prospects of the business (plus provides the obvious benefit of a short term cashflow injection). The reason that PIPEs can provide a short term boost is because the unregistered pref shares are relatively illiquid - once the investor buys them, they're hard to trade for a little while. This indicates that (i) smart money sees a bottom in the price of the common and (ii) believes that there's long term value in the asset. This is going to be a pretty popular form of financing for the next few months given the number of distressed entities who will have difficulty refinancing their debt without exorbitant rates. That said, the issue of involving yourself with PE investors who will want a say in the operation of the business is substantially different than involving yourself with hands off bankers just looking for long term returns. It's like taking Greek government bonds as collateral (lol) - it's a risky business. Use your noodle and consider all your options given the above information. Good luck out there. Final note - it's a brave new world of WSB. Congratulations to the mod team. *EDIT 1* Because I love you guys, next week I'm going to do *two* breakdowns. $LULU and $LYV won. *EDIT 2* Fuzzy go boom. Spot on about $PLAY's next move. http://ir.daveandbusters.com/static-files/79f0a503-4fff-434a-9e09-1b75bf1cb9dd
The Next Pandemic: Confronting Emerging Disease and Antibiotic Resistance
Two problems not commonly discussed prior to the novel Coronavirus outbreak are the emergence of infectious disease and the related increasing prevalence of antimicrobial resistance. Here, I will explain the science behind these problems and some solutions that can be driven by legislation. My background is more squarely rooted in the science, so I apologize if I lean too heavily in this area as opposed to the economics and policy focus of this subreddit. I frequent this sub and enjoy the discourse here, and in my area this is one topic that overlaps with public health policy that I am passionate about. To understand emerging disease and antimicrobial resistance, it’s important to understand evolution The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV2, is an example of an emerging infectious disease. SARS-CoV2 is a disease that, prior to 2019, had not to the best of our knowledge infected a human being. The genetic makeup of the virus indicates that the virus is natural, originating likely as a bat or pangolin Coronavirus that acquired the ability to infect humans, and that it is not man-made (1). Why do new diseases come into existence? Why haven’t humans encountered all the diseases capable of infecting us? Furthermore, why do diseases that we had previously thought conquered have the newfound ability to harm us again, in spite of our advancements in antibiotic development? The answer to these questions is partially answered by evolution. Several novel viruses, like SARS-CoV1, MERS, and SARS-CoV2, began as zoonosis: infection by a pathogen with an animal source. Viruses, though generally considered non-living, contain nucleic acid genomes (either RNA or DNA) similar to every other organism in the tree of life. This genome is subject to selective pressures, just as with every other nucleic-acid containing being, and mutates non-specifically (that is, an organism develops a mutation, then selective pressures have a positive, negative, or neutral effect on retaining or discarding the mutation). An animal coronavirus that recognizes surface molecules on animal cells that have some similarity to human cell surface molecules may only be a few small genome changes away from being capable of infecting humans. It is likely that SARS-CoV2 emerged in one of two ways: as either an animal virus that mutated within an animal that gained the ability to infect humans, or as an animal virus that jumped to humans, and within the human host was selected for the ability to infect humans (1). The advent of novel viruses is also facilitated by the horizontal transfer of genetic material between distinct viral lineages. In Influenza viruses, this can take the form of segments of genome being transferred wholesale between viruses. Influenza viruses contain a genome composed entirely of RNA in multiple segments of sequence. Segments “re-assort” when flu viruses of distinct lineage infect the same cell, and viral genomes are mixed during the process of producing new viruses. Alternatively, as would be the case in coronaviruses, recombination occurs through a mechanism not fully understood, where whole portions of genome are exchanged between viruses (2). The problem of antimicrobial resistance is also best understood through evolution. To explain this phenomenon, I will describe mainly how resistance manifests in bacteria, but similar processes drive resistance to anti-virals, anti-fungals, and anti-parasitics. Antibiotics are largely derived from natural sources: as microbes compete for resources, there is a drive to reduce competitors numbers by killing them or inhibiting their growth. Antibiotics are typically small molecules that target essential processes for bacterial growth; commonly cell wall biosynthesis (preventing growth and division of the cell, an example being penicillin), protein synthesis (blocks the process of translation, an example being erythromycin), production of RNA (blocks the process of transcription, an example being rifampin) or production of DNA (blocks the process of replication, an example being fluoroquinolone). These antibiotics arose through selective pressures, and in response bacteria have developed systems to circumvent the deleterious effects of antibiotics. These include: rapidly excreting the antibiotic before it is capable of inhibiting growth (efflux pumps, a notable offender being Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a common pathogen in patients with cystic fibrosis), degrading the antibiotic (beta-lactamases are a class of enzyme that degrade beta-lactam family antibiotics, such as penicillin), modifying the antibiotic (the most common mechanism for aminoglycoside resistance is to chemically modify the antibiotic so it doesn’t work), or simply modifying the target (Streptococcus pneumoniae is a microbe that causes multiple diseases that is naturally resistant to beta-lactams by modification of the drug target, the aptly-named Penicilin-binding protein) (3). As humans, it has been beneficial to identify these natural compounds and use them medically to treat infection. Bacteria have incredible genome plasticity, engaging in a process known as horizontal gene transfer (HGT; sometimes referred to as lateral gene transfer) that increases the prevalence of resistant microbes. Not all bacteria are capable of this set of processes, but importantly several medically important pathogens, such as E. coli, Salmonella, Yersinia pestis, Acinetobacter baumannii engage in processes that facilitate the transfer of genetic material between bacteria. There are several molecular mechanisms for HGT: bacteria-infecting viruses can transmit pieces of genetic material between similar bacteria (transduction), bacteria can form a bridge that transfers plasmids (conjugation; plasmids are typically circular pieces of DNA, and are typically maintained independently of the bacterial chromosome and commonly encode antibiotic resistance genes), or bacteria can simply pick up naked DNA in the environment and integrate that DNA into their chromosomes (natural transformation) (3). The effect of these processes is that, when a gene that imparts resistance to a particular antibiotic is introduced into a population, it may spread between members of the population, not just within the progeny of the cells that encode the resistance gene. This is especially true when a gene that imparts resistance is on a plasmid or is otherwise mobilizable (transposons, or jumping genes, are also common perpetrators of transmission in that they move somewhat readily and often encode drug resistance). The key point to understand here is that while genes are present in bacteria, either on a chromosome or on a mobilizable element, these genes are capable of moving to many other members of the same population. To understand this in more practical terms, many people have undergone a course of antibiotics and experienced gastrointestinal distress or stomach pains. This can be attributed to disturbing your normal intestinal microbiome, as you kill off non-resistant bacteria. Now assume you have an infection of some sort, it could be anywhere in your body accessible to an orally administered antibiotic, and your doctor prescribes you an antibiotic. It is possible, and possibly probable, that within your gut are bacteria that harbor resistance genes. In the absence of the antibiotic, these are likely to have a neutral or possibly deleterious effect; think of this like a welder that is unable to remove his welding mask: it certainly helps when he is welding, but is cumbersome at other times of the day. Taking the antibiotic results in high selection for resistant microbes to grow and prosper. This allows the resistant bugs to soon outnumber the non-resistant bugs. Ultimately, this increases the concentration of the resistance genes in the population of microbes in your gut. Subsequent to this, you may encounter an infection of a gastrointestinal pathogen that, in infecting your gut, acquires the resistance genes that you selected for. In disseminating this pathogen, you are also disseminating this resistance gene. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, in taking antibiotics you select for drug resistance in the opportunistic pathogens of your body, notably Clostridium dificile and Staphylococcus epidermidis. These microbes are capable of causing disease, but reside in you or on you and cause infection when conditions are optimal for their growth. The problem of antimicrobial resistance is convergent with emerging pathogens, as many pathogens “re-emerge” as they develop resistance to antimicrobials. While TB cannot be said to be an emerging pathogen as the world has been experiencing a TB pandemic since at least the early 1800’s, TB is re-emerging in the since that increased drug resistance has led to strains of TB that are not treatable via the traditional course of antibiotics (4). Similarly, common pathogens such as E. coli, Klebsiella, and Clostridium dificile are bugs that have become increasingly resistant to the antibitoics used to treat them (5). Acinetobacter baumanii, a soil microbe with resistance to a spectrum of antibiotics, became a common Gulf and Iraq War wound infection. Many of these pathogens find a home in hospitals, where the use of antibiotics is prevalent and potential hosts are abundant. Furthermore, the recently emerged pathogen HIV, the causal agent of AIDS, is intersectional with that of antibiotic resistance, as infection with HIV increases susceptibility to bacterial infections due to reduced immune cell numbers; increased infection rates of Both issues, antibiotic resistance and emerging pathogens, pose a threat to human health the world over, and I will attempt to address both of these issues in this post. The problem of emerging disease and antibiotic resistance is exacerbated by humans To what extent do emerging diseases and antibiotic resistance affect humans? SARS-CoV2 has had an extensive impact on human health and living, and the response to shut down to stop the spread of the virus has had a large economic impact. It is impossible to accurately predict the threat posed by non-discovered viruses, so the next threat could be relatively benign, or truly horrific. This is not to fearmonger, there is no reason to suspect that such a virus is bound to steamroll us soon, but to say that the next plague may be brewing inside a pig in a Chinese farm or outside our homes in the bodies of ticks, and we would not know it. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published two Antibiotic Resistance Threat reports on the subject, in 2013 and 2019. In the 2013 edition, it was reported that 2 million people in the United States will acquire an antibiotic resistant infection, and that 23,000 will die as a direct result of that infection (5). While by 2019 this was realized to be an underestimation of the drug-resistant cases, new approaches had determined that the true value had lowered from 2013 to 2019, with an updated estimate of 2.8 million cases and 35,000 fatalities in 2019 (6). An excellent illustration of the problem can be found on page 28 of the 2013 report, which reports the introduction date (left) and the date at which resistance was observed on the right for crucial antibiotic groups. Commonly, within a decade of the introduction of an antibiotic, resistance emerges. This problem cannot be expected to go away on its own, and more than likely pathogens commonly thought vanquished will re-emerge with drug-resistant characteristics. There are human processes that contribute to the emergence of disease and spread of antibiotic resistance. In China, Wet Markets bring together livestock from all over the country, creating an environment that is diverse in the microbial life that live commensally and parasitically in and on these animals. The proximity of these animals allows for the exchange of these microbes; these microbes are then capable of exchanging genetic material. As I described for Flu and Coronaviruses, viruses that come into contact within cells are capable of genetic recombination, a process that can result in viruses that are capable of infecting humans. This is not to say this is a common phenomenon, just that 1) the process is accelerated by live animal markets and 2) this practice and resulting genetic recombination of zoonotic viruses is thought to have contributed to both the original and novel SARS-CoV outbreaks. In the United States, a textbook example of an emerging disease is Lyme Disease (7). Named for the town of Lyme, Connecticut, Lyme Disease is caused by the peculiar bacterium known as Borellia burgdorferi. Borellia is a corkscrew-shaped bacteria that is interesting for its ability to grow without iron (a key component of the immune response is the sequestration of iron away from pathogens). Lyme Disease is spread through ticks, and the number of infectious cases is exacerbated by reforestation and settlement close to wooded areas in suburban environments. As building projects move closer to forested areas, exposure to arthropod-borne illnesses will be expected to rise. Beyond settlement and the wet market practice, the emergence of new infectious disease is complicated by global warming and healthcare practices. Global warming is hypothesized to drive heat resistance in fungi, potentially improving their capacity to grow within the human body (8). The pathogenic potential of fungi is hypothesized to be limited by the heat of the human body, and there is some speculation that global warming is a contributing factor to the emergence of the notorious fungal pathogen Candida auris (8). These claims should be taken with a grain of salt and evaluated critically, but it is possible that human-caused climate change will disturb the ecology of our planet with as of yet unforeseen consequences, among them the generation novel and resurgent diseases. In healthcare, over-prescription of and a lack of regulation on antibiotics has caused the problem to worsen (5,6). When a patient receives an antibiotic, the drug has an effect on all microbes where the drug is bioavailable. This includes the intestines, which contain a resident population of microbes, and the skin, which contains Staphylococci resident species that prevent colonization by pathogenic strains of similar bacteria. These residents are then selected for their ability to resist the drug, causing an increase in resistance among the healthy microbiota. These resistance genes, as I have described, can then move between dissimilar bacteria in the same environment. If a harmful strain of E. coli is introduced into such an environment, for example, it has a higher likelihood of encountering and assimilating the genetic potential to resist antibiotics than in an environment that is naïve to the antibiotic. Patients are commonly prescribed antibiotics for infections that are more likely to be caused by a virus, or in instances where an infection is likely to run course without medical intervention. The increased exposure to antibiotics causes the microbiota to increase the concentration of resistance genes. Additionally, in places like India, the regulations on antibiotics are much more laxed than even the United States, where one is able to purchase over-the-counter antibiotics. This allows anyone to give themselves an incomplete course of antibiotics for any condition, even if the symptoms are not caused by an infection of any kind. Additionally, prescription antibiotics that have deteriorated with time, or are manufactured with subpar quality control resulting in lower concentrations, that remain in circulation exacerbate the problem by establishing sub-inhibitory concentrations of the antibiotic in the body and resulting in selection for resistance. Furthermore, environmental pollution of antibiotics into natural water sources and sewage results in increased environmental concentrations of resistance genes. These genes can spill into humans by exposure to microbes in these environments (9). Agriculture provides another increase in the concentration of resistance genes (10). Livestock are fed antibiotics, which increase the weight of animals in an as-of-yet not understood mechanism. A deleterious consequence of this increase in yield with antibiotic usage is the increase in resistance in response to this widespread antibiotic usage. These resistance genes then find their way into humans, whether through ingestion of food contaminated with resistant microbes. Science and technology can solve the problem, but face institutional and biological challenges There are both institutional and scientific challenges to combating emerging disease and antibiotic resistance. Some of these problems are easily apparent as I have described above: countries with laxed restrictions on who can obtain antibiotics, countries where the drugs are used often over-prescribed, suburbanization, and global warming all contribute to the problem. Scientifically, there are challenges in that novel diseases are difficult to combat. The novel Coronavirus had the precedent of other coronaviruses (i.e. SARS and MERS) that had been studied and their virology dissected, but that won’t necessarily be the case everytime a novel pathogen infects a human. A technological benefit to this problem is the use of meta-genomics, which allows for DNA/RNA sequencing without prior knowledge of the nucleic acid sequence of the genome. Within weeks of the first identification of the virus, its sequence was available to researchers. This was not the case during the outbreak of SARS-CoV1, when meta-genomics approaches such as Illumina Sequencing, NanoPore Sequencing, and Pacific Biosciences Sequencing were not available. In the event of a novel disease emergence, this information would be vital to combating the pathogen. Despite not knowing necessarily what the next threat will be, expanding the human knowledge base on microbes is an essential component of any plan to fight emerging diseases. Any emerging disease is likely to be similar to other microbes that we have encountered, and knowledge of the physiology of these organisms helps to understand weaknesses, transmission, and potential therapeutic targets. The study of all microorganisms therefore benefits the effort to combat the next pandemic, as any one piece of information could be critical. Surveillance is perhaps the most important tool to fight emerging infectious disease; knowing the problem exists is a crucial step to curbing spread. A recent example of successful surveillance can be seen in a recent PNAS publication regarding the presence of potential pandemic influenza in hogs, and the presence of antibodies against this particular class of flu viruses in swine workers (11). While at present it does not appear that the virus has acquired the ability to cause a pandemic, this knowledge allows for immunologists to potentially include viral antigens specific to this particular viral class in seasonal vaccines. Surveillance is critical in controlling both emerging diseases and antibiotic resistance: knowledge of what potential pathogens emerge where, and what microbes are exhibiting resistance to what drugs, can drive containment and treatment efforts. To combat antibiotic resistance, new drugs must be developed, but there are hurdles in identification, validation, and production of new antibiotics. First, potential new antibiotics have to be either identified or designed. This often involves looking through filtered environmental samples to determine the presence of small molecules that inhibit bacterial growth, or chemically altering known drugs to circumvent drug resistance. This is not necessarily difficult, as there are microbes in the soil and water that produce potential therapeutics, but this does require both time and money, as well as the consideration that it is likely that resistance to that novel therapeutic exists in the environment from which it was pulled. New drugs must be safe, but due to the abundance of antibiotics presently in use and their historic efficacy, the standard for antibiotics to pass safety regulations is extremely high. As drug resistance becomes more common, it will become apparent that more and more side effects may have to be tolerated to prevent death due to bacterial infection. Finally, and the most important challenge to developing antibiotics is that the profit margin on antibiotics is low for drug companies in the present market, disincentivizing research and production of novel drugs. In addition to stand-alone antibiotics, new inhibitors of resistance must be developed as well. Clavulanic acid is one such inhibitor, and is administered with the beta-lactam drug amoxicillin to improve its ability to kill bacteria. Bacteria that are resistant beta-lactams often encode enzymes called beta-lactamases. Beta-lactamases break open the active portion of the beta-lactam molecule, rendering it ineffective in attacking its target. Clavulanic acid is a beta-lactam itself, and is a target for the beta-lactamase enzyme; however, when the enzyme begins to degrade clavulanic acid, the enzyme becomes stuck at an intermediate step in the reaction, rendering the beta-lactamase enzyme useless. These drugs must also be explored and screened for in environmental samples, as well as developed. It is possible to take a rational approach to drug design, with increasing knowledge of how resistance mechanisms work. This means that scientists specifically look at, say, a beta-lactamase enzyme at the molecular level, and design a small molecule that will fit into the enzyme and block its function. Chemists then design the molecule to test its efficacy. Ultimately, scientists either know how to solve the problem, or know how to get the tools they need to solve the problem. It is the institutional challenges that make the problem more difficult to solve. How legislation can improve the ability of scientists to combat emerging disease and drug resistance In discussing emerging diseases and antibiotic resistance, I try to draw parallels to the problem of global warming: a global problem with global solutions. I don’t have a novel solution to climate change to discuss here, other than to parrot this subreddit’s typical ideas, so I will omit that discussion here. That is to say, global warming is a driver for emerging infectious disease, and fighting global warming is important to combat the potential rise of fungal pathogens. I will, however, discuss some ideas for combating emerging disease and drug resistance. These ideas are mostly derived from scientists familiar with the problem, Funding for research, basic and applied, is crucial. No bit of knowledge hurts in the fight against human disease. Learning how Alphaviruses replicate, determining the structure of E. coli outer membrane proteins, and examining the life cycle of the non-pathogen Caulobacter crescentus all contribute to the fight against the next disease. The more we know, the more powerful our vision is in understanding the inner machinations of disease. Every immune response, every molecular mechanism, and every aspect of microbial physiology is potentially a drug or vaccine target, a clue into pathogenesis, or an indication of how a bug is likely to spread. The Trump administration has not been kind to science funding (12). Science that does not appear to have benefit at first glance often does in the long run, and for this reason I will stress the importance of funding research of this sort, as well as funding applied research. Knowing is half the battle. In combating emerging diseases, it is important to know they exist. As I have mentioned the example of recent viral surveillance with regard to the novel reassortment influenza viruses, I would like to stress the importance of funding surveillance programs in fighting emerging disease and drug resistance. There are currently US governmental surveillance programs that provide valuable information about the spread of drug resistance, such as NARMS in the United States (13). In the United States, there is a need for greater accountability in using antibiotics. Resistance is unlikely to completely go away, even when the use of an antibiotic is discontinued, but the levels of resistant bacteria dwindle when the selective pressure is reduced. For this reason, several medical practitioners have proposed a rotating schedule of prescription antibiotics, that includes the retention of some new antibiotics from use. The reasoning for this is that, in the years following the halted use of a particular antibiotic, it is expected that the concentration of resistant bacteria will decrease. As I discussed with the example of always wearing a welding helmet, carrying resistance genes often imparts some form of growth defect on the resistant bacteria (for example, altering an essential gene targeted by an antibiotic may render the bacteria resistant, but there is a reason such a gene is essential, in that it’s required for growth; changing the gene in a substantive way may negatively impact its performance and by extension make these resistant bacteria less fit). A rotating cycle of what antibiotics are allowed to be prescribed, informed by surveillance data, would buy time for the development of new antibiotics as well. Additionally, higher standards should be required for the prescription of antibiotics, to increase accountability of physicians; these standards could involve clinically verifying the presence of susceptible bacteria prior to administering a drug in situations where the disease in not life-threatening. There is a need to reduce the environmental pollution of drugs into sewage and natural bodies of water as well. This will require research into cost-effective methods for reducing the population of resistant bugs and drugs in these environments. In the case of natural bodies of water, a source of contamination is often factories where drugs are produced. Often, waters near these factories have high levels of antibiotics that select for resistance to develop and spread. This may require legislation to improve environmental outcomes, as well as surveillance of drug resistance gene levels and the levels of antibiotics in these waters to ensure compliance. There is also a need to halt the use of antibiotics in treating livestock (14). Halting the use of antibiotics typically results in reductions of antibiotic resistant bug populations within a year or two (10). I don’t know of studies that estimate the economic cost of halting use of antibiotics in American meat, but in the case of Denmark, livestock production does not appear to have been significantly impacted. I think that the most challenging problem will be for drug companies to develop new antibiotics when there is not presently a financial incentive to do so. Because antibiotics are still largely effective, and the financial benefit to adding an antibiotic to the market does not outweigh the cost to put a drug to market, there is not currently a large incentive to produce new drugs (15). To address this negative externality, it is necessary to generate financial incentives of some form for the production of new antibiotics. This may take the form of subsidizing antibiotic discovery efforts and drug safety trials; additionally, applied research with the goal of specifically finding new antibiotics should see increased funding. To combat the problem overseas, it is obvious that obtaining an antibiotic course must occur through a doctor. This eliminates false self-diagnoses of bacterial infections. The problem of wet markets may be partially resolved by preventing animals that do not regularly contact each other from being traded and stored in the same vicinity as animals that are not typically encountered. This may involve limiting a particular wet market to the trade of animals that come from a particular geographic area, preventing geographically diverse microbes from encountering each other. It's on all of us to stop the next pandemic: If you made it this far, thank you reading this post and I hope that I have convinced you of the importance of this issue! There are simple steps that we can all take as consumers to reduce antimicrobial resistance: don’t take antibiotics unless prescribed by a doctor and buy meat that was produced without antibiotics. I welcome any and all criticism, and would love to hear people's ideas! Please let me know of any errors as well, or any missed concepts that I glossed over. I've been excited to give my two cents to this sub, and I don't want to mislead in any way. Sources: 1: Andersen, KG, et al. 2020. The Proximal Origin of Sars-CoV-2. Nature Medicine 26: 450-452. 2: Su, Shou, et al. 2016. Epidemiology, Genetic Recombination, and Pathogenesis of Coronaviruses. Cell Trends in Microbiology 24(6): 490-502. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tim.2016.03.003 3: Munita, JM; Arias, CA. 2016. Mechanisms of Antibiotic Resistance. Microbiology Spectrum VMBF-0016-2015. doi:10.1128 /microbiolspec.VMBF-0016-2015. 4: Shah, NS; et al. 2007. Worldwide Emergence of Extensively Drug-resistant Tuberculosis. Emerging Infectious Diseases 13(3): 380-387. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2725916/ 5: CDC Antibiotic Threats Report, 2013. https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/pdf/ar-threats-2013-508.pdf 6: CDC Antibiotic Threats Report, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/pdf/threats-report/2019-ar-threats-report-508.pdf 7: Barbour, AG; Fish, D. 1993. The Biological and Social Phenomenon of Lyme Disease. Science 260(5114):1610-1616. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8503006/ 8: Casadevall, A; Kontoyiannis, DP; Robert, V. 2019. On the Emergence of Candida auris: Climate Change, Azoles, Swamps, and Birds. mBio 10.1128/mBio.01397-19. https://mbio.asm.org/content/10/4/e01397-19 9: Kraemer, SA; Ramachandran, A; Perron, GG. 2019. Antibiotic Pollution in the Environment: From Microbial Ecology to Public Policy. Microorgansims 7(6): 180. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6616856/ 10: Levy, S. 2014. Reduced Antibiotic Use in Livestock: How Denmark Tackled Resistance. Environmental Health Perspectives 122(6): A160-A165. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4050507/ 11: Sun, H, et al. 2020. Prevalent Eurasian avian-like H1N1 swine influenza virus with 2009 pandemic viral genes facilitating human infection. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencehttps://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1921186117. 12: Kaiser, J. 2020. National Institutes of Health would see 7% cut in 2021 under White House plan. Science Magazine. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/02/national-institutes-health-would-see-7-cut-2021-under-white-house-plan 13: About NARMS: National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System for Enteric Bacteria. https://www.cdc.gov/narms/about/index.html 14: Khachatourians, GG. 1998. Agricultural use of antibiotics and the evolution and transfer of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. CMAJ 159(9):1129-1136 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1229782/ 15: Jacobs, Andrew. 2019. Crisis Looms in Antibiotics as Drug Makers Go Bankrupt. The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/366f7it
This is a multi-part series about my life as a cybersecurity consultant. I've been doing third party vendor assessments for a client and we're going to have to fire some of them. So it goes. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 I wake in the morning with a hangover to keep me company while I figure out where I am. I have a call with Vendor 1 before I need to be at the client site. I throw some clothes on, wander to the impossibly bright open lobby/breakfast area and only find bad coffee, oatmeal and an Otis Spunkmeyer muffin. I see clean, earnest, well dressed men and women using words like "touch point", "swim lane", "PMO" along with sportsball analogies. I better leave before I hear "spend" used as a noun. I crawl back into bed, eat my paste-like breakfast and styrofoam coffee and read over Vendor 1. They're the 'we do big data things with healthcare' without any serious controls on all that data. Someone else did the site visit and didn't take good notes, but it seemed like Vendor 1 decided that didn't think HIPAA or our requirements applied to them. My call starts. We have:
Bethiffer, Vendor 1's compliance, security lead and office manager. She's breathless, like she's at the last mile of her first marathon or just ate a bolus of wasabi.
Floyd, Vendor 1's Customer Success Lead. Or perhaps he's only acting CSL. He may only be a Customer Experience Coordinator for all I know.
A few different other people with roles of various values of 'customer' 'positive sounding thing' 'analyst/coordinatoagent/'. I don't pay attention to them yet.
After two minutes of the usual pre call patter, introductions, we go. Bethiffer:"We received a shocking email yesterday. As we explained earlier, HIPAA doesn't apply to us, so we shouldn't have to meet those requirements." me:"Ok. That's an interesting take on this. It also doesn't matter. Those requirements are in your contract" Floyd:"Like we said, those don't apply to us" me:"You hold a lot of healthcare data, right? Names, diagnoses, outcomes?" Floyd:"And more. But we're not sharing it with affiliates" me:"Ok..." One of the other analysts on the call:"We don't shaaaaare the information, so it can't be breached" me:"Well, that's not really true, you see." Bethiffer:"And we're affiliated with a major research university" me (realizing that I'm too hung over to have an absurd, circular argument):"Ok, ok. If you can convince your client project sponsor to sign off that you aren't required to do this, I'm ok with this. Until then, we ask that you prepare a plan to delete all of our data from your systems. It's just a part of the process. Everyone agrees and we end the call. I'm more nauseous than I was before the call. I clean up and force myself to look like a productive member of society, then make my way to the client site and sit through an hour long meeting discussing new virtual machine images in the cloud. I meekly attempt to prevent unnecessary complications, but two different factions of the Operations Team believe they need their own custom images. A consultant on our team recommends forming a common image that everyone else should use. This is clearly not how Client does things, so a few beardy sysadmins poke the consultant by asking very pointed questions about individual builds of Windows. This causes the call to lose all focus, forcing a follow up call later this week. This self selects for the worst ideas as competent people often have better things to do and stop coming, leaving the untrusted, unpleasant and plain incompetent behind to steer the big project. Thankfully I'm not responsible for much on this project, so I have time available to be on these calls and bill some time. It's time for me to call Vendor 2. They've texted me multiple demands to explain ourselves. I can't field a call like this in Client's building since they'll think I'm not dedicated to their problems. I don't want to take the call in my brand new rental car, since the new car smell and my hangover aren't getting along too well. Instead, I walk to the other end of the building and pace in the parking lot. Vendor 2 is Froomkin Printing, the print shop who left a bunch of PHI on an unencrypted USB device near an open loading dock. They're ready for a fight. We have Craggy, their IT Director, an unnamed Sales Manager and Mumbles, their outside counsel on the phone. Craggy:"How dare you do this to us? We're considering suing you unless this changes" me:"Well, the security requirements are a part of the contract. This was your mistake" Mumbles:"Well, we'll see about that. We'll make you" me:"No, you're not going to sue. Once you sue, our reports become a part of the record. I assure you that all your competitors and customers will know you were canned for weak security." Mumbles:"We'll file a protective order" me (having lost all patience):"You're going to claim your inability to put even free controls in after multiple warnings is a TRADE SECRET? That should go in your ad copy" Mumbles:"Well..." me (windmilling in anger):"Look. You took this work because it paid better than printing placemats advertising muffler shops. When you took it, you promised that you'd do this right because if you do this wrong, you hurt people. What if your mechanic decided to not bolt your wheels on because it took too much time? How about this? What if your cocaine dealer put fentanyl and sheetrock dust in your cocaine to fatten up their margin? Unnamed Sales Manager:"Uhh, what? Are you accusing us of using cocaine?" me:"I assumed you were and used an analogy that I hoped would get your attention" There's a bit more yelling and the call ends. I realize I've been walking back and forth in the parking lot waving my arms and yelling in front of the building. I hope nobody noticed. To be continued.
Start|Previous|Next Keya Ces trailed distractedly behind her oblivious tour guide. Her neck carped from the strain as she swivelled about, committed to beholding every perplexing wonder in view. She failed dismally. Following Jonathan out the ‘kitchen’, they traced the circular passage once more before turning right into a chamber on the outer rim of the subterrane manor. For this was a manor, and he a king or lord of some sort. The large, vacant, and almost wholly unadorned chamber, was a welcome respite. She would rather not bear further strain on her mind, senses, and neck. Instead, the floor, walls, and ceiling were painted a mockingly bright green: fair trade, in her opinion. Six square equidistant mats made of long continuous strips were arrayed about the chamber. The peculiar rugs recessed into the floor, flush with the surrounding green surface. Testing a mat, it gave slightly underfoot before she stepped back again. I should forego all descriptions of ‘strange’ in this place, may as well be pronouncing water as ‘wet’ in the sea. “Those? The omnidirectional treadmills will be off for this program. Here,” He dislodged a set of bulky eye masks with straps from a station near the entrance. “These are VR Goggles; you won’t see or hear anything initially, I’m gonna put them on for you, okay? You can remove them any time.” She acquiesced with a nod, and Jon carefully fitted the thing atop her head, struggling a bit with her long ears. “Ouch!” “Sorry! Elf ears weren't anticipated in the design.” “Why not?” Someone as wealthy and apprised as him admitting ignorance was an auspice. Grandpa always said, ‘The wise know what they do not know, admitting it freely.’ “You’re the first elf ever to use one.” The first… then I am his first Elven apprentice? Bands were adjusted until it sat comfortably hoisted upon her crown. It was surprisingly light, and luxurious fabric moulded to her skull and cheeks. The comfort was akin to silken sheets she once felt at a trader’s stall. Even tensioned, the straps flexed and stretched to accommodate motion around her head and neck. With sight and hearing obscured, this world still baffled her. She marginally pulled the mask away quickly met by the luminous green glow of the room. Assured, she relented in darkness. “Alright, can you hear me? Testing, Testing, 1,2,3…” “What are you testing?” She pivoted toward the sound. Master Kel chuckled. “Not to worry, you passed. Okaaay, so you'll see a light appear near me.” No sooner had he spoken, and despite everything being dark, Master Kelly emerged near a bright blue marbled orb. He wore the same mask as her, covering ears and eyes, and yet they beheld and heard one another unhindered. Her hands and body were implausibly visible through the mask. The rest of the room, on the other hand, was banished. Instead, an interminable grey vista spread unbroken before her while dim light shone down from nowhere and yet everywhere. Lifting the headdress gave way to the room once more. I see into another realm! Returning, she inspected her spectral body: unchanged save for an aberrant outline where it met this other plane. “This is magic without a doubt. There is no way in the damned heavens you can convince me otherwise.” “What it is, is not as crucial as what it can show you. Multimedia is essential to speed your education. Tons of teaching and training will be necessary both here and world-side. I suspect computer literacy is not an extant skill in your world and won’t be for some time, so we've got this.” “We are safe, no? The apparitions of this realm cannot harm or bewitch us, can they?” “Safe as houses, just a bit of noise and light is all.” The spirit realm perhaps? Receiving tuition from beyond the grave was far fetched, even after all she had witnessed. Grandpa! The hope crept unbidden to from her heart; could she say ‘goodbye?’ “I… I wish you to summon my Grandfather, if possible.” He opened his mouth to respond. “-A moment is all I would need!” Keya knew it was too much too soon. Already, there was ample she must repay. But this was a further debt she would gladly shoulder, however steep. “Ah…” Master Kelly lowered is head and tone. “I see. Your misconception is not uncommon; I’m sorry I failed to anticipate it.” There it was; just as possibility warmed her, so too did despair precipitously freeze the blood within her chest. “Dashing your hopes was not the ride I intended to give. This,” he spread arms, “is a place of memory and dreams, not a way to peer into the afterlife. I could make something look similar to your Grandfather. Could be indiscernible if I had more data, which I don’t. Still, it wouldn’t be him. Just a doll you could pretend with.” He removed the mask, as did she, meeting her with an equanimous gaze, “As your recruiter and trainer, I suggest this is ill-advised. Your mind and memories are the only true means of consolation. No amount of magic will ever change that, and I would not wish to pervert your recollections with some crap facsimile.” All she could do was vigorously nod in return. After which, silence stretched for far longer than any lord should entertain a guest. In between, there may have been some brief sobs and tearful eyes. Such things were quickly wiped clean with lavish paper handkerchiefs. A final cathartic sigh left her mostly composed. “Forgive me my weakness, Master Kelly. I have squandered much of your generous patience with my selfishness.” “Nah, it’s cool. You wanna continue, or take a break?” “You are too kind.” She sniffed. Even such a pleasantry, however perfunctory, was far too charitable. “Please, anything to divert my thoughts is a welcome reprieve.” “Alright, if you’re sure…” Waving her to the room’s centre, they adorned the Headdresses of Dreams and Memory and peered once more into the Grey Realm. “Anyway, this is the best us Gamma Worlders can offer as far as intuitive interfaces go. I’ll acquaint you with the haptics later. For now, have a look at this.” Moving toward the glowing orb, she noticed white swirls shifting gradually on top of blues, browns, and greens. Its significance became immediately apparent. “This is some kind of moving map is it not? Why is it round?” Tiny landmasses floated below wispy clouds. “This is my homeworld Gamma C-037-072.” “That is a very odd name.” “It’s the designation; almost everyone calls their origin world Earth. It can get confusing. To answer your second question; this a model, not a map, scaled-down obviously, but entirely accurate. It’s round because all worlds, or ‘planets’ as we call them, are.” As he spoke, two more almost identical orbs materialised stacked beneath the first. Cloud cover differed, but the landmasses traced similar shores. “This is the next level down,” The central orb was a world with far more browns than his. “the Delta worlds, and deeper still,” He pointed to the bottom globe, perhaps a tinge more verdant than his. “are Epsilon worlds like yours. Bear in mind, what I’m showing is abstract. We are not literally floating above your world.” “Seers and soothsayers maintain our world is flat. Albeit, I grant round worlds like the moons appear more elegant, explaining why things do not fall off is considered an intractable problem.” “Yeah, the same laws that govern those moons of yours govern your world too. And that’s an axiomatic principle to remember. Homogeneity applies to all universes, though not necessarily between universes. In any event, your world is definitely round, I already have enough network stations in place to extrapolate curvature. Hell, your world is either very similar or an outright twin of most Earths.” “If Master says as much, then I will not question it.” “Nah-uh. Rule 2: Question everything. Don’t bank on my say-so, in fact never just accept on anyone’s say-so. Always question. ‘Nullius in verba.’ Always ask for evidence. Until then remain unconvinced either way.” “Very well, do you have evidence?” “Sadly, nothing that will be compelling enough for you. Numbers on pages would be a meaningless overture, I expect. Anywho, in the next few days, I can offer some visual confirmation.” “So I am unconvinced then, by your own rationale?” She raised an eyebrow, a fruitless gesture under the mask, but her tone carried intent. “That you are!” His head bobbed agreeably. “So, to get back to my exposition. Imagine your world as one of many, connected via a series of branches and offshoots. Visualise a root system like that of a tree.” With a wave of hands, the orbs multiplied, expanding to fill the void above, beyond, and all around them. Keya gasped at the sudden change as these worlds inundated her sight. There were thousands! With childlike glee, she spun amongst the glowing balls like the fruit of a divine tree sprouting from above. The orbs finally dimmed to lucid spectres; Master Kelly made no comment, but his twitching lips spoke volumes. “At the top is Alpha.” He pointed, and a single world glowed bright red at the apex. This dream realm had no ceiling. In contrast to the green room, infinite grey ether spread upwards beyond all bounds. “They… are a story for another time. Suffice to say, the power to connect new worlds, like yours, is up to them. A few months ago they did just that, and here we are, just me for the moment though. There’s a lot of red tape and paperwork required to petition Alpha, people with funny clothes talking across long tables, boring stuff, trust me. Next, are the Beta worlds,” A wider swath just below was lit in green. ”Mostly part of the primary root system.” A smaller selection of these green worlds and some worlds below illuminated; they clustered in the centre. “Fertile, resource-rich planets with natural laws identical to, or compatible with, Alpha. Excellent candidates for Alpha migration, expansion, and growth; pleasing for them and marvellous for the natives. “To become a main root candidate is a boon to all involved. Absurd amounts of riches and technology is shared. Society is uplifted beyond your wildest dreams. We are not in the Main Root. We are here. Our parent Beta world, ain’t even on the map.” The initial three measly worlds were lit in blue with her supposed world right at the bottom edge of the massive cluster. The ‘Delta’ realm was further in the mesh of roots, while Master’s realm of ‘Gama’ circled quite close to the green primary worlds. The world above, as he inferred, was unlit. “My realm is quite distant,” Keya said. “Deep would be a better analogue. There are only four degrees of separation from Alpha to your Epsilon world.” White lines highlighted the connections. “Each level has been burrowed into from the world above. And while one world could feasibly burrow into an infinite number of offspring worlds, there is but one parent. Or so we’re told.” Examining the other globes, she confirmed that they only ever branched down and not up. “I believe I catch your meaning; this resembles a family tree but with only one parent.” “Very nice! Not many folks notice that initially. The organisation is indeed taxonomic, with traits from parent worlds passed down.” Keya nodded at the praise. “Now for the bad news, or the not so good news. What stays the same is, of course, not as vital as what changes. Life in the universe is a fine balance and minor alterations, even in history, can have major impacts down the line. It is said that a flap of a butterfly’s wings," Jon flapped arms 'majestically', "can cause a hurricane on the other side of the world!” “What is a hurricane?” “Ah, it’s a huge storm, with strong winds and often flooding.” “I see. That a butterfly could manage such a feat seems rather absurd.” “Aaaaand, I’ve I lost you again. Anyway, Beta worlds often have these differences, but the deeper you dive, the greater and more varied those disparities become.” The worlds about them vanished, and a series of paintings appeared floating in space. Except, they were flawless paintings, indistinguishable from vision. Not even the art in Jon’s abode compared to the vivid colours and light of these. “Examples such as bungled or successful assassinations.” She saw a white-robed man surrounded by others with knives, their garb very similar to the venerable Reka Elves near the Southern sea. “Or new sentient races and an extra set of laws, like friggin magic. Case in point, your world Epsilon H-037-072-030-010.” An image of some dwarves, elves and humans in a village market floated to the fore. “There are no elder races in your world?” Such an idea was untenable to her. Next, Master Kel would say there were no wyverns! “Just humans, only ever humans up to this point. Although there are some whispers on the Multinet of rather interesting things popping up in other Delta and Epsilon worlds, I remained unconvinced until this assignment.” Though the mask was obscuring his eyes—something increasingly frustrating—she caught the brief smirk. “A moment please, where does all that nonsense about my world being a story feature? You purport these realms are varied purely by chance.” “Oh right… forgot to explain that, must’ve skipped ahead on my notes.” Jon scanned unused space, likely filled with things only he was privy to. ”There we go. Do you understand Venn diagrams? No, wait, stupid fucking question. Let me just explain.” He cleared the images with a swipe up and drew a bright blue ring out of light, hanging like everything else before, in empty space. “This circle represents all the possible universes, or worlds, that one parent universe might sire. Outside are the impossible or unstable universes, again it’s an abstract depiction. Now,” He drew another circle partially overlapping the first in red. “These are all the fictional worlds people create in the parent universe. They are mostly set in the past or present, which quickly becomes the past. As you can see, most stories lie outside the blue circle and are impossible. As an aside, stories of the future tend to miss the mark a lot and are almost always impossible. But a certain segment…” The overlain area of the two circles turned a purple glow. “Is both possible and imagined by someone in the parent world. For some reason, the preponderance of universes we delve into, occupy this intersection: possible, in the past, and uncannily similar to a parent world narrative. “There are likely more factors and the ‘why’ of it is contentious. The Alphas probably know more, but their lips are sealed. The long and short? In a genuine sense, the stories we tell each other bring those worlds closer to us.” “You mean to tell me even fanciful childhood tales exist in a realm somewhere? That’s preposterous!” “You do realise you are yourself a fairytale elf, asking me that question? Now you know exactly how I fucken feel.” Even proposing that she was some puppeteered character in a book felt insulting. “I know that face, don’t dwell on the existential implications. Down that way be demons, and unnecessary ones at that. Though these tales may find or lay the pieces on the game board, the paths laid out rarely go as planned. Yours, once again, a case in point. You are you, Kay, so don’t go flipping out on me. I need you. Your world needs you.” Again she wished she could see his eyes, so she pulled the mask from her face and was greeted by sickeningly jovial green. After a short squint, her eyes adjusted. Master Kelly responded in kind, and she stood there for long moments evaluating the man, he surveyed the room casually, occasionally making eye contact and shifting from side to side. He opened his mouth to quip but- “Not a word, Master! I am thinking! That tongue of yours is almost as bad as your addled mind.” He conceded and simply smiled with mischievous, knowing eyes. There was much to ponder, too much in fact. Am I in any immediate danger in this strange place? Actions did not lie, though they could be misunderstood. She would work off that for the time being. He had fought for her, stood for her, gave her sustenance, and even clothing. In prior moments of distraught, there had been ample chance for him to take advantage or simply do nothing. “Very well Master Kel, I will take your wild imaginings as face value, for now. If nothing else you are a considerably wealthy noble with great magicks at his disposal and your actions show no ill harm thus far. The rest I must take time to think on.” Regardless, she would sleep with Gavin’s blade tonight. “Awesome, that’s good enough for me.” He strolled over and docked his mask, turning back to her “Right let’s get your ass to medical, and we can wrap up for the night.” “I have no such beast of burden in my care as you well know, what do you speak of?” “This is gonna be our thing, isn’t it?” “I have most certainly lost your meaning now, Master.” “That you have. That you have.” Previous|Next
Comments & Calculations
I know I keep saying 'calculations', and you haven't seen any. Trust me they are coming. Enough for you to TL;DR at the sight. Anyway, the concept of multiverses is a common scientific proposition as this point. That I've proposed a feasible magic world, however low-fantasy, is, of course contentious. I leave it to you to decide, as I flesh out the world-building, just how tenable such a world could be. Or don't and just enjoy the story, treating this section as my particular creative rubric. Amazon | Patreon | Cover I'm a Brave Creator too. An easy decentralised ad revenue based way to support me, costing you nothing and fully integrated into Reddit. If you have the Brave Browser just click the triangular BAT icon labelled 'Tip' below.
A great warrior is told a prophecy by three witches that he will become king one day, and so by the powers of witchcraft, fate, or his own strength of the belief in the prophecy, he murders the king and fulfills the prophecy, with much prodding along the way by his ambitious and scheming wife. That’s William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, more or less. It’s a simple play, its nuances stemming more from the particularly poetic language than the depth of its plot. And yet it has captured the imaginations of filmmakers for over a century like few other of the Bard’s works. The screen often favors simplicity in works of adaptation, and in addition, Macbeth is dripping with screen-ready sequences of violence, (potential) sex, and horrific imagery, all of which are well-worn traditions on the silver screen. And from 1908 (when the first film adaptation was released) until today, many filmmakers have tried their hands at Macbeth, though three, in particular, set themselves apart from the rest as the best. Like the three witches that draw the hangman’s noose of fate around Macbeth’s neck, Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, and Roman Polanski have each successfully adapted The Bard’s darkest, and most cinematic, play. Some hew closer to the text than others (in Kurosawa’s case, he doesn’t include any of the language at all, for obvious reasons), but all make adaptive choices that flex the tonal and thematic character of the work in fascinating and revealing ways. (If you want to read with visual examples, here’s a link to the original article: Macbeth: Three Distinctive Adaptations of Shakespeare’s Scottish Play Orson Welles’ Macbeth (1948) Orson Welles began work on his cinematic adaptation of Macbeth already well acquainted with both The Bard and the story. Welles not only grew up reading and performing various works of Shakespeare, but he had directed a much lauded Voodoo interpretation of the play for the Negro Theater Unit of the Federal Theater Project in 1936, twelve years prior to the release of his film. For Macbeth (the film), Welles opted for a more traditional interpretation of the play than the one he had staged, in part perhaps because he didn’t want to repeat himself, but likely because it allowed Welles to cast himself in the title role. Macbeth was a character who fit right in among the pantheon of great men brought down by some combination of inherent weakness and the conspiratorial nature of fate itself that Welles made a career out of playing. One has little to wonder how much of himself Welles saw in these sorts of characters. Welles’ Macbeth is the weakest of these three notable adaptations; like the vast majority of Welles’ films, there were various production compromises that splinter through the inherent greatness at its core. There was little in the way of studio tampering for this film’s production, at least until after it released where a second cut with significant editing changes was ordered, but Welles had to work with both a minuscule budget and a truncated shooting schedule. As a result, the film looks cheap and feels rushed. Macbeth is already a briskly paced play, and Welles’ truncations, unfortunately, hobble the psychological aspects somewhat, as ruminations often cede to action. Despite the hobblings, or rather because of Welles’ creative workarounds to them, this Macbeth still stands above much more lavish renditions of the play. To be sure, flimsy props and ill-considered narrative changes do hurt the film, but the resulting expressionist visual language delivers what even Shakespeare’s words cannot. Because of the budget restraints, Welles filmed entirely on barren studio floor, sparsely populated borrowed and repurposed set-pieces from Westerns the studio had made, a fact that he chose to emphasize rather than obfuscate. By leaning into the limitations, all the negative space on the sets, and a castle that appears to have been unearthed fully formed from some hellish mountaintop, Welles was able to translate the physical spaces of the film into a nightmarish reflection of Macbeth’s mental state. The tortured cave-like structures that surround Macbeth are as warped and anguished as his paranoid and guilt-ridden conscience. As the film progresses, the various set-pieces, background actors, and props seem to slowly vanish from the frame, leaving Macbeth increasingly isolated, both visually and psychologically. The props also cleverly convey visual motifs that draw out themes from the play. For example, the witches all carry staffs that are topped with a forked V-shape, and, as a display of their hold over Macbeth, Welles worked similar shapes into the sets, such as when Macbeth finally ascends his stolen throne we can see that it is shaped like the tip of the witches staff. As a secondary benefit of having Macbeth seated in the crook of the witches’ hold, a V-shape makes for a rather uncomfortable throne, and, as such, Macbeth never looks comfortable in his seat of power. It’s a canny visual translation of the many allusions to ill-fitting clothes that Shakespeare wove throughout the play’s dialogue. As a counterpoint to the witches’ pagan power, the Christian cross is a countervailing symbol that populates the sets and represents the coming tide of Christianity that will soon take over Scotland (more on that later). Welles’ utilization of the physical space, along with how he lenses it (plenty of deep focus, long takes with flowing camerawork, and chiaroscuro lighting) is the film’s most unique and successful element, and a prime example of how to adapt something to the screen. Welles’ adaptation of the narrative and language of the play is more of a mixed bag than his bold aesthetic choices. As mentioned earlier, his adaptation cuts down an already brisk play, choosing to forgo any of the battlefield reports in Act I, instead quickly introducing Macbeth and Banquo and their fateful encounter with the three witches upon the heath. The loss of expository dialogue is not itself much of a loss, as that’s often the first thing that should be trimmed down when adapting for the screen, but it is a loss in that it trims out vital scenes that inform us how other characters view Macbeth before things go sour, as offer more of a build up to the events that unfold. The film does at least still devote time to crucial mood setting, though, as it still opens with the witches, who, in this adaptation, construct a terrifying voodoo-like golem (perhaps a holdover from his production of “Voodoo Macbeth“?) The brief scene functions both to create an immediate atmosphere of dread, and is an explicit representation that the witches have a magical hold over Macbeth. Quite a few characters from the play are condensed or eliminated, or in Ross’ case — Ross is a minor Thane in the play– he is cut from the film but much of his dialogue is given to a major new character: the Holy Man. The religious theme is the biggest change to the narrative, and, while interesting in theory, I’m not entirely sure it works within the context of the play. As previously mentioned, Welles highlights a dichotomy between the pagan power that the witches represent and the coming tide of Christianity, first reflected in the Holy Man that seems to lord over much of the proceedings at the castle, and later by the swarm of cross-bearing English soldiers that come to help Duncan’s son reclaim his throne. While this additional subtext is a pretty fascinating historical perspective, the issue that crops up by layering it onto the existing narrative framework is that it doesn’t make much sense when you consider that the explicitly magical witches aim to manipulate Macbeth into usurping Duncan and then bring about his own downfall; thus, in orchestrating Macbeth’s downfall, they orchestrate their own, because through their own machinations they put the power of Scotland squarely in the hands of those who wish to see them defeated: the Christians. While I’m not opposed to the welding of religious subtext onto what is essentially a humanist story, in this case, the pairing simply doesn’t make logical sense. Then again, Welles was never a logical filmmaker, but an emotive one, and all the power of the visual symbols he employed might have at least made it a worthy trade. More detrimental to the story than some of its muddled themes is the cumbersome handling of the dialogue. I’m not referring to the Scottish brogue Welles had the cast assume for the dialogue (which the studio then mandated be re-dubbed for a re-edited re-release they erroneously assumed would catch audiences in a way the initial release hadn’t); I had no issues with that, but there are numerous dialogue changes in the film to make it more understandable, or expedient, for an audience unaccustomed to Shakespeare’s language, and each instance sounds jarringly dissimilar to the language of the play. In conjunction with the already abbreviated structure of the play, it can feel at times that Welles was simply rushing to get to the finish line (and perhaps he was, given his abbreviated shooting schedule). Fortunately, there are still plenty of moments of transcendence that resist the insistent tug of the leash, giving time for the language to breathe and represent a careful insight into how the story functions. Welles’ choice to play the famous “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” soliloquy over a shot of churning fog adds ethereal and unnerving hopelessness to the nihilistic speech, as if Macbeth has already surrendered to the void. The ending is anything but a surrender, in fact, Macbeth’s “lay on MacDuff” is portrayed as a moment of triumph for the character as he reclaims his destiny from the nefarious witches. He may not have had a say about how to live his life, but he can control how it ends, and as a result, the witches’ foul golem that they’ve been using to control his fate is shattered in a decisive blow to their power. It’s a thrilling moment, and is played out with equally thrilling choreography in the swordplay. The film may be largely cloaked in the atmosphere of German Expressionism, horror, and film noir, but by the end it becomes a story of hope, as Macbeth is able to assert himself in the battle of the fates, and the reclaiming soldiers are presented as a force for good (after the more ambiguous Holy Man, who seemed to not offer much help to poor MacDuff’s family before their slaughter at the hands of Macbeth and his men, is slain by Macbeth at the start of the battle). The film isn’t Shakespeare’s Macbeth, but Welles’, and the totality of the translations, excisions, and other adaptive choices represent a personal touch on the story, entirely successful or not. Welles’, and actress Jeanette Nolan’s, respective interpretations of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, are as fascinating and flawed as the rest of the film. Here, Lady Macbeth is portrayed as an embodiment of rage and strength, or, perhaps more interestingly, rage as a guise of strength. Nolan delivers her lines with passionate fury, choosing to berate Macbeth into action rather than seduce him, and Welles often places her above Macbeth in the frame, highlighting his subservient relationship. Adding to Lady Macbeth’s apparent strength is an adaptive choice that all three of these films choose not to make: in the play, Lady Macbeth is originally the one who is going to kill Duncan, not Macbeth; however, her hand is stayed by the fact that Duncan’s sleeping visage reminds her too much of her father. This moment of empathy (or weakness, if you are as bloody-minded as she is) adds a degree of nuance to Lady Macbeth’s character and makes her an even better foil for Macbeth. She is able to screw her courage to its sticking point with far more ease than Macbeth, but when it comes time to actually take a life, it’s Macbeth who ultimately is able to do so (after a period of much mental tumultuousness). And once he’s killed Duncan he is set off on a bloody cascade where additional lives become a small toll to pay, whereas Lady Macbeth begins a mental spiral down the drain hole of guilt, unable to cope with the act she helped set in motion. Welles’ film, in addition to Kurosawa’s and Polanski’s, all forgo this moment, to varying results. The more straightforward interpretation of Lady Macbeth in this film, as well as the other two, isn’t necessarily a bad thing; she makes for arguably the most captivating screen presence in all three adaptations. But in this particular version, it does add to the feeling that, as Welles said, the film is more of a “bold charcoal sketch” of the play than a nuanced and finely detailed adaptation. As noted before, that particular boldness works extremely well with the expressive qualities of the film, but less so in the narrative. Welles’ portrayal of Macbeth is even more flattened, as he plays him less as the poetic warrior challenged by the weight of bloody succession, and more as a bleary-eyed drunk who rambles to himself. He doesn’t do a bad job, the largeness and innate flaws of the character flatter Welles’ acting style, but it’s immediately apparent that his performance here at times feels like the borrowed robes of Falstaff, a Shakespearean character that Welles would later embody far more comfortably and successfully. Borrowed robes or not, there is great artistry in Welles’ Macbeth, and were it not for the next two adaptations we’ll be discussing, it would likely be remembered as the greatest cinematic take on the play. Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood (1957) Akira Kurosawa had planned to make his adaptation of Macbeth earlier than he ended up (it was initially planned as his follow up to Rashomon, 1950), but it was actually the news that Welles was making one of his own that led Kurosawa to hold off until 1957. Had Kurosawa made Throne of Blood when he originally intended, there would have been little conflict. Throne of Blood makes far more liberal changes to the structure of the play than Welles’ adaptation did, and as a result, the two movies stand entirely apart. Kurosawa’s adaptation doesn’t begin with the three witches, or even Macbeth or Banquo riding together after successfully routing an insurrection, but with a chorus of sorts, incanting a bleak song about man’s ambition while the visuals depict a fog-enshrouded shrine to a castle that has fallen many years ago. In fact, the three witches aren’t even in Throne of Blood. Nor are Macbeth or Banquo, per se. That’s because Kurosawa didn’t make a straightforward adaptation of Macbeth, but rather relocated the story to feudal Japan, jettisoning the language and major plot points entirely. The broad strokes and themes are still there, of course, and many of the major characters are more or less as we expect (Macbeth has become Washizu, Lady Macbeth has become Lady Asaji, and Banquo has become Miki, for example), but there are significant deviations from the source material outside of the linguistics or temporal changes, the chorus being one of them. Many Shakespeare adaptations have relocated or modernized The Bard’s work (Kurosawa himself would do it twice more with Hamlet becoming The Bad Sleep Well, 1960, and King Lear becoming Ran, 1985), but few –if any– have been as successful as Throne of Blood. Despite some of the drastic changes to the story, Throne of Blood deeply understands the fatalistic themes of the play, and all its changes are used to reinforce its own interpretation of them. In many ways, it is as ironclad a piece of storytelling as Shakespeare’s original. Back to the chorus; the chorus is an invention of Throne of Blood, but it’s not merely a mood setter (although the eerie fog and disembodied voices do perfectly set the mood for us) but is actually the first domino knocked over in what eventually clarifies as a structural trap which codifies the themes of inevitable doom that humanity brings upon itself. I say humanity, and not Macbeth, because the chorus makes it clear that it is the ambitions of man in general that bring about ruin, not just the acts of a lone individual; this is an early example of the crushing nihilism that would characterize much of Kurosawa’s later work, and Macbeth was a perfect vehicle for it. The structure that the chorus sets up is circular, for the film both opens and closes with it, and there are other signifiers of the film folding in on itself as well; the early sequence of the King Duncan figure, Lord Tsuzuki, receiving battlefield updates from runners imparting news of the invasion –each new report separated by a screen wipe– prefigures a sequence near the end of the film of Lord Washizu receiving similar news, filmed in the same way. The structural ouroboros elegantly encapsulates the themes of Macbeth, as it represents both the inevitability of Washizu’s fate, and the cyclicality with which violence begets violence, or as Macbeth himself states in Act 3 Scene 4: “blood will have blood”. Washizu betrays his Lord, and when he becomes Lord he too is betrayed. This never ending cycle of violence is furthered by another adaptive choice of Kurosawa: it is noted that Washzu’s predecessor, Lord Tsuzuki, also rose to his post by slaying his former lord. Throne of Blood is not about one man’s moral and mental descent after engaging in wrongful murder, but is about mankind’s penchant for self-serving, and ultimately ruinous, ambition. There is also even less question than in Welles’ adaptation as to the role free will plays. The very structure of the film traps Washizu in its inescapable spiral, and the omniscient chorus from the very opening brings about a sense of inevitability to his fate. Lady Asaji’s character has also been greatly expanded compared to Lady Macbeth in such a way that Washizu is made to feel like he has no choice but to inexorably march down the bloody path that will bring about his demise…but more on her later. Because the film is not a straightforward adaptation of Macbeth, Kurosawa made liberal excisions to the narrative. For example, Lord Tsuzuki only has one son rather than two, there isn’t really a Ross character, and, most notably, there isn’t a MacDuff. This last omission is the most critical to this adaptation, as it results in an entirely different climax from the one-on-one duel of swordsman fueled by vengeance that punctuates the original story. The only prophecy Washizu receives about his impending defeat pertains to the woods coming to the castle, as there is no “no man of woman born” to do the deed. In Macbeth, most of Macbeth’s Thanes flee the castle or join the other side, but in Throne of Blood Washizu’s army stays within the castle walls, ready to fight until the prophecy of the woods closing in on them comes to pass. Suddenly, they realize that Washizu’s boasts of victory are hollow and are ready to turn on him in an instant. Rather than dueling with swords, the archers below send volley after volley of arrows at Washizu (using real arrows, in one of the greatest stunt sequences in film) until a killing blow is finally struck. It’s not as traditionally satisfying as the duel in Macbeth, where a character is able to right some heinous wrongs in single combat against the man who wrought them, but it is just as (if not more) striking on film. As mentioned earlier, having Washizu’s own men kill him rather than an enemy invader (even if MacDuff was a former ally) completes the film’s circular structure. Visually, Throne of Blood, like Welles’ Macbeth before it, is a unique blend of pure cinema and stagebound origins. This time around, rather than reflecting western stage productions in its bare sets, Throne of Blood’s use of empty space, expressionistic makeup, and heightened performance, harks back to Japan’s own Noh stage tradition. Though the methods are different, the result is similar to what Welles achieved; the blend of stage techniques in front of the camera and intensely cinematic use of the camera (and editing), results in an eerie and evocative texture to the film that draws out emotion and subtext through purely visual means. The technique is especially powerful here because Kurosawa’s dialogue isn’t Shakespeare’s poetry, so by doubling down on the visuals, his adaptation exists more squarely in the cinematic tradition. Kurosawa isn’t tied down to figuring out how to visually render soliloquies, and his dialogue scenes are much more truncated in general. And though Kurosawa also employs a minimalist visual style for the film, it’s clear he had a much larger budget to work with than Welles, and he put it to good use. The full size Spider-Web Castle facade he built on the slopes of Mount Fuji is awesome in its imposing size, and the actual location’s black soil and fog-enshrouded slopes adds a hellish and ethereal atmosphere of the film that would be difficult to replicate on a studio set (though Kurosawa managed to do so for the castle interiors, importing tons Mount Fuji’s black soil to make it as seamless as possible). Despite the heightened Noh influence to the visual design of the film (even pulling the terrifying forest spirit which replaces the three witches, and its equally unnerving song, directly from a Noh play), there is a greater sense of reality to Throne of Blood than Welles’ Macbeth. Nothing feels artificial, and even the camerawork (though no less impressive) calls less attention to itself than the expressionist angles and long, flowing shots that Welles employed. The best visual moments in the film are inventions of Kurosawa’s to express what the Shakespearean dialogue otherwise would have, but in purely cinematic terms. After Washizu and Miki encounter the forest spirit and receive their prophecies, they get lost in a thick bank of fog on their way back to the castle. The scene seems to last for an eternity, or at least well past the point in which most directors would have figured it served its purpose; there is no dialogue, and the scene is comprised purely of Washizu and Miki riding back and forth through nearly identical shots of impenetrable fog. But the maddening tedium of the sequence is key to its brilliance, in that it is a wholly visual way to depict the mental fog that Washizu and Miki are experiencing following their encounter with the spirit, and it forces the audience to spend time with the characters to wonder if they will ever be able to find their way out, both literally and figuratively. Later, after Lady Asaji has convinced Washizu of killing Lord Tsuzuki, she quietly and slowly shuffles into a pitch black doorway before returning, facing the camera now, moments later holding a bowl of drugged sake. It’s a chilling image, both because of her unnatural movements and because the doorway has been transformed into a void where she returns full with the intent to murder. By this point in the film, we have already gotten a sense of Lady Asaji’s character, but this shot visually encapsulates her essence and the depths to which the narrative will go. While Lady Asaji still shares many of the core scenes and traits as Lady Macbeth (she still convinces Washizu to kill his Lord, she still succumbs to her guilt, and in a fit of madness tries to wash invisible blood off her hands), she is depicted as unambiguously manipulative, and her calm demeanor and slow movements render her even more terrifying than the spirit. Her role as an active agent within the story has been greatly expanded beyond just prompting Washizu to murder Lord Tsuzuki, however. Asaji masterfully manipulates Washizu, presenting each subsequent killing as a necessary action. Washizu must, for example, kill Tsuzuki because he’s not a kind ruler like Duncan was in Macbeth, but was a traitorous warlord who only got his post by killing his own predecessor. If Washizu doesn’t kill him, then he himself will be taken out. And then Asaji convinces him to kill his friend Miki, rather than announce Miki’s son as the heir as a token of gratitude (since Washizu has no children of his own). But Asaji tells Washizu that she is pregnant, and if he doesn’t kill Miki then the spirit’s prophecy of Miki’s children inheriting the castle will come true. By weaving Asaji throughout the story as a more active agent Kurosawa creates more dramatic tension. She is a dynamic and expressive external source for Washizu to deliberate and argue with, which is more cinematic than wrestling with his inner thoughts. Of course, this renders Washizu a more passive character than Macbeth, but his passivity only strengthens Kurosawa’s thematic interpretation of the story being one in which Washizu is utterly trapped by external forces. The representations of these characters are not as nuanced as those of the source material, but their star interpretations match the Noh mask expressions that the actors and makeup convey; it’s a theatrical choice that, like so many in this film, trades on the broadly emotive visual qualities that come through so strikingly on film. Roman Polanski’s Macbeth (1971) Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Macbeth was the first film he made following the slaughter of his wife and unborn child at the hands of the Manson cult. Much significance has been made of that fact, and it’s difficult to separate the horrible story from the overwhelmingly dismal and violent film that Polanski directed; the horrible slaughter of Macduff’s family is often cited in particular as reflecting that event. In any case, whether Polanski intended the project to be a reflection of the Manson murders or not, his adaptation of Macbeth remains the bleakest and bloodiest of all the bleak and bloody adaptations. What’s more, Polanski’s rendition is also one of the most accurate to the text of the play, certainly among the three being discussed here. And yet, despite remaining extremely faithful to the text of the play, Polanski’s film is no less cinematic than the others, nor is it devoid of creative license; in fact, the areas in which the film and play diverge is entirely realized through cinematic terms, rather than through any core changes to the dialogue or narrative. The brilliance of Polanski’s interpretation of the play is that it mines fresh, yet logically sourced, interpretations of characters and their motivations through contextual visual details in the scene while remaining faithful to what the characters actually say in Shakespeare’s text. An early example of this is that a mistrustful rivalry is established between Malcolm, one of Duncan’s two sons, and Macbeth, through the characters eyeing one another disdainfully (Donalbaine, Duncan’s other son –given a hunchback in this version– also eyes Malcolm with envy, a detail that is crucial to this film’s ending) as Malcolm is named Prince of Cumberland, heir to the throne. This fleeting setup leads to a crucial narrative moment later on: during a party Macbeth has hosted for Duncan, Lady Macbeth attempts to (verbally) screw her husband’s courage to its sticking point, as she is wont to do. Her attempts seem to be failing until Macbeth runs into Malcolm, who shoves his chalice in Macbeth’s face for a humiliating refill and utters a simple, condescending “hail, Thane of Cawdor”. His remark cuts at Macbeth’s readily apparent jealousy at Malcolm for being promoted. Following this dressing down, Macbeth returns to Lady Macbeth with his courage fully screwed, so to speak. These marginal visual moments entirely recontextualize not just the moment of decision itself (as written in the play it is entirely between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth), but add new layers to the characters that reverberate through the rest of the play. It is less a radical reinterpretation of the play, as Throne of Blood is, than a creative coloring inside the lines –lines that Welles’ charcoal sketch version of the play left deliberately unfilled. The best example of the subtle visual recontextualization Polanski achieved is with the character of Ross. In the play, he is a fairly minor supporting character, a cousin to MacDuff who is mostly used to deliver exposition and illustrate the growing suspicion, and later abandonment, of Macbeth after he steals the throne. He’s such a minor character that the previous two films we looked at didn’t even include his character. Polanski, however, latches on to the fact that Ross sticks around on Macbeth’s side slightly longer than some of the other characters, who flee immediately and turns him into a full-blown Machiavellian opportunist and remorseless sociopath. The kicker? This is achieved without any major invented dialogue for the character, and is done entirely visually. Ross is often seen shrewdly lingering in the background of scenes, clearly considering the changing political circumstances around him, and Polanski places him in scenes where he was not expressly mentioned before (such as being used to dispatch two lowly criminals after Macbeth has them murder Banquo). An even more canny use of the original text through this new character interpretation is built from the scene in which MacDuff’s family is slaughtered under orders from Macbeth. In the play, Ross visits MacDuff’s wife and attempts to dissuade her from condemning her husband of cowardice for fleeing to England following Duncan’s murder, and then exits before Macbeth’s arrive to slaughter MacDuff’s family. Polanski’s film connects the dots between the sequential nature of the events to arrive at a far more powerful rendition of the scene. This version plays out the same way, except that, on his way out of the castle, Ross visually acknowledges Macbeth’s executioners and allows them into the castle. That Ross facilitates the slaughter of his own relatives, moments after appearing to comfort them, and shortly before switching sides to deliver the “sad” news of the slaughter to MacDuff himself, adds a chilling dimension to the character that transforms his role from a largely expository one to a fascinating support role that expands upon the themes of treacherous murder, boundless ambition, and the darkness at the center of humanity. As previously mentioned, Donalbaine (Duncan’s other son) is also subject to some brief and crucial development. Once again, in the play the character was very minor — which is why Welles’ Macbeth and Throne of Blood both streamlined their films to only have the one son — but Polanski chose to add some visual interpretations that add new dimensions to the story. The fact that this Donalbaine is a hunchback provides ample illumination for the character’s apparent jealousy of Malcolm, even if it isn’t explicitly mentioned in the film at all. The biggest alteration to the original story (all visually still, of course) involves Donalbaine, who, at the very end of the film, in an invented scene, rides out alone to the witches’ home. Without any additional dialogue, this new coda becomes a grim prophecy, every bit as cyclical as Throne of Blood, and perhaps even bleaker, as we can be assured that Donalbaine is seeking his own future that will assuredly result in the murder of his own brother to satisfy his ambition, and its own bloody downward spiral of death and madness to compliment it. While Polanski’s film is largely ambiguous as to whether Macbeth’s will or the witches’ powers are controlling events, this ending (along with other signals such as Ross’ new character traits, or brief moments like the gleeful blood-lust of the reclaiming soldiers as they mount Macbeth’s severed head on a spear) at the very least suggests that man’s inherent desire for violence and power is a symbiotic relationship with the witches’ power, each reinforcing the other. Beyond the character moments, there are numerous visual motifs that further reflect Polanski’s fatalistic worldview. At the beginning of the film, after their incantation, the three witches bury three objects in the sand: a severed arm, a dagger, and a noose. The arm represents the man (Macbeth), the dagger the murder, and the noose is the man’s eventual death. The noose, in particular, is a recurring motif to signify the inescapable doom that will befall Macbeth, even before he meets with the witches. Our very introduction to his character is lined with treasonous soldiers being hanged behind him at a gallows. At another point, after Macbeth murders Duncan, he hoists a bucket from a well to wash the bloody deed from his hands — however, when he walks away from the well, the rope and hook the bucket was attached to sways ominously in the foreground, looking all the world like a noose ensnaring the doomed Macbeth. On the subject of visuals, this adaptation of Macbeth is the first of the three to leave the stage entirely behind and fully embrace a real world setting. Lots of location filming, period-accurate production and costume designs, and heaps and heaps of mud, rain, blood, fog, and filth, all captured in deep focus, widescreen compositions, create an immersive world that better reflects the more nuanced and human approach to the material. The irony, of course, is that the film that is closest to the text of the play ends up feeling the least theatrical, but even the dialogue readings are often cast off in underplayed, occasionally mumbled, “realistic” performances that paradoxically make the Shakespearean language easier to understand. This dedication to realism gives the film an immediacy that the stylization of Welles’ and Kurosawa’s films eschewed in favor of a more expressive, at times even operatic, flavor to embolden their more simplified textual adaptations. Polanski’s screenplay was co-written by theater critic and writer Kenneth Tynan, who no doubt acted as a reliable font of knowledge in regards to the Shakespearian text, and why this film’s linguistic and narrative alterations are far more seamless than the cumbersome editorial hand that Welles dealt his own. The emphasis on character nuance and realism, of course, extends to Polanski’s, and actors John Finch’s and Francesca Annis’, interpretations of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is a far more nuanced and human interpretation of the character than the master manipulators of the other films. In the aforementioned scene in which Lady Macbeth attempts to convince Macbeth to go through with the murder of Duncan, she pleads with him through tear-filled eyes and seemingly fails to convince him until his brief confrontation with Malcolm re-ignites the flames of his murderous ambition. This contrast between her strength, her unswerving willingness to commit murder to further her and her husband’s role in the Kingdom, and her humanity makes the performance a fascinating one, even if it is not as immediately indelible as the commanding fury of Jeanette Nolan or the icy calm of Isuzu Yamada. To further cement this more conflicted, sympathetic take on the character, Polanski and Tynan opted to cut an incredibly harsh line she delivers while trying to enlist Macbeth’s help in the bloody coup: “I have given suck, and know how tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me. I would, while it was smiling in my face, have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this” (Act 1 Scene 7). That line is Lady Macbeth’s ultimate expression of her dedication to her cause, even if she has inner turmoil, but in his film Polanski decided to portray the inner turmoil as an exteriorized softening of her acrid strength. That being said, she is still the same manipulative character of the play who prods Macbeth along and questions his manhood, there is no radical reinvention of her character at play, but she is dragged down into the muck and mire of humanity from the pantheon of larger than life characters. Finch’s Macbeth is even less dramatic of a reading of the character, playing his Macbeth as perhaps less self-assured and more spontaneously driven by his rash impulses than others have treated the role. He cuts a particularly unsympathetic figure in the role, as his jealousy-fueled ambition comes across as if he would have eventually usurped the throne regardless of his encounter with the witches. Despite being more unlikable of a character, he does a fine job in the role, coming through authentically and bringing a nervous energy that barely hides the seething danger that lingers just beneath the surface. Finch doesn’t quite have the imposing physicality of a great warrior that Welles and Mifune were so credible as, being both young and slight of build, but I find that only contributes to his “snake in the grass” portrayal. Besides, one only has to view the great swordplay between Macbeth and MacDuff’s invading forces, and the scrappy and exhilarating duel with MacDuff himself, to buy into Finch’s Macbeth as a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. Polanski’s film doesn’t sport the boldly expressive visual stylings that Welles brought to his film, or the radical and elegant reinterpretations of Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood, but as a straight adaptation of Shakespeare’s text to the film there is no better effort than this. It remains remarkably true to its theatrical origins while never betraying itself as a work for the silver screen, a difficult balancing act that it manages with aplomb. I might not go so far as to argue that it’s the best film of the three (Throne of Blood is a difficult film to top), but it is certainly the best straight-up adaptation of Macbeth. There are multitudes of further comparisons between the films that warrant further closer inspection, but out of consideration for waning attention spans and weary eyes, I think we’ve come to a logical conclusion. Each film is a microcosm for the act of adaptation on its own, and when taken as a whole we are able to observe how different choices can have a ripple effect that results in a vastly different take on the same material. While some changes are more successful than others, the individuality of each film’s holistic approach is no more valid than the others. Welles’ expressionist “charcoal sketch” of film, Kurosawa’s nihilistic Noh take, and Polanski’s grimy and dismal realism each accent the original text in ways that reveal the richness, and deficiencies, of each. The overall strength and varied nature of these three adaptations, to say nothing of the power of Shakespeare’s work, are what make Macbeth such a great case study for an examination of the act of adaptation. In years to come there may be more Macbeths that will join the ranks of the three I have highlighted here (one can hope, anyway), that will only serve to strengthen the adaptive union between the silver screen and Shakespeare’s text. Until then…when the hurlyburly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won.
This mouse is quite old at this point having been released back in 2017, and was pretty underrated even at the time. I'm currently clearing a backlog of old "to-reviews" having nothing else to do at the moment, on the off-chance that some of you might find this interesting. QUICK SUMMARY (TLDR): The ROG Strix Evolve is based on an interesting concept - an ambidextrous shape with modular top shells that allow it to be more ergonomic for either left- or right-handers (as well as high/low profile for people who prefer ambidextrous shapes). It's implemented well enough, although the degree of customization isn't very dramatic. The sensor performs well, but the mouse is held back by what is possibly the worst braided cable to ever exist. Overall build quality is good, and the materials feel durable. Medium sized mouse recommended for all grip styles in the 17-19cm size range (roughly). https://preview.redd.it/ut7hdha0eiu41.jpg?width=4160&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=27bbbfd746cd519b3bc7dc6dcd188872872a3bcc Specs:
7200 CPI (steps of 50)
150 IPS maximum tracking speed
Integrated IR illumination
100g w/o cable
Omron 50M (D2FC-F-K 50M)
BASIC INFORMATION: I have 19x9cm hands, using fingertip grip and the G PRO Wireless as my main. Preference for lighter mice, and 65cm/360 sensitivity in-game (800 CPI/0.8).
Shape and Ergonomics
The mouse has an ambidextrous shape, which is overall pretty neutral (fitting in with the modular aspect of it). The width flares out towards the back and is narrower towards the grip width, getting very subtly wider again towards the front of the mouse. https://preview.redd.it/7e6qjyb4eiu41.jpg?width=4160&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=fb16daa18bca81534693e7905b5326e944aa9306 The sides are angled inwards towards the bottom which makes the mouse easy to grip - the angle isn't extreme, and shouldn't be uncomfortable for anyone. https://preview.redd.it/fccly2v7eiu41.jpg?width=4160&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=f2eb2de6251f5bebfc26ba9f33f8988442ad951b The mouse's hump isn't prominent, and located slightly behind the middle of the mouse - like the rest of the shape it's very neutral, and it's position and prominence can change slightly depending on what shell you have on. https://preview.redd.it/rzfsgod9eiu41.jpg?width=3120&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=e4fbc11be2b34ab6966115060f421d28cd38595d Asus used many different materials on the Strix Evolve - the body of the mouse is constructed of a textured, matte black plastic that feels slightly rough to the touch (although your hand shouldn't touch any of this). The side grips are a grippy rubber, textured in ROG's geometric Mayan-style patterning for grip. They work excellently with dry hands, although any amount of moisture causes them to get a little more slippery. The top shells are a smooth, matte coating with extremely fine, satin finish (smooth, but not glossy), with the middle shell (the top of the base mouse) is a translucent plastic to diffuse the lighting. https://preview.redd.it/jm2o6odbeiu41.jpg?width=3120&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=d01f13dbfe57e19dddc1047f6409034748020b00 The biggest draw of the mouse is the modular top shells, and disappointingly they don't offer as much customization as I hoped. While the mouse feels different, it's still defined mostly by the mainly ambidextrous shape, with the tilt of the top shell making only a small difference in that regard. The high-profile shell also causes the click to feel mushier due to the increased thickness which dampens the tactility from the switches. The ROG Strix Evolve, then, is in an awkward spot - it's not as good as purely ambidextrous or purely ergonomic mice, but is rather something sort-of in the middle. The shells clip on in halves, with each half getting two shells (high and low profile). You're free to combine the four shells in whatever configuration you want: https://preview.redd.it/i1d796oceiu41.png?width=806&format=png&auto=webp&s=2ae4d86e12e19b673b74ee4fd0d7be13076aa5cc Removing the shells is a pretty easy process - they're held in with a combination of magnets and clips, and to put them in you align the back and push down on the front. The shell snaps in with a click, and to remove them all it takes is a fingernail at the back of the shell and a quick tug upwards.
Buttons, feet and cable
The main buttons on the Evolve are okay at best. There's not much pre- or post-travel which is good, but the tactility and snappiness feels lackluster - they're not terrible, but nothing particularly special either. It gets worse if you use the high-profile shells, which causes the clicks to become noticeably mushier (a problem for those who are using any configuration other than low-profile ambidextrous). The switches are the Chinese-made Omron 50M (D2FC-F-K). SOUND TEST (Low-profile M2 ------- high-profile M1) Sound tests are meant to be a guide only, they'll sound different on all setups and volumes. The side buttons are another aspect where the Evolve falls a bit short. Having buttons on both sides is a long-standing issue for ambidextrous mice - Razer deals with it by having the buttons extremely flat, and Logitech solves the issue entirely with modular side buttons. Asus chose to make the side buttons really stiff, which makes it pretty much impossible to accidentally actuate them but also makes pressing them on the thumb side take more effort. The silver lining is that they have an excellent snap, and the tactility is crisp and pronounced. SOUND TEST (M4 ------- M5) The scroll wheel is using an ALPS 24-step mechanical encoder, and it feels great - the steps are tactile, but scrolls smoothly from one to another without a ratcheting, "stuck" feeling. The texture on the wheel is grippy, and has the same pattern as the side grips. Wheel click is on the stiffer side but not too bad, with crisp feedback. SOUND TEST (Scroll down ------- scroll up ------- scroll click) The sound was amplified by the recording, it's a lot more quiet in real life. The CPI button is pretty generic - no wobble (which is nice) and crisp actuation. It's quite loud though (louder than the main buttons for some reason). It also gets actuated when swapping the shells even if the button itself isn't touched, so keep that in mind if you somehow want to change the mouse tops in-game. SOUND TEST (CPI button) The feet are plain black PTFE. They're a little on the slower side at first, but break in pretty quickly, and the glide is smooth probably on account of the rounded lip they have around the edges (sorry for the scratches in the photo, this was after surface testing). https://preview.redd.it/wntohiokeiu41.jpg?width=3120&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=43cc66cabf2439324a24820597812247684a9b7f The cable is easily the biggest negative of this mouse - it's a braided cable that's stiff to the point of pretty much being unusable, and one of the few cables that are horrid even in a mouse bungee. It's like Asus snipped bits of a suspension bridge off and attached them to a mouse. You can push the 100g mouse along with it from a good 20cm back without the cable bending much at all - it's actually pretty ridiculous how stiff this thing is. If you intend to use this mouse at all seriously, debraiding or paracording is nearly mandatory.
Moving onto performance, this mouse is using Pixart's PMW-3330 optical sensor, which is a stripped-down version of the 3360 in terms of specs. My impression of the sensor in-game is positive - there was nothing wrong with it that I could notice, and for all intents and purposes it might as well be a 3360 as far as real world performance goes. Below are results of sensor testing:
Angle snapping: None
Smoothing: Nothing noticeable below about 2000 CPI
No issues here - the mouse is solidly build (the walls seem to use pretty thick plastic, which is probably also why it weighs 100g), with no creaks or flexing in the sides. The buttons don't have any wobble (being attached to the shell), but there is some slight flex when you push backwards on the buttons. No rattles when shaking the mouse, and the scroll wheel is set securely with no wobble.
The Strix Evolve uses ROG Armoury II for customization - installation is quick and easy, with no hitches along the way (although it doesn't detect the device unless you run it in Administrator mode). The software itself is themed in ROG's black and red style, and offers a wealth of options for the user to tweak. The landing page gives you options to rebind each of the Strix's eight buttons, and you have the option to save up to three profiles to the mouse's on-board memory. The "Performance" tab allows you to set two CPI steps (bad luck to users who may need more, you'll need them on a separate profile), adjust polling rate, angle snapping and acceleration. There's also a slider for "button response", which I take to mean debounce delay rather than outright latency which doesn't make much sense. There's another tab for lighting, where you can choose the illumination effect, colous and brightness level. The last tab is dedicated to surface calibration - Asus takes a unique approach here of offering a wide variety of surfaces beyond their own mousepads, with glass, metal and plastic being pre-calibrated as part of the available selection. I don't know what surfaces these settings were calibrated for exactly, but there wasn't a large difference I could notice switching from one to another. LOD can be chosen from low, medium and high. I didn't test the macro functionality in detail, but Asus does allow you to record an unlimited amount of commands with both inputs from the keyboard and mouse registered by Armoury, and after that's done your sequence can be assigned to a mouse button. I'm also uncertain as to whether these save to on-board memory, but macros in general usually don't. The software itself is intuitively laid out and offers a wealth of customization including features which weren't so common at the time (debounce adjustment, for example). I didn't really have a problem with it, but it's quite a process hog so not something you want to leave running constantly (and I recommend unchecking it from your list of start-up programs where it ends up by default). There were also issues with uninstalling it, with the software obstinately declaring itself "still running" even after it was axed by Task Manager.
The Asus ROG Strix Evolve takes modularity and tries to make it practical, but the resulting mouse becomes something of a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. It's not terrible, but not particularly great either (something which can be applied to pretty much all of its aspects.) Performance-wise it's pretty average in today's market, and some minor issues with performance paired with mediocre software makes it difficult to recommend in the face of other options. That being said, the materials are high quality and the mouse is well built, so it deserves a nod for that. Overall rating: 6/10
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