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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. was given that name to indicate that it was the best e-mail service, and, 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 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 "" 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… 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.
to nonsensical
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.

Keep smiling.
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:
  1. Celebrate your own health. We take health for granted.
  2. 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.
  3. Tell yourself you look HOT, because you do.
  4. Believe in your ability to make good choices today and every day.
  5. 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 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:
  1. 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

Dog treats

Lavender pepper
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!!
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I Read It So You Don't Have To: Secrets of the Southern Belle (by Phaedra Parks)

I hope the past few days have been restful and rejuvenating for you all, but -- as I'm sure you must have learned by this point -- the journey to personal betterment is an eternal endeavor. We haven't got a moment to waste, so let's bid adieu to the sunny serenity of the California coast and settle in down South with Real Housewives of Atlanta's Phaedra Parks, as she descends from her ivory porch swing and illuminates the esoteric in Secrets of the Southern Belle: How to Be Nice, Work Hard, Look Pretty, Have Fun, and Never Have an Off Moment.
True to the title's descriptive and straightforward sentiments, Phaedra begins the book with a concise synthesis of the worldview she hopes to present:
I believe every woman should be a Southern Belle or minimally aspire to being more ladylike, charming, and intelligent, because we should all be treated well.
As she continues, we get our first glimpse of the deep well of compassion that underlies Phaedra's mission to improve the lives of those around her.
Honestly, I sometimes feel sorry for women of northern persuasion. There they are rushing around in their baggy, drab clothes, doing everything for themselves and looking like they just rolled out of bed. They don't seem to understand there's a better way.
Thankfully, I no longer have to count myself among that witless horde. I feel like, until this fateful moment, I have been living like one of those people from the black-and-white "before" footage of an infomercial -- haphazardly bumbling through the most menial of daily tasks with no way of knowing how much brighter my world could be. Phaedra has freed me from Plato's Cave, and I have no choice but to follow her instruction and strive to shape myself in her image.
A true Southern Belle is known -- first and foremost -- for her fundamental kindness and compassion towards others, so it is only appropriate that the book's first section is succinctly titled, "Be Nice." However, even this simple directive has been trampled by the corrupting influence of the modern world. As Phaedra laments,
Unfortunately, as we see more migration from other parts of the world, we also see an increase of poor manners and rude behavior.
She elaborates, providing specific examples of the personal injuries incurred as a result of these unmannered interlopers.
I find it particularly odd in business, when the salespeople or tellers don't speak or thank you for your patronage. Don't they realize that without customers they would not have a job?
I, too, find it offensive when minimum-wage workers have the nerve to act like actual human beings rather than automatons at the mercy of my personal whims, and I appreciate that Phaedra is bold enough to ask the question that has undoubtedly been on the tip of our collective tongue. Yet somehow, she still remains humble enough to freely admit where she has room to learn; here, she lets the reader in on "something I've never quite understood about non-southerners:"
They're suspicious of basic southern warmth because they're worried it's insincere. But at the same time, they will tell you the most inappropriate things! They tell you stuff about their health that you don't want to know. They launch into crazy stories about their terrible childhoods and how misunderstood they are. They complain about what happened long ago, and they fret openly about the future. Then they tell you what they paid for things and you want to crawl under the table.
Frankly, that's not very attractive.
What is attractive, then, you may ask? Effusive compliments, for one thing -- "I don't know why some people are so concerned with being sincere, when being nice is so much more effective." We also learn to "never contradict anyone, even if you know they are wrong." Phaedra illustrates this particular lesson with the following example:
If someone tells you that your taxes are due on April 30 instead of April 15, you look puzzled and say, "Goodness, I had no idea. Did they change the date?"
And what happens after that? Either the person says yes and you're forced to play along with whatever bizarre delusion and/or power-play your companion is currently indulging, or they say no and you say -- what? "Right, of course, I knew that the whole time!" Or, "Gotcha! It's April 15th, you incompetent fraud!" Or maybe, "I don't even know what taxes are -- money is for menfolk!" I just can't imagine any of those scenarios playing out with less discomfort than a simple correction, but after four years living in New England, I can only assume that's just northern negativity clouding my vision.
We are next presented with a list of "compliments that come in handy," a few of which I've transcribed below for immediate incorporation into your own phrasal repertoire.
What an interesting way to think about it. (Good for a point on which you disagree with someone.)

You thought of every little detail; I love a meticulous lady!

Wow! That is so original. I would never have put it together like that. (In this South this might mean, "I hate it," but in a polite way.)
Boss Babe is out -- Meticulous Lady is in! Phaedra reminds us to keep health concerns -- "especially female issues" -- far from polite conversation, then shifts gears to a much-needed lesson in verbal comportment. It's not just their "attractive regional accents" that distinguish Southern Belles from their less-attractive northern counterparts; they also devote great attention to evoking grace through their cadence and tone.
Sometimes northern women can sound awfully abrupt. It's just a habit they have, poor things.
If you'd like to take your place amongst esteemed gentility, however, I urge you to change your ways! For one thing, when speaking, "slip in something affectionate so that a very harsh reality doesn't come across as rude or abrupt." For example, see how much unpleasant confrontation is avoided with the following turn of phrase:
Darling, don't you know you're too smart and pretty to be the town drunk?
Silly girl, haven't you heard? Addiction is for ugly people! You should also feel free to use these compliments liberally throughout conversation -- "You don't have to mean it, you know." As an example:
If you can tell that someone has put a lot of effort into a particular aspect of her outfit, just draw attention to it. Sparkly stars-and-stripes high heels could be terribly tacky, but you bet they're supposed to be noticed, so go ahead and do it. "Those are certainly patriotic shoes!"
Let me take a crack at it -- This book certainly has a lot of words in it! Writing a book is such an impressive achievement -- I'm sure it feels so rewarding to finally see it In print! And I love the way you occasionally use infinity signs as bullet points -- it's so evocative! I think I'm getting the hang of this!
"Another southern difference?" As Phaedra informs us, "we try not to make direct requests. It just sounds so forward and frankly unpleasant if someone comes right out and says what they want from you." Phaedra's Starbucks barista must really despise her -- If it isn't too much trouble, could I bother you for something to drink? No, anything's fine -- I wouldn't want to impose.
Almost like a modern-day Rosetta Stone, the next passage introduces us to the nuanced connotations that pervade a true Belle's vocabulary. For example, Phaedra tells the reader that "if I tell someone 'Goodness, you must have spent all day on your hair. I am so impressed!' it really means I hate it." Before I manage to convey how impressed I am by the book before me, I read on to learn that "when you're discussing a homely girl, you generally say, 'She's so smart!' The general thought is you can't be both ugly and dumb. God wouldn't be that cruel." Please excuse me while I take a few hours to re-analyze every compliment I've ever been given in my entire life.
Now that that's done, here are a few more translations to help you decipher the Belles in your life.
Belle-Speak: She's a nurse-in-training.
Unvarnished Truth: She dates only old men.

Belle-Speak: She's a butter face.
Unvarnished Truth: Everything looks good but her face.

Belle-Speak: Hope he's got money.
Unvarnished Truth: He's unattractive and pays for affection.
The second one is not even really a euphemism so much as Phaedra trying to demonstrate her knowledge of hip modern slang, but I digress. We transition into advice for conversation starters -- "don't throw them complicated or controversial subjects like politics, animal rights, or local zoning." Truly, I can't tell you how many times I've been approached at a party with an opener about municipal ordinances, and it just kills the mood like nothing else. Worried about how you'll ever find something to talk about under these restrictions?
Don't worry about sounding interesting. "Interesting" is an overrated notion. Just fill the empty air.
That…explains a lot, actually.
Our next lesson is in reference to dinner parties -- "don't make a fuss, unless you're complimenting the cook." In case you're confused as to how this guidance should be interpreted, Phaedra clarifies with some examples -- "'Is there meat in here? I'm a vegetarian' is the wrong kind of fuss." Since I typically ask this question while flailing my arms wildly and making intermittent whooping noises, I completely understand how it could be disruptive amongst refined company. Although I'm starting to get a bit nervous that I won't be able to keep track of these seemingly countless rules, Phaedra's next assurance puts my mind at ease: "If all else fails, remember the secret weapon of the Southern Belle is delicate helplessness."
In the next passage, we learn that, "if there's any characteristic that defines a Southern Belle, it's her habit of firing off little notes on any occasion." Just as with verbal compliments, these notes require little to no basis in factual reality -- "obviously it's perfectly all right to exaggerate." But while truthfulness is more or less dispensable, your choice of writing implement could have grave repercussions. As Phaedra exhorts, "Never, ever write a letter in pencil. You might as well not bother at all." Within the realm of pens, however, "blue and black are perfectly acceptable, even if they do lack panache."
We return once again to the topic of appropriate subjects for conversation, and are cautioned against asking anyone their age. Of course, wild speculation is encouraged, "as long as you're out of earshot." In the next tip, Phaedra declares: "Don't discuss the cost of anything. Any discussion of cost is just in poor taste." I just can't help picture how much of a nightmare this woman must be at a fast-food drive-through. Our final instruction?
Don't discuss hair color. Men always pretend they don't dye their hair, so you just have to go with it.
At first glance, this seems reasonable enough, especially in the context of the social graces espoused by the book so far. However, Phaedra's attempt at further explanation quickly begins to careen off-course.
For women, it's a little bit more complicated because you have the question of whether the drapes match the carpet, so to speak. And I do know some who dye the carpet to match -- that was the big thing in high school. Now with all this weird waxing, you don't have to do as much dyeing, but that's another thing you don't talk about either!
Let's see if I've got this straight: I should always believe a man about his purported hair color no matter what, but if a woman tries to lie about hers, she'll get caught…because I will inevitably be forced to confront the realities of her pubic hair? An intimate partner, sure, but I just can't imagine this situation arises with enough frequency to merit even the few lines its given in this text. And honestly, at this point, I don't even think I want to know what Phaedra means by "weird waxing."
This section of the book concludes with a final catalog of "the 'She did what?' mistakes." The list starts off strong with "wearing white to another woman's wedding." However, by the time we end on the most unimaginable of atrocities -- "drinking beer from a bottle" -- I'm beginning to wonder if this list was actually supposed to have been titled "things the sexy homewrecker does in a bro-country music video."
The following section is titled, "Work Hard," and I am immediately inspired to do exactly so by the implicit challenge thrown down in Phaedra's opening lines, in which she coquettishly asks, "Who always delivers a presentation on time, with the printed materials perfectly written and proofread?" I'm usually quite good at taming my most pedantic impulses, but contrarian passions I never knew I had are foaming at the mouth to find an upcoming typo and self-righteously call her bluff. Although perhaps I should find a more feminine way to phrase that; as Phaedra cautions, "we don't like to think of ourselves as driven, because that sounds so neurotic and unpleasant."
We next learn that "you cannot be a Southern Belle unless you understand what it is to be ladylike." But unfortunately, it is all too easy to be caught up in the ways of the world and lose sight of this primary calling.
A lot of women today enjoy being the feisty, brassy, foul-mouthed kind of gal who drinks with men and shows a lot of flesh. They think it's cool.
Phaedra continues and reflects that, "I've heard the argument that this is progress, from the feminist point of view, but I don't necessarily agree." I can never remember -- which wave of feminism was the one with all the feisty gals? But clearly, their agenda has gone too far! How, in contrast, does a delicate Southern Belle behave?
She looks as if she's heard of sex, probably has had sex, but has no plans to have sex with anybody in the immediate surroundings.
I'm not sure exactly how to convey this highly specific sentiment in any other way than purchasing a t-shirt custom-printed with the phrase, "I have heard of sex, have probably had sex, but have no plans to have sex with anybody in the immediate surroundings," so I hope that approach will suffice for now. Phaedra follows up by cautioning us that,
A lady never puts in the shop window what isn't for sale.
Personally, I like to think of myself as more of a museum than a gift shop, but to each their own! We next learn more about the delicate balance a Southern Belle must achieve in order to maintain her esteemed position. For example, while "she doesn't cuss and doesn't talk dirty," frigidity is similarly unbecoming -- "if somebody tells a good dirty joke in her vicinity, she'll laugh." I'm barely a third of the way through this book, and I'm already exhausted at the prospect of having to remember all of these hyper-specific edicts. It's no surprise that the Southern Belle has to remain consistently vigilant; as Phaedra intones, "coming from a Pentecostal family, I hate to see a woman down more than two drinks." It seems to me like the simplest way to avoid such emotional turmoil would be to simply refrain from compulsively tallying the beverage intake of strangers, but I soon learn there are far more perilous hazards lurking around every corner. Phaedra shares her personal strategy for avoiding the very implication of incivility in the following excerpt:
I don't ever go to the bar at a party; I think that just looks terrible. If I must have a glass of wine or crave a fruity adult libation, I'll ask a nearby man to procure it for me.
Sir! Procure me a fruity adult libation -- tout de suite! But I would hate to diminish the male gender by implying that they're only good for the acquisition of potables; no -- men can be leveraged in an increasingly broad array of day-to-day tasks. As Phaedra shares:
I have friends who have never in their lives pumped gas for their own cars. They will ask a complete stranger to do it for them. One of my besties from New Orleans will flag down a man, give him her credit card, and have him pump and pay for her gas.
Honestly, I can't help but wonder if this might actually be some kind of avantgarde performance art, in the tradition of Marina Abramović's Rhythm 0. Because the idea that this gambit has never gone horribly, horribly awry truly strains credulity. As I read on, however, I learn that my current train of thinking is sorely misguided.
Sometimes when I'm at a grocery store the fellow bagging the groceries will ask if he can take them out to my car. Why would you say no to this? But sometimes women do. And I look at them and sigh and think, "Poor thing. She has a lot to learn."
Thankfully for my personal development, the next chapter -- titled "A Crash Course in Being (Selectively) Helpless" promises exactly the sort of content that I so desperately need to understand. As Phaedra explains, a Southern Belle is "never intimidating, because some things she just can't do on her own." She goes on to offer concrete examples of how to incorporate this ethos into your life on beginner, intermediate, and expert levels.
Experts: assume help will arrive. Flat tire? Pull over to the curb, and don't sweat it. Can't figure out which wrench to buy at Home Depot? Or how to program your DVR? This is what former boyfriends and other gentlemen are for. Believe me, the age of chivalry is not dead.
Rent due? Don't sweat it -- a gallant gentleman likely already has a check in the mail. House burning to the ground around you? You should know a Belle doesn't walk down the hallway on her own two feet! Bear attack? I'm sure a male bear is just around the corner, ready to jump in and defend your honor!
Without a hint of irony, we transition to Phaedra's advice for the workplace. We learn that the quintessential gentlewoman is savvy, competent, and always at the top of her game. For instance, at her workplace, "she figures out how to work the coffee machine and the copy machine." With that kind of go-getting attitude, the Southern Belle will be bound for the C-suite in no time! Provided, of course,
She never does that thing I hear of in the North sometimes of telling you how little she paid for something. Why would you brag about bargains?
I can't hear the phrase that thing I hear of in the North in anything other than the voice of Tinsley's mother, Dale. Except she would probably use it in reference to something like "giving compliments to your daughter" or "weight gain." Regardless, a more appropriate question at this juncture might be, "Are you sure this book was proofread quite as judiciously as you claimed?" As I scan the page, my eyes happen upon the line:
10 percent for tithing, if your religion encourages tithing, which mines [sic] does.
Of course, it would be entirely uncouth for me to brag about my typographical superiority in this context, so now seems as good a time as any to exercise some of my newly acquired techniques. Oh, Phaedra -- bless her heart! I suppose we can't all be detail-oriented, can we? It must be nice to be so casual and carefree when you express yourself!
Without further ado, however, we move along to our next lesson -- "People don't know when you're hungry, because they can't hear your stomach growling, but they definitely know when you're homeless." To be honest, the more I think about this statement , the less sense it makes to me (people…can hear your stomach growling?). Luckily, with the jam-packed schedule of a Southern Belle, I simply don't have time to dwell on the issue for a moment longer!
Our next tutorial? " If you have one fabulous pair of shoes, you will wear them to church. It is the very least you can do for Jesus." As we all know, Jesus loves sweet kicks, so he loves nothing more than to see you rock the newest styles when you drop by on Sunday. And besides -- the higher the heel, the closer to heaven! Phaedra summarizes the Southern Belle's can-do attitude with the line: "We all may not be sitting around big ugly Formica boardroom tables, but we get things done." As someone who has only ever attended meetings held around moderately sized tables, I find this to be a validating sentiment.
When it comes to extracurricular pursuits, "beauty pageants are important." However, "as much as she loves performing, the Belle will not take to the stage: some of those theater people are just too peculiar, bless their hearts." Honestly, Phaedra and I come down on the same side on this one. But I will have to heartily disagree with her next passage -- with respect to traditions of stepping within Black Greek Life -- in which she states,
The traditionally white organizations don't have anything comparable.
Um, excuse me? Have you never seen this iconic video?! However, Phaedra does reassure us that she's far from ignorant in the ways of the world. As she states, "I have read about hookup culture and known a few easy women." Of course, easy men don't exist -- or at least, that's what I've read in all the most prominent textbooks regarding hookup culture. But don't mistake Phaedra's awareness for acceptance -- "that doesn't mean I like any of it." However, this sentiment is belied just a few paragraphs later, when our author recalls:
I offended the mother of one of my best friends once by booking some exotic entertainment at this friend's birthday party. My friend loved the anatomically exceptional dancer, but her mother was livid.
I'm sure that it was only your friend who loved the "anatomically exceptional" dancer, and I assume this must have been one of your aforementioned token "easy" friends, besides. A Southern Belle, in contrast, is interested in serious, long-term relationships. And for this purpose, "it would be much better to marry a young man that you can train. I have always said that I would rather be a babysitter than a geriatric nurse." Yet even these kinds of discrepancies seem trivial in comparison to the boundless passions of eternal love. As Phaedra shares,
I want Apollo and me to celebrate our fiftieth anniversary, so I try to overlook momentary annoyances.
That aged well. Bless her heart.
We're soon treated to a cheeky list of "what her husband doesn't know," which echoes several key themes from earlier in the book -- most notably in its bizarre fixation with pubic grooming.
He doesn't know what her true hair color is, because the curtains always match the carpet.

He doesn't know how often she waxes, or exactly what waxing entails.

He doesn't know that she has her own credit card, her own savings account, and a safe-deposit box.
I've got to say, that last one hits just a little bit different with hindsight. Always timely, however, are Phaedra's views on the importance of the homemaking arts. In this evocative passage, she describes the primal horror of an encounter with a woman tainted by an unimaginable curse:
A nice lady from another part of the country recently confessed to me that she doesn't know how to do any crafts. In fact, she said, she gets all nervous and antsy in crafts stores, because they're so full of things she doesn't understand. I laughed like I thought she was joking, but really, I felt bad for her. Imagine not knowing how to make all those cute objects that brighten up lives in the South! I shudder to think what the inside of her house looks like!
With that fable still ringing in my ears, we transition to the next section of the book: "Look Pretty." Phaedra reflects, "I am always shocked when I leave the South and encounter the enormous number of women who don't seem to understand how their clothes should fit." Now feels like an appropriate time to draw attention to the book's back cover, in which an open-mouthed Phaedra swivels her torso in such a way as to create a bulging protuberance across one half of her chest. In awe of her commitment to inclusivity, I now realize this could only have been an intentional choice to make herself seem more approachable to us northern oafs, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Phaedra goes on to inform us that, "personally, I prefer skirts and dresses over pants." However, although "high-waisted pants and pants with visible hem cuffs are quite elegant and ladylike," one should take care never to forget that "minimalism and menswear looks are just puzzling and not appealing to a Belle." I, too, must admit that I find menswear looks puzzling -- a girl? in boy clothes? I just can't make heads or tails of it! And this is far from the only contemporary fad that baffles the true Southern Belle. As Phaedra continues:
I've never understood the appeal of the natural look. It's so easy to improve your appearance; why wouldn't you take advantage of the many beauty aids available to you?
In a frankly unexpected dig against the ceramic arts, Phaedra notes that "unless you are a professional potter (and I don't think Southern Belles generally are), your nails need to be clean and filed." More generally, your physical proportions should remain mild and inobtrusive:
Ever since voluminous behinds became fashionable, I often see these lumpy, huge derrieres on women with legs as thin as a chicken's, and I think God would never put a rump roast on toothpicks, so why did you do that?
That's why I always caution my friends to pair their butt implants with a battery of leg implants, in order to really round out the overall contour of the body and mimic that structurally stable, God-given look. After all, as Phaedra quips: "'Knowledge is power' -- that's my motto." But this knowledge doesn’t come without a price; being as world-wise as Phaedra often requires direct confrontation with the atrocities of today's world. As she recounts, for example: "I was astonished to find out that not every woman possesses a lint roller." It's truly a tragedy to learn how the other half lives!
We are next informed that, "you have to have your ears pierced, but only one hole in each ear." The consequences for an infraction of this critical edict are left unvoiced, from which I can only assume that they are swift and merciless. Any self-respecting Southern Belle has a taste for the finer things in life, and Phaedra is no exception. As she remarks:
I love diamonds; I'd have a diamond duvet if I could afford it.
Because I am less fiscally endowed, I have had to settle for stuffing my duvet with assorted Swarovski crystals, at least for the time being. However, I'm eager to upgrade -- I can only imagine that the extra hardness of the diamonds will add a satisfying acupuncture affect to my nighttime regimen!
Phaedra moves on to fashion advice, and cautions the well-heeled Belle to remain conservative in her fashion choices. But don't worry -- there is a time and a place to let loose and express your more artistic side. Or, as Phaedra says, "something a little funky or ethnic may even be appropriate from time to time." To further illustrate this principle, she explains: "If I were going out West, for example, I might wear some turquoise bracelets."
But some things are a bridge too far! Any woman with a modicum of dignity would know never to be caught dead in "polar fleece," "a naughty-nurse costume," or "footed pajamas." We are also encouraged to carry around a hand fan -- "the elegant way to stay cool" -- as well as a "small leather-bound notebook for jotting down inspirations." I lose my train of thought for a moment, caught up in a daydream about the ingenious wonderings that must be contained within Phaedra's hallowed journal. But I'm brought back to reality by a declaration of "what's not in my purse," beginning with the stern pronouncement: "any kind of contraband substance."
Our pilgrimage to polite society continues with a comprehensive exploration of the monogram's social gravitas. As Phaedra intones, "I've even seen cars with a very discreet monogram on the driver's door." But with light must come darkness, and the next chapter bravely confronts an issue many others would fear to face: "Looking Like a Tramp" ("There, I came right out and said it," Phaedra breathlessly gasps below the harsh text of the passage's title). She gathers herself together and courageously reports, "some women look downright sleazy."
Alas -- even more tragically -- couture catastrophes are not restricted to those of legal majority. Phaedra heroically pulls back the curtain on a nationwide epidemic of wardrobe misconduct being perpetrated against society's most vulnerable:
I saw a picture not long ago of some hippies or hipsters or whatever you call them from some remote city. The parents looked the way you'd expect them to look, a little bit bedraggled, but the worst thing was they had this adorable little baby all done up in a black onesie. And as far as I could tell, it wasn't even Halloween!
How to combat this terrifying trend? Phaedra offers words of wisdom: "Little Southern Belles always look sweet and appropriately girlish." Specifically, we are encouraged to incorporate design elements like "tasteful, conservative rickrack." By way of further explanation, she clarifies that, "what they don't do is dress like Lady Gaga in dresses made of butchers' best cuts of beef." I'm disappointed to learn that my idea for an Etsy store selling bespoke meat-based children's clothing might be a nonstarter, but I suppose I appreciate our author giving it to me straight.
Another childcare commandment?
No costumes outside the house. Of course every little girl loves to play dress-up. But I truly dislike seeing Snow White or a fairy princess trailing along behind her mother at the Piggly Wiggly.
As she sits in her living room, most likely waiting for a man to come to her aid for some reason or another, Phaedra is struck by a sharp, blazing pain. As the flash of blinding torment subsides, she catches her breath and shakes her head wearily -- another costumed child has gone into a grocery store. Forgive their guardians, for they know not the harm their actions have caused to our author's delicate and genteel sensibilities.
But it does us no good to dwell on the darker side of life! Rather, we'll move right along into the book's final section, "Have Fun." However, this does not seem to be exactly the same kind of "fun" colloquially mentioned in mainstream circles. Rather, the Southern Belle defines fun with the principle, "everybody needs to know that you made an effort." For example, "if you're pouring punch into paper cups for a gaggle of seven-year-olds, put a spring of mint in it." My previous experiences in the general vicinity of children lead me to believe that at least 75% of the seven-year-olds in this group would respond to this elegant enhancement by dumping the punch out on the ground because it has a gross plant in it. Maybe that's part of the fun?
No analysis of Southern culture would be complete without a discussion of that most hallowed of pastimes -- college football. And although "only a really unusual woman watches football alone," it is imperative that a Southern Belle attend the social events associated with the on-season. What's more, she should take care to do with impeccable style. As Phaedra laments:
Sometimes I see pictures of women in store-bought football jerseys and I feel sorry. A store-bought jersey does nothing to flatter the feminine body.
As for the game itself, minimal understanding is required -- "Naturally a Belle knows how much men enjoy telling her things, so she isn't shy about asking questions." True to her generous spirit, however, Phaedra nevertheless provides a basic primer in the rudiments of the sport:
Basically each team is trying to get the ball through the tall H-shaped goalposts at the end of the field. […] The problem is that the ball can look awfully little from pretty much anywhere in the stands. There's no shame in watching the video replay to see what really just happened.
As a final tip, Phaedra suggests that "belles whose husbands have season tickets might even invest in matching linens and china." Our next unit of instruction concerns the arrival of a newborn bundle of joy; as we learn, "the birth of a baby is a big deal in a southern family." It's so interesting to learn all of these unique cultural details! I don't know if I've ever heard of another culture that places such importance on birth -- I'd love to get an anthropologist's take! There are also strict guidelines to which one must adhere regarding the naming of a debutante-in-training:
A Southern Belle's name:
-- is obviously feminine.
-- is two syllables or more (names like Ann or Joan seem abrupt, like so many Yankees).
-- is a real name, not a geographic feature like Sierra.
-- means something. Preferably something nice.
Once born and appropriately christened, children should be painstakingly shielded from the contaminating influences of the world at large. Phaedra explains that "pop culture is full of children behaving disrespectfully." Without the slightest suggestion of self-reflection, she goes on to declare that "besides, we think TV characters are basically tacky."
Phaedra reiterates a few of the courtship commandments mentioned previously, most concisely in the adage, "Belles don't date losers." And, as any suitor worth his salt should know, "a date with a Belle is no time for a boy to experiment with 'alternative' clothes or grooming either." Instead, a Southern Gentleman takes care to keep his language clean from distasteful or offensive language -- "For instance, why say 'liquor' when you can say 'adult refreshment'?"
As we near the end of the book, it seems only fitting that we take a few pages to cover the traditions and rituals associated with life coming to a close. Buttressed by her extensive knowledge of mortuary science, Phaedra instructs us:
Postmortem is no time to experiment with cosmetics. No one wants their sweet aunt Gertrude looking like some ashy Jezebel when she meets Jesus.
The passage concludes with the brassy observation, "we don't usually cremate in the South; we figure if we wanted to burn we'd just live recklessly and go to hell."
Before the book closes in earnest, Phaedra shares a few of her special, meticulously developed recipes. The most evocative of her culinary optimizations is a recipe for sweet tea, in which she thoughtfully informs us, "sweetness can be personalized by adding more water or ice to the tea."
The book's final pages contain an instrument designed to measure the effect of the preceding 252 pages on one's essential courtesies, charmingly titled "The Belle-O-Meter Quiz." As Phaedra explains:
So, ladies, how are you doing? I'm sure you've all been very attentive to my suggestions and are amazed by the results. You're probably totally used to a steady diet of compliments and flirtation and invitations. But here's a little quiz in case you feel the need to measure how far you've come.
If you'd like to take the full quiz, you can do so here. But if your busy Belle schedule doesn't permit you to devote that much time to something so self-indulgent, a few example questions are provided below:
Your routine greeting when you meet a new person is:
a. A surly glare.
b. "Hi."
c. "Well, hello! How are you today?"

If your gentleman friend brought you a corsage to wear on a date you would:
a. Put it in the refrigerator. Nobody wears corsages nowadays!
b. Pin it to your coat collar and check your coat.
c. Pin it in an unusual spot like your waist or behind your ear, after extracting one little blossom to put in his lapel.
The answer key informs us that answering mostly C's means that "you are a genuine Southern Belle." As Phaedra goes on to suggest, "maybe it's time to share your new skills with a friend and pass along this book. I hope it's been helpful to you." As a book hoarder of the highest order, I will have to skip that suggestion, but I am nevertheless thankful to move one step closer to self-actualization with the help of another Real Housewife. Until next time!
Upcoming plans in comment below!
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Part 3/3 My Introduction to a Professional Sports Betting Syndicate

I appreciate you making it this far. I know nowadays reading isn’t the best form of consuming content but for detailed stories I don’t see any other feasible way. Plus I doubt many people want to look at my ugly face lol. Hope you enjoy the final part.

Part 3/3

“Okay here’s how it’s gonna go kid”, Mario said as we discussed how and where the information would flow. “I don’t need to know all that other bullshit about team, position or type of injury, less is more. Player name and injury status, that’s it”. Mario was a pit bull, he dealt with all the information sources and I was just one of many, but I'd like to imagine I was a valuable one. I was to deal with him and only him and the next few days we were to run test trials to work out any kinks.
I don’t remember the first injury ping I got during the test trial period but I do remember the first injury report sent when we went live for real money [Tony Parker] - Doubtful. It was a very weird feeling that I can’t really describe whenever a ping came through, a mixture between excitement, fear and anxiety. I eventually got used to it but it took about a month.
The biggest issue for me during the testing period seems simple but it was copying the text on the ping I received and pasting it and sending it from my personal phone from the messenger app. I was always concerned about leaving a trail on my work computer which was a desktop that other co-workers used when I wasn’t there. As easy as it sounds to copy and paste, at the beginning my hands would be shaky and any mis-clicks cost valuable seconds and remember I couldn’t do my job of posting it at work until 15 seconds after I sent it to Mario, so during the trial period it was taking me roughly 35 to 40 seconds to post reports for my job, that’s a considerable delay. I had to be quicker sending it to Mario because the faster I do that the faster I’m able to post it for my work.
Trial period over and now it’s for real. [Danny Green] - Out. [Wesley Mathews] - Questionable. One by one I was sending the reports. One time attempting to be quick I copied the ping something like this EM-[Marc Gasol]-Shoulder-OUT and I immediately got a call from Mario who was pissed. “I don’t care if the player sprained his dick, it’s player and status, that’s it! I remember thinking jeez wtf. I found out later it had something to do with how they programmed it on their end with the auto-bet software, so any extra characters or information other than player and status would mess it up and they would miss getting the bets down, even if it was an extra . Or - it would mess it up, or at least that’s what I was told. The reports I sent him would be automatically inputted into their system, it was all automated. Mario made it clear that any pings I sent that weren’t formatted correctly or if by game time the status didn’t hold up I wouldn’t be paid for. Him being pissed off made sense to me after awhile, a lot of money is on the line and this is their full-time job and missing out on even one report could potentially be the difference of a winning or losing week.
Writing this has brought back so many memories, like the time at work we were due for a schedule change, they like to change the schedule every 6 months. I had only been doing the pings for about a month and a half and a schedule change would fuck this all up if I was moved to mornings. I paid my co-worker $200 to tell management he prefers mornings and of course I told them nights work best for me. I was in the clear for another 6 months.
I remember checking my mail and seeing a yellow envelope, my first payment from George, close to $10,000 all cash, payments got sent out in the mail on the 14th monthly. What was also interesting is it came with a breakdown of each ping I sent. Ex; Based on 22 days / Total Reports 31 2- accurately reported players OUT 3- accurately reported players Probable etc etc Some weeks there would be no key players or starters with any breaking injury news, some weeks there would be several. It could only be breaking news so if a coach has a press conference and it’s revealed that a player would be out the next 3 games that didn’t help me. Or if news came out while I wasn’t at work it didn’t help me. It’s funny even now when I see breaking news for a player injury I think about the pings and how many points that player means to the line.
So I’m about 3 months in now and I’m basically hoping players get hurt. I’ve received about 4 payments because the first one was prorated because I started halfway through a month. Money was rolling in. I remember talking to my mom and she had just found out she had to pay $3,200 on her annual taxes. She was crying when I came over and handed her 32 100 dollar bills.
My sister wanted new furniture for his first apartment, I told her to pick it out and let me know how much. My oldest brother who had always disapproved of my lifestyle and would often say “you are going to hell in a handbasket”, (never knew what that meant, still don’t.) He was going through an ugly divorce and was saying how it kills him to write that bitch a check each month and that he wishes he could just pay it all at once for the year and not have to deal with her. I asked him how much. Christmas I gave my two brothers, my sister and mother 1K each, no card, no envelope. Looking back I did some really tacky shit lol Look everyone I made it! It’s cringeworthy now being older thinking about some of the shit.
If you were 26-27 years old and single and money wasn’t an issue what would you do? Well that’s what I did, anything and everything. I would book flights to Vegas 1 day in advance just because on a Thursday I felt like going the next day, I wouldn’t even bring clothes I would buy them when I landed. Having money wasn’t totally new to me because I had made a lot of money as a bookie but having this much money coming in was new and all I had to do was go to work and click some buttons. You know how the saying goes, “easy come, easy go” that’s what money was like to me.
Another saying is “All good things come to an end”. It’s been about 6 months into this arrangement and I was now not only reporting injuries to George and his team but on certain days and even some full weeks he had me sending the reports to other betting groups. I was now interacting with not just one betting syndicate but 3 of them. There are probably thousands of sports betting groups in the country but there are only a handful of consistently successful betting groups that are profitable year after year and I had their ears. The top groups tend to work together. Every source I currently have and use now originated in some way, shape or form from these groups that I sent pings too. I’m not saying I’m buddies with the heads of these groups but I know a lot of current and former employees that have come and gone with these groups and I’ve always made sure to stay in contact. None of the money I made is still with me but the people I met and still talk to once in a while is something I value. It's a two way street, I wouldn’t be much use to them if I just constantly asked for info. I have to return the favor as well, that’s why when I discovered the SuperBowl commercial prop edge, it was these people who were the first to get it, after I bet it of course. (SuperBowl Prop Story is in the #Betting-Strategy-Advice channel in The Betting Network). I’m constantly looking for ways I can help them even after all this time because you never know when or how it can come back to you.
In total I basically reported these injuries for about 8-9 months and had started reporting some NCAAB key players injuries. I managed this without any major backlash from my company. Dealt with a few issues here and there with the betting groups but nothing major. After a while I realized a big reason for my company not noticing anything was that 80% of all pings were reported right away as normal, although the 20% that got delayed were the key players and starters. A couple customer complaints were about all that happened and when that did I would make sure to promptly send out MIL-G-[Ramon Sessions]-Questionable with no delay.
The way this arrangement ended is anticlimactic and it was something out of any of our control. I managed to avoid schedule changes and even declined a small promotion within the company and a couple outside job opportunities that if I showed any type of interest I could’ve got, all in order to keep this $15.75 hr job. But everything happens for a reason, the company I worked for sold its majority ownership and merged with 2 other companies, this resulted in my department being dissolved and I ultimately ended up leaving the company altogether shortly after. Everyone involved was crushed when I told them it was over, especially one of the groups George affiliated with because they only got about 2 months out of it. The good news was the connections were made and we all continued to work together in different ways but nothing will probably be as lucrative as the ping arrangement.
I Hope you guys enjoyed this story because I enjoyed going down memory lane. I actually texted a few of the guys involved in it last night and we talked about how great it was and how it would be impossible these days to do what we did for many reasons. It was great while it lasted that’s for sure.
PS This was a little different from what I normally post which is more focused on sports betting education. I decided to share this story because of the overwhelming feedback I got with The Betting Network community. My focus is to help educate sports bettors, it’s important to know there are no shortcuts to being a successful sports bettor. I have over 25 lessons posted in TBN community on various topics, investing in yourself and learning as much as you can is the only way you stand a chance at becoming a successful sports bettor and even that alone isn’t enough, you must have some natural attributes like discipline and patience’s
if you are serious about learning and willing to put in the required work and invest in yourself DM me and I can tell you how to join The Betting Network community, I do a free 3 day trial and it’s only $7 a month after that. Weekly lessons, game previews, mentorship program and I share not only my opinions on games but also opinions from some of the many sources within my network. Hope to see some of y’all in the community.
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DigiBet Casino 100 free spins and 100% up to €200 bonus

DigiBet Casino 100 free spins and 100% up to €200 bonus

DigiBet Casino Free Spins & Welcome Bonus
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DigiBet Casino Review

Digibet has long been known as a reputed sportsbook betting website. In recent times, they have started offering casino gaming for the players. Does Digibet Casino offer a competitive bonus and a good range of games? We tried to dig deeper and we recommend players to read our in-depth review below. Digibet Casino has many classic and new slots, progressive jackpots and a wide range of other casino games. There is also a live casino with many tables. We'll take a look at bonus terms, license status, customer service, game offer and more.
The moment the website opens in the browser, we have a kind of “déjà vu” experience. We have the impression that we have seen this casino all before. And yes, there are a lot of similarities to a couple of online casinos like Hopa or the Slotanza Casino. These similarities are not surprising when looking at the casino operator, as Aspire Global International LTD is responsible for its proper operation. It's good to know that behind the casino is a global operator with a solid reputation in the iGaming industry.
The design of the casino website is convenient but does not have a WOW factor. After the main menu and the page-wide banner, announcing the welcome bonus for new customers, different categories of games follow, followed by the previews for the games. On the right side of the casino website, there is an advertisement with the last winners. However, we want to question their accuracy here, because all profits are in the four- and five-digit range, so this is more likely to be understood as motivation and incentive. After a few rows of thumbnails come the announcement of the (not yet existing) sports betting and the Digibet Esport before you hit the section with the more or less helpful links. The page concludes with the license information.
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Welcome Bonus for New Players

The casino focuses a lot on the welcome bonus package and wants its players to increase their bankroll significantly. New players can claim a 100% welcome bonus up to €200. Also, there are 100 free spins which will be credited on your 2nd and 3rd day.
he terms and conditions for claiming the welcome bonus at Digibet Casino include:
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  • Players must wager 35x before requesting a withdrawal.
  • The free spins must be used within one day
  • Winnings from free spins must be converted 35x
  • Winnings from free spins are limited to €100

Digibet Free Spins and Other Promotions

For existing customers, there is always a lot of action and round the clock entertainment at Digibet Casino. These are based on seasons, events or new slots. There are several ongoing weekly and monthly promotions where players can participate and win exciting rewards.
At the time of our review, for example, there was a tournament for the Conan Slot. Anyone who made bets here took part in a raffle. There is also a Digibet VIP area. We will describe this in more details below.
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VIP Program at a Glance

Instead of Reload bonuses and other extras for the regular customers, there is a well-equipped VIP program at Digibet Casino. For every €40 real money bet, players will receive 1 comp points. The more comp points a player collects, the higher they get in the VIP program. Already for ten points, there is the VIP status “Bronze“. Then there are 25 free spins and another 5 free spins on each Sunday. Players can also take part in VIP live tournaments with the VIP Bronze status.
For 60 points there is the VIP status silver. There are 50 free spins to reach. Customers with status will also receive another 10 free spins every Sunday. If you reach status “Gold“, you will receive 50 free spins and an extra 50% bonus. There are also 20 free games on Sundays. Further stages in the VIP program are Platinum VIP, Premium VIP and Prestige VIP. These can be reached from 1000 points (Platinum VIP) or only on a personal invitation (Premium VIP and Prestige VIP).
In higher VIP levels, there are, for example, extended deposit and withdrawal limits, personalized offers, a personal account manager and a monthly cashback payment.
It is possible to convert bonus points into bonus money. The exchange rate depends on the VIP status. New members without VIP status need 35 points for € 1 bonus cash. In the highest level, only 15 points are required. It is important to note that comp points that are not exchanged after three months will expire without replacement.
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Availability of Different Games

The Digibet Casino cooperates with a number of leading software providers in the iGaming industry. The games are available in both classic and modern form. There are classic slots and video slots, progressive jackpots, roulette, blackjack, poker and scratch cards. The software providers range from classics like Net Entertainment to fresh companies like Play'n GO and BetSoft among others. There is a filter option that players can use to shortlist the games from a particular software provider.
Slot titles include games like Starburst and Book of Dead, as well as new ones like Ghosts'n'Gold, Super Joker and Conan. You can start each slot in a demo mode. The free version of the game allows the players to understand the gameplay. Payout ratios remain unchanged, so you can get a real picture of the slot. Once you muster enough confidence, you can switch from demo format to real money game action.
Fans of progressive jackpots can check out titles like Divine Fortune, among others. Unfortunately, there are no jackpot games available at the moment. This is one area where Digibet needs to improve to compete with the reputed casino brands. Because the only way to go directly to the jackpot is that you have to know the name of the slot machine.
Roulette, blackjack and poker games are available in different variants. The selection here is very extensive and offers enough variety for the players. Unfortunately, no demo versions are available in this area. Also, the overview of table limits is missing. On the whole, games are available in high definition with crystal clear audio and superb visuals.
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Does Digibet Offer Live Dealer Games?

Since the live casino is one of the main attractions for online gaming, of course, our expectations are accordingly high. Unfortunately, Digibet Casino does not live up to the expectation of the players. Although the live games are delivered by the undisputed number one, Evolution Gaming, the game selection is then a bit meager.
In addition to a few blackjack tables and the football studio, there is gaping emptiness. There is no trace of roulette, dream catcher or the newer live dealer games. Even NetEnt is not available which we hope the operator will offer in the near future. Still, the croupiers and dealers are friendly and offer the best form of entertainment to the players. Games are available in real money format and accessible 24/7.

Can I Play Games on the Mobile?

Digibet Casino offers a dedicated mobile platform for players to access games on the go. This means that the regular homepage is available in a version optimized for mobile devices. The operator has done a fabulous job in designing the games using HTML5 technology. This innovation allows players to access games from any smartphone or tablet device running on the Android and iOS operating system.
The operator has nicely emulated their desktop version into a dedicated mobile platform. Games are small in size and load quickly on the mobile browser without any software lag. At the same time, the games can easily run on any screen size with maximum resolution and no buffering. It is important that players should have a decent internet connection and Adobe Flash to enjoy mobile games without any interruption.

Digibet Payment and Withdrawal Methods

Making online transactions at Digibet is quite simple. In the lobby, there is the menu item “Cashier“. Click on this section to open the list of available deposit methods. There you will find popular banking options like:
  • Bank Wire Transfer
  • Visa
  • MasterCard
  • Sofortüberweisung
  • Paysafecard
  • PayPal
  • Skrill
  • Neteller
As a rule, deposits and withdrawals are free and the casino does not charge a dime for the online transactions. However, your bank may levy charges for using a particular payment option. We recommend players to spare some amount of time and select the payment method which is less costly and settles funds in the shortest period of time. In general, deposits are instant while withdrawals take 3 business days to credit in the bank account.

How Efficient is the Customer Support?

The Digibet Casino operates with a three-channel customer support program. Account Managers are operational from 06:00 to 23:00 GMT, all seven days a week. Customers can contact support agents by e-mail, live chat and telephone. We tested the live chat on a Saturday afternoon. The waiting time was under 2 minutes. An English-speaking employee answered. The response was amazing and queries were handled quite competently.
With regard to the design of the homepage, the casino has no significant weaknesses. There is a free search function for searching for games, terms and conditions and bonus conditions in the English language with a dedicated FAQ section. It features commonly asked question across different aspects of casino gaming. The support agents are highly skilled and have several years of experience in the iGaming industry.

Is Digibet Reliable and Safe?

Digibet is a trademark of NEG Group Limited, based in Malta. This company has only the trademark rights. The casino is operated by Aspire Global International LTD. This company is also based in Malta. Aspire Global International LTD is duly registered in the Maltese Commercial Register (registration number C42296). There is a license from the Maltese Gaming Authority. The license is dated August 2009. The license number is: MGA / B2C / 148/2007.
Another license exists in the UK. This license is only for customers residing in the United Kingdom. The gaming operation there is operated by AG Communications Limited. This company is also based in Malta and registered in the local commercial register (registration number C48328).
The Digibet Casino caters to the highest form of security protocols as per industry standards. They go the extra mile to make sure the customers are playing in a safe and secure environment. The operator utilizes 128 bit SSL encryption technology during the fund transaction. Also, confidential data of the players are protected using state of the art firewall techniques.
Every single game available at Digibet Casino is fair and random without any involvement of foul play. The RNG or Random Number Generator is a special algorithm that generates a unique winning combination. At the same time, games are regularly tested by independent agencies like TST, eCOGRA and iTech Gaming Labs. The audit results are available in the Footer section of the casino. All these things indicate that Digibet is a completely safe and reliable casino.

Final Verdict

First and foremost, it is important to note that Digibet is a fully secure and reputable casino with an EU license from Malta. Fraud has no place over here. In addition, fair play is also confirmed by 3rd party independent testing agency.
The range of casino games is excellent and covers several areas. There are slots, card games, table games, keno, bingo, scratch cards and a live offer with real dealers and croupiers. The fans of mobile gaming may look forward to playing the games on the go. Also, the choice of payment methods is also very high quality.
The bonus is irresistible and comes with generous wagering conditions for withdrawing the winning amount. For existing customers, VIP Club is available which is replete with best promotions and deals. The support program shines with live chat, FAQ, mail and hotline. Digibet shows few to no weaknesses. They need to work on their live dealer section to offer more titles under their belt.
On the whole, Digibet is a completely reliable and trustworthy casino. They receive a big THUMBS UP from all of us over here. We recommend players to register an account today and start playing the games for free or real money. May the luck be always by your side. Happy Gaming!
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The Worst NES Games No One Played (Part 1)

The Worst NES Games No One Played (Part 1)
I've got a pretty extensive NES collection and have for years been writing about the best games for the system while also trying to collect every title. As such, I feel like I've spent tons of time playing all the great games while the lesser known titles usually come in the mail and go straight onto the shelf. I wanted to make more of an effort to explore the entire library of the Nintendo Entertainment System, not just the classics or even the hidden gems, and so I tried out some buddies I either popped in and immediately out or never played in the first place.
I spent about half of 2019 going through the games alphabetically and then posting some reviews of these oddball games I figured most folks never touched. All in all, it turned out to be a huge project, longer in word count than probably every paper I slogged through in college. I thought it might be cool to collect the 10 best and worst obscure games I played and share those with y'all and if people want to read the entire articles I'll link those as well.
The entire series A through Z can be found here. The "Best Of" Lists can be found here and here.
10. PUSS N' BOOTS | 1990
I've been trying to search my brain for any real nostalgic association with the character Puss N' Boots from my childhood. Like I'm sure I knew about him (he's a cat who wears shoes, that's awesome!) but I honestly can't remember his story or any other details really. If you're a big younger that I am, you'll probably remember him fondly from the Shrek movies. I have a young nephew and when he told me recently that his favorite show was The Adventures of Puss in Boots, I thought "shit, I really don't want to sit through this." However, I gotta say it's pretty funny! It reminds me of the general irreverence of shows like Rocky and Bullwinkle or even Adventure Time. Definitely check it out, especially if you've got little dudes to entertain. The NES tale of ol' Puss? Well it's based on a Japanese cartoon I've never seen, but if the show is as bad as this game, that's probably a good thing.
Puss N' Boots was published by Electro Brain, makers of other "Huh, that's a game?" titles like Ghoul School, Eliminator Boat Duel, and Stanley: The Search for Doctor Livingston (coming soon to a review near you!) If you've played any of those bad boys you know that Electro Brain puts out interesting but ultimately low production-level games, and Puss N' Boots is no exception. There are a few positives, however. While the music isn't anything too wild, there are at least plenty of unique 15 second long loops for each level (which is asking a lot in most NES titles). Also, each stage takes place in a different location and has some unique design elements: the Ocean stage has you piloting a submarine, the Space Wars stage has a plane, etc. And's a game!
The first thing you'll notice here is...yeah this looks like shit. The art style is extremely basic, like "well meaning housewife illustrating her own children's book" beginner's level. Also, the sprites and backgrounds are all similar colors with no outlines so they just indistinguishably bleed into each other. The next thing you'll notice is that the Pussmaster walks SOOOO SLOW, just taking his sweet ass time getting from one place to another. Just like a real cat! However, if you jump he goes 5x faster for some reason, but even stranger is that all the other bad guys also move at that accelerated speed. Weird. Puss N' Boots is also incredibly easy. I can beat the whole game without dying in 15 minutes. AND I'VE NEVER PLAYED THIS GAME BEFORE IN MY LIFE. The main reason for the smooth sailing here is that seemingly the game can only handle one enemy on the screen at a time and they often don't come anywhere near you. Not only that, but it must be having a tough time with loading issues because there are large swaths of each level where there's no enemies at all. Just 5 uninterrupted seconds of Puss gleefully making his way to the right, looking for something to kill.
Puss N' Boots has got all the hallmarks of bland game design, not bad per se just incredibly uninspired. The music is extremely simple and repetitive, the sprites and backgrounds are the most basic level of illustration, the animation is almost non existent, the same sound effects are used for everything so you can't tell if you hit something or it you, in fact there's no images or any indication at all that you were attacked other than your lifebar slowly decreasing. Also, even though each level does have different vehicles and whatnot, the gameplay experience is exactly the same: go to the right, shoot things (or don't, most of them won't pose any real threat.) Hmmm I guess you could say the exact same thing about Super Mario Bros, but I don't need anymore page space to explain what all separates these two games other than "it ain't no Mario".
Similar Games: Kid Niki: Radical Ninja, Felix the Cat
9. DR. CHAOS | 1988
UGGHHH. Just the other day I was wondering "what if there was a game that took all the frustrating things about Goonies II, amplified them to infinity, then dumbed down the graphics, sound, controls, hit detection, and everything else that made that game fun." Well, dreams do come true!
Dr. Chaos was made by FCI / Marionette, but on the title screen it says "Pony Canyon" which sounds like an insufferably pretentious indie-pop band opening for Imagine Dragons or something. Marionette also made one of the Dungeons and Dragons games and Phantom Fighter which unfortunately we'll probably revisit come the Letter P.
You start the game in a side scrolling level with ultra generic bad guys like rats and bats that kind of reminds me of the Sega Master System title "Ghost House", and for sure like that game, Dr. Chaos would've scared the shit out of me as a child. We didn't all play Silent Hill at age 6 back then and games like this or Friday the 13th or even Castlevania were kinda definitely pretty scary.
Once the game starts all you see is doors, DOORS ARE EVERYWHERE. What happens when you enter a door? You get a first person view like Golgo 13 or Fester's Quest but you can only turn the four directions. Each direction has cabinets that contain guns and mystery fluids and also MORE DOORS but of course you can't go through these doors, oh no! Eventually you are greeted by two straight up horror nightmares, either a Frankenstein Big Foot who's lungs are on the outside of his body, or a stumpy giant mouthed aunt who's allllllll lips. They're polite monsters though and they wait til you're back outside the 3-D rooms before they attack you.
If you ever want to experience your brain completely shutoff, play this game, get frustrated, and then like me watch a walkthrough that's even slower and less satisfying than playing the game in the first place even when you fast forward. I feel like of all the titles on this list, some people out there probably played Dr. Chaos growing up and thus might have some positive nostalgia about it since it's a pretty common NES title. And if that is the case, I am so very very sorry for you. All the other kids who grew up playing Blades of Steel, Super Mario Bros 3, and Legend of Zelda are now CEOs and entrepreneurs and rock stars while you, Kid Chaos, spend your days repeatedly opening doors. And then once inside, opening other doors. And after that? Opening more doors within those doors.
And yet the saddest thing? The doors never, ever open for you. (I'm just kidding, I'm sure you're great :)
Similar Games: Goonies II
Finally, I get to talk about a real game: Rollerblade Racer. YEAH! Rollerblade Racer was published by Hi Tech Expressions, which to me sounds like a futuristic "massage" parlor run by rub n' tug robots. They were responsible for many relatively obscure games for the NES, some of which I've covered already (Fun House, Hunt for Red October, Muppet Adventure: Chaos at the Carnival). If you haven't guessed already, they weren't exactly the American Konami, more like the Panamanian LJN. However, what their games lack in good sound, story, gameplay, graphics, replayability, and pretty much every characteristic that would lead you to believe something was fun, they more than make up for it in mouth agape "what the fuck is this" factors. Thankfully, Rollerblade Racer is no exception.
God damn this game is gold. The first screen is this dude in full pads/helmet standing next to two traffic cones, head to toe in all pink including the rollerblades draped around his shoulders, arms at his sides. He says: "Hi, I'm Kirk. I just bought a new pair of rollerblades." He needs you to enter the "Super Rollerblade Challenge" that for some reason means that if you win he'll qualify. Huh? I guess I'll do that for you random stranger. Hahahaha, my god, he calls his outfit his "bladegear". GAHHHHHH!!! Haha oh lord, it's too good! Ok, I've calmed down, I'm centered and ready to roll. Kirk, LET'S SHRED.
So basically Rollerblade Racer is a really shitty Paperboy knockoff. I was never a big fan of that game, but that's only because the eponymous paperboy had no style and could not carve the pavement like my boy Rollerblade Racer. Poser! You basically just go forward as fast as you can and jump over everything in-sight. Beautifully, because it's rollerblading, the programmers gave you two authentic rollerblade leaps: wheels straight back and legs beneath you, or wheels straight out in opposite directions and legs split out like a crazy person. Bellissimo! The same enemies spawn every three seconds as you go, kind of like watching an old Flintstones where they walk past the same background over and over and over. The dogs and tricycle kids are super easy to avoid, but for some reason those tiny cracks in the road cause my guy to spill like crazy. Throw in a pebble and you've got the true life roller villains captured right there!
After you help Kirk borrow a feeling, you head to the city which is somehow even simpler and easier than the last level. If you find the right line on the screen, you can just go full speed and NEVER INTERACT WITH A SINGLE OBSTACLE. I'm not kidding! The only enemies here are puddles and dogs and you will never come close to touching either of them, even as you pass the same thousand wet golden retrievers on repeat. After that, a sea of traffic cones. THE HORROR! A couple more repetitive levels anddddd...hmmm that's the end of the game. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!
I have not laughed this much or this often while playing a video game in some time. It's so painfully easy and poorly programmed that it is of course quite comical, but honestly what they really nailed with this game is how rollerbladers weer perceived in the 90s. No one then, or now for that matter, was ever considered cool for blading. Not even the "aggressive inline" featured in games like Skitchin' or rad movies like Airborne could make it a tenth as cool as skateboarding. That's because to skaters, all rollerbladers were a bunch of Kirks unironically rocking single colored outfits that matched their blades, reminding you to always wear full pads every time you glide.
Similar Games: Paperboy, Paperboy II
On the cover the actual name reads "Fox's Peter Pan and the Pirates: The Revenge of Captain Hook", making this easily the most cumbersome title in the entire NES library. Not to be confused with Hook which was released a year later, Peter Pan and the Pirates (hereafter known as PPP) is based on an entirely unrelated Saturday Morning Cartoon. I mean I say unrelated, but they're both telling the exact same story as the hundreds of other Peter Pan adaptations. For those that don't know, many of the famous characters developed before or around the 20th century are now Public Domain which is why you see a new Dracula / Frankenstein / Robin Hood / King Arthur / King Kong adaptation come out every few years; Hollywood studios don't have to pay for the rights! I do not remember PPP at all, but it was on the air long enough to get an NES game based on it made (one year!) Oh snap, and this is one of those titles that was only released in North America. I can't seem to find a list that details all of them, but it's pretty rare that there's a game that was released outside of Europe AND Japan. Well, if you lived anywhere outside of the US, Mexico, or Canada consider yourselves fortunate to have missed out because this game blows the big one.
One thing I've learned in this review process is that a super easy way to tell a game is awful happens right after you hit the power button and you see the crew credits before the first level. It's like the developers were worried that no one would ever make it to the end and thus never get to see the names of the people responsible. Well, they were right! After giving credit where shitty credit it due, you start the game up, let that color brown wash over you! You play as Peter (a doy!) and you're gifted with the tiniest, most useless one pixel knife I've ever seen. I mean damn, I've seen some small weapons before but Jesus Christ. Maybe it was a full-sized sword but it's size and usefullness matches it's owner, so once this pint sized goober picked it up the sword shrank sown to Pan sized proportions. It's almost as shitty as Peter's rat-tail.
Peter can fly, but for the longest time I could not figure how to consistently do it. I thought if I held the jump button that would work, but I kept dropping and rising. All you have do is jump then press a button on the d-pad and you'll start floating slowly in that direction. You need this ability to reach hard to reach spots, but your time is limited (based on how much gold you collect). Of course while floating you can't use your knife which I guess makes sense otherwise you'd just turn this into a shoot-em up and flysplode every bad guy in sight. Man that might've been actually, I don't know, FUN! What really sucks is that this is obviously the main gameplay mechanic, essentially the equivalent of Scrooge's pogo jump from Duck Tales, but because it uses the D-pad you'll find yourself constantly flying when you don't want to and not flying when you absolutely need to. Aside from the usual random enemies like pirates, spiders, and pterodactyls(?) they included the most obnoxious bad guy of the all: every pit, instead of killing you, takes you back to the beginning of the stage. Every pit. FUCK THAT.
The music is way too high pitched so even if there were a decent melody hidden in there your ears have to want to hear Geddy Lee's helium solo in order to enjoy it. There are only two sound effects: for jumping and for attacking. I know this because on the first level I caused the music to glitch out and stop playing, leaving only the occasional starter-kit sound effects to illuminate the game's aural mood. What else, well other than PPP looking and sounding like shit, it also plays like shit. The hit detection is horrendous, the jumping is awkward, the aforementioned flying is both the gift and the curse, and worst of all Peter Pan and the Pirates is completely reminiscent of every boring time wasting action platformer you've ever wished you hadn't rented from Blockbuster. But hey, that describes about 40% of the NES library sooooo at least it's in good company!
Similar Games: Hook
6. NFL FOOTBALL | 1989
What's different about this game from NES Play Action Football? Well the first thing you'll notice is a big ol' official NFL logo on the title screen which means that this game features the actual teams, although I don't think there are any actual players names used here. But hey, I get to play as my beloved Atlanta Falcons, so that's not so bad! Wait, what's that? LJN label?!? SPOKE TOO SOON!
First of all, instead of a screen that shows you the plays you can choose from, there's a picture of a NES controller with no indication of what you're supposed to do. I just randomly press buttons until the controller lights up and it takes me to the field. Now it shows for several seconds what the formation of the offense and defense is, but still no layout of what play you're trying to run. Like Play Action before it, as far as I can tell you cannot run the ball (WHY?!?), just throw it which is so much more difficult than it needs to be. Also like that aforementioned garbage title, I cannot tell how to choose the target, there's no arrows or blinking players or anything. And wow, I made fun of NES Play Action Football for being slow but Jesus Christ NFL Football is the real deal. Everything from the time to choose plays, to the time between screens loading, to the actual running speed of the players themselves moves at the most crippled of snail's paces. Also, while there is some generic sports music playing on the select screens, once the actual game starts the only sounds are those of the crowd whistling. Majestic.
One small redeeming thing about NFL Football is that once you throw the ball it cuts to a screen with larger sprites and you have to track and position your player under the ball to catch it. It kinda reminds me of the frisbee section of California Games. It's not great, but it's kinda fun and I bet if you were playing against a friend this little battle screen would be the best part. Beyond that? Naw player, this game is a full pass.
I don't know if it's just my cartridge (it sounds like something's rattling around in there), but this game seems real glitchy. Like the screen flashes and shakes whenever I choose an option and coding numbers randomly appear, way more than the usual issues a Q-tip and some Brasso will solve. Also, between every play it cuts to this awful blank brownish green screen for a few seconds; however, I think that's just how they programmed it because they didn't know what to do when the game needed to load. If the NES were a mood ring that changed colors based on the aura of the cartridge placed inside it, truly vomit green is the negative energy of NFL Football encapsulated.
Similar Games: 10 Yard Fight, California Games

Castelian, Castle of Dragon, Blues Brothers, Gotcha! the Sport, Incredible Crash Test Dummies, Indiana Jones (UbiSoft version), Jimmy Connors Tennis, James Bond Jr., Spelunker, Snoopy's Silly Sports Spectacular, Swamp Thing
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UPDATE (1 year in and loving it!): 35, $1.1M - Luck, Stumbles, Dedication, and Thrift - An 11 Year Journey to FI

So it's been a full year since I've been RE and wanted to give a quick update on my original post. Spoiler: I'm loving the FIRE and don't have any plan to go back to work at all! I've put the TL;DR up front, but I've got a lot more details below if you're interested in reading those!
In the rest of the post I will cover the following topics: Major FIRE actions, Quality of Life Update, Budget in FIRE, Goals for Year 2 of FIRE, Notable Experiences Since my Last Update, and Notable Events/Trips for 2020. So read on for more details!

Major FIRE actions

Quality of Life Update

I definitely don't feel any guilt about not working or feel bored (I've seen a lot of posts recently commenting on either or both topics) - I've got so many things I do outside of work that I enjoy and I've been able to spend so much more time with friends and family post-FIRE.
I have a much more laid back attitude with life. Before FIRE I was very much a "always on the go", Type A kind of person, feeling like I had to optimize every bit of every day, partially because I had limited time at home, but also because I wanted to "maximize life". While on a 3 week vacation, I actually had 1-2 days where I actually just lounged around at my hotel swimming pool instead of seeing cultural sights and exploring the city. If you bet me a year ago that I'd spend an entire day not doing anything besides laying at the pool and eating, I would have thought you were crazy. With the ability to do slower travel and therefore less pressure to squeeze everything in, I've found that FIRE has given me a a stronger sense of calm/relaxation from the normal frantic life and resulted in a lot less stress.
Decisions and Structure
From time to time, I found that there was a lot of things to do and it was often tiring to choose what to do. Making decisions takes energy and effort (see the book "The Paradox of Choice" for further information on choice and loss aversion). With a large lack of defined work schedule and structure, it was taking energy to make those decisions. What I've done to combat having to make so many decisions is to create a shell structure so I'm doing the things I want to avoid suffering from decision fatigue.
For example, Monday nights are always board game nights at my lcoal store, Monday and Thursday afternoon are my lead climbing days, Tuesdays are my puzzles or cheap movie nights, and Friday are my theater nights. Nothing is set in stone of course, but having the structure relieves me from having to make decisions all the time over things that I want to do and can let me spend more time on meaningful decisions.

Budget in FIRE

I spent more on travel and some other areas, but surprisingly my spend was still only <$500 greater than my planned budget, despite paying for (effectively) Cobra Health Insurance for 6 months. The following are a few random musings of some areas where my budget has decreased as a result of FIRE:
Lower expenses as a result of FIRE:

Goals for Year 2 of FIRE

Notable experiences since my last update:

Notable planned events/trips for 2020

Hope you found the post enjoyable and/or informative. Please let me know if you have any questions/comments!
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First Contact - Part Forty-Four

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Ullmo'ok was a bad Lanaktallan. His mother and father had always told him so. He was uninterested in money, he was uninterested in power, he had little to no interest in politics, and he didn't care one way or another for rules. The last would have been understandable if it involved the first three in any way, but Ullmo'ok's idea of a fun evening was getting together with some friends, all of the them from the UnCivilized species or the neo-sapients, hacking a car's computer, and roaring around the city in it.
The final straw had come when Ullmo'ok had gotten high on stim-grass, stripped naked, painted himself red with the crowd suppression paintgun, stolen a LawSec cruiser and driven it on a two hour chase that had culminated in Ullmo'ok deliberately crashing the armored vehicle into the river and standing on top of it as it sank, rearing up to show his genitals to the TriVid cameras, his jowls full of stimgrass. He'd had a gun in each hand, taken from the LawSec cruiser, and kept shooting potshots at the cameras until a LawSec sniper had tagged him with a stunner rifle. The sniper had been forced to shoot the young Lanaktallan three times to drop him.
It was put up to the jowls full of stimgrass.
His parents had been horrified. His friends had found it hilarious. LawSec had taken the bribe and looked the other way.
Ullmo'ok had been entertained. He'd almost felt something, standing on the roof the sinking LawSec vehicle. He'd come so close but the stunner had hit him. He'd felt something then, not the ravening nerve pain that the second shot brought, not the darkness that the third shot had dropped onto him, but he'd felt something he'd never felt before.
He had been sent to where his father's uncle was in charge of resource collection in a system in the Unified Outer Systems. His great-uncle was less than impressed that Ullmo'ok had gotten intoxicated during the flight and had fallen off the gangplank and onto the spaceport tarmac, laughing like a pair of bagpipes in a paint shaker, a bottle of alk-brew in each hand and a stimstick in his mouth.
His great-uncle had tried to put him in the offices, doing busy work and just moving files and papers around down in the mail room.
Ullmo'ok had convinced the neo-sapients who worked in the mail room to fight one another in the "Pit of Fists Swinging" for the reward of time off, vacation days, and raises.
His great-uncle moved him to the warehouse, where Ullmo'ok had put together a racing rally with the wheeled ground effect forklifts with "prizes" for the winners. After that was stopped by his great-uncle he arranged a 'hover smash' where workers drove old hoverlifts and crashed into one another with the winners getting prizes. Soon every hoverlift was covered in sheet metal and spikes and mesh. Ullmo'ok himself took part in them until finally he broke one of his arms when he was t-boned by another lift. Ullmo'ok's uncle sighed and sent the young Lanaktallan out to one of the mines as soon as he healed.
Ullmo'ok himself had almost felt something when the bones in his arm had snapped and he'd whipped his hoverlift around to slam the heavy weighted end into the worker's side. He'd almost felt something when his uncle had ordered his arm set without painkillers. He'd knocked out the Umtervian medic with one hit when he'd reacted to the pain and felt a little bit of something that he had been chasing.
At the mines, Ullmo'ok's uncle had despaired. Ullmo'ok had gotten bored with paperwork and supervision the first week and had bribed one of the workers to teach him to use a cargo-mech to load the raw ore into the transports. That had led to "Mech Bash" competitions where mechs smashed against each other, slamming each other with graspers or lifters, while an audience cheered. Within a month the cargo-mechs were covered in metal and spikes and painted garish colors.
A few workers were killed in the competitions, but Mech-Bash went on, with Ullmo'ok participating to the roar of the crowd.
Strangely, productivity was up. Incidents between the workers and CorpSec were down. Alcohol and drug use were up, black market trading of ration chips and CorpStore script was up, fighting was up, but the amount of lethal stabbings, shootings, beatings, and ambushes went down.
Ullmo'ok's uncle just swept all the Mech-Bash incidents under the rug. He purchased junk mechs from the other Corporate divisions, thinking maybe having older, battered, less maintained cargo-mechs would stop the Mech-Bash and having massive redundancy would replace the cargo-mechs when they failed.
Instead Ullmo'ok's band started stripping parts from the junk-mechs and adding them to the cargo mechs.
Then CorpSec reported that the junkyard where the old defunct corporate crowd control and law enforcement vehicles had been robbed.
Ullmo'ok's uncle knew exactly who had robbed it, but at least this time there was no evidence. The older Lanaktallan had boarded his executive hoverlimo and gone out to the mine, chewing narco-cud the whole way to ease his anxiety.
He could see two cargo-mechs battering each other as his hover-limo came in for a landing. As he watched in horror one of them opened up with a chain-gun that was the same type as the heavy crowd control vehicles from CorpSec used.
He could hear the roar of the crowd even through his armored limo's windows.
When he landed a small Puntimat neo-sapient lizard asked the older Lanaktallan if he wanted to purchase something called 'box seats' or if he wanted refreshments or to meet some of the 'Mech Slammers" personally.
The Uncle, who went by the name of Lo'omo'nan, harrumphed and demanded to see his nephew. Lo'omo'nan found himself escorted by two young female Lanaktallan of lower caste, secretaries for the Corporation's mining facility, dressed scandalously so much of their udders showed. Instead of taking him directly to see his nephew Lo'omo'nan was taken to a seat protected by pressor beams and armaglass.
"Where, harrumph, is my nephew?" Lo'omo'nan asked, accepting the offer of a narcobrew.
One of the Lanaktallan females pointed out at the dirt field where a cargo-mech had just walked out. The cargo mech was covered in crude metal armor, garishly painted, with chain guns, a giant sawblade for a hand, and a crudely fashioned metal spiked fist replacing one of the graspers.
"He is right there, Most High Guest," the Lanaktallan female informed the older male.
As Lo'omo'nan watched the cargo-mech raised all four arms, slamming the forearms together as the crowd roared.
The entire crowd roared so fiercely that Lo'omo'nan's tendril curled and his crests inflated defensively.
The battle was fierce and made Lo'omo'nan cringe and feel nauseous. His grand-nephew showed no hesitation, like a proper civilized being would, and instead charged his opponent and met him blow for blow. The battle ended when the other cargo-mech landed on its back with a crash and the crowd roared. Lo'omo'nan thought it strange that his nephew reached down one mechanical hand to help his opponent to their feet and raised the mech's hand with his own, to the roar of the crowd.
One of his female hanger-ons asked Lo'omo'nan if he wanted a Tri-Vid or VR chip of the battle as a souviner.
Only 24 Corpscript.
Lo'omo'nan couldn't believe that the crowd had been chanting his family name at top volume. He himself avoided crowds, which all stared and muttered as his limo moved through. He saw his nephew pushing through the crowd, slapping extended hands with his four hands, cursing loudly, and swigging narco-brew handed to him. His nephew, Ullmo'ok, was sweaty, wearing only a cooling vest and a bandage over one of his side eyes, not even a sash to proclaim who he was and what his standing was. Lo'omo'nan watched, horrified, as one of the tall neosapient mammals, a two legged Hikken, poured narcobrew on her fur covered mammary glands and his nephew pressed his sweaty face between them, shook his head, and made blubbering sounds.
The crowd around his nephew roared with glee.
Another worker being, another neosapient, stripped off her shirt, revealing scandalous flesh and fur, handing her shirt to Lo'omo'nan's nephew. Ullmo'ok wiped his face and chest and handed it back, the neo-sapient clutching it tight to her upper body, her eyes bright as she watched Lo'omo'nan's nephew swagger between a doorway.
Lo'omo'nan was led to his nephew's "office", taking a winding way. They moved through the maintenance bay where Lo'omo'nan saw maintenance techs working on the crudely armored and armed mechs. Past makeshift lounges and bars where Lo'omo'nan saw wealthy executives of the Corporation yelling, shaking fists, and shouting bets as the narcobrew flowed and the stimcud was chewed. Lo'omo'nan couldn't believe what he was seeing.
He knew that Lanaktallan, a senior executive with the Corporation, from distinguished family lineage, who's family was wealthy and powerful even by Unified Core Systems standards. The SEO was at the bar, shouting at the screen where two cargo-mechs brawled, a narcobrew in each hand of his four hands, while two small lemurian Welkret females combed the Lanaktallan's fur and rubbed his skin while sitting on his back. As Lo'omo'nan watched, the wealthy and powerful being turned at the waist to face the two on his back. The closer one took a deep drag off a stimstick held by the other one, put her hands on either side of the Lanaktallan's jowls, and blew the smoke directly into his nostrils.
Lo'omo'nan hurriedly clopped past that, closing his side and rear eyes so he didn't have to see such disgusting deviance carried on by members of his own species.
Finally he reached his nephew, who was sitting on a broken couch, a stimstick in his mouth, a Welkret female with a medikit tending to his bruises and small cuts on his hide. The younger Lanaktallan had his eyes closed, his hands at his sides, and Lo'omo'nan was horrified to see that his nephew was allowing two comely young Lanaktallan females manually stimulate him sexually as he relaxed and the Welkret tended to his wounds while loud music, prohibited by the Corporation, blared from speakers stacked in the corners.
"Nephew!" the elder Lanaktallan harrumphed, hoping the sound of his voice would put a stop to this degeneracy and debasement.
He was shocked and appalled that the two females didn't even look up, instead just leaned over his nephews back to entwine their jowl tendrils, their hands still busy. The Welkret ran the auto-suturer down a cut on his nephews flank. Everyone else cheered as an arm was torn free from a cargo-mech as the other yanked the arm straight and ravaged the joint with the chaingun.
"I perfected that move, you know, uncle," His nephew said, pointing at the screen with a half-empty narcobrew.
Lo'omo'nan yanked his attention from the huge display, normally used by executives to display data, and looked at his nephew, who was patting the rumps of the two females and shooing them away.
"Just what do you think you're doing?" Lo'omo'nan demanded of his nephew.
"Getting 'patched up' to use a phrase, Uncle," Ullmo'ok answered, taking a swig from his narcobrew. "My opponent was skilled and determined. I was proud to defeat him, Most Honored Uncle."
"Honored? Honored? You destroy the honor of our line, of our name, by brawling with these... these... neo-species," Lo'omo'nan sputtered, his tendrils tight with outrage.
"If you say so," Ullmo'ok said. He twitched slightly and the Welkret snapped at him to stay still so she could scrape the emergency coagulate off his skin and suture the wound.
"Your workers cause damage to company property, costing the mine credits, undoubtedly putting this whole facility into the red! If you don't care about our honor, what about our stockholders?" Lo'omo'nan barked as best he could, inflating his crests to establish dominance over his nephew.
His nephew ignored the crests, taking another swig. "Is it money you're worried about, uncle?" The younger Lanaktallan said slowly. He signified disappointment and resignation then made a tossing motion toward the older male. "View that if all you worry about is the profits."
Lo'omo'nan snorted and opened the datafile. It was a spreadsheet of company costs and expenses balanced against income, with man hours, and expenses and income broken down.
Ullmo'ok watched his uncle digest the data that seemed so important to the older Lanaktallan but was infinitely uninteresting to Ullmo'ok himself.
Anyone can turn a neo-sapient upside down and shake the credit chits from his pockets, Ullmo'ok thought to himself. Only the best can convince them to roar out his name is frenzied appreciation.
Lo'omo'nan couldn't believe what he was seeing. The entire facility was making more profit in a single planetary cycle than it ever had in its entire existence. Membership fees, drinks and narcotics, prostitution, viewing fees, entrance fees, income from TriVid and VR chips, GalNet broadcast on shady Netsites that were pay per view only, gambling, and more. The credits were pouring in, outstripping even the cost to black marketeers for weapons, armor, narcotics. Even outstripping worker payments, taxes, everything else. The books were then cooked, using the mining and refinery plant as cover. What the refinery actually made in profit could have been listed in the slush funds compared to what his nephew was bringing in from his illegal and immoral activities.
Even more startling was that Ullmo'ok had reported every drip and drop of income to the Unified Taxation Office and paid the taxes.
Ullmo'ok watched his uncle's tendrils tremble in pleasure and gave the equivalent of a sigh of envy. His uncle looked almost orgasmic, a feeling that Ullmo'ok chased but could only taste the bare edges of.
Only in the cockpit of his cargo-mech.
"You did all this?" Lo'omo'nan asked, surprised his nephew even understood how to do multi-column accounting.
Ullmo'ok snorted in amusement. "Hardly, uncle. I pay employees to do it and pay them well."
"What if one of the neo-sapients tries to cheat you or rob you?" Lo'omo'nan asked, sure his nephew didn't understand how to keep the neo-sapients in line.
"The first one that did I had chained to the fist of my cargo-mech and pasted him against the chest armor of my opponent with a few punches," Ullmo'ok said matter of factly, as if he wasn't talking about the brutal killing of another sentient being. Lo'omo'nan stared at his nephew in horror as the younger one gave the equivalent of a shrug. "It's one of the most downloaded and paid for clips. My opponent painted over the dark blue of the dried blood with bright blue paint to remind everyone of that battle. Since then, my employees only steal about 2%, which I'm willing to overlook."
Lo'omo'nan just stared in horror. Without another word he turned around and galloped back to his limo, returning to the capital with a promise to himself that as long as his nephew kept bringing in record profits the maniacal Lanaktallan could just stay at the remote facility.
Ullmo'ok looked at the being. Called a 'human' apparently. A bipedal primate with the closely set forward facing eyes of a predator, thickly muscles, with hair only on its head and around its mouth, with five fingers instead of four. It was dressed in clothing covered with holograms that showed cartoon female humans chasing each other and hitting one another with blunt object. It made Ullmo'ok inflate his crests with amusement.
"You know, I can replace that eye with a cybereye in about an hour," the human said, using a universal translator. "No charge. Just have the medibot do it while we conduct business."
Ullmo'ok signified his agreement with one hand, his eyes only for what the human "Junker" had brought him.
Massive robot power armor. Armor meters thick. Bristling with weapons. Designed like a biped but just oozing malice. All of them designed to appear aggressive and menacing just sitting there with their fusion reactors pulled and weapons empty or disengaged.
A spider-bot climbed up Ullmo'ok's foreleg, then up his torso, then onto his head, settling over the empty socket of his right side eye.
Ullmo'ok ignored it. A medibot was nothing to grow anxious about. He mentally braced for pain. Pain was inevitable. Pain was good.
Pain was life.
"I've got some old Terran battle-cruiser battle-screens. That should protect the crowd from any missed shots as well as provide really slamming effects when they're hit. Nothing outside a nuclear penetrator can get through that class of shields, even though they're old tech. Pulled 'em off some blown out ships back around Rigel-6," The Terran, human, Max-a-Millions said, slapping his hands together eagerly, the motion like he was brushing off dust but more animated and loud.
Ullmo'ok liked that body language. He tried it himself and found it much more satisfying than the handwringing of anticipation that most of his race used.
"That sounds sufficient," Ullmo'ok said, following the Terran's body language of nodding rather than inflating his crest in assent. He liked that too.
"Now, these mechs are civilian grade, usually used by frontier harsh environment worlds for heavy security. They'll rip a pirate ship to shreds, can go toe to toe with light armor, and can even take on your civilian government grade heavy armor units," Max said, pointing at one of the smaller mechs. "That one, right there? That can crush most heavy armor units used by your civilian governments with a single stomp. I wouldn't try taking on a Confed Mil-spec tank, that thing would rip you apart. But against anything you'll probably face? No contest."
Ullmo'ok nodded, admiring the lethal lines of the massive mech. He liked the one with the skull face, the big fists, and the retractable rotating sawblade sword in its forearm.
"So, how many do you want?" The human asked, rubbing his hands together. Ullmo'ok's implant told him that it was eagerness, not distress.
Ullmo'ok stared at all the mechs in the massive freighter's hold. Over a hundred of them. All heavily armored and armed.
"All of them."
The cartoon female humans frollicking on Max-a-Million's suit all waved their pom-poms with their eyes replaced by throbbing hearts.
CorpSec Chief Executive Officer Moolim'ak exited his armored LawSec wagon, adjusted his sash, and trotted forward. The small neo-sapients waiting for him performed the elaborate welcoming rituals that were his due. Two lower caste Lanaktallan females, their implants marking them as food service workers for refinery executives, both trotted forward to coo at him and rub him. A Welkret climbed up on his back and began rubbing soothing narco-cream into his four shoulder-blades. He liked her, she had strong, soft hands and new how to rub his muscles just right to force knots from tension to relax.
The smell of hot lubricant, scorched metal, sweat, and anticipation filled the CorpSec CEO's nostrils and his tendrils shivered in anticipation.
He was a wealthy and powerful male of the Lanaktallan executive caste, even beyond this planet. Yes, he should arrest young Ullmo'ok and every being involved or served by the younger male's illegal activities, but Moolim'ak couldn't bring himself to even think about such a thing.
After all, where else would he see such amazing sights?
The sound of music, new music, harsh, demanding, thundering, aggressive and violent, poured over the CEO as he entered the Most High Class Executive Lounge. He merely used that entrance to gain access to the facility. He handed off his sash and badges of rank to the little Puntimat at the door, who was inside an armored cage and took all valuables and put them in registered locked boxes. The sign at the top of her armor-plast window stated a warning: "Not Responsible For Grabbed Stuff You Take In!" The CEO nodded at the warning, gave the little neo-sapient a week's worth the meal chits for the way she bobbed and grovelled as she put his stuff away, and headed deeper into the facility.
He passed the other members of his race at the clean and immaculate feeling lounges, moving past that to where he preferred. The greasy, slightly dirty, shabby lounge where the neon glowed, the music was almost too loud, and more than once some of the neo-sapients and even members of his own race threw fists over the outcome of a match or a disagreement over which cargo-mech pilot was best.
A bunch of his CorpSec men, all lower executives, raised up narcobeer and cheered him. Moolim'ak signaled the being tending the bar to bring another round to the table and clopped over to his men. They all thanked him for getting them in to the Grand Mech Bash. Something new was promised, something grand, and the alien sounded hard driving music hinted at whatever it was, it was going to be big.
When the fireworks went off and the lights went out, Moolim'ak turned to watch the oversized vid display. Sure, the tables in the executive lounges had built-in holoprojectors, but the faded and transparent holos just didn't have the excitement of the vid screens.
The little Welkret on his back tapped him and he turned around to face her. She took a drag off her stimstick, put her other hand against his left hand jowl, and slowly exhaled stimsmoke into his nostril. He inhaled deeply, gratefully, feeling the already activated stim surge into his bloodstream and shivered.
What stomped out onto the viewscreen, obviously shaking the ground of the arena, was something that Moolim'ak recognized, something he had seen in classified videos from the furious fighting against the Precursors over the last two months.
A human Warmech.
It raised its arms over its head, clasing the massive hands, and shook them while the crowd roared.
Moolim'ak was aghast. How had those war machines, some weighing as much as 500 tons, gotten to the planet? How had young Ullmo'ok gotten his grasping four hands on one? He stared as special effects froze the giant mechanized war machine, spun it around, put it in garish colors, and then detailed the weapons.
Sweat popped up on Moolim'ak's crests and he inflated them with agitation. That giant beast carried two 200mm autocannons just to start off with. It packed missiles, lasers, particle beams, something called a 'chainsword", and more. Its polyceramic warsteel laminate armor could shrug anything his entire CorpSec force could bring to bear and those autocannons would shred anything he could field.
"Yeah! Yeah!" One of his subordinates, a Senior Executive Officer cheered. "Slamsmash! Slamsmash!"
The little Welkret tapped Moolim'ak and when the CEO turned at the waist to face behind him the little mammal pressed both hands against his nose and slowly exhaled narcosmoke into first one then the other nostril. Moolim'ak closed his eyes and let the little neo-sapient put his four hands on her fur and start to stroke.
It soothed him, such degeneracy. It calmed him, indulging in such deviance. He would never do so in private or at work, but here, surrounded by pounding alien music, in a dimly lit grimy "sports-lounge", surrounded by his subordinates and other Mechbash fans, he indulged himself in vices that he would have never imagined as a young Lanaktallan in the Unified Core Systems where he had grown up.
He turned around, shifting his arms so he still reached behind him to stroke the Welkret, who tapped the inside of one arm with a narcojet, just in time to see the opponent. A giant warmech the same weight class, different weapons, painted in the garish colors of another competitor. This one armed with lasers, particle cannons, missiles, with point defense and other missile defenses.
It then pulled back, displaying the modified arena. Giant chunks of 'armor' made up of warsteel and battlesteel, glimmering energy fields, and other things to take cover behind. Plasma 'mines', auto-turrets, flamers, all kinds of hazards that the crowd could activate by throwing 'BashCash' at it in the form of work-chits, food chits, corp-script, Unified Systems Credits, even promises of favors.
The count-down started and Moolim'ak calmed his agitation by touching the little female in ways that a member of his species, his caste, his executive status probably shouldn't. He brought her around to his chest, cradling and stroking her in his four arms, while she blew clouds of narco-vape across his nose and balanced a mug of narcobrew on her stomach.
The battle started and Moolim'ak quickly forgot his agitation. Particle cannons thundered, autocannons shrieked, the shields screamed and sparked with misses that thrilled the crowd as they were only held off from certain death by the invisible hands of battle-screen projectors.
Ten fights, all between massive Terran Warmechs. Moolim'ak won as often as he lost, but by the time he was halfway through watching the fights he was cheering as often as everyone else. He broke a narcobrew bottle across the face of a Senior Executive Lanaktallan from Financial Services during the sixth fight, clasped hands with the same being and cheered during the seventh, the two males slapping each other's sides in shared joy as the mech they had been on defeated the larger one. One of his subordinates put a fist in his eye and he responded by kicking the other male in the chest to the roar of the onlookers. He bought his defeated subordinate a large mug of the subordinate's favorite narcobrew to show how gracious he was in victory. The subordinate cheered Moolim'ak's name as they all left togheter and rode home in the same executive limo.
Ullmo'ok's uncle looked at the profits from the "New & Improved Mechbash!" and had to shuffle funds around at a Senior Executive level to hide the profits. He noticed the CEO of CorpSec had a swollen eye during a luncheon, but didn't pay it any mind, CorpSec types often had to put down riots.
The air was full of thunder as atmospheric craft roared overhead. More humans had arrived, to protect the system from a possible Precursor attack. Humans had sworn to protect the star system, had deployed massive amounts of war machines through space, around moons, on planets. Everywhere a Precursor might attack, might strike at the beings they so hated.
While other Lanaktallan had run in circles panicking, wringing their four hands, inflating and deflating their crests in fear, shaking their jowls in terror, bleating and crying out in anxiety, Ullmo'ok felt a tingling tremor deep inside. Actually felt it.
He invited Terrans to his Mechbash, comped them entrance, drinks, anything they wanted.
They had enjoyed it.
Ullmo'ok liked the Terrans he had met. Members of something called V Corps (Old Metal) that just made his tendrils coil in joy. Ullmo'ok had noticed that even their officers liked the dimmer, grimier looking lounges, more deviant and dangerous the better.
Two humans had pulled knives on each other, fighting on the floor of one of the lounges over a Puntimat female they had both been petting. Neither one had been killed but they had been injured. Ullmo'ok had ordered the Welkret 'medicos' to not use painkillers on the Terrans to see how they reacted.
Every reaction to pain brought jeers from their fellow Terrans. One who had flinched had narcobrew poured over him by his fellows.
The two knife fighters were arm in arm, cheering, less than a fight later.
Ullmo'ok was fascinated by the Terrans.
They looked... looked...
Ullmo'ok envied them.
Attendance at Ullmo'ok Mech Bash Arena is permitted via recreation pass.
Please stop stabbing each other. It looks bad to our hosts when senior officers duel with knives over who gets to pet the furry xenospecies 'with great tits' no matter how much it amuses your subordinates. I appreciate a great set of mammary glands as much as the next species, but rolling around on the floor while the enlisted pour narcobrew on you is undignified. Real officers use stun-pistols at twenty paces. While dueling is legal, please refrain from doing so unless it is vitally important, like who may have stolen your last pack of Terran cigarettes.
--General Nodra'ak, V Corps, Commanding
---------NOTHING FOLLOWS---------------
Attendance at this so called "Mech Bash" is strictly prohibited to all executives by order of Kestimet Corporate Headquarters, Core Worlds. Attendance to any of this illegal activity can result in a fine of up to three day's pay.
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