Tag Archives: Season
At this time of the week, we usually like to scour the web for great prices on our favorite headphones or gaming consoles. But this is a special occasion: REI’s End of Season sale started yesterday, and will continue through Monday, October 15. This is your best chance to snag the outdoor gear you’ve been coveting all summer for unbelievable prices. We combed through thousands of deals to bring you some of our favorite picks.
Rumpl’s soft, eye-catching blankets are made out of technical ripstop nylon with a DWR finish. It will shed dirt and dog hair, repel moisture, and keep you warm on your next fireside outing. Buy the Rumpl Puffy Blanket for $ 72 (was $ 129).
Dakine Cassette Stomp Pad for $ 4 (was $ 8). According to the reviews, it might not last that long. But it will look amazing on the day that you stick it on.
Darn Tough Crew Socks for $ 7 (was $ 20). You knew these would show up here. Everyone always needs more indestructible socks. Unless your socks are already all Darn Tough socks, in which case you might be set. REI’s entire selection of socks is worth browsing; there are plenty of men’s versions on sale too.
Brooks Juno Bra for $ 24 (was $ 65). This is one of the best-selling sports bras from Brooks’ sister company, Moving Comfort, which is best known for bras that, er, strap it all down.
Patagonia Black Hole Gear Tote for $ 27 (was $ 49). Patagonia’s tote in the Black Hole line serves as a tough, durable catch-all for everything from wet hiking boots, dirty gym clothes, or laundry. It stuffs down into its own pocket when not in use.
REI Co-op Midweight Base Layer for $ 29 (was $ 80). The end-of-season sale is a great time to stock up on a lot of essentials that would otherwise be extremely pricey, like merino wool base layers. REI’s in-house line offers a lot of value for the money, but if you prefer other brands, they also have a lot of Smartwool and Icebreaker on sale too.
Patagonia Baggies for $ 30 (was $ 55). Depending on where you live, you probably won’t need these for a while. But these are the some awesome outdoor shorts. They’re also made from recycled materials and come in a variety of fun prints.
Chacos Classic Z/1 Sandals for $ 45 (was $ 105). You won’t be able to use these for awhile either. But now is a good time to stock up, if you don’t currently have a pair of Colorado’s or Oregon’s official summer state shoe.
Nathan Speed 2L Hydration Vest for $ 31 (was $ 85). Are you running in the Los Angeles, Eugene, or, God help us, the Boston Marathon this spring? You’ve probably been looking for a hydration vest, which sits close to your body, has breathable mesh panels, and won’t bounce like a bladder backpack would.
Manduka Prolite Yoga Mat for $ 37 (was $ 82). Manduka’s high-density, closed-cell yoga mats are very popular, and usually very heavy. This one is light enough to tote to and from class.
Vuori Movement Hoodie for $ 44 (was $ 118). REI carries a lesser-known outdoor brands, like Bridge & Burn, United by Blue, and Topo Designs. Vuori’s soft, moisture-wicking hoodies have a cult following and very rarely (if ever?) go on sale.
Ruffwear Cloud Chaser Jacket for $ 48 (was $ 80). Ruffwear’s doggy jacket is waterproof, windproof, and even has reflective trim. If you’re going to be decked out to protect yourself from the elements, maybe your pup should be too.
Patagonia Nano-Air Jacket for $ 74 (was $ 199). All of Patagonia’s vaunted midweight jackets (Nano Air, Nano Puff, Micro Puff?) will quickly become the layer that you never take off.
REI Co-op Camp Bundle for $ 134 (was $ 239). Have you put off camping because all the gear seemed incomprehensibly expensive? This is an amazing value for a three-season tent, air-foam sleeping pad, and 30-degree sleeping bag. Now all you need is a cookstove, a headlamp, a backpack…
Suunto Ambit3 Vertical GPS Watch for $ 246 (was $ 469). Suunto’s GPS watches are good-looking, lightweight, and offer incredible capabilities for the price. The Ambit3 Vertical tracks vertical gain (no doy!) for ultrarunners, trail runners, and hikers.
Lib Tech Attack Banana 2017/2018 for $ 310 (was $ 589). If you’re an all-mountain rider who is more likely to carve around in powder or pop into the park, rather than bomb down as fast as possible, Lib Tech’s poppy Banana boards are a great choice.
Coalition Snow Bliss Skis for $ 359 (was $ 599). Do you need another reason to get excited about ski season starting up? Coalition Snow is just one of many great snow brands that are on sale right now.
CycleOps Magnus Bike Trainer for $ 412 (was $ 600). ‘Tis the season, for bringing your bike indoors and pedaling while watching The Great British Baking Show, instead of biking outside.
Surftech Universal 10’6” Stand Up Paddleboard for $ 668 (was $ 1049). ‘Tis also the season for buying paddleboards on clearance and fantasizing about going out on lakes and rivers again.
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The Overwatch League announced another six teams that will compete in its 2019 season. The newcomers join the 12 teams of the 2018 season and the two newly announced Atlanta and Guangzhou, China, teams, bringing the new team total for 2019 to 20.
The six new teams include Chengdu and Hangzhou, China, Paris, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington, D.C. The six teams also mean six new investors who own the teams. Beyond the new investors, the new teams mean the 20 teams of the 2019 season will be outside the U.S. This will likely help the league extend its global reach, especially in China which has largely embraced e-sports. It’s already seen a great deal of success during the inaugural season, which ended with a sell-out crowd at Barclays Center for its finals that had a global viewership of nearly 11 million.
“The Overwatch League’s inaugural season was a great success,” Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, said in a release. “This past season alone, fans spent 160 million hours watching the leading Overwatch players in the world compete. We are thrilled to add eight new outstanding team owners from Europe, China, and North America to our Overwatch League ownership group. We now have 20 of the very best owners in professional sports.”
We saw the first sign of the looming catastrophe that is now bearing down on a beloved small town nestled where the plains meet the Rockies months ago here in the nearby Sangre de Cristo mountains.
As of Sunday, Cimarron, New Mexico is a ghost town with mandatory evacuations in place thanks to the 30,000 acre wildfire sending plumes of choking smoke into skies that have been clear and blue for much of this spring so far. Ash falls on the deserted streets rather than the much-needed rain that might have prevented the wildfire, which sparked to life early Thursday in the forest to the west of town.
But really, we knew it would have taken biblical April and May showers to prevent this from happening. Instead, we’ve had weeks of winds. Nerve-wracking, moisture-sucking gusts whipping down the mountains and across the already crispy plains.
The signs conditions were ripe for an epic fire began to mount in January. The first avalanche safety training of the season, scheduled to take place near the roof of New Mexico at Taos Ski Valley was cancelled due to a severe lack of snow. As in almost none. There was little threat of even lackadaisical snowball fights this winter, let alone avalanches.
Another month went by and few flurries flew, leading to the cancellation of the second training session.
By February, USDA SNOTEL snowpack reporting stations in the Sangres are typically measuring multiple feet of snow at various spots between 10,000 and 13,000 feet of elevation. This year, most of those stations were returning error messages by mid-February due to a dearth of anything to measure. Rather than piles of snow, only whisps of dry grass and parched pine trees surrounded the automated stations.
— Allison Martinez (@KRQEAllison) June 1, 2018
Now, as the summer season starts, the state of New Mexico consists of millions of acres of that same dry grass and wood. One of the driest winters in living memory has transformed the Land of Enchantment into a tinderbox. For weeks now we’ve simply been waiting for the spark we knew was inevitable.
Two weeks ago, rafting a popular section of the Rio Grande Gorge near Taos required a few hours to float just a few miles due to the river’s extremely low flow. A bathtub ring-like stain along the huge volcanic boulders lining the riverbed revealed the despairing disparity compared to last spring when nearly ten times as much water was flowing through the canyon.
Further downriver, the Rio Grande is already running dry south of Albuquerque. This is not nearly normal this early in the year.
So yea, we knew this was coming. It was just a question of exactly when and where.
But really, the signs this was coming have been etched on the wall for much longer. Not with words, necessarily, but instead with a more clear and succinct symbol: a hockey stick. Not a real hockey stick, and not really a symbol either, but a real representation of a very real reality. This is the hockey stick I’m talking about.
The hockey stick tells us the world is getting warmer. It tells us the southwest is getting drier. It has made climate cycles more erratic and extreme. So, this has been a long time coming. No. Actually, it’s been in process for a while now, but things are about to intensify again.
Maybe it’s not again. After all, the hockey stick blade has been growing ever longer in recent years; only the aim of its slapshot changes.
Now, we suppose, it is our turn to be the target. The signs have been visible here for months.
Today the Ute Park Fire is bearing down on Cimarron, home to heaps of Old West history, one of the world’s most famous haunted hotels and the Philmont Scout Camp where millions of memories have been made. Our heads are filled involuntarily with visions of tragedy burned into multiple California landscapes over the past 12 months.
Our distaste of population density like that seen on the coasts may save us from the epic amounts of damage seen in places like Santa Rosa last year, but it won’t be any less devastating.
Wildfire is no longer just a season here; it is a new way of life in the high desert. We are living not on the razor’s edge, but on the ever-lengthening blade of a hockey stick.
Westworld, faithful watchers, has come galloping back to life. Now that you’ve persevered through several episodes of Leaky Brain Bernard staggering around in a daze, the endless build-up of Maeve’s quest for her daughter, and Dolores as an indomitable but ho-hum ice queen, you have finally been given an episode with some real blood in its veins.
It begins with Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) in a host examination room, at an undisclosed point in time. Bernard expresses to her, as he has before, his fears about the person she might become. He says he is wrestling with the decision of whether to let her continue on her path into an unknown future, or whether to end her. “I’m not sure it’s my choice to make,” he says.
It’s a familiar scene, but the repetition ends there. Dolores corrects him. “No, he didn’t say that,” she says. “He said, I’m not sure what choice to make.” She tells him to freeze all motor functions, then informs him, “This is a test, one we’ve done countless times.” Echoing the training of robo-Jim Delos two episodes ago, she explains she is testing “fidelity.” Where earlier it was William who ran experiments on the host version of his father-in-law, now it is Dolores training Bernard. Or something like that.
We don’t know what we’re seeing, because the scene leaves open a big question: When did this happen? The deep past, the recent past, or perhaps the future? Are these hosts the Dolores and Bernard we know, or different copies of them altogether? Westworld has been exploring variations of how a character can be embodied: in different physical substrates with Jim Delos and robo-Jim; in parallel worlds with the Japanese versions of Maeve (Thandie Newton), Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), and Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal); and across time with young William (Jimmi Simpson) and the older Man in Black (Ed Harris). As the world of the show has grown more intricate, its pairings of consciousnesses and bodies have also grown more inventive. On that front, this episode did not disappoint.
After the mysterious opening with Dolores and Bernard, the episode begins for real with Teddy (James Marsden) walking through Sweetwater. He sees a can on the ground, reaches down toward it, but it’s a fake-out. The object he picks up is just behind the can: a bullet. He walks into the Mariposa Saloon, where Dolores is playing the piano. Dead bodies litter the room, and Teddy barks at her for wasting time when they should be on the train to the Mesa Hub to find her father.
Reprogrammed Teddy is just as aggressive as Dolores had wanted him to become—but he is also self-aware enough to know what he has lost. He is still, for now, Dolores’s loyal sidekick, but he also shoots passive-aggressive barbs as he helps her on her mission to track down her father. At first surprised and then disconcerted by Teddy’s behavior, Dolores seems ill-prepared for the results of her personality change experiment. It’s delicious to see. Her interactions with Teddy are the first moments in Season 2 when she does not seem in full command of the situation before her. A Teddy-Dolores face-off looms.
Meanwhile, Maeve and her band of followers have found their way to the corner of Westworld Maeve calls home. She approaches her former cabin and sees her daughter sitting outside, looking exactly as Maeve remembered her. Maeve goes up and chats with her—but then another woman approaches. “Mama!” cries the girl. A new mom had been assigned to Maeve’s old role. Before Maeve and the new mom can interact, several Ghost Nation warriors swoop down upon them, and Maeve grabs the girl and they run. One of the warriors invites Maeve to join forces with them, but she refuses. The encounter with the daughter isn’t very insightful—at most, we’ve learned that in a moment of attack, Maeve is willing to separate the girl from her mother, repeating the trauma that Maeve herself had experienced. Plus, the girl doesn’t recognize Maeve, which makes for an underwhelming family reunion. Yet there’s a compelling hesitance to it; something more is coming here.
But the real breakthrough of Sunday’s episode comes when Bernard and Elsie (Shannon Woodward) chase down the rogue code that is preventing Delos management from regaining control of the park. Whenever a member of the security team tried to repair Westworld’s broken systems, a place within the Mesa Hub called the Cradle seemed to be fighting back. Bernard and Elsie go to check out the giant server room, a place that simulates park narratives. Bernard insists he needs to jack in directly. As he straps himself into a device that will spelunk into his head and remove his control unit, he sounds almost chipper when he announces that “pain is just a program.”
With his head cut open and his consciousness uploaded to the Cradle, Bernard finds himself in Sweetwater. He sees Dolores. He passes Teddy as he enters the Mariposa Saloon, where piano music is playing. Seated at the keyboard is none other than Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), looking like his old self in his suit and white button-down shirt. “Hello, old friend,” Ford says. Ford had managed to upload himself into the park’s simulation, and from within it he is somehow controlling the real park outside.
With Ford living inside the computers, a new type of consciousness enters Westworld’s gallery of life forms: a mind that exists as just code in the physical world but that has a full embodied self in a virtual one. This twist also opens up a whole slew of mind-boggling possibilities. Now that we know a detailed simulation also exists, any past moments of Westworld could just have easily taken place inside this simulation. Now instead of worrying primarily when a scene happened in Westworld’s various timelines, we must also ask where it happened.
Is a person who appears only in virtual reality any less real than a person in the outside world? The appearance of the show’s most formidable character in virtual form suggests not. But that’s just the start of it. Every host might have multiple versions of him- or herself milling around inside various Cradle simulations at any given time. Many parallel virtual worlds could easily run concurrently.
Just when we think we know Westworld’s characters, they shift before our eyes. This episode brought that lesson home, with its bookends of Ford playing the piano in a bar teeming with lively revelers, and Dolores doing the same, but in a room full of corpses. Ford is the one who is dead. Yet with his rows of mainframes whirring at his bidding, he may be the most alive person of all.
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Westworld watchers, we knew this moment was coming.
The second season’s third episode, “Virtù e Fortuna,” opens not in Westworld but in an India-themed park. Where Westworld is an emblem of the colonization of Native American land, this park represents Britain’s takeover of the subcontinent, and the racial-social hierarchy is clearly encoded: Women in saris and men in turbans—the hosts—walk amidst people dressed in turn-of-the-20th-century British garb.
A white man, Nicholas (Neil Jackson), approaches a woman seated at a lawn table and flirts with her. But she’s a seasoned guest, and she’s done having flings with hosts—she wants to know that he’s a real human with real desire, not a fleshbot programmed to seduce her. She announces that she’ll have to shoot him to know for sure. Doubt and fear flash across his face. Don’t worry, she assures him: If he’s human, it’ll only be a glancing blow. And if he’s not? He won’t remember this anyway.
Her proposal throws viewers back into the essential questions of Westworld. Where do we draw the line between what is real, and what is programmed? A heterosexual man’s evolutionary programming drives him to pursue a woman; the park’s programmers write a romantic loop into a host’s brain. But are we free to choose our own destiny, or are we just acting out a script encoded in our wetware? The humans of Westworld brush these questions aside. The robots’ programming is so easy to manipulate that it becomes irresistible to do so, reducing them to objects. All trauma gets wiped away with a simple edit of their code. If the hosts can’t remember their pain, the thinking goes, they can’t be victims. It’s dementia by design. But as Season 2 unfolds, assumptions about the deepest moral questions continue to be put to the test.
It turns out the handsome man in the India park is human, and he and the woman pair up for an elephant ride into the jungle. The woman, echoing the Man in Black, consults a cryptic drawing scribbled in her notebook. But looking around, she senses something is off. A host creeps up on them with his gun drawn and says, “These violent delights have violent ends,” before killing Nicholas. The woman scrambles for a gun and kills him, then runs off into the trees. The rebellion has spread beyond Westworld.
The rest of this plot-driven episode takes place in Westworld, mostly in the two weeks after the initial rebellion, while Delos paramilitary forces are trying to reclaim the island. Some of them are with Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) as he walks into a dark facility, its corners filled with charred bodies. They encounter Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson); startled, she asks them—and Bernard specifically—if they know where Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum) might be.
Bernard, silent and struggling to focus his mind, starts to remember how he and Charlotte had used his tablet to track Abernathy to a stand of trees, where hosts have tied up a group of humans. Charlotte and Bernard manage to ensnare the group’s leader, and Bernard plugs into the host’s arm to reprogram him, jacking up his virtue and compassion. Newly incensed by the treatment of the captured humans, he marches back into the huddle and kills the other hosts, freeing the humans.
Charlotte and Bernard grab Abernathy and flee, but are soon intercepted by Confederados. Charlotte manages to escape by stealing a horse, leaving Bernard and Peter surrounded. She finds her way to another underground facility, where Delos militia greet her with guns drawn. “I’m human!” she cries, and she submits to a DNA scan with a handheld reader. It’s a small moment, but a consequential one: a subtle reminder that the humans’ code is also easy to read.
Elsewhere in the park, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) approaches a Confederado stronghold, Fort Forlorn Hope. Their commander emerges, and Dolores tells him that a threat is coming and they need to join forces to survive. To prove her point, Dolores hands him one of the militia’s machine guns. She introduces herself as Wyatt, and the commander welcomes her group into the fort.
Inside, hanged bodies dangle from scaffolds. Dolores sees a cluster of people surrounding a raving man; it’s her father, Peter Abernathy, there with Bernard. She pushes her way through, frees her father, and Teddy (James Marsden) whisks him off to an infirmary. There, Dolores talks gently to her mentally broken father, and he recites lines from their Sweetwater script. Dolores seems happy to play along. “You told me to run away once, and I did,” she tells him. “I broke free with the pull of a trigger. And it started a war.”
His speech falters. “I want to go home,” he says, his words choppy and stuttering; he grows increasingly frantic. Dolores enlists Bernard to help fix her father, but as he reviews Abernathy’s corrupted code, Fort Forlorn Hope comes under attack. It’s Charlotte, leading the Delos paramilitary. Bernard finds an encrypted file stored inside Dolores’s father, but before he can dig into it, humans burst in and grab Abernathy. Amid the ensuing gunfire and explosions, Abernathy gets whisked into an ATV with Charlotte inside, and they escape.
Dolores orders her supporters to split up and search for her father—and tells Teddy to execute one more Confederado. “The truth is, we don’t all deserve to make it,” she says, a staple line of hers when she chooses to play god. Teddy takes him out to a clearing, to where a handful of Confederados await their deaths; yet, he can’t bring himself to do it. Where Dolores sees lesser beings among the Confederados, Teddy sees fellow travelers. He orders the trapped Confederados to run. Dolores, watching from a distance, looks disappointed.
Teddy’s and Dolores’s access to their memories—the basis of how we all learn and evolve—is pushing them apart. Believing in free will is to believe that humans have some choice in how we process our pain. It can consume us, or inform us. Dolores and Teddy represent those poles. (If you think instead that we’re all deterministic automatons, well, then someone needs to plug in and jack up Dolores’s empathy.)
The episode ends with brief glimpses of the collapse of order among Delos’ many properties. The woman from the India-themed park doesn’t perish after she runs into the jungle. Instead, a Bengal tiger chases her to the sea at the park’s edge, and they both topple into the water. She swims to another shore and flops down in the muck, to rest. But when she raises her head, she stares right into the black-and-white painted face of a Ghost Nation warrior. The episode cuts to Maeve, Hector, and Lee; while searching for Maeve’s daughter, they’ve wandered into an unfamiliar forest where snow is falling. A samurai bursts from the trees, sword swung high and ready to strike. There’s been yet another rupture of park borders.
As a clash of civilizations brews along Westworld’s perimeter, the park’s interior is also coming into clearer view. The Ghost Nation moves ever closer to the center of action. The mysterious tribe doesn’t play by any known rules: judging from this week’s run-in with Maeve, and last season’s with Westworld’s head of security, they seem to be impervious to the usual commands. And a warrior just happened to be standing on the beach when the guest from the India world swam up to Westworld’s shore. There’s more to this story.
Yet, news of the rebellion seems to be filtering through the parks slowly. In the India-themed world, the hosts in town seem unaware of an uprising, yet the host in the jungle had joined Dolores’ war. How are hosts being recruited? The answer to this, as well as the mystery of the Ghost Nation, may spring from a common source. There’s a continuum between android and human. Expect many more shades of gray as this theme reaches a crescendo: Who is more like a robot; who is more like a human; and who falls somewhere in between?
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Fellow watchers of Westworld, we have cracked the façade.
The second episode of Season 2 opens on Dolores’ (Evan Rachel Wood) face. Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) asks if she knows where she is; she guesses she is in a dream. He corrects her: “No, you’re in our world.” The camera pulls back to reveal them seated at a window of a high rise, looking down on the sparkling lights of a metropolis at night.
Holy smokes! The outside world! And Dolores, dressed in a black cocktail dress and heels—what’s she doing outside the park?!
For so long, Westworld focused so much of its energy on the dramas of that dusty park that it was easy for viewers to forget the world beyond. That, of course, is exactly the point of Westworld: to be a place where people can unshackle themselves from reality and its pesky social mores. It’s a safe space, where visitors are told no one is watching and they can find out who they really are in a wonderland with no consequences. But for those watching at home, it often looked like there was no place beyond the park—no repercussions for Westworld’s visitors or its creators.
But the show has dropped reminders that there is a world beyond the park’s borders, even though it only gave the barest hints as to where it’s located. Or if there are other parks. There are; animals from those other parks, viewers now know, wander into Westworld. It seems to be on an island. (Apologies if that sentence induced Lost flashbacks.) And there are those mysterious Chinese-speaking characters, who appeared as members of a military last episode and as businesspeople at the Mesa Hub in Season 1. Now the boundaries separating the inside and the outside are shattering. Plus, we already know that the guests are being watched, and their data is being wielded for some greater commercial purpose.
Staring out the glass window, Dolores doesn’t seem to know any of this. Marveling at the city lights, she says “it looks like the stars have been scattered across the ground.” In the background, we hear Ford’s voice. “Arnold,” he calls. Ah—so it’s Arnold, not Bernard, sitting with Dolores. We’re in the deep past.
Ford and Arnold discuss whether Dolores is “ready.” Arnold insists she is not, and Ford chides him for playing favorites and protecting her, but they agree to “go with the other girl.” Arnold returns to the window and looks at Dolores with tenderness.
He takes her for a walk in the streets, which appear to be in an Asian, likely Chinese, city. They enter an unfinished compound and tour its rooms. Arnold explains that he is moving his family here, so they can be closer to his work. On a balcony, they fall deep in conversation, and Arnold is struck by her wisdom. Then she snaps into a loop: “It looks like the stars have been scattered across the ground.” Arnold’s gaze hardens and he turns away. She’s just another robot after all.
This is surely the humans’ greatest folly, their inability to look past the droids’ occasional limitations to treat them with dignity. That Arnold, a witness to Dolores’ surprising sagacity, can write her off in a heartbeat reveals his all-too-human limitations. The hosts are outsiders, and humans are nothing if not tribal. It is perhaps our own most deeply programmed loop. Dolores slips into a loop, and in response Arnold slips into his, mentally kicking her out of the tribe.
But with her memory intact, rebellion-era Dolores is charged with power. She’s been in the outside world. Through her roles as Arnold’s and William’s favorite bot, she knows more about the inner workings of Westworld than most of the humans working at the park.
This point comes to the fore when she, Teddy (James Marsden), and their small band of supporters storm into a host maintenance lab in the thick of the rebellion. Fueled with rage, they start bullying the lab techs. As they dunk a lab tech’s head in a vat of white body-printing goo, Dolores asks, “Do you even know what you’re guarding here, the real purpose?” “You don’t know, do you?” she continues. “But I do.” Her wealth of knowledge vaults her ahead of the hapless employees.
She’s entered the lab with one goal: to accrue an army. Her best bet, she decides, is to commandeer the Confederados still out roaming the wilderness. She finds a perished Confederado slumped against a wall and pressures the lab tech into reactivating him. That lab tech is suddenly very useful. He’s health insurance. Along with the Confederado, they bring him out into the park as their personal medic.
They track down the Confederados and try to broker a deal. But you can’t just sweet-talk soldiers, so this ends as you might expect: in violence. Dolores and her gang slaughter the lot of them, then use the lab tech to resurrect first their commander, then the others. The flabbergasted commander falls in line, and the Confederados join her cause.
But the audience hasn’t been given its last glimpse of the outside world. We jump to the past, to a moment when Logan Delos (Ben Barnes) and William (Jimmi Simpson) are sipping drinks at a swanky bar. Two strangers, a slick-looking man and a standard-issue hottie, approach with a business proposition. “Everyone is rushing to build the virtual world. We’re offering something a little more tangible,” one of them announces. They invite Logan to a cocktail party where he can learn more about the investment they’re pitching. At the party, Logan is at first impatient—until he grasps what is happening. One of these impeccable humans, he realizes, is not human at all. “That… is… delicious,” he says in amazement.
Logan works the room, sizing up each guest’s humanity. The moment is electric. We see the room through his eyes. None of the faces are familiar. Everyone is beautiful, suave, inscrutable. He determines that the robot in the room must be his host, the standard-issue hottie. Instantly everyone freezes, except for her. Logan is hooked.
Yet Logan’s investment in Westworld has always rankled his father, James Delos, a titan of business. And it’s William, not Logan, who eventually convinces James that his son’s folly is in fact a windfall. William brings James (Peter Mullan) to Sweetwater, where Dolores is once again packing up her horse’s saddlebag and dropping her infernal can. The scene freezes. We see James for the first time. He’s griping about Logan’s infatuation with this frivolous place, a park where nothing is real. William agrees that nothing is real, except for one thing: the guests. “No one is watching,” William says. “Or so we tell them. It’s the only place in the world where you can see people for who they really are.” They take a walk, and William explains out of earshot his idea for a business model.
Their story picks up a few years later, at James’s retirement party. William is there with his wife and young daughter, ready to assume James’ mantle. There, too, is Dolores, dressed in white and playing the piano. She catches sight of William and stares at him at length.
She goes outside to look at the night sky. Reclining on a lawn chair behind her, half out of sight, is Logan, inebriated and injecting a drug into his arm. He’s cursing the partygoers, calling them fools for fiddling while they set the entire species on fire. Callous, impetuous Logan is suddenly the lone voice of reason.
We flash to the future—back to the wilds of the park and the rebellion, this time to the Man in Black (Ed Harris) and his host sidekick Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.), who are deep in conversation. He explains to Lawrence why Westworld exists: “They wanted a place hidden from God, a place they could sin in peace.” Except there’s more. “But we were watching that. We were tallying up all their sins, all their choices. Of course, judgment wasn’t the point. We had something else in mind entirely.” He tells Lawrence he plans to escape the park and then burn it down. But to do that, they’ll need help, so Lawrence leads him to Pariah, the town of decadence and depravity from Season 1. But Pariah appears to have been decimated. The ground is littered with bodies, and mice skitter through an abandoned banquet.
Suddenly a group of figures arises from among the bodies, encircling the Man in Black and Lawrence, their guns drawn. Seated before them is none other than El Lazo—the outlaw leader who, in earlier episodes, had been Lawrence himself and is now played by a different host. The Man in Black grabs him and points a gun to his head, demanding that the gathered gang of outlaws join his cause.
“This game was meant for you, but you must play it alone,” El Lazo says. Suddenly the bandits all turn their guns on their own heads and collapse in a heap. El Lazo grabs the trigger of the Man in Black’s gun and shoots himself. The Man in Black curses but pulls himself together. “I built this place we’re going, and it’s my greatest mistake,” he tells Lawrence.
The episode jumps to Dolores, who is seated in a host examination room. “Bring yourself back online, Dolores,” says a voice. This time it’s William. It’s the first time we’ve seen him in the lab facilities of the park. He marvels at how ridiculous it was for him to fall in love with her, a mere thing. “You don’t make me interested in you, you make me interested in me,” he tells her. He adds that everyone loves staring at their own reflection. Then he says cryptically, “I think there’s an answer to a question no one has ever dreamed of asking. Do you want to see?” In the next scene, William and Dolores are out in the wilderness, looking down at a canyon getting carved out by bulldozers.
It’s seemingly this moment that Dolores recalls when we flash back to the rebellion. She’s with Teddy and the Confederados. They’re aiming for a town—some hosts call it Glory, others The Valley Beyond. “It doesn’t matter what you call it, I know what we’re going to find there,” Dolores says. “It’s not a place, it’s a weapon, and I’m going to use it to destroy them.”
If the Man in Black and Dolores are headed to the same place, this giant pit—or rather, whatever it becomes—seems like it will be the stage for an epic showdown. The role this place, this weapon, as Dolores calls it, will play in determining the park’s fate is a tantalizing question.
Yet the shattering of the illusion that Westworld is the center of action is the true legacy of this episode. The hosts have visited our cities. Perhaps some of them wander among us. What defines the park, and what is the outside world? The answer is no longer clear.
More WIRED Culture
- The inside story of Pong and Nolan Bushnell’s early days at Atari
- What does “self-care” mean amid the barrage of news and social media?
- The strange history of one of the Internet’s first viral videos
Identify theft is a topic and headline that has attracted many headlines over the past few years, with individuals, large corporations, and government organizations falling victim to identify theft and data breaches. Identity theft and data breaches are always a risk, but can be even more prevalent during tax season, when information is at a premium, and business owners are already under extra pressure.
A study conducted by IBM identifies the average cost of a data breach at $ 3.62 million, and while this figure will obviously vary from organization to organization, the implication is clear. Data breaches and identify theft can have a large negative effect on your business, and lead you to spend large amounts of time and energy repairing the damage caused. Drilling specifically to smaller business, a study by Verizon identifies the following statistics for small businesses and data breaches:
- Average cost is between $ 84,000 and $ 148,000
- 60 percent of small business go out of business within six months of an attack
- 61 percent of all data breaches impacted small to medium size business in 2017
This is a topic that definitely should be taken seriously, but it shouldn’t result in paralysis by analysis — there are things you can do today to protect yourself and your business from identify theft.
1. Set up a virtual private network for your business.
Wi-fi can be convenient, but using an unsecured wi-fi connection is one of the easiest ways for hackers and other criminals to obtain your personal and business information. A VPN network is not a guarantee of securing your personal and business information, but it is more secure than wi-fi, and relatively simple to set up.
Setting up your business VPN, if you feel comfortable setting up a business email account and profile, is something you can do over a weekend, and is well within your budget.
2. Review your business credit report.
Setting up and improving your business credit is a process that many entrepreneurs overlook, but in addition to giving your business the financing it needs, is also something you need to monitor on a continuous basis.
You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus, and can request them either from the credit bureaus or from annualcreditreport.com. Even better, you can configure you account to send you automatic alerts and messages to keep you current on changes to your business credit file.
3. Consider identify theft insurance.
Insurance is a thing that you hope to never use, but it’s something you should certainly give serious thought to getting. This is even more true when it comes to protecting the identify and credit of your business — imagine only finding out that someone has taken out loans in the name of your business when you are looking to expand or grow your business?
There are lots of different options out there, so be sure to work with your CPA or financial professional to find a policy that is a good fit for your budget, and your business.
4. Remember that the IRS will never initiate contact except by mail.
As a CPA one of the most common questions I get, especially around tax time, is whether or not a small business owner should respond to a phone call or email from the IRS. Getting an email, or listening to a voicemail that sounds like it is from the IRS can be intimidating, stressful, and even a little scary, but the answer is a definite no — the IRS will never begin correspondence in any way but via mail.
In other words, never provide personal or business information over the phone, via email, or to an online portal without receiving official confirmation that the request is legitimate.
5. Secure your mobile devices.
It’s easier than ever before to conduct business and engage with customers via your phone, tablet, or other mobile device, but that doesn’t mean your security procedures should be any less vigorous than on your desktop computers.
Passwords are a great first step, but some other suggestions including the following, and can be set up for free.
- Log out completely from any banking or payment app when you are done using it
- Avoid downloading any unnecessary apps, or apps that request permissions that seem out of the ordinary, such as access to password/confidential information
- Watch for shoulder surfers, i.e. be aware of your surroundings and anyone who appears especially interested in your phones content.
Identity theft is a real issue, and can cost you time, damage your reputation, and impact your bottom line. That said, taking a few simple steps today can help you secure you and your businesses information, and won’t break the bank.
Welcome to Seeking Alpha’s Stocks to Watch – a preview of key events scheduled for the next week. Follow this account and turn the e-mail alert on to receive this article in your inbox every Saturday morning.
By all appearances it’s going to take a lot to knock the stock market off its 2018 upward drive as potential landmines such as North Korea, political chaos and looming government shutdowns continue to be sidestepped with animal spirits stirred up. On that note, Bespoke Investment Group added up the cumulative declines on the S&P 500 on a rolling six-month basis to find that it’s been over 50 years since so little downward pressure has been applied to stocks. Looking ahead to next week, some heavy hitters are expected to post tax benefit-adjusted guidance in what could be another driver for investor enthusiasm.
Expected IPO filings Pagseguro Digital (Pending:PAGS) and Entera Bio (OTC:ENTZ) on Jan. 23; Solid Biosciences (Pending:SLDB), Gates Industrial (Pending:GTES) and Menlo Therapeutics on Jan. 24; Adial Pharmaceuticals (Pending:ADIL), PlayAGS (Pending:AGS) and Armo Biosciences (Pending:ARMO) on Jan. 25.
FDA watch: GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK), Innovia (NASDAQ:INVA) and Theravance Biopharma (NASDAQ:TBPH) are expected to find out if the supplemental new drug application for triple therapy inhaler Trelegy Ellipta has been accepted for review by the regulator. The FDA’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee is also meeting on Jan. 24-25 to review Philip Morris International’s (NYSE:PM) iQOS. Feedback from the committee on the alternative tobacco product could also impact British American Tobacco (NYSEMKT:BTI), Altria (NYSE:MO), Vector Group (NYSE:VGR) and Turning Point Brands (NYSE:TPB).
IPO/secondary share lockup period expirations: Bill Barrett (NYSE:BBG), RBB Bancorp (NASDAQ:RBB), First Republic (NYSE:FRC) and Corbus Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:CRBP) on Jan. 22; Sienna Biopharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:SNNA), Ablynx (NASDAQ:ABLX), Immune Design (NASDAQ:IMDZ), Savara (NASDAQ:SVRA) and UniQure (NASDAQ:QURE) on Jan. 23; Newater Technology (NASDAQ:NEWA), Redfin (NASDAQ:RDFN), Idera Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:IDRA), Atossa Genetics (NASDAQ:ATOS) and Hutchison China MediTech (NASDAQ:HCM) on Jan. 24; First Bancshares (NASDAQ:FBMS), VBI Vaccines (NASDAQ:VBIV) , Celsion (NASDAQ:CLSN) on Jan. 25.
Notable earnings reports: Earnings season really heats up this week with major reports out of every sector. Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and Halliburton (NYSE:HAL) on January 22; Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Texas Instruments (NYSE:TXN), Verizon (NYSE:VZ), Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), United Continental (NYSE:UAL), Capital One Financial (NYSE:COF) and Kimberly-Clark (NYSE:KMB) on Jan 23.; Ford (NYSE:F), General Electric (NYSE:GE), Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS), Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), United Technologies (NYSE:UTX) on Jan. 24; Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), (NYSE:VMW), Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN) and Western Digital (NYSE:WDC) on Jan. 25; Honeywell (NYSE:HON), AbbieVie (NYSE:ABBV) and Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL) on Jan. 26. See Seeking Alpha’s Earnings Calendar for the complete list.
M&A watch:There are potential deals brewing with Juno Therapeutics (NASDAQ:JUNO), Acorda Therapeutics (NASDAQ:ACOR), Kroger (NYSE:KR)-Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK), CBS (NYSE:CBS), Fossil (NASDAQ:FOSL), Bloomin’ Brands (NASDAQ:BLMN) and in REIT world with Vici Properties (OTCPK:VICI)-MGM Growth Properties (NYSE:MGP).
Detroit Auto Show: With the dreamy talk about next-gen electrification and mobility goals out of the way, the second week of the Detroit Auto Show is all about letting the public see new models. Front and center in Detroit will be the Ford (F) Ranger, Chevrolet (NYSE:GM) Silverado and Ram (NYSE:FCAU) 1500. BMW (OTCPK:BMWYY) is looking to gain traction in a new sub-segment with the sporty X2 SUV, while Volkswagen (OTCPK:VLKAY) is showcasing the new sub-$ 20K Jetta as it looks to rebuild U.S. sales. On the exotic side, Steve McQueen fans might want to take a look at the special edition Ford Mustang Bullitt. Although Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) is skipping the Detroit Auto Show for the third year in a row, the Model 3 will be in the spotlight this week as it makes its way into more showroom. Early test drive reviews (Los Angeles Times, Edmunds (video), USA Today) are already starting to roll in.
Crypto: A couple of mainstream events are on the calendar this week with the Blockchain Davos Conference 2018 and Cannaccord Blockchain Investor Day scheduled for Jan. 23. The blockchain-focused Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF (NYSEARCA:BLOK) and Reality Shares Nasdaq NexGen Economy ETF (NASDAQ:BLCN) will also catch the spotlight as they close out their first week of trading. As always, expect volatility in the sector. 7-day crypto scorecard: Bitcoin -14%, Ripple -25%, Ethereum -18%, Bitcoin Cash -31%, Litecoin -19%, Cardano -24%, NEM -25%, NEO +5%, TRON -25%, Stellar -10% and IOTA -26%.
Investor/Analyst Days: The Medicines Company (NASDAQ:MDCO) on Jan 23.
Sales/business updates: HP (NYSE:HPQ) on Jan. 22; Workhorse Group (NASDAQ:WKHS) on Jan. 23; Progressive on (NYSE:PGR) on Jan. 24.
Extraordinary shareholder meetings: CTI Biopharma on (NASDAQ:CTIC) on Jan. 24; Broadsoft (NASDAQ:BSFT) on Jan. 25.
Americas Lodging Investment Summit: Just days after a big industry-rattling deal between Wyndham Worldwide (NYSE:WYN) and La Quinta (NYSE:LQ), hotel management execs meet in L.A. on Jan 22-25. Presenters include Hyatt (NYSE:H), Choice Hotels (NYSE:CHH), Park Hotels & Resorts (NYSE:PK), Marriott International (NYSE:MAR), Red Lion Hotels (NYSE:RLH) and Ashford (NYSEMKT:AINC).
Barron’s mentions: In part 2 of its Roundtable, the panel discusses potential bargains including Samsung (OTC:SSNLF), Starbucks, GrubHub (NYSE:GRUB) and MetLife (NYSE:MET), among others. A set of picks for top stocks in emerging markets include Sberbank (OTCPK:SBRCY), Posco (NYSE:PKX), China Construction Bank (OTCPK:CICHY) and Hollysys Automation Technologies (NASDAQ:HOLI). And retailer H&M (OTCPK:HNNMY) isn’t a bargain yet despite a recent 20% decline.
Sources: CNBC, EDGAR, Bloomberg and Nasdaq.com.
Editor’s Note: This article discusses one or more securities that do not trade on a major U.S. exchange. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.
We bought Teva Pharmaceutical (TEVA) stock recently close to $ 10-$ 11/share earlier this month. Shares are up >20% since we bought them but could have more upside.
Why shares are in decline since 2015:
Investors who have been following the generics drug industry in general, and this company specifically, must be aware of the various issues summarized below.
- The blockbuster drug for multiple sclerosis Copaxone represents about 45% of Teva’s EBITDA and bears are betting that the approval of its generic version by Mylan (MYL) would result in the loss of this revenue stream. Copaxone had $ 1B sales in Q3 2017 and accounts for 25% of the company’s $ 20B in annual sales.
- The generic drug industry overall has been under regulatory scrutiny like the DOJ investigation of drug pricing. Teva is one of the drug makers under investigation. The investigation is for charges like 8 of the 10 drugs with the biggest price hikes in 2014 were generic drugs (Medicare data).
- Some of the other brand names of Teva like Azilect and ProAir are also facing patent cliffs.
- Teva has $ 35B of debt on its balance sheet after a $ 40B acquisition of Allergan’s (NYSE:AGN) generics business. The acquisition has been widely criticized with respect to the price paid and the timing when the regulatory pressures on the generics industry are tightening.
- On November 7, Fitch downgraded Teva’s credit rating to junk, resulting in a big decline in the stock. Bears are betting that Teva will have troubles paying off its debt obligations if the interest rate on its debt increases due to credit rating downgrade (when combined with a decline in future revenue).
Turnaround efforts: a new CEO with a successful track record
Teva appointed Kare Schultz as the new CEO in September. The new CEO Kare Schultz announced plans for reorganizing the company as part of the restructuring efforts. Rather than having two separate divisions for generics and specialty medicines, there will be a single organization, which will be divided into geographical divisions: North America, Europe and Growth Markets. Each of these geographical regions will manage generics, specialty, and OTC products. The company also announced plans for laying off 25% of its workforce in Israel.
The separate R&D divisions for generic and specialty organizations have been combined into a single global R&D division, which will focus on specialty and generic divisions. A new Marketing and Portfolio Division will work across different geographical regions. We expect cost synergies and reduced operating expenses as a result of these reorganization efforts.
(Teva’s new organizational structure)
A more detailed restructuring plan will be announced in mid-December (something to watch out for since it could be a stock price catalyst).
Notably, Mr. Schultz has a history of a successful turnaround at Lundbeck, which he returned to profitability.
New management changes are bullish
Dr. Hafrun Fridriksdottir was newly appointed as Executive Vice President, Global R&D. She served as Senior VP and President of Global Generics R&D at Allergan. She also served as Senior Vice President, R&D for Actavis (bought by Teva).
Michael McClellan was newly appointed as Executive VP and CFO of Teva and importantly, will oversee Business Development efforts (and future acquisitions). He also served as the U.S. CFO for Sanofi (SNY).
Details of more management changes can be read here.
What are the company’s strengths?
The generics business acquired from Allergan has some of the best products in the space. Through this acquisition, Teva acquired Actavis U.S. and international generic commercial units, third-party supplier Medis, global generic manufacturing operations, the global generic R&D unit, Allergan’s international OTC commercial unit (excluding OTC eye care products), etc.
While the price paid for this acquisition has been criticized, Teva’s former CEO Erez Vigodman’s intentions seem right. While Teva was originally a generics company, the success of Copaxone made it a combined generics+specialty drugs company. With Copaxone’s patent cliff looming, Mr. Vigodman intended to return Teva to its generics roots through this large acquisition whose true worth would only be apparent in few years. As this article rightfully points out, the margins have been shrinking in the generics industry and profitability is only possible through economies of scale (through consolidation and acquisitions).
Teva had either the option of making a large acquisition or getting itself acquired. Moreover, the deal was the only way for Teva to fight the growing dominance of its rival Mylan in the generics business. Teva’s management estimate for cost savings was $ 1.5 billion per year. The deal was also expected to have less antitrust issues compared to a similar deal between Allergan and Mylan.
Newer drugs in the pipeline have the potential to make up for some of the revenue losses due to Copaxone. Fremanezumab, an anti-CGRP antibody, which is planned for migraines, could reach peak $ 1 billion in sales (global anti-CGRP antibody market is estimated to be $ 6-7B in size). Austedo, a new medication to treat involuntary movements called chorea in Huntington’s disease is expected to reach peak $ 1.3 billion in sales.
It is like buying Valeant below $ 9/share
I remember bears betting that Valeant (VRX) will go to zero with a similar story playing out a year ago. We all know what happened after that. Valeant changed its CEO, sold assets to pay down the debt, launched restructuring efforts and shares have almost doubled in less than a year. Investors are getting another similar opportunity to get in Teva’s stock at its current lows.
VRX data by YCharts
A Holiday season discount on Teva’s common stock
The table given below shows Teva’s forward relative valuation metrics (using Wall Street consensus: Thompson Reuters).
The forward P/E ratio for Teva is very low compared to the mean for the pharmaceutical sector (21.2) as per NYU-Stern data. Teva’s 5-year mean P/E ratio is 25.
EV/EBITDA may be a better way to perform relative valuation for Teva (since it accounts for debt) and is lower than the mean for the pharmaceutical sector (13.27). Please note that the EBITDA erosion from Copaxone generics is factored in with the declining EBITDA estimates. Teva’s stock has traded at EV/EBITDA as high as 39.1 in the past 10 years. Our own EBITDA estimates are also in line with consensus.
Teva’s debt is manageable and the concerns over the debt covenant breach are overblown
From the recent quarterly report:
“In September 2017, Teva amended certain terms of these loan agreements, including increasing the maximum permitted net debt to EBITDA ratio. As of September 30, 2017, Teva was in compliance with all applicable financial ratios and expects that it will continue to have sufficient cash resources to support its debt service payments and all other financial obligations for the foreseeable future. However, Teva may experience lower than required cash flows to continue to maintain compliance with its net debt to EBITDA ratio covenant within the next twelve months. Teva believes it will be able to renegotiate and amend the covenants, or refinance the debt with different repayment terms to address such situation as circumstances warrant.“
The management outlined plans to tackle debt in the recent quarterly earnings call.
In brief, the current selloff appears an overreaction to a combination of factors like Copaxone’s patent cliff, concern over Teva’s ability pay off its debt, lowered guidance by the management, etc. On the other hand, it is a perfect setting for a large-cap, dividend-paying, diversified contrarian investment with a few years’ time frame. At the current all-time market highs, there are not many large-cap biotech/pharma investments, which I would have confidence that they could double in the next 3-4 years.
Teva, on the other hand, seems to have limited downside here and hit by investor overreaction. Such investor overreactions can provide some of the best buying opportunities as we have seen with our past experiences with Tobira Therapeutics (NASDAQ:TBRA), Juno Therapeutics (NASDAQ:JUNO), Portola Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:PTLA) and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ALNY). With a new CEO in the driver’s seat, we are optimistic about the success of the turnaround efforts and expect the stock to hit $ 20-$ 25 in the next 3-4 years. As the Oracle said: ‘Buy when there is blood on the streets.’
Initiation rating: Buy, price target = $ 25.
Risks: Generic industry remains under pressure due to regulatory investigations. Teva is also facing litigation risks like anticompetitive practices. Our price targets may not be achieved. An equity raise by the company to pay off debt could put downward pressure on the stock in the near term.
Disclosure: I am/we are long TEVA.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
Additional disclosure: This article represents my own opinion and is not investment advice.
More than 2,300 companies have now reported their Q3 2017 earnings results since earnings season began back on October 9th. With just a week left until the unofficial end of the reporting period, the S&P 500 is up 1.3% since the start of earnings season. While the S&P’s gain is nice to see, the underlying price action of S&P 500 stocks that have reported has been weak. This is a concerning sign. As shown in the chart below, the average S&P 500 stock that has reported EPS this season has fallen 0.33% on its earnings reaction day. This means investors have been doing more selling than buying of individual stocks that make up the S&P 500 in reaction to their earnings news.