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"I think I've lived long enough to see competitive Counter-Strike as we know it, kill itself." Summary of Richard Lewis' stream (Long)
I want to preface that the contents of this post is for informational purposes. I do not condone or approve of any harassments or witch-hunting or the attacking of anybody.
Richard Lewis recently did a stream talking about the terrible state of CS esports and I thought it was an important stream anyone who cares about the CS community should listen to. Vod Link here: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/830415547 I realize it is 3 hours long so I took it upon myself to create a list of interesting points from the stream so you don't have to listen to the whole thing, although I still encourage you to do so if you can. I know this post is still long but probably easier to digest, especially in parts. Here is a link to my raw notes if you for some reason want to read through this which includes some omitted stuff. It's in chronological order of things said in the stream and has some time stamps. https://pastebin.com/6QWTLr8T
"The last month has convinced me, that we are going to be heading into a dark place for Counter-Strike esports in 2021."
"I think I've seen the scene essentially kill itself."
"For the past 5 to 6 years, we've basically been in a holding pattern of people coming into our game wanting to run it, wanting to run all of the esports and wanting to profiteer and its been sort of a concerted effort to drive them off and push them away."
"We're spread way too thin."
"If Riot don't get involved and stop the scumbags that have moved over to Valorant from getting their feet under the table, Valorant is going to have real problems."
RL thinks too much has happened all at once for us to do anything except watch it play out, like:
Recent CSPPA strike against BLAST
ESIC failures and them not being supported enough
Teams cheating i.e. coaches/bugs
Widespread match fixing
"People who try to hold bubble events are so incompetent and fuck up and people get the 'rona and its their fault."
"People who say Flashpoint is a bubble is full of shit and is a lie and people are now suffering for that lie."
"To save money they let people go home and break the bubble for a week."
"Not just Flashpoint peoples decision, they have a partner that handles the production." (hinting FACEIT)
"People are trapped in hotels essentially under house arrest because of COVID restrictions and has fucked peoples lives up."
"It's all too much, all of this incompetence, all of this greed, maybe we ride it out."
RL says he has talked to the Riot devs (the ones working on Valorant) and says, "They are so cognizant of all the fuck ups and all the problems we have in Counter-Strike."
He continues to say that this is factored into their business plan and that we never had a competitor, but just so happens to have one coincide, when we are at our worst.
CSPPA - Counter-Strike Professional Players' Association
"Who does this union really fucking serve?"
RL believes that the CSPPA is a mockery.
He points out the hypocrisy that they wouldn't strike for the pros who were kicked out of ESL Pro League, or for Jamppi or dream3r.
He also says ESL paid CSPPA and are racketeering and many other TOs have to pay them to get their "seal of approval"
He says they would strong-arm TOs saying "well if you don't give us the money, these guys are so we'll just have to commit to playing their event."
Also points out that they will strike against a competitor they are not in agreement with (Flashpoint)
RL: "It's what it says about every other time you haven't done it and it's about every time you don't do it now moving forward." "The issues they've chosen to ignore this year alone are embarrassing."
Then he points out that there was no strike for Valve qualifiers even if we have no major but Jamppi and dream3r can't play in them.
"and Valve have said 'Oh yeah we know actually their stories are accurate, Jamppi didn't cheat, now in a legally binding document. Yep dream3r did have his account hacked in a LAN café', but they still can't play. Where is the fucking solidarity? Gone. Doesn't exist. It's not important [because] it doesn't affect you." "That's what the union does right now, it looks after all the tier 1 people."
He says the CSPPA doesn't represent all players all the time and has driven a divide where you have the haves and have-nots
"We have a tier of players that operate with impunity and do not help their tier 2 or tier 3 players out at all." "If you are not a tier 1 player you do not matter, they don't event ask your opinion."
He tells chrisJ to admit and own the fact that the reason he didn't speak up during the ESL Pro League debacle is because it didn't affect him
"They are looking after some players at the expense of other players. How the fuck is that a union?"
He says the BLAST situation is a reasonable dispute and supports the players but is not the right time for a strike and have not even identified the correct enemy
He thinks players are lashing out now due to previous incidents and are upset that BLAST are working with ESIC
He stated that CSPPA shouldn't beefing with ESIC and they should be working in harmony
He says what they need to do is talk with the teams/organizations that have sold that right to BLAST
RL: "Your employers, the people who pay you that massive exorbitant salaries, when you don't stream and you don't do interviews and you offer no value beyond your ability to click heads and you get 25k dollars a month." "Why don't you talk to them about it? Oh right. You're happy to take away BLAST's paper, but you don't want to risk your own."
"I am seeing such unbelievable cowardice from the players here with the battles you choose."
"Where was the strike action when in the qualifiers for the world championship, there were teams and players engaged in huge conflicts of interest?" "Where was the strike action when your image rights were taken and sold to every league you've ever been in every union type organization you've ever been associated with like, WESA, to your org every time you sign a contract, to the leagues you play in."
"Your image rights are essentially worthless now, there's about 10 fucking separate parties that have them, and how many of them are giving you anything for it? Not much pretty much your org by the way."
"That's a big issue. Your image is you, your image is your brand. What are you doing about that? Nothing."
He is also angry at SirScoots who is "popping off" at people on Twitter who all want the same thing, which is 'A unified Counter-Strike scene for everybody, that works for everybody, that has a sustained ecosystem that nourishes everybody.' "We don't have that now."
He also says their rankings are a joke
"Just so happened, oh look TACO, that very important prominent member of the board, we pushed his team artificially up when they weren't even in the fucking top 20, not by a long shot."
He also says the ineptitude of the CSPPA cost Flashpoint a monitor sponsor
"Is it really a player association or is it like a fucking agency at this point"
ESIC - Esports Integrity Commission
"They have been put in an impossible position."
RL says that Ian Smith, the founder of ESIC and who was done work in mainstream sports, is a good and honorable man who has dedicated his life to integrity and sports. He takes on both sides, ensuring match fixers are punished, but also doing appeals and ensuring those punishments were fair.
"ESIC is a tiny organization" and are in need of money, "They didn't run a grift like the CSPPA did."
"Saying 'you want our support and you want the players to turn up you better pay us.' They don't do that."
"Had startup seed money from MTG and since then they've been pecking shit with the hens."
Ian Smith made sure that the money given by MTG (Modern Times Group, parent company of ESL, ESEA, DreamHack) was nothing more than startup money and wouldn't be in debt to them
Ian Smith sat down with other TO's not part of MTG and wanted to partner with them. They declined and called ESIC "ESL spies and we will never align ourselves with you"
"They only were just able to afford, hiring a PR guy on a full time salary to deal with the press and send out those releases you've seen, this year."
"They have a tiny group of staff investigating these things and they have taken on the biggest problems in our scene: the cheating, the match fixing."
ESIC have had "unprecedented levels of cheating to deal with, because there's something wrong with our scene ever since we went online. There's something wrong with it, everyone's lost their fucking pride and self-respect and they got no passion for it anymore, so they think fuck it, what's in it for me?"
He calls out coaches who are talking about players rights when they would rob and steal from them.
Also says more coaches being banned are coming
He also points out flaws in community's reaction to the punishments to coaches bans: "Half of the cunts still have jobs and some of the cunts got new jobs. We didn't even shun the cheating coaches."
ESIC have "found I think another 2 or 3 exploits like that one and they are investigating them all right now, it's going on right now."
"I know that there are going to be more names getting banned, again."
"So they're doing that on a skeleton crew while, investigating 3 continents worth of match fixing in MDL and semi-pro level CS." "They're doing this with half a dozen people." "They don't have any money or any help. People barely even fucking cooperate with them, they are treated like pariahs. It's ridiculous."
"Why are the CSPPA popping off at ESIC on my Twitter timeline, when you should be working together." "because its all about what's in it in for me." "2020, the online era of CS: 'What is in it for me?' How can I cheat, how can I get my paper, how can I bleed this scene one last time before I fuck off and play shooty shooty bang bang Riot Games babys first fps."
RL says that in the CIS region, teams have gone to tournaments and have been eliminated multiple times by the same team. We found out they were cheating and those players who lost, have been cut from their roster, careers ended because of cheaters.
"They're all at it in the online era, they're all at it, they're all cheating, they're all using exploits, probably that see through smoke bug got used a bunch of times"
RL talks about how there is no integrity from dead (the player), always denying when caught doing something
On the topic of 'BLAST never said we couldn't stream snipe': "Lies, BLAST never said you could do that, they had to sort of retcon it." "because what happened after that they fucking started snitching and squealing"
"Suddenly you had like, 10 of the top 15 teams in the world, staring into the abyss of being banned for 6-12 months in line with ESIC recommendations."
He says that ESIC was put in a tough situation and couldn't enforce the bans because it would have resulted in killing CS. What resulted was, BLAST, ESIC, and teams came together and gave them a warning and told them, in RL's words "don't do this again or you're gonna get got."
He then says the top teams brushed this off and didn't give a fuck
The new MiBR team playing Flashpoint, that wasn't involved in the previous incidents are doing it again (stream sniping). He gave credit to Flashpoint for the quick resolution and punishment and respect for cogu's response to the situation.
"ESIC came out and said, once more, 'Guys, zero tolerance from now on.'" RL then got upset at community's reaction calling ESIC "pussies" for their non enforcement and said if we want competitive CS we cant ban the top 10 teams.
He points out how players have no integrity and will do anything for an edge as long as they won't get detected or banned or it's within a grey area.
"All of this shit was mad avoidable, even in the pandemic era."
He talks about why aren't we filming them. Why aren't there representatives for leagues and tournaments making sure players aren't cheating?
"How many years have we let our scene be fucking pillaged by these greedy cunts?" "We just let it happen."
RL says that gambling and skins betting which existed in moderation was "accelerated and blown up by the Call of Duty greedy fucks."
"Never forget TmarTn was on the board of EnVyUs." "His website, CSGOLotto, they had a bunch of off-the-books sponsorships." "NBK promoted them. People forget."
"Those people who had access to the skins, go to the players" "Even people like s1mple, best player in the world, even he scammed knives and skins off fucking fans."
Owners of skin casino sites would approach pros and lend them skins to use in tournaments and possibly keep them after reaching a deal
Players would tip off inside info about matches and teams in exchange for skins. Info such as: roster changes, how they played in scrims
They would use this info to bet and subvert the odds on their sites. "That happened religiously, I can't even tell you how many times it happened."
"I had access to the biggest database of information, from an inside betting circle in NA, and it would take information and screenshots from other pro players, who were feeding them info in exchange for money or skins."
"Some of these players are still playing." "Incredibly, there are players still in the CSPPA today, complaining about the BLAST recordings, that were embroiled in this murky shit back then."
RL also says that there were tournaments where teams contrived with each other, who should throw, who should win.
"There's a handful of people that are trying to fucking clean it up, and you think you get something over the line and you see something like the CSPPA and it's run by corrupt fucking chuckle heads, and now you've got another corrupt body you have to fight on a fucking daily basis, it's demoralizing."
"It's too far gone. Our entire semi-professional scene is compromised."
"It's rife guys, I'm not going to lie any more. It's not just China, it's not just Russia, it's here, it's NA, it's Europe, it's Australia, so much more than you think, so much more than we can prove."
"I get sent chat logs all the time […] and they're morons, these players, short-sighted, amateur, morons and they're doing it on WhatsApp." People would get cut from the bets because they want to make more money, then they leak the logs. He says, from the chat logs, they spread "little" bets across every site they can (400 to 1k dollars) to prevent shifting odds
He says the scumbags who've fucked off to Valorant will do the same there if Riot doesn't do something and says Valorant "is an esports scene heading for a very early fall based on the sheer volume of scumbags that are already there."
"That's tier 2 CS in a nutshell these days. They know they're never going to play in a major, so what's the punishment?"
"All of these tier 2 fucks that are fixing games now they are like the fucking mafia compared to iBuyPower" "These guys are working with organized criminals to fix entire seasons worth of games. That's what's going on in your tier 2 CS."
"I'm literally being told that there are players fixing games at all levels of Chinese esports and motherfuckers with guns are turning up to team houses and stuff."
"Everyone in NA has left we've lost a continents worth of support during this pandemic and Valve haven't said a fucking word."
RL says the Call of Duty "goblins" that destroyed CS for years are the same people who are now trying to leave CS. "The nerve to treat a game where the fans, and the community, and the TO's were nothing but good to you." "To just kick the players out now and go and leave and say 'It just doesn't make financial sense.' Oh you'll slither back when we have a major though for them stickers won't you."
There's a cascading effect in NA where people don't bother with CS anymore and people like Chaos suffer.
He says NA team owners are incompetent for always wanting it easy and always wanting a guarantee on their investment without skill or nuance.
RL says he would be able to market a team correctly and would have a good ROI and also points out how TSM wouldn't even be bothered to tweet that their team, which was one of the best in the world, was playing at the Major.
He also says not all NA owners are like that, compliments and respects Jason Lake who nearly lost everything to keep Complexity going.
He then calls out the incompetence in Infinite Esports when they acquired OpTic Gaming and bought an Indian CS team.
He says HECZ is not to blame here and that they couldn't tell forsaken was cheating when it was so obvious.
They measured his reaction time to the likes of dev1ce and s1mple
When an enemy showed up on his screen he won that duel something like 44% of the time
"was like the number 1 player in the world statistically"
He brought a laptop to their bootcamp and refused to use the high end PCs that hey provided
He respects Andy Miller (NRG CEO) and HECZ but says that the attitude of not being able to easily monetize their teams is "piss weak" and there needs to be a risk.
He says Chaos EC shouldn't be cutting their roster and should be competent enough to be able to figure out how to make money off their team.
He says there are still opportunities in NA and people are panicking and pulling out, and says Valorant will be the same if not worse.
He also says "bums" who couldn't even get out of groups in NA competitions, are making crazy money in Valorant and says it will continue to inflate.
He also said that he heard rumors that EG (Evil Geniuses) are done.
He also thinks that the rumors of a Valve franchised league from before was sparked up from "these lazy fabled weak NA fucking team owners basically trying to see if Valve would bite at the hook if it was dangled and they didn't"
Slasher says NA team owners are really in favor of franchised leagues because they want to make more money. "Most of the powerful team owners right now are on board with ditching this third party organization structure, or they are trying to play this power politics with all the TOs, and that is contributing to a lot of the problems there"
RL says that Riot has proved they can run a franchised league (LCS) and will be profitable in 2021 which is what a lot of team owners care about and says the competition will only serve to snatch people away from CS.
RL continues to say, "I am so sick and tired of what we have done to this scene, I am just exhausted with it." "I think we have legitimately fucked it, I really think we have. I think we're staring into almost like a CGS (Championship Gaming Series) wasteland in NA." "Counter-Strike esports is a fucking joke."
"TO's have treated CS talent like absolute human garbage for years now."
RL says that people like Sean Gares and ddk switching over to Valorant isn't for financial reasons because they are making less over there.
He points out that TO's can't even give talent a 3 month in advance calendar.
Because of the pandemic TO's won't hire certain people and some people are working more hours for the same money.
He says we as a community don't respect journalists enough which is why we don't have good journalists.
He also says DeKay is leaving the scene soon and that Thorin is close to leaving also
He says he had to talk a caster down from quitting and was struggling to find reasons.
He says that DreamHack told Vince they would hire him but not if he wants to stick with dusT and says that this is the norm in esports. "Constant leveraging of people against each other." and says this is why we don't have a talent union.
New gen casters are getting put into shit situations and the community's reaction to them is adding fuel to the fire
He says the reason Moses left was because of the terrible conditions
He says that Anders had to constantly leave his family and kid because someone fucked up or broke promises and had to constantly tell his kid to their face that "daddy can't be home this weekend."
He says that esports has always been a lie to sell you this dream, "Meanwhile there's about 2% of the cunts getting all the checks."
"Anything that Riot does, is better than Valve's inaction"
Slasher says that the larger aspect of esports as a whole compared to other entertainment mediums and Valve's lack of inattention are the bigger problems. He continues saying that the fact that Valve let their game be ran as an esport, they need to take on the responsibilities of it.
Both Slasher and RL wants Valve to take control but not on the level of Riot Games, there needs to be a balance.
In case it was ever a question: Gabe Newell has been to 0 CSGO Majors.
RL calls Valve out saying they could have done something during the gambling era.
He says Valve used to come to the majors, but doesn't think they do anymore.
RL had met with Valve at the Cluj-Napoca Major and had tried to appeal iBP's indefinite punishment and had also gave Brax's life story:
A recent family member passed away, they had lost a lot of income, they had to live in trailer, iBuyPower did not pay any salaries, and was pressured by family to make money who didn't support his career.
RL said that Valve told him, "How dare you try and make us feel guilty." "We shouldn't feel bad about enforcing the only thing that matters that we need to make players afraid of: cheating and match fixing"
RL also tried to share other info about match fixing and nothing came of it
RL points out that Source 2 or a new engine is not something you will want based on the experience of transitioning from CS 1.6 to CS:S. "Valve's track record with brand new engines being launched, not fucking great from what I remember."
Slasher says "If there is anything the community should do, is pressure Valve to hire a community manager."
They say that we need a commissioner, a community manager (not the person who runs the Twitter who posts memes all day), then we need to have a circuit
RL reiterates that Valve doesn't care about CS esports and says they need to change the culture at Valve to make them care about CS esports
Slasher says a systemic problem is making it so working on CSGO would be a bad decision for you as an employee for Valve
He also hasn't talked to Valve in ages and have sent over bugs and cheats and doesn't get emails back anymore
Slasher says we should be directing attention at the developer leads, pointing out Ido Magal, if he even is still the project lead
RL thinks that Ido and Brian are the only people that "vaguely even give a fuck about CS" and were the only people that RL recalled that actually read Reddit and paid attention from time to time
"It is really fucking precarious. Somebody has got to step the fuck up and start giving a shit"
Slasher suggests org owners, with CSPPA, with ESIC, with TOs have a concerted effort against Valve
"Riot Games are doing better things than Valve in the esports space" which is something RL didn't think he'd say.
"People who used to be talent, working with unions, arguing with other talent, when the unions fucked them over, can't understand their perspective, TOs fucking over broadcast talent, broadcast talent wanting to leave and go and work for orgs, orgs having no money, Valve might take coaches away because all the coaches are cheating, ESIC has about 4 people in a fucking call doing the investigations, everyone thinks they're spies for ESL, ESL are just the evil fucking overlords wanting to rule the scene and will just somehow, like cockroaches outliving a nuclear bomb, and Valve are in a fucking holiday in Hawaii thinking about the next Dota character because they don't give a fuck about us."
"We've peaked. If we want to sustain and exist, now is the time to figure it out. No esports lasts as long as this, we've already done 8 years. We've already broke the records. We have got to figure out a way to coexist and drive the negative forces out and we need to do it as a collective and we're not doing that."
RL compared the Counter-Strike scene to the people on the Titanic who ran around with guns robbing people while the boat was sinking.
"We have given up on being a respectable esports scene." "We are now a conduit to make money for those who want to just milk it, just have one last ride, one last roll of the dice. It's done." "What a fucking mess. What have we done to our fucking scene?"
"There's just too much self-interest driving all of this." "I don't see a way we stop the dominoes." "When it's that bad, when there's that many dishonest people that ESIC have to come out and say that if we punish them all there's no one left. What does that tell you?"
"How many opportunities have we had to clean house? How many times have we said, 'this must never happen again', and another scandal." "The entire skins betting operations was the biggest criminal conspiracy in esports ever executed and no one has been punished for it." "The people who could be driving that don't want to."
"Right now people are fans of those organizations because the scene has value. It is worth being a fan of Astralis because they are excellent at Counter-Strike. It is worth being a fan of s1mple because he is the best player in Counter-Strike, maybe the exception of ZywOo. If the scene is devalued, if the scene loses its meaning, those things lose its meaning too, and people will leave, people will stop tuning into the games. I have seen it happen in multiple esports, this is not my first time at the rodeo. I am getting big Brood War vibes right now and I don't like it."
"The role you play in all of this as fans, as viewers, as listeners, as consumers of esports content, it's absolutely imperative that you know who the good guys are. It's absolutely imperative that you use your voice. It's absolutely imperative that when things are bad, you know who, at least, is trying to make them good, and you have to apply your criticism to the right targets."
He continues saying it's no good in continuing to attack ESIC and saying how they are bad, ESIC have it hard
He says CSPPA are on the right side of the argument on BLAST but have been on the wrong side of many arguments many times.
"If you are not willing to stand along side the weakest member of the union, with the least amount of influence, and the least amount of power, then it is not a union at all and you shouldn't pose as one." "You wanna serve a bunch of special interest do it, everyone else in esports fucking does, but do not pose as something you are not." "We love the players. I've been fighting for players rights for as long as I've been able to, but the CSPPA is not what we needed."
"They are not applying the pressure to the right people, they are not fighting the right battles, they are not helping their weaker members."
He says what orgs have done by keeping or hiring coaches is bad. "When you give up on holding an appreciable standard, you've lost the scene" "Competition matters, rules matter, punishments matter, achievements matter, excellence matters" "If you start stripping that away, you have nothing" "You guys need to take that knowledge and apply it sensibly."
"Valve has sold you all down the river, they sold everyone in the esports scene down the river, tournament organizers are selling their talent down the river. Don't hate on them for sounding tired after a 16 hour day. Don't hate on them because the hype for a matchup they've seen for the 20th time in the past 3 months, they can't be as excited or it sounds contrived. Support your guys, they're there for you, these are your people."
"This community has got to start acting like one for the first fucking time. Just put the petty shit away, let's try and fix this fucking scene while we still have one to save."
"You can't rely on Valve, you can't rely on ESL, you can't rely on the CSPPA, you can't rely on anyone." "Once again, it's gonna be the likes of us, the amateurs, the people who give a fuck, rolling up our sleeves and grafting." "I'm old and tired and I don't want to have to do it again. People need to pick up the torch and do it."
"Like Michal did, like Dudenhoeffer did. You see something wrong, fix it. You see somebody doing something wrong, call it out. If you think something could be better, let people know."
"Vote with your wallets if you're not happy with the direction Valve goes in. If when we do get to the Major, they serve up another subpar, same old bullshit stickers and signatures package again, do not buy it."
"You're a powerful block and if you use it correctly we can fucking avert this disaster."
"I'm not doing another year in this broken, bust-up fucking scene, where everyone is miserable, everyone is broke, everyone is tired, and everyone is trying to fucking rob everyone else, blind, while the fucking people who are meant to be protecting you, are just fucking enhancing it and lining their own pockets."
"I'm not doing it anymore and you shouldn't want to do it either."
"I stand by every fucking thing I said. I mean it, because this game fucking matters to me, this scene fucking matters to me. I put my life into this, my adult life, and to see it in this state is fucking sad."
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Do an I/E sourcing mission, then do VIP work (Headhunter or Sightseer are a breeze with a Buzzard) in the cool down, then do an I/E delivery mission. Rinse and repeat!
I recently caught up to Gintama, and I think you should make it your 2021 goal to at least start it. Here's why I think that.
I know we've all seen Gintama floating around on the internet so often. People saying "watch Gintama!" and posting funny clips of the show all over reddit. I want to take a slightly different approach as to why I loved the show so much. Most of the time you hear, "it's really funny! best comedy!" with the additional "the serious moments are so good!" but I want to share my thoughts on why both aspects of it are so good, and why they work so well together. This post will not contain any major or specific spoilers. So to start things off, how is the comedy in Gintama? I will warn you ahead of time, Gintama is not afraid to be vulgar. If you're turned off by jokes about private parts and poop, it's not the central focus of the humor but there is a lot of inappropriate humor. There is also a ton of pop culture references, by which I mean one episode may reference about 20 different things. Sometimes there will be entire mini-arcs (3 episodes) dedicated to one parody, something like JoJo's Bizarre Adventure or Dragon Quest. There is also a ton of meta humor. They are not afraid to break the fourth wall, talk about the production of the show, voice actors, filler episodes, etc. Do you need to understand all the references to enjoy it? I would say it certainly helps if you have a somewhat strong grasp on Japanese culture, popular game and anime franchises, etc, but it's not mandatory. I've seen people go back and forth on this point, and while having a comprehensive knowledge of everything in Japanese media and growing up in Japan will definitely help the enjoyment, I found that with my limited knowledge it was still very fun. Even if I didn't get a reference it was still a silly moment for me, regardless if I knew who they were talking about or not. Plus, if you really want to, you can look up the references later to have an "a ha!" moment and learn more about the pop culture scene. All of the characters are unique and enjoyable! Everyone has their own personality and their own dynamic with each other. You have the lazy yet (usually) dependable Gintoki, the straight man Shinpachi who's the butt of a lot of jokes, the vulgar overconfident Kagura, the leader of the rebels who is serious to a fault even in ridiculous situations Katsura, I could go on and on. Every character has their own vibe, their own appeal, their own dynamic with other characters, and their own running gags. Every time you see one of them on screen you know what to expect and it always delivers in a satisfying way, to the point where sometimes you'll see two characters interact and you're like, "oh man how will they interact?" It's really fun! So, comedy aside, what is the plot of the show? The show takes place in Edo, specifically Kabukichō which is an entertainment and red-light district of Shinjuku in real Japan. There are host and hostess clubs, shops, nightclubs, restaurants, casinos, you name it. Aliens known as Amanto attacked Japan and took over, starting the sword ban. Samurai are far and few between and those who remain get by however they can. Enter the main character, Gintoki. A samurai who fought in the war against the invading Amanto, he still carries a wooden sword around and runs a business called Odd Jobs where he'll take on any task, from finding a kitten to stopping an invasion. It's a very simple premise but it builds up and pays off in great ways. The more serious aspects of the plot come from leftovers of the war, rebels that defy the current government, the police force (Shinsengumi) trying to keep order, and some darker shadows behind the scenes, the truth of the Amanto, and the teacher that raised Gintoki and a few other of the main characters. It leads to some really serious and oftentimes depressing moments in the series. So, how good are the serious portions? The action portions of the show are a little scarce early on. There's definitely a heavier focus on the comedy. At episode 58 you get your first taste of the true action and plot of the series (yes, I know, that's quite a ways in). From there, there are more mini arcs of about 3-6 episodes each that cover some much more serious topics and push the main plot along and introduce new characters and concepts. There's some really hard hitting backstories for some of the characters as well, often in ways you wouldn't expect. It makes each character feel a bit more real. The choreography, music, and voice acting are all top notch. How do the comedy and more serious topics blend? This is the main point of my post that I want to make, and I thank you for reading this far. The serious moments really let you see the characters in a more serious light (duh), while the comedy segments let you see them in moments of peace. They're allowed to laugh, have fun, do stupid shit, but when shit hits the fan it often feels like they need to power through it to see those peaceful moments again. The show doesn't make a big point of this, but it's definitely the factor that pulled me in. You wanna see our goofy main trio get past this terrifying moment and be able to joke around again. You want to see the side characters persevere and overcome the odds so they can see tomorrow and laugh along with the rest of the cast. You get invested in the characters during the funny moments, so the serious moments have a stronger impact. The action and serious scenes are also littered with silly moments or one-liners that make the fights or moments feel more natural. Like Gintoki will drop a one-liner or do something dumb during a serious moment and it's like "yeah that seems about right." He'll make fun of an opponent's name, complain about getting hurt, yelling at the bad guy for overreacting, make dirty distractions to get away, etc. But it always comes back to a satisfying conclusion. The comedy and the action flow seamlessly. A perfect example would be this moment where he fails to make a serious entrance. There's also this story about a dog who was abandoned by his owner. I feel those are my two favorite examples of blending serious with comedy. Later in the series, especially the last few arcs, the comedy takes a backseat for a much more serious plot. It really makes the stakes feel high and every character feels like a part of this world. It's super well done and I won't say more than that. Have you been convinced to check out Gintama? It's definitely a long series to get into, but it's absolutely worth it. Try sticking to one episode a day or every few days and you'll always have something to look forward to. Just make sure to skip the first two episodes because they were made as a celebration of the manga getting an anime adaptation, and it expects you to know all the characters (and also just isn't that great). Episode 3 is the proper "episode 1" of the series and begins with the characters meeting for the first time. Don't think of it as some colossal hurdle to complete, focus on the journey not the destination. Enjoy your ride through the crazy, hilarious, fun, and heartbreaking world of Gintama and I hope you all end up enjoying it! There's definitely a reason that everyone who's seen it regards it so well and now I can confidently say I do too. I'm really excited for the final movie! Edit: I also want to add that all of Gintama (aside from specials and OVAs) is on Crunchyroll!
Host or participate in Heists - Min. Level 1 / to participate; Min. Level 12 / or own a high-end apartment to host
I'm a millionaire already, just give me a grind:
CEO Import/Export Vehicle Work by Psychko - Currently most reliable and profitable money grind with high end only method - Min. Level 1 / if you already own a CEO office / if you do not own a CEO office
Do an I/E sourcing mission, then do VIP work (Headhunter or Sightseer are a breeze with a Buzzard) in the cool down, then do an I/E delivery mission. Rinse and repeat!
Do you understand that you are the ringleaders in some sort of psychotic financial underground fight club ? This year has been outrageous and retarded at the same time and somehow. Because all of us morons got together on here - we made money during something awful. During The worst thing we’ve ever imagined. Have you seen the movie, Contagion?? Dude that’s a walk in the park compared to the real world right now. It’s expected to report as a ThrilleHorror. - but missed my estimates for a weak drama. This post represents how god damn retarded we all are- and at the same time, it shows us how fucking beautiful we all are. Wallstreetbets, was all we had this year. and WE FUCKING CRUSHED IT. How many stocks were we right about? That Jim Cramer told us not to Buy. But because the memes were so Funny. We bought low and got to sell waaaay high Electric vehicles anyone? Yea then when the stocks we keep defending sky rocket to the moon and we use the power of the autist army DD - months later Cramer tells us he likes wallstreetbets. Yea you do jimmy So do I . Hahahahahaha Life is a video game I made enough money trading on my cell phone to pay for my entire education - not need a job while I put myself thru school YOLO’ing way too much money into meme stocks for shits and giggles and waking up to 100%+ returns ON MY ENTIRE SAVINGS MULTIPLE WEEKS IN A ROW. And I’m not alone I hope everyone here gets to experience the power of holding a stock when Jim Cramer tells you it’s not any good. Then it goes up 1000%+. If you thought you ever doubted anything you read, imagine making 690% returns on $XPEV in October when JiMMy BoY Told us that NoThiNG cOULd EvEr Do WhAt niO DiD AgAin. SIT DOWN : XPEV NIO TSLA TWTR SNAP PINS And ; FB was $30 too - 10 years ago . Social media digital marketing explosion in your face. I feel like the Incredible Hulk right now.
The biggest fucking train wreck disaster we’ve ever seen. But us retards pulled thru it. Some of us changed our fucking lives forever.
Like me. Because of this stupid forum and all of you idiots- my life has been changed forever I fucking love you guys so much Thru all of this bullshit I racked up over $40k profits this year. How the fuck does that happen I only had $8k to my name. What the f.. Idk what I’m doing. and now, PETER SCHIFF FOLLOWS ME ON INSTAGRAM. right place at the right time. Here’s my story: I found you idiots at the beginning of this pandemic. Feb 2020 I was, Depressed, Scared, Bored Angry Everything. I had Lost my job. I was deemed non-essential. I couldn’t get unemployment but got $1200 in mail. That helps for sure. Like think about this ok: $8k + $1200 = ?% ... you know ? He added more than 10% to my net worth. Right? Legit increase. So thank you for that bro. Talk shit on it all ya want but that’s a legit percent increase from D, lol. That allowed me to over leverage way more than I was used to. I stumble onto this Shitshow of a Reddit called wallstreetbets. where everyone is insulting each other. And it’s hilarious. In March, of 2020: I start trading options and really ramping up my risk. I’m in and out of $AAPL calls every 2-3 days making $300-700 per week trading which is fucking awesome for me. Sometimes over a thousand bucks a week For 20 weeks roughly. Simple math and smart trading. Sort of. I think It’s a version of Buffett’s compounding interest. Make $1k per week for 25 weeks = Make $25k Simple. Easy Now I’m smarts as Waeren BuFét . I don’t have any way to make money buttttt now I’m deemed not essential as a medical device salesman. Trading is paying my bills. My friends are interested. I keep throwing in 100%+ of my account into trades. So stupid. And by May, 2020 = It KEEPS WORKING. And we are all encouraging each other like maniacs on here lol. By June = I’m up $20,000 on the year. And guys I don’t care what you say. I know it is a small profit, compared to some of the madness on here but... To me. It’s a lot of money. Percentage-wise I’m up wayyyyy beyond normal A whole lot of money and - I have no clue any other way to make money. I made $18k total money, in 2019. And lost a little money in the stock market. and then 2020 pandemic was the nail in my sales business’ coffin. And I’m poor as Dick when the pandemic hit. My savings, I had about $8k left. . I’ve never had too much money but I work hard. And at this point all I can think is that I know I cannot give up And trust me I wanted to give up. In February and March I thought I’d become one of these suicides because I became so depressed about the virus and my wife was becoming sick. She was diagnosed with lupus and man I didn’t know how hard life could be. I would never leave her side so I push forward for us. Let’s do this Time to fight the boss. I had never been tested like this with so much hardships. You know you hear stories about people who have very bad struggles, and never think you’ll be like that, because you work hard, but sometimes - a pandemic crushes your income to $00.00 The gov won’t pay you anything and your wife is deemed terminally ill. And then all of her hair falls out But despite all of this, By May of 2020: I’d already made my 2019 salary in few months. I don’t fully understand what is happening but I keep reading. I Keep studying at nights. Understanding stocks further. I Keep reading WSB. It is working. I’m able to pay my bills and rent and eat And put gas in my car And get coffee in the morning. Something I’d never had spare cash to do really, multiple months in a row now from trading- I’m able to live better than ever. But I’m up all night studying I’m chomping adderall to push thru the shit because in my mind I couldn’t go to bed yet I need to learn I need to take this opportunity. I’d think to myself, “This is never going to happen again,” So I’d rationalize staying up till 4:30am to catch pre-market opening bell and buy 1000 shares pre-market and then exit them at 9am. Trade options till 3pm then crash hard because it’s earnings day and you can’t miss this Shit. legitimate degeneracy. I’m not starving because I’m a trader? “Ok push forward,” I tell myself. “You can do this.” STAYING MOTIVATED THRU THE DARKNESS. my gains were steady until the end of the summer when my portfolio Doubled bc of Instagram . I thought I had made all the money in the world. Over 100% gains. Little did I know i was about to 100% the 100% The most incredible thing happened, Randomly, one day I smoke a fat fat joint and put in like 2 hours making a meme video for you tardos because I’m so high... I’ve never done it before. My first meme video is born When I post the video on my Instagram, I tag Peter Schiff , Peter Schiff’s wife shouts me out - and Peter shouts me out. And I’m eating dinner with my wife. And I see that notification. “Peter Schiff has followed you” I look at my girl like waaaaaait a second. Read that to me......... Then my phone... I’ve never seen it come to life Like this. HAS ANYONE EXPERIENCE THIS BEFORE? Peter and his wife shout me out on Instagram, and the wave of followers that came to my page was UNREAL. Turns out - Peter and his wife are legit 2 of the coolest people on planet earth. And they are both part of my 23 followers. Lol Whaaaaaaaaaat. He was on Joe Rogan guys. What. (I have had this account for years and am posting constantly on it with ZERO interaction. Maybe 1-3 like per post. Posting 10x per week. Why tf do I need a personal Instagram? - let’s talk stocks b). “Whaaaaaat is happening!?!?” I decide to go big. If fuckin Schiff is into what I’m saying. LETS FUCKIN GO. I walk into the wallstreet casino (market open) In early July 2020 - I put everything on fuckn $SLV boyz. I had about 40 contracts and over 500 shares (Once again, I know this position sounds small, but understand me- This is all the money I have. So it was a true god damn yolo in the Purest of its many forms. I’m so mother fuckin proud of this trade. It changed my life forever). By the end of July I’ve almost doubled my money. By late Aug early September 2020 You saw what happened to silver. Rockets to the moon then crashes back to earth I had made the perfect trade I bought a pair of silver AirMax 97’s the day I sold my position. To celebrate bc it was so unreal to me to make that kind of money so fast. I was up up +$40k on the year. $SLV was at $28.50 the day I decided to sell I Bounce. I sell it all. Instead of diamond hands. I spin a total 180 on my silver theories about it going to $50/oz and I sell everything and take all of my profits. I got a bad feeling. I started reading about JP Morgan. And then the ultimate red flag The slimy reptiles on tv began saying silver is good. Annnnnd I was like NOPE CANT LISTEN TO LIZARDS EVER EVEN IF THEY AGREE WITH YOU and I exited the entire position HAHAHAHA while people told me if I hold till December Ill make $150k. OKAY how’s that working out ? Because silver can’t fail - and it’s definitely going to $50/oz; by December. Because the COMEX. Bla bla bla. Manipulation move on. Only hold physical. Period. Anyway I don’t care what they say. This profit I made. is WAY MORE MONEY than I’m used to. $40k total profit and the year isn’t over - I take it I sell all my $SLV positions. In the following days after I sell- $SLV absolutely collapses from $29 to $22 Are. You. Kidding. Me. I can’t believe it. I did the yolo. Again It worked. And I fucking sold at the right time. I decide that’s enough. I’m gonna use this to pay for an education to work in surgical technology. I apply and I’m number 6 on the waiting list to get into class. But they say that it’s possible. So I wait. ... maybe I can really pull off the greatest thing I’ve ever done and get my shit back together. Dr. Jordan Peterson taught us to choose the best thing we can think of- how we can help People. Also, choose a job that is one you can be good at. Then shoot for that. That’s the goal. Thanks doc I get a call on oct 17th from the school. Oct 17. Is Eminem’s birthday. I started school 2 days later. I know some will make fun of this career, but... it’s essential. Pay is awesome for me. I like to work with my hands. this is an excellent, “trade-based,” Job for me- Because I will be good at it and make money. Pandemic made me change my attitude towards work. No man is above a job and if you have a trade you can work with your hands - then you will always have income. As long as you have hands. And if you have income, you can trade like a retard forever. If you can trade, you can make $40k on your cell phone without a job in a pandemic. Stand up, and scream at the top of your lungs if you feel me on this. Is anyone even reading this shit anymore? Seriously. If you understand what I’m saying, aka- If you were fucking BROKE and you made more money, in 2020 somehow, than you ever have in your life- You are a fucking legend. And so am I. WE WERE BUILT FOR THIS SHIT. So, I drop $25k for school. I swap $15k of my profits into physical silver bc of taxes are good. I swap the physical silver for cash, to eat when I’m hungry and live on when I need to now. And my physical silver I got at $25/oz is worth over $30/oz today. . And I still have my original $8k in investments , which I’ve (to date) turned into about +$18,500 literally, by just trading whatever is trending on an app called Stocktwits. Then searching WallStreet bets for The ticker and see if You retards are talking about it yet or not. Huge W I finish school on 09.09.2021 I will have a job that day and income All of this happened because of WallStreetBets. Things were so dark. So bad. No future. No prospects at all in business but bros... I was fucking trading. Like a complete fucking idiot And making money. And I still can’t believe it. I cannot believe this happened. PULLED UP TO THE PARTY IN A PINTO LIKE IT WAS A PORSCHE and I can’t believe I made all this money following this sTupid ass Reddit website and 100% autistic, over-leveraged, retarded meme trading the entire year. Huge Respect to WSB. This place was the light at the end of a dark tunnel. Seriously. Thank you so much. All of you. You saved my life. What a fuckin trip. We are immortalized. We made history in 2020. Merry Christmas Retards ~edit • • • • • • • • • My wife is much better (her hair grew back) and I’m having a baby boy this March. I’ll be working as an essential surgical technologist by the fall of 2021. I’m an idiot and a pussy I only will put $100 at risk in any trade - and I don’t can’t what anyone says about that. because my life is forever changed for the better, because of this forum Now ... The shitshow is not over. 2020 was a springboard for some shiiiiit 2021 we are coming into a commodity boom I think. Get ready for 100x more Madness TL:DR - $IPOC 19 FEB 2021 $15C
Yes, it's my truck and No, I won't help you move and No, you can't buy it for 50 bucks!
This is long, so grab a cup of coffee, tea, or whatever keeps you happy and reading. I live in a senior housing community for people aged 55 and older. We all have identical 1-bedroom cottages that’s set up in groups of four or quads so that all of our front doors face inward toward each other. So, if I open my front door, I have a very clear view of the front doors of my 3 neighbors and because I am in the back of this quad, I also have a view of the parking area. I think the purpose of grouping the houses this way was to create a friendly and safe atmosphere; however, it’s just creepy in a “you have no privacy” kind of way. I am F57, disabled, and have a 16-year-old pickup truck that gets me where I need to go most of the time. If you’ve ever owned a pickup truck, you’ll understand my frustration. If you haven’t owned one, talk to anyone who has and they will tell you that according to friends, family, acquaintances, neighbors, and even complete strangers, you have it so that you can help them move, haul furniture or a tree they cut down, and anything else they can’t fit in the trunk of their car. AND because it is a pickup truck, it can be mistreated, abused, dented, scratched, beaten up, and treated like a piece of heavy construction equipment and you shouldn’t care because well. . . it’s a truck. I have a neighbor (F - about 65 years old) that has kind of made a pest of herself since the day I moved in. I’ve done my best to be neighborly, nice, and accommodating, but each time I interact with her, I’m left feeling used. The neighbor, let's call her Karen, has come over pretending to want to visit with me, which she does for about 2 minutes, and then asks me for something. In the 3 years that I’ve been here, she’s asked me to set up 2 TVs (at different times), take a new alarm clock out of its packaging and then teach her how to operate it. I’ve been asked to fill out her food stamp paperwork, fill out information for her lease renewal, read a piece of mail to her and explain it because she didn’t understand it, to take her places and to “loan” her money for the bus. That’s just a few. Now that you get the idea of what I’ve dealt with before, it’s time for the story. One Monday morning, Karen comes beating on my door (she does what I call a “cop knock” – loud, hard, and repeated) around 8 a.m., waking me up. (I am a night owl, by the way.) I go to the door and she is standing there holding her natural gas bill telling me how she needed a ride to the gas company's office to talk to them about paying the bill and hands me the bill. I look at it, hoping to find a phone number for her to call, but there isn't one, but I do see that her bill is for about $17. So, I take her across town with her providing the directions since I had never been to this building (the gas company did not have an office in town, so I guess this was maybe a payment center). I drop her at the front, park, and wait for her. Karen comes out saying that they can't help her there and asks me if she should just call them to make arrangements to make payments since she didn't have the money. I tell her that's what I would do and bring her back home. We basically made this trip for nothing. Two days later, there is another loud, repeated banging on my door waking me up just before 9 a.m. Karen is back and seems to be a little frantic. She needs a ride again. This time she's very vague about why she wants to go, but left me with the impression that something was going to get turned off, repossessed, or turned over to collections if she didn't go. She's also vague as to where she wants to go. She keeps tell me that it's down by the casino, across the street from the gas station. I told her I'd take her but she would have to point me in the right direction since I've never been to the casino. She gives me turn by turn directions until she has me turn left onto the entrance road for the casino. I'm looking around for any other businesses or even the gas station and I'm not seeing anything other than the casino in front of us and open land on either side. So, I ask her where am I supposed to be dropping her. Karen points to an upcoming sign and says, "See the sign that says 'Valet'? Just follow that sign." Yep, you guessed it, Karen had me drop her at the front entrance to the casino. She'd lied to me by omission. She didn't ask me to take her to the casino (which I would probably have done since it's none of my business how she spends her money), she asked me to take her to a business near the casino. Yeah, well, I wasn't happy. On Monday she couldn't afford to pay her $17 gas bill and on Wednesday she's going to the casino by tricking me into taking her. A week goes by and I am in the office paying my rent when Karen comes in. Karen: Why didn’t you tell me you were coming here today. Girl, I just walked all the way here. Me: Didn’t know you needed a ride. I can give you a ride back to the house if you would like. I wait while Karen pays her rent and we walk out together. Now, I’m expecting to get in my truck and drive the 4 blocks back to my house. Karen had another idea. Karen: Take me to Everything’s Cheap store. Me: Where? Karen: To Everything’s Cheap. Just turn here at the stop sign and I’ll show you. It’s not far. Me: Karen, I’m going to take you there, but I’m not shopping and I’m not going to sit in the parking lot and wait for you. You’ll have to get another ride home or walk. Karen: It’s fine. I won’t be long. I drop her at the front door and I go home. A couple of hours later, she bangs on my door. Karen: Where did my ride go? Me: Home. I told you that I wasn’t going to wait for you. Karen: I had all my stuff that I had to carry home. Now my back hurts. Me: I’m sorry, but I warned you. Karen walks away muttering things that I didn’t understand and slammed her door. Skip ahead several months and I run into Karen again as I am paying my rent. She wants me to give her a ride to the Social Security office. I tell her that I can't as my truck is not running right and I can't get too far from home in it until I get it check out and fixed. My truck started having issues and it's been difficult trying to get it fixed with lock-down, a back issue that left me bedridden for several weeks, and 2 major hurricanes this year (there’s nothing major wrong with the truck - just needs a new starter and gaskets to fix an oil leak that's caused the starter to go bad). Karen: But it's just a few blocks away and it's hot out here. Me: I can't trust my truck not to leave me stranded with no way to get it home. Karen: It will be fine. Me: Maybe, but I'm not willing to risk it. Karen slaps the side of my truck and continues on her walk and I go home in my truck. Another 3 days go by and more banging on my door and again I am awakened (it's 7:15 a.m.). This time I'm angry and I snatched the door open. Me: What? Karen (standing there with her purse and house keys in her hand as if she knows I'll say yes): I need to go to the mattress store. I need to pick up my new queen size mattress. Me: No. My truck still isn't running right. Karen: But I need your truck to haul the mattress home. Me: No. Karen: It's not a heavy mattress. Me: Oh, so who’s going to help you get it in and out of my truck and carry it into your house? Karen: The two of us can do it. Me: Karen, I have degenerative disk disease. The disks in my spine are disintegrating. I can't lift nor carry a mattress even with someone helping. Karen: But I already bought it. How am I going to get it home? Me: Call friends or family to help you. Karen: They don't have a truck and you do! Me: Yes, I have a truck, but there is no sign anywhere on it that says Free Moving Company. I close the door on her and go back to bed. An hour later, more knocking. This time, it's an older man. Man 1: Excuse me, but is that your truck? (He points at my truck in the parking lot.) Me: Yes. Man 1: I have an upright piano I need to move and was wondering if I could use your truck. Me: No. (I glance over at the neighbor's house and I see her peeking through a crack in her door - I have a sneaking suspicion she has put this guy up to this to see if I would help him.) Man 1: You can drive the truck. I just need to have the piano hauled to my storage unit. Me: How are you going to get an upright piano into the bed of my truck? Man 1: I'll just roll it up a ramp and into the back. Me: Do you know how much an upright piano weighs? One person can't push it up a ramp. If you use a ramp on my tailgate, you will break the tailgate and probably lose the piano in the process. My truck is large, but the rear end is not made for hauling a piano and will cause the front end to lift off the ground preventing my front wheel drive truck from gaining traction and straining my 16-year-old engine. Man 1: Well, could you call 4 or 5 of your male friends to help lift it into the back of the truck? Me: No! I close the door on this man, too. He didn’t come right out and say it, but I felt like he wanted to borrow my truck so he could go pick up the mattress for Karen. Yeah, I’m a little suspicious. The following morning . . . *sigh* . . . I ignore the knocking that occurs every half hour or so over a 3-hour period until she finally gives up. Later that afternoon, I open my door to get the mail out of my box when a second man approaches me out of nowhere. It’s like he was hiding around the corner waiting for me to come out of my house. Man 2 (points at my truck - it irritates me every time someone does this): Is that your truck? Me (feeling very annoyed and snarky): What gave it away? Is it because it's parked in a space clearly labeled with my house number? Or is it because someone told you who the truck belonged to? (I point at Karen's house.) Man 2: Does it run? Me: Listen, I don't know what you're wanting me pick up, deliver, move, haul, transport, or tow, but I am not a moving company, taxi, uber, delivery service, or a tow truck. I won't be doing any of those things and before you ask, I won't be allowing you or anyone else to drive my truck either. Now, do you have any other questions? Man 2: Uh, do you want to sell it? Me: What?! Why would I want to sell it? Man 2: Well, since it needs fixing, I thought maybe you would want to sell it to someone who could afford to fix it. Me: How do you know it needs fixing? Man 2 (turns bright red and can't take his eyes off ground): I just thought if you sold it, you could buy something else and I could fix the truck. Me: Tell Karen that I'm not selling you my truck so that you can fix it to give to her. Man 2: I wasn't going to give it to her. Me (pointing at his huge truck parked in Karen's designated space): You want me to believe that you would rather have my 16-year-old truck that needs repair than your brand-new truck? How stupid do you think I am? As the older man silently stares at the ground, Karen flings her door open and marches up to me. Karen: Just sell him your truck so he can fix it. You clearly aren't going to do it any time soon. At least I will put it to good use. I need it and I need it more than you apparently do. Now, he’s willing to get it fixed for me, so just sell him the damn truck already! Me: My truck is not for sale! When or if I get my truck fixed is absolutely none of your business. Karen: I’m going to call the office and tell them that you have a broken-down truck sitting in the parking lot that needs to be hauled to the junk yard. They’ll make you get rid of it or fix it. Man 2: Karen, they can’t do anything to her . . . Karen cuts him off. She’s so angry, she’s crying, shaking, and spitting as she screams Karen: SHUT UP! STAY OUT OF THIS. I WANT THAT TRUCK AND I’M GOING TO GET IT! I’LL CALL THE POLICE. THEY WILL MAKE HER GET RID OF IT. Man 2: Karen, the police aren’t . . . She cuts him off again. Karen: YES, THEY WILL. THEY'LL LISTEN TO ME. She storms off to call the police. In the meantime, I brought a chair outside along with a can of soda and a bowl of microwave popcorn. I figured this was going to be a good show. Karen and Man 2 have gone inside her house to wait. The neighbor to my left has come out to see what’s going on. Let’s call her Mary. Mary can’t stand Karen, so she drags a chair out and sits next to me and we share my popcorn. Enter Cop 1 and Cop 2 The cops arrive in about 5-6 minutes and walk up to Karen’s door and knock while glancing around at Mary and me and grinning. She answers and tells them that I have created an eyesore in the neighborhood by having an old beat up, broken-down truck sitting in the parking lot and she wants it removed immediately. Cop 1 (pointing at my truck - yep, he does it, too and I can't help but roll my eyes): That truck? Karen: Yes. Cop 1: That truck is clean, shiny, no dents, no scratches, new tires . . . are you sure that’s the eyesore? Karen: Yes. It’s 10 years old and broken and she doesn’t want to fix it. It’s just sitting there doing nothing for months. Me: It’s 16 years old. Cop 2 (spins around, surprised): Seriously? That truck is that old? Wow! It’s in great shape. You’ve taken good care of her. Me: Thank you. Karen: I want that truck gone! Cop 2 walks over to me to discuss my truck’s mechanical history. So, I explain to him that in the 16 years that I have owned her, I have changed her oil every 3-4 months, given her a bath once a month, got her a new set of tires 6 years ago, and when I first began having problems with her starting, I bought a new battery (the old one was the original battery from when I bought the truck off the showroom floor), and when the battery wasn’t the problem, I had a mechanic come and look at it. He determined that it was the starter and the gasket was leaking. All I was waiting on was my friend to come and help me start her (someone needs to get under the truck and tap the starter while someone else turns over the ignition) so that I can get it to the mechanic’s house for him to work on it. Karen: She’s lying. That truck hasn’t moved in 3 months. Me (offering popcorn to Cop 2 who took a handful): Wrong. It hasn’t moved in 4 days. It’s had problems for 3 or 4 months. Cop 1: Ms. Karen, there really isn’t anything the police department can do for you. Her truck definitely isn’t an eyesore nor is it sitting there in pieces creating a safety hazard. Karen: She’s driving down property values. Cop 1 (starts chuckling): Ms. Karen, you are renting a house in government subsidized senior housing. Cop 2: Why don’t you tell us the real reason why you want her truck removed. Mary (who has been silent until now - stands up and turns on her best diva soul-sister voice and attitude and gives the cops the greatest Deep-South Beautiful Black Woman sermon I’ve ever heard – I’ll try to write as best I can): Ohh, Lawd Jesus, help us all! Dis here woman of the night, want everything she can’t have, Lawd! I think it’s cuz she pulls her hair back so tight, Lawd, she can only see what’s in the back o’ her mind! Uh huh! She wants her Old Saggy Boy Toy of the Day here to buy my friend’s pick’em up truck, so she can go and pick’em up, Lawd, mm-hmm, if ya gittin' what I’m sayin’. He buy it and trade it to her for a little roll on her nasty sheets! Lawd Jesus, help us! And she think she all hot and sexy so you believe her and take away my friend’s truck. She a fool, uh huh. She think she can fool you, too, uh huh! How da hell do ya think she got those 2 big ass TVs in there? Mmm-hmm! Cop 1 is bent over laughing hysterically while Cop 2 is standing with his mouth open and his eyes wide. Cop 2 (turns to Man 2): Is any of that true? Man 2 (embarrassed, humiliated, and just looking tired): She wanted the truck and 50 bucks. Karen and Man 2 are arrested. Not sure what the exact charges were but I heard words being thrown around like pandering, solicitation, scamming, and false complaint among others. A couple of days later, Mary told me that Karen returned home. I guess she found a way to get bailed out. I haven’t seen her and I am hoping that I don’t. As for my “pick’em up truck”, I’m still waiting to get her to the mechanic. My friend will be here on his next day off (he doesn't get them often) to help me. It’s a good thing I’m a patient person with a super diva as a friend and neighbor. It's also good to know that my truck is at least worth one 20-minute roll on the sheets and 50 bucks. EDIT: Thanks for the awards everyone! And just a little side note for those of you rolling your eyes at the fact that I offered a cop popcorn and he took it - I live in the Deep South in a small-ish college town. The cops here are helpful, friendly (until provoked), and generally good guys. When construction workers stole from me after Hurricane Laura, two cops came to investigate and afterwards I offered them both a bottle of water and they accepted.
Any other urban planners/policy folks play this game? I’m an urban planning student who has spent too many quarantine hours playing SDV and at the risk of deeply questioning how I spend my time, I’ve been thinking about it from a planning perspective. Please tell me someone else has thought about this. Pelican Town (pop. ~35) is a small, rural town within a few hours of the nearest big metropolitan area. The town appears to have had an industrial past, with all the decayed mining infrastructure. Like many rural towns that were once anchored by industry, Pelican Town has struggled to rebuild its post-industrial economy and identity. The Mayor’s strategy is to look towards tourism, culture, and recreation for the town’s future. He holds an abundance of traditional festivals to preserve the town’s cultural identity and market its quaint, rural character to visitors from neighboring areas. He hopes the farmer’s high-quality local produce and artisan products will contribute to Pelican Town’s renewal. He also thinks the arts could drive the town's revitalization (Leah's art show). The town also has an abundance of natural assets, although I'd worry about point source pollution from the sewer pipe and the quarry is totally a brownfield site. Encouraging tourism is a sound strategy in Pelican Town, but it’s not a panacea - it won’t necessarily increase the tax base to help the town’s financial problems, and the jobs created will mostly be in the service sector. The neighboring town, Calico Desert, is another post-mining economy that is looking to tourism and has opened a casino. Economy: No matter how you calculate it (does the wizard have a job?) the unemployment rate is high. The jobs are not well-paying (the town was chosen for a discount Jojamart, like many rural towns attract dollar stores). Without good jobs for young people and lacking educational opportunities, the town is at risk of losing the younger population to other towns/the city. There’s potential for more small businesses if tourism increases, or for more remote work (though it doesn’t seem like Pelican Town has good internet infrastructure and computer ownership is low.) Transit: The town also suffers from a lack of transportation. Vehicle ownership is low (just the Mayor and Sebastian’s motorcycle, I think), the town is looking for private investment to restart bus service (should really form a regional transit authority with Calico Desert and get government funding), and though the train with the platform hints that there may have once been commuter rail, it’s currently only used for freight. Population: Pelican Town’s population, as it stands, will decline. There are only 2 children (Vincent and Jas) but close to 20 residents who are 40+. There are 12 residents in the 20-40 age group (the bacheloettes), who need to stay in Pelican Town and start families to reverse the decline. As in many rural areas, substance abuse is a problem in Pelican Town. There are a few alcoholics and I’m not gonna get on Sebastian’s case for smoking a little weed and who knows what’s in Pierre’s stash, but there’s clearly little else to do in town besides hang out at the Saloon. Housing: If young people choose to marry and stay in Pelican Town, where will they live? The vacancy rate is 0 and most bacheloettes live with their families. New housing will need to be built to retain them, but most probably cannot afford to build a house. The town will also need to carefully choose areas for development to maintain the natural assets that draw tourists. The town seems to use a form-based code in the town center (two-story mixed-use buildings). Solutions: The town is relying on the goodwill and prosperity of a private citizen (the farmer) to revitalize the Community Center, build houses, etc. - Mayor Lewis should rely less on one-time private investments and focus on more reliable funding sources and economic growth that will increase the tax base. The town is facing a housing crisis and should consider mixed-use development/apartments in the Community Center neighborhood to prevent sprawl. The town needs to invest in transportation and communication infrastructure to improve access to jobs and education. The vacant land near the train station is a great spot for a TOD and some denser development if the Valley could start commuter rail service, but I bet Robin & Demetrius would be NIMBYs who don’t want development near their mountain home. TL;DR: Mayor Lewis is making you do the flower dance to stimulate the economy.
Stokes's Bristol Nightclub incident in detail (From: The Comeback Summer by Geoff Lemon)
IF YOU’RE LOOKING for a place where misadventure could begin, you can’t go past Mbargo. The nightclub’s streetfront is painted a purple so bright you’ll see it in your dreams. Strings of giant sequins shimmer in the breeze. Its phonically inventive name is spelt in silver letters that climb its three-storey terrace facade. Inside are strips of burning neon, a few booths, floorboards so marinated in drink that they have an ingredients list. Bristol is a student city on England’s south coast crowded with music and nightlife and street art. This is Banksy’s home town, and the tourism board suggests in rather strong terms that ‘you would be a fool not to see his amazing work firsthand’. The same organisation describes Mbargo as ‘intimate’, which is fair for a place where you can catch an STI standing up. Students cram into its modest dimensions while people with names like DJ Klaud battle for billing with £1.50 drink deals over seven sloppy nights a week. To get a sense of the story about to come, consider that it’s the kind of place open until two o’clock on a Monday morning, and that at two o’clock on a Monday morning, Ben Stokes still thought it had closed too early. The Ashes of 2017–18 had disciplinary bookends. It was after that series that Australia’s two leaders went off the rails in South Africa. It was a few weeks before that Ashes tour that England’s biggest star windmilled his way into his own disaster. In the early hours of 25 September 2017, Stokes and teammate Alex Hales were barred from re-entering Mbargo after a night out on the piss. A Sunday thrashing of an abject West Indies in an ignored series at the fag-end of the season apparently required ample celebration. After arguing with the bouncer and hanging about at the door for a while, they wandered off to find a casino in the hope of more drinking. They’d barely made it around the corner before getting in the middle of a conflict between four locals. As is said on the internet, it escalated quickly. The 26 September reporting was bloodless. Withholding names, police stated that a man ‘was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm’ while another went to hospital with facial injuries. England’s director of cricket Andrew Strauss separately confirmed that Stokes was the arrestee, adding that he had been released without charge and that Hales had gamely offered to ‘help police with their enquiries’. Administrators had a good chance of hiding behind that investigation, and the next day Stokes was named in the upcoming Ashes squad as expected. But that night the video emerged. Bristol student Max Wilson had shot it on his phone, then offered it to The Sun. What he thought was playing hardball was actually lowball: his opening price of £3000 was snapped up by a tabloid that would have paid ten times that. The Sun went on to make a mint by syndicating the rights worldwide. From a window above the fray, the vision showed six men on the street below performing the muddled choreography of a melee. One was right at the centre of it. One was waving a bottle, one dipped in and out, one tried to calm it. Two others floated around the edges. The central figure was unmistakable: red hair burning even in the streetlight as he launched into a series of blows against two of the men, falling to grapple with them on the ground, then following both across the street, swinging punches the whole way. Hales trailed behind, repeatedly and impotently shouting ‘Stokes! Stop! Stokes! Enough!’ The ECB could fudge issues that existed only in thickets of legalese, but not those captured in moving colour. Stokes was stood down from the next West Indies match, then suspended indefinitely. It emerged that he had broken his hand during the fight, something he’d done twice before while punching objects in dressing rooms. The response in Australia was fierce: Stokes was a thug, a lowlife, a selection that would disgrace England. It was not entirely coincidental that a ban for England’s best player would be handy for the Aussie team, but there was also a cultural split. In England, plenty of people still minimise pub fights as lads letting off steam. In Australia, heavy media coverage as a succession of young men were killed had inverted that tolerance. The discourse now saw any punch as potentially deadly and accordingly reckless. This was more poignant in a cricket context given that David Hookes, the dashing Test batsman and state coach, was killed in 2004 by a pub bouncer’s fist. The PR situation was bad for Stokes as details emerged of the injuries to the men he’d hit, and that one was a young war veteran and father. Stokes wasn’t officially removed from the Ashes squad through October but stayed behind when his teammates left, hoping for police to dismiss the matter in time for a late dash to Australia. His annual contract was renewed on the due date in case that came to pass. Then 29 October brought a twist in the tale. ‘Ben Stokes praised by gay couple after defending them from homophobic thugs,’ ran the headline. Kai Barry and Billy O’Connell had emerged. Not entirely out of nowhere: while Stokes had made no public comment, this story in his defence had initially been leaked to TV host Piers Morgan after the fight, as soon as the video appeared. Police body-camera footage played in court would later show that Stokes had given the same story to the arresting officer on the night. But no-one knew the identities of the fifth and sixth men in the video, and police appeals had turned up nothing. It was The Sun again with the breakthrough. Kai and Billy were perfect for a readership not keen on nuance. ‘We couldn’t believe it when we found out they were famous cricketers. I just thought Ben and Alex were quite hot, fit guys,’ said Kai, who was memorably described as a ‘former House of Fraser sales assistant’. The paper had the pair do a full photo shoot: layering the fake tan, showing off chest waxes, mixing Ralph Lauren and Louis Vuitton into a range of outfits. Their best shot had them standing back to back, heads turned to the camera, in a mirror-image Zoolander moment. Suddenly The Sun was the England team’s best friend. ‘Their claims could lead to the all-rounder being cleared over the punch-up and freed to play in the First Test in Australia next month,’ it gushed, then gave a tasting platter of quotes: ‘We were so grateful to Ben for stepping in to help. He was a real hero.’ ‘If Ben hadn’t intervened it could have been a lot worse for us.’ ‘We could’ve been in real trouble. Ben was a real gentleman.’ Would it be known forever as Kai and Billy’s Ashes? No. While the Bristol boys provided spin for Stokes’ reputation they didn’t influence the police. With charges still pending there was little choice – not given Strauss had previously sacked Kevin Pietersen for being annoying. Stokes remained suspended through the Ashes and a one-day series in Australia, and lost the vice-captaincy. It was January 2018 before the Crown Prosecution Service laid a charge. That charge surprisingly came in as affray, a crime that can carry prison time but is classified as ‘a breach of the peace as a result of disorderly conduct’. The men he had punched, Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale, faced the same count, charged as equal participants in a fight rather than Stokes being charged with assaulting them. Alex Hales was not charged, despite being seen in the video to aim several kicks when Ryan Ali was lying on the ground. Given the underwhelming standing of the offence, Stokes was cleared by the ECB to tour New Zealand, and kept playing until his trial in August 2018, which he missed a Test to attend. None of the three defendants would be convicted. The reasoning behind the charges was never released and was attributed vaguely to ‘CPS lawyers’. The service gave the case to Alison Morgan, a prosecutor of a class known as Treasury Counsel who usually handle serious criminal matters. Morgan had a scheduling clash and never ended up court for the case, but in 2018 and 2019 she would go on to win damages and admissions of libel from The Daily Mail, The Times and The Daily Telegraph variously for incorrectly reporting that she had been responsible for the inadequate and inconsistent charging decisions. Morgan’s successor on the case was Nicholas Corsellis QC, who on the first day of trial was permitted by the CPS to request two assault charges be added against Stokes. ‘Upon further review,’ claimed a CPS statement, ‘we considered that additional assault charges would also be appropriate.’ This was patent nonsense from the service that eight months earlier had chosen the lesser charge. Any lawyer knows that no judge will allow new charges once a trial has begun, because the defence hasn’t had time to prepare. But such a request could deflect criticism of the prosecution service by technically making the judge the one who disallows the charge. Working through the story from the trial and the tape is complicated. You had a Ryan and a Ryan, a Hale and a Hales, a Billy and a Barry and a Ben. You had several versions of events as to who knew whom, who was drinking with whom, who had insulted whom and who had merely engaged in ‘banter’, a word that in modern Britain has to do an unconscionable amount of lifting. The reporting had constantly mixed up the Ryans as to who had which injury, who was in hospital, who had played which part in the fight, and whose mum had which stern words to say about it. Let’s agree that from now Ryan Ali is Ryan One, the firefighter who ended up with a fractured eye socket and a cracked tooth. Ryan Two can be Ryan Hale, the soldier who scored concussion and facial lacerations. Mr Barry and Mr O’Connell are best known per The Sun as Kai and Billy. In scorecard parlance we’ll leave the cricketers as Stokes and Hales. Amid the confusion, Stokes and his lawyers built his case in a straightforward way. The UK legal definition of affray is ‘if a person threatens or uses unlawful violence or force towards another person, which causes another person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for their safety’. That means it doesn’t account for violence that harms a target, but violence that might frighten a theoretical bystander. The wiggle room for Stokes was with ‘unlawful’, because the charge excuses violence in defending oneself or others. This interpretation hinged on the beginning of the video, where Ryan One waves a beer bottle about and takes a swing at Kai. The version from Stokes was that he was minding his own business walking down the street when he heard homophobic abuse. He intervened verbally and was threatened verbally by Ryan One – something that Ryan One denied but that couldn’t be proved or disproved. In fear for his safety Stokes had to nullify that threat by bashing Ryan One before it went the other way. He registered Ryan Two in his peripheral vision as another possible threat, and again had only one recourse. Stokes also had to convince the jury to disregard testimony from Mbargo’s bouncer that he had been looking for a fight. A solid lump of a man, Andrew Cunningham had not enjoyed his patron’s attempts to get back into the club after the bouncer declined an offer of a bribe. ‘He got a bit verbally abusive towards myself. He mentioned my gold teeth and he said I looked like a cunt and I replied, “Thank you very much.” He just looked at me and told me my tattoos were shit and to look at my job.’ Cunningham described these words as coming in ‘a spiteful tone, quite an angry tone’, and said that Stokes still seemed angry as he walked away. These were details the doorman had nothing to gain by inventing, but each of them Stokes denied. By his own accounting he had drunk a beer at the game and three pints at his hotel, then ‘potentially had some Jägerbombs’ along with half a dozen vodkas at the club. He insisted that after all of this he was not drunk. If I may take a moment here to call upon the wisdom of experience – a person who cannot definitively say whether they have had any Jägerbombs has definitely had some Jägerbombs. A Jägerbomb is an experience that does not pass one by. Further to that, a person who says they have ‘potentially’ done something has definitely done that thing and doesn’t want to admit it. A person who has had between 15 and 24 standard drinks in one evening is shitfaced. A person who tries to bribe a bouncer £300 – three hundred quid! – to get into Mbargo – Mbargo! – is beyond shitfaced. If Stokes admitted that he was drunk then the prosecution could say he was out of control. He claimed clear recall of assessing a threat, feeling fear and deciding to protect himself with force. He confidently denied details from the bouncer’s testimony, like using the word ‘cunt’ or mentioning gold teeth. Yet on other details he claimed a ‘significant memory blackout’. He didn’t remember the punch that saw Ryan One taken away by ambulance. He didn’t remember what the Ryans had said to Kai and Billy, only that those words were homophobic. With no head injury, as one of the few people who hadn’t been hit, he had supposedly suffered this memory loss despite being sober. The version from Kai and Billy was compatible but vague: they had been walking along, they ‘heard … shouts’ of abuse from an unspecified source, then Stokes ‘stepped in’ and thus they avoided possible harm. They claimed to have been bought a drink by Stokes at Mbargo, although CCTV showed them meeting outside. The overall implication from both accounts was that the cricketers had been pals with Kai and Billy, while the Ryans as per The Sun’s headline were a roving band of thugs. The reality though is that the Ryans were the ones hanging out with Kai and Billy at Mbargo. Police discussed CCTV from inside the club in questioning and at trial. On that footage the four Bristolians bought drinks for one another, danced together, and Kai was noted to have variously touched Ryan Two’s crotch and Ryan One’s buttock. Ryan One told police that all of this was taken lightheartedly and wasn’t a problem. Indeed, when the Ryans called it a night the other two left with them. This much is clear from footage out the front of Mbargo, which shows Kai and Billy exit the club and start talking with a subdued Hales and a demonstrative Stokes, who are stuck outside. The vision was played in court to determine whether Stokes was antagonistic towards Kai and Billy, as he appears to impersonate them and to throw a lit cigarette their way. More interesting is that after a few minutes the Ryans emerge, and all six actors in the fight video briefly form a prequel in the one frame. Ryan Two pats Billy on the chest in friendly fashion with his right hand before clapping him on the back with his left. He moves past and does the same to Kai before leaving the shot. Ryan One stops to speak to Kai. They lean in for a moment, talking, then Kai turns and they walk out of frame together. Billy hangs around for a few seconds at the door and then looks after them and races to catch up. Stokes and Hales remain outside the club to remonstrate further with the bouncers. Whatever discord develops around the corner is between four men who left amicably together minutes earlier. There’s no way to know what caused that friction. If Ryan One did use homophobic slurs, he might have been drunkenly obnoxious for no reason. He might have had an insecure macho response to some extra flirtation. He might have thought unkindness was funny – ‘banter’ once again. Or he might have said something that was misunderstood, as both Ryans insisted in court that they had not used nor had the impulse to use any abusive language. What clearly didn’t happen was an attack by bigots on random passers-by. This kind of crime is regular enough that an audience understands the horror of it, and this is what was evoked by the public accounts of Stokes, Billy and Kai. All we know is that there was some verbal dispute among the Bristol locals, and that Stokes came along behind them and put himself in the middle of it. Ryan One responded to the interference aggressively and away they went. There are plenty of reasons to look sideways at the idea that Stokes was a saviour. Foremost, neither Kai nor Billy was called upon as witnesses in court. You’d think it would be ideal to have Stokes’ story backed up by those who benefited from his selflessness. But his defence team had developed the impression that the pair had shown a changeable recall of events amid a hard-partying lifestyle, and would be dismantled by the prosecution on the stand. That raises the question of whether The Sun coached their quotes for the 2017 interview. Despite missing court, Kai and Billy clearly enjoyed the attention. In 2018 after the trial they did a follow-up spread in the same paper about how poor Ben had been mistreated. They got a television spot on Good Morning Britain and glowed about his heroism. In 2019 The Sun wheeled them out once more to say that Stokes should get a knighthood. In 2017 they had ‘never watched cricket’ but by 2019 were supposedly volunteering sentences like, ‘He saved us, now he’s saved the Ashes.’ Whether they were paid for these appearances is not known, but the chance to be famous for a day can be lure enough. If you find this cynical, consider that on the night in question, the Bristol boys were so deeply moved and thankful for Ben’s intervention that they left him to be arrested and never attempted to find out who he was. Seconds after the video ended, an off-duty policeman reached the scene. You might think that someone grateful to a saviour would speak on his behalf. Instead, said Kai, ‘it all got a bit scary so we walked off. It was too much for me and we went to Quigley’s takeaway for chicken burgers and cheesy chips.’ They didn’t give their hero a thought for over a month while police issued multiple appeals for witnesses. As for Stokes, he told his arresting officer that ‘his friends’ had been attacked. After three minutes of chat outside a nightclub, these friends were so dear to him that he has never contacted them again: not after the newspaper piece, not after the verdict. He didn’t want to see how they were or thank them for their support. He didn’t mention them by name in his solicitor’s statement after the trial. The Stokes defence rested on Ryan One’s bottle, which he had carried out of Mbargo to finish a beer, not to use in a Sharks versus Jets amateur production. But once he turned it over to hold it by the neck it became a weapon. Intent and interpretation can change the material nature of things. Part of Stokes’ justification in court was that the bottle implied that the two Ryans might have ‘other weapons’ hidden away. You can understand how a jury could decide that created doubt. Not being convicted, though, doesn’t give the contents of the video a big green tick. It does not, as his lawyer claimed, vindicate Stokes. Looking in detail, Ryan One is belligerent but his movements telegraph a bluff. Hales is the person he’s gesturing at, but they’re several metres apart when Ryan One cocks his arm ostentatiously, showing off the bottle rather than bracing to swing. He skips forward but Hales skips back and Ryan One doesn’t follow. Kai stretches out an arm to impede Ryan One, who has a drunken stumble, nearly eats pavement, then staggers towards Kai and hits him in the back. That hand is still holding the bottle, but his strike is a side-arm cuff on a soft part of the body. It’s all pretty tame. This is where Stokes gets involved. Having moved across to protect Hales, he now takes three large steps to run around Kai and booms his first punch at Ryan One. They fall to the ground and the bottle clinks away. Stokes gets to his feet to punch down at the fallen man, while Hales arrives to kick him ineffectively then runs off across the street for some unknown reason. Ice-cream van? Stokes is soon back in the grapple having his shirt pulled up to show off his Durham tan. Ryan Two steps in for the first time to pull Stokes away, prompting a couple more random punches at this new target, then Stokes trips backwards over Ryan One and sprawls in the street. Hales chooses this moment to return and aim some solid kicks at the head of the man on the ground. Nothing so far is a triumph of moral philosophy or the pugilistic arts. But if it all stopped here, perhaps you could say it was somewhere approaching fair. Ryan One has behaved like a turnip and it’s not an entirely unjust world that would give him a whack across the chops. The antagonists have disentangled, Stokes has some distance, it’s time to dust off and go home. Ryan Two steps forward for this purpose with his palm raised in conciliatory style and says, ‘Settle down, stop.’ So Stokes punches him. It’s roughly his fifth punch overall, and he really winds up into this one. He misses so hard that he stumbles away into the shadows of the shop awnings along the road. Hales starts shouting for him to stop. Ryan Two backs into the street, still holding his palm up. Stokes closes on him from about five metres away, six large steps, to where Ryan Two is standing on his own. Stokes pushes him a couple of times, as Ryan Two keeps trying to placate him and saying ‘Stop.’ Stokes throws his sixth punch, largely missing as his target ducks. Ryan Two keeps pulling away and reversing, into the middle of the street now. Stokes follows him, grabbing his sleeve to drag him back. By this point Ryan One has found his feet and walked around behind his friend. Both of them are in the same line of sight for Stokes, and both are backing away. Stokes aims his seventh and his eighth punches, which Ryan Two tries to deflect, as Hales walks up behind Stokes to grab him. Stokes yanks away from his friend and switches to Ryan One instead, taking seven paces to grab him before throwing his ninth punch of the night. He grabs again; Ryan One blocks that arm and pushes himself back away from Stokes. Ryan Two again intercedes, putting himself between the two with his palms up and his arm extended. Stokes throws his tenth punch, a right-hander at the face of Ryan Two, then shoves him backwards. Ryan Two backs away once more, four paces. Stokes follows, steadies, lines up, then launches his strongest punch yet, his eleventh, a proper right hook from a solid base, one that cracks across the man’s head and gives him concussion. Ryan Two ends up flat on his back in the middle of the street, his hands still outstretched for a moment in useless protest until they twitch and drop to the blacktop. Stokes isn’t done. He once more shoves away the restraining Hales and follows Ryan One, who keeps backing away saying, ‘Alright, alright, alright.’ Five more paces from Stokes before another blow at the man’s head. Kai and Billy are now standing over the poleaxed Ryan Two. The video ends, but seconds later Stokes will punch Ryan One hard enough to knock him out too, before off-duty cop Andrew Spure arrives on the scene to bring down the curtain. When the body-camera footage kicks in some minutes later, Stokes is in handcuffs but Ryan One is still laid out in the street. Ryan Two has regained consciousness, folded his shirt under his friend’s head and is asking police for an ambulance. ‘At this point, I felt vulnerable and frightened. I was concerned for myself and others.’ This was how Stokes described that sequence to the court. An elite athlete with years of gym work and training to snap a bat through the line of a ball with astounding power and precision, swinging fists as hard as he can at men with none of those advantages. Punching so hard that he breaks his hand, and repeatedly shoving away a friend so he can punch some more. Frightened and threatened by two targets shouting ‘Get back!’ and ‘Stop!’ The off-duty officer testified that Stokes ‘seemed to be the main aggressor or was progressing forward trying to get to’ Ryan One, who was ‘trying to back away or get away from the situation’. The student who filmed the video can be heard on the tape at one stage exclaiming ‘Fuck!’ and testified that it was because ‘I felt a little bit sorry about the lad that had been punched and it looked like he had his hands up’. That tallied with the prosecutor’s depiction of ‘a sustained episode of significant violence that left onlookers shocked at what was taking place’. The defendant stuck to his strategy. ‘No, my sole focus was to protect myself.’ All up, in the 33 seconds of footage after he falls over, Stokes takes 35 steps forward to keep hitting two men who keep trying to get away. Not once is he hit back. After the verdict, Stokes’ solicitor positioned him as the victim. It had been ‘an eleven-month ordeal for Ben … The jury’s decision fairly reflects the truth of what happened that night … He was minding his own business … It was only when others came under threat that Ben became physically engaged. The steps that he took were solely aimed at ensuring the safety of himself and the others present …’ The statement was impossibly self-righteous and self-absorbed. If there was anyone to feel sorry for it was Ryan Hale, the second of our two Ryans. He’s the one who emerged from the club with a friendly arm around the shoulder for Kai and Billy. He’s the one who interposed himself to end the fight, then kept putting himself back in the firing line, trying to calm an intimidating stranger while dodging blows. For his show of restraint he got laid out regardless, concussed in the street, then was issued a criminal charge equal to that of the man who hit him, and described in national media as a violent bigot in an untested story to support that man’s defence. Lawyers for Ryan Two made a more convincing post-trial statement, noting that Kai and Billy, ‘neither of whom were relied upon by the prosecution or the defence team for Mr Stokes, have taken the opportunity to speak with various media outlets about the alleged homophobic abuse that they received in the early hours of September 25. Mr Hale has passionately denied this allegation throughout the course of this case,’ it continued. ‘It is upsetting to Mr Hale that although he was acquitted, the accusation that he was the author of such abuse remains. Both Mr Hale and Mr Ali were knocked unconscious by Mr Stokes, and although Mr Stokes has been acquitted of an affray, Mr Hale struggles with the reasons why the Crown Prosecution Service did not treat him as a victim of an unlawful assault.’Good question. Avon and Somerset police were the investigating force, and they were frustrated by the decision. Ryan Two was filmed clearly not hurting anyone, but police were instructed by the CPS to proceed with a charge. Hales (the cricketer) was filmed fighting but ‘a decision was made at a senior level of the CPS’ not to proceed. Police expected Stokes to be charged with assault but the CPS declined. It doesn’t take a wild cynic to think that placing the same lukewarm charge on three men for vastly divergent behaviour might ensure that none would be convicted, even as the trial would maintain the pretence that a defendant of influential standing had not been given a free pass. A couple of years down the line, the original interview with Kai and Billy has disappeared. All traces have been scrubbed from The Sun website, its social media history, and even from the Wayback Machine internet archive. Given its headline of ‘homophobic thugs’ and text that names Ryan Two but not Ryan One, the libel liability isn’t hard to spot. Later interviews with Kai and Billy take the passive voice – they ‘suffered homophobic slurs outside a Bristol nightclub’. The article that was once claimed to exonerate brave Ben Stokes now links only to a missing content page, with a picture of a dropped ice-cream cone and the phrase ‘legal removal’ inserted into the web URL. In terms of consequences, Stokes missed one tour. When he resumed his career in January 2018, the Australians hadn’t yet ruined theirs. Their year-long bans looked much more stringent. But the Stokes case dragged on in other ways. With no criminal liability, the Australians confessed promptly enough for the sporting world to give them the full length of the lash. Their situation was ugly but there was closure. Stokes got stuck in legal stasis, unable to be fully backed or condemned. Instead his issue was always present, a browser full of open tabs that the ECB swore they would read any day now. Through 2018 Stokes was back but he wasn’t back, in the sunglasses and finger-guns sense. In his return one-day series he nearly cost England a match with 39 from 73 balls in Wellington. His first Test hit was a duck as England got rolled in Auckland for 58. At Trent Bridge while Stokes was injured, England posted a world record 481 against Australia. With Stokes three weeks later at the same ground they made 268. He crawled to 50 from 103, the second-slowest any Englishman had reached that milestone in 20 years. That span covered Alastair Cook’s whole career. It was apologetic batting, acting out responsibility via the scorecard. Stokes was creeping back into the team like he’d been kicked out in a blazing row and was hoping to tip-toe to the sofa. It was December 2018 before the ECB disciplinary committee ruled on him and Hales. In a ‘remarkable coincidence’, wrote Simon Heffer in The Telegraph, ‘the punishment both players faced in terms of bans from playing at international level was covered by the amount of games they had already missed when dropped by England’s selectors, in the furore that followed the incident’. The verdict compounded the omissions around the case by not addressing the violence at its heart. Nor did Stokes, apologising only ‘to my team-mates, coaches and support staff’, and then ‘to England supporters and to the public for bringing the game into disrepute’. The implicit next step was to rebuild that reputation. It might have been easier had his court defence not meant that he wasn’t game to admit any fault at all. It might have been easier if he or his advisers had been willing to change tack once the trial was done. Imagine a world where Stokes had stood outside court and apologised for overreacting, for the injuries he’d caused, and for the time and energy he had sucked out of other people’s lives. That would have been a show of responsibility beyond a scorecard. When the time came around to assess forgiveness, it might have meant forgiveness was deserved.
Albeit a week late, I want to share my 2021 portfolio for documentation purposes and for whoever is interested. I aimed to balance risk in this portfolio with some growth names and legacy plays. Down to brass tacks, I am putting my money in the highest quality companies (in my view) across a diverse set of industries I find attractive. Some of these names are overvalued in the short term. However, I have realized I am not in the business of beating Wall Street’s pricing, but would rather hold high-quality companies that I believe will grow faster that the market in the long term. In other words, I am totally fine paying a short-term premium for growth and quality. Below is a summary of the portfolio and big picture reasoning behind each investment. I'm definitely open to any feedback.
ARK Genomic Revolution ETF
Evolution Gaming Group
ARK Genomic Revolution ETF (BATS: ARKG) - Invests in companies advancing genomics. The companies held in ARKG may develop, produce or enable: CRISPR, Targeted Therapeutics, Bioinformatics, Molecular Diagnostics, Stem Cells, Agricultural Biology.
Innovative industry. Since 2003 the cost to sequence a human genome has dropped from nearly $3bn to less than $1,000. ARK believes that as costs continue to drop, genomic sequencing will become a standard of care in oncology. It will introduce more science into healthcare decision making, enable personalized medicine, and accelerate drug discovery. ARK estimates that genomic sequencing revenues will grow 43% at an annual rate, from $3.5bn last year to $21bn in 2024.
Cathie Wood. She’s a beast stock picker. Out of all the ETFs she runs, her closest competitor trailed by 60%. Her worst ETF still doubled investors' money. Her strategy is to make investments into companies that she considers incredibly transformational and she has seen success doing it.
CrowdStrike (NASDAQ: CRWD) - Cybersecurity technology company that provides endpoint security, threat intelligence, and cyber attack response services.
Best in class technology. Remember about a week ago a bunch of Russian hackers breached SolarWinds? The same hackers also tried to hack CrowdSrike at the same time but were unsuccessful. I’ve wandered on to a bunch of cybersecurity forums, and the general consensus is CrowdStrike has developed the best cybersecurity solution by miles. CRWD is the undisputed leader in cybersecurity.
“Pick-and-shovel” investment into the world’s increasing digitization. Even in the absence of COVID, cybersecurity remains a key component of the world’s increasing digitization as cyberthreats have been an ongoing issue from the onset of the internet. In the last decade we have seen a bunch of hacks where companies have exposed sensitive customer information. It seems companies are just starting to realize the importance of cybersecurity.
Disney (NYSE: DIS) - Worldwide entertainment company that you all are probably familiar with.
Reopening trade. In 2019, parks generated 45% of total operating income for DIS. Full reopening and attendance in parks will be slow, but certainly benefit DIS when it happens. The company has been executing on several other segments in the meantime (i.e. streaming). It has proved competitive, increasing the margin of safety if parks take longer to reopen.
Fast-growing streaming division. DIS has proved agile as it successfully launched a streaming service, Disney+, that has already gained 86mn+ subscribers which was the company’s original 5 year target. This is promising as it shows management can adapt to rapidly changing technology trends.
Enphase Energy (NASDAQ: ENPH) - Designs and manufactures software-driven home energy solutions that span solar generation, home energy storage and web-based monitoring and control.
Shift to clean energy; ENPH emerging as market leader. Going into 2021, sentiments towards solar have been at an all time high. This trend is expected to continue, especially after the Georgia run-off results. Solar firms are expected to benefit from extended tax incentives on both the consumer and producer ends.
Technological advantage. ENPH has developed the industry leading solution and is rapidly taking market share from its primary competitor, SolarEdge. Pricing reflects this, but it's expected to continue. Among key competitors, Enphase has been one of the lowest cost producers. Its low-cost structure is a major contributing factor to its improving margins.
Evolution Gaming Group (OTC: EVVTY) - Swedish company that develops, produces, markets and licenses integrated B2B live casino solutions for gaming operators.
Early mover advantage. Evolution’s lack of competition enables it to rapidly grow in new markets and create a loyal customer base, with high switching costs. The company has effectively grown EBITA margins from 41.6% in 1Q18 to 64.8% in 3Q20. Margin expansion is expected to continue.
Massive untapped markets. Europe is estimated to be around $2.5bn (EVVTY has 50% market share), Asian market is ~15x the size of Europe (150% YoY growth for EVVTY in Asia). North America’s market is ~$210mn, a 42% increase YoY, with NJ and PA the only states currently operating (NY looks promising). Management thinks the US will be the largest in the long-term.
Undetected from Wall Street. Evolution has almost no analyst coverage in the US and very minimal coverage in Europe, presenting opportunity for additional growth as institutional money managers recognize this opportunity and draw attention to the stock. Additionally, Evolution has a founder-led management team that is highly aligned with shareholders (mgmt owns over 30% of the stock).
Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) - Enables people to connect through devices. It’s products include Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp and Oculus.
Zuck. It’s not a question of who is the next Jobs/Bezos/Gates/Zuck, because Zuck is super young. He has a history of being able to execute: IG acquisition / transition from desktop to mobile / denying multiple acquisition opportunities in his twenties.
Undervalued. FB is the cheapest among the FAANG stocks, yet has some of the highest growth rates. This is mainly because of its continuous political scandals. With Trump out of office, I think FB has a chance to stay out of trouble and start to realize higher multiples. The antitrust lawsuit is not a threat imo, it is actually an opportunity. If the govt forces FB to break up, we would get shares in the spin-offs, which would be valued at a higher multiple than FB. For example, if Instagram spun off from FB and traded at the same multiple as SNAP, Instagram’s market cap would be larger than FB’s.
Digitization of Real Estate (i.e. “iBuying”). Technology in RE is moving from being informational to transactional. Redfin’s iBuying service is dubbed “RedfinNow.” The service basically buys homes from sellers looking for a quick and convenient sale (close deals within 10-30 days). This segment isn’t profitable yet as it is just getting started, but promising as the management adapts to technology trends.
Inter-US Migration and housing outlook. People are moving out of the cities because of COVID / trying to avoid taxes / etc. which increases demand for Redfin’s services. With interest rates extremely low (and no expectation for them to increase), homebuying demand should continue to grow.
RDFN most attractively valued compared to Z and OPEN, with the most upside potential given its market cap ~$7bn. Some are predicting RDFN might start offering rental services as well. RDFN has the best LT margin potential.
Teladoc Health (NYSE: TDOC) - Provides virtual healthcare services on a B2B basis to its clients and provides services to consumers directly and through channel partners.
Competitive positioning in industry ripe for disruption. Healthcare is a huge market yet to be significantly disrupted. COVID has accelerated this disruption. Providers who were once opposed to telemedicine now realize its benefits and several regulatory changes are promising for telemedicines growth potential. Medicare and other government-sponsored coverage is expected to include telemedicine benefits, increasing TDOC’s TAM.
Livongo acquisition. From the consumer POV, this will increase access to healthcare at a lower cost. Teladoc will have access to a larger amount of data it can interpret to refine its services and monetization strategies.
Sea Ltd (NYSE: SE) - Digital entertainment, electronic commerce, and digital financial services. The Company operates three business segments: Garena, Shopee, and SeaMonkey. The Company’s digital entertainment business, Garena, is a global game developer and publisher with a presence in Southeast Asia, Taiwan, and Latin America. Garena provides access to mobile and personal computer online games. Shopee provides users with a shopping environment that is supported by integrated payment, logistics, fulfillment, and other value-added services. SeaMonkey business is a digital financial services provider. SeaMonkey offers e-wallet services, payment processing, credit related digital financial offerings, and other financial products.
Diversified consumer internet company with market-leading position. Sea caters to Southeast Asia and Taiwan, providing its online gaming, e-commerce, and payment platforms. Shopee has overtaken competitors, it is widening its market share lead. ESports is a rapidly growing market (15.7% YoY to $1.1bn in 2020) and Sea is outpacing market growth.
Pay for quality. The best companies keep going up for years in a row, and I think Sea is in the early stages of being classified as such a company. It’s worth $100bn but has effectively proved its ability to identify opportunities and expand business lines.
Still early stages of developing its consumer banking business, so we get the security of a bigger, established company with upside for an additional, lucrative business line such as fintech.
Waste Connections Inc. (NYSE: WCN) - Waste services company that provides non-hazardous waste collection, transfer, disposal and recycling services.
Recession resilient; re-opening trade. The waste management industry is recession resilient, it will always be around.
Non-hazardous waste collection. With a progressive government likely to push climate initiatives, recycling and non-hazardous waste collection are likely to benefit on the back end.
WCN has a large moat; there isn’t much of a competitive threat the way the industry operates. Management’s strategy is to generally only spend what FCF is available. This enables the company to make acquisitions while handling its debt load. Great for stable growth.
P.S. I have two other accounts - one with about 40 growth stocks and another with about 10 big names / ETFs. However, this portfolio has the largest allocation for 2021. My first time trying a more concentrated approach.
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