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Let It Ride Poker ⋆ Rules Strategy & Tips to Help You Win!
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I Read It So You Don't Have To: Little Kids, Big City (by Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen)
Inspired by the overwhelmingly positive response to my previous 'book report' on Ramona Singer's Life on the Ramona Coaster (seriously, thank you all -- truly supporting other women 🙏🙏), I decided to try my hand at writing up yet another of the embarrassing number of Housewives books in my personal collection: Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen's Little Kids, Big City: Tales from a Real House in New York City with Lessons on Life and Love for Your Own Concrete Jungle. After reading just the title of this book, I'm already exhausted. It's pretentiously long and awkwardly phrased while somehow still managing to be entirely devoid of meaning. In other words, a perfect encapsulation of Simon and Alex. The summary on the back cover describes the pair as the "breakout stars" of RHONY, an assessment that I would charitably call 'debatable,' before going on to inform me that I can look forward to "informative and often hair-raising stories of life in the urban jungle," and that "Alex and Simon use their own hard-won experience as a springboard to discuss a host of parenting topics." I anticipate that this content will be quite useful to me, the guardian of four cats that I spoil endlessly and treat like my actual children. One of the pull-quotes on the back cover allegedly comes from our very own Bethenny Frankel. I say 'allegedly' because I refuse to believe that the following passage would ever come out of Bethenny's mouth (or keyboard or whatever):
Alex and Simon don't take themselves too seriously, which seems to be essential to parenting. Their fresh 'he said, she said' perspective on parenting is both humorous and insightful!
Please, take a moment and do your very best to picture mention-it-all, betting-on-horse-races-at-age-five Bethenny unironically using the phrase "fresh 'he said, she said' perspective." To describe Simon van Kempen and Alex McCord. Right, didn't think so. My experience reading Little Kids, Big City started on an unexpected high note when I opened the front cover to find that my copy (purchased used through Better World Books for the low, low price of $5.31 with shipping) had been signed by Ms. you-are-in-high-school-while-I-am-in-Brooklyn herself, Alex McCord! Truly a gift I do not deserve. Samantha and Debbie (whoever and wherever you may be), thank you for your service. I am forever in your debt. Unfortunately, as would soon become painfully clear to me, after starting off on such a promising note, I would have nowhere to go but down. The book, which is written in alternating passages from Alex and Simon, begins its introduction with a chronicle of Alex's "fashionably nomadic" early adulthood. Ever the proto-edgelord, she recalls, "I did all those things our mothers warned us about and had fun doing them." We switch to Simon's perspective to hear the deeply embarrassing story of the couple meeting through a dating app while Simon was on a business trip in New York City. No, there is absolutely nothing embarrassing about meeting someone on a dating app. But there absolutely is something embarrassing about using the profile name "Yetisrule" to meet someone on a dating app. To clarify, this was apparently Alex's username, and I remain hopeful that we will get a more thorough explanation of her connection to the elusive Yeti as this book continues. Alex tells us that, while she and Simon hadn't initially planned to have children, they eventually started to have "clucky feelings." I have never heard this phrase in my entire twenty-five years of life, but based on context clues and also a Google search, I learned that it means they wanted to have a baby. Don't worry, though! As Alex tells us, "You can be eight months pregnant and wear a leather miniskirt." Personally, this is life-changing news -- I had always believed that I couldn't have kids unless I was willing to compromise my 90s goth aesthetic! Maybe I'll rethink this child-free thing after all. The next bit of advice seems like it actually could potentially be sort of helpful. "No one is a good parent all the time -- nor is anyone a bad parent all the time," they reassure the reader. "You can become a parent without losing yourself." Unfortunately, as soon as I catch myself nodding along, the modicum of goodwill I'd built up is promptly trashed by a gag-worthy line from Simon: "If you take nothing away but a wry smile after reading our little tome, then we've done our job." I immediately vow not to smile until I'm finished reading this book. Excuse me, this little tome. The book starts in earnest with Chapter 1: "Does a German Shepherd Need a Birth Plan?" To be perfectly honest, I was not expecting a riddle at this juncture, but I am nevertheless excited to hear Simon and Alex tell us "why childbirth is not an intellectual activity." First, however, we get a passing reference to "Park Slope, home of the ParkSlopeParents.com message board made famous in 2007 with a so-ridiculous-it-got-headlines discussion on gender-specific baby hats and where feminism can be taken to extremes." And despite the lame alarmist allusion to ~*XTREME feminism*~, this line did manage to lead me down an interesting Internet rabbit hole, so thanks for that, I guess? Jesus Christ, I am on PAGE 4 and I am already so done with Simon. Presented without comment:
With the Park Slope OB-GYN, we had the first sonogram and saw the little blip on the screen -- our child-to-be. They say seeing is believing and as nothing was happening inside me, seeing confirmation on the video monitor that indeed my spermatozoa had penetrated and infiltrated one of Alex's ova made me aware that my days as a footloose and fancy-free guy might be coming to an end.
Y'all, I am currently working on my PhD in Molecular Biology. Which, if you were not previously aware, gives me the authority to decree that Simon is never allowed to use the word "spermatozoa" ever again. And so it is. I was about to say that Alex's passages are at least more tolerable, but it appears I spoke too soon.
The stats they quoted referenced a 40 percent cesarean section rate in the city, and I wonder how that can be acceptable? Are we heading toward Brave New World, where babies are scientifically created in petri dishes and gestated in artificial wombs? Oh wait, we're already there. Are we heading towards a Wall-E existence, where we ride around in carts everywhere and do nothing for ourselves so that our bodies break down and we're all fat, oozy blobs drinking protein from a straw? Somebody slap me, please!!
Truly, Alex, it would be my pleasure. As a Type-A person, just reading the story of Alex's first pregnancy and delivery gave me anxiety. She says that she just never really "felt the need to establish a birth plan" and that she "gave in to any craving [she] felt." Don’t worry, though -- "If I had suddenly craved chalk, ecstasy or Elmer's Glue, I'd have thought twice." I feel like there is some symbolism here to unpack (Could the Elmer's Glue be a metaphor for the childlike spirit of connection and unity???). Simon describes himself as "a learn-on-the-job guy" and tells us that he and Alex "failed to attend the last couple of [birthing] classes as by then we both just wanted to let instinct take over when the time came." As someone who has never trusted my instincts even once in my entire life, I cannot relate. Twelve days after his due date, baby François is born. Except it turns out that he actually was born right on time, but Alex "didn't keep regimented track of [her] periods" and miscalculated. What a bummer that modern medicine hasn't advanced to the point where doctors can guide you about that sort of thing. I don't even know what to say about this next bit, but God help me, I still have 215 more pages of this book to go.
Although the final stages of labor were very, very painful, I [Alex] never used our code word (tin can) for "game over, give me drugs." I definitely recommend using a code word, because it was kind of fun to scream, "I want drugs, give me drugs" through a contraction and have the midwife, nurse and Simon all know I wasn't serious. Once he [François] was finally out of my body, I experienced a tsunami of endorphins that was almost orgasmic, and I understand completely the stories other women have written about ecstatic birth. Simon was sitting behind me at the point of birth, and later when we untangled ourselves he discovered he'd actually ejaculated though hadn't felt any of the normal lead-up to that. It may seem distasteful to some, and definitely neither of us was thinking of sex at the time, but with the rush of emotion and my lower nerve endings going crazy, it's not too far a stretch to say that it's a profound experience.
Johan is born two years later, although it's unclear from the text whether either parent reached orgasm during the event. The chapter ends with a top-ten list entitled "10 Things We'll Remember That Happened During Pregnancy." These include useful tidbits like
Best advice I heard: men's genitals grow and change shape regularly, then go back to the way they were before. Don't worry about your female delicate bits being able to retract.
Which is…a lovely sentiment. But one that is slightly undermined by phrasing the first part in the grossest way possible, as well as by the use of the phrase "female delicate bits." I do like the idea that they "retract," however, because I think it's very cool to imagine the vagina as an SUV sunroof. By the grace of God, Chapter 1 comes to a close. In Chapter 2 (titled "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn, What's My Name Again? and Who is This Alien?" -- seriously, were they padding their word count with chapter titles?), we get more questionable parenting advice from the McCord-van Kempens. They glibly dismiss concerns about co-sleeping ("Simon and I both slept with cats and dogs our whole lives without squishing them"), which I honestly would be more annoyed about if I hadn't immediately gone on to read Simon's account of "the midnight race to the 24-hour pharmacy to buy a breast pump as Alex's breasts were seemingly engorged with too much milk and she thought they were about to explode and fly off her chest." As it stands, I'm truly too defeated to care. Again, just to be perfectly clear: no shade to having issues breastfeeding, all shade to using the word 'engorged.’ And also for giving me the mental image of Alex's breasts desperately struggling to flee from her body (though to be fair, who could blame them?). Proving that she does not inhabit the same world as the rest of us mortals, Alex tells us that she expected that her state of sleep-deprivation as she raised two young children would "spur [her] creativity with graphic design." For some reason, this does not seem to be the case. Alex is puzzled. Finally, we've come to this chapter's top ten list ("Top 10 Memories of Random Things We Did While in the Post-Birth Haze"). While these lists have so far been utterly irredeemable, they also mean the chapter is coming to a close, so I can at least take some solace in that. This particular list ranges from the irritating…
We subversively took sleeping babies to as many non-child-friendly places as possible to prove the point that children can be seen, not heard and not bothersome, such as dinner at the Ritz in London, the Sahara Desert, shopping on Madison Avenue, Underbar in Union Square and film festivals.
…to the truly unnecessary.
While changing François' diaper on day one or two, we both stood mesmerized by the changing pad as meconium oozed out of him. It was really the most bizarre and fascinating thing I'd seen to date.
With the couple's general backstory and credentials now under our belts, Chapter 3 ("The Screaming Kid on the Plane is NOT Mine! (This Time)") focuses on advice for traveling with children, which Alex admits "can be a complete pain in the you-know-what." I cannot describe the rage I feel at the fact that she has -- in no fewer than 50 pages -- forced me to read about both her newborn son's excrement and her husband's ejaculate, but cannot bring herself to use the word "ass." Alex, we're really far beyond that at this point, don't you think? Not to be outdone, Simon shares a conversation he had with François that is remarkable not for its content, but for the fact that one of Simon's nicknames for his son is apparently "F-Boy." Thanks, I hate it. This chapter's list ("Alex's Top 10 Travel Memories") includes the entry:
Both boys charging down Saline Beach in St. Barths like something out of Lord of the Flies.
So, like a horde of primal sadists? I'm wondering if Alex and Simon have inadvertently confused Lord of the Flies with the hit 2007 reality show Kid Nation. I really hope that's what's going on here. Chapter 4 ("'Mommy, Johan is Gone!'") promises to teach us how to handle accidents. I'm not sure how comfortable I feel taking emergency advice from the authors of this particular book, but (in large part due to the fact that I have slept since reading the previous chapter, giving the pain a chance to dull somewhat), I am willing to at least hear them out. After relaying a story of François needing emergency surgery after a foot injury, Alex tells us that at one point, she and Simon realized they had spent "nearly $5000 on Indian takeout" in the past year. For the mathematically averse, this works out to a monthly budget of roughly $100 worth of Indian food per week, making my quarantine Uber Eats habit seem downright quaint by comparison. The chapter-ending list walks us through the "Top 10 Things We Do in a Crisis," and fortunately, the tips seem pretty benign.
Knowing what calms the children down, such as making silly faces or reciting Shel Silverstein poetry backwards.
Wait, hang on. What?
reciting Shel Silverstein poetry backwards
I'm sorry, please forgive me if I have missed some recent, paradigm-shifting development in the field of early childhood education, but what?? As in, "ends sidewalk the where?" "Sdne klawedis eht erehw?" I am truly befuddled. Maybe the next chapter ("'Is Today a Work Day or a Home Day, Mommy?'") will have some applicable wisdom for me, as I will, in fact, be working from home every other week for the foreseeable future. And, I cannot stress this enough, I am a psychotically overinvested cat mom. Alas, we are instead treated to an unnecessarily detailed breakdown of how important it is to delegate, and specifically that Simon cleans up vomit and Alex cleans up "feces in the various forms that come out of children's bottoms at appropriate and sometimes inappropriate times such as the middle of Thanksgiving festivities." As if we needed another reason to consider Thanksgiving problematic. The chapter takes a brief commercial break…
When an everyday product can do double duty such as Dawn Hand Renewal with Olay Beauty, a dish soap that seals in moisture while I'm tackling cleanup, sure, I'll buy it.
…before closing out with a list of the "Top 10 Things We Do Because We Were Here First." I am happy to confirm your worst suspicions and tell you that item number one is indeed "Have passionate sex." In Chapter 6 ("I Saw Your Nanny…Being Normal?"), I find myself actually sympathizing with Alex for the first time in this book. Which is mostly just because the chapter starts by talking about all of the awful, catty parental competitions that seem endemic to a certain crew of white Manhattan moms, and it makes Alex come off at least slightly less irritating in comparison. That is, at least until a few pages later, when she starts to complain about a previous au pair:
She was sullen, melodramatic and kept a blog about how she hated Americans, hated France, hated us and the children but loved New York. I think she must have thought we were idiots, and when she asked us to leave early we were only too happy to get her out of our home.
I would love to meet this woman. I think we could be great friends. This chapter's list is even more difficult to parse than previous ones, because while it's titled "Top 10 Things Caregivers Have Inadvertently Done to Amuse, Annoy or Thrill Us," it's not at all clear which descriptors apply to which points. When a babysitter "accidentally used a household cleaning wipe when changing a diaper," were the McCord-Van Kempens amused? Annoyed? Thrilled? The world may never know. In Chapter 7 ("'Putting To Death Is Not Nice,' a Duet for Two Boys and A Guitar"), Alex and Simon share some of their hard-earned childrearing wisdom with us. Which basically amounts to Alex telling us that, while normally misbehavior from the kids incurs a warning followed by a time-out, she has also developed an ingenious new strategy where she actually steps in to intervene when the stakes are higher. Let's listen in:
A third permutation is when there's a behavior that has to stop immediately, say if Johan has a big blue indelible marker and is running through a white hotel suite. I swoop in and grab the marker as to risk a three count [warning] would be to risk decoration of the sofa.
Take the marker from the toddler immediately instead of trying to reason with him? Groundbreaking. Side Note: At this point in my reading, I am incredibly satisfied to report that I have discovered my first typo in the book, and in one of Simon's sections no less! ("These toads secret [sic] a poison…"). This is wildly pedantic of me and proof that I am a deeply sick person. We run though a list of "Top 10 Things We Never Thought We Would Have To Explain" ("10. Why hot pizza stones do not like Legos.") before moving right along into Chapter 8, "Don't Listen to the Well-Meaning Morons." Strangely, I have a very vivid memory of Alex saying "I have a chapter in my book called, 'Don't Listen to the Well-Meaning Morons" in some distant RHONY episode or reunion. I guess she was telling the truth. The chapter opens with a series of passages in which Alex and Simon respond to various comments that have been made about their parenting over the years. I think this device is supposed to be a bit of lighthearted snark on overbearing strangers, but instead just comes off as weirdly defensive and passive-aggressive. A few examples:
"My daughter is perfect. Her table manners are excellent, she never speaks unless spoken to and we've always had white sofas at home since she was a child, with no staining." -A woman with one preteen daughter, no sons Your daughter sounds boring. I wouldn't want my sons to date her..
"Why are you outside?" - A bagel seller in Montreal, in February I'm hungry and the stroller is well protected under the plastic cover. Johan is warm and cozy, the others are asleep in the hotel and I'm going stir-crazy. Is that enough, or should I buy my bagel from someone else?
"Excuse me, your baby is crying." -- Someone said to Simon as they peered into the stroller to try and determine the cause of said noise. You don't say! Do you think, you stupid idiot, that I don't hear that? Do you think I think it's just loud music? Do you think I don't want him to stop and that I like it???
Sorry, did I say 'passive-aggressive'? Let's change that to just 'aggressive.' But despite bristling at being the recipient of unwanted advice, far be it from Alex to shy away from giving her opinions on the shortcomings of other parents.
There was a mom at another table who wore all black and told her hyperactive daughter that they had to have a family meeting to decide what to do next. The type of woman who might ask her daughter to "process her feelings" about which color to choose. The type of woman who wanted make [sic] a big huge hairy deal about including her daughter in the decision-making process and "negotiating" the next best step for the family to take in the pottery shop. Pardon me while I shoot myself.
I'm sorry, but I just cannot respect this take coming from a woman who calms her sons by reciting comedic children's poetry backwards. We next learn that there are "many websites out in cyberspace," some of which offer child-rearing advice. Simon summarizes their useless "vitriol" as such:
They say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, whereas for the 21st century surely hell no longer hath fury, as it's all been hurled at the belittled and scorned Internet mom.
I'm honestly not entirely sure what this is supposed to mean, and my confusion continues all the way through this chapter's "Top 10 Ways We Make Ourselves Feel Better When It's All Getting To Be Too Much." We begin reasonably enough…
Check to see whether the person offering advice has children. How old are they?
Do they have a point? Are they right? It is entirely possible.
…before quickly losing all sense of self-awareness and flying completely off the rails.
Will we ever see this person again? If not, can we get away with unleashing our fury on them? Note, if you're reading this and decide to try it for yourself, go big or go home.
The last few chapters have been a bit Alex-heavy, but never fear -- Simon pops back up in Chapter 9 ("If I Wouldn't Eat That, My Kid Won't Either") to tell us a charming story about how the family refers to his Bolognese sauce as "Dead Cow Sauce," and this is because his children are incredibly enlightened and understand the circle of life and where food comes from. Or something along those lines. This chapter also provides a lot of really incontrovertible proof that, even though you may swear that your kids say the most hilarious things all the time, you are wrong. I love kids. I can play cool aunt with the best of them. But this "recipe" for "Johan's Concoction" tries so hard to be cute and funny ("whisk violently -- making sure to spill a little out of the top") that I could barely stifle my groans. For anyone who happens to frequent RebornDollCringe, I am strongly and inexplicably reminded of Britton. A list of "Top 10 Things We Don't Like About Children's Restaurants" culminates with
Where would you rather be? A bistro devoted to race-car driving, with 1950s toy cars on the walls, or T.G.I. Friday's?
Excuse me, ma'am, you must be unfamiliar with the concept of Endless Apps®. The title of Chapter 10 is "You'll Give in Before I Do!" and although the subtitle lets me know this is referencing "the art and warfare of bedtime," it's hard not to take it as a personal taunt from the authors. Most of this chapter is just transcriptions of 'cute' things François and Johan have said to try to avoid going to bed, but we do get this gem:
Slaying the dragon is our family euphemism for using the toilet (drowning the dragons that live in the sewer) and is fun for the boys to talk about, though probably not forever.
Before giving us a chance to adequately process this revelation, Alex goes on to reflect:
Hmm, perhaps I should delete this -- I don’t want obnoxious classmates getting hold of this book in 10 years and asking the boys if they need to slay the dragon in the middle of geometry class.
Alex, I assure you, you truly have nothing to worry about. Any self-respecting bully will be far too focused on the fact that Simon ejaculated at the moment of his son's birth to pay this comparatively trivial factoid any attention. The authors shake things up and end this chapter with lists of both "Top 20 Bedtime Stories" and "Top 10 Lullabies," both of which are thankfully inoffensive. In Chapter 11 ("Children Like Shiny Objects"), we follow Alex and Simon as they purchase the townhouse we see them renovating on RHONY. Although other (read: lesser) parents might store breakables out of reach or limit children's toys to playrooms and bedrooms, Alex and Simon were blessed with two boys whose aesthetic sensibilities are already quite developed:
One kind of funny thing that I noticed recently is that the toys the boys tend to leave upstairs in our red and black living room often tend to be red and black as well. I'm not sure whether that's intentional, but it's funny that the room always seems to match regardless of its contents.
The list of "Top 10 Craziest Places We've Found Objects" is mercifully absent of any orifice-related discoveries. After reading just the title of Chapter 12 ("Raising Baby Einsteins"), I'm bracing myself for the self-satisfied smugness to come. This preparation turns out to be duly warranted. Baby sign language is dismissed as "a scheme dreamed up by ASL experts who wanted to sell classes to easily influenced new parents," Mommy and Me classes are "not really for teaching anything," and we learn that Alex and Simon have instituted a bizarre family rule that "if a talking toy came into our house, it had to speak a foreign language or speak English in an accent other than American." We learn that Simon apparently does not know what antonyms are (for the record, Simon, the word you're looking for is homophones) and that New York City is replete with "wailing, nocturnal, type-A obsessed harridans willing to sleep with persons not their spouse if they think it will help their child get into THE RIGHT SCHOOL." Uh, yikes. After a tediously long description of François' pre-school admissions process, Alex informs us:
As a former actor, I've always gotten into play-acting and dressing up with my children. Perhaps a little too much. But I've taken the opportunity to show off a few old monologues, complete with bounding around like a puppy. If you have knowledge, why not share it? If you happen to know Puck's speeches from a Midsummer Night's Dream by ear with tumbling and staged sword play, why the heck don’t you share that with your boisterous boys, who love it and run around shouting, "Thou speakest aright!"
I am suddenly compelled to call my mother and thank her profusely for never making me put up with anything like this. Maybe I'll also get her thoughts on one of the tips listed in "Top 10 Favorite 'Developmental' Things To Do": "if they want something that you want to delay giving them, make them ask in every language they can before giving in." To me, this seems like an effective way to encourage your children to learn how to say "Fuck you, mom" in French as early as possible. In Chapter 13 ("Urban Wonderland"), Alex and Simon promise to share their unique perspective on "taking advantage of raising a child in the urban jungle." But mostly, we just get a rant about how everyone thinks their kids have weird names, and that makes Simon mad. This chapter's "Top 10 Reasons New York is the Center of the Universe to a Kid" list reminds us what truly matters: "there are more songs with NYC in their titles than any other city." Immediately after telling us how great it is to live in a city (excuse me, urban jungle), Alex and Simon switch tack and spend Chapter 14 ("'Daddy, a Cow! And It's Not in a Zoo!") expounding on the importance of exposing kids to nature. Sounds great, I'm on board. Unfortunately, we almost immediately take a hard left turn into a story from Simon's childhood where he and his brother are "befriended by this old guy, Dick, who lived on the outskirts of town in a small tin shed." We hear that Dick "occasionally pulled out an early Playboy magazine back from the days when the lower regions were airbrushed out," and that "there had been pretty strong rumors of pedophilia," before promptly returning to the main narrative with no further explanation. I can only describe the transition as 'jarring.' I can tell how exhausted I am at this point in the book by how hurriedly I skimmed the list of "Top 10 Differences We've Noticed Between City Kids and Country Kids." To be honest, I'm almost annoyed when a particularly bizarre quote manages to catch my attention, because that means I have to think about it for the full amount of time it takes me to transcribe from the page. I'm beginning to think that my initial hope that I could glean some useful cat-rearing advice from this experience may have been overzealous. Chapter 15 ("You're Such a Great Parent, You Should Be on TV (LOL)") is the only chapter to directly address the family's time on RHONY. It starts with this (attempted) comedy bit in which Alex and Simon pretend to be hilariously self-aware and self-effacing (Alex: "Look up 'Mommylicious' in the dictionary and you will see a photo of me in a ball gown, breast-feeding an infant while making Osso Buco and directing carpenters to build a bookcase for my Dickens and Shakespeare."). This posture would be infinitely more believable if I hadn't spent the previous 205 pages watching these two take themselves deadly seriously. But rather than share any juicy behind-the-scenes tidbits (or, indeed, convey anything of substance at all), Alex and Simon spend exactly 3.5 pages blustering about how it wasn't harmful for their children to be on TV before giving us a list of "Top 10 Hilarious Things The Boys Have Done While Filming or at Photo Shoots." Spoiler alert: none of them are 'hilarious.' Chapter 16 is literally titled "The Light at the End of the Tunnel," which makes me feel like this whole experience may have just been Alex and Simon playing some sort of twisted game with me. Alex tells us this is "the chapter of hope," but given that she then tells us about a time when she "spent one full hour discussing why magic markers cannot be carried around with the caps off, particularly in a hotel suite with white couches and walls," I'm not sure exactly where this hope is coming from. Also it seems like this markers-in-a-hotel-room thing happens weirdly frequently. We are then treated to Alex and Simon's "Top 10 Moments of Getting It,'" which includes
Apropos of nothing, Johan said, "You give us time-outs because you are teaching us to be good grown-ups."
This is a thing I'm sure Johan said completely organically and not in response to hearing his parents say "we're giving you a time-out so that you learn to be a good grown-up" approximately seven zillion times. This brings us to the book's Epilogue (a mercifully short two pages) featuring the line "If you made it to the end of this book, we salute you." Honored to accept this hard-earned accolade, I can finally close the book and start figuring out a way to erase the memory of Simon busting a mid-childbirth nut from my aching brain. Wish me luck!
Top Ten Greatest Male Players in Challenge History - No. 4 - C.T. Tamburello
Honorable Mentions - Abram, Dan S., Jamie, Mike M., Theo V., Turbo, Wes No. 10 - Alton Williams (Real World: Las Vegas) No. 9 - Mark Long (Road Rules: USA - The First Adventure) No. 8 - Darrell Taylor (Road Rules: Campus Crawl) No. 7 - Derrick Kosinski (Road Rules: X-Treme) No. 6 - Kenny Santucci (Fresh Meat) No. 5 - Evan Starkman (Fresh Meat) No. 4 - C.T. Tamburello (Real World: Paris)
C.T. carrying the Johnny Bananas backpack is the greatest highlight ever recorded in Challenge history.
Before the backpack moment, we hadn’t seen C.T. in three years. He was rumored to be forever banned after almost killing Adam King on the Duel II. On Cutthroat, when T.J. announced the heavy hitters twist and C.T. came walking out the dark, challenge fans all around the world were not prepared for what they were about to witness. C.T. was finally let out of his cage and Johnny Bananas became absolute prey.
If there were ever to be a logo for the Challenge, a visual image of the C.T.-Bananas backpack moment would be it. Picture this: Replace the Jerry West silhouette in the red and blue NBA logo with a white silhouette of C.T. mid power-walk and Bananas in the back of him imitating a backpack. Then, replace “NBA” with “MTV”. Now, you got your MTV Challenge logo. C.T. being at the front and center of a hypothetical challenge sports logo makes perfect sense considering C.T.’s athletic performances changed the landscape of the Challenge from a regular game show to the series becoming known as America’s Fifth Sport.
C.T. is the Peyton Manning of the Challenge.
Peyton Manning is the greatest regular-season quarterback in the history of the NFL. C.T. is the greatest regular-season competitor in the history of the Challenge.
Peyton Manning only has two Superbowls (and won his second one in his final season in the NFL, while being a shell of his former self). C.T. has three championships (and won his final one while being in his worst physical shape ever).
Both, Peyton Manning and C.T.’s regular-season career numbers lead you to believe that they should have had twice as much championships than what they currently have. However, their own blunders (C.T.’s boneheaded mistakes and gassing out right before the finish line on the Exes 2 final = Peyton’s choking) throughout their careers hold them back from reaching extreme success in the post-season.
To continue this comparison, Johnny Bananas is Tom Brady (6 championships). C.T. is the more natural athlete and talented challenger between him and Bananas, but Bananas has had the better legacy (Peyton’s the more talented QB between him and Brady, but Brady accomplished a greater legacy).
C.T. has seven of the greatest regular season competitive performances that didn’t result in championships.
The Inferno: In C.T.’s rookie debut, the higher end competition consisted of Abram, Darrell, Mike Mizanin, Shane and Timmy. C.T. won 4 life shields. C.T. led all the males in life shields and actually won more life shields than the higher end competition as one whole collective (Darrell, Mike Mizanin, and Timmy each won one life shield, totaling up to 3). C.T. was the best performer of the season as a rookie. He made the final challenge, but his Real World team lost to Road Rules in a close race.
Inferno II: C.T. was the life shield king. He racked up 6 life shields this season in one of the most competitive male casts to ever be assembled in Challenge history. C.T. led the season in life shields again, Landon came in 2nd with four, Mike in 3rd with three, and Derrick came in 4th with two. C.T. made the final, but he and the final remaining Bad Asses got blown out the water in a triathlon.
The Duel: C.T. won three missions and landed in the top 2 seven times. In C.T.’s third season, he was the second best competitor behind Evan, who won six missions (but half of them were due to having the superior partner in Jodi in comparison to C.T. having Diem). Despite being a top 2 performer, C.T. got disqualified against Brad in the final male duel and didn’t make it into the post-season.
Gauntlet III: C.T. was co-captain of one of the most dominant regular season teams ever, the G3 Veterans. C.T. was either the best or second best athlete on the team (along with Evan, the other team captain). C.T.’s performance in Piñata Pit (which I delve into later) proved what a freak of nature of a competitor C.T. was.
Rivals: C.T. managed to win two missions and landed in the top three overall six times with an average partner (Adam). Rivals C.T. was the scariest. The whole season was based around J.E.K. and friends trying to take him out, because he was such a force to be reckoned with. C.T. lost right before the final because of Adam’s performance in the T-Bone elimination.
Exes: C.T. and Diem won two out of eight missions, only second to Bananas and Camila’s three. C.T. and Diem made the final, but got second place. C.T. and Diem had the lead the whole final, but C.T. collapsed moments before the finish line.
Dirty Thirty: C.T. was competing in his 11th season and still putting up the best scoring numbers in one of the toughest male casts ever assembled. C.T. won 6 missions. That’s the most out of all males on Dirty Thirty (Not a single other player won 5, Hunter won 4, Nelson and Leroy won 3, and the rest have 2 or less). C.T. made the final on D30, but got third place because his gas tank can’t keep up with the other two finalists.
C.T.’s ATG Physical Strength, Aggression, and Athleticism is the most lethal combination in Challenge history.
If the Challenge were to ever have a Madden-esque video game, C.T.’s player rating regarding his athleticism and strength would look something like: STR: 99. SPE: 99. AGI: 99. A prime C.T. was a cheat code. The Bananas Backpack moment attests to this. Below are some other missions and eliminations where C.T.’s strength and athleticism proved to us he was of a different breed.
In Piñata Pit (G3), players from both teams had to jump in a mud pit, retrieve a ball, and return it to the starting line. The mission was played in rounds. Each round, there were fewer balls than there were players. Players were getting eliminated round-by-round. The game of Piñata Pit came down to the two best players on each team, Veteran C.T. and Rookie Derek McCray. You’re probably reading this wondering who Derek McCray is. I don’t blame you. Let me give you some background information on him. The moment Derek M. first stepped into the Challenge, he was immediately viewed as a competition threat, even with no performance log to back for it. Derek M. came into the Gauntlet 3 with instant respect, based off the fact that he had been recruited by more than 200 colleges for his football talent. Considering Piñata Pit contained all the aspects of a game of football: running, tackling, stripping a ball away from an opponent, and taking it to the end zone, the average betting man would’ve bet on Derek to score and win it for the Rookies. Challenge fans, however, knew to bet differently. When the final round went underway, Derek reached the ball first, but C.T. was inches behind Derek as he gained possession of the ball. C.T. then proceeded to slam him to the ground effortlessly and Derek literally yelped as he was getting manhandled. C.T, with what looks like half an effort, popped the ball out of Derek’s arms and took it back to the end zone to win it for the Veterans. In Piñata Pit, C.T. basically took the manhood out of a Division 1 athlete.
In the T-Bone elimination (Rivals), C.T.’s “Choo! Choo!” train almost killed Johnny and Tyler. It’s the biggest near death experience in Challenge history. I have a theory: We haven’t seen C.T. in a physical combat elimination ever since for good reason. I’m positive that’s a calculated decision by the Challenge Gods, not one that’s left up to chance.
C.T. faced off against Leroy in Wrecking Wall (FA), an elimination where both players had to punch through a 30-foot dry wall to make holes to climb up until they were able to reach the bell at the top. First player to ring the bell won. Leroy is an elimination beast; he’s won 8 career eliminations because of his physical strength and athleticism alone. He was no match for C.T. though. Anyone who watched the Duel 2, knows C.T.’s punching power is nothing to be played with. His punching power knocked out a whole wall on that season.
In the Flying Leap mission (Duel), players, one at a time, had to jump back and forth from one end of a platform to another that was suspended from a crane 20 feet above water. Numerous flags were hanging from poles located on both sides of the platform. Players had to grab as many flags as possible within a three-minute time limit; Whoever collected the most flags won. C.T. won Flying Leap with flying colors. He was the only male to not land on his body when jumping or not use any running momentum to assist his jumping sequences. C.T. instead showed us his athletic prowess, by setting his feet, loading his hips, exploding and jumping across, landing on his feet every time. Everyone on the sidelines watched in awe. C.T. made it look like a walk in the park.
C.T.’s All-Time Great Intelligence.
C.T. is the perfect two-way player. He not only has the brawn, but he has the brain as well. His long history of solving puzzles makes him an ATG intelligent male player. Below are some of C.T.’s greatest moments in which he had to put his brain to work.
C.T. eliminated Evan in Ascender (Duel), an elimination game in which players had to climb up a rope, pull a handle at the top of the rope, to release a basket containing puzzle pieces. The players then had to climb back down the rope to assemble a tiling puzzle similar to a tangram. C.T versus Evan was the second last male elimination on the original Duel. Up to that point, Evan was the clear #1 best competitor of the season and C.T. was the second. The two best players were going mano a mano. Evan got raddled under the stage lights (got caught trying to cheat), and the brain of the cold blooded killer, C.T. solved the tangram with ease.
In the Rivals 2 final, C.T. completed the puzzle checkpoint in a flash that Johnny/Frank fell behind in. Upon seeing the puzzle, C.T. straightaway figured it out because the puzzle was one that he played when he was hungover at a breakfast country club.
In the Final Redemption Challenge on D30, players had to read a code that provided a combination to a lock that contained puzzle pieces. The first two players to retrieve and complete their puzzle would return to the game, while the rest were eliminated. C.T.’s competition in this challenge was Dario, Jordan, Leroy, and Bananas. C.T. was the first male to successfully figure out the code and complete his puzzle, and re-entered the game as a result.
C.T. eliminated Darrell in Knot So Fast (Invasion). It was the last champions elimination of the season. The grandest stage of them all was set and the two all-time great champions had to rely on their strategical intelligence to win this one. Darrell put up a good fighting effort in trying to undo C.T.’s knot, but it looked like a physically impossible task. It actually was. According to Darrell on Challenge Mania, C.T.’s knots were so tight that production had to cut them off with machetes after the elimination was over. C.T. broke the Knot So Fast elimination. That’s how intelligent C.T.’s strategy was. The elimination win versus Darrell gave C.T. a spot in the finals, where he faced off against underdogs Cory and Nelson, who were fifteen years younger and in the athletic prime of their lives. In the final challenge, C.T. still managed to acquire his second season win and proved to the rest of the Challenge world that the underdogs were no match for the champion of champions.
C.T. has the All-Time Greatest Eating Abilities.
Eating is such an important trait to have in the challenge. It’s often identified as the most difficult portion of the final challenge each season. Players hate it. We’ve actually seen players quit in the final before because they couldn’t stomach eating disgusting things. We’ve seen C.T. devour all types of disgusting things without looking fazed in the slightest, that makes you question whether or not he has taste buds.
Remember the pickled fish soup in the Rivals 2 final? C.T. drank his like he was chugging a beer, while everyone around him was vomiting all over the place. Wes couldn’t bother to even taste his drink, so C.T. chugged it down for him.
In the Exes 2 final, C.T. ate the deer head and sheep blood as if it was everyday dinner. When he finished his plate, C.T. decided to go for seconds and helped Diem finish up her plate as well.
C.T.’s eating abilities are inhumane. Not only is C.T. known for downing disgusting foods in final challenges as if it were nothing, but he’s also known for winning regular season competitions where you had to eat a ridiculous amount of food (Toss Your Cookies v. Shane, eating the entire birthday cake on Race to the Altar in Exes).
C.T.’s first championship and third championships (Rivals II and WOTWII) were social-political clinics.
C.T. played his first eight seasons without winning the big one. It wasn’t until Rivals II, his ninth season, where he finally got his first challenge gold medal. As usual, C.T. crushed it on the field, but off the field, in the Challenge house, he played one of the best political-social games I had ever seen. On Rivals II, the opposite sex had control over the votes on male elimination days. C.T. was wooing all the girls, and they thought they were going to be apart of the next love big story on the Challenge. C.T. was never voted in because at least one player within four of the female teams had a fling with C.T. or were falling heads over heel for him on Rivals 2 (Anastasia, Cooke, Diem, and Nany).
On War of the Worlds II, C.T. was a member of the U.K. Team. He was apart of Cara’s Cult/The Royal Family. The physical shape C.T. was in this season was his worst ever, so him not ever being considered for elimination by his own team is mind blogging. C.T.’s social game was on a whole another level this season. My favorite C.T. moment on WOTWII is when he turncoats on Cara’s Cult right before the final and saves Tori from elimination to strengthen U.K.’s team for the final. C.T.’s political-social finesse on WOTWII rightfully earned him his third championship.
C.T.’s social-political skill, in general, deserves more recognition. Every time I hear people talk about C.T.’s eliteness, people only bring up the competition juggernaut and not the social-political mightiness he’s established over the course of his sixteen season career.
C.T. has only done three less seasons than Johnny Bananas, but he’s been in 11 less eliminations. Other than the first Rivals, I don’t recall there being a time where he wasn’t at the top of social structures. He has a whole catalogue of seasons where he was either pulling strings from the top or aligning with the biggest playmakers that were ones doing the pulling (i.e: Inferno 2 – CT was in a four person alliance with Derrick/Brad/Darrell where there duties were to not nominate each other in the inferno selections; The Duel – CT/Evan/Derrick/Brad each were paired with the best athletic girls and controlled the chain selections; Exes 2 – in an alliance with Mark/Robin, Johnny/Camila, and DunbaPaula that ran the game till the very end).
C.T. made history twice on Invasion and War of the Worlds II.
C.T. won his second championship 22 seasons after his rookie season. He debuted on the original Inferno, which took place in 2004, and won Invasion of the Champions in 2017. That’s a span of 13 years. C.T.’s Invasion win broke the previous record of the longest span between a rookie debut and championship win, that was held by Johnny Bananas. J.B. won his sixth championship 16 seasons after his rookie season. He debuted on the original Duel, which aired in 2006, and won Rivals 3 in 2016 (a 10 year span).
C.T.’s new breaking record was broken again by none other than C.T, just a few seasons later. C.T. won War of the Worlds 2, which took place 27 seasons after the Inferno, and 15 years later.
C.T.’s Overall Assessment.
If you read up until this point, I’m guessing a lot of you probably refuse to agree with my opinion of C.T. being the fourth greatest male challenger ever. Here’s my argument: C.T. is the greatest Challenge talent ever, but he doesn’t have the greatest legacy. Like mentioned earlier, he’s the Peyton Manning of the Challenge and I don’t consider Peyton Manning the #1 G.O.A.T. of Football (Jerry Rice, Jim Brown, and Tom Brady fit that bill better). In my eyes, Bananas, Jordan, and Landon are those three guys. The combination of their talent, winning percentage, and accomplishments fair just slightly better than C.T’s.
C.T. has just three championships in a sixteen season career. The rest of my top three have won just as much in a lot lesser time (Jordan, Landon) or doubled his wins in the same type of lengthy career (Bananas). C.T.’s temper and poor decision making tossed three years of his absolute prime down the drain (Inferno III, Gauntlet III, Duel II) and his inability to perform in the clutch tossed another year (Exes). That’s five seasons where the ultimate competitor, C.T., missed out on championships.
On the Inferno III, C.T. is cast on the Bad Asses; He was the best player on the cast, but he gets sent home the first night in South Africa because he punches Davis. C.T. would’ve been a lock for the final this season, he threw another potential championship out the window.
In the Gauntlet 3 final challenge, Big Easy cost C.T. and all the other final remaining veterans a championship win. You’re probably confused as to how this is C.T.’s fault, but he actually had a major hand in letting Big Easy ride to the final. If you go back to the first gauntlet deliberation where Johnny got sent in against Evan, Johnny plead to the rest of the Veteran males that Big Easy should have to go in, because he was going to lose them a final. C.T., who was the leader of the team, didn’t buy into Johnny’s plea; He had personal dislike towards Johnny and his reason for not throwing Big Easy in was because he loved partying with him. What’s the logic in that? C.T., the whole season was preaching about “trimming the fat” (getting rid of the girls on their team) and never worrying about Easy once was a horrific example of how to play a winning game. Prime C.T. was always finding a way to be the author of his own demise.
On the Duel 2, C.T. went into cannibalism mode. C.T. would’ve legitimately smashed Adam’s head and ate Adam’s head if it wasn’t for like thirty cast and production crew members successfully capturing him (and then tranquilizing him and putting him in his cage). There’s no guaranteeing C.T. would’ve won the D2, since the top crop of males this season was stacked. But this is an absolute peak C.T. we’re talking about, who’s in contention for the best men’s competitor all-time, so a championship victory is never out of the question.
In the Exes final, C.T./Diem lead the whole way until the final run up the mountain. Right before the finish line, C.T.’s tank ran out of gas (mirroring Peyton’s ability to choke in the playoffs) and he delayed winning his first championship for even longer.
C.T.’s competitive abilities (ATG physical strength, aggression, athleticism, intelligence, and eating) and his championship success in his career’s second half are sufficient enough to get him into the Challenge Mount Rushmore, but the four seasons he tossed down the drain in the first half of his career are a little too detrimental to have him in the top trinity. I think about it like this: Would I consider drafting Prime C.T. (Inferno - Free Agents) as my first pick when constructing a team in an-all time draft? Nope. He, was easily #1 in terms of competitive talent, but he was a complete hothead with bad decision making and only won one championship in ten seasons. Would I consider drafting Dadbod C.T. (Invasion - Total Madness) number one? Not at all. He’s won two championships in six seasons, with a phenomenal social-political game, but his competitive abilities are half of what they were before. Every version of C.T. comes with a small albatross that keeps him from having top three legacy.
I Can Make You Hot!: The Supermodel Diet (by Kelly Killoren Bensimon) -- Part One
NOTE: Although I was originally planning on posting this whole review at once, I was about a third of the way through the book when I realized that I was already quickly approaching the full length of my previous posts. So, in the interest of making this a pleasant experience for us all, I'm sharing the first half now, and will follow up with the second half in a few days. And honestly, KKB's writing reminds me of Inception in that it's almost certainly hazardous to spend too much time immersed in any single sitting. So fasten your seatbelts, and enjoy the ride! ------- So, a lot of you guys have been asking about Kelly Killoren Bensimon's I Can Make You Hot! (wow, is this what it feels like to be an influencer?), and I am thrilled to report that my adventure through this book's 264 pages was even more confounding than I could have possibly anticipated. I have a feeling that I'll need every ounce of my strength if I want to have any shot at conveying to you all exactly how bonkers this purported self-help book is, so -- without further ado -- let's begin. I Can Make You Hot!, subtitled The Supermodel Diet, has a fairly straightforward premise. Kelly, who "has done it all when it comes to nutrition and her body," will share her hard-earned wisdom with us, her humble readers. Or, as she says in her own words on the back cover:
In I Can Make You Hot! I'm going to clue you in to all the tricks I've learned from a variety of experts and that I now use to live my own life. I want you to be the best you -- happy, attractive, shapely, interested, interesting, and most of all, smokin' HOT!
The blurb promises that the experience of reading this book will be "like rooming with a supermodel and going on a diet together." Truly, only someone with Kelly Bensimon's tenuous grasp on reality would say this as if it were something exciting, rather than a scenario taken directly out of the third circle of hell. But before we can truly learn what it means to be HOT!, we're treated to a foreword by none other than Russell Simmons. As he shares with us:
Kelly is a great mother and is constantly instilling strong principals [sic] in her daughters. In my opinion, that's the essence of being HOT. Kelly is smokin'.
And just like that, I Can Make You Hot! is knocked out of the running for First-Book-I've-Read-By-A-Bravolebrity-That-Is-Also-Free-From-Glaring-Typographical-Errors. Better luck next time, champ! In case you were at all hesitant about Kelly's suitability for the job of helping the less fortunate among us reach their maximum potential, Russell clarifies:
Her beauty truly comes from within, and her clear internal compass and well-balanced lifestyle is what makes her an arbiter for what's hot. She has always had her own individual road map and is one of those people who beats to their own drum. Many are amazed by her leaps of faith and courage, which are products of her sustainable soul. And back to that energy! I used to think: If we could only package it. And now Kelly has!
I would kill to be a fly on the wall during a conversation between Russell Simmons and Kelly Bensimon. But all of these endorsements are making me impatient to dig into Kelly's advice, so I skim over the next few pages and arrive at the introduction: "What's HOT and What's Not." Almost immediately, Kelly reassures us that she was not always the gorgeous, talented socialite she is today -- "No. Let's just say that I was never one of those tiny, cute blonde girls who guys named their hamsters after." Excuse you what?I literally just walked away from my laptop to go talk to my boyfriend and make sure I'm not just ignorant of some otherwise well-known traditional male courtship ritual in which young men adopt rodents and christen them after the women they love. That doesn't seem to be the case, although please reach out if you can shed any additional light on this situation. Reasonably enough, before we can learn how to be hot, we have to know what hot is. Fortunately, Kelly wastes no time in getting us up to speed:
When I was trying to come up with a title for this book, I kept asking myself how I would define what I love. "HOT" is the word that best describes what I love, and it's not a word I throw around lightly. "HOT" is attractive, unique, and first-rate -- never mediocre. Avril Lavigne made a video called "HOT." There are "HOT" issues of all my favorite magazines. Hotmail.com was given that name to indicate that it was the best e-mail service, and www.urbandictionary.com, whose definitions are created by their readers, defines "hot" as (among other things) attractive, the best, and someone who makes you wish you had a pause button when they walk by because you don't want that moment to end. (I want you to feel like that "someone.") Health, wellness, and fitness are always hot topics. "HOT" may be a buzzword but it's also how I describe the best there is and the best you can be. I've used the words "smokin' hot" for everything from a killer chicken wing red sauce to a coveted couture gown.
There is…a lot to unpack here. My leading hypothesis is that Kelly must have accidentally exposed her internal circuitry to water and started shorting out while writing this passage, causing her to string together a rambling parade of incoherent sentences with no relationship to one another, save a tangential association with the amorphous concept of hotness. Also, it's factually inaccurate. A cursory Google search reveals that Hotmail.com was not "given that name to indicate that it was the best e-mail service." Rather, the service's name was selected as a reference to the use of HTML to create webpages, as is more apparent from the original stylization, HoTMaiL. I know from her savvy allusion to "www.urbandictionary.com" that Kelly is capable of navigating the Internet, so I'm disappointed that she's made such a careless oversight within the first three pages of the book proper. Kelly next takes us through a few scenes from her past to illustrate how she has come to understand the true meaning of "HOT." Here are just a few of the assorted pearls of wisdom that Kelly is gracious enough to share with us:
Is skinny hot? Naturally skinny is hot. Starving yourself in order to change your natural body type in order to get skinny is not hot.
For me, the ultimate HOT girl is the nineteenth-century Gibson girl.
…Bethany Hamilton, the young surfer who lost an arm in a shark attack and didn’t let it stop her from pursuing a sport she loves. She's smokin' HOT.
pregnancy is smokin' HOT
I'm distracted from my diligent note-taking by a line that truly makes me laugh out loud.
I don't want to pretend that I'm "just like you." To do that would be disingenuous, and you wouldn't believe me anyway. But I may be more like you than you think. My hair may be ready for Victoria's Secret, but my values are still Midwestern.
I appreciate the honesty! As I continue reading, I am pleased to learn that I am, in fact, already consuming this piece of literature in the appropriate way. As Kelly says:
I urge you to make notes as you go along, either in the book itself or, if writing in a book is anathema to you, in a little notebook to use as your own personal guide. Jotting down ideas as they pop into your head is the best way to process them and be sure that they don't leave again before you've had a chance to commit them to long-term memory. Then, if you've made a mistake, when you go back and see it there on paper, you'll remind yourself not to do it again. Or, as I like to say, you'll avoid getting bitten by the same food dog twice!
Bitten…by the same….food...dog? Never change, KKB. (As an aside, what's the oveunder on Kelly having even the slightest idea what the word 'anathema' means?) If I'm being totally honest, this book is making me feel a little superfluous. What more can I add when the source material is so impenetrable to begin with? How does one parse the unparseable? Newly humbled, I suppose I'll have to be content with just gaping in confusion alongside the rest of you. And now that I think about it, what better book to build me up from these insecurities and encourage me to be my best? In the words of Kelly herself:
After all, why wouldn't you want to be HOT? What's the alternative? Being "not so hot"?
The book is organized into seven chapters, one for each day of the week, focusing on seven distinct facets of hotness. We start our journey on "Monday: Make a List -- Plan and Prepare!" and are immediately blessed with another one of Kelly's philosophical ramblings:
To me, living well is the only option. What, after all, is the only alternative? Living badly? Who aspires to live badly? I want you to live well, and that's going to take some planning.
Eager to improve myself, I read on:
What are your goals for yourself? If you're going to make changes in your life, you need to have a plan, you need to prepare, and you need to take the time to get it right -- so that you don't wind up wasting your time. This is my plan, and from now on it's going to be yours. Monday is going to be the day you make a HOT plan and prepare for the rest of your week. Let's get started together!
I can't help but feel like this is one of those answers that beauty pageant contestants give when they don't actually know how to respond to a question. Or like a motivational speech written by a rudimentary AI. I can't quite articulate exactly what it is that makes Kelly's writing seem so utterly devoid of logical coherence, but it truly falls into the literary equivalent of the Uncanny Valley. Reminding us that "this isn't just about budgeting your food; it's about budgeting your life," Kelly peppers us with even more helpful tips -- "You don't want to be that person who is snacking while you're shopping. That's not hot -- period." and shares a stream-of-consciousness-style list of "Staples I keep in my house." Which may possibly be some kind of freeform postmodern poetry. Judge for yourself. Kelly advises the reader to "get out your calendar or PDA" to get a sense of your schedule. "Then use your PDA to find the closest well-stocked market and go there. Making life easy for yourself is what it's all about." Now is as good a time as any to clarify that this book was published in 2012. I'd be lying if I said reading so many consecutive Housewives memoirs hasn't made my grasp on sanity a bit shaky, but I am fairly positive that 2012 was not a banner year for the Personal Digital Assistant. Kelly has taken the time to pluck out a few particularly incisive pearls of wisdom throughout the book to highlight as "Kelly's Cardinal Rules." I would love to help clarify exactly what this one means, but I'm afraid I'm utterly clueless. One thing I do know for certain, however, as the chapter comes to a close, is that "human contact is HOT; texting is not!" The week continues with "Tuesday: A Little Ohm and a Little Oh Yeah! -- It's All About Balance." It is imperative that you work out, says Kelly, adding, "I've never met a smokin' hot couch potato and I bet you haven't either." Her personal exercise routine, as she shares, combines aerobics and yoga "because life is all about balance." As she quips, "I'm sure even Gandhi cracked a smile from time to time." A panel titled "HOT Tip" admonishes the reader: "Don't call it working out because exercise shouldn't be work!" If you'd like to spend a morning in the style of Kelly Bensimon, it's as easy as eating "a couple of oranges" and drinking coffee -- "I love coffee; I would probably marry coffee if it proposed." She also lets us in on some of her secret, highly advanced workout routines designed to maximize your time in the gym and propel you towards your full potential. Such as the "Happy Twenty," in which you run for 18 minutes and then do 2 minutes of squats. We get further instruction on the hottest ways to run on the following page, where a two-page spread advertises "a few of my HOT tips for having a fun run." To ensure that you're able to start your journey to HOT as quickly as possible, I've taken the liberty of transcribing one of her most valuable nuggets below:
Run in the street instead of on the sidewalk. I took a lot of flack for this when they filmed me on Season 2 of the Real Housewives of New York City. The thing is, I think that people walking down the street while texting are a lot more dangerous than a car. Drivers will go out of their way to avoid you (accidents are too much paperwork, and they really mess up a day), but strolling texters will walk right into you without even seeing you. You could also get smacked by a shopping bag, a stroller, or even an oversized purse. Sidewalks are really obstacle courses. Beware!
Kelly shares some standout tracks from her workout playlist ("It's much more fun exercising to music!"), including the perennial pump-up-the-jam classic, "Skinny Love" by Bon Iver. With no regard for thematic continuity or overarching structure, the next page is dominated by the header "Get Leggier Legs."
An April 10, 2009, article about me in Harper's Bazaar captioned one of the photos "She's got legs." I was born blessed with long lean legs, but I work very hard to keep them looking the way they do. I'm tall, but I could just as easily have long, large legs. And long and large is not hot. Unfortunately I can't give you my legs. But I can help you to be the best you can be.
Truly inspirational. I think. We continue on with Kelly's advice for "how to avoid the 'freshman fifteen," accompanied by a list of what she refers to as "Kelly rules." These run the gamut from near-sinister
Get rid of any negative thoughts. Negative-town isn't Fun-town.
For every cheeseburger and fries, you owe me 12 cartwheels on the quad with your friends.
to bizarrely specific and also racially insensitive.
If you starve yourself for a day because you want to lose weight for Homecoming, you owe me 5 minutes of sitting Indian style in a corner and meditating on why you thought that was a good option.
Upon further reflection, I think I would actually be extremely motivated to stick to a diet if the alternative was being reprimanded by Kelly and forced to think about my poor life choices. As a scientist myself, I was ecstatic to see that Kelly has drawn from a diverse array of scientific disciplines to develop her HOT tips and tricks. Physics, for example:
From Isaac Newton's First Law of Motion A body in motion stays in motion. The velocity of a body remains constant unless the body is acted upon by an external force. So if you want to step up your exercise routine, try running in sand instead of on the pavement, or bike through gravel. That way your body will have to work harder in order to stay in motion.
Even biology has something to teach us about how to be HOT:
You are a living organism; life is an organic process. You need to be up and active, ready to enjoy the process. Be open and available and ready to do fun stuff. Participating in what you love is HOT.
I'm truly impressed by Kelly Bensimon's unparalleled ability to reframe the most basic common sense as divinely inspired wisdom. We see this in lines like
If you're feeling a bit frazzled and you need to calm down, you might want to take a yoga class.
or, as we read in another "HOT Tip" panel
Don't be afraid to drink water while working out.
I refuse to believe that this is a problem any person has ever faced. Even Aviva Drescher is not afraid of drinking water while working out (although, for the record, she is afraid of aluminum foil). Kelly closes out this chapter by encouraging the reader to "do one thing every day that takes you out of your comfort zone." If you find yourself lacking inspiration, she provides helpful suggestions, such as "try a fruit you've never eaten" and "try tap dancing." As she asserts, "there's nothing more foolish than sitting on your butt when you could be moving your body and having fun." I turn the page, and the clock rolls over to Wednesday -- "Diet = 'DIE with a T.'" Cute. I bet Kelly would find that Tumblr post that's like "she believed" to be unbearably clever. She wastes no time in letting us know:
I don't believe in diets; diets are for people who want to get skinny. I want you to be happy. If you feel good about yourself, you'll make good choices. If you starve yourself to be skinny, you'll be undermining your sense of self-worth and you'll be unhappy every day. Eating well -- a variety of high-quality, fresh, unprocessed foods -- is for people who want to be happy -- and if you're not happy you won't be hot! Happy is always better than skinny.
This is starting to feel like some sort of word problem from Algebra II. If happy is better than skinny, but hot is equal to happy, diet = die + t??? Kelly tells us that all women fall into two categories: overachievers and underachievers. Being an overachiever is good, and being an underachiever is bad. Here are some things you can do to become an overachiever:
Make good choices.
When in doubt, have fun.
Kelly's motivational-phrasebook app apparently starts to glitch out right about here, but she continues on:
Stay positive and move forward. This is your last try at today. Yesterday may not have been great, but, today is better -- you just need to see it that way. The choice is up to you.
The idea of someone being in such a dark psychological place that they are able to find inspiration in those words is so deeply sad to me that I can hardly bear to consider it. Thankfully, Kelly has already taken a hard left turn into what I think is some sort of extended metaphor:
I've already said that you need to treat your body like a Ferrari, but maybe you prefer a Maserati, an Aston Martin, a Corvette, or even a Bentley. Whatever your luxury car of choice, if you treat it well, it will increase in value; if you treat it like a bargain rental car, it's just going to wear out -- and being worn out is not hot!
Ah, yes, I'd momentarily forgotten that cars almost always increase in value after they're purchased, and don't have a culturally ubiquitous reputation for losing most of their resale value immediately. Solid analogy. Apropos of nothing, we get a "HOT Tip" list of "model diet secrets that DON'T work." I'm extremely glad that Kelly encouraged us to take notes while reading -- I'd be devastated if any of these pointers had escaped my attention.
Eating Kleenex to make yourself feel full does not work.
The Graham cracker diet does not work.
Drugs do not work.
Well, I suppose this clears up some Scary Island confusion. Had Kelly indeed been doing meth (as the reported cat-pee smell might suggest), she would be fully aware that many drugs are, in fact, extremely effective ways to lose weight. But lest you start to lose faith in the expertise of our fearless leader, read on: "when it comes to food choices, I've probably made every mistake in the book." By which she means that she ate Chinese chicken soup before giving birth to her first daughter and it made her sick, so she ate a turkey sandwich before giving birth to her second daughter and she didn’t get sick. To be perfectly honest, I'm struggling to find a way to apply this wisdom to my own life, but I'm sure it will become clear in no time! Kelly is relatable for the first time so far in the following passage:
When I was accused of being a "bitch" on national television, I was really upset. My response was to find comfort in Mexican food and margaritas for lunch and dinner three days straight.
But we promptly return to form on the next page as she recounts her daily diet of "2 green juices," "a KKBfit lunch," and "a KKBfit dinner." I'd like to take a moment to appreciate how generous it is of Kelly to share her wisdom -- earned through a lifetime of catastrophic missteps -- so freely. It certainly didn’t come without a cost, as the following anecdote illustrates:
On the last day of my juice fast, I took my older daughter to a Yankees game where we gorged on sushi. (Yes, they have sushi at Yankee Stadium) As a result, I was stuffed and blinded by carbs when A-Rod came up to bat and hit a home run. Was I able to savor that A-Rod moment with my daughter? Absolutely not. I was in a food coma. Will I ever let myself be thrown into a food frenzy again? No! Lesson learned: I made another stupid food choice, and because of that choice I missed that home run moment with my daughter. From now on, when I go to a Yankees game I'll have a small hot dog instead….I want you to do the same.
Verily! Heed her words of wisdom, lest ye not also lose the precious chance for thine own A-Rod moment. But don’t think this caution means that you have to get caught up in the minutia of your day-to-day. On the contrary, appropriate planning means "you can stop obsessing about your carrot intake and concentrate on what it is that's going to make you a great person in life." To help illustrate this point, Kelly introduces us to the "Kelly pie."Otherwise known as a pie chart. This is a helpful way to really visualize how much time you'll have now that you can cut that pesky carrot-pondering out of your day! Kelly even offers some thoughtful "hints" to divide your pie:
Celebrate your own health. We take health for granted.
Get up in the morning and say, "I'm so grateful to be where I am and look the way I do," no matter what your size is.
Tell yourself you look HOT, because you do.
Believe in your ability to make good choices today and every day.
Be mindful of what you eat. If I have to be mindful of what I eat, so do you. We're in this together.
Ooh, sorry Brad, I won't be able to make it to this afternoon's meeting -- it actually conflicts with my daily session of believing in my ability to make good choices today and every day. No, I understand how that could seem like an abstract sentiment rather than something that actually takes up time within your daily schedule, but if Kelly has to do it, so do I! And to be honest, my day is packed enough as it is -- it takes at least a second or two for me to tell myself I look HOT (because I do!), and I'm just worried that if I try to squeeze anything else in, it will cut into my mid-morning health celebration. Wish I could help! In a strangely threatening aside, Kelly commands: "Write down what you ate for the last two days. Don't lie. We can start fresh tomorrow, one bite at a time." In a section titled, "What I Eat Every Day," Kelly enumerates her "three go-to breakfasts": "two oranges or a plate of mixed berries if I'm not going to be very active, all-bran cereal or some other high-fiber cereal with almond milk or unsweetened coconut milk if I'm going on a long run, riding, or doing something else that requires extra energy, and on weekends, I love making pancakes to eat with my girls." As should be apparent, this is far more than three breakfasts. I am irrationally angry, in the same way I was when a Bachelor contestant said their favorite food was a charcuterie platter. That's cheating. (And yes, I do strongly identify with my Virgo moon, thanks for asking.) Kelly inexplicably (apologies if I've used that word for the zillionth time already) tells us that "a plastic cup that says 'Forced Family Fun' from www.themonogramshops.com makes the smoothie go down with a giggle." Also, "sitting alone in front of the TV eating ice cream is not hot!" We are then introduced to one of Kelly's more advanced strategies, which she calls "Energy Economics." This means that you might need to eat more on days when you are busy and/or exercising, and less on days when you're relaxing. So many innovative ideas, this book has really packed a punch for its < $5 price tag! Another ingenious idea? "Stuff cabbage, sweet peppers, tomatoes, or even onions with ground meat, chicken or turkey seasoned with salt and pepper. Bake until the meat is cooked through and the vegetable is softened." Granted, I have been a pescatarian for almost a decade at this point. But disemboweling an onion, jamming it full of hamburger meat, and cooking it for some indeterminate amount of time at an unspecified temperature seems…wrong. Circling back to her theory of Energy Economics, Kelly explains,
If I don't eat [well], I'm violating my own laws of energy economics and my body goes either into inflation mode (too much energy when I don't need it) or recession mode (not enough energy in the bank for me to draw from). The key is to create economic equilibrium: eating well so that I feel good, which allows me to be happy.
I am begging someone to start a GoFundMe where we raise money to pay Kelly to explain how the economy works. The next page introduces us to "The KKB 3-Day Supermodel Diet," which is less of a diet and more a random assortment of miscellaneous health-related sentiments that reek of the 2009 pro-ana tumblrsphere:
Chew your food 8 times instead of 3 or 4.
Brush your teeth and chew mint gum as soon as you finished eating. When your mouth is fresh and minty, you'll be less tempted to eat again.
The final tip ("nurture yourself") includes a reminder to "blush your checks [sic]." Which may be a typo, but could also very well just be some strange Kelly saying that no one else has ever used in the history of the English language. On the next page, we're introduced to "Kelly's Food Plate."Which other, less sophisticated people typically refer to as the food pyramid. Kelly also takes a brief aside (in a feature box labeled "hot button issue") to expound upon her favorite delicacy, the humble jelly bean:
If you're a fan of the Real Housewives of New York City you probably remember that on Season 3 I took a lot of flack for eating jelly beans and talking about processed and unprocessed foods. I was actually making light of that food snob moment. Who stops at a gas station and asks for carrots? Did you bring your organic food cooler with you on this road trip? The important part is not to be a food snob; but when in doubt choose the best option. Sometimes it's better to be happy than it is to be right. Was I able to make my point? Clearly it wasn’t in the cards at that moment.
This is a truly stunning synthesis of her experience. Underestimate Kelly at your own peril -- this girl has been playing 4D chess for longer than we know. The chapter continues with some tips from Kelly on how to make the most of your meal planning and shopping experience. And no -- you have no excuses:
There's absolutely no reason why you, wherever you live, can't eat "colorful" foods. All over the country there are "gi-normous" supermarkets where fruit and vegetable aisles are bursting with every color of the rainbow.
I am starting to get a "gi-normous" headache trying to make sense of this chaos. Kelly's advice that we can "mix and match what's there to make a FrenAsian or an ItaloGreek meal" is not helping. We also get some tips for how to grocery shop responsibly:
Always go with a list and never buy more than two items you planned on taking home.
This is incoherent, right? I know I need to wrap up Part 1 of this write-up pretty soon, because I've read this sentence at least two dozen times trying to make some sense of it, and am still at an utter loss. I assume she's left out a negative somewhere, but at this point, I realize I've already thought about this tip for approximately ten times longer than Kelly ever has, so I'll move on. For the third or fourth time so far this book, Kelly segues into a literal grocery list. To be fair, this is a very effective strategy to take up several pages with minimal text. And what could be more compelling than
Shitake/oyster mushroom combination packs
Truly the voice of a generation! Decades from now, English teachers will be teaching their students about a fabled wordsmith who once uttered those eternal words, "shitake/oyster mushroom combination packs." Because this book has absolutely no respect for logical cohesion, we are hurled immediately into a diatribe about how expensive it can be to buy organic -- "I recently walked out of an organic market having paid $400 for just three bags of groceries." As I read on, however, it becomes quickly apparent that Kelly has no idea what the concept of 'organic' even means:
"Organic," in any case, seems like something of a misnomer to me. I know the Food and Drug Administration has regulations for certifying foods organic, but to me, for foods to be truly and totally organic, they would have to be grown in a test tube or a greenhouse with no exposure to the natural elements.
Well, sure Kelly. If that's what you would like to use the word "organic" to mean, be my guest. She tosses us another crumb of helpful guidance, but it only serves to make me feel exceptionally sorry for Kelly's daughters and everything they have to endure:
Plate your food as if it were being served to you in a fine restaurant. Use a fancy foreign accent as you invite everyone to come to the table. Or try saying it in French. My girls love it when I announce, "Le dîner est servi!"
We learn in yet another "HOT tip" that "fast food doesn't have to be fat food," and Kelly tells us for the eighth time that she eats two oranges every morning. In what has already become a recurring theme for me in this book, the following passage makes me desperately curious to know how Kelly thinks science works:
One question people frequently ask me is whether I believe in taking vitamins or supplements, and the answer is "yes, I do," because, even though I know my diet is healthy, I can't be sure that I'm getting all the nutrients I need. All the vitamins and minerals we need can be found naturally in foods, but how do we know, even if we're eating a healthy diet, that we're getting everything we need?
I flip back two pages to confirm that Kelly told us quite recently how important it is to read nutrition labels to know what is in the food we eat (to make sure we avoid foods "whose labels are full of words you can't pronounce"). Exactly how she is reading these nutrition labels yet still manages to have no inkling how anyone could possibly begin to assess their vitamin and mineral intake eludes me. She continues:
I don't want to take that chance. I think of the food I eat as fuel and vitamins as my oil -- my body's engine needs both. Vitamins and supplements are not food replacements, but we're exposed to so many environmental toxins on a daily basis that I believe we need to supplement our diets to counteract all the harm those substances can cause.
I can certainly think of something that is causing harm to my psychological stability at this particular moment, which I should probably take as a sign to wrap things up for today and go read some incredibly dense Victorian prose or something to remind myself what a properly constructed sentence looks like. Promise I won't leave you waiting for long!!
Hi, I'm posting a few thoughts on earnings that are intended to be helpful in trying to gain consistency in trading. With NFLX earnings today after the close, I'm seeing a lot of newer traders discussing buying far out of the money calls in the hopes that NFLX "kills it" and rallies huge after earnings. As a word of warning, although this "could" work, it is one of the lowest probability trades you can do. The market makers (and computers) have already priced in a $43 move either up or down in the stock. So in order to make decent money in a long call or long put, the stock would need to move much more than the $43 move that is already priced in. In other words, you could buy a $600 call, the stock jumps up $43 with earnings, and you lose 100% of your money invested in the trade (assuming you bought a $600 call that expires Friday). In addition to the move being "baked in" the Implied Volatility is at peak levels right before earnings. Friday morning that Implied Volatility will instantly drop back to normal, and the premium portion of the options will implode. All in all, it makes buying an out of the money call a lotto ticket trade. The \"market maker move\" is shown on this platform, but you can also get close to that figure buy adding up the at the money call and at the money put. Instead, consider what the market makers do for earnings. They sell the at the money call and the at the money put as a naked straddle in order to capture the rapid premium decay after earnings are announced. They make a living doing this. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of naked options over earnings, so instead, I'll do an at the money Iron Condor (also called an Iron Fly when the sold strikes are the same). This is selling a naked straddle but with the protection of long options to contain your maximum risk in case the stock does have one of those rare moves that is well beyond what is already "expected." This is what the risk to reward looks like on a 1 lot trade on a $45 wide (expected move) Iron Fly on NFLX. (To reduce your max risk, you can narrow the width of the spread). Max profit and max loss selling the $525 at the money call and put and buying options $45 out on either side to establish maximum risk. This is simply a bet that the move on NFLX is already baked into the options price, and by the time the stock opens Friday morning, it will be up or down less than the $43 expected move. A few notes on this trade:
It's not guaranteed to work, of course, but the odds of getting a profit on this setup is much higher, over time, than buying an out of the money call. (And don't get me wrong, it is amazing having calls when a stock explodes - this strategy is more for consistent base hits than occasional grand slam home runs).
Tip: If you normally risk $1,500 on a trade on a normal stop loss, then just line up your "max loss" with this. That way if the trade hits max loss, it is just like hitting a stop out vs. trading too big and having a max loss trade be a disaster.
The closer NFLX opens to your sold strikes Friday morning, or anytime on Friday, the higher your profit.
If NFLX does open up or down right around the expected move, you can wait for retracements. (The expected move often acts as support or resistance, as there is a lot of money riding on it staying within that range).
Max loss occurs if, by Friday's close, NFLX is trading above the long options, in this case, $570 or $480. I always position size assuming it is NOT going to work, so I'm not freaking out if it has a big move against me. Base hits, not home runs.
In general, I try to get out at 50% of the credit received. In this case, the credit is $32.25, so my exit would be set near $16.00. I've found that to be a fairly consistent level to exit if the stock is staying within the "expected move" parameters.
Hope it helps! Edit: Adding a screenshot of trade after the close. Currently, NFLX is trading down around $475, so it's kicking me in the teeth. I would need the stock to rally back to $500 at some point tomorrow in order to get a scratch/small gain on the fly. If it opens up down within the expected move, then I might sell some 450 put credit spreads to bring in additional credit to offset the loss. If it opens below the expected move, I might buy back the short put and let the long put run but that brings on a lot of additional risk. Should be an interesting Friday. NFLX Earnings Trade Edit: Comments below on "getting killed" if the trade doesn't work and it goes to max loss. My preference of course is that trades work out but it is a probabilities game. Max risk on a trade should (IMO) equal to about 1% of your NLV, especially around earnings as they are typically a binary event. If you get killed on one trade, then the risk you are taking on that one probability is way too big (IMO). The trades below are all structured so that max loss would be 1% each. If one is not working, ideally it is offset by some of the others. Other trades are SPX bearish butterfly, TLT calls, SHAK long puts, GOOGL call credit spreads. Tomorrow shouldn't be dull by any stretch! https://preview.redd.it/125v07yxbab51.png?width=1270&format=png&auto=webp&s=0506e3037fb3c78558cf2ee362233847efafa2e0
Hi I'm just a scrub and user who loves LCS and wants to see teams improve. I made this write up based on my perspective of watching every game and team in LCS so far and hope that we see these improvements from each team/player. I go through not only every team, but also every player on each team. Starting from the bottom of the standings here we go: Cloud9- I lied I'm going to get this out of the way now. Team is too good to have anything to actually tell until they reach the international stage. Stream the high ping scrims against G2. Licorice- I bet you can't win with Teemo top in the LCS. If you find a way to do it I will make a shrine praying to you every day as my new lord and savior of top laners. Blaber- I bet you can't win a LCS game with Amumu or Warwick whichever one. Just think it would be the ultimate flex to pull it off in the second half. Nisqy- I bet you can't win a LCS game with Annie mid? Do it you coward. Zven- I think you should play a game of Syndra bot against TSM specifically. Just for the lols and to flex that you are a better mage player than DL. Vulcan- Xerath would be fun to see you bust out. I don't know the situation, but take it into consideration? Is anyone else flabbergasted at the fact that this guy has only been around for like 1 full year and is already one of the best supports this region has ever seen? He is better than CoreJJ. I need people to take in this as fact right now. CoreJJ is not a scrub and this young kid comes out of nowhere basically and is already top tier. Dignitas - Shits fucked man. Even games that it feels Dig should have won are losses due to poor decision making as a team. What sucks is that I see them trying to play around their strength of Johnsun and Aphromoo, but it still isn't working. I think at this point you just have to stick with that as a strategy because I quite frankly don't see them winning any other way as far as an avenue for success. Maybe if they are feeling desperate they should start asking Lourlo for any major counterpicks he wants to play for a 4-1 split push set up. Lourlo- It's sad that this guy is actually playing pretty well and won't be able to get the recognition he deserves. He hasn't been poor and just needs a little bit of oomph for the team to pull a win. I watch a ton of Lourlo streams so I'm a bit biased towards him and want him to succeed. I think if they continue to not find success as a team just give him a game with a hard counter for a split push win. Bust out a Nasus if you have to. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Viper- I don't know what happened to here, but this is not the leap we were hoping to see this year from Viper. He has just regressed so much it's kind of crazy. I hope that he is able to come out of his slump because when he is good he is really good. Unfortunately we don't know when he will step back up. Akaadian- Pathing seems wrong. Aggression seems dumb. Decisions seem reckless. I think the epitome of the jungler struggles for this team came when in week 3 against TL I saw Akaadian die bot side 1v1 to Impact trying to make a hero kill as Olaf into Jayce with phase rush. It isn't that heroics aren't needed, but that was definitely not the smartest moment to try and find out. This isn't a problem with just Akaadian however since Dardoch is did the same exact thing except a different team in a different moment. Dardoch- Maybe, just maybe other people trying to tell you how to play certain things is for the good of the team? We have seen you with Graves try and play as if you are Olaf/J4. We have just seen you get outplayed and be overagressive and throw what could be winning fights over and over. The sad part is that you are a slight upgrade over Akaadian so you can't even be immediately replaced. However both of you tend to have the same flaws. Froggen- I like old players like Froggen. I like seeing long standing veterans still having a place in this league. I'm not going to go as far as to say Froggen should retire. More that he needs to go into the lab and refine his style. People will say that Froggen needs to change his style to more of the roaming style that others have gone in, but I think there is a way to maintain his lane dominant style while also adapting to the times. It doesn't need to be Anivia that he uses, but there have been picks like Ziggs showing up in the LCK that offer some of the same zoning and wave clear she does that could be useful. I don't think he is washed, but he should really look at better ways of adapting. Fenix- I'm amazed I can watch the same PROFESSIONAL PLAYER make the same mistakes with vision he made years ago. That's all I got to say about that. Johnsun/Aphro- Bot lane duos count as one unless one is so disproportionately bad compared to the other for an example here think TSM Yellowstar. The only real bright spot on this team. I'm very willing to call Aphro the adc whisperer at this point since he is almost always working with young talent and somehow they all tend to shine when he is working with them. Turnaround season for him and a rising season for Johnsun. Now get these two maybe on to GGS and I honestly think GGS would be at .500. We will get to GGS in a bit. Immortals- The current roster is 1-3 as far as I'm concerned. I like what I'm seeing from Allorim and Insanity so far, and I'm really glad they are getting their shots and showing what they are made of. I am however dissappointed with Xmithie. Soaz- This is going to be a shock, but Soaz... is actually good?! In terms of overall skill I think he is still better than Allorim, however, I will not be putting him as a starter. It's okay to still be good Soaz, but can you be better? The team needs you to be more than what we know of you right now. You shouldn't be catching so much flak for the team underperforming, but all anyone thinks about when your name comes up is how you have been dunked by Ssumday twice. They forget how you make game saving plays because you don't always create the leads needed on your own or through any synergy with your team. This is just my perception from the outside, but whatever weird thing bias you have against NA specifically needs to be put down with your ego. There is something weird that happens to some EU players when they come over in thinking they are overall so much better than the NA players, but then you find out the hard way that the skill gap isn't as big as you think it is and you can't get away with mediocrity. I think you can EARN the spot back. You are great enough to be able to. Allorim- The only thing I really have to say to about Allorim is that I was for some reason expecting you to pull out a Yorick into the Wukong pick since it's a solid matchup for Yorick, but I understand that it pigeon holes the team into a split push team comp that can be risky in the current roam everywhere you can meta. Still at this point picks like Urgot and malph have been great for the team, and he has shown up to play. I really hope this is something that can be sustained by you overall. Potluck- Alright I'm saying it. You have been better than Xmithie this split. I'm a huge Xmithie fan boy. Even when he was on team Vulcan I was a fan. I think this is his worst split ever. Even worse than his last split on CLG and you deserve a shot. Xmithie- I don't think I have ever watched Xmithie be the worst player on a team before, but here we are in 2020. New experiences for everyone all around. Everyone has slumps and since you are a multiple time champion I EXPECT you to pick yourself up. The only argument I have for keeping this guy as the starter is that the synergy with Hakuho is pretty great. Especially because both of you are cerebral players. However sometimes in league you need to be cerebral and other times you have to be able to show you can just press buttons better. It's been a while since I have felt you can press buttons better than the opponent. Eika- I don't want to come across as a bully. I just don't feel you are worth the import slot. You are a good player, just not one for this league right now. With someone like Ryoma, you see those moments where he slides in with Azir and 1v3s with a nice shuffle to bring the game back from the brink and it let's you know there is potential in the guy. Or in his best of series in playoffs last split you see he learned from getting smacked around. When I think of you Eika I think back to game 1 of the split where you have Galio and you are taunting over the wall around the 16 minute mark for at best a terrible looking taunt, then I realize you are trying flash taunt. They took that out of the game man... I just don't see those same sparks of brilliance from you. Sorry. Insanity- Alright everything I said about Eika is opposite here. The fact that you weren't at least given a shot earlier is a blunder and it makes sense why the old GM was fired for not letting you start after game 2 of the split. I really hope that the overall poor standings of the split don't deter your growth, cause kid you got the moves. Gate/Altec- While losses haven't been on this bot lane, what I feel seperates them from the duo of Hakuho/Apollo is that when given a winning match up they seem to flounder it. I do feel as if Gate is the worse half of this duo just due to how much he seems to get caught out, but it definitely doesn't feel like Altec does a lot in regards of carrying either. Sometimes I watch and it's as if Altec is playing for his stats whereas Gate is playing for the win, but making the wrong plays to do it. Just from my eye test. Apollo/Hakuho- About what I expected. That is both a good thing and a bad thing. At this point I feel like these guys are the measuring stick for how good a bot lane should be at minimum to be in the LCS. You are the height requirement for this kiddie ride we call LCS. If you aren't at least as good as this duo, then you aren't good enough to be here. Again, both a compliment and an insult. 100T - Although I understand shake ups had to happen, I'm personally on the side of Stunt in his good bye message. It is a really big shame that he won't be able to prove that they can rally later in the season again like they did last split. I understand that changes had to happen, but who is to say that the group with Meteos and Stunt couldn't do it again. It is now one of my great what if scenarios as well. Ssumday- Right now still a top 3 top laner in this league. Tanks? Got the team. Bruisers? Yeah sure. Carries? Yeah he can do that. I think one thing that urks a lot of fans is the lack of hard carries put in Ssumdays hands, but he is a great tank player as well and for a lot of the scenarios it isn't ideal to have a top lane carry oriented pick for this team. They have been on the side of scaling for as a team for a bit now and players like Cody need multiple big boys in front of them to be the most effective. He just does his best and respects all, but fears none. Meteos- Let's ignore the twitter debacle and really focus on just the gameplay and if Meteos as a player can look at those Olaf VODS and say "yeah I was right to make that decision" with a straight face, then he deserves the bench. Something that I feel maybe him and a few other old guard players are actually not good at is criticism. They are always looking to justify why the play or decision they made was actually the correct one and others clearly don't know what they are talking about. The results however have shown that maybe he isn't always right. Maybe there are things he seems to be lacking or missing. It's okay to be wrong as long as you grow, but there seems to be a lack of growing this split. If he gets another chance in this season to start I hope he is ready to prove everyone wrong. Contractz/Poome- It wouldn't be fair to do an assessment based off what we have seen so far, so I'll give it until the end of the split. Ryoma- As stated above in Eika, I fully understand why any team not just 100T would have wanted Ryoma as a starter. Clearly he is consistent yet, but I believe that he can be. Every once in a while Ryoma will have a play that makes me go " Oh that was really nice" or "That's really clutch" I just wish he weren't making so many of those plays from behind. Cody Sun- Still Lite Doublelift. Both a compliment and an insult. It's sad because he does not win lane as much as DL so I kind of feel like I'm insulting DL by calling Cody a poor mans version of him. I really want to see Cody start separating this label on himself because it will follow him and begin to haunt him forever if he doesn't. Stunt- shrugs You tried your best. Unfortunately it wasn't good enough. Part of me thinks you were able to rally so easily last split because you knew your spot was guaranteed that split no matter how you played. It alleviated that pressure that you always had on you from previous teams and really allowed growth. Unfortunately a slow start this split and not being able to pick up where you left off came and bit you in the ass. Hopefully in the next team you join there is a chance for you to succeed. Good luck man. Golden Guardians- Clear upgrades and there is clearly a diamond in the rough here. Although I'm surprised at not keeping Golden glue for growth purposes. I really was hoping you would be one of the teams to keep the entire roster the same as last split. That way you get an actual full measure of your team. Ousting Goldenglue wasn't the bad, but it's kind of the same situation as Stunt where you really don't know if the team could have grown more from having a stable roster. Hauntzer- Every once in a while Haunzter makes some either really poor decisions or has really poor communication with his jungler. I'm not sure which one it is exactly. The TSM game sticks out to me as one of those times. Why didn't he ask Closer to come and help push the wave in with him when he was by Krugs?! Sometimes his wave management and trade timings are questionable and I'm so confused as to whether he is good or bad because sometimes it's immaculate. Another thing that's super filthy(in a good way) is how he uses vision at times and I wet myself from the big brain moments he can have. They are just ruined by him wearing his headband too tight in some games. Top half top laner, but I don't see Hauntzer pushing this team into the top 4 any time soon. Closer- This may sound like I'm insulting Closer here, but I think GG was under appreciated by him. There were a lot of small things that were done by him that Damonte does not do in terms of vision and positioning that really made Closer look good. Of course no one will care to look back now, but there were plenty of times last split where GG would die for Closer to clean things up and get the highlight, but that isn't happening as much this time around. Although I admit laning wise Damonte is an upgrade there is something to be said about the soft skills bringing up players as well on a team. Still a good jungler and worth the import slot, but I'm going to need a bit more in terms of carry performances here since overall this split has been underwhelming. Damonte- Definitely deserved a starting spot, too bad it's a rough start. I feel like there are too many times I have seen Damonte late to the play when going for a roam. Even when on something that should have priority. Or times when I see that him lose a trade and can't be as aggressive when heading towards objective fights since he made too many mistakes in trades. I need this to be cleaned up so that way the objective fights can actually start on even footing. Too many times this split I'm seeing Damonte walk to the dragon/baron with half health because of a bad trade he took right before it. The prime example of this is against TL where he eats a Jensen shockwave right before drag spawn. The team can't commit to a fight because of how low he is. Overall the lane was played well, but getting shoved out before objectives over and over was not fun to watch. FBI/Huhi- The weakest link of this team is here. There are some points where I see FBI and I'm thinking this guy is Uzi in secret. Then I see him just randomly misposition and I'm thinking "ThIs GuY iS uZi!" However a lot of that flies under the radar because Huhi has far more obvious mistakes. It's clear that Huhi is watching VODS on CoreJJ because it feels like he is lite version. From the way he positions himself to the timings he has for going for vision it all reminds me of Core. It's a good place to start for learning, except there he is still getting caught in crucial moments unlike Core. I think if we give Huhi enough time he will be amazing, but I don't know if GG will give him enough time since FBI seems to be ready right now in comparison. CLG - Already doing better than last split which is a great start. The only place for you guys to go in comparison to last split is up so I'm glad the fruits of your labor is starting to show. There are still major gaps that need to be filled. Ruin- I miss the ruin that played a different champion pretty much every game and showed he is skilled enough to do so. There is just something so deadly about a top laner with a vast champion pool that can reach in and grab a niche pick that his team needs or really abuse red side in some creative way. I was hoping to see a reurn of that version of Ruin. The top lane meta is far more open than people think and I'm just surprised in how underutilized his versatility is right now. If there is one improvement on this team I would want this more than anything. Wiggly- Alright I'm going to be honest. I didn't expect Wiggly to be good this split. I thought he would be replaced, especially after the perfect game for the season opener. However I have been pleasantly surprised. Synergy with Pob has not been bad at all pathing has been solid. Just a good middle of the pack jungler. I'm not expecting a hard carry performance out of Wiggly, but I have come to see him as a reliable jungler who knows what his role is in each game/team comp he is placed in. If he could fit a couple more hard carry performances in that would be really great to make the team more dynamic Pobelter- Funny how this guy couldn't find a team at the beginning of last split. Still the paragon of a great LCS mid. Whereas Hakuho/Apollo are the bar for LCS play I think of Pob as the bar for international play. You have to be at minimum as good as Pobelter to compete on the international stage. At least by NA standards. Still showing that the boomers still got it. Every once in a while a poor decision is made, but nothing that can't be smoothed out. Stixxay/Smoothie- Look which bot lane decided to remember things they were good at. Glad to see a bounce back to more stable form after the terrible showing from both of these guys last split. Smoothie has really started playing around vision well again and Stixxay has finally been positioning properly to take advantage of the opportunities handed to him. I actually would love to see a bit more roaming out of Smoothie. Lately it seems he is super attached at the hip to the lane, wheras when I think of the best of smoothie it is his random roams towards even the top side that I remember most. He seems to be on the same page with Wiggly more this split which has helped tremendously. FlyQuest- The addition of Solo has definitely made this team better than the spring split version. Mash is still up in the air if he improves the team overall, but the team is definitely in position to finish second again this split. Most of the mistakes on this team are very few and far between. Solo- Staying untiltable. The only criticism that has ever really been part of Solo from his career is how he can tilt and not be very good to work with when things are going poorly. I don't think his play is really anything that needs to be worried about. However I fully expect people to start taking away Sett from him at some point. Just been ridiculous on that champ both in and out of laning phase. It's like the champ was made for him in a way. Santorin- I used to be one of the harshest critics of Santorin. I always felt that he was never really the carry his team needed to be, but for the past few splits he has really been putting any haters down. Me included. The little invisible things like simply providing pressure and vision for Solo in top side so he doesn't just get ganked are just huge over sights into what he is able to provide. Most of the mistakes that I see stem from set up around pits during the mid-late game, but that is a team wide issue and not simply a Santorin thing. I imagine if this team is losing it is mostly going to be around the pit area for either drag or baron. PowerofEvil- If C9 did not exist he would be my ballot for MVP. He is just too valuable to what this team needs and has made adjustments in his play to accommodate different styles. The team lives and dies by how he and Santorin are playing. Wildturtle/Mash/Ignar= WT's willingness to play weakside should not be seen as a weakness, what should be seen as a weakness is giving him a winning match up and he doesn't push the advantage. That is a weakness and that is why I can understand why the team felt the need to step back from him a bit. Mash has been solid, but I don't think he has done anything that WT isn't capable of or hasn't shown he is capable of. Ignar has been great and is a top 3 support in the league most likely the 3rd best and ends up second best if CoreJJ is having an off day. Evil Geniuses- This is going to be a banger of a review #Live Evil. Kumo- If it wasn't for the last two games where he got demolished I would have been okay saying Kumo is the 4th best top laner in the league. I really liked the Volibear pick in Kumos hands, but teams seemed to have taken it away. I also really would like to see Kumo on a bit more Poppy. It just seems to work so well for him when he is on it and I don't know why EG seems to shy away from picking it for him when he is so good at executing on this champ. If he is able to force Poppy bans then mission accomplished. Pick it for him more often is all I'm asking for.( of course when it is more appropriate to do so) Svenskeren- #Live Evil. Svenskeren has been playing really well with Jizuke despite a couple int games here and there for him. I don't know what happened to picks like Xin disappearing for him, but definitely would like to see him on stuff like that again so he can take charge of some games. I appreciate that he has been able to maintain some form of agency despite the focus of the team not being around him at all. #Live Evil Jizuke- Definition of a coin flip player right here. You either get the guy who is able to TF ultimate into the perfect spot every time and the pull Misaya level bait and perfect game a solid team. Or you get the guy who is so tilted and ineffective he doesn't even want the extra damage that Kogmaw passive does because it will be useless. I wish I could tell him to change, but part of what makes him bad is also what makes him so great as well. You want a random play that just basically ends the game? This guy will do it. Just heads or tails as to whether it results in a win or not. Bang/Zeyzal- I'm a fan of this bot lane. I think Zeyzal is the weaker link in this duo, but not by a huge margin or the extent he is holding Bang back like he was held back in 100T. (Sorry Aphro). It's just the only bastion of consistency on this team of what feels like wild cards. When the ball has been passed to them to carry though they seem to handle it so easily. Team Liquid- The best top 3 team in the league right now. I'm not sure whether I should praise Jensen and CoreJJ for keeping this team together and squeaking out wins, but that's exactly what they both have been doing. Although it feels bad and looks bad. The wins column is adding up pretty nicely. Say what you want about their draft choices or the sloppy execution, but good teams find ways to win and despite what people may say this is a good team and likely is heading to worlds if they clean up the early game. Impact- There is a huge misconception that Impact is a tank player and I need it to stop. He is not a tank player. He is an independent type of player who knows when and how to group with his team at the right time so he can ahem have an impact on the game. The picks he is being given in Mordekaiser, Jayce, and Kennan are all proof of that. These are all champs that are able to handle themselves in isolation/side lanes and have great flanks or disrupt the team fight in different ways. He has been great this split and is highly undervalued in what he brings to this team. Broxah- The issue people have in how ugly TLs wins are because they have had to smite fight so often for their objectives lately. On top of that we are not seeing Broxah on picks like Elise or Lee Sin a whole lot either and those type of picks really do make him shine as compared to Trundle with his sick pillar play. Overall what we WANT to see out of him isn't what is needed out of him. He is doing exactly what his team needs and that is to support his solo laners as much as possible so that they can carry the games. If he is going to be playing this supportive style he plays a mean Ivern if I remember correctly. Jensen- I have a love hate relationship when it comes to Jensen. He is really good, but doesn't always back it up in the way we want him to. He still does Jensen things where he is almost always up in [email protected] by 11. It's just that TL early game as a team has been so ugly to watch that we miss the greatness of Jensen and his individual skill. My gripe with Jensen isn't individual talent. It is elevating the people around him to another level and that's where I see his contemporaries(Nisqy, PoE, Bjerg) simply be better at it than him. I'm of course not behind the scenes so I'm not sure what actually goes on behind the scenes, but that's just my perception. CoreJJ/Tactical- It's fair to say that Tactical slots into this team nicely, but it helps having one of the best support players in the world on your side while you come into your own. CoreJJ actually shifted the entire support meta when he showed you can start shrines with Bard and give your mid laner two shrines to start the game. In case people forget the shrines also give move speed so good luck out sustaining and landing hits during any trades early. After he did that almost every single support in NA has copied it. So yes he is still one of the best supports in the league. TSM - This is a good team. Not C9 levels of good, but still a good team. They have integrated Spica so seamlessly into the line up that I'm actually sad there was a split of mediocre Dardoch instead of giving the kid a chance earlier. Bjerg also seems to be on a mission to prove he is still the best as well. This team went from not having an existing early game to being one of the best early game teams in the league. The biggest flaw they have is that every once in a while they make a mistake that throws their lead away. This can't happen on the international level, but I'm all for you guys making as many mistakes now so you can patch it up as time passes. Brokenblade- Synergy with Spica has been nothing short of near excellent. Stats say he is the best top laner in the league right now, but until C9 falls I have to leave it in Licorices hands. Otherwise firmly the second best and it shuffles between Licorice, Ssumday and Impact for this top spot here right now. For improvement the only thing I think of is getting caught before objectives like drag. That's about one of the only noticeable flaws I see from my end. Team fighting and knowing when to sacrifice himself have been great. Almost no death with BB goes without meaning in someway or he simply won't die and reads ganks pretty well. I'm just hoping he gets better at protecting himself in the mid game lane swap. That tends to be the only time he really gets caught out for mid game mistakes. Spica- Look at this spicy kid here. What I'm most impressed by more than the raw mechanics is the ability to manipulate where he is in vision and being in the right place at the right time so often. Once or twice is luck, but when a player is at the right place so often it is just a skill that they have in reading the map and flow of the game. Along with the mechanics and the proper aggression shown the only improvements are things that come with time and experience in decision making, but that is what Bjerg is there for and boy has he lived up to that for the guys this split. Bjergsen- If C9 didn't exist Bjerg would be second in MVP voting behind PoE. Part of the reason I have PoE ahead is because somehow he has come up just a tiny bit more clutch than Bjerg the last few times they have matched up. There is just something so great about watching a great player do their thing and I definitely feel like that is what we are witnessing from Bjerg. Both the eye test and stats are showing he is no less than top three as a mid laner and if you still think he is the problem then God have mercy on your soul. Doublelift/Biofrost- You guys are good, but have had some questionable games along with some really hard pop off games as well. I'm excited to see if you they have a way to break C9's bot lane the way that CoreJJ broke down you guys at the beginning of the split. TLDR I watch too much league of legends. I'll do one for LEC tomorrow.
My Patreon page:http://www.patreon.com/hewholooksskyward Link to the Wiki page, with additional links to Clan information and background Lore. First I Previous I Next Chapter 24: Playing With Fire Will Get You Burned To the casual observer it looked like Rúna was just leaning against the bulkhead outside the cabin she shared with Maggie, when in fact she’d posted herself there as guard and protector. She wasn’t standing at Parade Rest or wearing a starched uniform...the Valkyries didn’t do “Spit and Polish”...but the deliberately nonchalant way her palm rested against her sidearm spoke volumes regarding her intent. Anyone trying to get past her was in for a really bad day. So far, no one had made the attempt. Gyrfalcon’s captain had stopped for a moment, considered his options, and moved on, while Samara the Protean shapeshifter had breezed past without bothering to slow down. The Avatar Alphad could get in without being spotted, but even he seemed to respect her privacy. Losing Diggs had shattered Maggie, and Rúna had no intention of letting anyone make things worse. Everyone was feeling it...during times like these the divisions between Clans and Factions suddenly seemed trivial. Humanity was the only tribe that mattered now, and as the ship made its way to Man’s ancient homeworld, those aboard her struggled to find some way to make sense of what had happened...with limited success. Which explained why the redheaded corporal raised a questioning eyebrow as Blye and the engineer Mairead approached, the latter looking smudged and disheveled. “Whatever you’re thinking, the answer is ‘No’,” she drawled, shifting her weight to the balls of her feet, a move the Knight recognized and filed away for future reference. “Just hear me out,” the Chevalier petitioned, her palms raised to show she wasn’t a threat. “Maggie being alone is a terrible idea.” “It’s what she wants,” Rúna replied. “Hell, after what happened it’s what she needs.” “I disagree,” she answered, putting down her hands. “Right now she’s blaming herself. You do that long enough and it becomes this dark emotional whirlpool, sucking you down. She needs to get her feet back under her, as soon as possible.” The Valkyrie took a moment to consider that and shrugged. “Suppose I agree with you. It won’t make a difference...at the moment she’s in no mood to listen.” “Not to you or me maybe, but I’m betting she’ll listen to her,” Blye explained, jerking her thumb at the engineer. Rúna shifted her gaze. “So what’s your pitch?” she asked. “The thing you gotta understand about us Tinkers is we only feel fulfilled when we’re covered in grease,” Mairead told her. “Put a wrench in her hand, give her a diagnostic to run, and she’ll be back on familiar ground.” Scratching her chin, Rúna mulled that one over. “Don’t think she won’t see right through any busy work you come up with,” she said at last. “She’s no fool.” “Busy work? Ha!” The Tinker barked out a caustic laugh. “Do you have any idea the stress a Crazy Ivan puts on ship systems? There’s a damn good reason nobody does them. I’ve got my hands full inspecting this tub from bow to stern, and I need her.” The corporal nodded. “All right...give it your best shot. But if you’re standing there,” she continued, pointing at Blye, “she’s gonna smell a rat.” “...I’m already gone,” the Chevalier said over her shoulder, retreating into the corridor and out of sight. She waited a few more beats just to be safe, then asked the engineer, “You ready?” “Let’s do it,” Mairead grunted, as Rúna knocked on the hatch. It took three tries before it opened. “...I said leave me alone,” Maggie barked, glaring at them both as she poked her head out. The Valkyrie managed to avoid shaking her head in dismay as she gazed at her cabin mate. She looked like hell; her eyes puffy and cheeks tear-stained, clothing disheveled and hair in tangles. She doubted the older woman had gotten much sleep either, and she knew for a fact she hadn’t eaten in hours. Blye was right, they had to do something. “Yeah, but this is important.” Nudging Mairead, she jerked her head at Maggie. “Tell her.” “I need you,” the engineer said without preamble. “After that fancy flying the Cap’n put this ship through, she’s in rough shape.” Her shoulders drooped...she wasn’t quite to the point of exhaustion, but her color wasn’t great, and she seemed unsteady on her feet. “You said I should ask if I needed help. Well...I’m asking.” Maggie blinked, surprised by her request. “How bad is it?” she asked. She snorted, shaking her head. “Multiple stress fractures on the hull, engines badly out of alignment, and getting worse, plus I’ve got diagnostics to run on every system. It’s bad. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.” Wincing as Mairead ran down her list, she knew by long experience those were just the highlights. Even as the captain performed his maneuver, she’d known there’d be a cost, but after Freya… Her mind skittered away from that thought. She could even bring herself to say his name, let alone imagine what his last few moments must have been like. Blye was right, she should have kept him at her side. If she had...he’d still be alive. The Siren’s call to madness was strong, luring her to treacherous reefs. She was just so tired...tired of struggling, tired of fighting a losing battle, tired of everything. It would be so easy to embrace oblivion’s sweet song of surrender. To finally just rest. The only thing stopping her from closing her eyes and giving up was a lifetime of stubbornness, refusing to knuckle under or bow down. She’d never quit anything in her life, and the thought of starting now, no matter how tempting the circumstance, stuck in her craw. When the Grim Reaper came calling, she had no intention of going peaceably, and the thought of just giving up now pissed her off. “Where do you want me to start?” she said at last, bowing to the inevitable. “With the engines,” came her reply. “I’m going EVA to deal with the fractures, so they’re next in line.” “Yeah, sure,” she mumbled. “I’ll get right on it, soon as the captain shuts down the drive.” “Fraid not,” the engineer replied. “He says we need at least another two days’ travel before he’ll even consider it, with the Aggaaddub armada still being out there.” Maggie stared at her. “A hot repair, while we’re underway? Does he want to die?” She growled, rolling up her sleeves. “I’ll straighten this out...” “Don’t bother,” Mairead informed her, putting her hand out to block her passage. “Once he’s decided, that’s it. He won’t budge.” “He damn well better, unless he wants to blow up his precious ship!” she snapped. “You don’t think I made the same argument?” the younger woman fired back. “He knows the risk...he’s just convinced it’s less chancy than the alternative. Hell, there’s a good chance he’s right.” The Tinker was fully prepared to argue that point until the stars ran cold, but something made her pause. Maggie was no tactical genius: she knew machines, not strategy. Maybe she needed to trust him a little...despite her misgivings. “All right. All right!” she shouted, throwing up her hands. “I’ll do what I can, but I ain’t promisin’ miracles.” “No one’s asking for any...not yet, at least,” Mairead replied. “You need me, I’ll be on the EVA channel.” She turned and left, leaving Maggie to gnash her teeth in frustration. What she was asking was dangerous, and she wasn’t looking forward to it, but she also had a point about putting as much distance as possible between them and the alien fleet. Muttering about it being above her paygrade, she retrieved her tools and headed for engineering. She passed by Isi, who gave her a friendly nod, and the Dharmist Genvass, who ignored her completely. Any other day she might try to patch things up between them, only she had enough on her plate already. Dragging her toolkit behind, she arrived in Engineering, and even before she ran a single analysis she knew the engines were in bad trouble. The rising and falling pitch of the drive shouted that the system was becoming unstable; unless she could shunt off the excess energy, it would continue to feed on itself, gathering force until it could no longer be contained. When that happened… Damn it woman, quit stallin’ and fix this damn thing before it goes nova, she berated herself, breaking out her tools and getting to work. Under normal circumstances she’d shut down the drive and bleed off the extra juice in increments, but since that option was off the table she’d have to do it the quick, dirty, and bloody deadly way. The first step was setting up the correct pathways once she’d run a diagnostic. That was simplicity itself; they’d designed the engines to dump excess power in emergency situations, though it was assumed they’d be deactivated first. The second step was where things started getting hairy. To discharge the buildup, she needed to speed up the process, converting the raw energy into Gamma and X-rays before blasting it into space. The shielding she had to work with was just barely adequate for the task...one miscalculation and they’d never see Earth. Getting ready to “Tickle the Dragon”, as the procedure was known by the Tinkers crazy enough to attempt it, Maggie tapped into the EVA circuit and hailed Mairead. “You got a safe place to hunker down out there?” she asked her. “Are you kidding me?” she shot back. “Gimme ten minutes to get back inside.” “Better hurry,” the Tinker cautioned, “I’m really not likin’ the numbers I’m seein’ here.” So far she’d contained the energy buildup, but it was edging closer to the system’s limits, and she wouldn’t be able to hold it off much longer. It was closer to eight minutes when she got the call. “I’m in,” Mairead told her. That was all she needed to hear. “Cross your fingers,” she said, half in prayer...and closed the circuit. The ship screamed in protest as it spewed out a massive blast of deadly radiation, hot enough to fry an unprotected human. Even a thick wall of lead would do little to stem the blistering tide of X-rays, but as Maggie watched the telltales, she’d been monitoring began easing back from the danger zone, down to more tolerable levels. Bit by bit the engines’ power output abated, the wild fluctuations tearing them apart receding to a more stable rhythm. She realized she’d been holding her breath as the numbers continued to fall, letting out a shaky exhale as she wiped the sweat from her brow with her sleeve. It looked like they wouldn’t be exploding today after all. It took almost half an hour to drain enough energy that she felt sanguine about shutting it down. They’d still need to monitor the drive to make sure the levels didn’t start building once more, but caught early it was a straightforward procedure. It had only been the captain’s last-ditch tactic that had driven the entire system to the breaking point. Mairead appeared at her elbow, still clad in her EVA suit, her helmet tucked under her arm. “How’s it looking?” “It’s stabilizin’,” Maggie answered. “She’ll still need tearin’ apart sometime soon, but she’ll hold for now.” “Thank Mother Terra,” the engineer said in relief. “Soon as the radiation dies down, I’ll head back out, but in the meantime if you could get started on the diagnostics, it’d be appreciated. Priority and checklist are in the mainframe.” “Need to swap out a couple boards first,” Maggie replied, bringing up a schematic, the affected subsystems highlighted in bright crimson on the display. “Have any in Stores, or do I gotta improvise?” “We should,” she said after studying the readout. “Might have to dig around for ‘em though.” “This ain’t my first dance,” Maggie snorted, “I’ll find ‘em.” With a nod, she left the Engineering section and headed for the storage hold, taking a moment to study the layout on her arrival. You couldn’t just throw spare parts in a crate if you ever hoped to find them again, and there were certain items that couldn’t be stored in the same vicinity, so over the years a standard blueprint had evolved, designed to maximize space and accessibility. Every Tinker had their own quirks and preferences for storage, but the overall model rarely varied. Within a couple of minutes she’d narrowed down her search to one remote corner of the hold and began rooting around. She paused in front of a storage bin, grimacing as she spotted a scattering of crumbs and a gnawed food wrapper. Rats, she thought to herself, wrinkling her nose. They’d hitched a ride on Man’s spacecraft just as they had on his sailing ships back on Earth. They were all but impossible to eradicate; even when you exposed the affected sections to vacuum, a few always survived. They weren’t the worst opportunistic scavengers out there...the Limodrian Blood Weevil was particularly nasty...but as someone who’d often sheltered in rough and ragged places, she had a deep-seated hatred of the pests. Maggie made a mental note to speak with Remi on the subject, when a rustling sound nearby caught her attention. Her lip curled as she lifted a pipe wrench from its place on the wall. Given her current state of mind, a little rat killing was just what the doctor ordered. Her knuckles whitened as she gripped the heavy tool’s handle, waiting for the varmint to move again and give away its location. Her patience was soon rewarded with a faint scraping, allowing her to zero in on the target, a nearby chest with a hinged lid. Must have chewed its way in, she mused, setting her feet wide as she raised the wrench high. She’d have to time it just right, flinging the lid open while bringing down the heavy metal spanner. Maggie gave herself a mental count of three, taking a deep breath before exploding into action as she heaved the lid back and swung the improvised weapon down… “...Diggs?” she screeched in shock, only just averting braining him at the last second. The boy’s eyes went wide as he saw the wrench, ducking out of the way in terror. The metal tool clattered to the deck as she fell to her knees and grabbed him, hugging him tight enough to make him squirm in discomfort. “Oh my God, Diggs,” she blubbered, “...I thought you were dead!” Tears filled her eyes as she held him close, until his struggles forced her to release him, drawing back to gaze at him in disbelief as she held his shoulders. A brief glance past him to his hiding spot showed a cozy nest, complete with smuggled blanket and food. “...how…?” Diggs slapped her across the face. Hard. It was several heartbeats before the pain registered, as his hand came up again. Smack. The blow rocked Maggie’s head, more to surprise than actual force, only to be slapped yet again as her brain struggled to keep up. On the fourth swing she intercepted his arm, pinning them both against his torso as she hugged him once more. “I’m sorry!” she sobbed, bawling her eyes out...as Diggs began weeping as well. First I Previous I Next
Day One Here Day Two Here JULY 3RD A FEW HOURS AFTER MIDNIGHT The night fighting on Culp’s Hill was slow and torturous. The Confederate assault from Johnson’s division had to cross rough terrain and a river before it even started going uphill, which at night was an incredibly miserable task even without Union troops firing at them. Union skirmishers played hell with their progress, and after brushing them aside, Johnson bumped into a defensive line that his Union counterpart Geary had spent all day perfecting. As mentioned yesterday, their only success was to grab tiny footholds on the Union side of Rock Creek, which ran between the two hills. As the fighting died away and the bone weary soldiers on both sides crashed asleep hard, Lee plotted. He smelled blood; on July 1st, they’d carved up the Union men good and drove them from the field. Yesterday, on the Union left, they’d wrecked a Union corps under Sickles, smashed into the Union center and almost broke it (damn those blue belly reinforcements showing up in the knick of time), and even gained a toehold on the Union right. The men’s morale was high. Lee decided to repeat yesterday’s plan, but better executed. Simultaneous attacks on both flanks should overwhelm them, and J.E.B. Stuart could make it up to all of them by chasing down the shattered Army of the Potomac to scoop up all the heavy guns and supplies and wounded that could not retreat rapidly. To which end, Lee sent Stuart on a super wide flanking attack around the Union right so as to be in position to strike at the right moment. Lee generated the orders in written form and sent them off by messenger to his corps commanders. Meanwhile, Meade had another war council face to face with his generals. They decided to stand pat, to neither attack the Confederate positions nor retreat back towards Washington. The terrain massively favored them and Lee would (more likely than not) walk into their gunsights again. A defensive stance, however, doesn’t mean pure passivity. A few hours after the Confederate assault petered out and Lee’s decision was made, the Union started a counterattack on a small scale. ———————————————————————— DAWN At dawn, the Union right flared up. Fresh troops had marched in overnight and Meade wanted his damn hill back. The extreme end of the Confederate left flank (which is of course opposite the Union right) found itself getting hammered in front of Culp’s Hill by artillery from the Baltimore Pike. Clearly, such a bombardment was meant to be followed up with an assault to retake the bridgehead. Johnson, having received his orders from Lee and being under the impression that Longstreet was attacking in tandem a mile and a half away on the other side of the hills, attacked Culp’s Hill again before the Union could attack him first. The plan was what the plan was; pressure here, successful or not, was needed for someone to break through somewhere. But Longstreet wasn’t attacking. Later on, Longstreet would claim to have never received the order to advance, but the sources I have assert this is untrue- he received the order, he just didn’t do anything about it. Instead of spending the night getting his troops on line to attack Little Round Top and the southern chunk of Cemetery Ridge, he just sat tight and did nothing. Oceans of ink have been spilled over the years speculating as to why. The Lost Cause narrative asserts that Longstreet was a Yankee-loving turncoat who deliberately sabotaged Lee’s plan and lost the battle on purpose. Others think that Longstreet's conviction that attacking here was insane and that they should fall back and look for battle somewhere else on more favorable terms had been strengthened by the results of July 2nd, and as such was dragging his heels trying to not attack again. Or maybe it was just the general haze of Civil War era incompetence taking its toll again. ———————————————————————— MORNING As Johnson’s men gamely attacked the untakeable Culp’s Hill and were cut down by accurate rifle fire and close range cannon fire, Lee hunted down Longstreet to demand an explanation for his borderline insubordinate refusal to attack. Longstreet pitched his idea again. He’d spent all night scouting the Union line. The enemy line was unbreakable. They shouldn’t try to attack them here. They should slip around the Union left, south of Big Round Top, to threaten the Union supply lines. Do that, they would make the Union respond to them, fight them on more equal terms. That’s the plan Longstreet had been preparing for all night, not a suicidal- Lee cut him off with a raised fist. There would be no tricky maneuver around the flank. They would assault the Union line under the present conditions. To the north, Johnson was still getting his teeth kicked in. Lee sent orders to call off the assault, but it would take a while for the messenger to get there and for Johnson to get word to his brigades to stand down and fall back. Meanwhile, across the way on Cemetery Ridge, Meade stalked his line, double checking all the positions for any confusions or errors to correct, emitting confidence and good cheer. Lee scoped out the Union center personally, being in the area anyway. His complex double flanking maneuver wasn't working. A new plan was needed. Lee figured that Meade had reinforced Little Round Top and the surrounding area yesterday, and that those troops hadn’t gone anywhere since. The Union defense at Culp’s Hill has been similarly fierce that morning, fierce enough to threaten Johnson with an offensive. If both flanks were strong... the center must be weak. Yesterday, a small Confederate brigade had crossed the Emmitsburg road under fire and smashed into the Union line on Cemetery Ridge, just south of Cemetery Hill. They had straight up routed the enemy- had there been more men available to back them up and follow through, that small brigade might have won the battle outright instead of being pushed back as they’d been. Lee was satisfied. The Union center was brittle, undermanned, and the best point to hit it was at that same place. Meanwhile, J.E.B. Stuart was stepping off on his flanking ride. ———————————————————————— LATE MORNING Johnson’s last big push up Culp’s Hill was heroic. By that time, all of them knew how strong the Union position was. They surely walked into this with their eyes open. A three brigade front set up for a shock attack, backed up by four more to exploit the hoped-for opening. Among them was the famous Stonewall Brigade, Jackson's old unit that he’d raised up and trained personally before being tapped for higher command. The Stonewall Brigade was, arguably, the elite of the Confederate army. The year before, they’d outmaneuvered and outfought a Union stab at Richmond coming through the Shenandoah valley. The charge was cut down and butchered like all the others, and Johnson fell back. Williams, whose batteries on the Baltimore Pike had kicked things off that morning, got a little overexcited and counterattacked without orders. His orders to attack the Confederate flank left his subordinates sickened with dread, but were obeyed nonetheless. Once the Union counterattack was butchered in retaliation by the entrenched Confederates, combat on the Union right ceased after six straight hours of gory, hopeless combat. Meanwhile, Confederate artillery under the command of Colonel Alexander set itself up on a mile wide front, all carefully sited and positioned both for protection and for good lines of sight on the Union center. A brief but fierce artillery duel kicked off as each side tried to knock out the other’s firing points before the big moment, but was soon cut off to preserve ammo. Lee mustered his available forces, bringing in troops that were only now straggling in and combining them with some units that had fought the day before. It was a haphazard and frankly half-assed piece of staff work- veteran units who hadn’t fought at all in the last two days were left in reserve, while exhausted troops who’d already suffered 50% casualties were included. Many of the brigades who were to charge Cemetery Ridge had green colonels in charge because their generals had been killed or wounded the day before. The gap between the northern half of the assaulting force and the southern half was four football fields long, and nobody seemed to notice or care. The division commander to lead the north side of the assault, General Pettigrew, was selected not for any rational consideration or advantage, but because he happened to be standing nearby when the decision was being made. Longstreet, who by this point wanted nothing to do with any of it, was placed in overall command. It took a few hours to organize this clusterfuck into something resembling a coherent unit- three divisions spread over a mile wide front, with Pickett on the left, Pettigrew on the right, and Trimble behind them to provide some depth to the big push. There is no particularly good reason why the upcoming Pickett’s Charge is known as “Pickett’s Charge”. Pickett was not actually in charge of it, or even in charge of most of it. He was a division commander who had never seen proper combat before- in every battle since 1861, his unit had been held in reserve or absent. This was to be his first chance to get in this war. I suspect it’s known as Pickett’s Charge because he and his men were Virginians, and it was fellow Virginians who would pour over the battle to find out why the wrong side won. Accordingly, they conceived of it as being a Virginian affair, overshadowing the Tennesseans, Alabamans, North Carolinians, and Mississippians who formed the other two-thirds of the attack. I was surprised to learn that we have a hard time figuring out how many men were actually involved in Pickett’s Charge (this being a basic narrative history, I am sticking with the common name for it despite the inaccuracy); I attribute this to the confusion involved in organizing it. I’ve heard as low as 12,500 men and as high as 15,000. I’m going with 14,000 men because it’s a nice even number that is approximately midway between the upper and lower limit, so don’t mistake my choice as being accurate or even evidence-based per se. Regardless, the agreed upon number of Union defenders is 6,500. The Confederates would outnumber the Union by about 2-1 or greater at the point of contact. These days, a lot of people show up at the battlefield and stare out from Cemetery Ridge at Spangler Woods where Pettigrew would have emerged from (or stand in Spangler’s Woods and stare out at Cemetery Ridge, same difference) and wonder what the hell was going through Lee’s head. The ground there is now flat and devoid of cover, the exact kind of terrain that time and time again had proven to be a death sentence for infantry assaults. The answer is that the ground changed between 1863 and today. Just before World War One ended in 1918, the field over which Pickett charged was artificially flattened for tank training. Before that, it was the kind of rolling terrain that Buford’s skirmishers had exploited on day one- an observer from a distance would see the troops disappear and reappear as they went over and down each gentle slope. The 14,000 attackers would have some cover as they advanced- not perfect terrain to keep immune from artillery and bullets, but not explicit suicide either. ———————————————————————— EARLY AFTERNOON By 1 PM, Alexander had his guns set up the way he liked them. What followed at his command was the single largest coordinated artillery mission that the Western Hemisphere had ever seen. In the south, cannons at the Peach Orchard suppressed the Union firing point on Little Round Top. All along Seminary Ridge from whence the charge would spring, cannons lined up practically wheel to wheel for a mile, aimed at wrecking Cemetery Ridge. Longstreet was in what you might call a high stress kind of mood. He was having second, third, fourth, and fifth thoughts about attacking, but orders were orders and he was in charge of this damned charge. As the guns began their bombardment, Longstreet did something that frankly goes beyond the pale of any command decision I’ve ever heard of. The film Gettysburg and the novel it’s based on cast Longstreet in a very sympathetic light, as a kind of deliberate pushback against the reductive myth that Longstreet was personally responsible for losing the battle and by extension the war, leaving Lee off the hook to stay firmly in the saintly canon of the Lost Cause. But here, Longstreet indisputably abdicates any pretense of the responsibility of command. He fired an order off to Colonel Alexander, telling him:
If the artillery fire does not have the effect to drive off the enemy, or greatly demoralize him, so as to make our effort pretty certain, I would prefer that you should not advise General Pickett to make the charge. I shall . . . expect you to let General Pickett know when the moment offers.
Allow me to reiterate in case you were reading this on autopilot. Longstreet, the man in charge of the whole offensive, was telling a lowly artillery colonel that the decision when and if to attack was on him and no one else. Alexander was a subject matter expert on artillery and not infantry for a reason. This order hit him from out of left field. He wrote back for clarification, and the professional in him mentioned that since the plan is to use every single artillery shell they can spare, if there is any alternative plan to charging Cemetery Hill at the end of the bombardment then they’d better tell him before he runs out of ammo. And Longstreet reiterated his first order. He told Alexander to advise General Pickett whether or not to attack. And with that on his shoulders, Alexander gave the order to open fire. All told, somewhere between 150 and 170 guns opened up at the same moment. The 75 Union cannons they had on hand briefly engaged in counter-battery fire, before being ordered to go quiet and save ammunition for the infantry assault to come. For about an hour, the Union troops just had to sit still and take what the Rebel had to give them. What Lee was doing was classic Napoleonic tactics. Massing artillery against the weakest point on the enemy line was literally by the book soldiering. The problem, as was noted here before, was that technology had changed. Napoleonic could bring his cannon close to the frontline with the reasonable expectation that they wouldn’t be shot, since smoothbore muskets are basically harmless from 200 yards away. But that was no longer the case. The long stand off distance that the enemy rifles dictated meant that the cannonfire was proportionally less accurate and devastating. The smoke covering the field concealed the truth from the Confederates- their artillery fire was off. Most of the shells flew high overhead and exploded behind Cemetery Ridge. Some shells hit the target area- Union men did die screaming by the score. But the positions on Cemetery Hill were only lightly damaged, and the units manning them were intact and cohesive. Most of the damage done was to the rear echelon types- surgeons, supply wagoneers, staff officers, that kind of thing. Such men were massacred as the shells aimed at men a quarter mile away arced over and found marks elsewhere. Meade, of course, was on hand, showing a brave face and cracking some jokes about a similar moment in the Mexican-American War 15 years back. Throughout the hour, as his line endured the steel hailstorm, Meade’s engineer mind was working. He’d already suspected that Lee was about to hit his center- he’d predicted as much the night before- and now the shot placements confirmed it. He was already ordering troops into position, getting ready to reinforce the line on Cemetery Ridge if needed. He hedged his bets, putting them in a position to relieve Cemetery Hill as well, just in case. Little Round Top became somewhat less defended as men marched out, using the high ground to mask their redeployment. Irresponsible and insubordinate though Longstreet was at that moment, he was right. Lee’s improvised plan had already failed, though it hadn’t happened yet. Pickett’s Charge wasn’t going to slam into a fragmented and demoralized Union line. It was heading into a mile long, mile wide kill zone backed up by a defence in depth. ———————————————————————— Pickett’s Charge Confederates were getting mangled before the charge even started. Union artillery fire reached out and touched out them in Spangler’s Woods, rolling solid iron shot and explosive shells into their huddled ranks. Longstreet rode the line, exposing himself to the artillery fire to set an example of courage. The men didn’t need such an example- or rather, they’ve seen such examples in a dozen battles over the last two years and have already learned valor as a second language- but there’s something to be said for showing the groundpounders that their boss is in the wrong end of the shooting gallery the same way that they are. Just before 2 p.m., Alexander decided if it’s gonna happen, it’d have to be now. He needed at least a small reserve of shells to function after the battle and he’s running out fast. He dashed off a note to Pickett telling him to step off. In keeping with the standard of Confederate comms thus far, Pickett then took Alexander’s note to Longstreet in person for confirmation, because nobody had told him that Longstreet was trying to dodge the responsibility of command. Longstreet was desperate for an out, and in one crazed leap of illogic he thought he found one. Alexander was low on shells, with only a tiny reserve of ammunition left over for self-defense! Longstreet issued orders to halt in place and delay some more, so that they could replenish their ammo chests from their strategic reserves. I really feel for Alexander, man. I've had bosses like that too. Alexander had to break the news to Longstreet that there was no strategic reserve, he already told him, they were shooting every round they got. Longstreet was shocked- apparently nobody on Lee's staff had been paying attention to how fast they'd been burning through their artillery rounds. (Meade's staff paid attention to such banal details- that's why they now had tons of ammunition standing by their guns on Cemetery Ridge, patiently waiting for something valuable to shoot at). Even then, Longstreet couldn’t bring himself to actually say the words to order the attack. He just nodded, mute and numb. At 2 p.m., the attack started. 14,000 men rose up and walked forward, a giant line of infantry one mile across. In lieu of specific instructions about where they were going and how to get there, the order was to aim for a copse of trees on the objective- an easy visual marker that was easy to remember. As long as you kept the trees in sight and kept moving forward, you were right. (Miles and miles away, J.E.B. Stuart’s flanking maneuver was being countered by an equal force of Union cavalry. Their clash had one of the few cavalry-on-cavalry battles of the Civil War; fun fact, this was one of the fights that put Custer’s career on the map, until getting killed off by the Cheyenne at Little Big Horn 13 years later. The battle was intense, but a draw; Stuart couldn’t break through. Even if Pickett’s Charge worked, there’d have been no way to follow up and finish Meade off for good. Lee’s plan was well and truly fucked.) Things immediately stopped being clean and neat, as per the usual. The center of Pickett’s Charge sprang up and walked before the flanks did, but the brigades on the south and the north of them set off late, leading to a kind of droopy effect where the center bulged out unsupported. When the Union soldiers manning Cemetery Ridge saw the Confederate advance begin, they began to chant “Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!” Just a little “fuck you” from one set of veterans to another; at Fredericksburg eight months before, Union General Burnside had ordered several such suicidal attacks on prepared defenses which the Confederates had gleefully blasted into chunky salsa. 70 odd guns opened up on them all. To give a sense of the skill involved, the artilleryman in charge of the Union guns, Colonel Hunt, had written the book on artillery- literally, because his work Instructions for Field Artillery was the go-to manual for the US Army- and at West Point had personally taught most of the Confederate artillery officers across the way everything they knew about the big guns. One must not mistake this as just plopping down the cannons and pointing them in the right direction. Hunt was an artist with his weapon systems, and the pattern of explosions that snaked into the advancing infantry had been painstakingly designed by a master craftsman. At the distance of a mile, it was iron shot and shell that carved bloody little holes into the line. The Confederates took the beating, closed ranks, and pushed on. On the south, the cannons on Little Round Top delivered particularly hideous effects from the flank, driving their line into disorder; some brigades cut in front of other brigades, and what should have been a line became a muddled column. On the north, a brigade under General Brockenbrough bumped into a small detachment of 160 Union men who were jutting out north of the road. The Union men fired a small but devastating volley that raked them from the side and broke their nerves. Brockenbrough’s men ran- the first to break, but not the last. Similar small detachments of skirmishers dotted No Man’s Land between the armies. Between their vicious little ambushes and the massive shock of massed artillery, Pickett’s Charge slowed down. Slowing down just left them in the kill zone for that much longer. When Pickett’s Charge reached the Emmitsburg Road, they were further delayed by the stiff fencing that lined it. As they clambered over it, Union infantry opened fire at long range. The casualties skyrocketed as the Confederate line absorbed the fire. If you want to know what it was like under fire, picture the start of a rainstorm. The water droplets go taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap... that's how the survivors described the musketry that pelted the fence they were trying to climb over. One small contingent of Davis’ brigade (you recall how roughly they were manhandled on July the 1st) accidentally got ahead of everybody else and found itself standing right in front of the Union line all alone. The guys closest to the Union defenses surrendered as one; the rest got shot up bad and ran for their lives. Pickett’s Charge was pure chaos by then- their mile wide front that had surged forth from Spangler’s Wood had shrunk down to about a half mile, partly from taking casualties, partly from brigades running away after the shock of massed fire, and partly from bridges shifting north away from flanking fire from their right side. From the fence line on the Emmitsburg to the stone wall that protected the Union defense was about two hundred yards. This is a long shot for a rifle, especially under pressure- that’s the whole point to volley fire, so that everybody shooting at once will create a sort of probability cloud of danger even at long range. Some Confederates, desperate to hit back after enduring hell, shot anyway. Their fire was ineffective. It is a very, very short shot for an artillery piece, even under pressure. A battery of cannons placed just behind the Union line switched to canister and blasted massive bloody holes in the bunched up Confederates. A lot of Confederates huddled up behind the fencing and stayed put. It is marginally safer than moving two feet forward past the wooden railings, and the spirit had been knocked out of them by the mile long charge and the mile long shooting gallery they’d been subjected to. The left side of the attack had been stopped dead and turned back; the right side pushed on, disregarding any thought but closing distance. 1,500 men blitzed those last 200 yards to the stone wall Scores of them died from rifle fire as the cannons reloaded. The surviving Confederates, running on pure adrenaline, reached the stone wall at a place called the Bloody Angle. The Union line was disjointed, with the Northern section slightly back from the southern section. The Angle was the little joint that connected the two walls; it was also right by the copse of trees that everybody was racing towards. A fierce firefight broke out once the Confederates reached the wall. Most of them stayed behind the wall; like their buddies to the west still behind the fence on the Emmitsburg pike, they’d finally found a few square feet that was sorta kinda safe, and every instinct they had in their brains screamed at them to stay there. The Union troops were outnumbered at the point of impact, and backed off in good order. Reserve regiments were already marching up to plug the gap that didn’t exist yet. Units north and south of the Bloody Angle shifted in place to fire at the beachhead. Behind the Confederates on the Angle, there was a small ocean of blood on the ground and a mile long procession of silent, mangled dead and writhing, screaming wounded... but no follow on reinforcements to help exploit the breakthrough. General Armistead, the only Confederate General there still on his feet, still believed in all that chivalrous Walter Scott romantic nonsense, still thought that raw valor and heart could somehow beat a superior enemy. He stuck his hat on his sword as a makeshift battle flag and rallied his men to leave the safety of the Bloody Angle and close distance. Just as the pitifully few Confederates got on the east side of the wall, the cannons shot canister again and puked metal death all over them. After shooting, the artillerymen ran back to safety before the rebels could stagger up to them. Hundreds of men surged forward by inertia; hundreds out of the 14,000 that they’d started with. They drove off the understrength Union regiments with the bayonet and capture those hated big guns, turning them around to use against the inevitable counterattack. This failed; there was no more ammo left for the guns. Colonel Hunt had measured out the number of rounds needed for the job at hand with the utmost precision. The counterattack was messy and bloody for everybody involved, for the brawl saw everything available used as a weapon- bullets, bayonets, rifle butts, pistols, knives, rocks, boot heels, bare hands. But the Confederates all just dissolved after a short while. Nobody ordered a retreat; nobody was alive and of sufficient rank to order a retreat. Thousands just plopped down where they stood and waited for Union men to come out and collect them. They were too numb and exhausted to walk anymore. Others streamed back to safety in ones and twos. For every Confederate who died, four more were maimed and crippled. For every wounded man, another was taken prisoner. It was an unmitigated disaster for the Confederate cause, and correspondingly it was a triumph of humanity as the stalwart defenders of the slave plantations died in droves. Remember, like I said, we’re rooting for the Union. The battle wasn’t over, not really. Not was the campaign. But it certainly was decided. ———————————————————————— RIGHT SO Interestingly, at first it was kind of ambiguous who won. Meade got fired from the job after Lee got the Army of Northern Virginia home intact. Lincoln was seething that Meade hadn’t shown some aggression and had failed to destroy Lee’s army as he had been ordered. Meade, however, didn’t have much of an army at that point, just a diverse collection of units that had suffered 50% casualties and were in no condition to do anything. Moreover, there had been no way to bring the retreating Lee to battle without taking a lot of risks that might see all the good done at Gettysburg undone. Still though. Meade was out, and Grant, riding high after his conquest of Vicksburg, was in. Lee initially claimed victory in the Richmond papers, and it was hard to gainsay him at first. He had indisputably invaded north and thrashed the living shit out of the Army of the Potomac so bad that they could not invade again in 1863, which was indeed partly the point of the strategy. But soon the facts of life made themselves clear. Lee had holes in his ranks that simply could not be filled anymore. Southerners didn’t want to die in a losing war, and coercing in them into the ranks through State violence only gave him shitty recruits who would desert the second they were put on guard duty. In contrast, tens of thousands of men poured into training depots across the nation, all armed and clothed and fed by the grandest industrial base in the world. Thousands of experienced veterans re-upped their contracts in Gettysberg’s wake to become these new recruits’ NCOs and commanding officers. Lee has gone north to break the will of the Union to continue the fight. Gettysburg had, if anything, demoralized the Confederacy and reinvigorated the Union instead. I do not believe that Gettysburg started this trend, but I do think it sped it up significantly. Patterns that might have taken a year to come to fruition instead took months. Gettysburg, in my opinion, is significant not because of any great gains or losses on the material level, but because of its effects on the minds of voters and soldiers and politicians in the North and the South. To crib C. S. Lewis really quick, what matters was not whether a given action would take a specific hill, or seize a certain road; what matters is whether a given action pushes people to either dig their heels in and seek victory at any personal cost, or whether it pushes them to back down and seek a safer compromise. Gettysburg pushed all of the American people in the directions they were already heading down, that’s all. Any conclusion beyond that is on shaky ground, I feel. Having said that, I shall now irrationally contradict myself; Gettysburg can also act as a Rorschach test with symbols and images and stories in lieu of the ink blots. Like I said, it’s a place of religious significance to me to an extent far beyond appreciation for its historic value. I just don’t think it’s possible for that many people to die in such a short period of time, in so compact an area, and with such blunt contempt for the foreseen probability of violent death, and not leave an indelible and ineffable mark on the land itself. Like, if humanity went extinct and Earth got colonized by Betelgeusians a hundred years after, I am certain that the aliens would somehow feel a chill in their exoskeletons when they walk over the soft leaves and through the bare trees of Herbst Wood, or tromp around the south side of Little Round Top, or poke about on the steep slope of Culp's Hill, or splash across the Plum River in the Valley of Death. I’m not saying I’m right, of course. But I am saying how I feel.
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