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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. Hotmail.com was given that name to indicate that it was the best e-mail service, and www.urbandictionary.com, whose definitions are created by their readers, defines "hot" as (among other things) attractive, the best, and someone who makes you wish you had a pause button when they walk by because you don't want that moment to end. (I want you to feel like that "someone.") Health, wellness, and fitness are always hot topics. "HOT" may be a buzzword but it's also how I describe the best there is and the best you can be. I've used the words "smokin' hot" for everything from a killer chicken wing red sauce to a coveted couture gown.
There is…a lot to unpack here. My leading hypothesis is that Kelly must have accidentally exposed her internal circuitry to water and started shorting out while writing this passage, causing her to string together a rambling parade of incoherent sentences with no relationship to one another, save a tangential association with the amorphous concept of hotness. Also, it's factually inaccurate. A cursory Google search reveals that Hotmail.com was not "given that name to indicate that it was the best e-mail service." Rather, the service's name was selected as a reference to the use of HTML to create webpages, as is more apparent from the original stylization, HoTMaiL. I know from her savvy allusion to "www.urbandictionary.com" that Kelly is capable of navigating the Internet, so I'm disappointed that she's made such a careless oversight within the first three pages of the book proper.
Kelly next takes us through a few scenes from her past to illustrate how she has come to understand the true meaning of "HOT." Here are just a few of the assorted pearls of wisdom that Kelly is gracious enough to share with us:
Is skinny hot? Naturally skinny is hot. Starving yourself in order to change your natural body type in order to get skinny is not hot.

For me, the ultimate HOT girl is the nineteenth-century Gibson girl.

…Bethany Hamilton, the young surfer who lost an arm in a shark attack and didn’t let it stop her from pursuing a sport she loves. She's smokin' HOT.

pregnancy is smokin' HOT
I'm distracted from my diligent note-taking by a line that truly makes me laugh out loud.
I don't want to pretend that I'm "just like you." To do that would be disingenuous, and you wouldn't believe me anyway. But I may be more like you than you think. My hair may be ready for Victoria's Secret, but my values are still Midwestern.
I appreciate the honesty! As I continue reading, I am pleased to learn that I am, in fact, already consuming this piece of literature in the appropriate way. As Kelly says:
I urge you to make notes as you go along, either in the book itself or, if writing in a book is anathema to you, in a little notebook to use as your own personal guide. Jotting down ideas as they pop into your head is the best way to process them and be sure that they don't leave again before you've had a chance to commit them to long-term memory. Then, if you've made a mistake, when you go back and see it there on paper, you'll remind yourself not to do it again. Or, as I like to say, you'll avoid getting bitten by the same food dog twice!
Bitten…by the same….food...dog? Never change, KKB. (As an aside, what's the oveunder on Kelly having even the slightest idea what the word 'anathema' means?) If I'm being totally honest, this book is making me feel a little superfluous. What more can I add when the source material is so impenetrable to begin with? How does one parse the unparseable? Newly humbled, I suppose I'll have to be content with just gaping in confusion alongside the rest of you. And now that I think about it, what better book to build me up from these insecurities and encourage me to be my best? In the words of Kelly herself:
After all, why wouldn't you want to be HOT? What's the alternative? Being "not so hot"?
The book is organized into seven chapters, one for each day of the week, focusing on seven distinct facets of hotness. We start our journey on "Monday: Make a List -- Plan and Prepare!" and are immediately blessed with another one of Kelly's philosophical ramblings:
To me, living well is the only option. What, after all, is the only alternative? Living badly? Who aspires to live badly? I want you to live well, and that's going to take some planning.
Eager to improve myself, I read on:
What are your goals for yourself? If you're going to make changes in your life, you need to have a plan, you need to prepare, and you need to take the time to get it right -- so that you don't wind up wasting your time. This is my plan, and from now on it's going to be yours. Monday is going to be the day you make a HOT plan and prepare for the rest of your week. Let's get started together!
I can't help but feel like this is one of those answers that beauty pageant contestants give when they don't actually know how to respond to a question. Or like a motivational speech written by a rudimentary AI. I can't quite articulate exactly what it is that makes Kelly's writing seem so utterly devoid of logical coherence, but it truly falls into the literary equivalent of the Uncanny Valley.
Reminding us that "this isn't just about budgeting your food; it's about budgeting your life," Kelly peppers us with even more helpful tips -- "You don't want to be that person who is snacking while you're shopping. That's not hot -- period." and shares a stream-of-consciousness-style list of "Staples I keep in my house." Which may possibly be some kind of freeform postmodern poetry. Judge for yourself.
Kelly advises the reader to "get out your calendar or PDA" to get a sense of your schedule. "Then use your PDA to find the closest well-stocked market and go there. Making life easy for yourself is what it's all about." Now is as good a time as any to clarify that this book was published in 2012. I'd be lying if I said reading so many consecutive Housewives memoirs hasn't made my grasp on sanity a bit shaky, but I am fairly positive that 2012 was not a banner year for the Personal Digital Assistant.
Kelly has taken the time to pluck out a few particularly incisive pearls of wisdom throughout the book to highlight as "Kelly's Cardinal Rules." I would love to help clarify exactly what this one means, but I'm afraid I'm utterly clueless. One thing I do know for certain, however, as the chapter comes to a close, is that "human contact is HOT; texting is not!"
The week continues with "Tuesday: A Little Ohm and a Little Oh Yeah! -- It's All About Balance." It is imperative that you work out, says Kelly, adding, "I've never met a smokin' hot couch potato and I bet you haven't either." Her personal exercise routine, as she shares, combines aerobics and yoga "because life is all about balance." As she quips, "I'm sure even Gandhi cracked a smile from time to time." A panel titled "HOT Tip" admonishes the reader: "Don't call it working out because exercise shouldn't be work!"
If you'd like to spend a morning in the style of Kelly Bensimon, it's as easy as eating "a couple of oranges" and drinking coffee -- "I love coffee; I would probably marry coffee if it proposed." She also lets us in on some of her secret, highly advanced workout routines designed to maximize your time in the gym and propel you towards your full potential. Such as the "Happy Twenty," in which you run for 18 minutes and then do 2 minutes of squats.
We get further instruction on the hottest ways to run on the following page, where a two-page spread advertises "a few of my HOT tips for having a fun run." To ensure that you're able to start your journey to HOT as quickly as possible, I've taken the liberty of transcribing one of her most valuable nuggets below:
Run in the street instead of on the sidewalk. I took a lot of flack for this when they filmed me on Season 2 of the Real Housewives of New York City. The thing is, I think that people walking down the street while texting are a lot more dangerous than a car. Drivers will go out of their way to avoid you (accidents are too much paperwork, and they really mess up a day), but strolling texters will walk right into you without even seeing you. You could also get smacked by a shopping bag, a stroller, or even an oversized purse. Sidewalks are really obstacle courses. Beware!
Kelly shares some standout tracks from her workout playlist ("It's much more fun exercising to music!"), including the perennial pump-up-the-jam classic, "Skinny Love" by Bon Iver. With no regard for thematic continuity or overarching structure, the next page is dominated by the header "Get Leggier Legs."
An April 10, 2009, article about me in Harper's Bazaar captioned one of the photos "She's got legs." I was born blessed with long lean legs, but I work very hard to keep them looking the way they do. I'm tall, but I could just as easily have long, large legs. And long and large is not hot. Unfortunately I can't give you my legs. But I can help you to be the best you can be.
Truly inspirational. I think.
We continue on with Kelly's advice for "how to avoid the 'freshman fifteen," accompanied by a list of what she refers to as "Kelly rules." These run the gamut from near-sinister
Get rid of any negative thoughts. Negative-town isn't Fun-town.
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 www.themonogramshops.com makes the smoothie go down with a giggle." Also, "sitting alone in front of the TV eating ice cream is not hot!" We are then introduced to one of Kelly's more advanced strategies, which she calls "Energy Economics." This means that you might need to eat more on days when you are busy and/or exercising, and less on days when you're relaxing. So many innovative ideas, this book has really packed a punch for its < $5 price tag!
Another ingenious idea? "Stuff cabbage, sweet peppers, tomatoes, or even onions with ground meat, chicken or turkey seasoned with salt and pepper. Bake until the meat is cooked through and the vegetable is softened." Granted, I have been a pescatarian for almost a decade at this point. But disemboweling an onion, jamming it full of hamburger meat, and cooking it for some indeterminate amount of time at an unspecified temperature seems…wrong.
Circling back to her theory of Energy Economics, Kelly explains,
If I don't eat [well], I'm violating my own laws of energy economics and my body goes either into inflation mode (too much energy when I don't need it) or recession mode (not enough energy in the bank for me to draw from). The key is to create economic equilibrium: eating well so that I feel good, which allows me to be happy.
I am begging someone to start a GoFundMe where we raise money to pay Kelly to explain how the economy works. The next page introduces us to "The KKB 3-Day Supermodel Diet," which is less of a diet and more a random assortment of miscellaneous health-related sentiments that reek of the 2009 pro-ana tumblrsphere:
Chew your food 8 times instead of 3 or 4.

Brush your teeth and chew mint gum as soon as you finished eating. When your mouth is fresh and minty, you'll be less tempted to eat again.
The final tip ("nurture yourself") includes a reminder to "blush your checks [sic]." Which may be a typo, but could also very well just be some strange Kelly saying that no one else has ever used in the history of the English language. On the next page, we're introduced to "Kelly's Food Plate." Which other, less sophisticated people typically refer to as the food pyramid. Kelly also takes a brief aside (in a feature box labeled "hot button issue") to expound upon her favorite delicacy, the humble jelly bean:
If you're a fan of the Real Housewives of New York City you probably remember that on Season 3 I took a lot of flack for eating jelly beans and talking about processed and unprocessed foods. I was actually making light of that food snob moment. Who stops at a gas station and asks for carrots? Did you bring your organic food cooler with you on this road trip? The important part is not to be a food snob; but when in doubt choose the best option. Sometimes it's better to be happy than it is to be right. Was I able to make my point? Clearly it wasn’t in the cards at that moment.
This is a truly stunning synthesis of her experience. Underestimate Kelly at your own peril -- this girl has been playing 4D chess for longer than we know.
The chapter continues with some tips from Kelly on how to make the most of your meal planning and shopping experience. And no -- you have no excuses:
There's absolutely no reason why you, wherever you live, can't eat "colorful" foods. All over the country there are "gi-normous" supermarkets where fruit and vegetable aisles are bursting with every color of the rainbow.
I am starting to get a "gi-normous" headache trying to make sense of this chaos. Kelly's advice that we can "mix and match what's there to make a FrenAsian or an ItaloGreek meal" is not helping. We also get some tips for how to grocery shop responsibly:
  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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Welcome to Gettysburg (Day Three)

Day One Here
Day Two Here
The night fighting on Culp’s Hill was slow and torturous. The Confederate assault from Johnson’s division had to cross rough terrain and a river before it even started going uphill, which at night was an incredibly miserable task even without Union troops firing at them. Union skirmishers played hell with their progress, and after brushing them aside, Johnson bumped into a defensive line that his Union counterpart Geary had spent all day perfecting.
As mentioned yesterday, their only success was to grab tiny footholds on the Union side of Rock Creek, which ran between the two hills.
As the fighting died away and the bone weary soldiers on both sides crashed asleep hard, Lee plotted. He smelled blood; on July 1st, they’d carved up the Union men good and drove them from the field. Yesterday, on the Union left, they’d wrecked a Union corps under Sickles, smashed into the Union center and almost broke it (damn those blue belly reinforcements showing up in the knick of time), and even gained a toehold on the Union right. The men’s morale was high. Lee decided to repeat yesterday’s plan, but better executed. Simultaneous attacks on both flanks should overwhelm them, and J.E.B. Stuart could make it up to all of them by chasing down the shattered Army of the Potomac to scoop up all the heavy guns and supplies and wounded that could not retreat rapidly. To which end, Lee sent Stuart on a super wide flanking attack around the Union right so as to be in position to strike at the right moment. Lee generated the orders in written form and sent them off by messenger to his corps commanders.
Meanwhile, Meade had another war council face to face with his generals. They decided to stand pat, to neither attack the Confederate positions nor retreat back towards Washington. The terrain massively favored them and Lee would (more likely than not) walk into their gunsights again.
A defensive stance, however, doesn’t mean pure passivity. A few hours after the Confederate assault petered out and Lee’s decision was made, the Union started a counterattack on a small scale.
At dawn, the Union right flared up. Fresh troops had marched in overnight and Meade wanted his damn hill back. The extreme end of the Confederate left flank (which is of course opposite the Union right) found itself getting hammered in front of Culp’s Hill by artillery from the Baltimore Pike. Clearly, such a bombardment was meant to be followed up with an assault to retake the bridgehead.
Johnson, having received his orders from Lee and being under the impression that Longstreet was attacking in tandem a mile and a half away on the other side of the hills, attacked Culp’s Hill again before the Union could attack him first. The plan was what the plan was; pressure here, successful or not, was needed for someone to break through somewhere. But Longstreet wasn’t attacking. Later on, Longstreet would claim to have never received the order to advance, but the sources I have assert this is untrue- he received the order, he just didn’t do anything about it. Instead of spending the night getting his troops on line to attack Little Round Top and the southern chunk of Cemetery Ridge, he just sat tight and did nothing. Oceans of ink have been spilled over the years speculating as to why. The Lost Cause narrative asserts that Longstreet was a Yankee-loving turncoat who deliberately sabotaged Lee’s plan and lost the battle on purpose. Others think that Longstreet's conviction that attacking here was insane and that they should fall back and look for battle somewhere else on more favorable terms had been strengthened by the results of July 2nd, and as such was dragging his heels trying to not attack again. Or maybe it was just the general haze of Civil War era incompetence taking its toll again.
As Johnson’s men gamely attacked the untakeable Culp’s Hill and were cut down by accurate rifle fire and close range cannon fire, Lee hunted down Longstreet to demand an explanation for his borderline insubordinate refusal to attack.
Longstreet pitched his idea again. He’d spent all night scouting the Union line. The enemy line was unbreakable. They shouldn’t try to attack them here. They should slip around the Union left, south of Big Round Top, to threaten the Union supply lines. Do that, they would make the Union respond to them, fight them on more equal terms. That’s the plan Longstreet had been preparing for all night, not a suicidal-
Lee cut him off with a raised fist. There would be no tricky maneuver around the flank. They would assault the Union line under the present conditions.
To the north, Johnson was still getting his teeth kicked in. Lee sent orders to call off the assault, but it would take a while for the messenger to get there and for Johnson to get word to his brigades to stand down and fall back. Meanwhile, across the way on Cemetery Ridge, Meade stalked his line, double checking all the positions for any confusions or errors to correct, emitting confidence and good cheer.
Lee scoped out the Union center personally, being in the area anyway. His complex double flanking maneuver wasn't working. A new plan was needed.
Lee figured that Meade had reinforced Little Round Top and the surrounding area yesterday, and that those troops hadn’t gone anywhere since. The Union defense at Culp’s Hill has been similarly fierce that morning, fierce enough to threaten Johnson with an offensive. If both flanks were strong... the center must be weak. Yesterday, a small Confederate brigade had crossed the Emmitsburg road under fire and smashed into the Union line on Cemetery Ridge, just south of Cemetery Hill. They had straight up routed the enemy- had there been more men available to back them up and follow through, that small brigade might have won the battle outright instead of being pushed back as they’d been.
Lee was satisfied. The Union center was brittle, undermanned, and the best point to hit it was at that same place.
Meanwhile, J.E.B. Stuart was stepping off on his flanking ride.
Johnson’s last big push up Culp’s Hill was heroic. By that time, all of them knew how strong the Union position was. They surely walked into this with their eyes open.
A three brigade front set up for a shock attack, backed up by four more to exploit the hoped-for opening. Among them was the famous Stonewall Brigade, Jackson's old unit that he’d raised up and trained personally before being tapped for higher command. The Stonewall Brigade was, arguably, the elite of the Confederate army. The year before, they’d outmaneuvered and outfought a Union stab at Richmond coming through the Shenandoah valley.
The charge was cut down and butchered like all the others, and Johnson fell back.
Williams, whose batteries on the Baltimore Pike had kicked things off that morning, got a little overexcited and counterattacked without orders. His orders to attack the Confederate flank left his subordinates sickened with dread, but were obeyed nonetheless. Once the Union counterattack was butchered in retaliation by the entrenched Confederates, combat on the Union right ceased after six straight hours of gory, hopeless combat.
Meanwhile, Confederate artillery under the command of Colonel Alexander set itself up on a mile wide front, all carefully sited and positioned both for protection and for good lines of sight on the Union center. A brief but fierce artillery duel kicked off as each side tried to knock out the other’s firing points before the big moment, but was soon cut off to preserve ammo.
Lee mustered his available forces, bringing in troops that were only now straggling in and combining them with some units that had fought the day before. It was a haphazard and frankly half-assed piece of staff work- veteran units who hadn’t fought at all in the last two days were left in reserve, while exhausted troops who’d already suffered 50% casualties were included. Many of the brigades who were to charge Cemetery Ridge had green colonels in charge because their generals had been killed or wounded the day before. The gap between the northern half of the assaulting force and the southern half was four football fields long, and nobody seemed to notice or care. The division commander to lead the north side of the assault, General Pettigrew, was selected not for any rational consideration or advantage, but because he happened to be standing nearby when the decision was being made. Longstreet, who by this point wanted nothing to do with any of it, was placed in overall command. It took a few hours to organize this clusterfuck into something resembling a coherent unit- three divisions spread over a mile wide front, with Pickett on the left, Pettigrew on the right, and Trimble behind them to provide some depth to the big push.
There is no particularly good reason why the upcoming Pickett’s Charge is known as “Pickett’s Charge”. Pickett was not actually in charge of it, or even in charge of most of it. He was a division commander who had never seen proper combat before- in every battle since 1861, his unit had been held in reserve or absent. This was to be his first chance to get in this war. I suspect it’s known as Pickett’s Charge because he and his men were Virginians, and it was fellow Virginians who would pour over the battle to find out why the wrong side won. Accordingly, they conceived of it as being a Virginian affair, overshadowing the Tennesseans, Alabamans, North Carolinians, and Mississippians who formed the other two-thirds of the attack.
I was surprised to learn that we have a hard time figuring out how many men were actually involved in Pickett’s Charge (this being a basic narrative history, I am sticking with the common name for it despite the inaccuracy); I attribute this to the confusion involved in organizing it. I’ve heard as low as 12,500 men and as high as 15,000. I’m going with 14,000 men because it’s a nice even number that is approximately midway between the upper and lower limit, so don’t mistake my choice as being accurate or even evidence-based per se. Regardless, the agreed upon number of Union defenders is 6,500. The Confederates would outnumber the Union by about 2-1 or greater at the point of contact.
These days, a lot of people show up at the battlefield and stare out from Cemetery Ridge at Spangler Woods where Pettigrew would have emerged from (or stand in Spangler’s Woods and stare out at Cemetery Ridge, same difference) and wonder what the hell was going through Lee’s head. The ground there is now flat and devoid of cover, the exact kind of terrain that time and time again had proven to be a death sentence for infantry assaults. The answer is that the ground changed between 1863 and today. Just before World War One ended in 1918, the field over which Pickett charged was artificially flattened for tank training. Before that, it was the kind of rolling terrain that Buford’s skirmishers had exploited on day one- an observer from a distance would see the troops disappear and reappear as they went over and down each gentle slope. The 14,000 attackers would have some cover as they advanced- not perfect terrain to keep immune from artillery and bullets, but not explicit suicide either.
By 1 PM, Alexander had his guns set up the way he liked them. What followed at his command was the single largest coordinated artillery mission that the Western Hemisphere had ever seen.
In the south, cannons at the Peach Orchard suppressed the Union firing point on Little Round Top. All along Seminary Ridge from whence the charge would spring, cannons lined up practically wheel to wheel for a mile, aimed at wrecking Cemetery Ridge.
Longstreet was in what you might call a high stress kind of mood. He was having second, third, fourth, and fifth thoughts about attacking, but orders were orders and he was in charge of this damned charge. As the guns began their bombardment, Longstreet did something that frankly goes beyond the pale of any command decision I’ve ever heard of. The film Gettysburg and the novel it’s based on cast Longstreet in a very sympathetic light, as a kind of deliberate pushback against the reductive myth that Longstreet was personally responsible for losing the battle and by extension the war, leaving Lee off the hook to stay firmly in the saintly canon of the Lost Cause. But here, Longstreet indisputably abdicates any pretense of the responsibility of command.
He fired an order off to Colonel Alexander, telling him:
If the artillery fire does not have the effect to drive off the enemy, or greatly demoralize him, so as to make our effort pretty certain, I would prefer that you should not advise General Pickett to make the charge. I shall . . . expect you to let General Pickett know when the moment offers.
Allow me to reiterate in case you were reading this on autopilot. Longstreet, the man in charge of the whole offensive, was telling a lowly artillery colonel that the decision when and if to attack was on him and no one else.
Alexander was a subject matter expert on artillery and not infantry for a reason. This order hit him from out of left field. He wrote back for clarification, and the professional in him mentioned that since the plan is to use every single artillery shell they can spare, if there is any alternative plan to charging Cemetery Hill at the end of the bombardment then they’d better tell him before he runs out of ammo.
And Longstreet reiterated his first order. He told Alexander to advise General Pickett whether or not to attack. And with that on his shoulders, Alexander gave the order to open fire.
All told, somewhere between 150 and 170 guns opened up at the same moment. The 75 Union cannons they had on hand briefly engaged in counter-battery fire, before being ordered to go quiet and save ammunition for the infantry assault to come. For about an hour, the Union troops just had to sit still and take what the Rebel had to give them.
What Lee was doing was classic Napoleonic tactics. Massing artillery against the weakest point on the enemy line was literally by the book soldiering. The problem, as was noted here before, was that technology had changed. Napoleonic could bring his cannon close to the frontline with the reasonable expectation that they wouldn’t be shot, since smoothbore muskets are basically harmless from 200 yards away. But that was no longer the case. The long stand off distance that the enemy rifles dictated meant that the cannonfire was proportionally less accurate and devastating. The smoke covering the field concealed the truth from the Confederates- their artillery fire was off. Most of the shells flew high overhead and exploded behind Cemetery Ridge. Some shells hit the target area- Union men did die screaming by the score. But the positions on Cemetery Hill were only lightly damaged, and the units manning them were intact and cohesive. Most of the damage done was to the rear echelon types- surgeons, supply wagoneers, staff officers, that kind of thing. Such men were massacred as the shells aimed at men a quarter mile away arced over and found marks elsewhere. Meade, of course, was on hand, showing a brave face and cracking some jokes about a similar moment in the Mexican-American War 15 years back.
Throughout the hour, as his line endured the steel hailstorm, Meade’s engineer mind was working. He’d already suspected that Lee was about to hit his center- he’d predicted as much the night before- and now the shot placements confirmed it. He was already ordering troops into position, getting ready to reinforce the line on Cemetery Ridge if needed. He hedged his bets, putting them in a position to relieve Cemetery Hill as well, just in case. Little Round Top became somewhat less defended as men marched out, using the high ground to mask their redeployment.
Irresponsible and insubordinate though Longstreet was at that moment, he was right. Lee’s improvised plan had already failed, though it hadn’t happened yet. Pickett’s Charge wasn’t going to slam into a fragmented and demoralized Union line. It was heading into a mile long, mile wide kill zone backed up by a defence in depth.
Pickett’s Charge
Confederates were getting mangled before the charge even started. Union artillery fire reached out and touched out them in Spangler’s Woods, rolling solid iron shot and explosive shells into their huddled ranks.
Longstreet rode the line, exposing himself to the artillery fire to set an example of courage. The men didn’t need such an example- or rather, they’ve seen such examples in a dozen battles over the last two years and have already learned valor as a second language- but there’s something to be said for showing the groundpounders that their boss is in the wrong end of the shooting gallery the same way that they are.
Just before 2 p.m., Alexander decided if it’s gonna happen, it’d have to be now. He needed at least a small reserve of shells to function after the battle and he’s running out fast. He dashed off a note to Pickett telling him to step off. In keeping with the standard of Confederate comms thus far, Pickett then took Alexander’s note to Longstreet in person for confirmation, because nobody had told him that Longstreet was trying to dodge the responsibility of command.
Longstreet was desperate for an out, and in one crazed leap of illogic he thought he found one. Alexander was low on shells, with only a tiny reserve of ammunition left over for self-defense! Longstreet issued orders to halt in place and delay some more, so that they could replenish their ammo chests from their strategic reserves.
I really feel for Alexander, man. I've had bosses like that too. Alexander had to break the news to Longstreet that there was no strategic reserve, he already told him, they were shooting every round they got. Longstreet was shocked- apparently nobody on Lee's staff had been paying attention to how fast they'd been burning through their artillery rounds. (Meade's staff paid attention to such banal details- that's why they now had tons of ammunition standing by their guns on Cemetery Ridge, patiently waiting for something valuable to shoot at). Even then, Longstreet couldn’t bring himself to actually say the words to order the attack. He just nodded, mute and numb.
At 2 p.m., the attack started. 14,000 men rose up and walked forward, a giant line of infantry one mile across. In lieu of specific instructions about where they were going and how to get there, the order was to aim for a copse of trees on the objective- an easy visual marker that was easy to remember. As long as you kept the trees in sight and kept moving forward, you were right.
(Miles and miles away, J.E.B. Stuart’s flanking maneuver was being countered by an equal force of Union cavalry. Their clash had one of the few cavalry-on-cavalry battles of the Civil War; fun fact, this was one of the fights that put Custer’s career on the map, until getting killed off by the Cheyenne at Little Big Horn 13 years later. The battle was intense, but a draw; Stuart couldn’t break through. Even if Pickett’s Charge worked, there’d have been no way to follow up and finish Meade off for good. Lee’s plan was well and truly fucked.)
Things immediately stopped being clean and neat, as per the usual. The center of Pickett’s Charge sprang up and walked before the flanks did, but the brigades on the south and the north of them set off late, leading to a kind of droopy effect where the center bulged out unsupported.
When the Union soldiers manning Cemetery Ridge saw the Confederate advance begin, they began to chant “Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!” Just a little “fuck you” from one set of veterans to another; at Fredericksburg eight months before, Union General Burnside had ordered several such suicidal attacks on prepared defenses which the Confederates had gleefully blasted into chunky salsa.
70 odd guns opened up on them all. To give a sense of the skill involved, the artilleryman in charge of the Union guns, Colonel Hunt, had written the book on artillery- literally, because his work Instructions for Field Artillery was the go-to manual for the US Army- and at West Point had personally taught most of the Confederate artillery officers across the way everything they knew about the big guns. One must not mistake this as just plopping down the cannons and pointing them in the right direction. Hunt was an artist with his weapon systems, and the pattern of explosions that snaked into the advancing infantry had been painstakingly designed by a master craftsman.
At the distance of a mile, it was iron shot and shell that carved bloody little holes into the line. The Confederates took the beating, closed ranks, and pushed on. On the south, the cannons on Little Round Top delivered particularly hideous effects from the flank, driving their line into disorder; some brigades cut in front of other brigades, and what should have been a line became a muddled column. On the north, a brigade under General Brockenbrough bumped into a small detachment of 160 Union men who were jutting out north of the road. The Union men fired a small but devastating volley that raked them from the side and broke their nerves. Brockenbrough’s men ran- the first to break, but not the last.
Similar small detachments of skirmishers dotted No Man’s Land between the armies. Between their vicious little ambushes and the massive shock of massed artillery, Pickett’s Charge slowed down. Slowing down just left them in the kill zone for that much longer.
When Pickett’s Charge reached the Emmitsburg Road, they were further delayed by the stiff fencing that lined it. As they clambered over it, Union infantry opened fire at long range. The casualties skyrocketed as the Confederate line absorbed the fire. If you want to know what it was like under fire, picture the start of a rainstorm. The water droplets go taptaptap tap taptaptap taptaptaptaptap taptaptaptaptap taptap taptaptaptaptaptap taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap... that's how the survivors described the musketry that pelted the fence they were trying to climb over. One small contingent of Davis’ brigade (you recall how roughly they were manhandled on July the 1st) accidentally got ahead of everybody else and found itself standing right in front of the Union line all alone. The guys closest to the Union defenses surrendered as one; the rest got shot up bad and ran for their lives.
Pickett’s Charge was pure chaos by then- their mile wide front that had surged forth from Spangler’s Wood had shrunk down to about a half mile, partly from taking casualties, partly from brigades running away after the shock of massed fire, and partly from bridges shifting north away from flanking fire from their right side.
From the fence line on the Emmitsburg to the stone wall that protected the Union defense was about two hundred yards. This is a long shot for a rifle, especially under pressure- that’s the whole point to volley fire, so that everybody shooting at once will create a sort of probability cloud of danger even at long range. Some Confederates, desperate to hit back after enduring hell, shot anyway. Their fire was ineffective. It is a very, very short shot for an artillery piece, even under pressure. A battery of cannons placed just behind the Union line switched to canister and blasted massive bloody holes in the bunched up Confederates.
A lot of Confederates huddled up behind the fencing and stayed put. It is marginally safer than moving two feet forward past the wooden railings, and the spirit had been knocked out of them by the mile long charge and the mile long shooting gallery they’d been subjected to. The left side of the attack had been stopped dead and turned back; the right side pushed on, disregarding any thought but closing distance. 1,500 men blitzed those last 200 yards to the stone wall
Scores of them died from rifle fire as the cannons reloaded.
The surviving Confederates, running on pure adrenaline, reached the stone wall at a place called the Bloody Angle. The Union line was disjointed, with the Northern section slightly back from the southern section. The Angle was the little joint that connected the two walls; it was also right by the copse of trees that everybody was racing towards.
A fierce firefight broke out once the Confederates reached the wall. Most of them stayed behind the wall; like their buddies to the west still behind the fence on the Emmitsburg pike, they’d finally found a few square feet that was sorta kinda safe, and every instinct they had in their brains screamed at them to stay there. The Union troops were outnumbered at the point of impact, and backed off in good order.
Reserve regiments were already marching up to plug the gap that didn’t exist yet. Units north and south of the Bloody Angle shifted in place to fire at the beachhead. Behind the Confederates on the Angle, there was a small ocean of blood on the ground and a mile long procession of silent, mangled dead and writhing, screaming wounded... but no follow on reinforcements to help exploit the breakthrough.
General Armistead, the only Confederate General there still on his feet, still believed in all that chivalrous Walter Scott romantic nonsense, still thought that raw valor and heart could somehow beat a superior enemy. He stuck his hat on his sword as a makeshift battle flag and rallied his men to leave the safety of the Bloody Angle and close distance.
Just as the pitifully few Confederates got on the east side of the wall, the cannons shot canister again and puked metal death all over them. After shooting, the artillerymen ran back to safety before the rebels could stagger up to them.
Hundreds of men surged forward by inertia; hundreds out of the 14,000 that they’d started with. They drove off the understrength Union regiments with the bayonet and capture those hated big guns, turning them around to use against the inevitable counterattack. This failed; there was no more ammo left for the guns. Colonel Hunt had measured out the number of rounds needed for the job at hand with the utmost precision.
The counterattack was messy and bloody for everybody involved, for the brawl saw everything available used as a weapon- bullets, bayonets, rifle butts, pistols, knives, rocks, boot heels, bare hands. But the Confederates all just dissolved after a short while. Nobody ordered a retreat; nobody was alive and of sufficient rank to order a retreat. Thousands just plopped down where they stood and waited for Union men to come out and collect them. They were too numb and exhausted to walk anymore. Others streamed back to safety in ones and twos.
For every Confederate who died, four more were maimed and crippled. For every wounded man, another was taken prisoner. It was an unmitigated disaster for the Confederate cause, and correspondingly it was a triumph of humanity as the stalwart defenders of the slave plantations died in droves. Remember, like I said, we’re rooting for the Union.
The battle wasn’t over, not really. Not was the campaign. But it certainly was decided.
Interestingly, at first it was kind of ambiguous who won.
Meade got fired from the job after Lee got the Army of Northern Virginia home intact. Lincoln was seething that Meade hadn’t shown some aggression and had failed to destroy Lee’s army as he had been ordered. Meade, however, didn’t have much of an army at that point, just a diverse collection of units that had suffered 50% casualties and were in no condition to do anything. Moreover, there had been no way to bring the retreating Lee to battle without taking a lot of risks that might see all the good done at Gettysburg undone. Still though. Meade was out, and Grant, riding high after his conquest of Vicksburg, was in. Lee initially claimed victory in the Richmond papers, and it was hard to gainsay him at first. He had indisputably invaded north and thrashed the living shit out of the Army of the Potomac so bad that they could not invade again in 1863, which was indeed partly the point of the strategy.
But soon the facts of life made themselves clear. Lee had holes in his ranks that simply could not be filled anymore. Southerners didn’t want to die in a losing war, and coercing in them into the ranks through State violence only gave him shitty recruits who would desert the second they were put on guard duty. In contrast, tens of thousands of men poured into training depots across the nation, all armed and clothed and fed by the grandest industrial base in the world. Thousands of experienced veterans re-upped their contracts in Gettysberg’s wake to become these new recruits’ NCOs and commanding officers. Lee has gone north to break the will of the Union to continue the fight. Gettysburg had, if anything, demoralized the Confederacy and reinvigorated the Union instead. I do not believe that Gettysburg started this trend, but I do think it sped it up significantly. Patterns that might have taken a year to come to fruition instead took months.
Gettysburg, in my opinion, is significant not because of any great gains or losses on the material level, but because of its effects on the minds of voters and soldiers and politicians in the North and the South. To crib C. S. Lewis really quick, what matters was not whether a given action would take a specific hill, or seize a certain road; what matters is whether a given action pushes people to either dig their heels in and seek victory at any personal cost, or whether it pushes them to back down and seek a safer compromise. Gettysburg pushed all of the American people in the directions they were already heading down, that’s all. Any conclusion beyond that is on shaky ground, I feel.
Having said that, I shall now irrationally contradict myself; Gettysburg can also act as a Rorschach test with symbols and images and stories in lieu of the ink blots. Like I said, it’s a place of religious significance to me to an extent far beyond appreciation for its historic value.
I just don’t think it’s possible for that many people to die in such a short period of time, in so compact an area, and with such blunt contempt for the foreseen probability of violent death, and not leave an indelible and ineffable mark on the land itself. Like, if humanity went extinct and Earth got colonized by Betelgeusians a hundred years after, I am certain that the aliens would somehow feel a chill in their exoskeletons when they walk over the soft leaves and through the bare trees of Herbst Wood, or tromp around the south side of Little Round Top, or poke about on the steep slope of Culp's Hill, or splash across the Plum River in the Valley of Death.
I’m not saying I’m right, of course. But I am saying how I feel.
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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 appreciates 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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I need betting advices for "betting league"

My classmates and I started a betting league where ofcourse we bet.... for fun.
Rules are simple:
- At least 2 bets per betting slip/ticket
- Minimal odd is 1.30 or 130 per bet
- Just sport betting(means no horse betting, casino or lotto)
- When you play bets sent picture of slip in whatsapp group
- At the end of the league 2 or 3 idk from bottom of table pays drink to others
- duration of league is 2 weeks
- For start you have 3 betting slips and maximum bet per those 3 slips are $0.3
- And you can just play fix not system betting

Even it is just for fun I dont like to lose.
I made several mistakes.
This is not important but:
First slip:
  1. Esport: Astralis - Ninjas in Pyamas I put win for Astralis (they won 2:0)
  2. Football/Soccer Chines league Shijazhuang - Tianjin Teda i put win for Shijazhuang (1:1)
  3. Astralis: I bet on them bc their goal is to win this season and they lost just once in league.
  4. Shijazhuang: I bet on them bc Tianjin Teda lost last 8 matches and Shijazhaung was 3th on table and Tianjin Teda was last with just 1 points in 11 games.
What happend: Tijanjin Teda scored in 70min and it was 0-1 then Shijazhuang scored for 1-1 in 81min. Then 89min Shijaznhaung scored but it was offside and in 92min it was almost penalty for them but VAR said no.
My question is: Was I unlucky?
Second slip:
  1. Esport: CompLexity Gaming vs mousesports i put bet on Complexity to win(they lost 0:2)
  2. Baseball: Yankees vs Blue Jays i put bet on Yankees to win(they didnt play yet)
  3. Baseball: White Sox vs Twins i pet on Yankees to win(they didnt play yet)
  4. Coplexity: I bet on them bc they are I think top 1 in world, they are on top of the league and they wouldnt let them lose even if they are 1st on table. I actually watched match and they played not bad but not good and mousesport was just a little bit better.
My question is again: Was I unlucky?
Thirth slip:
My mistake: I accidentally put Complexity on my friends slip and told him they will win 100% and if they lose I will give him my thirth slip. They lost and then I realised that I was dumb and I could actually give him another 0.3$ to make another slip.

My actual question is: What was my mistakes and what would be your strategy for "betting league"? Also i need advice for the next one bc i dont really wanna pay someones drink.
Thanks :)
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[Preview] American League Division Series – Minnesota Twins (101-61) at New York Yankees (103-59)

Minnesota Twins (101-61) at New York Yankees (103-59)
The Minnesota Twins, baseball’s most improved team from 2018, travel to the Bronx to take on the powerhouse New York Yankees. For the Twins, this series represents their second trip to the postseason in three years — they lost the 2017 AL Wild Card Game to the Yankees — and first ALDS appearance since 2010. For the Yankees, this is their third consecutive trip to the postseason — they lost the 2017 ALCS to the Astros and the 2018 ALDS to the Red Sox — and seventh in the last decade. The ALDS represents the first step in each club’s pursuit of the World Series. Minnesota is looking for its fourth World Series title, and first since 1991, while New York is chasing its 28th World Series title, and first since 2009.
Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Game 4 Game 5
Friday, October 4 Saturday, October 5 Monday, October 7 Tuesday, October 8 Thursday, October 10
7:07 pm ET 5:07 pm ET 8:40 pm ET TBA TBA
Yankee Stadium Yankee Stadium Target Field Target Field Yankee Stadium
Where to Watch/Listen
Streaming: FOX Sports app, MLB.TV
Radio: ESPN Radio, WFAN 660/101.9 FM, TIBN
Weather Forecast
Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Game 4 Game 5
Temperature: 66 F Temperature: 63 F Temperature: 60 F Temperature: 64 F Temperature: 71 F
Precipitation: 20% Precipitation: 10% Precipitation: 10% Precipitation: 10% Precipitation: 20%
Humidity: 61% Humidity: 49% Humidity: 57% Humidity: 62% Humidity: 55%
Wind: 14 mph Wind: 10 mph Wind: 10 mph Wind: 11 mph Wind: 7 mph
Betting Odds
Minnesota: +210
New York: -245
Who are the Twins?
Season Expectations: After a deflating 78-win season in 2018, expectations were tempered for the Minnesota Twins heading into 2019. The team had not won the AL Central Division since 2010 and had taken a step backward from its 85-win campaign in 2017. Attendance too had deflated from over 3 million in 2011 to under 2 million in 2018. Projection systems saw the Twins as a mediocre team with an outside shot at a Wild Card spot — Fangraphs predicted 82 wins while 538 predicted 84 wins. But the Twins shrugged off the doubters, blew away expectations, reached 100 wins for only the second time in franchise history, and saw attendance reach its highest level in five years.
Roster Moves: At the end of 2018, the Twins said goodbye to future Hall of Famer Joe Mauer and then fired Hall of Famer Paul Molitor from his position as manager. After hiring newbie Rocco Baldelli as manager (perhaps Manager of the Year?), the Twins grabbed first baseman C.J. Cron off waivers from Tampa Bay and signed second baseman Jonathan Schoop, designated hitter Nelson Cruz, and infielder Marwin Gonzalez in free agency. Analysts were skeptical of the Twins decision to pass on pitching upgrades, but Minnesota’s front office was convinced they had the ingredients in place to build a championship caliber team. The Twins added relievers Sergio Romo and Sam Dyson before the midseason trade deadline to bolster the pen.
Offense: Boy howdy can this Minnesota team hit. Nelson Cruz (163 wRC+) was a slam dunk free-agent success, catcher Mitch Garver (155 wRC+) decided to hit like Ken Griffey Jr., third baseman Miguel Sano (137 wRC+) stayed healthy enough to make a huge impact, rookie jack-of-all-trades Luis Arraez (125 wRC+) had a quietly solid year, and right fielder Max Kepler (121 wRC+) and shortstop Jorge Polanco (120 wRC+) had career years at the plate. The Twins had an incredible eight players hit 20 or more home runs (all of the above aside from Arraez plus left fielder Eddie Rosario, Cron, and Schoop), and overall, the club smashed 307 home runs, the most in all of baseball.
Defense and Baserunning: The Twins ranked dead last in team stolen bases (28 SB) by a large margin, and their only player with more than five stolen bases on the year was center fielder Byron Buxton who is out for the postseason with a shoulder injury. Defensively, the Twins grade out as a solid, if unspectacular, defensive unit. The aforementioned Buxton is the team’s true defensive superstar, though Gonzalez and Kepler are standouts as well. Sano, Rosario, and Arraez at second base grade out as below average.
Pitching: The Twins starting rotation is stronger than you think — the rotation ranked 7th in fWAR, 11th in ERA, 8th in FIP, and 13th in K-BB% in 2019. Comfortably above average. The 25-year-old Jose Berrios led the way (3.68 ERA/3.85 FIP), and the veteran Jake Odorizzi (3.51 ERA/3.36 FIP) was quietly excellent behind him. Kyle Gibson, Martin Perez, and the now-suspended Michael Pineda rounded out the rest of the rotation with varying degrees of success. Minnesota’s bullpen was even better, ranking 3rd in fWAR, 10th in ERA, 1st in FIP, and 3rd in K-BB%. Taylor Rogers (2.61 ERA/2.85 FIP), Trevor May (2.94 ERA/3.73 FIP), Tyler Duffey (2.50 ERA/3.06 FIP), Zack Littell (2.68 ERA/3.62 FIP), and Sergio Romo (3.18 ERA/3.35 FIP) have proven very difficult to score against.
Record: At no point were the Twins under .500 this season. They took the division lead on April 20 and held it for all but one day the rest of the way. Minnesota’s best month was May, in which they went 21-8 (.724), and by June 2, they found themselves 11.5 games up in the division, their biggest lead all year. The Twins cooled off a bit in June and July, while the Indians got hot, and by August 11 the AL Central Division was all tied up. But the Twins pulled things together and when the season ended, they were a cool eight games up on the second-place Indians.
Wrap Up: The Twins are one of baseball’s elite power teams with a deep lineup that is perilous to navigate. They also feature an underrated pitching staff, anchored by two legit quality starters and a group of very effective relievers. While the history of Yankees vs. Twins playoff battles is very one-sided, there’s no reason for past failures to haunt this young, confident group.
Who are the Yankees?
Expectations: For the second year in a row, the Yankees entered the season as a World Series favorite. Coming off a 100-win campaign (and quick postseason exit), the Yankees looked to replicate their recent regular season success, while reaching the World Series for the first time in a decade. Some analysts questioned the team’s decision to pass on top-tier free agents — such as outfielder Bryce Harper, infielder Manny Machado, and starting pitcher Patrick Corbin — but consensus found that the Yankees were likely to once again play in October. FanGraphs and 538 both projected 97 wins for the Bombers. The Yankees met and exceeded those lofty predictions.
Roster Moves: Despite passing on the top-tier free agents, the Yankees had a busy offseason. They re-signed left fielder Brett Gardner, reliever Zack Britton, and starters CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ. They traded for starter James Paxton and signed reliever Adam Ottavino and second baseman D.J. LeMahieu in free agency. Once the season started, the Yankees added outfielder Cameron Maybin.
Offense: Unsurprisingly, the Yankees were one of the best offensive teams in baseball, enjoying excellent hitting seasons from expected and unexpected sources. Right fielder Aaron Judge (141 wRC+) anchored the lineup while healthy, first baseman Luke Voit (126 wRC+) had a successful first (almost) full season in the majors, second baseman Gleyber Torres (125 wRC+) built off his fantastic rookie season, LeMahieu (136 wRC+) crushed expectations, and Gardner (115 wRC+) had a bounceback year at the plate. Third baseman Gio Urshella (132 wRC+), outfielder Mike Tauchman (128 wRC+), and Maybin (128 wRC+) came out of nowhere to deepen the lineup.
Defense and Baserunning: While the Yankees (55 SB) more than doubled the Twins’ stolen base total this year, that number was only good for 24th in baseball. No Yankees player stole more than 10 bases on the season, though infielder Tyler Wade stole seven bases in just 43 games. Much like the Twins, the Yankees are a middle-of-the-road defense. Judge, Gardner, the now-injured Tauchman, and LeMahieu were the team’s top defenders, while Torres, Voit, and Urshela received below-average grades for their glove work.
Pitching: James Paxton (3.82 ERA/3.86 FIP) led a rotation that struggled for large parts of the season. The recently suspended Domingo German (4.28 ERA/4.92 FIP) and Masahiro Tanaka (4.45 ERA/4.27 FIP) were good at times, but bad at others. And veterans Sabathia and Happ closed out the rotation with disappointing seasons. Fortunately for the Yankees, their bullpen helped carry the slack. The four horsemen — Ottavino (1.90 ERA/3.44 FIP), Britton (1.91 ERA/3.74 FIP), Tommy Kahnle (3.67 ERA/3.33 FIP), and Aroldis Chapman (2.25 ERA/2.31 FIP) — delivered the goods, while Chad Green was excellent after a weird April mechanical issue was straightened out.
Record: Things started slowly for the Yankees as they went 5-8 through the first few games of the season and found themselves 5.5 games back in the division race on April 18. But as things settled in, the Yankees’ talent emerged and by May 17 they were in first place. For a month, they battled the Rays for the division lead, taking the lead for good on June 13 and never looking back. The Yankees played .550 ball or better in every month of the season and never had a losing streak longer than four games.
Wrap Up: With a potent offense top-to-bottom, an army of elite relievers, and enough quality starters (perhaps) to get through October scheduling, this club looks like a team built for one purpose — to win a championship. Their lineup punishes opposing pitchers, and their bullpen cuts down opportunities to rally. And after a season in which they set the all-time record for team injuries, the Yankees are already used to adversity.
Head-to-Head Regular Season Matchups
All-time: Yankees are 1125-768 (.594)
Last 10 years: Yankees are 46-21 (.687)
Last 3 years: Yankees are 13-6 (.684)
2019: Yankees are 4-2 (.667)
Postseason Matchups
2003 ALDS: Yankees won 3-1
2004 ALDS: Yankees won 3-1
2009 ALDS: Yankees won 3-0
2010 ALDS: Yankees won 3-0
2017 WCG: Yankees won 1-0
Notable Position Players
2019 All Stars in bold. Players on the Injured List (or suspended) are in italics.
Twins Player Stats Yankees Player Stats
C Mitch Garver 155 wRC+/-0 DRS C Gary Sanchez 116 wRC+/-2 DRS
C Jason Castro 103 wRC+/-7 DRS C Austin Romine 95 wRC+/1 DRS
C Willians Astudillo 76 wRC+/-2 DRS 1B Luke Voit 126 wRC+/-6 DRS
1B C.J. Cron 101 wRC+/2 DRS 1B Mike Ford 134 wRC+/-1 DRS
2B Jonathan Schoop 100 wRC+/0 DRS 2B Gleyber Torres 125 wRC+/-6 DRS
2B Luis Arraez 125 wRC+/-8 DRS 2B Tyler Wade 88 wRC+/3 DRS
SS Jorge Polanco 120 wRC+/1 DRS 2B DJ LeMahieu 136 wRC+/5 DRS
SS Ehire Adrianza 102 wRC+/-2 DRS SS Didi Gregorius 84 wRC+/-5 DRS
3B Miguel Sano 137 wRC+/-5 DRS 3B Gio Urshela 132 wRC+/-5 DRS
RF Max Kepler 121 wRC+/4 DRS RF Aaron Judge 141 wRC+/19 DRS
CF Byron Buxton 111 wRC+/10 DRS CF Aaron Hicks 102 wRC+/-1 DRS
LF Eddie Rosario 103 wRC+/-6 DRS LF Giancarlo Stanton 139 wRC+/-1 DRS
OF Jake Cave 113 wRC+/-2 DRS OF Brett Gardner 115 wRC+/5 DRS
OF Marwin Gonzalez 93 wRC+/7 DRS OF Mike Tauchman 128 wRC+/16 DRS
OF LaMonte Wade 98 wRC+/-2 DRS OF Cameron Maybin 128 wRC+/1 DRS
DH Nelson Cruz 163 wRC+/-- DH Edwin Encarnacion 121 wRC+/--
Notable Pitchers
2019 All Stars in bold. Players on the Injured List (or suspended) are in italics.
Twins Pitcher Stats Yankees Pitcher Stats
SP Jose Berrios 3.68 ERA/3.85 FIP SP James Paxton 3.82 ERA/3.86 FIP
SP Jake Odorizzi 3.51 ERA/3.36 FIP SP Masahiro Tanaka 4.45 ERA/4.27 0FIP
SP Michael Pineda 4.01 ERA/4.02 FIP SP Luis Severino 1.50 ERA/2.13 FIP
SP Kyle Gibson 4.48 ERA/4.26 FIP SP J.A. Happ 4.91 ERA/5.22 FIP
SP Martin Perez 5.12 ERA/4.66 FIP SP CC Sabathia 4.95 ERA/5.66 FIP
SP Devin Smeltzer 3.86 ERA/4.58 FIP SP Domingo German 4.03 ERA/4.72 FIP
SP Randy Dobnak 1.59 ERA/2.90 FIP RP Aroldis Chapman 2.21 ERA/2.28 FIP
RP Trevor May 2.94 ERA/3.73 FIP RP Adam Ottavino 1.90 ERA/3.44 FIP
RP Taylor Rogers 2.61 ERA/2.85 FIP RP Zack Britton 1.91 ERA/3.74 FIP
RP Tyler Duffey 2.50 ERA/3.06 FIP RP Chad Green 4.17 ERA/3.34 FIP
RP Ryne Harper 3.81 ERA/3.66 FIP RP Tommy Kahnle 3.67 ERA/3.33 FIP
RP Zack Littell 2.68 ERA/3.62 FIP RP David Hale 3.11 ERA/3.32 FIP
RP Sergio Romo 3.18 ERA/3.35 FIP RP Luis Cessa 4.11 ERA/4.87 FIP
RP Cody Stashak 3.24 ERA/3.01 FIP RP Nestor Cortes 5.67 ERA/5.57 FIP
RP Brusdar Graterol 3.86 ERA/3.43 FIP RP Jonathan Holder 6.31 ERA/4.45 FIP
RP Lewis Thorpe 6.18 ERA/3.47 FIP RP Jonathan Loaisiga 4.55 ERA/4.95 FIP
RP Kohl Stewart 6.39 ERA/6.06 FIP RP Cory Gearrin 4.50 ERA/4.79 FIP
RP Fernando Romero 7.43 ERA/5.17 FIP RP Stephen Tarpley 6.93 ERA/5.69 FIP
ALDS Rosters
Twins Roster TBA
Yankees Roster TBA
Team Offense Rankings
Category Twins Stat Twins Rank Yankees Stat Yankees Rank
BA .270 2nd .267 4th
OBP .338 6th .339 4th
SLG .494 2nd .490 3rd
wRC+ 116 3rd 117 2nd
wOBA .347 2nd .346 3rd
ISO .224 1st .222 2nd
K% 20.9% 4th 23.0% 12th
BB% 8.2% 20th 9.1% 12th
BsR -8.2 25th 0.4 15th
Team Rotation Rankings
Category Twins Stat Twins Rank Yankees Stat Yankees Rank
ERA 4.19 11th 4.51 15th
FIP 4.09 8th 4.74 18th
xFIP 4.34 10th 4.38 12th
K% 22.4% 13th 23.8% 9th
BB% 7.1% 9th 7.3% 11th
H9 1.22 6th 1.76 28th
WPA 2.06 7th 0.80 9th
Team Bullpen Rankings
Category Twins Stat Twins Rank Yankees Stat Yankees Rank
ERA 4.17 10th 4.08 9th
FIP 3.92 1st 4.15 9th
xFIP 4.16 6th 4.15 4th
K% 25.0% 10th 26.4% 3rd
BB% 7.5% 1st 9.4% 11th
H9 1.21 9th 1.30 15th
WPA 4.23 4th 3.77 5th
Team Defense Rankings
Category Twins Stat Twins Rank Yankees Stat Yankees Rank
FanDef -7.2 21st 4.8 13th
DRS -9 19th -16 22nd
UZR -8.0 20th 4.8 13th
Yankees reliever David Hale pitched for the Twins in 2018.
Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin played for the Twins in 2006.
Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks played in the Twins minor league system from 2008 to 2012 and for the Twins from 2013 to 2015.
Twins starter Michael Pineda pitched for the Yankees from 2014 to 2017.
Twins reliever Zack Littell played in the Yankees minor league system in 2017.
Twins infielder Ronald Torreyes played for the Yankees from 2016 to 2018.
Twins outfielder Jake Cave played in the Yankees minor league system from 2011 to 2017.
Twins bench coach Derek Shelton played in the Yankees minor league system from 1992 to 1993.
Twins hitting coach James Rowson played in the Yankees minor league system in 1997.
Things to Watch
Youth at the Top: Twins manager Rocco Baldelli is only in his first year as MLB manager, while Yankees manager Aaron Boone is in his second. Baldelli was the winningist rookie manager in Twins history, while Boone had a fantastic second season guiding an injury-plagued club. These guys could finish no. 1 and no. 2 in the AL Manager of the Year race, but how will they hold up in October?
Bombs Away: The two premiere home run hitting ballclubs meet up in the 2019 ALDS. They are the only two teams to cross the 300 HR mark in baseball history, and just one home run separated the Twins (307) and Yankees (306) this year. If recent history is any indication, these teams could hit home runs at an even higher pace in the postseason.
My Kingdom for a Stolen Base: The Yankees (24th in MLB) and Twins (30th) didn’t steal many bases in the regular season, so who will they turn to if they need a bag swiped in a crucial playoff moment? For the Yankees, Tyler Wade (7 SB/0 CS) is probably that guy, though Cameron Maybin (9 SB/6 CS) may be another option. Things are much bleaker for the Twins. With Byron Buxton on the shelf and Jorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario penciled into the starting lineup, their best stolen base threat may be rookie Luis Arraez (2 SB/2 CS).
Home is Where the Heart Is: The Yankees are 57-24 (.704) at home, one of the best marks in baseball. They’re also 7-2 (.778) at home in the last two postseasons. But the Twins actually play better on the road (.679) than at their home ballpark (.568), so they may be exactly the team to dissolve this New York advantage.
A Tale of Woe: The Twins are 2-13 (.133) in postseason games against the Yankees. But the 2019 team has little to do with those past versions, and they’re eager for a chance at postseason redemption against their persecutors. “Organizationally, I just say it’s time to slay the dragon, right?” team president Dave St. Peter told the NY Post on Saturday.
Rotation Problems: With Domingo German on administrative leave and CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ moved to the bullpen, the Yankees head into the postseason with a rotation of James Paxton, whose last outing was shortened by a glute injury; Masahiro Tanaka, who is sporting a 5.26 ERA in the second half; and Luis Severino, who only made three starts this year due to injury. With Michael Pineda suspended for PED use and Kyle Gibson moved to the bullpen, the Twins enter the postseason with a rotation of Jose Berrios, who has a 4.64 ERA in the second half; Martin Perez, who is carrying a 6.27 ERA in the second half; a combination of rookies Devin Smeltzer and Randy Dobnok, who have a total of 11 career MLB starts between them; and Odorizzi. Not quite how the organizations drew this up in the offseason.
Lean on Me: Both teams are likely relying on similar battle strategies: get what you can out of the rotation, hope your offense goes nuts, and lean on your key relievers in big moments. Minnesota’s Rogers/Duffey/Romo/May/Littell group (2.73 ERA/3.28 FIP) and New York’s Chapman/Ottavino/Britton/Kahnle/Green group (2.80 ERA/3.25 FIP) are on a collision course.
Staying Healthy: Twins infielder Luis Arraez suffered a grade 1 ankle sprain on Saturday, jack-of-all-trades Marwin Gonzalez is trying to work his way back from right oblique tightness, and right fielder Max Kepler has missed about two weeks worth of games with a rhomboid muscle strain. Yankees designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion is recovering from a left oblique strain suffered on September 12, starter James Paxton says he’ll be fine after leaving Friday’s game with a nerve irritation in his glute, and third baseman Gio Urshela is nursing a left ankle sprain described as “mild.” These six players hope to be ready to go by ALDS Game 1, but there’s no guarantee they’ll be at 100 percent.
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Australian Open Mens and Womens Quarterfinals

Disclaimer : The tournament is heating up, and so is the inbox anger. I’ve had enough angry people spouting non-sequiturs at me about predictions that I think I should include a caveat in this. I wouldn’t suggest blindly taking things I write and wagering your money on them. First, this is going to give you an excuse to be angry at something besides yourself for losing your money gambling, which will allow you to continue. Second, I am not purporting to be writing strictly gambling advice. The idea that someone would be wagering on their predictions for every single match in a professional tennis tournament is absurd. However, since I am writing up every match, I am going to have opinions/offer ideas about every match. Inherent in that is task bias, which means I set out to do something, and so I do it to the best of my ability. This is why tout services and people selling picks are all scams. It isn’t that they don’t start with or have some ability to predict outcomes in certain matches, it’s that when you attempt to do it every day, you are no longer relying on your judgment and research to make calculated wagers when the opportunity arises, you are asking your mind to invent believable stories. You are in effect treating the betting sheet like a multiple choice exam and asking your mind to present defendable positions and skeptical theories about lines. A profitable sport bettor is not going to be placing bets daily, and likely if they are following tennis is not going to be doing much of anything on the later rounds as any perceived edges grow thinner and thinner. But that’s boring, and talking about gambling and psychology is boring, so please stop calling me a “yankee cunt” when you lose 15 quid.
Nadal vs Thiem : This is probably the tightest matchup of the quarters for me, as Nadal played excellent against Kyrgios and Thiem shut down Monfils in impressive fashion. Nadal opened up with perfect tennis and his court positioning on serve worked for a bit early in the match. This is a solvable strategy though, and I’ve found that when players are down a break this deep returning strategy begins to look like something that actually helps the server as the short returns are something most professional tennis players don’t miss much on, and you don’t escape the deep court in tennis very often. Kyrgios made a solid effort but seemingly doesn’t have the poweconsistency to upend Nadal despite having the ability to take him out of his game. Nadal missed simple shots to get a stranglehold on the match in the second, and had to sweat out two tiebreakers in a very entertaining affair. It seems that Kyrgios early in these matches knows he cannot redline for the entire match, and only once he’s down and gets angry does he find the energy to fully commit to his serves. This “maybe I can coast and turn it up later” strategy means losses to the guys working on their physical fitness, and the errors Kyrgios makes are largely physical limitation preventing execution.
Monfils spent more time making faces and stretching potential injuries than he did competing in this match, and although he began swinging for the fences on the forehand wing, he did so entirely too late. The third set was practically a race to the finish as he missed the open court several times trying to hit the “one shot to equalize the match” and put several very simple volleys wide that would have applied pressure at a similar point in the match to where Fritz was able to. Thiem looked well in control of this one and we likely won’t see Monfils beating him anytime soon. Neither player will have to stand as deep to return in this match but there’s little way to know if they will or not. I don’t expect straight traffic here for Nadal however his match with Kyrgios isn’t a good indicator of how he’ll perform as Kyrgios is sort of an outlier in terms of gamestyle (pure offense and little strategy). Thiem is still one of my picks to win this event, and has been crisp since the match with Bolt. Their last hardcourt meeting was an epic 5 set thriller at the USO and I think this wlll be a similarly tight match but with a different winner. Thiem in 5, and likely whoever is able to stay on the baseline more will win, despite both of these players being incredible defenders.
Wawrinka vs Zverev : Stan pulled probably the upset of the tournament on the men’s side, beating flu rumors and Medvedev in a 5 set thriller that basically was always on his raquet. He started the match absolutely crushing the ball and really didn’t stop. Med looked to struggle early to find offense and was reduced for most of this match to just playing consistent and looking to move Wawrinka. He hit very few clean winners and most of the 2nd and 3rd set run was due to Wawrinka errors. This is the danger I suppose of playing a big hitter in a long format. They may make errors but if they’re all in one set, it becomes difficult to score. Medvedev got a bit anxious late in the 5th, and while as a spectator I thought he’d want to hold on and look for a run of more errors, after having to be the one physically competing against a guy crushing the ball like that, I can understand why Medvedev did not think simple pushing would get the job done. Big win for Stan, and an interesting matchup next.
When this match opened as a pickem I bought an early hold on Rublev, thinking it would move quickly. It never did though, and as the hours ticked by I began to place more and more hedges on Zverev. The level and accomplishments the past few months are almost light years apart, but Vegas insisted that it was an even match. We saw quickly in the first set the issue in this matchup. Where Rublev is able to produce errors from his other opponents with his weight of shot, Zverev’s backhand just keeps returning the ball. Once the rally advantages are somewhat neutralized, it became a serving contest, and Zverev (despite his double faults and difficulties in the past) served excellent throughout this match. The outwide serve from the ad side was especially good, and it will need to be to get the job done against Wawrinka. Stan has lost in the third set in their last two meetings, and I expect a similar duration of match in this one. Where Stan was able to dominate Medvedev with power, I similarly expect that we’ll see Zverev able to reflect this back on at least the backhand wing. This brings Wawrinka’s errors into play, but where Rublev struggles to earn cheap points on his serve, Wawrinka excels. It is not always the case, but he had a cannon for a serve yesterday, and although it was mostly T serves netting his aces, late in the match he took something off and slid the ball out wide to great effect. A winnable match for both, but Wawrinka showed glimpses of the form that has won him some grand slam titles, and there is something to be sad for him having a physical edge in these long matches. Wawrinka in 5.
PSA : This is the second match where I am predicting a slight shift from the norm as far as the victor in their deciding sets, so please angry british people don’t waste your money. There is no reason to be betting on Wawrinka/Zverev or Thiem/Nadal are any of these tight matchups. The books get the odds right so often late in events, and no matter which side you select you lose to the juice over time. The WTA event in Newport Beach is where you should be focusing right now if you want bucks. For all $ intents and purposes, the Australian Open is over.
OR IS IT? Sandgren vs Federer : What the. How did this happen. Thanks to some excellent upset wins and a peculiar performance from Fabio Fognini who I suspect is still struggling to remove whatever tightass shirt he wore for that match, Tennys Sandgren is now in the quarterfinals of a major. It’s kinda awesome, and centerstage with Federer is a cool reward for the barrelchested man who posts borderline racist things online, but refuses to curse on court, shouting “goodness” when he misses. An enigma to be sure, there is some question to whether this will be a quick masterclass or a grinding match similar to what Milman produced. If you had to guess whether Fucs after beating Shapovalov or Milman after beating Humbert posted a better score against Federer, you’d like get it right. I’d likely get it wrong. It is incredibly difficult to know which Federer will show up and when he will struggle vs when he will roll. He looked great against Fucsovics, but he reverted to his old defensive form as many players do against Fed’s onslaught. The pressure Roger applies to his opponents is nonstop and the variety he employs with one of the wickedest backhand slices I have ever seen is amazing.
There are simple questions in this one that will decide the outcome. Can Sandgren serve enough unreturned balls to hold and get this deep in a set? Federer really only struggles in tiebreakers. Can Sandgren play enough defense and will his power allow him to turn this match into a physical struggle? Federer really only loses due to fatigue/back issues flaring up. The odds are no until they are yes. The way he played against Berretini was the kind of effort he’ll need to be competitive in this one. I look forward to seeing it, but given how much of a knob I think Tennys is, I’ll happily expect Federer in 4.
Raonic vs Djokovic : What in the 2017 is this. Raonic is very much playing his best tennis, after not being able to complete a tournament on tour for a very long time. The serve is working, the forehand is working, his movement (as noted by u/Vqwertbnm) is as good as it’s ever been, and oddly even his backhand was crushing the ball against Cilic, who seemed to be playing the same role against Raonic that RBA played against him. That kind of big hitting and super gel’d hair will be necessary against his next opponent, who definitely doesn’t cut his own hair but possibly definitely does. Djokovic hasn’t lost a match all season, and this is the biggest test I think he’ll face. While Nadal at the ATP Cup is a big one, Novak was a cut above the entire event. Raonic has bigger weapons, and if Djokovic wins this one there’s a good chance he will win this event, as he’ll have to neutralize one of the biggest serves the tour has ever seen in it’s best form. Djokovic in as many tiebreakers as it takes, or Raonic begins to look like he’ll win his first major.
Barty vs Kvitova : This is becoming my favorite match to watch on tour. These two always bring a high level against each other and although fatigue is often a factor for Kvitova by the end of these contests, she has the power to fight even when she’s spent. Kvitova’s ball almost seems to glide through the air at times, and you can look to the errors Sakkari made as a testament to how hard she’s hitting at the moment. Barty outlasted Riske who redlined in the middle of the match but couldn’t keep that level up for a full match, and really with the players left the winner of this match has to like their chances given that they’ve been in good form for quite some time now and some of the other contestants are enjoying their first deep run in a while or at all. I expect this one to go three sets and Kvitova to shriek like a bird many times, but I think Barty with the home support and her newly infused defensive abilities will be able to get an early lead in these sets and hold on where Sakkari was unable to do so. Barty party in 3.
Kenin vs Jabeur : Kenin did well to keep her head up after Gauff stole the first set in a heartbreaking tiebreak. Gauff’s backhand is incredible, and I’m not sure how much taller she’ll get but since most 15 year olds are not physically finished, it is going to be very difficult to stop her in the future. Kenin took a good approach of pushing the pace and hugging the baseline all the way to earning errors from Gauff, and while Gauff wasn’t out of the match she seemed for one of the first times on tour to be frustrated. Up next for Kenin is Jabeur, who surprised many people including myself by beating Wang in straight sets. There were some unfortunate level drops and errors from Wang, and I think the “I won the tournament” feeling that washes over a player after a huge upset played a factor here. Jabeur crushes her forehand, and she’ll need to as Kenin is a ball machine. I think the movement of Jabeur will become a factor here as Kenin has a fairly simple forehand but moves the ball very well to either side with one of the better two handed backhands on tour. This is the same stupid prediction I held for the last match, but I expect Jabeur to possibly be able to win a set but not the match. Collins overwhelmed Kenin recently with a similar style of power and offense but I think Kenin is a bit more focused here and with more on the line, she’ll make her first big impact on a major. Kenin in 2-3.
Kontaveit vs Halep : Unfortunate end for Swiatek who suffered a leg injury while leading this match and seemed to play well but not really be at her best for the rest. Good news for Kontaveit though, who has long been a top player on tour who hadn’t really impacted a major. Halep is the perfect opponent and the worst opponent as her lack of power gives Kontaveit the match on her racquet, but Halep’s defending will possibly frustrate her into errors. Mertens and Halep played a nice match and the 6-4, 6-4 scoreline hides the frequent momentum changes. I the end Mertens made a few errors in the games that went to duece that Halep took advantage of, and while I wasn’t overly impressed by Halep’s level she is a former grandslam champion, one of the best defenders on tour, and is always looking to get the ball to the next position to keep her opponent moving. This simple formula (Cahill assisted) is more valuable in late stages of an event where fatigue isn’t an outright factor but a slightly limiting one. I know many players look at the late rounds of events and think “i could beat them if they played like that against me.” This is a simple offense vs defense matchup but I think it hinges on Halep’s ability to hold serve. Mertens is a very skilled player but lacks the power that Kontaveit has. Kontaveit does hit for winners but with big margin over the net, and while Halep can be very frustrating on defense, Swiatek is an equally difficult mover to face. Someone in three but I lean towards Kontaveit getting her first semifinal here.
Muguruza Pavlyuchenkova : Muguruza hit line after line after line against Bertens. It was a very impressive display just a day after another very impressive display against Svitolina. Up next is another ballmachine, in the consistent Pavlyuchenkova, whose name I’m not going to abbreviate anymore. Her win over Kerber was an exhausting back and forth affair, but she finished strong and I don’t think given her slight serving edge over Bertens that this will be one-way traffic. Muguruza’s level scares me, and I don’t think it’s prudent to keep reminding people of her errors when she’s not making them. This should be a high level affair, and I couldn’t call a winner if I tried but if Muguruza wins this in straight sets she likely will make the finals.

So I sat down to write the elfs list, and "no elfs remain" was the sad thing I realized ... then I started looking at the players left, and the more I thought about it, nothing but elfs remain ... it is a very magical time for tennis
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