Don't Be A Basic Bench: A Comprehensive Introductory Guide
Hello everyone! In an effort to keep the subreddit and its wiki filled with good and useful information, we are compiling guides for the main lifts (deadlift, squat, bench, potentially others). These guides will be added to the wiki and posted as posts as they are completed. The goal of these guides is to provide basic lift information, descriptions of some common variations, equipment considerations, related and complimentary exercises, additional resources for further reading, and to showcase incredible women (and non-binary folks) performing these lifts. This is the second entry in this lift series. Check out the first entry, The Deadlift Guide in the FAQ! If you have suggestions regarding things that should be added to these guides, or other subjects you'd like to see in the wiki, please message the mods!
The Bench Press
Bench Press Form and Variations
The main muscle group worked by the bench press is the pectoralis major, which is the largest muscle in the chest area. The pectoralis major muscle has two sections that are named for the bones they attach to – the sternal portion attaches to the breast bone and makes up the bulk of the muscle fibers, making up the middle and lower section; the clavicular portion attaches to the collarbone and is the more superior (upper) portion. The bench press also heavily involves the triceps (back of the upper arm), and recruits the deltoid muscles (shoulder), and pectoralis minor to lesser extents. I’ll first be discussing the form for a standard, flat, “neutral/wide” grip bench press. Variations on this will be discussed below it. This guide is written for barbell bench pressing, but all of these variations can be performed with dumbbells as well. Flat bench – the standard/”default” bench press Start out flat on the bench with bar directly over your eyes (with spotter) or over your nose/mouth (without spotter), feet flat, butt and upper back planted firmly on the bench. Arching of the lumbar spine is normal, fine, and absolutely legal in lifting competitions. Scapulas (shoulderblades) should be retracted or “pinched together” to provide both a stable flat surface for your upper back to settle on the bench, and to minimize undue tension on your shoulder joints. Retracting your scapulae will also puff your chest up and put your shoulders in a safer position for the lift. The bar should rest in the heel of your palm so that it is stacked above the wrist, forearm, and elbows through the lift. A slight internal rotation of the hands will help with this positioning and will angle your elbows out slightly. For a standard flat bench press, your hands will be a bit further apart than shoulder width – about 1.5-2x shoulder width is the average position – position your hands so that your forearms will be almost completely perpendicular to the floor at the bottom of the lift. Retract your scapulae (as if you’re trying to pick up a pencil off the bench between them), keep actively pushing your chest up, take in a big belly breath, and hold it before pushing the bar away from the rack and locking out at the elbows. Bring the bar down your torso so that it is directly over the line of your shoulders – this is likely going to be about the level of the middle of your sternum or your nipple line, but may vary depending on your individual anatomy and the degree of arching your back is doing. The bar should be directly above your elbows at all times during the movement of the lift. This not only increases stability during the lift, but also prevents undue stress on your triceps or your shoulders. It also is the most efficient configuration for using the majority of the muscle fibers within the pectoralis major. Speaking of efficiency in recruiting pectoral muscle fibers, let’s talk about arching your back during a bench press. This is a faux controversy like “sumo deadlifting is cheating” – the claim is that an arch will significantly decrease the range of motion for the bar, making the lift “easier”. While the purpose of the arch is to slightly decrease the range of motion, it also makes the lift safer at the bottom of the movement, which is the riskiest for your shoulder joints. It also serves to recruit more of your pectoral muscle fibers to the lift – this should increase the amount of weight one can lift and impact muscle growth when the goal is hypertrophy. Degree of arching is going to be up to personal preference and anatomy, but some degree of arch is natural and normal. Check out the natural position of the spine and you can see that the lumbar spine (lower back) has a natural forward curve (lordosis) which helps with loadbearing since we’re just hairless upright apes. An arch during bench press may be anywhere from your normal lumbar spine position to an exaggeration of your body’s natural lordosis. As you lower the bar, keep tension in your upper body by trying to “break the bar in half” or “rip the bar apart” until it touches your mid-to-lower sternum (depending on anatomy and degree of arch). After a touch (and brief pause, if you’re powerlifting), push the bar back upwards and slightly backwards towards your face to lockout. You can now exhale that big belly breath you’ve been holding for the duration of the rep.
Stronger by Science also has a very in depth How To Bench article. It is more in depth than this guide intends to be, and definitely worth a read. It also covers the anatomy and physics behind the bench press – things you should be interested in if your goal is to move weight safely (even if your goal does not necessarily involve moving a lot of weight).
Dumbbell bench: These are not only great when you aren’t yet able to use the barbell, but also for correcting muscle imbalances and general strength improvements that can translate into a barbell bench press. These also have more flexibility with grip positioning – if a barbell bench press irritates your shoulders, consider trying dumbbell bench press with a neutral grip (the dumbbells will be parallel to your body instead of perpendicular). Dumbbell bench press also allows for an increased range of motion, developing small stabilizer muscles in the upper body, and can be used to correct muscle imbalances.
Incline bench – performed with the bench angled about 15-30 degrees up from parallel to the floor. As you change the bench to a more upright position, the front shoulder muscle (anterior deltoids) will become more involved in the lift compared to lower degrees of incline and flat bench. The purpose of incline benching is to recruit more shoulder involvement and also more of the upper (clavicular) parts of the pectoralis major muscles. Bar will still track to be over your shoulders, about the nipple line/mid sternum. Grip width just wider than shoulder width so forearms will be completely perpendicular to the floor at the lowest point of the press.
Decline bench: There are benches and racks specifically for decline benching. If you only have access to a flat bench, you can potentially “make” your own decline by elevating the foot end of the bench. If you do this, make sure it’s very stable before trying the lift. The benefit of a decline bench is to utilize the lower portions of the sternal portion of the pecs more, and also decrease the amount of involvement of shoulder muscles. If you have a shoulder injury but are still cleared to lift, this can be a better option for you than a flat or incline bench press. In this position, the barbell will be over the lower part of your breast bone (sternum) and will touch the chest lower than in a flat or incline bench press.
Close grip bench: As the name suggests, this bench press variation has a more narrow grip width than standard or wide grip bench press. The purpose for this positioning is to increase the involvement of the triceps muscles during the lift. Proper grip width for this is over the shoulder joints – too narrow of a grip can internally rotate the shoulder joint which can lead to strain and injury. In this variation, the bar will touch your chest even lower than a decline or flat bench press – the bottom of the movement should still have your forearms perpendicular to the floor, with the wrists and bar stacked over the elbows.
Supinated/reverse grip bench: This variation can be very challenging, especially as weights increase. The benefit to supinating your hands so that the palm is facing your chin during the bench press is to reduce strain on the shoulders. It can be challenging to keep the bar in the fleshy part of your hands without dropping the bar on your face. Definitely practice with an empty bar or light dumbbells.
Floor press: Not just an exercise for when the benches are all occupied. Floor press is good in its own right or as an accessory for bench press. Set up is basically the same as a flat bench press, but you’re on the floor. Personally I prefer to have my knees bent and my feet flat, but one could also keep the legs flat out and completely remove lower body involvement/drive. These are especially great with dumbbells for folks with shoulder pain or issues, because you can use a neutral grip. These can help with lockout strength at the top of the bench press as well as if your sticking point on bench press is on the ascent.
Larsen press: The set up for the Larsen press is identical to a standard flat bench press. The biggest difference is that once you unrack the weight and have the bar over your chest, the feet are lifted off the ground, either straight out or resting on something else at the heel (toes up). “This forces athletes to really focus on maintaining their upper back tightness without the feet and legs compensating for poor bar path, set positioning, and inadequate force displacement.” The biggest benefit to this variation is to force the lifter to maintain a tight upper back during the bench press, though it also serves as a way to increase relative intensity/difficulty of the exercise without adding more weight to the bar.
Helpful Bench Press Cues
Try to “break the bar” while pushing it away from you. Imagine it is a big long dry spaghetti noodle and you are trying to turn it into two pieces of spaghetti by snapping it away from you. This will help engage your upper body muscles and ensure that your upper back is tight and flat, promoting a safer and more stable lift.
Grip the bar very hard, with special focus on gripping hard with your pinkies. This can help engage your latissimus dorsi for the lift!
Stack the bar over your wrists over your elbows. This means your forearm will be perpendicular to the floor and the barbell and increases stability, improves form, and reduces undue strain on your shoulders and elbows.
Push yourself away from the bar and push your body down into the bench during the actual press portion (from the bottom back up to the top) of the lift. This will help keep your upper body muscles engaged appropriately and keep you in place on the bench.
For leg drive, plant your feet and apply force down on the floor and towards your head. This will help keep your upper back planted so long as you aren't slick and sweaty and keep optimal form and tightness through the lift.
Push ups –Push ups are basically the body weight exercise version of the bench press – the movement and position is very similar and translate well into bench press gains. Succeeding in bench press will benefit your push ups, and succeeding in push ups will benefit your bench press. The bodyweightfitness subreddit guide for pushups is excellent and goes over a suggested progression program if you are not yet able to do full push ups on your toes. Note also that you can do a narrow width diamond pushup to increase involvement of your triceps.
MegSquats also recently posted a “3 tips for push ups” post that several of our users have already mentioned as being helpful.
Svend/pinch press - a great accessory exercise for pectoral muscle growth, especially right in the middle along the sternum. You’ll be squeezing a plate or other weight between your hands at mid chest level and pushing the weight straight out away from your body – make sure you’re squeezing the weight through the whole motion. This can be done either standing upright or lying flat on your back (supine). The supine version recruits your triceps more, and the standing version recruits your anterior deltoid more.
Chest flies - another favorite chest accessory. These also hit the pectoralis minor, along with pectoralis major. These can help your bench press by increasing the strength of the pectoral muscles, but are also great for changing the aesthetics of your chest muscles. Flys can be performed flat or at an incline – like incline bench press vs flat, increasing the angle away from the ground will increase the involvement of the upper aspect of the pectoral muscles as well as the anterior deltoid muscles.
Cable crossoveiron cross: Very similar to chest flies, but you’re using the cable tower and performing these upright. These engage the core and abdominal muscles more, but are still primarily for strengthening the chest, shoulders, and triceps. The best part about cable flyes or cable crossovers is that you can adjust the height of the cables to target different aspects of your chest muscles – higher cable anchors target the lower pectoral fibers, middle (shoulder-ish) height target the middle fibers, especially along the sternum, and low cable anchor points target the upper pectoral muscle fibers.
Dips are challenging body weight exercises that can have either a chest or triceps focus. Essentially, these are vertical pushups – you will be suspended from a rack or pull up/dip ‘machine’. Start with your arms fully extended while you’re holding onto the handles. Bend your arms to lower your body, leaning forward slightly, until your shoulders are just below your elbows. Lift yourself back up while straightening your arms until you lock out at the top. You can also do bench dips which may be easier on your shoulders. Surprisingly good wikihow guide on bench dips.
Around the Worlds - an exercise for pectoral and shoulder muscle strength and development. Can be done supine or standing – supine will be a chest focus, while upright will be a shoulder focused movement (but don’t worry – both groups are definitely involved in both versions). Hold dumbbells or small weight plates with your palms facing forward throughout the motion. Start with your hands at your sides and, keeping elbows slightly bent, slowly move your arms away from your body like you’re making a snow angel until they are side by side over your head. Do the reverse movement to return to the starting position with the weights by your side – this is one rep.
Triceps Pushdowns are one of many triceps extension exercises that can help you get that stylish horseshoe muscle appearance, and improve your bench press. You can do triceps pushdowns with a cable tower, pull down station, or even resistance bands.
Triceps extensions encompass a wide variety of exercises aimed at isolating the triceps for hypertrophy (size) and strength.
Equipment, Tools, and Other Considerations
These items are not required to be successful in bench pressing, but can be beneficial to lifters that bench press at any skill or weight level.
Wrist wraps can help keep your wrists straight and supported during bench press. They can help keep the weight safely and evenly distributed through your wrist and thus through the entire forearm and elbow.
Slingshot: A device invented by powerlifter Mark Bell who can bench 545lbs without special tools and 854lbs “equipped”. It wraps around your elbows and can allow you to overload your bench press by “10-15%” with the help of elastic tension from the Slingshot. It can also be helpful in taking some of the stress off shoulders and elbows during a bench press but is NOT a substitute for proper form and safe lifting.
Blocks or boards - board pressing uses wooden boards or something like benchblokz between the bar and your chest during a bench press. This decreases the range of motion for the lift and can help lifters work through sticking points (relative weak points in the range of motion), which can lead to improved bench without tools (“raw”). Here’s another article, from elitefts on board pressing and its uses.
Why is it such an abysmal pain to use libraries in C++ compared to pretty much anything else?
I recently realized something that's been annoying me for so long
Type npm install 'library' in a shell on your project's directory.
How to add a library in C#:
Type dotnet add package 'library' in a shell on your project's directory.
How to add a library in Go:
Type go get 'library_link' in a shell.
How to add a library in Rust (And this is so "C++ is compiled" isn't an excuse):
Lookup the last version of the library.
Type 'library' = 'library_version' on your project file.
Restart your editor so the language server can get the symbols from the new library.
If you install cargo-edit you can alternatively just:
Type cargo add 'library' in a shell on your project's directory. cargo-edit will do everything for you.
How to add a library in C++:
Prepare two folders for header include files, and library binaries.
Append flags to your compiler to recognize them accordingly.
Investigate which way the library works, praying the documentation of that is actually good. ### If the library is header-only:
Add the header's required to your include path.
You should probably moduralize the code or spend 30 minutes setting up precompiled headers to avoid adding a lot to your compile times.
And also lower your warning level, because even if you put #pragmas around the headers editors probably wont recognize them. ### Else, if the library distributes its binaries:
Download the .lib or .a files from the last release and put them in your library folder.
Tell the compiler to link your libraries.
Put the downloaded header files in your include folder.
If the library needs a .dll, download it and paste it in the folder of your compiled executable. Distribute it with your shipped application.
If you want to keep your application as a single executable, or distribute less dependencies, or have no need for an installer, all perfectly valid reasons, library owners usually have a static version.
If they don't have a static version, spend an afternoon fighting the linker figuring out how to build the library yourself.
If you want the library to link against the static runtime, the step above is required as well.
Make sure to select the correct runtime library, or face really weird linker errors. ### If the library doesn't distribute its binaries:
Clone the repository of the library and figure out how to build it yourself. There's usually a tutorial so it's not that complicated.
Make sure to select the correct runtime library, or face really weird linker errors.
Do this for every platform you want to distribute in. ### If the library uses CMake ᵒʰ ᵍᵒᵈ ʷʰʸ:
You can choose two options: #### Use CMake too
Abandon your project's build system and spend days learning an entirely new language that everyone complains about
Probably suffer from a loss in build time #### Generate files for your compiler
Install CMake GUI
Learn how to use it and configure what you desire.
Alternatively, learn yet another command line tool, or a tiny bit of CMake syntax to change what you want.
Generate the files according to your platform and IDE.
Build the library with a bloated IDE, or alternatively research how to build it with the much less known and documented command line tools.
Make sure to select the correct runtime library, or face really weird linker errors. ### If you run into linker errors when running your program (and you will):
If it's an unresolved external symbol, most likely your library needs another dependency linked. Lookup the function's name, what library it belongs to, and link against that too.
If the unresolved function belongs to the standard library, you messed up. Compile the library again with the runtime library your compiler wants.
If it's something else, google the error code and spend 30 minutes staring at StackOverflow. # Just... why? Am I missing something? Am I stupid and doing everything wrong? I really hope that's the case so I can get back to programming instead of fighting the linker. Every single time I see I need a library I'm like "Oh fuck..." to the point sometimes I just don't bother and decide to write things myself. Sorry about the rant. I'm kinda tired. Do you all have any similar experiences with this? Any tips to ease on the pain a bit? Thank you.
No gods, no kings, only NOPE - or divining the future with options flows. [Part 2: A Random Walk and Price Decoherence]
tl;dr - 1) Stock prices move continuously because different market participants end up having different ideas of the future value of a stock. 2) This difference in valuations is part of the reason we have volatility. 3) IV crush happens as a consequence of future possibilities being extinguished at a binary catalyst like earnings very rapidly, as opposed to the normal slow way. I promise I'm getting to the good parts, but I'm also writing these as a guidebook which I can use later so people never have to talk to me again. In this part I'm going to start veering a bit into the speculation territory (e.g. ideas I believe or have investigated, but aren't necessary well known) but I'm going to make sure those sections are properly marked as speculative (and you can feel free to ignore/dismiss them). Marked as [Lily's Speculation]. As some commenters have pointed out in prior posts, I do not have formal training in mathematical finance/finance (my background is computer science, discrete math, and biology), so often times I may use terms that I've invented which have analogous/existing terms (e.g. the law of surprise is actually the first law of asset pricing applied to derivatives under risk neutral measure, but I didn't know that until I read the papers later). If I mention something wrong, please do feel free to either PM me (not chat) or post a comment, and we can discuss/I can correct it! As always, buyer beware. This is the first section also where you do need to be familiar with the topics I've previously discussed, which I'll add links to shortly (my previous posts: 1) https://www.reddit.com/thecorporation/comments/jck2q6/no_gods_no_kings_only_nope_or_divining_the_future/ 2) https://www.reddit.com/thecorporation/comments/jbzzq4/why_options_trading_sucks_or_the_law_of_surprise/ --- A Random Walk Down Bankruptcy A lot of us have probably seen the term random walk, maybe in the context of A Random Walk Down Wall Street, which seems like a great book I'll add to my list of things to read once I figure out how to control my ADD. It seems obvious, then, what a random walk means - when something is moving, it basically means that the next move is random. So if my stock price is $1 and I can move in $0.01 increments, if the stock price is truly randomly walking, there should be roughly a 50% chance it moves up in the next second (to $1.01) or down (to $0.99). If you've traded for more than a hot minute, this concept should seem obvious, because especially on the intraday, it usually isn't clear why price moves the way it does (despite what chartists want to believe, and I'm sure a ton of people in the comments will tell me why fettucini lines and Batman doji tell them things). For a simple example, we can look at SPY's chart from Friday, Oct 16, 2020: https://preview.redd.it/jgg3kup9dpt51.png?width=1368&format=png&auto=webp&s=bf8e08402ccef20832c96203126b60c23277ccc2 I'm sure again 7 different people can tell me 7 different things about why the chart shape looks the way it does, or how if I delve deeply enough into it I can find out which man I'm going to marry in 2024, but to a rationalist it isn't exactly apparent at why SPY's price declined from 349 to ~348.5 at around 12:30 PM, or why it picked up until about 3 PM and then went into precipitous decline (although I do have theories why it declined EOD, but that's for another post). An extremely clever or bored reader from my previous posts could say, "Is this the price formation you mentioned in the law of surprise post?" and the answer is yes. If we relate it back to the individual buyer or seller, we can explain the concept of a stock price's random walk as such:
Most market participants have an idea of an asset's truevalue (an idealized concept of what an asset is actually worth), which they can derive using models or possibly enough brain damage. However, an asset's value at any given time is not worth one value (usually*), but a spectrum of possible values, usually representing what the asset should be worth in the future. A naive way we can represent this without delving into to much math (because let's face it, most of us fucking hate math) is: Current value of an asset = sum over all (future possible value multiplied by the likelihood of that value)
In actuality, most models aren't that simple, but it does generalize to a ton of more complicated models which you need more than 7th grade math to understand (Black-Scholes, DCF, blah blah blah). While in many cases the first term - future possible value - is well defined (Tesla is worth exactly $420.69 billion in 2021, and maybe we all can agree on that by looking at car sales and Musk tweets), where it gets more interesting is the second term - the likelihood of that value occurring. [In actuality, the price of a stock for instance is way more complicated, because a stock can be sold at any point in the future (versus in my example, just the value in 2021), and needs to account for all values of Tesla at any given point in the future.] How do we estimate the second term - the likelihood of that value occurring? For this class, it actually doesn't matter, because the key concept is this idea: even with all market participants having the same information, we do anticipate that every participant will have a slightly different view of future likelihoods. Why is that? There's many reasons. Some participants may undervalue risk (aka WSB FD/yolos) and therefore weight probabilities of gaining lots of money much more heavily than going bankrupt. Some participants may have alternative data which improves their understanding of what the future values should be, therefore letting them see opportunity. Some participants might overvalue liquidity, and just want to GTFO and thereby accept a haircut on their asset's value to quickly unload it (especially in markets with low liquidity). Some participants may just be yoloing and not even know what Fastly does before putting their account all in weekly puts (god bless you). In the end, it doesn't matter either the why, but the what: because of these diverging interpretations, over time, we can expect the price of an asset to drift from the current value even with no new information added. In most cases, the calculations that market participants use (which I will, as a Lily-ism, call the future expected payoff function, or FEPF) ends up being quite similar in aggregate, and this is why asset prices likely tend to move slightly up and down for no reason (or rather, this is one interpretation of why). At this point, I expect the 20% of you who know what I'm talking about or have a finance background to say, "Oh but blah blah efficient market hypothesis contradicts random walk blah blah blah" and you're correct, but it also legitimately doesn't matter here. In the long run, stock prices are clearly not a random walk, because a stock's value is obviously tied to the company's fundamentals (knock on wood I don't regret saying this in the 2020s). However, intraday, in the absence of new, public information, it becomes a close enough approximation. Also, some of you might wonder what happens when the future expected payoff function (FEPF) I mentioned before ends up wildly diverging for a stock between participants. This could happen because all of us try to short Nikola because it's quite obviously a joke (so our FEPF for Nikola could, let's say, be 0), while the 20 or so remaining bagholders at NikolaCorporation decide that their FEPF of Nikola is $10,000,000 a share). One of the interesting things which intuitively makes sense, is for nearly all stocks, the amount of divergence among market participants in their FEPF increases substantially as you get farther into the future. This intuitively makes sense, even if you've already quit trying to understand what I'm saying. It's quite easy to say, if at 12:51 PM SPY is worth 350.21 that likely at 12:52 PM SPY will be worth 350.10 or 350.30 in all likelihood. Obviously there are cases this doesn't hold, but more likely than not, prices tend to follow each other, and don't gap up/down hard intraday. However, what if I asked you - given SPY is worth 350.21 at 12:51 PM today, what will it be worth in 2022? Many people will then try to half ass some DD about interest rates and Trump fleeing to Ecuador to value SPY at 150, while others will assume bull markets will continue indefinitely and SPY will obviously be 7000 by then. The truth is -- no one actually knows, because if you did, you wouldn't be reading a reddit post on this at 2 AM in your jammies. In fact, if you could somehow figure out the FEPF of all market participants at any given time, assuming no new information occurs, you should be able to roughly predict the true value of an asset infinitely far into the future (hint: this doesn't exactly hold, but again don't @ me). Now if you do have a finance background, I expect gears will have clicked for some of you, and you may see strong analogies between the FEPF divergence I mentioned, and a concept we're all at least partially familiar with - volatility. Volatility and Price Decoherence ("IV Crush") Volatility, just like the Greeks, isn't exactly a real thing. Most of us have some familiarity with implied volatility on options, mostly when we get IV crushed the first time and realize we just lost $3000 on Tesla calls. If we assume that the current price should represent the weighted likelihoods of all future prices (the random walk), volatility implies the following two things:
Volatility reflects the uncertainty of the current price
Volatility reflects the uncertainty of the future price for every point in the future where the asset has value (up to expiry for options)
[Ignore this section if you aren't pedantic] There's obviously more complex mathematics, because I'm sure some of you will argue in the comments that IV doesn't go up monotonically as option expiry date goes longer and longer into the future, and you're correct (this is because asset pricing reflects drift rate and other factors, as well as certain assets like the VIX end up having cost of carry). Volatility in options is interesting as well, because in actuality, it isn't something that can be exactly computed -- it arises as a plug between the idealized value of an option (the modeled price) and the real, market value of an option (the spot price). Additionally, because the makeup of market participants in an asset's market changes over time, and new information also comes in (thereby increasing likelihood of some possibilities and reducing it for others), volatility does not remain constant over time, either. Conceptually, volatility also is pretty easy to understand. But what about our friend, IV crush? I'm sure some of you have bought options to play events, the most common one being earnings reports, which happen quarterly for every company due to regulations. For the more savvy, you might know of expected move, which is a calculation that uses the volatility (and therefore price) increase of at-the-money options about a month out to calculate how much the options market forecasts the underlying stock price to move as a response to ER. Binary Catalyst Events and Price Decoherence Remember what I said about price formation being a gradual, continuous process? In the face of special circumstances, in particularly binary catalyst events - events where the outcome is one of two choices, good (1) or bad (0) - the gradual part gets thrown out the window. Earnings in particular is a common and notable case of a binary event, because the price will go down (assuming the company did not meet the market's expectations) or up (assuming the company exceeded the market's expectations) (it will rarely stay flat, so I'm not going to address that case). Earnings especially is interesting, because unlike other catalytic events, they're pre-scheduled (so the whole market expects them at a certain date/time) and usually have publicly released pre-estimations (guidance, analyst predictions). This separates them from other binary catalysts (e.g. FSLY dipping 30% on guidance update) because the market has ample time to anticipate the event, and participants therefore have time to speculate and hedge on the event. In most binary catalyst events, we see rapid fluctuations in price, usually called a gap up or gap down, which is caused by participants rapidly intaking new information and changing their FEPF accordingly. This is for the most part an anticipated adjustment to the FEPF based on the expectation that earnings is a Very Big Deal (TM), and is the reason why volatility and therefore option premiums increase so dramatically before earnings. What makes earnings so interesting in particular is the dramatic effect it can have on all market participants FEPF, as opposed to let's say a Trump tweet, or more people dying of coronavirus. In lots of cases, especially the FEPF of the short term (3-6 months) rapidly changes in response to updated guidance about a company, causing large portions of the future possibility spectrum to rapidly and spectacularly go to zero. In an instant, your Tesla 10/30 800Cs go from "some value" to "not worth the electrons they're printed on". [Lily's Speculation] This phenomena, I like to call price decoherence, mostly as an analogy to quantum mechanical processes which produce similar results (the collapse of a wavefunction on observation). Price decoherence occurs at a widespread but minor scale continuously, which we normally call price formation (and explains portions of the random walk derivation explained above), but hits a special limit in the face of binary catalyst events, as in an instant rapid portions of the future expected payoff function are extinguished, versus a more gradual process which occurs over time (as an option nears expiration). Price decoherence, mathematically, ends up being a more generalizable case of the phenomenon we all love to hate - IV crush. Price decoherence during earnings collapses the future expected payoff function of a ticker, leading large portions of the option chain to be effectively worthless (IV crush). It has interesting implications, especially in the case of hedged option sellers, our dear Market Makers. This is because given the expectation that they maintain delta-gamma neutral, and now many of the options they have written are now worthless and have 0 delta, what do they now have to do? They have to unwind. [/Lily's Speculation] - Lily
Recently on the csharp subreddit, the post C# 9.0 records: immutable classes linked to a surprisingly controversial article discussing how C# 9.0's records are, underneath it all, immutable classes. The comments are full of back-&-forth over whether one should use records for ease or structs for performance. The pro-struct argument revolved around the belief that performance should always be a developer's #1 priority, and anything less was the realm of the laggard. Here is a real-world example that shows with stark clarity why that kind of thinking is wrong. Consider the following scenario:
You're working on a game with dozens, maybe hundreds of people on the team; you don't know because when you were cross with facilities about them removing all the fluorescents, you got accused of being against the new energy saving initiative. Now you swim in a malevolent ocean of darkness that on some very late nights alone in the office, you swear is actively trying to consume you.
The team that preceded you inherited an engine that is older than OOP, when source repositories were stacks of 8-inch floppies, and it looked as if Jefferson Starship was going to take over the world. One year ago they bequeathed upon the company this nightmare of broken, undocumented GOTO spaghetti & anti-patterns. You're convinced this was their sadistic revenge for all getting fired post-acquisition.
Management denied your request to get headcount for an additional technical artist, but helpfully supplied you with an overly nervous intern. After several weeks working alongside them, you're beginning to suspect they're pursuing something other than a liberal arts degree.
Despite the many getting started guides you spent countless evenings writing, the endless brownbags nobody attended, and the daily dozen emails you forward to oppressively inquisitive artists comprised of a single passive-aggressive sentence suggesting they scroll down to the part that begins FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: RE: WE BROKE TOOL NEED WORKAROUND ASAP ...
...yes, despite all of that, the engineering team still spent days tracking down why the game kept crashing with Error 107221: У вас ошибка after re-re-re-re-re-throwing an ex_exception when it couldn't (and should never even try to) load a 16K-textured floor mat.
Despite your many attempts to politely excuse yourself, one blissfully unaware artist exhausts 48 minutes of your lunch break explaining how the Pitchfork review for the latest "dope slab" of this TikTok-Instagram-naphouse artist you never heard of was just sooooo unfair.
And then in their hurry to finish up & catch the 2:30 PM bus home, they forget to toggle Compress To CXIFF (Custom Extended Interchange File Format), set the Compression slider 5/6ths of the way between -3 & -2, look to their left, look to their right, click Export As .MA 0.9.3alpha7, and make absolutely, positively, 100% SURE not to be working in prod. And THAT is how the game explodicated.
You know better than anyone the intermediate file format the main game loop passes to Game.dll, memory mapping it as a reverse top-middle Endian binary structure.
You know for 381 of the parameter fields what their 2-7 character names probably mean.
YOU know which 147 fields always have to be included, but with a null value, and that the field ah_xlut must ALWAYS be set to 0 unless it's Thursday, in which case that blackbox from hell requires its internal string equivalent: TRUE.
YOU know that the two tech artists & one rapidly aging intern that report to you would totally overhaul tooling so artists would never "happen" again, but there just aren't enough winters, springs, summers, falls, July 4ths, Christmas breaks, Presidents Days, and wedding anniversaries in a year to properly do so.
And so somehow you do. A blurry evening or two here. A 3:00 AM there. Sometimes just a solitary lunch hour.
Your dog no longer recognizes you.
You miss your wife calling to say she's finally cleaning out the hall closet and if you want to keep this box of old cards & something in plastic that says Underground Sea Beta 9.8 Grade, you better call her back immediately.
And your Aunt Midge, who doesn't understand how SMS works, bombards you one evening: your father is... no longer with us... they found him... 1 week ago... in an abandoned Piggly Wiggly... by an old culvert... split up... he was then... laid down to rest... sent to St. Peter's... and your father... he's in a better place now... don't worry... it's totally okay... we decided we will all go... up to the mountain
You call your sister in a panic and, after a tidal wave of confusion & soul-rending anxiety, learn it was just Hoboken Wireless sending the messages out of order. This causes you to rapidly cycle.
On your bipolar's upswing, you find yourself more productive than you've ever been. Your mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention. It's like your brain is on 200mg of pure grade Adderall.
Your fingers ablaze with records, clean inheritance, beautiful pattern matching, bountiful expression syntax, aircraft carriers of green text that generate the most outstanding CHM for an internal tool the world has ever seen. Readable. PERFECTLY SOLID.
After much effort, you gaze upon the completed GUI of your magnum opus with the kind of pride you imagine one would feel if they hadn't missed the birth of their son. Clean, customer-grade WPF; tooltips for every control; sanity checks left & right; support for plugins & light scripting. It's even integrated with source control!
THOSE GODDAMNED ARTISTS CAN'T FAIL. YOUR PIPELINE TOOL WON'T LET THEM.
All they have to do is drag content into the application window, select an options template or use the one your tool suggests after content analysis, change a few options, click Export, and wait for 3-5 minutes to generate Game.dll-compatible binary.
Your optimism shines through the commit summary, your test plan giddy & carefree. With great anticipation, you await code review.
A week goes by. Then two. Then three. Nothing. The repeated pinging of engineers, unanswered.
Two months in you've begun to lose hope. Three months, the pangs of defeat. Four months, you write a blog post about how fatalism isn't an emotion or outlook, but the TRANSCENDENCE of their sum. Two years pass by. You are become apathy, destroyer of wills.
December 23rd, 2022: the annual Winter Holidays 2-hour work event. The bar is open, the Kokanee & Schmidt's flowing (max: 2 drink tickets). The mood a year-high ambivalent; the social distancing: acceptable. They even have Pabst Blue Ribbon, a beer so good it won an award once.
Standing beside you are your direct reports, Dave "Macroman" Thorgletop and wide-eyed The Intern, the 3 of you forming a triumvirate of who gives a shit. Dave is droning on & on about a recent family trip to Myrtle Beach. You pick up something something "can you believe that's when my daughter Beth scooped up a dead jellyfish? Ain't that something? A dead jellyfish," and "they even had a Ron Jons!"
You barely hear him, lost as you are in thought: "I wishIhad 2 days of vacation." You stare down ruefully at your tallboy.
From the corner of your eye you spot Milbert, index finger pointed upward, face a look of pure excitement.
"Did I tell you about my OpenWinamp project? It's up on SourceForge", he says as he strides over. It's unsettling how fast this man is.
Dave snickers. The Intern keeps staring wide-eyed. You position yourself somewhat close to the studio's 3 young receptionists, hoping they serve as a kind of ritual circle of protection.
It works... kind of. Milbert is now standing uncomfortably close to The Intern, Dave nowhere to be seen.
From across the room you distinctly hear "Think about it, the 1st-person UI could be Lua-driven Electron."
The Intern clearly understands that words are being spoken to them, but does not comprehend their meaning.
You briefly feel sorry for the sacrificial lamb.
You slide across the wall, putting even more distance between you & boredom made man. That's when you spot him, arrogantly aloof in the corner: Glen Glengerry. Core engineering's most senior developer.
Working his way up from a 16-year old game tester making $4.35 an hour plus free Dr. Shasta, to pulling in a cool $120K just 27-years later, plus benefits & Topo Chicos. His coding style guides catechism, his Slack pronouncements ex cathedra; he might as well be CTO.
You feel lucky your team is embedded with the artists. You may have sat through their meetings wondering why the hell you should care about color theory, artistic consistency, & debates about whether HSL or CMYK was the superior color space (spoiler: it's HSL), you were independent and to them, a fucking code wizard, man.
And there he stands, this pseudo-legend, so close you could throw a stapler at him. Thinning grey-blonde tendrils hanging down from his CodeWarrior hat, white tee with This Guy VIMs on the back, tucked into light blue jeans. He's staring out into the lobby at everything and yet... nothing all at.
Maybe it's the 4.8% ABV. Maybe it's the years of crushing down anger into a singularity, waiting for it to undergo rapid fiery expansion, a Big Bang of righteous fury. Maybe it's those sandals with white socks. Maybe it's all three. But whatever it is, it's as if God himself compels you to march over & give him a piece of your mind, seniority be damned.
"Listen, you big dumb bastard..."
That... is maybe a little too aggressive. But Glen Glengerry barely reacts. Pulling a flask out of his back pocket, he doesn't look over as he passes it to you.
Ugh. Apple Pucker.
"I thought bringing in your own alcohol was against company policy", wiping sticky green sludge from your lips. He turns with a look of pure disdain & snorts.
"You think they're going to tell ME what I can & can't bring in?" He grabs the flask back, taking a big swig.
For what feels like an eternity, you both stand in silence. You swallow, speaking softly. "None of you even looked at my code. I worked very, very hard on that. My performance review for that year simply read 'recommend performance improvement plan." The words need no further context.
"I know", Glen² replies. "That was me."
Now you're not a weak man, and maybe in some other circumstance you would have punched him in the goddamn lip. But you feel nothing, just a hollowness inside. "Why?", you ask, wondering if the answer would even matter.
"Because you don't use Bulgarian notation. Because your method names aren't lower camel case. Because good code doesn't require comments. Because you use classes & records over more performant structs, pointlessly burdening the heapstack. BECAUSE. YOUR CODE. IS. SHIT."
You clinch your fists so tightly the knuckles whiten.
He looks away from you, taking another sip of green goo. "You're not a coder. You're an artist masquerading as one" he speaks, as if it were fact.
The only thing artistic about you is the ability to create user-friendly internal tooling using nothing but a UI framework, broken down garbage nobody wants to touch, & sheer willpower. If your son's life depended on you getting accepted into art instruction school, you couldn't even draw a turtle.
He doesn't pause. "I'll champion ruthless micro-optimization until the day I die. But buddy, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: you aren't here to improve workflow. You're here to LOOK like you're doing something NOBODY else can."
He goes on. "What do you think those artists are going to do when they have to stare at a progress bar for 4, 5 minutes? They're going to complain your tool is slow."
"Sure, it may take them 20, 30 minutes to do it the old way, there'll be an error, and either they'll stare at it for 30 minutes before adding that missing semi-colon or they'll come get you. And you'll fix it. And 1 week later, they won't remember how. And you'll stay employed. And every. Body. Wins."
A little bit of the pride, the caring, wells back up inside from somewhere long forgotten.
"You don't think we should care about rapid application development & KISS, quickly getting things out that help our team, instead devoting ourselves to shaving off ticks here & there? What do you think artists are going to do with those 4 minutes you talk about?
You don't stop. "I'll tell you what they'll do. They'll 9GAG for 20 minutes straight. They'll listen to podcasts about dialectical materialism vis-a-vis the neo-feudalism that is a natural extension of the modern world's capitalist prison. They'll Reddit."
His silence gives you the bravery to push the limits.
"Christ, man. Are you only in it for the $120K..."
He corrects you: "...$123K."
"...only in it for the $123K/year? The free snacks from the microkitchen? The adulation? Have you no sense of comraderie?? No desire to push us to something better?! No integrity?!!!"
His eyes sharply narrow, face creases in anger. You clearly have overstepped your bounds.
"You thinkIdon't have integrity? No sense of teamwork? I'm only in it for the cold cash? You think I don't care about you all?", he roars.
A light volley of small green flecks land on your face.
"Why do you think they made a 16-year old tester the lead developer of a 1993 Doom clone?! Because my code was clean & painless to work with?! Because I made coding look easy?! No! IT WAS BECAUSE I WAS A GOD TO THEM.
And from a God, a PANTHEON. We built monuments to over-engineering! We crafted that of 7 weeks onboarding, that of immortal bugs, demonic hosts spawned by legion from the very loins of a fix. It took 2 years before a developer could BEGIN to feel confident they knew what they were doing. And by that time, they were one of US!
You think the team we laid off November '19 was fired because they were bad at their jobs? NO! It was because they worked themselves out of one. They didn't leave us a broken pipeline. They left an internal Wiki, a wealth of tools & example projects, and a completely transparent code base.
We couldn't have THAT, now could we? No, we couldn't. So we got rid of it. ALL OF IT. Poof. Gone. Just like that. Before anyone even knew a THING."
He leans forward, so close his psoriasis almost touches yours. With an intensity that borders on frightening, he whispers "You think they left us Game.dll? I fucking *MADE** Game.dll."*
The words hit hard like a freight train.
And without another word, he turns & leaves. You're left there, alone, coworkers milling about, with only one thought.
Were one to get a hobby, should it be cocaine?
It's these kinds of situations that make me believe there are far more important considerations than a ruthless dedication to performance, even in the game industry as my real-world scenario so clearly demonstrates.
Originally, I was leaning against doing an obligatory post-OSCP Reddit post because I didn’t want to come across as another “look at me - I passed OSCP!!” cringeworthy OSCP Oscar speech, but I decided to go ahead and do one because my experience was perhaps a little unique and answers the much-asked question “can I do OSCP without experience?”. A quick background to add context… I’m 31 years old and my employment history is a mixture of sales, graphics, and media-related job roles. I felt discontented for a long time earning (barely) living wage in job roles I had little passion for. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I decided to quit my latest sales job in November last year (2019) to pursue a career in cybersecurity/infosec. I didn’t know what ‘TCP’ or ‘UDP’ was, and I’d never heard of ‘Kali’ or how to run a VM, but I was convinced that this would be the career path for me. Anyway, I went through Security+ and C|EH from November to March and, just as I was going to start applying for Security Analyst type job roles, our friendly neighbourhood Coronavirus came along and shut down the economy. Even though I had no intention of doing OSCP for another year or two, I thought it was a better option than twiddling my thumbs for a few months, so I decided to sign up for PWK labs and have a crack at it. Fast-forwarding to yesterday, after a few brutal months and an incredible experience, I finally got the OSCP “you have successfully completed” email. Apologies in advance for the essay but I just want to go through my journey for those of you that might be in a similar position to the one I was in - limited/zero IT experience and feeling intimidated by the dreaded OSCP mountain. My journey… In the weeks leading up to the wait to start my 60 days PWK material and labs, I went through The Cyber Mentor’s Practical Ethical Hacking Udemy course and then went on a Hack the Box rampage, so, by the time my lab time started, I felt like I was in a pretty decent position. Unfortunately, because I was a naïve idiot, I tackled the labs straight away and went through the PWK PDF casually on the side. This was a big mistake and something I would definitely change in hindsight because it cost me 5 easy points on the exam (I thought I could smash through the PDF exercises during the last week of labs but this didn’t prove to be enough time). In 60 days I ended up rooting around 40 machines - I didn’t bother going for the networks because it didn’t apply to the exam and, although valuable real-world experience, I didn’t want to get distracted and flood my brain with even more information when it wasn’t going to be relevant for my mission. One big thing that I did get right was note-taking. I can’t express enough how valuable it is to take detailed notes and build your own cheat sheet library. After every machine I rooted, I did a walkthrough on OneNote and added any new tools/commands to my cheat sheet library. This not only saves precious time in the exam, but it helps you build your own knowledge instead of relying on other people’s cheat sheets without really understanding what you’re doing. After my 60 days had finished, I spent 1 month on TJ Null’s OSCP Hack the Box list and IppSec’s video walkthroughs. I also can’t stress enough how valuable this learning methodology is. My only regret is that I rushed through it. I’d already booked my exam 30 days after lab time, so I ended up jumping through walkthroughs when I got stuck on boxes instead of exhausting all options. This was another naïve idiot mistake on my behalf and something I would do differently in hindsight. There’s a difference between “trying harder” and “trying harder, but in a smart way”. I was putting 10+ hours in every day but I wasn’t always being efficient with my time. I’d definitely recommend seeking hints and tips on boxes but only after you’ve exhausted all options first, something which I didn’t always do. Anyway, my first exam attempt came around towards the end of July. Was I ready? No, but I had delusional confidence in myself that has paid off for me more often than not, so I was hoping it would pay off for me again. My first exam was brutal. I sat in my chair for a total of 23 hours and 15 minutes, with only 3 short 5-minute breaks to get food to snack on. My VPN was shut down after 24 hours and I had a total of 65 points, which I’d been stuck on for the last 8 hours of my exam. I got the BO, root on one of the 20-point machines, root on the 10-point machine, and user on the other 20-point machine. I just couldn’t get root on that last machine. I was pretty devastated because I’d put my heart and soul into Sec+, C|EH, and OSCP for 7 straight months and I wanted it bad. But my delusional confidence wasn’t enough. After listening to depressing Taylor Swift songs for a few days (joke), I decided to book another exam in, 4 weeks after my first attempt. This time around, I decided to go through Tib3rius’s Linux and Windows Privilege Escalation courses (they were great) and go back over some of the HTB machines. I honestly felt at this point that there wasn’t much more study material that I could go through. 2nd exam came up and it was an almost minute-for-minute repeat of the first exam. BO done, 20 point rooted, 10 point rooted, but could only get user on the other 20 point. 65 points again. This time I ended up listening to Taylor Swift + Lana Del Rey. I was pretty adamant that I could do this and that I was very close, so I sent Off-Sec an email explaining my situation and they were kind enough to allow me another exam attempt without waiting 8 weeks - I booked another exam in 2 weeks after my second attempt. This time, my preparation was entirely mental. In both my prior exams, I was sat on my chair for over 23 hours because I was flapping around aimlessly like a headless chicken, desperately firing off exploits that I knew wouldn’t work on the other 20-point machine. So, I went into the 3rd exam determined to go at a slow and steady pace, and not let the 24-hour timeframe pressure me into a wild goose chase. Miraculously, it seemed to work. After 14 hours, I’d done the BO, rooted both 20-point machines, rooted the 10-point machine, and got user on the 25-point machine. 85-ish points in total. The point of this story is to get across to people that you need to try simpler, not harder. I perhaps failed my first exam because I’d not gone through Tib3rius’s Priv Esc courses, but I failed on my 2nd 100% due to mentality. There was no skill-level difference between my 2nd exam and 3rd exam. I’ll finish off with my recommended learning methodology and exam tips (for people with limited/zero IT experience): . The Cyber Mentor Practical Ethical Hacking Udemy course (usually on offer at $14.99-ish) . Tib3rius’s Linux and Windows Privilege Escalation course (usually on offer at $12.99 each) . Try Hack Me OSCP Learning Path (I would recommend doing this before HTB - it is $10 for 30 days) . PWK labs (I personally don’t feel more than 60 days are required - unless you work full-time) . TJ Null’s OSCP Hack the Box list ($10 for retired HTB machines - very worth it) . You should be ready for the exam Exam tips: . Become proficient with Nmap but use an enumeration tool like nmapAutomator for the exam . You will need to understand what bash and Python scripts are doing (you don’t need to be able to write them from scratch) . Don’t be tempted to use a fancy BO methodology for the exam, stick with PWK’s methodology - it works (some of the others don’t) . Play around with various reverse shell payloads - sometimes a bash one-liner won’t work so you need to go with Python. Sometimes Bash, Python, and netcat won’t work, so you need to understand what alternatives you can use in that scenario . Get into the habit of reading service manuals. In all 3 of my exams, I came up against machines that had services I’d never even heard of. Fortunately, I’d got into the habit reading service manuals, otherwise, I would have skipped over the services and got lost down a rabbit hole . Get into the habit of exploiting conventional services in unconventional ways. Just because an SUID binary isn’t on Gtfobins, it doesn’t mean that you can’t exploit the SUID binary in an unconventional way. Again, get into the habit of reading manuals to understand what services do . Become familiar with Burp Suite. Many exploits won’t work in the way you might expect them to, but they will work if you run them through Burp. Or, at the very least, you’ll be able to understand why they’re not working. This issue came up in my last exam and I would have been completely lost if it weren’t for Burp . Take breaks if you get frustrated - this is said over and over again by people on this subreddit and it’s an absolute must. The 20 point machine that I couldn’t root after 8 hours on my 2nd exam was on my 3rd exam (thanks Off-Sec - I know you tried to fu*k me with that), but I was able to root it within 1 hour on my 3rd exam, simply because my mindset was different at the time. . Trust your gut - by doing PWK and HTB machines, you should develop a gut feeling of when you are in a rabbit hole and when you’re on the right track. I ended up rooting over 100 machines before the exam (albeit with plenty of hints and tips) and it helped me develop a good gut feeling. I can’t explain why but there were times in my last exam where I knew I was in the right area even though I wasn’t able to enumerate the specific service version. This feeling simply came from experience. I’m sure many of you watch IppSec’s videos and wonder “how the hell does he know to do X or Y?”. I used to wonder this all the time but after going through dozens of machines, I finally got it. It comes down to experience. Try to do as many machines as you can before the exam to build that gut feeling, and trust it in the exam. . Embrace failure - this is perhaps the most important thing that I can say. OSCP is a difficult journey and many people fail multiple times before passing. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s okay to fail. It’s how you react to failure that counts. I’m not particularly smart but I embrace failure and I know deep down that I will keep trying until I pass. I was prepared to take the OSCP exam 1000 times if I had to, I was never going to let the exam beat me. I suggest you approach it with the same mentality and not let silly pride prevent you from having a go at it. One last thing! Join a solid Discord community. This journey has been amazing since day one and a big reason behind that is the amazing online community. I was very active in an HTB community and ended up talking to several people who were going through OSCP at the same time as me. This was honestly such a massive help to me because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing when I first started! Sorry for the massive rant - I just see so many people on here treating OSCP like an unsurmountable mountain. It’s not. You can do it!
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Please read this if you haven’t done this substance before, it could save your life.
TL;DR : PLEASE have a tripsitter this isn’t even a question I don’t care who on here or Erowid Forums or PsychonautWiki says you don’t need one you do. I COULD NOT differentiate reality at times. And in plain black and white text on your smartphone doesn’t sound scary but I promise you I wouldn’t wish it on the devil. Below I explain why this is so important in greater detail, but again please for the less initiated take it from a normal guy who’s brain isn’t fried and doesn’t align themself on a psychedelic hierarchy get a tripsitter, if you can’t don’t do it. Don’t listen to psychedelic snobs if you’re a newbie I thought I was “ready” for 20mg plus and I seriously am thankful for being alive right now. THIS WAS TYPED ON A SMARTPHONE I PLAN ON EDITING THIS TOMORROW ON MY COMPUTER TO MAKE THE FORMAT EASIER TO READ AND TO CORRECT ALOT OF GRAMMATICAL ERRORS. I want to preface by saying I’m an average joe by all accounts I was fortunate enough to have never been without food shelter and family raised in a good home with amazing parents seriously model parents. Who after writing this I’m calling and telling them both how much I fucking love them. What follows is coming from a normal guy who works 40 hours a week goes to college and enjoys everything everyone else does. Guys and girls whoever is reading, please do don’t do this by yourself without a trip sitter if it is your first time. I promise you I don’t care how strong you think you are mentally this can rip your head off and sling you into the abyss. Take this from a guy who hasn’t been doing drugs for 40 years and has nothing to gain by at least giving it consideration. I was in a unique situation based on my location and environment where mushrooms aren’t an option so I had to resort to RC’s. I’m not here to bash this “drug” or sing it’s praises. All I can say is I emphatically beg you to not do this by yourself. I view myself as one of the most mentally strong people I know, not out of arrogance or low social IQ just based on situations I’ve encountered in life, and this took away everything I thought I knew and shattered it into a million pieces. You’ll read people will say “oh 25mg is equivalent to this or that” PLEASE don’t listen to that rule of thumb. I genuinely believe I narrowly survived tonight by the grace of god or whatever higher power you believe in. I took this in the perfect set and setting like you’ll read 500 times if you do any amount of effort-able research this wasn’t a “good or bad trip” this was not knowing what the fuck was real and what wasn’t. I stupidly stupidly stupidly made the mistake of not removing a loaded firearm away from me as I decided to “trip” I can’t tell you how many times or for how long I was contemplating suicide but it felt like fucking forever. I’ve never had a suicidal thought in my life ever I’ve always been content with my life usually happy with the occasional bad times but overall a good life. As I’m typing this it’s bringing tears to my eyes that someone’s life could be so bad they think suicide is the only option, that realization trumps even the trip itself. I took 23mg just how it fell onto my scale and it felt “right” the margin of error is a whole nother shitty thing about using $30 scales which is what everyone does except for people who have unlimited disposable income because even the cheapest scales will put you within a correct “range”. It lasted three hours and for me it was HELL nothing was real I could not tell if I was alive or dead and I know to someone reading this you’re thinking to yourself this dude is an idiot or is predisposed to having mental problems I’m out of the trip and have FULL clarity this was hell it started like a mushroom trip if you’ve ever done mushrooms you know exactly what I’m talking about I don’t need to explain if you don’t, read about a mushroom trip and get out of this subreddit because you’re no where near ready for this. The problem started about 1 hour in when I couldn’t do anything but close my eyes and the visuals were fucking insane from every time period that’s ever existed I saw it in my eyelids at time I could feel myself blinking rapidly opening my eyes and shutting them and couldn’t tell that they were open or shut that’s when I knew I was in trouble from there it was unlike anything from a shroom trip I was hearing was sounded like snow plowed snow if you couldn’t hear the engine of the truck doing it very loudly it would pulsate in and out I was “hearing” things that I was seeing it was totally and completely inebriating I couldn’t move but still had a decent grasp on reality I could consciously talk myself into a good headspace and there is no way to quantify time but I would say 10 minutes in real time later I was seeing pure white in the peripheral vision of my already closed eyes and it scared the fuck out of me because everything I’ve read says you only see white when you’re smoking the toad lol but this wasn’t 5 MeO so I fought and I fought until I couldn’t anymore I “gave in” thinking once I do it will be better it turned into fucking pure hell I was gone there was nothing there were patterns and shapes and beings but they were all without substance look at any one of them for to long and they would disappear think about any of them for to long and they were gonna again. There was no teaching or illumination like on shrooms at this point it was not from this realm or reality or whatever the fuck we are living in or a part of I was inundated with information I felt like a supercomputer at times literally like I was downloading and uploading binary codes to and from something for anyone that’s reading and that makes zero sense I was literally seeing myself out of body transmitting visible 0s and 1s out of my brain into the ceiling or “center” while all this is going on I’m having unbelievable memories come back to me things I haven’t thought about or heard of in years all while this “upload download” sequence is in the forefront of main stage. At this point I’m gone I remember telling myself over and over and over “it doesn’t matter nothing matters” etc etc etc then I’d fall into a white canvas of bliss almost and I’ve never had ANY experience with “hard drugs” but like heroin users say everything bad just goes away and it’s ecstasy and comfort and all these good things I’m telling myself the whole time I’m a heroin addict basically and I only did this for a “fix” I completely made up this narrative with zero context and then the gun in my night stand drawer entered my mind because this whole time I’m telling myself “if I’m alive none of it matters and if I’m dead none of it matters” that is the biggest takeaway from all this I have. The heroin thing was seriously one of the 15 scenarios that happened in the last two hours of the trip that made it absolutely terrifying. If this drug didn’t “paralyze” me in such a way that it did I literally would of got the gun and shot myself in the head to make it “stop” and see if I’m alive or already dead. Thankfully I was paralyzed, the body load on this stuff is insane I compare it to 60mg of edibles if you have ever done that much in an edible you know the amount of effort it takes to move.Again it may sound like I have a bad life or I’ve been suicidal before but I haven’t this is why it’s so important to not do this alone. My brain is literally fried I’ve typed all this right after the trip and my stomach is in knots. Please if I can help one person with this post get a friend. If you don’t have one PM me and I will be there for you.
An excessively detailed guide on how to start shaving, and doing so discretely, based on my personal experience.
Hey dudes and dudettes, I'm an 18-year-old kinda non-binary but mostly just confused male and I recently started shaving my legs and didn't want my parents to know. I thought seeing as though there are always so many questions from people about shaving and doing stuff discretely that I'd go through EVERYTHING of note that I learnt/discovered, so that you can do it too! This is pretty excessively detailed, so I'd recommend reading over it a few times so you get a vibe for what to do and what not to do and then just do it whatever way you figure out to work for you. If anyone has questions, or any other tips they wanna add (or you just wanna point out a spelling mistake), feel free to leave a comment! If it's really personal feel free to DM me but don't DM me your dick or a request for pics, soz.
Stuff you'll NEED:
An electric implement which can be used for trimming your leg hair, e.g. hair clipper, beard trimmer. I used the thing I use on my face.
A razor (can be a men's razor, not only are they fine to use, many women prefer them because they apparently shave closer and smoother. But yeah don't fret) [I used a men's Gillette Fusion5 ProGlide and would recommend it, don't get the higher tier ones unless you want a powered one cause they're the same handle in a different colour with different blades included, but you can use any Fusion5 branded blade with any Fusion5 branded handle] EDIT: I have now used a base Fusion5 blade, and there's almost no difference really. The ProGlide blades are a touch smoother and apparently the one up from that is better for your skin, but really, the cheapest one definitely gets the job done. I believe, however, that the base Fusion5 HANDLE isn't as good as the ProGlide. I would recommend getting the ProGlide handle (everything above that handle is the same in different colours until you get to powered razors).
Moisturiser, or something VERY usable as moisturiser. Normal soap won't do the trick, this is a really important thing to get right as you'll end up with horrible red polka-dot torture victim legs if you fuck it up. It can be a little weird feeling buying moisturiser as a teen male considering what we usually use it for, but hey. I used Cetaphil gentle skin cleanser at first EDIT: After a few more shaves, I would now definitely say Cetaphil isn't enough, I'm now trying Aloe Vera.
Stuff that you should really have but isn't essential:
Shaving cream, or something usable as shaving cream. Not as important to get right as moisturiser, many women use body wash and conditioner and stuff like that. I think the furthest you could go is something like shampoo, but conditioner would be better. You can use men's shaving cream but you'd need a lot compared to what you use on your face and you'll smell all male afterwards which is whatever. EDIT: if you get red spots and irritation after your first few shaves and you're not using something decent as shaving cream, USE A SHAVING CREAM.
probably other stuff if your skin has a history of being particularly sensitive
This probably shouldn't be the only thing you look at regarding how to shave. There's a whole bunch of stuff, like exfoliating and stuff like that, which I completely didn't do, which worked for me but might not for you. I'm not an expert, don't get mad at me if I say something technically not perfect. I'm trying to give practical advice to help you peeps out.
the initial clipping
If you're anything like me, your legs will be insanely hairy. You obviously can't just run a razor over hair as long as men's leg hair gets and expect it to shave anything, so you're first going to have to trim it. Girls will suggest you use scissors if your hair is too long, this is ridiculous advice, I think they just don't realise how god damn long men's leg hair is. Scissors work when you have neat little pricks, not when you have a small rainforest. You're gonna want to use something powered, like a beard trimmer, or hair clippers, or a circular saw, or I actually used a trimmer bit thing which is part of the electric razor I use on my face, and although it's small, it did the trick. You can work with what you have here. You're hopefully only going to need to do this bit once or twice, so don't worry too much about damaging the device. Depending on what you're using, you'll probably need to make sure your legs are sufficiently soaked with warm water first. I'm not quite sure if this is necessary at this point but I did it just in case, as the trimmer I used is pretty exposed, so it was cutting pretty close. If you're using something like a hair clipper with a guide on then you probably don't need to do this bit wet but it's better safe than sorry. The point of shaving wet is that it softens your hair slightly and opens your pores and some other things I forget, but if you shave real close while dry then you could get razor burn and similar ailments, which as I'll explain later are a pain in the butt (especially if that's we're you're shaving gotem). Now if you're using something as exposed as the trimmer I used then make sure you don't press too hard. The thing to remember is that electric shavers, and in fact even manual razors if used correctly, are fucking sharp, and they're going to cut whatever comes around, regardless of how much force you put into it. You might need to go over the same bit a few times, but pressing harder isn't going to help you, instead it'll leave behind slightly inflamed red marks for days, which don't hurt that much but they're obviously not good, and can probably get infected or something. You won't really feel when you give yourself one of these, and you'll only notice them come up a few minutes later, so just be careful. Once you're finished, I recommend moisturising just for good measure. Now, when you're done and you've dried off by patting your legs dry (do not scrub them, pat them, this is how you will always dry your legs from now on), there will be a lot of hair to clean up. Like so much fucking hair. There'll be hair on the floor and the walls and the shower screen and fucking everywhere. To clean up the bulk of it will take like ten minutes on its own, but if like me you're a bit paranoid and don't want your parents to find out, I would say it'd take like 30 minutes or more, so I'd make sure you have about an hour of time to clean up. Also, something which I didn't consider until after doing it is that running a hot shower will leave condensation on the mirror and everything and make it obvious that you showered, so while it's not that conspicuous, you might wanna also have that hour buffer to let that all go away so that they don't pick up on the fact that you're having a shower whenever you're alone (or in my case going against my normal schedule of having a shower at night). You can also wipe the bathroom mirror or whatevs with a towel if you're worried but make sure it's not a towel you mopped your hair up with like the one my idiot ass used. Anyway, after you've trimmed, you'll probably (read: definitely) have missed a few spots. It's hard to see if you've missed a bit when you're dealing with so much hair and it's all wet and sticking to your body. I would dry off and wait a day or so, checking your legs out for missed spots, then go again. Eventually you'll have prickly cactus legs but they're manageable, and it's a base that you can use a razor with. If you have limited alone time and you don't have any discrete way of shaving (e.g. by using a manual non-electric razor in your normal showers) then you can leave your legs just trimmed as they are for a while (a week and a bit, I would think) before you go back in the danger zone and do the next step, so feel free to take a break here.
Oh hell yeah we're up to actually shaving. You'll need any razor. Literally any. Men's, women's, manual, electric, whatever, it'll work great. I personally would recommend going for something not powered which therefore doesn't make noise, as you can then shave in your normal showers without outing yourself. Also as I mentioned before, many women prefer to use men's razors so don't worry. If you want, just use the thing you use on your face, cause that's the least suspicious thing to do. I actually went a bit cheeky and used my Mum's at first before quickly buying my own Gillette Fusion5 ProGlide (men's razor so wasn't very intimidating to buy), which seems to do pretty darn well. Anyway so get in a warm shower. You're meant to leave it for like 15 minutes to get an absolutely perfect shave, but you can get perfect over time, for now just make sure you're decently warm before you start shaving. If you have it, you should put shaving cream on your legs now (or conditioner apparently works pretty well too so that's actually what I used initially EDIT:, but I found that it wasn't quite enough and I still ended up with the red spots of doom, so maybe try something a bit better). It doesn't matter too much seeing as though you're already wet and warm, but it'll make your razor's job easier and depending on what you use it'll make your job easier by showing you where you've already done. It'll also reduce the risk of irritating your pores and blah blah. Start at your ankles and work going against the grain in short, 6cmish (2 and a bit inches I think) strokes, applying basically no pressure. If you get a huge amount of irritation after this then try going with the grain next time, but going against it is obviously more convenient to do standing in the shower, and will give a closer shave. I recommend working in a circle around the circumference of your leg and then moving up a bit but do whatever works. Over time you'll develop a less robotic technique, but this is a great way to start. I know some girls that do big strokes all the way from their ankles up to their thighs and while that might work with more consistently shaved hair, you probably can't do it on your first shave. Definitely try to overlap slightly, like as you go up the leg start your strokes lower than where you're up to so that half of each stroke is covering the area you've already shaved or something like that. It's pretty hard to see hairs when you're in a shower and bending over awkwardly to reach your legs so try and keep track. I find that feeling for prickly areas is the best way to find where you've missed. Your knees and ankles will be the easiest areas to cut yourself on so watch out with them. Don't forget to do the back of your legs, especially the inner of your knee. Other easy spots to miss include your knees, inner thighs, and if you're a bit lean like myself, the valley between the bone and back muscle on the inside edge of your shins (hard to explain but you'll get it if you get it). There's nothing wrong with taking it slow so take as long as you need. Once you've done both legs, apply moisturiser (if you wanna be extra good then apply one which you can put on dry after you've gotten out of the shower). EDIT: there's no such thing as too much moisturiser, and if you start having issues like red dots and shit then not moisturising properly is a decent culprit. END EDIT. When you dry your legs remember to just pat them down. After shaving you'll find a few things. One is that you probably will have gotten a bit too eager and cut yourself in a few places. It won't hurt, and you probably won't notice until a while after you've done it or even not until you're out of the shower, but holy shit some areas will bleed like mad. I got a cut on my knee that just pissed blood for like 45 minutes. Now, you could bandaid these areas, and that's not a bad idea, but I was worried that would lead to scabbing, so I lightly patted the blood off of them every now and again. You'll adjust to the ideal force and cutting angle over time, so don't worry, cuts will become rare. For me it took about three shaves to get to something decent, the first time I over-did it and cut myself a heap, the second time I under-did it and ended up doing effectively nothing, and the third time I got it just about right, and then I upgraded razor and cut myself again oops. I think it's one of those things where your brain adjusts over time without you even thinking about it. Anyway, as well as cutting yourself, you'll likely find that you've missed a bunch of areas. For me I found that some areas, like on my shins and around my ankles, there were like about half a dozen scattered hairs which the razor missed in an otherwise smooth area. These I found easy to just pluck out with a pair of tweezers. This sounds like it'd be painful, but weirdly I found that especially after a warm shower, it didn't really hurt at all, and I could actually remove hairs by pulling really slowly and they came out with almost no pain. I also used this on the few little hairs that have grown on my feet. This might be different for your hair though so YMMV. There'll be other areas where there are a lot of quite long hairs, and for these areas you can choose whether you cut them with scissors or whatever or run over them again with whatever powered thing you used for the initial shave. Finally, if you're like me, you won't get as happy about having shaved legs as you'd think you would. I found that while I didn't get super gushy about them after the initial few minutes, I found that looking at them made me go "yep those are my legs" instead of making me feel uncomfortable or as though they were ugly or didn't belong to me. I definitely don't regret it, it's just I'm not ecstatically euphoric, just no longer dysphoric (which I guess counts as being euphoric but whatever). I also found that it made me want more (or less, in terms of hair). I spent a touch over half an hour manually tending to the hair on my feet using the tweezers and scissors of a Swiss Army Knife, but then I looked at myself naked and realised that I also wanted to shave my butt and dick hair, which is a separate exercise I haven't gotten to yet (although I'm probably just going to repeat a similar process to what I suggested here albeit a bit more gingerly around my privates). The fact is though that I feel better about myself, and that's great. The big bit for me is done; the part of my bottom half that people will see now represents me in the way that I want it to. But now it's more about how I want to see myself, and that's kind of comforting in a way, cause it shows I'm not faking this shit for attention or anything. Anyway yeah, now just shave your legs with a razor every now and then and you'll be good! Don't shave every day, at absolute most shave every second day. Try and leave it for a few days though if you can. I definitely shaved every second day for a little bit when I first started just so I could hone in on the little missed spots and stuff like that, but once you get going don't feel like you have to have ultra smooth legs every second of every day. Even if you go around wearing shorts/a skirt every day people probably won't notice two or three days of stubble unless they get creepily close for strangers. And if they're your friends and they're complaining about three day stubble then you should probably try and get better friends especially considering how big of a deal it is to do this stuff in the first place as men. Just remember that you're looking way closer than anyone else is going to, so if you can see lots of tiny little black stubbly dots then that doesn't mean other people are going to. It doesn't always need to be as close a shave as your face cause people get way closer to your face than your legs. I think some people on this sub need to realise that they don't need to be 100% perfect with everything to look 100% perfect. Anyway yeah that's my immensely detailed guide to shaving your legs as a man living at home. Hope it helps some people. EDIT: If you get red spots of badness, here are some suggestions. Also if you wanna be real careful, do these things regardless, at worst it'll be a better shave. - start using shaving cream if you aren't already - use better moisturiser if you're using something a bit dodge for moisturising. - exfoliate your legs before shaving them, this means get a loofah/facewasher and shove some soap on and then scrub your legs. And if that still doesn't work then here are some more inconvenient methods that might work - moisturise your legs regularly - shave with the grain instead of against the grain (this won't be as close a shave but it's better for avoiding ingrown hairs) In the case you do get the horrible rednesses, moisturise moisturise moisturise. It'll make it sting less, it'll make it look better, and it'll reduce the potential damage. I recommend doing it after drying off at the end of an unsuccesful shave in the shower but any time is a good time. A further edit: You might be wondering about other options, like waxing, using an epilator, and hair removal cream. While these are all great options which could get you a far better shave which lasts longer and is easier to do, there are a couple of problems to consider. First off, none of the methods I just listed are easy to do in secret. By contrast, not only is owning a razor is a perfectly normal thing for a man, you probably already have everything you need in your house, and even if you are hiding everything to do with it, it won't take up much space or be particularly conspicuous, because even the creams associated with shaving are used for a vast variety of non-gendered purposes. Also, shaving with a manual razor is basically silent in the shower, and you can easily ditch half-way through a shave. Shaving is also relatively speaking very quick, it obviously will add a bit of time to your showers, but it's not like an hour long process. Another good thing about shaving is that it's basically the default, and most women either shave or have shaved in the past, so you can easily find advice online or ask your girl friends if you need a hand. It's also fairly affordable, even if it isn't the cheapest option out there. You have options, definitely, but I personally think that shaving is the most realistic hair removal option to do discretely, and that arguably outweighs the difficulty and occasional frustration that comes with it.
I'm conducting an IRB approved research project on trans healthcare and communication with providers! If you're interested in sharing your experiences, please consider participating. I really want to bring more trans voices into the field because it's so important to feel like we can take charge of our own care. This study will examine how requirements for transition-related care, such as letters or therapy, affect communication between transgender patients and our healthcare providers. Participation includes a 15 minute survey and an optional 30-45 minute interview. You may qualify if you... - Are 18 years or older - Identify as transgender, non-binary, and/or gender nonconforming - Have transition-related health care experience Please share this information with anyone you think may be interested in participating in the study! The survey can be accessed at [https://www.surveymonkey.com/WLXM7RP], and the researcher can be contacted at [[email protected]](mailto:[email protected]).
Wall Street Week Ahead for the trading week beginning August 17th, 2020
Good Saturday morning to all of you here on stocks. I hope everyone on this sub made out pretty nicely in the market this past week, and is ready for the new trading week ahead. Here is everything you need to know to get you ready for the trading week beginning August 17th, 2020.
Stocks are ignoring the lack of a stimulus package from Congress, but that could change - (Source)
Stocks could hang at record levels but gains may be capped until Congress agrees to a new stimulus package to help the economy and the millions of unemployed Americans. Stocks were higher in the past week, and the S&P 500 flirted with record levels it set in February. In the coming week, there are some major retailers reporting earnings, including Walmart, Home Depot and Target, but the season is mostly over and the market is entering a quiet period. There are minutes from the Fed’s last meeting, released Wednesday, and housing data, including starts Tuesday and existing sales Friday. Investors had been watching efforts by Congress to agree to a new stimulus package, but talks have failed and the Senate has gone on recess. There is a concern that Congress will not be convinced to provide a big enough package when it does get to work again on the next stimulus round because recent economic reports look stronger. July’s retail sales, for example, climbed to a record level and recovered to pre-pandemic levels. “The juxtaposition of getting more fiscal stimulus and better data has paralyzed us in our tracks … we’ve seen this sideways [market] action,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Alliance. “It feels like we need more action from Congress, and the concern is the longer we wait, the better the data gets and the less impactful the next round of stimulus will be.” Some technical analysts say the market may pull back around the high, to allow it to consolidate gains before moving higher into the end of the year. The S&P 500 reached an all-time high of 3,393 on Feb. 19. Hogan said he expects stocks to tread sideways during the dog days of August, but they could begin to react negatively to the election in September. He also said it is important that progress continue against the spread of Covid-19, as the economy continues to reopen. Peter Boockvar, chief investment strategist at Bleakley Advisory Group, said the market could have a wakeup call at some point that the stimulus package has not been approved. “I think it will cross over a line where they care,” he said. “I think the market is in suspended animation of believing there will be a magical deal.” Boockvar said he expects a deal ultimately, but the impact is not likely to be as big as the last round of funding. “What they’re not grasping is any deal, any extension of unemployment benefits, is going to be smaller than it was, and the rate of change should be the most important thing investors focus on,” he said. “Not the binary outcome of whether there’s a deal or no deal. There’s going to be less air going into the balloon.”
It’s the economy
Still, economists expect to see a strong rebound in the third quarter, and are anticipating about about a 20% jump in third-quarter growth. But they also say that could be threatened if Congress does not help with another stimulus package. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, described the July retail sales as a perfect V-shaped recovery, but cautioned it would not last unless more aid gets to individuals and cities and states. Democrats have sought a $3 trillion spending package, and Republicans in the Senate offered a $1 trillion package. They could not reach a compromise, including on a $600 weekly payment to individuals on unemployment which expired July 31. President Donald Trump has tried to fill the gap with executive orders to provide extra benefits to those on unemployment, but the $300 federal payment and $100 from states may take some time to reach individuals, as the processing varies by state. He has also issued an order instructing the Treasury to temporarily defer collection of payroll taxes from individuals making up to $104,000. “I think in August and September, there will be a lot of Ws, if there’s not more help here,” said Zandi, referring to an economic recovery that retrenches from a V shape before heading higher again. “It’s clearly perplexing. It may take the stock market to say we’re not going to get what we expect, and sell off and light a fire.” Zandi said it could come to a situation like 2008, where the stock market sold off sharply before Congress would agree to a program that helped financial companies. “We need a TARP moment to get these guys to help. Maybe if the claims tick higher and the August employment numbers are soft, given the president is focused on the stock market, that might be what it takes to get them back to the table in earnest,” he said, referring to the Troubled Asset Relief Program that helped rescue banks during the financial crisis. He ultimately expects a package of about $1.5 trillion to be approved in September. The lack of funding for state and local governments could result in more layoffs, as they struggle with their current 2021 budgets, Zandi said. Already 1.3 million public sector jobs have been lost since February, and there will be more layoffs and more programs and projects cancelled. The impact will hit contractors and other businesses that provide services to local governments. “The multipliers on state and local government are among the highest of any form of support, so if you don’t provide it, it’s going to ripple through the economy pretty fast,” he said. Economists expect to see a softening in consumer spending in August with the more than 28 million Americans on unemployment benefits as of mid-July no longer receiving any supplemental pay. “The real irony is things are shaping up that September is going to be a bad month, and that’s going to show up in all the data in October,” Zandi said. “They are really taking a chance on this election by not acting.”
This past week saw the following moves in the S&P:
The S&P 500 Index is a few points away from a new all-time high, completing one of the fastest recoveries from a bear market ever. But this will also seal the deal on the shortest bear market ever. Remember, the S&P 500 Index lost 20% from an all-time high in only 16 trading days back in February and March, so it makes sense that this recovery could be one of the fastest ever. From the lows on March 23, the S&P 500 has now added more than 50%. Many have been calling this a bear market rally for months, while we have been in the camp this is something more. It’s easy to see why this rally is different based on where it stands versus other bear market rallies:
They say the stock market is the only place where things go on sale, yet everyone runs out of the store screaming. We absolutely saw that back in March and now with stocks near new highs, many have missed this record run. Here we show how stocks have been usually higher a year or two after corrections.
After a historic drop in March, the S&P 500 has closed higher in April, May, June, and July. This rare event has happened only 11 other times, with stocks gaining the final five months of the year a very impressive 10 times. Only 2018 and the nearly 20% collapse in December saw a loss those final five months.
As shown in the LPL Chart of the Day, this bear market will go down as the fastest ever, at just over one month. The recovery back to new highs will be five months if we get there by August 23, making this one of the fastest recoveries ever. Not surprisingly, it usually takes longer for bear markets in a recession to recover; only adding to the impressiveness of this rally.
“It normally takes 30 months for bear markets during a recession to recover their losses, which makes this recovery all the more amazing,” said LPL Financial Chief Market Strateigst Ryan Detrick.. “Then again, there has been nothing normal about this recession, so maybe we shouldn’t be shocked about yet another record going down in 2020.”
When a Few Basis Points Packs a Punch
US Treasury yields have been on the rise this week with the 10-year yield rising 13 basis points (bps) from 0.56% up to 0.69% after getting as high as 0.72% on Thursday. A 13 bps move higher in interest rates may not seem like a whole lot, but with rates already at such low levels, a small move can have a pretty big impact on the prices of longer-term maturities.
Starting with longer-term US Treasuries, TLT, which measures the performance of maturities greater than 20 years, has declined 3.5% this week. Now, for a growth stock, 3.5% is par for the course, but that kind of move in the Treasury market is no small thing. The latest pullback for TLT also coincides with another failed attempt by the ETF to trade and stay above $170 for more than a day.
The further out the maturity window you go in the fixed income market, the bigger the impact of the move higher in interest rates. The Republic of Austria issued a 100-year bond in 2017, and its movements exemplify the wild moves that small changes in interest rates (from a low base) can have on prices. Just this week, the Austrian 100-year was down over 5%, which is a painful move no matter what type of asset class you are talking about. This week's move, though, was nothing compared to the stomach-churning swings from earlier this year. When Covid was first hitting the fan, the 100-year rallied 57% in the span of less than two months. That kind of move usually occurs over years rather than days, but in less than a third of that time, all those gains disintegrated in a two-and-a-half week span from early to late March. Easy come, easy go. Ironically enough, despite all the big up and down moves in this bond over the last year, as we type this, the bond's price is the same now as it was on this same day last year.
At the headline level, July’s Retail Sales report disappointed as the reading missed expectations by nearly a full percentage point. Just as soon as the report was released, we saw a number of stories pounce on the disappointment as a sign that the economy was losing steam. Looked at in more detail, though, the July report wasn’t all that bad. While the headline reading rose less than expected (1.2% vs 2.1%), Ex Autos and Ex Autos and Gas, the results were much better than expected. Not only that, but June’s original readings were all revised higher by around a full percentage point. Besides the fact that this month’s report was better underneath the surface and June’s reading was revised higher, it was also notable as the seasonally-adjusted annualized rate of sales in July hit a new record high. After the last record high back in January, only five months passed until American consumers were back to their pre-Covid spending ways. For the sake of comparison, back during the Financial Crisis, 40 months passed between the original high in Retail Sales in November 2007 and the next record high in April 2011. 5 months versus 40? Never underestimate the power of the US consumer!
While the monthly pace of retail sales is back at all-time highs, the characteristics behind the total level of sales have changed markedly in the post COVID world. In our just released B.I.G. Tips report we looked at these changing dynamics to highlight the groups that have been the biggest winners and losers from the shifts.
100 Days of Gains
Today marked 100 trading days since the Nasdaq 100's March 20th COVID Crash closing low. Below is a chart showing the rolling 100-trading day percentage change of the Nasdaq 100 since 1985. The 59.8% gain over the last 100 trading days ranks as the 3rd strongest run on record. The only two stronger 100-day rallies ended in January 1999 and March 2000.
While the Nasdaq 100 bottomed on Friday, March 20th, the S&P 500 bottomed the following Monday (3/23). This means tomorrow will mark 100 trading days since the S&P 500's COVID Crash closing low. Right now the rolling 100-day percentage change for the S&P 500 sits at +46.7%. But if the S&P manages to trade at current levels tomorrow, the 100-day gain will jump above 50%. It has been 87 years (1933) since we've seen a 100-day gain of more than 50%!
Whether you want to look at it from the perspective of closing prices or intraday levels, the S&P 500 is doing what just about everybody thought would be impossible less than five months ago - approaching record highs. Relative to its closing high of 3,386.15, the S&P 500 is just 0.27% lower, while it's within half of a percent from its record intraday high of 3,393.52. Through today, the S&P 500 has gone 120 trading days without a record high, and as shown in the chart below, the current streak is barely even visible when viewed in the perspective of all streaks since 1928. Even if we zoom in on just the last five years, the current streak of 120 trading days only ranks as the fourth-longest streak without a new high. While the S&P 500's 120-trading day streak without a new high isn't extreme by historical standards, the turnaround off the lows has been extraordinary. In the S&P 500's history, there have been ten prior declines of at least 20% from a record closing high. Of those ten prior periods, the shortest gap between the original record high and the next one was 309 trading days, and the shortest gap between highs that had a pullback of at least 30% was 484 tradings days (or more than four times the current gap of 120 trading days). For all ten streaks without a record high, the median drought was 680 trading days.
Whenever the S&P 500 does take out its 2/19 high, the question is whether the new high represents a breakout where the S&P 500 keeps rallying into evergreen territory, or does it run out of gas after finally reaching a new milestone? To shed some light on this question, we looked at the S&P 500's performance following each prior streak of similar duration without a new high.
STOCK MARKET VIDEO: Stock Market Analysis Video for Week Ending August 14th, 2020
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STOCK MARKET VIDEO: ShadowTrader Video Weekly 8.16.20
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(VIDEO NOT YET POSTED!) Here are the most notable companies (tickers) reporting earnings in this upcoming trading week ahead-
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Walmart Inc. $132.60
Walmart Inc. (WMT) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:00 AM ET on Tuesday, August 18, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.20 per share on revenue of $134.28 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.29 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 81% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 5.51% with revenue increasing by 2.99%. Short interest has decreased by 12.5% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 0.6% from its open following the earnings release to be 9.9% above its 200 day moving average of $120.64. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Tuesday, August 11, 2020 there was some notable buying of 12,381 contracts of the $135.00 put expiring on Friday, August 21, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 4.9% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 2.3% move in recent quarters.
NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 4:20 PM ET on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.95 per share on revenue of $3.65 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $2.01 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 84% expecting an earnings beat The company's guidance was for earnings of $1.83 to $2.06 per share. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 65.25% with revenue increasing by 41.53%. The stock has drifted higher by 31.0% from its open following the earnings release to be 57.7% above its 200 day moving average of $293.24. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Friday, August 14, 2020 there was some notable buying of 3,787 contracts of the $460.00 call expiring on Friday, August 21, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 7.7% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 4.0% move in recent quarters.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:10 AM ET on Thursday, August 20, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.99 per share on revenue of $21.13 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $2.11 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 83% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 8.74% with revenue increasing by 26.22%. Short interest has increased by 30.1% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 25.0% from its open following the earnings release to be 20.0% above its 200 day moving average of $211.59. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. On Friday, August 7, 2020 there was some notable buying of 12,935 contracts of the $300.00 call expiring on Friday, November 20, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 6.2% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 3.1% move in recent quarters.
JD.com, Inc. (JD) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 5:50 AM ET on Monday, August 17, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.38 per share on revenue of $26.98 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.46 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 78% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 52.00% with revenue increasing by 23.25%. Short interest has increased by 16.7% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 24.1% from its open following the earnings release to be 36.9% above its 200 day moving average of $45.34. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Friday, August 14, 2020 there was some notable buying of 12,799 contracts of the $62.00 call expiring on Friday, August 21, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 8.0% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 6.4% move in recent quarters.
Home Depot, Inc. (HD) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:00 AM ET on Tuesday, August 18, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $3.71 per share on revenue of $31.67 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $3.75 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 78% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 17.03% with revenue increasing by 2.69%. Short interest has decreased by 39.8% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 16.7% from its open following the earnings release to be 22.4% above its 200 day moving average of $229.20. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Friday, August 14, 2020 there was some notable buying of 3,323 contracts of the $300.00 call expiring on Friday, August 28, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 4.2% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 2.5% move in recent quarters.
Lowe's Companies, Inc. (LOW) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:00 AM ET on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $2.93 per share on revenue of $21.29 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $2.97 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 78% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 36.28% with revenue increasing by 1.42%. Short interest has decreased by 19.2% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 25.9% from its open following the earnings release to be 31.2% above its 200 day moving average of $117.67. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Friday, August 7, 2020 there was some notable buying of 1,994 contracts of the $170.00 call expiring on Friday, August 21, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 6.0% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 5.8% move in recent quarters.
Target Corp. (TGT) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:30 AM ET on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.56 per share on revenue of $19.30 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.64 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 75% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 14.29% with revenue increasing by 4.77%. Short interest has decreased by 36.8% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 10.0% from its open following the earnings release to be 18.0% above its 200 day moving average of $115.73. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Monday, August 10, 2020 there was some notable buying of 4,479 contracts of the $135.00 call expiring on Friday, September 18, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 6.3% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 7.7% move in recent quarters.
Sea Limited (SE) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:30 AM ET on Tuesday, August 18, 2020. The consensus estimate is for a loss of $0.47 per share on revenue of $1.03 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is ($0.36) per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 74% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 34.29% with revenue increasing by 136.16%. Short interest has decreased by 8.5% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 91.7% from its open following the earnings release to be 98.1% above its 200 day moving average of $63.87. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. On Tuesday, August 4, 2020 there was some notable buying of 4,000 contracts of the $110.00 put expiring on Friday, January 15, 2021. Option traders are pricing in a 12.9% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 16.7% move in recent quarters.
Niu Technologies (NIU) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 3:00 AM ET on Monday, August 17, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.07 per share on revenue of $88.07 million and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.11 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 57% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 30.00% with revenue increasing by 13.97%. Short interest has increased by 18.9% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 129.8% from its open following the earnings release to be 90.3% above its 200 day moving average of $10.94. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. The stock has averaged a 3.7% move on earnings in recent quarters.
BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc. (BJ) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:45 AM ET on Thursday, August 20, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.57 per share on revenue of $3.64 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.60 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 73% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 46.15% with revenue increasing by 8.79%. Short interest has decreased by 3.2% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 33.8% from its open following the earnings release to be 46.7% above its 200 day moving average of $28.27. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Wednesday, August 12, 2020 there was some notable buying of 2,119 contracts of the $50.00 call expiring on Friday, September 18, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 12.4% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 10.0% move in recent quarters.
Gravity's Rainbow Reading Group | Sections 66-69 | Week 20
Alright, home stretch foax. This section's a beast. Hang in there and keep sharing your insights! All together now... Section 66 "You will want cause and effect. All right." (663) What an opening - it's almost confrontational, mocking our need for clear narrative structure and causality. We discover that Thanatz was tossed overboard in the same storm that sent Slothrop off the Anubis and off on his adventure with Frau Gnahb. Thanatz is rescued by someone even stranger - an unnamed Polish undertaker (think on the etymology of that word) who happens to be a lightening aficionado. I'll stop here and comment that, earlier, when Slothrop fell into the water before and after getting on the Anubis, it brought to mind the river Styx in Hades - another underworld. It washes clean one's identity and memory. Makes you forget who you are. And there's traditionally a ferryman, Charon, to help people cross it. Can't help but think that's who saved Thanatz here, carrying him from the land of the dead to the land of the unliving, the preterite detritus of WWII. (An aside: Speaking of Styx, has anyone listened to Mr. Roboto recently? That song has some Gravity's Rainbow vibes.) Our undertaker here is inspired by the Franklin myth and is trying to get struck by lightening in order to experience that "singular point, [that] discontinuity in the curve of life" (664) passing from a rate of change of positive infinity to one of negative infinity in the blink of an eye. Seems there's something of a conspiracy among those who have been through this point of infinite inflection - a secret society of lightening heads who are aware not of another reality but of a new layer of reality laid on top of our own. Insight into a higher level of reality, of hidden systems. We get an example of the content of the lightning-aficionado's publication A Nickel Saved and it's supposedly full of coded messages for Those Who Know, each part being a veiled reference to other topics that contain the true meaning, requiring a true paranoid's ability to see (make?) connections. For example, there are repeated mentions of April, Easter, and Spring - the season of rebirth. To an Amperage Contest and lightbulbs failing - Byron the Bulb's attempts to strike back, perchance? A screen-door salesman - what is a screen door except a permeable interface? But our undertaker isn't interested in secret knowledge - he just wants to be a better businessman - and he deposits Thanatz on the shore and rows back off into the storm. Here, Thanatz meets a group of 175s - men formerly imprisoned in the Dora camp for being gay - who have formed their own solitary community in this isolated section of northern Germany. I suspect some of this imagery may initially shock readers - concentration camp victims who want to return to their prison? Who set up their own 175-Stadt to recreate the conditions of their imprisonment? But think about it - just last section, we saw Katje, someone who's been used and abused by those in power, balk at the thought of being truly free because she had become dependent on systems of control. She had integrated those control systems as part of her identity, her sense of self. "She needs the whip," Blicero wrote of her (662). Just like Katje, these men became so conditioned to depend on a system of total control and rigid social hierarchies that they don't know how to function without it. Their 175-Stadt doesn't seem like such a ridiculously dark, inappropriate caricature now, does it? Because isn't that a central point of this book - that everyone has been conditioned to need control, to need Their System, to not know how to function without it? Slothrop was our perfect everyman from within this system, and look at what it took for him to actually be free (and even then, the ideal of America still has a colonial outpost in his head). But in their 175-Stadt, these men at least control their system of control. They built it, they staff every level of it, and it's entirely under their control. An isolated state, separate from the broader System. But is there a ruler in this system, a king? No, simply the figment of Blicero. His name, his specter, looming over everything. A system of control with no real king? We've seen that before. Not only that, but this micro-society is not based strictly on the SS command from Dora, but what the prisoners inferred about the rocket command structure in the Mittelwerke. So even their "recreation" of their imprisonment is an approximation of a different system. I'd also stop here to comment that, is this imagery really as ridiculous/insane as it first appears? I'd say no, since the queeS&M community absolutely took inspiration from Nazi uniforms as symbols of dominance and control, repurposing it into fetishwear. But then, as in this 175-Stadt, the control is by choice, as is the submission. As we've seen elsewhere in this book (Blicero's Oven-State), turning submission into a fetish can be a form of rebellion, since it subverts Their means of control (fear of pain) and turns it into a source of pleasure. Is it truly control if you're choosing it? Enjoying it? No one said this book asks easy questions of its readers... Thanatz keeps looking for answers, and gets swept up amidst the vast swarms of preterite Displaced Persons being shifted across the zone. What's concerning is that these supposedly-free, albeit displaced, people, are shuffled without purpose across the Zone, with minimal food, water, or medicine, being "herded into wire enclosure[s]" and shipped around in freight cars, "deloused, poked, palpated, named, numbered, consigned, invoiced, misrouted, detained, ignored" (669). It's almost impossible to miss the painful similarity here to the treatment of Jews and other victims of the Holocaust. Only here the mistreatment isn't out of some pathological hatred, simply a system without a place for so many people, and without the committed resources to actually, effectively help them. The thought is unsettling, since we like to imagine that only Naziesque hatred could prompt such brutal mistreatment, not apathy. Finally, he's rescued by the Schwarzkommando thanks to his knowledge of Blicero and the firing of Rocket 00000. Here, we learn a bit more about what happened that day. Looking into Blicero's eyes, he saw windmills reflected, though none were in the area. Another four-way mandala, like we saw last week with Slothrop. Thanatz isn't in great mental shape by this point, and he's beginning to equate Gottfried and Bianca both as his children. Why? Because he felt some sense of responsibility to them? Because he failed them? Either way, the Schwarzkommando learn all they need from him about that fateful noon on the Heath, though we do not. The section ends with a simple touch of hands between Enzian and Christian, a moment of connection, of trust. Section 67 Man, how do I even start summarizing this complete doozy of a section? As Weissenburger writes, "In this episode the narration begins to fragment." (344) Ya don't say... Well, here goes. We being one serious trip of a section with Slothrop, as part of a rather unimpressive team of quasi-superheros (the "Floundering Four") fighting against evil ol' Broderick Slothrop amidst the factory-state (a Metropolis-like iteration of the Rocket-State with movable buildings?!). Broderick, in the role of comic book supervillain, keeps trying to off Slothrop, but our hero has a lucky streak just wide enough to keep him alive. Right off the bat, we see another image of the chessboard - the whole factory-state is laid out in a grid, and it's all A Game of Chess, as der Springer already informed us, and our movements are limited. Crucially, "Your objective is not the King - there is no King - but momentary targets such as the Radiant Hour." (674) How can you win at chess when there's no King? How can the land be restored and the cycle renewed if there's no King to die and be replaced? Slothrop is joined by a truly slipshod lot: Myrtle Miraculous, the only one who seems to have actual powers; Maximilian, a suave Black club manager who can flow with all natural rhythms and thus able to navigate any scenario with ease, and Marcel, a mechanical chess player (an embodiment of the Mechanical Turk, but crucially, one without the hidden human operator. No hidden Grandmaster lurking inside Marcel here - nope, this android's the real deal. This section includes one of my favorite quotes from the book: "Decisions are never really made - at best they manager to emerge, from a chaos of peeves, whims, hallucinations and all-round assholery." (676) I can think of several times where I've been able to relate to that scenario all too well. Their chances for success and failure are equal, but these opposing odds don't cancel each other out - instead, the two opposing forces just create a "loud dissonance". The crew undertake some truly hallucinatory adventures through the Racketen-Stadt which I will not attempt to summarize, as that would be an exercise in futility. But we are treated to flashes of Slothrop, "Broderick and Nalline's shadow-child, their unconfessed, their monster son," (677) getting locked in an icebox, piloting a mobile building through the grid-streets of the factory-state like a giant chess piece. One line really jumps out at me, here, that I think is important: "Their struggle is not the only, or even the ultimate one. Indeed, not only are there many other struggles, but there are also spectators, watching, as spectators will do, hundreds of thousands of them." (679) Makes me think of the "glozing neuters," mentioned earlier - of the masses of people who are just trying to live their lives, neither part of any conspiracy nor actively aware of being subject to one. Must be nice. At the same time, the idea of other, simultaneous struggles, is noteworthy - it brings to mind the concept of intersectionality, and how people realizing their unique, individual struggles share common sources, and common traits, which they can work together to fight. We end this sub-section in an arena for these exact masses, where our heroes are on a stakeout, with Slothrop in full drag waiting in the Transvestites' Toilet for a message. You may be wondering about the multiple instances of cross-dressing, in various iterations, throughout the book. Slothrop in drag and Blicero in a wig and merkin come to mind. One aspect, I'd say, is that it reflects a blending of two (as far as society is generally concerned) binary opposites. A crossing-over, a transgression against the status quo and an option other than 1 or 0. Eliot, in his Notes on The Waste Land, wrote,
"Tiresias, although a mere spectator and not indeed a 'character', is yet the most important personage in the poem, uniting all the rest. Just as the one-eyed merchant, seller of currants, melts into the Phoenician Sailor, and the latter is not wholly distinct from Ferdinand Prince of Naples, so all the women are one woman, and the two sexes meet in Tiresias. What Tiresias sees, in fact, is the substance of the poem." (Emphasis mine).
Cue Crutchfield the Westwardman's world of only one of everything. Likewise, the women in Gravity's Rainbow often blend together, share traits or imagery. So do the men. The joining of the two sexes in Blicero, as well as Slothrop here at the end, is significant. The Low-Frequency Listeners The introduction here of the character of Rohr, the Keeper of the Antenna, specifically as a Jehovah's witness, was odd. It's such a specific subsect of Christianity. Then we see - he heard a man on the radio, dying, asking for a priest. Rohr says, "Should I have got on and told him about priests? Would he've found any comfort in that?" (682). In what? I had to look it up, but when I did, it clicked - Jehovah's witnesses apparently do not have priests, because they are all ordained. There is no separate priest caste in their church, and thus no Preterite/Elect division. In this section, we also learn that the Nuremberg trials are getting underway. Mom Slothrop's Letter to Ambassador Kennedy You start to feel even more sorry for Slothrop as you realize just how terrible his parents apparently were. His mom cares enough to at least write another letter asking Ambassador Kennedy as to what the hell happened to their son, but her letter quickly devolves into drunken ramblings complaining about striking workers and managing to make an innuendo about Jack Kennedy while also dismissing her love of her sons. Oof. Maybe Otto was right with his conspiracy of mothers... On the Phrase "Ass-Backwards" An entertaining linguistic debate between Säure and Slothrop on American idioms, specifically ones involving a reversal, as in the case of "ass-backwards". The section then slips into a story of Säure, in his youth, breaking into the home of a young woman, Minnie, who is unable to hear or pronounce umlauted letters, and thus manages to shout the word "helicopter" rather than "cute robber" well before the vehicle was ever invented. Her cry is heard by none other than a young aerodynamics student. The word is taken as a prophesy and a warning of the helicopter's symbol of the police state, with armed officers hanging out the sides, aiming down at their targets. My Doper's Cadenza It begins with a serenade from Bodine, and then an exploration of the tenement building "Der Platz" that is home to numerous drug addicts, dope peddlers, and general ne'er-do-wells. They are building an anti-police moat around the building, entirely underground so as to avoid detection, saving breaking through the street for the end. Shit 'n' Shinola Another idiomatic diversion for Säure. A beautiful line is tucked away in here - "from outside, the Hall is golden, the white gold precisely of one lily-of-the-valley petal in 4 o'clock sunlight, serene, at the top of an artificially-graded hill." (687) This building, the Schein-Aula (Seeming-Hall), suggests "persistence, through returns of spring, hopes for love, melting snow and ice, academic Sunday tranquillities, smells of grass just crushed or cut or later turning to hay..." (688) Yet again, imagery of spring, of a return to life from the dead season of winter, of the cycle. We return to the Roseland Ballroom, where shit 'n' Shinola do actually come together. "Shit, now, is the color white folks are afraid of. Shit is the presence of death, not some abstract-arty character with a scythe but the stiff and rotting corpse itself inside the whiteman's warm and private own asshole, which is getting pretty intimate. That's what that white toilet's for.... that white porcelain's the very emblem of Odorless and Official Death." (688) Here Pynchon cuts straight to the point - the almost pathological fear of death and its connections to fears of blackness, excrement. Shit, Death, and the Word. Edwin Treacle hit on this back on p. 276 when he tried to show his colleagues at the White Visitation "that their feelings about blackness were tied to feelings about shit, and feelings about shit to feelings about putrefaction and death." The cycle of life is too organic, too messy. Better to replace carbon with silicon, to hide shit with porcelain, to treat people with dark skin as "other" or sub-human to avoid acknowledging that their non-European, communal ways of life were, in fact, totally natural. An Incident in the Transvestites' Toilet Not King Kong, but a small, costumed ape comes up to Slothrop, who's wearing a Fay Wray dress while waiting in the bathroom for a still-unspecified message. We get a Miltonic blank-verse poem (thanks, Weissenburger!) about the movie King Kong, written in the voice of Anne Darrow (Fay Wray's character). It's honestly quite good - I love the line "in your own stone living space" - the internal rhyme there sounds really nice, and I like the riff on living stone / Livingston, both of which have popped up previously. In the poem, Darrow talks about when she was tied up, hung by the natives as an offering to "the night's one Shape to come" (689), echoing both Greta Erdman's scene in Alpdrücken and the Hanged Man card of the Tarot (willing sacrifice, sacrifice that prompts a return, a renewal of the cycle). Darrow says she prayed, "not for Jack," her suave costar, but for her director Carl Denham, "only him, with gun and camera... making the unreal reel / By shooting at it, one way or the other-" (689). Throughout GR, we've seen a film motif, and this really brings it home. The analogy of a gun to a camera, both of which make the unreal real (a camera creates films that interpret real life - the "unreal reel", a gun makes death, which we've blocked away and tried to avoid, real and inescapable). The director is in control of the movie, the actors, the story, of how it works and what is told. Darrow ends by asking Carl to "show me the key light, whisper me a line..." - a key light is used in cinema and photography to not just shed light on the subject, but to do so in a way that provides form and dimension to the subject and the scene. So Darrow is asking for the director to literally give her form and definition, to tell her what to say next. This ape, though, isn't so Romantic as ol' Kong though, and is much more direct. It hands Slothrop an anarchist's bomb straight out of the comics pages, and takes off. Slothrop freezes and is saved by a helpful transvestite who takes the bomb and flushes it down the toilet. But it explodes anyway, sending geysers of water up out of all the toilets. A Voice comes out of he Loudspeaker informing everyone that it was, in fact, a sodium bomb that explodes upon contact with water. Tellls everyone to get the "dangerous maniac" who threw it. That was supposed to be Slothrop, but he was saved by his indecision and the kindness of a stranger, who is now set upon by the other occupants of the toilet. A Moment of Fun with Takeshi and Ichizo, the Komical Kamikazes We now jump to a pair of comically-mismatched Kamikaze pilots stationed on a remote island well away from any conflict. One flies a Zero, the other flies an "Ohka device" which is basically a rocket-bomb with a pilot's seat. They get moonshine from their radarman, Kenosho, who mocks them daily for the lack of opportunities to fly to their deaths and who comes up with haikus that, while in the right format, really miss the heart of what a haiku is supposed to be. Streets Back to Slothrop, now, and a catalogue of the streets he's traveled down and what he's seen. We get a meditation on the absurdity of army chaplains, who worked for the Army and "stood up and talked to the men who were going to die about God, death, nothingness, redemption, salvation." (693) And it does seem a bit absurd when you consider that the Army that employs the chaplains is the same entity sending the men off to die. We see a bus driver (perchance our maniac bus driver from earlier?) driving through town in the night, his passengers looking out the windows, their faces "drowned-man green, insomniac, tobacco-starved, scared, not of tomorrow, not yet, but of this pause in their night-passage, of how easy it will be to lose, and how much it will hurt..." (693) Going back to the Waste Land, the phrase "I do not find / The Hanged Man. Fear death by water." is symbolic of a death without return (drowning) contrasted to the sacrifice/return symbolized by The Hanged Man. These poor passengers, it seems, aren't to expect any return. Slothrop also, at this point, learns of the bombing of Hiroshima from a discarded Army newspaper, the photo of the atomic blast placed in poor taste next to an image of a pin-up girl. The bomb's mushroom cloud is compared to the Cross, to a capital-T Tree. But which tree? Is this a meditation on the deadly, unforgettable knowledge of how to split the atom, or of the tree of life, with the citizens of Hiroshima as a sacrifice made... but to what? I'm honestly not sure. Would love your thoughts. Listening to the Toilet As others have noted, this book in many ways is about the drug counterculture and hippie movement of the 60s/early 70s. This is the most overt in this section, in which we learn that listening for the cessation of the flow of water to the toilet in the pipes is a cue that a police raid is imminent - shutting off the water being a way to prevent the flushing of illicit substances. But it takes a special ear to hear the cessation of a subtle, pervasive white noise. What if the sun, in fact, massive furnace that it is, emits a constant, low-level roar that is so incessant we don't even hear it? What if eddies in the current of the Soniferous Aether cause rare spots of true quiet, where the noise is no longer transmitted and anyone in that spot can hear their own heartbeat it's so quiet? Interestingly, there are "quiet rooms" designed to absorb nearly all sound, used for precise sound calibration. I remember reading that most people can't sit in one of those rooms for more than 30 minutes or so because it's literally so quiet that you can hear the blood flowing through your veins, and people have even reported auditory hallucinations as a result. But why this digression? Maybe because we need to be asking what other white noise is out there that we've become completely deaf to? I think Roger and Jessica found a pocket of this quiet, early in the book, where the "noise" of modern society and all its associated obligations was muted by the War. Witty Repartee A return to our Komical Kamikazes, and a meditation on the ubiquity of the Hotchkiss machine gun across nations, independent of alliances. We get an image of a false King - an inbred idiot lying naked in a dumpster, attracting the attention of potential revolutionaries. But they can't decide if he's "a diversionary nuisance planted here by the Management, or whether he's real Decadent Aristocracy to be held for real ransom" (698). While the would-be revolutionaries are debating in the alley, sentries with the aforementioned Hotchkiss guns take positions on the rooftops, aiming down... Heart-to-Heart, Man-to-Man A dialogue here between Slothrop and ol' Broderick, with dear old dad interrogating his wayward son about a modern electric drug. Slothrop reassures him that he'd never shoot raw electricity - no, they dope themselves with waves. Major pre-Cyberpunk vibes here, with Broderick warning "Suppose someday you just plug in and go away and never come back?" to which Tyrone replies, "What do you think every electrofreak dreams about? .... Maybe there is a Machine to take us away, take us completely, suck us out through the electrodes out of the skull 'n' into the Machine and live there forever.... We can live forever, in a clean, honest, purified Electroworld-" (699). Matrix, anyone? Not to mention the waves of radio, TV, etc. and the simple, episodic, controlled reality they offer. Pleasantville also comes to mind, with all its commentary on the shows of the era. Some Characteristics of Imipolex G We learn that Imipolex G is the first erectile plastic, stiffening in response to certain electronic stimuli. The potential of a layer of controlling wires just under the outer layer of Imipolex, making it a second skin - a synthetic interface. Alternately, there's the potential to control it via a projection of "an electronic 'image; analogous to a motion picture." (700) My gods, I made it through this section... Section 68 Tchitcherine now, dealing with a spook, Nikolai Ripov, from the Commissariat for Intelligence Activities. His pal Džabajev has run off with "two local derelicts" (700) and is impersonating Frank Sinatra and wooing the ladies of the Zone. We get the line, "While nobles are crying in their nights' chains, the squires sing. The terrible politics of the Grail can never touch them. Song is the magic cape." (701) - Seems another example of folks recognizing the game, the Grail quest, for what it was and checking out - deciding not to play and just enjoy themselves while the Elect lose sleep over the endless searching. Ripov explains to Tchitcherine how "the basic problem... has always been getting other people to die for you." (701) Religion used to serve as an effective control for that reason - death isn't quite as scary if you think you're going to heaven. But modern society has moved on, and needs more secular sources of control, like a commitment to "History" as if you're part of some great narrative, sacrificing yourself for some imagined end-goal of what society is "supposed" to be. Seems Tchitcherine was doping on Oneirine theophosphate. Wimpe, his dealer, argues that a man is "only real at the points of decision. The time between doesn't matter." (702) Points man again - the moment of decision, of choice, that splits the future in two. Points of control. Contrast that to:
"Datta: what have we given? / My friend, blood shaking my heart / The awful daring of a moment’s surrender / Which an age of prudence can never retract / By this, and this only, we have existed." (The Waste Land, Part V: What the Thunder Said - emphasis mine).
Both are arguing that it's these key moments, irreversible junctures in our lives that make us real. Not what comes next, not what people say about us, just our moments. Integrate those moments, run them fast enough (say 24 frames per second) and you might even approximate something close to a person... We learn that Oneirine apparently leads to "the dullest hallucinations known to psychopharmacology" (703) - hauntings of the mundane, the almost-normal. Tchitcherine's Haunting Tchitcherine hallucinates that Ripov is interrogating him, and he becomes fixated on the question of whether or not he was supposed to die. Seems like part of him wants to believe in life after death, in some hope for meaning, which goes against the Soviet doctrine and thus isn't exactly endearing him to those above him. Thankfully this is just an Oneirine haunting, except... wait, it's too real - no subtle violations of reality. He tries to escape, but is outnumbered. But no execution for him here - just a reassignment to Central Asia. A cold and operational death. Section 69
"The dearest nation of all is one that will survive no longer than you and I, a common movement at the mercy of death and time: the ad hoc adventure." - Resolutions of the Gross Suckling Conference (706)
In other words, they seek a nation that does not function independently of its citizens - one that is not some separate identity with a quasi-personhood (much like how corporations are legally "people"). Rather, a nation that is inextricably linked to the people and that will die when they do. No immortality, no denial of the cycle or death. But poor Roger's still dealing with Jessica, and now with Jeremy, too, who he's at least amicable with. But he's struggling with their acceptance of the System, their embracing of it. Jeremy's all about reassembling the rockets and firing them, asking "What else does one do with a rocket?" (note how disassembling it or at least not using the weapon isn't even an option...). Jeremy's even so kind as to invite Roger to a fancy dinner with a bunch of corporate bigwigs, including folks from Krupp, ICI, and GE, and hosted by one Stefan Utgarthaloki, whose name should be a giant red-flag that something's amiss with this shindig. Roger picks Seaman Bodine as his date, the two having struck up a rather theatrical friendship, dress in their absurdist best (Bodine in the mother of all zoot suits), and join the party. We get some insight here into the nature of rebellions, and the danger of them not only fizzling out or failing, but of being co-opted as a tool to "help legitimize Them" (713). Of either dying or "living on as Their pet" - it brings to mind the corporate branding of "rebelliousness" as cool, as "a phase" that it's normal to go through and eventually grow up from. Treating the idealism of youth, the desire to make the world better and to fight against the problems of the system before you become numb to them, as a normal phase of life is such an effective way to neutralize it culturally. How many people have heard the phrase "you get conservative [i.e. more resistant to change] as you get older"? How many of us have seen youth-led movements being dismissed as examples of immaturity, for example? Between that and companies stamping their logo on it (hello, Hot Topic), it's a way to change the cultural narrative around any movement against the status quo to one that's dismissive, just accepting enough to let people burn off their energy and eventually fall into line. Because how else can you continue to live a decent life in a society that refuses to change? You either go build a shack in the woods somewhere, die, or acclimate to the system and just focus on being comfortable yourself, not constantly fighting for change. It's a depressing thought, and I'm sure Pynchon saw a lot of that attitude in the 60s. I have to wonder - do non-industrialized societies have "teenage rebellion" as a normal part of life? Is that a part of human nature, like we tend to think, or is it an explicit reaction to reaching maturity in a system that is anti-human and anti-nature? Anyway, back to the dinner party - between the depressing, anti-social music (kazoos?!) and the lavish dinner, things seem fine, but there's a plot against the Roger and Bodine. Fortunately a journalist, Constance, tips off Bodine that they might just be the main course of this feast, so Bodine cues Roger to begin the evening show - an absurd gross-out session that they planned in advance with the aid of now-deceased Pudding communicating via medium Carroll Eventyr. The pair recite an increasingly disgusting list of alliterative dishes, triggering "well-bred gagging" and guests to flee, though a few find it all quite entertaining. But it's enough to break up the dinner party and allow our heroes to flee. Note: If you made it this far, actually read all this,thank you. Bloom warned me this was a longer section, and boy, he wasn't kidding. I think this is longer than some college essays I wrote... Damn fun, though, and I hope you've found my thoughts informative, interesting, useful, or if nothing else, sufficiently diversionary for a spell. I truly look forward to seeing what you other fine foax have to say on these labrynthine sections. Questions
In the lightning-aficionado's "A Nickel Saved" excerpt, are there any other references or hidden ideas you can find? I have to think there are.
What is the meaning of the windmill reflected in Blicero's eyes? How do you interpret the imagery in this scene in general?
175-Stadt. Oven-State. Hund-Stadt. Rocket-State. Factory-State. We've seen numerous examples of specialized micro-states across the Zone, experiments in different forms of society. What are your thoughts on these? Are they hints at ways to find alternate societies, or manifestations of humanity's tendency to divide by category and put of fences?
In the "Shit 'n' Shinola" subsection, Pynchon connects Jack Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Tyrone Slothrop. What do you make of this intersection?
In "Streets," the bombing of Hiroshima is presented as being similar to the Cross, "it is also, perhaps, a Tree..." - the capitalized "Tree" here could be the tree of knowledge, the tree of life, the tree from which the Hanged Man dangles, or perhaps something else. What's your interpretation of this imagery?
In Section 69, we see references to the Albatross, famous symbol from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It's presented that Slothrop is the (now-plucked) albatross, but it's not clear who killed this bird, or who's wearing it around their neck. They? Any ideas?
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