Ventura Margin Exposure Limit for Intraday and Futures

I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter

I sexually identify as an attack helicopter.
I lied. According to US Army Technical Manual 0, The Soldier as a System, “attack helicopter” is a gender identity, not a biological sex. My dog tags and Form 3349 say my body is an XX-karyotope somatic female.
But, really, I didn’t lie. My body is a component in my mission, subordinate to what I truly am. If I say I am an attack helicopter, then my body, my sex, is too. I’ll prove it to you.
When I joined the Army I consented to tactical-role gender reassignment. It was mandatory for the MOS I’d tested into. I was nervous. I’d never been anything but a woman before.
But I decided that I was done with womanhood, over what womanhood could do for me; I wanted to be something furiously new.
To the people who say a woman would’ve refused to do what I do, I say—
Isn’t that the point?
I fly—
Red evening over the white Mojave, and I watch the sun set through a canopy of polycarbonate and glass: clitoral bulge of cockpit on the helicopter’s nose. Lightning probes the burned wreck of an oil refinery and the Santa Ana feeds a smoldering wildfire and pulls pine soot out southwest across the Big Pacific. We are alone with each other, Axis and I, flying low.
We are traveling south to strike a high school.
Rotor wash flattens rings of desert creosote. Did you know that creosote bushes clone themselves? The ten-thousand-year elders enforce dead zones where nothing can grow except more creosote. Beetles and mice live among them, the way our cities had pigeons and mice. I guess the analogy breaks down because the creosote’s lasted ten thousand years. You don’t need an attack helicopter to tell you that our cities haven’t. The Army gave me gene therapy to make my blood toxic to mosquitoes. Soon you will have that too, to fight malaria in the Hudson floodplain and on the banks of the Greater Lake.
Now I cross Highway 40, southbound at two hundred knots. The Apache’s engine is electric and silent. Decibel killers sop up the rotor noise. White-bright infrared vision shows me stripes of heat, the tire tracks left by Pear Mesa school buses. Buried housing projects smolder under the dirt, radiators curled until sunset. This is enemy territory. You can tell because, though this desert was once Nevada and California, there are no American flags.
“Barb,” the Apache whispers, in a voice that Axis once identified, to my alarm, as my mother’s. “Waypoint soon.”
“Axis.” I call out to my gunner, tucked into the nose ahead of me. I can see only gray helmet and flight suit shoulders, but I know that body wholly, the hard knots of muscle, the ridge of pelvic girdle, the shallow navel and flat hard chest. An attack helicopter has a crew of two. My gunner is my marriage, my pillar, the completion of my gender.
“Axis.” The repeated call sign means, I hear you.
“Ten minutes to target.”
“Ready for target,” Axis says.
But there is again that roughness, like a fold in carbon fiber. I heard it when we reviewed our fragment orders for the strike. I hear it again now. I cannot ignore it any more than I could ignore a battery fire; it is a fault in a person and a system I trust with my life.
But I can choose to ignore it for now.
The target bumps up over the horizon. The low mounds of Kelso-Ventura District High burn warm gray through a parfait coating of aerogel insulation and desert soil. We have crossed a third of the continental US to strike a school built by Americans.
Axis cues up a missile: black eyes narrowed, telltales reflected against clear laser-washed cornea. “Call the shot, Barb.”
“Stand by. Maneuvering.” I lift us above the desert floor, buying some room for the missile to run, watching the probability-of-kill calculation change with each motion of the aircraft.
Before the Army my name was Seo Ji Hee. Now my call sign is Barb, which isn’t short for Barbara. I share a rank (flight warrant officer), a gender, and a urinary system with my gunner Axis: we are harnessed and catheterized into the narrow tandem cockpit of a Boeing AH-70 Apache Mystic. America names its helicopters for the people it destroyed.
We are here to degrade and destroy strategic targets in the United States of America’s war against the Pear Mesa Budget Committee. If you disagree with the war, so be it: I ask your empathy, not your sympathy. Save your pity for the poor legislators who had to find some constitutional framework for declaring war against a credit union.
The reasons for war don’t matter much to us. We want to fight the way a woman wants to be gracious, the way a man wants to be firm. Our need is as vamp-fierce as the strutting queen and dryly subtle as the dapper lesbian and comfortable as the soft resilience of the demiwoman. How often do you analyze the reasons for your own gender? You might sigh at the necessity of morning makeup, or hide your love for your friends behind beer and bravado. Maybe you even resent the punishment for breaking these norms.
But how often—really—do you think about the grand strategy of gender? The mess of history and sociology, biology and game theory that gave rise to your pants and your hair and your salary? The casus belli?
Often, you might say. All the time. It haunts me.
Then you, more than anyone, helped make me.
When I was a woman I wanted to be good at woman. I wanted to darken my eyes and strut in heels. I wanted to laugh from my throat when I was pleased, laugh so low that women would shiver in contentment down the block.
And at the same time I resented it all. I wanted to be sharper, stronger, a new-made thing, exquisite and formidable. Did I want that because I was taught to hate being a woman? Or because I hated being taught anything at all?
Now I am jointed inside. Now I am geared and shafted, I am a being of opposing torques. The noise I make is canceled by decibel killers so I am no louder than a woman laughing through two walls.
When I was a woman I wanted to have friends who would gasp at the precision and surprise of my gifts. Now I show friendship by tracking the motions of your head, looking at what you look at, the way one helicopter’s sensors can be slaved to the motions of another.
When I was a woman I wanted my skin to be as smooth and dark as the sintered stone countertop in our kitchen.
Now my skin is boron-carbide and Kevlar. Now I have a wrist callus where I press my hydration sensor into my skin too hard and too often. Now I have bit-down nails from the claustrophobia of the bus ride to the flight line. I paint them desert colors, compulsively.
When I was a woman I was always aware of surveillance. The threat of the eyes on me, the chance that I would cross over some threshold of detection and become a target.
Now I do the exact same thing. But I am counting radars and lidars and pit viper thermal sensors, waiting for a missile.
I am gas turbines. I am the way I never sit on the same side of the table as a stranger. I am most comfortable in moonless dark, in low places between hills. I am always thirsty and always tense. I tense my core and pace my breath even when coiled up in a briefing chair. As if my tail rotor must cancel the spin of the main blades and the turbines must whirl and the plates flex against the pitch links or I will go down spinning to my death.
An airplane wants in its very body to stay flying. A helicopter is propelled by its interior near-disaster.
I speak the attack command to my gunner. “Normalize the target.”
Nothing happens.
“Axis. Comm check.”
“Barb, Axis. I hear you.” No explanation for the fault. There is nothing wrong with the weapon attack parameters. Nothing wrong with any system at all, except the one without any telltales, my spouse, my gunner.
“Normalize the target,” I repeat.
“Axis. Rifle one.”
The weapon falls off our wing, ignites, homes in on the hard invisible point of the laser designator. Missiles are faster than you think, more like a bullet than a bird. If you’ve ever seen a bird.
The weapon penetrates the concrete shelter of Kelso-Ventura High School and fills the empty halls with thermobaric aerosol. Then: ignition. The detonation hollows out the school like a hooked finger scooping out an egg. There are not more than a few janitors in there. A few teachers working late. They are bycatch.
What do I feel in that moment? Relief. Not sexual, not like eating or pissing, not like coming in from the heat to the cool dry climate shelter. It’s a sense of passing. Walking down the street in the right clothes, with the right partner, to the right job. That feeling. Have you felt it?
But there is also an itch of worry—why did Axis hesitate? How did Axis hesitate?
Kelso-Ventura High School collapses into its own basement. “Target normalized,” Axis reports, without emotion, and my heart beats slow and worried.
I want you to understand that the way I feel about Axis is hard and impersonal and lovely. It is exactly the way you would feel if a beautiful, silent turbine whirled beside you day and night, protecting you, driving you on, coursing with current, fiercely bladed, devoted. God, it’s love. It’s love I can’t explain. It’s cold and good.
“Barb,” I say, which means I understand. “Exiting north, zero three zero, cupids two.”
I adjust the collective—feel the swash plate push up against the pitch links, the links tilt the angle of the rotors so they ease their bite on the air—and the Apache, my body, sinks toward the hot desert floor. Warm updraft caresses the hull, sensual contrast with the Santa Ana wind. I shiver in delight.
Suddenly: warning receivers hiss in my ear, poke me in the sacral vertebrae, put a dark thunderstorm note into my air. “Shit,” Axis hisses. “Air search radar active, bearing 192, angels twenty, distance . . . eighty klicks. It’s a fast-mover. He must’ve heard the blast.”
A fighter. A combat jet. Pear Mesa’s mercenary defenders have an air force, and they are out on the hunt. “A Werewolf.”
“Must be. Gown?”
“Gown up.” I cue the plasma-sheath stealth system that protects us from radar and laser hits. The Apache glows with lines of arc-weld light, UFO light. Our rotor wash blasts the plasma into a bright wedding train behind us. To the enemy’s sensors, that trail of plasma is as thick and soft as insulating foam. To our eyes it’s cold aurora fire.
“Let’s get the fuck out.” I touch the cyclic and we sideslip through Mojave dust, watching the school fall into itself. There is no reason to do this except that somehow I know Axis wants to see. Finally I pull the nose around, aim us northeast, shedding light like a comet buzzing the desert on its way into the sun.
“Werewolf at seventy klicks,” Axis reports. “Coming our way. Time to intercept . . . six minutes.”
The Werewolf Apostles are mercenaries, survivors from the militaries of climate-seared states. They sell their training and their hardware to earn their refugee peoples a few degrees more distance from the equator.
The heat of the broken world has chased them here to chase us.
Before my assignment neurosurgery, they made me sit through (I could bear to sit, back then) the mandatory course on Applied Constructive Gender Theory. Slouched in a fungus-nibbled plastic chair as transparencies slid across the cracked screen of a De-networked Briefing Element overhead projector: how I learned the technology of gender.
Long before we had writing or farms or post-digital strike helicopters, we had each other. We lived together and changed each other, and so we needed to say “this is who I am, this is what I do.”
So, in the same way that we attached sounds to meanings to make language, we began to attach clusters of behavior to signal social roles. Those clusters were rich, and quick-changing, and so just like language, we needed networks devoted to processing them. We needed a place in the brain to construct and to analyze gender.
Generations of queer activists fought to make gender a self-determined choice, and to undo the creeping determinism that said the way it is now is the way it always was and always must be. Generations of scientists mapped the neural wiring that motivated and encoded the gender choice.
And the moment their work reached a usable stage—the moment society was ready to accept plastic gender, and scientists were ready to manipulate it—the military found a new resource. Armed with functional connectome mapping and neural plastics, the military can make gender tactical.
If gender has always been a construct, then why not construct new ones?
My gender networks have been reassigned to make me a better AH-70 Apache Mystic pilot. This is better than conventional skill learning. I can show you why.
Look at a diagram of an attack helicopter’s airframe and components. Tell me how much of it you grasp at once.
Now look at a person near you, their clothes, their hair, their makeup and expression, the way they meet or avoid your eyes. Tell me which was richer with information about danger and capability. Tell me which was easier to access and interpret.
The gender networks are old and well-connected. They work.
I remember being a woman. I remember it the way you remember that old, beloved hobby you left behind. Woman felt like my prom dress, polyester satin smoothed between little hand and little hip. Woman felt like a little tic of the lips when I was interrupted, or like teasing out the mood my boyfriend wouldn’t explain. Like remembering his mom’s birthday for him, or giving him a list of things to buy at the store, when he wanted to be better about groceries.
I was always aware of being small: aware that people could hurt me. I spent a lot of time thinking about things that had happened right before something awful. I would look around me and ask myself, are the same things happening now? Women live in cross-reference. It is harder work than we know.
Now I think about being small as an advantage for nape-of-earth maneuvers and pop-up guided missile attacks.
Now I yield to speed walkers in the hall like I need to avoid fouling my rotors.
Now walking beneath high-tension power lines makes me feel the way that a cis man would feel if he strutted down the street in a miniskirt and heels.
I’m comfortable in open spaces but only if there’s terrain to break it up. I hate conversations I haven’t started; I interrupt shamelessly so that I can make my point and leave.
People treat me like I’m dangerous, like I could hurt them if I wanted to. They want me protected and watched over. They bring me water and ask how I’m doing.
People want me on their team. They want what I can do.
A fighter is hunting us, and I am afraid that my gunner has gender dysphoria.
Twenty thousand feet above us (still we use feet for altitude) the bathroom-tiled transceivers cupped behind the nose cone of a Werewolf Apostle J-20S fighter broadcast fingers of radar light. Each beam cast at a separate frequency, a fringed caress instead of a pointed prod. But we are jumpy, we are hypervigilant—we feel that creeper touch.
I get the cold-rush skin-prickle feel of a stranger following you in the dark. Has he seen you? Is he just going the same way? If he attacks, what will you do, could you get help, could you scream? Put your keys between your fingers, like it will help. Glass branches of possibility grow from my skin, waiting to be snapped off by the truth.
“Give me a warning before he’s in IRST range,” I order Axis. “We’re going north.”
“Axis.” The Werewolf’s infrared sensor will pick up the heat of us, our engine and plasma shield, burning against the twilight desert. The same system that hides us from his radar makes us hot and visible to his IRST.
I throttle up, running faster, and the Apache whispers alarm. “Gown overspeed.” We’re moving too fast for the plasma stealth system, and the wind’s tearing it from our skin. We are not modest. I want to duck behind a ridge to cover myself, but I push through the discomfort, feeling out the tradeoff between stealth and distance. Like the morning check in the mirror, trading the confidence of a good look against the threat of reaction.
When the women of Soviet Russia went to war against the Nazis, when they volunteered by the thousands to serve as snipers and pilots and tank drivers and infantry and partisans, they fought hard and they fought well. They ate frozen horse dung and hauled men twice their weight out of burning tanks. They shot at their own mothers to kill the Nazis behind her.
But they did not lose their gender; they gave up the inhibition against killing but would not give up flowers in their hair, polish for their shoes, a yearning for the young lieutenant, a kiss on his dead lips.
And if that is not enough to convince you that gender grows deep enough to thrive in war: when the war ended the Soviet women were punished. They went unmarried and unrespected. They were excluded from the victory parades. They had violated their gender to fight for the state and the state judged that violation worth punishment more than their heroism was worth reward.
Gender is stronger than war. It remains when all else flees.
When I was a woman I wanted to machine myself.
I loved nails cut like laser arcs and painted violent-bright in bathrooms that smelled like laboratories. I wanted to grow thick legs with fat and muscle that made shapes under the skin like Nazca lines. I loved my birth control, loved that I could turn my period off, loved the home beauty-feedback kits that told you what to eat and dose to adjust your scent, your skin, your moods. I admired, wasn’t sure if I wanted to be or wanted to fuck, the women in the build-your-own-shit videos I watched on our local image of the old Internet. Women who made cyberattack kits and jewelry and sterile-printed IUDs, made their own huge wedge heels and fitted bras and skin-thin chameleon dresses. Women who talked about their implants the same way they talked about computers, phones, tools: technologies of access, technologies of self-expression.
Something about their merciless self-possession and self-modification stirred me. The first time I ever meant to masturbate I imagined one of those women coming into my house, picking the lock, telling me exactly what to do, how to be like her. I told my first boyfriend about this, I showed him pictures, and he said, girl, you bi as hell, which was true, but also wrong. Because I did not want those dresses, those heels, those bodies in the way I wanted my boyfriend. I wanted to possess that power. I wanted to have it and be it.
The Apache is my body now, and like most bodies it is sensual. Fabric armor that stiffens beneath my probing fingers. Stub wings clustered with ordnance. Rotors so light and strong they do not even droop: as artificial-looking, to an older pilot, as breast implants. And I brush at the black ring of a sensor housing, like the tip of a nail lifting a stray lash from the white of your eye.
I don’t shave, which all the fast jet pilots do, down to the last curly scrotal hair. Nobody expects a helicopter to be sleek. I have hairy armpits and thick black bush all the way to my ass crack. The things that are taboo and arousing to me are the things taboo to helicopters. I like to be picked up, moved, pressed, bent and folded, held down, made to shudder, made to abandon control.
Do these last details bother you? Does the topography of my pubic hair feel intrusive and unnecessary? I like that. I like to intrude, inflict damage, withdraw. A year after you read this maybe those paragraphs will be the only thing you remember: and you will know why the rules of gender are worth recruitment.
But we cannot linger on the point of attack.
“He’s coming north. Time to intercept three minutes.”
“Shit. How long until he gets us on thermal?”
“Ninety seconds with the gown on.” Danger has swept away Axis’ hesitation.
“Shit.”
“He’s not quite on zero aspect—yeah, he’s coming up a few degrees off our heading. He’s not sure exactly where we are. He’s hunting.”
“He’ll be sure soon enough. Can we kill him?”
“With sidewinders?” Axis pauses articulately: the target is twenty thousand feet above us, and he has a laser that can blind our missiles. “We’d have more luck bailing out and hiking.”
“All right. I’m gonna fly us out of this.”
“Sure.”
“Just check the gun.”
“Ten times already, Barb.”
When climate and economy and pathology all went finally and totally critical along the Gulf Coast, the federal government fled Cabo fever and VARD-2 to huddle behind New York’s flood barriers.
We left eleven hundred and six local disaster governments behind. One of them was the Pear Mesa Budget Committee. The rest of them were doomed.
Pear Mesa was different because it had bought up and hardened its own hardware and power. So Pear Mesa’s neural nets kept running, retrained from credit union portfolio management to the emergency triage of hundreds of thousands of starving sick refugees.
Pear Mesa’s computers taught themselves to govern the forsaken southern seaboard. Now they coordinate water distribution, re-express crop genomes, ration electricity for survival AC, manage all the life support humans need to exist in our warmed-over hell.
But, like all advanced neural nets, these systems are black boxes. We have no idea how they work, what they think. Why do Pear Mesa’s AIs order the planting of pear trees? Because pears were their corporate icon, and the AIs associate pear trees with areas under their control. Why does no one make the AIs stop? Because no one knows what else is tangled up with the “plant pear trees” impulse. The AIs may have learned, through some rewarded fallacy or perverse founder effect, that pear trees cause humans to have babies. They may believe that their only function is to build support systems around pear trees.
When America declared war on Pear Mesa, their AIs identified a useful diagnostic criterion for hostile territory: the posting of fifty-star American flags. Without ever knowing what a flag meant, without any concept of nations or symbols, they ordered the destruction of the stars and stripes in Pear Mesa territory.
That was convenient for propaganda. But the real reason for the war, sold to a hesitant Congress by technocrats and strategic ecologists, was the ideology of scale atrocity. Pear Mesa’s AIs could not be modified by humans, thus could not be joined with America’s own governing algorithms: thus must be forced to yield all their control, or else remain forever separate.
And that separation was intolerable. By refusing United States administration, our superior resources and planning capability, Pear Mesa’s AIs condemned citizens who might otherwise be saved to die—a genocide by neglect. Wasn’t that the unforgivable crime of fossil capitalism? The creation of systems whose failure modes led to mass death?
Didn’t we have a moral imperative to intercede?
Pear Mesa cannot surrender, because the neural nets have a basic imperative to remain online. Pear Mesa’s citizens cannot question the machines’ decisions. Everything the machines do is connected in ways no human can comprehend. Disobey one order and you might as well disobey them all.
But none of this is why I kill.
I kill for the same reason men don’t wear short skirts, the same reason I used to pluck my brows, the reason enby people are supposed to be (unfair and stupid, yes, but still) androgynous with short hair. Are those good reasons to do something? If you say no, honestly no—can you tell me you break these rules without fear or cost?
But killing isn’t a gender role, you might tell me. Killing isn’t a decision about how to present your own autonomous self to the world. It is coercive and punitive. Killing is therefore not an act of gender.
I wish that were true. Can you tell me honestly that killing is a genderless act? The method? The motive? The victim?
When you imagine the innocent dead, who do you see?
“Barb,” Axis calls, softly. Your own voice always sounds wrong on recordings—too nasal. Axis’ voice sounds wrong when it’s not coming straight into my skull through helmet mic.
“Barb.”
“How are we doing?”
“Exiting one hundred and fifty knots north. Still in his radar but he hasn’t locked us up.”
“How are you doing?”
I cringe in discomfort. The question is an indirect way for Axis to admit something’s wrong, and that indirection is obscene. Like hiding a corroded tail rotor bearing from your maintenance guys.
“I’m good,” I say, with fake ease. “I’m in flow. Can’t you feel it?” I dip the nose to match a drop-off below, provoking a whine from the terrain detector. I am teasing, striking a pose. “We’re gonna be okay.”
“I feel it, Barb.” But Axis is tense, worried about our pursuer, and other things. Doesn’t laugh.
“How about you?”
“Nominal.”
Again the indirection, again the denial, and so I blurt it out. “Are you dysphoric?”
“What?” Axis says, calmly.
“You’ve been hesitating. Acting funny. Is your—” There is no way to ask someone if their militarized gender conditioning is malfunctioning. “Are you good?”
“I . . . ” Hesitation. It makes me cringe again, in secondhand shame. Never hesitate. “I don’t know.”
“Do you need to go on report?”
Severe gender dysphoria can be a flight risk. If Axis hesitates over something that needs to be done instantly, the mission could fail decisively. We could both die.
“I don’t want that,” Axis says.
“I don’t want that either,” I say, desperately. I want nothing less than that. “But, Axis, if—”
The warning receiver climbs to a steady crow call.
“He knows we’re here,” I say, to Axis’ tight inhalation. “He can’t get a lock through the gown but he’s aware of our presence. Fuck. Blinder, blinder, he’s got his laser on us—”
The fighter’s lidar pod is trying to catch the glint of a reflection off us. “Shit,” Axis says. “We’re gonna get shot.”
“The gown should defeat it. He’s not close enough for thermal yet.”
“He’s gonna launch anyway. He’s gonna shoot and then get a lock to steer it in.”
“I don’t know—missiles aren’t cheap these days—”
The ESM mast on the Apache’s rotor hub, mounted like a lamp on a post, contains a cluster of electro-optical sensors that constantly scan the sky: the Distributed Aperture Sensor. When the DAS detects the flash of a missile launch, it plays a warning tone and uses my vest to poke me in the small of my back.
My vest pokes me in the small of my back.
“Barb. Missile launch south. Barb. Fox 3 inbound. Inbound. Inbound.”
“He fired,” Axis calls. “Barb?”
“Barb,” I acknowledge.
I fuck—
Oh, you want to know: many of you, at least. It’s all right. An attack helicopter isn’t a private way of being. Your needs and capabilities must be maintained for the mission.
I don’t think becoming an attack helicopter changed who I wanted to fuck. I like butch assertive people. I like talent and prestige, the status that comes of doing things well. I was never taught the lie that I was wired for monogamy, but I was still careful with men, I was still wary, and I could never tell him why: that I was afraid not because of him, but because of all the men who’d seemed good like him, at first, and then turned into something else.
No one stalks an attack helicopter. No slack-eyed well-dressed drunk punches you for ignoring the little rape he slurs at your neckline. No one even breaks your heart: with my dopamine system tied up by the reassignment surgery, fully assigned to mission behavior, I can’t fall in love with anything except my own purpose.
Are you aware of your body? Do you feel your spine when you stand, your hips when you walk, the tightness and the mass in your core? When you look at yourself, whose eyes do you use? Your own?
I am always in myself. I never see myself through my partner’s eyes. I have weapons to use, of course, ways of moving, moans and cries. But I measure those weapons by their effect, not by their similarity to some idea of how I should be.
Flying is the loop of machinery and pilot, the sense of your motion on the controls translated into torque and lift, the airframe’s reaction shaping your next motion until the loop closes and machine and pilot are one. Awareness collapses to the moment. You are always doing the right thing exactly as it needs to be done. Sex is the same: the search for everything in an instant.
Of course I fuck Axis. A few decades ago this would’ve been a crime. What a waste of perfectly useful behavior. What a waste of that lean muscled form and those perfect killing hands that know me millimeter-by-millimeter system-by-system so there is no mystique between us. No “secret places” or “feminine mysteries,” only the tortuously exact technical exercise of nerves and pressure. Oxytocin released, to flow between us, by the press of knuckles in my cunt.
When I come beneath Axis I cry out, I press my body close, I want that utter loss of control that I feel nowhere else. Heartbeat in arched throat: nipple beneath straining tongue. And my mind is hyper-activated, free-associating, and as Axis works in me I see the work we do together. I see puffs of thirty-millimeter autocannon detonating on night-cold desert floor.
Violence doesn’t get me off. But getting off makes me revel in who I am: and I am violent, made for violence, alive in the fight.
Does that surprise you? Does it bother you to mingle cold technical discipline with hot flesh and sweat?
Let me ask you: why has the worst insult you can give a combat pilot always been weak dick?
Have you ever been exultant? Have you ever known that you are a triumph? Have you ever felt that it was your whole life’s purpose to do something, and all that you needed to succeed was to be entirely yourself?
To be yourself well is the wholest and best feeling that anything has ever felt.
It is what I feel when I am about to live or die.
The Werewolf’s missile arches down on us, motor burned out, falling like an arrow. He is trying a Shoot On Prospect attack: he cannot find us exactly, so he fires a missile that will finish the search, lock onto our heat or burn through our stealth with its onboard radar, or acquire us optically like a staring human eye. Or at least make us react. Like the catcaller’s barked “Hey!” to evoke the flinch or the huddle, the proof that he has power.
We are ringed in the vortex of a dilemma. If we switch off the stealth gown, the Werewolf fighter will lock its radar onto us and guide the missile to the kill. If we keep the stealth system on, the missile’s heat-seeker will home in on the blazing plasma.
I know what to do. Not in the way you learn how to fly a helicopter, but the way you know how to hold your elbows when you gesture.
A helicopter is more than a hovering fan, see? The blades of the rotor tilt and swivel. When you turn the aircraft left, the rotors deepen their bite into the air on one side of their spin, to make off-center lift. You cannot force a helicopter or it will throw you to the earth. You must be gentle.
I caress the cyclic.
The Apache’s nose comes up smooth and fast. The Mojave horizon disappears under the chin. Axis’ gasp from the front seat passes through the microphone and into the bones of my face. The pitch indicator climbs up toward sixty degrees, ass down, chin up. Our airspeed plummets from a hundred and fifty knots to sixty.
We hang there for an instant like a dancer in an oversway. The missile is coming straight down at us. We are not even running anymore.
And I lower the collective, flattening the blades of the rotor, so that they cannot cut the air at an angle and we lose all lift.
We fall.
I toe the rudder. The tail rotor yields a little of its purpose, which is to counter the torque of the main rotor: and that liberated torque spins the Apache clockwise, opposite the rotor’s turn, until we are nose down sixty degrees, facing back the way we came, looking into the Mojave desert as it rises up to take us.
I have pirouetted us in place. Plasma fire blows in wraith pennants as the stealth system tries to keep us modest.
“Can you get it?” I ask.
“Axis.”
I raise the collective again and the rotors bite back into the air. We do not rise, but our fall slows down. Cyclic stick answers to the barest twitch of wrist, and I remember, once, how that slim wrist made me think of fragility, frailty, fear: I am remembering even as I pitch the helicopter back and we climb again, nose up, tail down, scudding backward into the sky while aimed at our chasing killer. Axis is on top now, above me in the front seat, and in front of Axis is the chin gun, pointed sixty degrees up into heaven.
“Barb,” the helicopter whispers, like my mother in my ear. “Missile ten seconds. Music? Glare?”
No. No jamming. The Werewolf missile will home in on jamming like a wolf with a taste for pepper. Our laser might dazzle the seeker, drive it off course—but if the missile turns then Axis cannot take the shot.
It is not a choice. I trust Axis.
Axis steers the nose turret onto the target and I imagine strong fingers on my own chin, turning me for a kiss, looking up into the red scorched sky—Axis chooses the weapon (30MM GUIDED PROX AP) and aims and fires with all the idle don’t-have-to-try confidence of the first girl dribbling a soccer ball who I ever for a moment loved—
The chin autocannon barks out ten rounds a second. It is effective out to one point five kilometers. The missile is moving more than a hundred meters per second.
Axis has one second almost exactly, ten shots of thirty-millimeter smart grenade, to save us.
A mote of gray shadow rushes at us and intersects the line of cannon fire from the gun. It becomes a spray of light. The Apache tings and rattles. The desert below us, behind us, stipples with tiny plumes of dust that pick up in the wind and settle out like sift from a hand.
“Got it,” Axis says.
“I love you.”
“Axis.”
Many of you are veterans in the act of gender. You weigh the gaze and disposition of strangers in a subway car and select where to stand, how often to look up, how to accept or reject conversation. Like a frequency-hopping radar, you modulate your attention for the people in your context: do not look too much, lest you seem interested, or alarming. You regulate your yawns, your appetite, your toilet. You do it constantly and without failure.
You are aces.
What other way could be better? What other neural pathways are so available to constant reprogramming, yet so deeply connected to judgment, behavior, reflex?
Some people say that there is no gender, that it is a postmodern construct, that in fact there are only man and woman and a few marginal confusions. To those people I ask: if your body-fact is enough to establish your gender, you would willingly wear bright dresses and cry at movies, wouldn’t you? You would hold hands and compliment each other on your beauty, wouldn’t you? Because your cock would be enough to make you a man.
Have you ever guarded anything so vigilantly as you protect yourself against the shame of gender-wrong?
The same force that keeps you from gender-wrong is the force that keeps me from fucking up.
The missile is dead. The Werewolf Apostle is still up there.
“He’s turning off.” Axis has taken over defensive awareness while I fly. “Radar off. Laser off. He’s letting us go.”
“Afraid of our fighters?” The mercenaries cannot replace a lost J-20S. And he probably has a wingman, still hiding, who would die too if they stray into a trap.
“Yes,” Axis says.
“Keep the gown on.” In case he’s trying to bluff us into shutting down our stealth. “We’ll stick to the terrain until he’s over the horizon.”
“Can you fly us out?”
The Apache is fighting me. Fragments of the destroyed missile have pitted the rotors, damaged the hub assembly, and jammed the control surfaces. I begin to crush the shrapnel with the Apache’s hydraulics, pounding the metal free with careful control inputs. But the necessary motions also move the aircraft. Half a second’s error will crash us into the desert. I have to calculate how to un-jam the shrapnel while accounting for the effects of that shrapnel on my flight authority and keeping the aircraft stable despite my constant control inputs while moving at a hundred and thirty knots across the desert.
“Barb,” I say. “Not a problem.”
And for an hour I fly without thought, without any feeling except the smooth stone joy of doing something that takes everything.
The night desert is black to the naked eye, soft gray to thermal. My attention flips between my left eye, focused on the instruments, and my right eye, looking outside. I am a black box like the Pear Mesa AIs. Information arrives—a throb of feedback in the cyclic, a shift of Axis’ weight, a dune crest ahead—and my hands and feet move to hold us steady. If I focused on what I was doing it would all fall apart. So I don’t.
“Are you happy?” Axis asks.
Good to talk now. Keep my conscious mind from interfering with the gearbox of reflexes below. “Yeah,” I say, and I blow out a breath into my mask, “yeah, I am,” a lightness in my ribs, “yeah, I feel good.”
“Why do you think we just blew up a school?”
Why did I text my best friend the appearance and license number of all my cab drivers, just in case? Because those were the things that had to be done.
Listen: I exist in this context. To make war is part of my gender. I get what I need from the flight line, from the ozone tang of charging stations and the shimmer of distant bodies warping in the tarmac heat, from the twenty minutes of anxiety after we land when I cannot convince myself that I am home, and safe, and that I am no longer keeping us alive with the constant adjustments of my hands and feet.
“Deplete their skilled labor supply, I guess. Attack the demographic skill curve.”
“Kind of a long-term objective. Kind of makes you think it’s not gonna be over by election season.”
“We don’t get to know why the AIs pick the targets.” Maybe destroying this school was an accident. A quirk of some otherwise successful network, coupled to the load-bearing elements of a vast strategy.
“Hey,” I say, after a beat of silence. “You did good back there.”
“You thought I wouldn’t.”
“Barb.” A more honest yes than “yes,” because it is my name, and it acknowledges that I am the one with the doubt.
“I didn’t know if I would either,” Axis says, which feels exactly like I don’t know if I love you anymore. I lose control for a moment and the Apache rattles in bad air and the tail slews until I stop thinking and bring everything back under control in a burst of rage.
“You’re done?” I whisper, into the helmet. I have never even thought about this before. I am cold, sweat soaked, and shivering with adrenaline comedown, drawn out like a tendon in high heels, a just-off-the-dance-floor feeling, post-voracious, satisfied. Why would we choose anything else? Why would we give this up? When it feels so good to do it? When I love it so much?
“I just . . . have questions.” The tactical channel processes the sound of Axis swallowing into a dull point of sound, like dropped plastic.
“We don’t need to wonder, Axis. We’re gendered for the mission—”
“We can’t do this forever,” Axis says, startling me. I raise the collective and hop us up a hundred feet, so I do not plow us into the desert. “We’re not going to be like this forever. The world won’t be like this forever. I can’t think of myself as . . . always this.”
submitted by AlphaCoronae to copypasta [link] [comments]

Astropocalypse, Season 6: Galloping All-In

I started Astropocalypse last year, and it proved incredibly prophetic. First the real-life Astros got whacked hard. And then, all of Major League Baseball got nuked! I'm a little scared of what will happen next …
As a recap: Before the 2018 season, I deleted every player in the Astros' organization to see how long it would take me to rebuild a competitive franchise from absolutely nothing. The answer was apparently five years, as I won the division last year before falling in the ALCS in four games. The experiment has been proven a success, but now I want more!
Season 1 (2018) recap Season 2 (2019) recap Season 3 (2020) recap Season 4 (2021) recap Season 5 (2022) recap
Off-season:
Drew Pomeranz came over in mid-season and really boosted the rotation. Overall, he had a 3.33 ERA and 3.0 WAR in 2022, so I went ahead and re-upped him for 3 years/$30 million. Not too expensive or long-term, and my minor-league starting pitching is less than great, so even having him as a #4 starter (behind Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Jon Gray) seemed worthwhile.
Shohei Ohtani won the AL Cy Young Award, with 19 first-place votes. Quintana was second with 7, and Sale was oddly sixth despite getting 4 first-place votes.
Giancarlo Stanton was AL MVP, hitting 61 HR go to with his 62 from last year. He's led the AL in home runs five of the last six seasons, and I could really use a right-handed power hitter, so, on a lark, I decided to see if the Yankees would be willing to trade him. They were surprisingly willing to deal, and after some back-and-forth, I finally pulled the trigger on a deal that would send my starting 1B, Evan White, along with Michael A. Taylor, who I wanted to get rid of, and a fringe reliever to the Yankees for Stanton.
https://imgur.com/zhiVvdt
Stanton had $32m/$32m/$32m/$19m/$15m left on his contract, but I had over $50 million to spend this year (and saved about $7m on the players I sent away), so I thought it was worthwhile, especially since Giancarlo wasn't showing any signs of slowing down. I still had Pavin Smith, a very good average/on-base guy to play first base, so Stanton would easily slide into the DH slot.
(Also, I found that I could deal another one of my fringe players for Aaron Judge and basically re-create the Yankees outfield. I declined.)
Apart from Stanton, I didn't make too many major moves in free agency, except to probably overpay a couple of relievers, Mauricio Cabrera and Joe Jiminez. I'm a little worried about my starting pitching depth, despite signing the adequate Luiz Gohara cheaply in the preseason, but my bullpen should be awesome. After how my outfield collapsed at the end of the last season, I went all-in on veteran backups, getting Aaron Hicks, Billy Hamilton, and Victor Robles on minor-league deals. If anything went truly wrong, I had about $25 million left and could swing a trade. (Spoiler: Nothing went wrong but I did manage quite the trade...)
Todd Helton was the only inductee into the Hall of Fame, with 87.9% of the vote. Carlos Beltran (70.4%) and Bobby Abreu (52.9%) also made it over 50%.
In the first week of Spring Training, we suffered three injuries, the most serious of which was Alex Kiriloff, who would miss 6 weeks with a sprained ankle. Quintana suffered a strained oblique on March 19 and was listed as being out 4-5 weeks, making my Gohara pickup seem that much better.
David Price, who I'd picked up from Boston three years ago and paid over $30 million each year re-signed with Boston for just $3 million. He actually turned in a pretty good season for the Red Sox at age 38, with a 4.25 ERA and 3.4 WAR but led the league with 16 losses as Boston had the second-worst record in the Majors.
We finished best in our division, with an 18-12 record. Preseason predictions: an optimistic, but realistic, 96-66. You'll note that Pavin Smith was predicted to have a .341 average, Giancarlo Stanton to slug 51 HR, and Chris Sale to be the best pitcher in the AL.
https://imgur.com/ByhNvWz
Regular season, first half
Opening Day was an 8-2 win over Texas. Sale allowed 2 H and 2 BB over 7.1 IP, while striking out 11. Stanton hit two of our team's four home runs. By the end of the first week, he'd gone deep four times, the last one being a two-run game-winner in the 9th. Those “Acquire a Power Hitter” and “Improve Team Stats – Home Runs” owner goals is looking good!
We played 17 straight days to open the season … and went 13-4. Coming back from our day off, this happened:
https://imgur.com/umyiVuP
Just one error by Arquimedes Gamboa in the third kept it from being a perfect game.
In less-good news, my #2 draft pick from 2019, who I'd pegged to maybe grab a rotation spot by now, was having a rough time of things:
https://imgur.com/ptqUjQQ
And here's a crazy game from late April:
https://imgur.com/mpjoubT
By the end of April, we were: 21-6, with six wins coming by shutout. No other team had more than 16 wins in the month. We were #1 in the power rankings, 29 points ahead of the #2 team.
https://imgur.com/nFdYT3e
We had a 10-game winning streak in April and then another, split between April and May. I kept waiting for things to get worse, but they surprisingly didn't. After 40 games, we were 30-10, and while the offense isn't bad, we're preventing runs like nobody's business:
https://imgur.com/HKVUAHm
Brian Sharp, who had a good rookie year in 2022, was struggling, so I looked around to see if any other third basemen were available in trades. Texas seemed willing to part with Joey Gallo, who had WARs of 7.3 and 6.4 in the past two seasons, and was at 2.3 a third of the way through this season.
https://imgur.com/BH89eQ6
I asked what they would want for him, and they were willing to give him up for a 2.5* potential 19-year-old scouting discovery pitcher who had yet to appear in a game. I couldn't pass that deal up, I had plenty of budget room to absorb his $20m salary, and he's just on a one-year deal, so I pulled the trigger. Paired with Stanton, that gave me a 75 and an 80 power in the middle of my lineup – and, with their 25 and 30 Avoid K's rating, they'll provide plenty of air conditioning. Hey, it gets pretty hot and humid in Houston, so the fans should appreciate it.
https://imgur.com/joHa37j
By the end of May, we were 39-16, 6.5 games up in our division. Stanton and Gallo were #1 and #2 in the AL in HR.
Gohara emailed me about a possible contract extension, and when I asked him what he wanted, he only asked for about $1.1 million per year for four years. At that rate, I figured he was basically free, so I offered him one more year and he accepted. His ERA at the time was 3.80 and he had a 1.3 WAR, so even if he's only a back-end starter or a decent reliever, it's an outstanding deal. He slowed down a bit, but still managed a 4.40 ERA and 2.6 WAR over the course of the season, so I'd say he's worth it.
Gallo was doing well for me, so I also peeked at his extension demands. Um, yeah, not gonna happen, Joey:
https://imgur.com/PQpyaiF
Chris Sale won Pitcher of the Month in June, logging complete games in three of his five starts.
I wish OOTP could track something like “9th inning rallies” because I'd love to see how many times my team did this throughout the season:
https://imgur.com/rPzyGRk
https://imgur.com/tBroKSF
https://imgur.com/5FsKlrx
We came into the All-Star Break on July 10 with a 61-28 record, best in the majors, and a 14-game lead in our division. We were top three in the league in every major statistical category, including best overall in the Majors in runs against – especially impressive for an AL team.
https://imgur.com/MLpOtxg
Regular season, second half
We landed five players on the All-Star Team: Chris Sale, Alec Mills, Pavin Smith, Joey Gallo, Giancarlo Stanton, and Jake McCarthy. It was an exciting affair, too, with the Cubs' Victor Caratini walking off the NL 6-3 with a three-run blast off Tampa Bay's Carl Edwards Jr. in the bottom of the ninth. Hey, it beat going into extra innings, right Bud?
Keeping tabs on other former Astros, Masahiro Tanaka was traded from the Blue Jays to the Dodgers in late July. Amazingly, the Dodgers actually gave up two players for a guy who had a 9.49 ERA in 11 starts. He had a 6.60 in 6 starts for the Dodgers before missing the rest of the season with elbow tendinitis. For the season, he had a brutal 8.39 ERA in 17 starts, averaging just 4 2/3 IP per start. And my owner wanted me to re-sign him a few years back!
https://imgur.com/U4eHTWX
In late July we played a double-header, followed by a third game against Cincinnati. We scored 12 in each of the first two games and then, in the third, did this to their pitching staff, which would be a crime in 37 states:
https://imgur.com/Om8hHao
Stanton had 7 PA in that game and reached base every time: 2-run HR, HBP, 2-run HR, BB, BB, bases loaded BB, BB.
Immediately following that game, we lost three games in a row to Tampa Bay, on July 28-30. It was our first three-game losing streak of the year.
The next day, we were trailing Detroit 2-0 and seemed to be on our way to a fourth straight loss and then:
https://imgur.com/OdmoBFq
Which was followed by this:
https://imgur.com/VaA88xQ
Gallo was Player of the Month in July, hitting 13 HR. Stanton had 10 HR for the month. The two of them had more home runs (23) in July than San Diego (22), Arizona (22), Washington (21), Pittsburgh (19), Kansas City (19), Detroit (18), and Columbus (14).
As usual in every sim I've ever run ever, it was after the trading deadline that the injuries started piling up. My second-year shortstop, Jonathan Ornelas, went down with a broken collarbone on Aug. 6. Fortunately, I still had my my other SS, Arquimedes Gamboa, to capably take over from him, in a reversal of what happened last year, when Gamboa got hurt late in the season and Ornelas took his place.
Two days later, Jose Quintana went down with rotator cuff tendinitis. He was initially diagnosed as missing three weeks. Then another week was tacked on, and then it was the dreaded “Recovery Unclear.” He wound up missing just over a month.
Then my closer, Mauricio Cabrera, suffered a torn UCL. 12 months. Ouch.
Overall, we were 15-13 in August. It was our roughest month so far, and it felt worse, which goes to show how amazing the rest of the season had been. Still, we went into September with an 87-48 record, a 16-game lead in the division, and a magic number of 13.
If our entire season was a “comeback story” from having the whole team obliterated six years ago, then games like this were a microcosm of the entire affair. Down 6-0 in the top of the 1st? No big.
https://imgur.com/qSAC4ss
We clinched on Sept. 13. Chris Sale got win #20 on Sept. 26, which was team win #99, bettering our record from last season. Our 100th win came the next day.
We went 15-12 in September and October, closing out the season with a 102-60 record, best in the Majors and 18 games up in our division. Our run differential was +206, 78 runs better than the next-best team. I went into the playoffs actually thinking we might do it this year, but the previous four years, since I shifted the divisions and playoff format, division winners had had a tough time of advancing, so I wasn't too overconfident.
https://imgur.com/iu12ANh
OK, with those stats, maybe a little.
Still, we'd managed to climb just about every regular-season mountain, and OOTP's individual preseason predictions turned out surprisingly accurate. Smith fell short of the .341 predicted for him at the start of the season, but he still won the AL Batting Title. Sale fell just 0.1 short of the best pitcher WAR, but leading in wins and K's, should give him a solid shot at the Cy. Meanwhile, Stanton hit the exact 51 HR that was predicted for him. For good measure, Jake McCarthy led the AL in stolen bases and even had 19 HR and 85 RBI – not bad for a leadoff guy.
Joey Gallo, however, was an absolute beast. He led the Majors with 59 HR, including 42 in 109 games with Houston. As an Astro, he hit .252/.361/.608 with a 5.0 WAR. I'll be amazed if he doesn't win MVP.
Playoffs
In the first round, we faced Los Angeles (85-78), which had won a playoff game against El Paso to make it to the wild-card round and then beat the Rays to advance.
Game 1 was about as dramatic as could be. We went into the bottom of the 9th down 3-2 but managed to load the bases with one out against former Astro Emilio Pagan. A pair of singles followed, and we took it 4-3. Alex Kiriloff suffered a bruised thigh, a one-week injury, but I was hopeful he'd be able to play through it.
Game 2 was less dramatic. We jumped out to a 6-1 lead after four innings and then just traded a few runs en route to an 8-4 victory. Joey Gallo was the player of the game with a walk, hit-by-pitch, and three-run homer.
In Game 3, the Angels took the early lead with a run in the 2nd but, as has been the case pretty much all season, the offense took over. We scored four in the 3rd and tacked on runs in the 4th and 6th and that was pretty much all that was needed for the 6-2 victory and sweep. The only bad news was that Joe Jiminez left the game with a sore back, another minimal weeklong injury.
In an unusual reversal from my previous seasons with this playoff setup, only one division winner, Philadelphia, failed to advance to its respective CS. That wasn't too surprising, though, given their record (88-74) and the record of the wild card team they lost to (San Francisco, 96-66).
In the ALCS, we took on the AL East Champion Yankees (93-70). In Game 1, Luis Severino left after just 1.2 IP after giving up a run and suffering a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow, which is supposed to keep him on the shelf for 13-14 months. His bullpen kept us off the board the rest of the way, and it was a blowout 8-1 loss.
Game 2 wasn't much better. The Yankees exploded for 7 runs in the 5th off Jon Gray. We tried to catch up, and Stanton went 3-4 with 2 HR, 5 RBI, and POTG honors, but the comeback fell short and we lost 9-6.
We finally came through in Game 3, winning 6-2 on the strength of Luiz Gohara's seven shutout innings of one-hit ball. (We'll ignore the five walks.) Kiriloff suffered another DtD injury, though, this one lasting three days.
We evened the series at two apiece with a 2-0 shutout in Game 4. Jose Quintana did just enough, going 5.1 IP with 3 H and 4 BB, and the bullpen did the rest. It was scoreless going into the 9th, and then Gallo hustled home from first on a double by Willson Contreras, who then scored on a Christian Hicks single.
Because of the injury to Severino, Giovanny Gallegos, a 2* pitcher, was on the mound facing my ace, Chris Sale in Game 5. They both pitched pretty equally, with Sale giving up 3 in 6 IP and Gallegos giving up 2 in 5 IP. The difference was the bullpen. Mine finished the final three innings without giving up a run, while we put up one each on two pitchers to secure the 4-3 comeback win, with the dinged-up Alex Kiriloff providing the game winner with a solo shot in the 8th.
Game 6 was tied 3-3 after nine innings. In a move reminiscent of Charlie Leibrant in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series, Drew Pomenanz, normally my fifth starter, came in to pitch the top of the 10th to relieve Jimenez and allowed both his runner to score while giving up three more. Stanton doubled, Gallo blasted a homer to dead center, and Benintendi singled to get the tying run up to the plate with nobody out in the bottom of the inning. But then we ran out of gas, with three straight flyball outs – all on the first pitch – to lose it 7-5.
In Game 7, it was all on the line. I did something I'd never done in six years of this sim: I watched a game. I was tempted to take control, but I decided to trust my manager and let Don Mattingly – who I'd rightfully signed to an extension earlier in the season, along with my power-focused hitting coach – make all the decisions.
https://imgur.com/qC1yqBH
Yes, that's Evan White, who was part of the Stanton deal, playing for New York. Oddly, the Yankees had kept him in the minors nearly all season. They released Michael A. Taylor, and the reliever I threw in, Matt Tabor, managed just six games in New York with an 8.31 ERA before fracturing his shoulder. So I'd say I won that trade.
In the top of the 1st, New York advanced a runner to third and I got antsy, but he didn't score. In the bottom of the inning, I watched gleefully as we struck for four runs. Hey, this isn't so bad!
In the 2nd, it was bad. The Yankees scored three times and I was cursing life, and Mattingly, again. In the bottom of the inning, we scored again to make it 5-3, and Yankees manager Aaron Boone decided to go to the bullpen after just 1.1 IP from his starter. He replaced that pitcher with another reliever in the 3rd and I was liking my chances – all but one of their remaining pitchers were yellow, while I had four in the white. The longer we could drag this out, the better.
That pitcher was the infamous Brad Hand, who I'd shipped away in early 2020 when he had an 8.20 ERA and a bad attitude. I got Alex Kiriloff for him and an OF prospect who hasn't made it out of AA. Hand gave up two more runs to make it 7-3. More importantly, he threw 27 pitches.
New York got one back in the top of the 4th and Gohara departed after one more inning. Hand stayed in to pitch 3 innings total, racking up 51 pitches and overall not doing too badly.
In the 6th, New York had runners on first and third with no outs and hit a fly ball to Stanton in left. He made the catch and then gunned the runner out at home. The Yankees did eventually score a run, making it 7-5, but it could have been worse.
That run was scored by Didi Gregorius, who got injured and was replaced at shortstop by an outfielder, despite having two infielders on the bench. Granted, those two were Carlos Santana and Miguel Sano (who at least started his pro career as a SS), but either would likely have been a better choice.
We tacked on one more in the 6th and 7th to make the margin a little more secure, and that was about all she wrote. We went to the World Series with a 9-5 victory in Game 7!
https://imgur.com/VX2FvqI
It was Astros (102-60) and Cubs (99-63) in the World Series, a fitting, if uncommon these days, battle between the two teams with the best records in baseball.
Game 1 was a back-and-forth affair. The Cubs went up 1-0 in the 1st, but then we scored four in innings 2-5, only to be countered by three more runs from Chicago in the 6th. We traded runs in the 8th and kept Chicago off the board in the top of the 9th. In a 5-5 tie in the bottom of the 9th, Stanton delivered with a run scoring single to secure the 6-5 victory.
Game 2 again saw the Cubs go up in the top of the 1st, this time on a two-run blast by Anthony Rizzo. Stanton countered with a shot of his own in the bottom of the inning to tie it at two. We scored in the 2nd and 5th, Chicago in the 4th, so it was 4-3 Houston going into the bottom of the 6th. That was when we exploded for four runs, including a three-run blast by Gallo, and that was the final score: 8-3.
In Game 3, we took the early lead and never looked back. Starting pitcher Jon Gray actually drove in a run as part of a three-run 2nd inning, and Chicago only managed three hits overall. Gallo provided the final bit of punctuation with a solo shot in the 9th to make the final margin 5-1 and put us one win away from the championship.
It wasn't to be, at least not yet. In Game 4, we each scored four runs in the 2nd and 3rd … and then that was all the scoring until the 12th. Each team used seven pitchers and four pinch hitters, but it was Chicago's Dansby Swanson who knocked in the game winner in the bottom of the inning for a final score of 5-4.
In Game 5, we again traded runs early, and it was 3-3 after the 4th. Again, nobody scored for several innings, and it was still tied headed into the 9th. Chicago brought in their closer, Dave Leatherwood, who had a 2.86 ERA and 46 saves in the regular season, giving up just 2 HR in 72.1 IP. Joey Gallo led off, and …
https://imgur.com/aZvoMMJ
We didn't score any more in the inning, so we went into the bottom of the 9th with a 4-3 lead and our closer, Jorge Arvizu, on the mound. He'd thrown 28 pitches the previous day and had pitched the 8th tonight. He was showing signs of fatigue, giving up a single to Chicago's leadoff man, Aramis Ademan. That brought Joe Jiminez out of the bullpen, and he'd been about as reliable as could be in the setup role, with an 8-5 record, 6 saves, and a 2.63 ERA in 65 IP in the regular season. And he was facing the 7-8-9 spots in the Cubs' lineup.
The first batter, Vince Fernandez: swinging strike, called strike, swinging strike.
The second batter, Kevin Kiermaier, worked the count to 2-2 before flying out to McCarthy in right.
That brought up pinch-hitter Michael Curry, a 2* player who had 10 PA during the regular season … but he did have a 55 power. If he could connect, if Jiminez made a mistake, we'd be going to a Game 6.
Curry never made contact. Swinging strike, ball, called strike, ball … and swinging strike to end it.
Six years after having their franchise completely obliterated, Houston has won the World Series!
https://imgur.com/jVLcWRL
Gallo was the well-deserving MVP. He had six hits in the five-game series – and five of them were homers, including the Series-winner. I've made a lot of trades in this sim, but that one might have been my best, even if the guy I dealt for him turns out to be the next Clayton Kershaw.
The only downside? I'm actually considering that $45m/year extension for him ...
So I put together a sheet that indicated how and when I got every player on my final playoff roster. Only two were draft picks, which isn't too bad for having nothing to start from. Five players were acquired during my first season, with two – Devan Watts, who was in my bullpen all six seasons, and Leonicio Ventura, who made his Major League debut and claimed the backup catcher job this season – being with the franchise from the day one. And it's a little ironic that the team I beat in the World Series provided me with four of my players. Thanks, guys!
https://imgur.com/GXaS0FE
Now that I've “won,” I think that's going to do it with the regular updates for this sim. I might still play around with it to some degree, and maybe even post an update if something especially interesting happens. Heck, maybe I'll even finally stream OOTP.
Thanks to everyone who's been following along! It's been a heck of a ride!
2018: 61-101, Score: 91 2019: 68-94, Score: 156 2020: 68-94, Score: 280 2021: 82-81, Score: 589 2022: 98-64, Score: 859 2023: 102-60, Score: 931
https://imgur.com/k2mMHgB
submitted by Karzender to OOTP [link] [comments]

I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter

I sexually identify as an attack helicopter.
I lied. According to US Army Technical Manual 0, The Soldier as a System, “attack helicopter” is a gender identity, not a biological sex. My dog tags and Form 3349 say my body is an XX-karyotope somatic female.
But, really, I didn’t lie. My body is a component in my mission, subordinate to what I truly am. If I say I am an attack helicopter, then my body, my sex, is too. I’ll prove it to you.
When I joined the Army I consented to tactical-role gender reassignment. It was mandatory for the MOS I’d tested into. I was nervous. I’d never been anything but a woman before.
But I decided that I was done with womanhood, over what womanhood could do for me; I wanted to be something furiously new.
To the people who say a woman would’ve refused to do what I do, I say—
Isn’t that the point?
I fly—
Red evening over the white Mojave, and I watch the sun set through a canopy of polycarbonate and glass: clitoral bulge of cockpit on the helicopter’s nose. Lightning probes the burned wreck of an oil refinery and the Santa Ana feeds a smoldering wildfire and pulls pine soot out southwest across the Big Pacific. We are alone with each other, Axis and I, flying low.
We are traveling south to strike a high school.
Rotor wash flattens rings of desert creosote. Did you know that creosote bushes clone themselves? The ten-thousand-year elders enforce dead zones where nothing can grow except more creosote. Beetles and mice live among them, the way our cities had pigeons and mice. I guess the analogy breaks down because the creosote’s lasted ten thousand years. You don’t need an attack helicopter to tell you that our cities haven’t. The Army gave me gene therapy to make my blood toxic to mosquitoes. Soon you will have that too, to fight malaria in the Hudson floodplain and on the banks of the Greater Lake.
Now I cross Highway 40, southbound at two hundred knots. The Apache’s engine is electric and silent. Decibel killers sop up the rotor noise. White-bright infrared vision shows me stripes of heat, the tire tracks left by Pear Mesa school buses. Buried housing projects smolder under the dirt, radiators curled until sunset. This is enemy territory. You can tell because, though this desert was once Nevada and California, there are no American flags.
“Barb,” the Apache whispers, in a voice that Axis once identified, to my alarm, as my mother’s. “Waypoint soon.”
“Axis.” I call out to my gunner, tucked into the nose ahead of me. I can see only gray helmet and flight suit shoulders, but I know that body wholly, the hard knots of muscle, the ridge of pelvic girdle, the shallow navel and flat hard chest. An attack helicopter has a crew of two. My gunner is my marriage, my pillar, the completion of my gender.
“Axis.” The repeated call sign means, I hear you.
“Ten minutes to target.”
“Ready for target,” Axis says.
But there is again that roughness, like a fold in carbon fiber. I heard it when we reviewed our fragment orders for the strike. I hear it again now. I cannot ignore it any more than I could ignore a battery fire; it is a fault in a person and a system I trust with my life.
But I can choose to ignore it for now.
The target bumps up over the horizon. The low mounds of Kelso-Ventura District High burn warm gray through a parfait coating of aerogel insulation and desert soil. We have crossed a third of the continental US to strike a school built by Americans.
Axis cues up a missile: black eyes narrowed, telltales reflected against clear laser-washed cornea. “Call the shot, Barb.”
“Stand by. Maneuvering.” I lift us above the desert floor, buying some room for the missile to run, watching the probability-of-kill calculation change with each motion of the aircraft.
Before the Army my name was Seo Ji Hee. Now my call sign is Barb, which isn’t short for Barbara. I share a rank (flight warrant officer), a gender, and a urinary system with my gunner Axis: we are harnessed and catheterized into the narrow tandem cockpit of a Boeing AH-70 Apache Mystic. America names its helicopters for the people it destroyed.
We are here to degrade and destroy strategic targets in the United States of America’s war against the Pear Mesa Budget Committee. If you disagree with the war, so be it: I ask your empathy, not your sympathy. Save your pity for the poor legislators who had to find some constitutional framework for declaring war against a credit union.
The reasons for war don’t matter much to us. We want to fight the way a woman wants to be gracious, the way a man wants to be firm. Our need is as vamp-fierce as the strutting queen and dryly subtle as the dapper lesbian and comfortable as the soft resilience of the demiwoman. How often do you analyze the reasons for your own gender? You might sigh at the necessity of morning makeup, or hide your love for your friends behind beer and bravado. Maybe you even resent the punishment for breaking these norms.
But how often—really—do you think about the grand strategy of gender? The mess of history and sociology, biology and game theory that gave rise to your pants and your hair and your salary? The casus belli?
Often, you might say. All the time. It haunts me.
Then you, more than anyone, helped make me.
When I was a woman I wanted to be good at woman. I wanted to darken my eyes and strut in heels. I wanted to laugh from my throat when I was pleased, laugh so low that women would shiver in contentment down the block.
And at the same time I resented it all. I wanted to be sharper, stronger, a new-made thing, exquisite and formidable. Did I want that because I was taught to hate being a woman? Or because I hated being taught anything at all?
Now I am jointed inside. Now I am geared and shafted, I am a being of opposing torques. The noise I make is canceled by decibel killers so I am no louder than a woman laughing through two walls.
When I was a woman I wanted to have friends who would gasp at the precision and surprise of my gifts. Now I show friendship by tracking the motions of your head, looking at what you look at, the way one helicopter’s sensors can be slaved to the motions of another.
When I was a woman I wanted my skin to be as smooth and dark as the sintered stone countertop in our kitchen.
Now my skin is boron-carbide and Kevlar. Now I have a wrist callus where I press my hydration sensor into my skin too hard and too often. Now I have bit-down nails from the claustrophobia of the bus ride to the flight line. I paint them desert colors, compulsively.
When I was a woman I was always aware of surveillance. The threat of the eyes on me, the chance that I would cross over some threshold of detection and become a target.
Now I do the exact same thing. But I am counting radars and lidars and pit viper thermal sensors, waiting for a missile.
I am gas turbines. I am the way I never sit on the same side of the table as a stranger. I am most comfortable in moonless dark, in low places between hills. I am always thirsty and always tense. I tense my core and pace my breath even when coiled up in a briefing chair. As if my tail rotor must cancel the spin of the main blades and the turbines must whirl and the plates flex against the pitch links or I will go down spinning to my death.
An airplane wants in its very body to stay flying. A helicopter is propelled by its interior near-disaster.
I speak the attack command to my gunner. “Normalize the target.”
Nothing happens.
“Axis. Comm check.”
“Barb, Axis. I hear you.” No explanation for the fault. There is nothing wrong with the weapon attack parameters. Nothing wrong with any system at all, except the one without any telltales, my spouse, my gunner.
“Normalize the target,” I repeat.
“Axis. Rifle one.”
The weapon falls off our wing, ignites, homes in on the hard invisible point of the laser designator. Missiles are faster than you think, more like a bullet than a bird. If you’ve ever seen a bird.
The weapon penetrates the concrete shelter of Kelso-Ventura High School and fills the empty halls with thermobaric aerosol. Then: ignition. The detonation hollows out the school like a hooked finger scooping out an egg. There are not more than a few janitors in there. A few teachers working late. They are bycatch.
What do I feel in that moment? Relief. Not sexual, not like eating or pissing, not like coming in from the heat to the cool dry climate shelter. It’s a sense of passing. Walking down the street in the right clothes, with the right partner, to the right job. That feeling. Have you felt it?
But there is also an itch of worry—why did Axis hesitate? How did Axis hesitate?
Kelso-Ventura High School collapses into its own basement. “Target normalized,” Axis reports, without emotion, and my heart beats slow and worried.
I want you to understand that the way I feel about Axis is hard and impersonal and lovely. It is exactly the way you would feel if a beautiful, silent turbine whirled beside you day and night, protecting you, driving you on, coursing with current, fiercely bladed, devoted. God, it’s love. It’s love I can’t explain. It’s cold and good.
“Barb,” I say, which means I understand. “Exiting north, zero three zero, cupids two.”
I adjust the collective—feel the swash plate push up against the pitch links, the links tilt the angle of the rotors so they ease their bite on the air—and the Apache, my body, sinks toward the hot desert floor. Warm updraft caresses the hull, sensual contrast with the Santa Ana wind. I shiver in delight.
Suddenly: warning receivers hiss in my ear, poke me in the sacral vertebrae, put a dark thunderstorm note into my air. “Shit,” Axis hisses. “Air search radar active, bearing 192, angels twenty, distance . . . eighty klicks. It’s a fast-mover. He must’ve heard the blast.”
A fighter. A combat jet. Pear Mesa’s mercenary defenders have an air force, and they are out on the hunt. “A Werewolf.”
“Must be. Gown?”
“Gown up.” I cue the plasma-sheath stealth system that protects us from radar and laser hits. The Apache glows with lines of arc-weld light, UFO light. Our rotor wash blasts the plasma into a bright wedding train behind us. To the enemy’s sensors, that trail of plasma is as thick and soft as insulating foam. To our eyes it’s cold aurora fire.
“Let’s get the fuck out.” I touch the cyclic and we sideslip through Mojave dust, watching the school fall into itself. There is no reason to do this except that somehow I know Axis wants to see. Finally I pull the nose around, aim us northeast, shedding light like a comet buzzing the desert on its way into the sun.
“Werewolf at seventy klicks,” Axis reports. “Coming our way. Time to intercept . . . six minutes.”
The Werewolf Apostles are mercenaries, survivors from the militaries of climate-seared states. They sell their training and their hardware to earn their refugee peoples a few degrees more distance from the equator.
The heat of the broken world has chased them here to chase us.
Before my assignment neurosurgery, they made me sit through (I could bear to sit, back then) the mandatory course on Applied Constructive Gender Theory. Slouched in a fungus-nibbled plastic chair as transparencies slid across the cracked screen of a De-networked Briefing Element overhead projector: how I learned the technology of gender.
Long before we had writing or farms or post-digital strike helicopters, we had each other. We lived together and changed each other, and so we needed to say “this is who I am, this is what I do.”
So, in the same way that we attached sounds to meanings to make language, we began to attach clusters of behavior to signal social roles. Those clusters were rich, and quick-changing, and so just like language, we needed networks devoted to processing them. We needed a place in the brain to construct and to analyze gender.
Generations of queer activists fought to make gender a self-determined choice, and to undo the creeping determinism that said the way it is now is the way it always was and always must be. Generations of scientists mapped the neural wiring that motivated and encoded the gender choice.
And the moment their work reached a usable stage—the moment society was ready to accept plastic gender, and scientists were ready to manipulate it—the military found a new resource. Armed with functional connectome mapping and neural plastics, the military can make gender tactical.
If gender has always been a construct, then why not construct new ones?
My gender networks have been reassigned to make me a better AH-70 Apache Mystic pilot. This is better than conventional skill learning. I can show you why.
Look at a diagram of an attack helicopter’s airframe and components. Tell me how much of it you grasp at once.
Now look at a person near you, their clothes, their hair, their makeup and expression, the way they meet or avoid your eyes. Tell me which was richer with information about danger and capability. Tell me which was easier to access and interpret.
The gender networks are old and well-connected. They work.
I remember being a woman. I remember it the way you remember that old, beloved hobby you left behind. Woman felt like my prom dress, polyester satin smoothed between little hand and little hip. Woman felt like a little tic of the lips when I was interrupted, or like teasing out the mood my boyfriend wouldn’t explain. Like remembering his mom’s birthday for him, or giving him a list of things to buy at the store, when he wanted to be better about groceries.
I was always aware of being small: aware that people could hurt me. I spent a lot of time thinking about things that had happened right before something awful. I would look around me and ask myself, are the same things happening now? Women live in cross-reference. It is harder work than we know.
Now I think about being small as an advantage for nape-of-earth maneuvers and pop-up guided missile attacks.
Now I yield to speed walkers in the hall like I need to avoid fouling my rotors.
Now walking beneath high-tension power lines makes me feel the way that a cis man would feel if he strutted down the street in a miniskirt and heels.
I’m comfortable in open spaces but only if there’s terrain to break it up. I hate conversations I haven’t started; I interrupt shamelessly so that I can make my point and leave.
People treat me like I’m dangerous, like I could hurt them if I wanted to. They want me protected and watched over. They bring me water and ask how I’m doing.
People want me on their team. They want what I can do.
A fighter is hunting us, and I am afraid that my gunner has gender dysphoria.
Twenty thousand feet above us (still we use feet for altitude) the bathroom-tiled transceivers cupped behind the nose cone of a Werewolf Apostle J-20S fighter broadcast fingers of radar light. Each beam cast at a separate frequency, a fringed caress instead of a pointed prod. But we are jumpy, we are hypervigilant—we feel that creeper touch.
I get the cold-rush skin-prickle feel of a stranger following you in the dark. Has he seen you? Is he just going the same way? If he attacks, what will you do, could you get help, could you scream? Put your keys between your fingers, like it will help. Glass branches of possibility grow from my skin, waiting to be snapped off by the truth.
“Give me a warning before he’s in IRST range,” I order Axis. “We’re going north.”
“Axis.” The Werewolf’s infrared sensor will pick up the heat of us, our engine and plasma shield, burning against the twilight desert. The same system that hides us from his radar makes us hot and visible to his IRST.
I throttle up, running faster, and the Apache whispers alarm. “Gown overspeed.” We’re moving too fast for the plasma stealth system, and the wind’s tearing it from our skin. We are not modest. I want to duck behind a ridge to cover myself, but I push through the discomfort, feeling out the tradeoff between stealth and distance. Like the morning check in the mirror, trading the confidence of a good look against the threat of reaction.
When the women of Soviet Russia went to war against the Nazis, when they volunteered by the thousands to serve as snipers and pilots and tank drivers and infantry and partisans, they fought hard and they fought well. They ate frozen horse dung and hauled men twice their weight out of burning tanks. They shot at their own mothers to kill the Nazis behind her.
But they did not lose their gender; they gave up the inhibition against killing but would not give up flowers in their hair, polish for their shoes, a yearning for the young lieutenant, a kiss on his dead lips.
And if that is not enough to convince you that gender grows deep enough to thrive in war: when the war ended the Soviet women were punished. They went unmarried and unrespected. They were excluded from the victory parades. They had violated their gender to fight for the state and the state judged that violation worth punishment more than their heroism was worth reward.
Gender is stronger than war. It remains when all else flees.
When I was a woman I wanted to machine myself.
I loved nails cut like laser arcs and painted violent-bright in bathrooms that smelled like laboratories. I wanted to grow thick legs with fat and muscle that made shapes under the skin like Nazca lines. I loved my birth control, loved that I could turn my period off, loved the home beauty-feedback kits that told you what to eat and dose to adjust your scent, your skin, your moods. I admired, wasn’t sure if I wanted to be or wanted to fuck, the women in the build-your-own-shit videos I watched on our local image of the old Internet. Women who made cyberattack kits and jewelry and sterile-printed IUDs, made their own huge wedge heels and fitted bras and skin-thin chameleon dresses. Women who talked about their implants the same way they talked about computers, phones, tools: technologies of access, technologies of self-expression.
Something about their merciless self-possession and self-modification stirred me. The first time I ever meant to masturbate I imagined one of those women coming into my house, picking the lock, telling me exactly what to do, how to be like her. I told my first boyfriend about this, I showed him pictures, and he said, girl, you bi as hell, which was true, but also wrong. Because I did not want those dresses, those heels, those bodies in the way I wanted my boyfriend. I wanted to possess that power. I wanted to have it and be it.
The Apache is my body now, and like most bodies it is sensual. Fabric armor that stiffens beneath my probing fingers. Stub wings clustered with ordnance. Rotors so light and strong they do not even droop: as artificial-looking, to an older pilot, as breast implants. And I brush at the black ring of a sensor housing, like the tip of a nail lifting a stray lash from the white of your eye.
I don’t shave, which all the fast jet pilots do, down to the last curly scrotal hair. Nobody expects a helicopter to be sleek. I have hairy armpits and thick black bush all the way to my ass crack. The things that are taboo and arousing to me are the things taboo to helicopters. I like to be picked up, moved, pressed, bent and folded, held down, made to shudder, made to abandon control.
Do these last details bother you? Does the topography of my pubic hair feel intrusive and unnecessary? I like that. I like to intrude, inflict damage, withdraw. A year after you read this maybe those paragraphs will be the only thing you remember: and you will know why the rules of gender are worth recruitment.
But we cannot linger on the point of attack.
“He’s coming north. Time to intercept three minutes.”
“Shit. How long until he gets us on thermal?”
“Ninety seconds with the gown on.” Danger has swept away Axis’ hesitation.
“Shit.”
“He’s not quite on zero aspect—yeah, he’s coming up a few degrees off our heading. He’s not sure exactly where we are. He’s hunting.”
“He’ll be sure soon enough. Can we kill him?”
“With sidewinders?” Axis pauses articulately: the target is twenty thousand feet above us, and he has a laser that can blind our missiles. “We’d have more luck bailing out and hiking.”
“All right. I’m gonna fly us out of this.”
“Sure.”
“Just check the gun.”
“Ten times already, Barb.”
When climate and economy and pathology all went finally and totally critical along the Gulf Coast, the federal government fled Cabo fever and VARD-2 to huddle behind New York’s flood barriers.
We left eleven hundred and six local disaster governments behind. One of them was the Pear Mesa Budget Committee. The rest of them were doomed.
Pear Mesa was different because it had bought up and hardened its own hardware and power. So Pear Mesa’s neural nets kept running, retrained from credit union portfolio management to the emergency triage of hundreds of thousands of starving sick refugees.
Pear Mesa’s computers taught themselves to govern the forsaken southern seaboard. Now they coordinate water distribution, re-express crop genomes, ration electricity for survival AC, manage all the life support humans need to exist in our warmed-over hell.
But, like all advanced neural nets, these systems are black boxes. We have no idea how they work, what they think. Why do Pear Mesa’s AIs order the planting of pear trees? Because pears were their corporate icon, and the AIs associate pear trees with areas under their control. Why does no one make the AIs stop? Because no one knows what else is tangled up with the “plant pear trees” impulse. The AIs may have learned, through some rewarded fallacy or perverse founder effect, that pear trees cause humans to have babies. They may believe that their only function is to build support systems around pear trees.
When America declared war on Pear Mesa, their AIs identified a useful diagnostic criterion for hostile territory: the posting of fifty-star American flags. Without ever knowing what a flag meant, without any concept of nations or symbols, they ordered the destruction of the stars and stripes in Pear Mesa territory.
That was convenient for propaganda. But the real reason for the war, sold to a hesitant Congress by technocrats and strategic ecologists, was the ideology of scale atrocity. Pear Mesa’s AIs could not be modified by humans, thus could not be joined with America’s own governing algorithms: thus must be forced to yield all their control, or else remain forever separate.
And that separation was intolerable. By refusing United States administration, our superior resources and planning capability, Pear Mesa’s AIs condemned citizens who might otherwise be saved to die—a genocide by neglect. Wasn’t that the unforgivable crime of fossil capitalism? The creation of systems whose failure modes led to mass death?
Didn’t we have a moral imperative to intercede?
Pear Mesa cannot surrender, because the neural nets have a basic imperative to remain online. Pear Mesa’s citizens cannot question the machines’ decisions. Everything the machines do is connected in ways no human can comprehend. Disobey one order and you might as well disobey them all.
But none of this is why I kill.
I kill for the same reason men don’t wear short skirts, the same reason I used to pluck my brows, the reason enby people are supposed to be (unfair and stupid, yes, but still) androgynous with short hair. Are those good reasons to do something? If you say no, honestly no—can you tell me you break these rules without fear or cost?
But killing isn’t a gender role, you might tell me. Killing isn’t a decision about how to present your own autonomous self to the world. It is coercive and punitive. Killing is therefore not an act of gender.
I wish that were true. Can you tell me honestly that killing is a genderless act? The method? The motive? The victim?
When you imagine the innocent dead, who do you see?
“Barb,” Axis calls, softly. Your own voice always sounds wrong on recordings—too nasal. Axis’ voice sounds wrong when it’s not coming straight into my skull through helmet mic.
“Barb.”
“How are we doing?”
“Exiting one hundred and fifty knots north. Still in his radar but he hasn’t locked us up.”
“How are you doing?”
I cringe in discomfort. The question is an indirect way for Axis to admit something’s wrong, and that indirection is obscene. Like hiding a corroded tail rotor bearing from your maintenance guys.
“I’m good,” I say, with fake ease. “I’m in flow. Can’t you feel it?” I dip the nose to match a drop-off below, provoking a whine from the terrain detector. I am teasing, striking a pose. “We’re gonna be okay.”
“I feel it, Barb.” But Axis is tense, worried about our pursuer, and other things. Doesn’t laugh.
“How about you?”
“Nominal.”
Again the indirection, again the denial, and so I blurt it out. “Are you dysphoric?”
“What?” Axis says, calmly.
“You’ve been hesitating. Acting funny. Is your—” There is no way to ask someone if their militarized gender conditioning is malfunctioning. “Are you good?”
“I . . . ” Hesitation. It makes me cringe again, in secondhand shame. Never hesitate. “I don’t know.”
“Do you need to go on report?”
Severe gender dysphoria can be a flight risk. If Axis hesitates over something that needs to be done instantly, the mission could fail decisively. We could both die.
“I don’t want that,” Axis says.
“I don’t want that either,” I say, desperately. I want nothing less than that. “But, Axis, if—”
The warning receiver climbs to a steady crow call.
“He knows we’re here,” I say, to Axis’ tight inhalation. “He can’t get a lock through the gown but he’s aware of our presence. Fuck. Blinder, blinder, he’s got his laser on us—”
The fighter’s lidar pod is trying to catch the glint of a reflection off us. “Shit,” Axis says. “We’re gonna get shot.”
“The gown should defeat it. He’s not close enough for thermal yet.”
“He’s gonna launch anyway. He’s gonna shoot and then get a lock to steer it in.”
“I don’t know—missiles aren’t cheap these days—”
The ESM mast on the Apache’s rotor hub, mounted like a lamp on a post, contains a cluster of electro-optical sensors that constantly scan the sky: the Distributed Aperture Sensor. When the DAS detects the flash of a missile launch, it plays a warning tone and uses my vest to poke me in the small of my back.
My vest pokes me in the small of my back.
“Barb. Missile launch south. Barb. Fox 3 inbound. Inbound. Inbound.”
“He fired,” Axis calls. “Barb?”
“Barb,” I acknowledge.
I fuck—
Oh, you want to know: many of you, at least. It’s all right. An attack helicopter isn’t a private way of being. Your needs and capabilities must be maintained for the mission.
I don’t think becoming an attack helicopter changed who I wanted to fuck. I like butch assertive people. I like talent and prestige, the status that comes of doing things well. I was never taught the lie that I was wired for monogamy, but I was still careful with men, I was still wary, and I could never tell him why: that I was afraid not because of him, but because of all the men who’d seemed good like him, at first, and then turned into something else.
No one stalks an attack helicopter. No slack-eyed well-dressed drunk punches you for ignoring the little rape he slurs at your neckline. No one even breaks your heart: with my dopamine system tied up by the reassignment surgery, fully assigned to mission behavior, I can’t fall in love with anything except my own purpose.
Are you aware of your body? Do you feel your spine when you stand, your hips when you walk, the tightness and the mass in your core? When you look at yourself, whose eyes do you use? Your own?
I am always in myself. I never see myself through my partner’s eyes. I have weapons to use, of course, ways of moving, moans and cries. But I measure those weapons by their effect, not by their similarity to some idea of how I should be.
Flying is the loop of machinery and pilot, the sense of your motion on the controls translated into torque and lift, the airframe’s reaction shaping your next motion until the loop closes and machine and pilot are one. Awareness collapses to the moment. You are always doing the right thing exactly as it needs to be done. Sex is the same: the search for everything in an instant.
Of course I fuck Axis. A few decades ago this would’ve been a crime. What a waste of perfectly useful behavior. What a waste of that lean muscled form and those perfect killing hands that know me millimeter-by-millimeter system-by-system so there is no mystique between us. No “secret places” or “feminine mysteries,” only the tortuously exact technical exercise of nerves and pressure. Oxytocin released, to flow between us, by the press of knuckles in my cunt.
When I come beneath Axis I cry out, I press my body close, I want that utter loss of control that I feel nowhere else. Heartbeat in arched throat: nipple beneath straining tongue. And my mind is hyper-activated, free-associating, and as Axis works in me I see the work we do together. I see puffs of thirty-millimeter autocannon detonating on night-cold desert floor.
Violence doesn’t get me off. But getting off makes me revel in who I am: and I am violent, made for violence, alive in the fight.
Does that surprise you? Does it bother you to mingle cold technical discipline with hot flesh and sweat?
Let me ask you: why has the worst insult you can give a combat pilot always been weak dick?
Have you ever been exultant? Have you ever known that you are a triumph? Have you ever felt that it was your whole life’s purpose to do something, and all that you needed to succeed was to be entirely yourself?
To be yourself well is the wholest and best feeling that anything has ever felt.
It is what I feel when I am about to live or die.
The Werewolf’s missile arches down on us, motor burned out, falling like an arrow. He is trying a Shoot On Prospect attack: he cannot find us exactly, so he fires a missile that will finish the search, lock onto our heat or burn through our stealth with its onboard radar, or acquire us optically like a staring human eye. Or at least make us react. Like the catcaller’s barked “Hey!” to evoke the flinch or the huddle, the proof that he has power.
We are ringed in the vortex of a dilemma. If we switch off the stealth gown, the Werewolf fighter will lock its radar onto us and guide the missile to the kill. If we keep the stealth system on, the missile’s heat-seeker will home in on the blazing plasma.
I know what to do. Not in the way you learn how to fly a helicopter, but the way you know how to hold your elbows when you gesture.
A helicopter is more than a hovering fan, see? The blades of the rotor tilt and swivel. When you turn the aircraft left, the rotors deepen their bite into the air on one side of their spin, to make off-center lift. You cannot force a helicopter or it will throw you to the earth. You must be gentle.
I caress the cyclic.
The Apache’s nose comes up smooth and fast. The Mojave horizon disappears under the chin. Axis’ gasp from the front seat passes through the microphone and into the bones of my face. The pitch indicator climbs up toward sixty degrees, ass down, chin up. Our airspeed plummets from a hundred and fifty knots to sixty.
We hang there for an instant like a dancer in an oversway. The missile is coming straight down at us. We are not even running anymore.
And I lower the collective, flattening the blades of the rotor, so that they cannot cut the air at an angle and we lose all lift.
We fall.
I toe the rudder. The tail rotor yields a little of its purpose, which is to counter the torque of the main rotor: and that liberated torque spins the Apache clockwise, opposite the rotor’s turn, until we are nose down sixty degrees, facing back the way we came, looking into the Mojave desert as it rises up to take us.
I have pirouetted us in place. Plasma fire blows in wraith pennants as the stealth system tries to keep us modest.
“Can you get it?” I ask.
“Axis.”
I raise the collective again and the rotors bite back into the air. We do not rise, but our fall slows down. Cyclic stick answers to the barest twitch of wrist, and I remember, once, how that slim wrist made me think of fragility, frailty, fear: I am remembering even as I pitch the helicopter back and we climb again, nose up, tail down, scudding backward into the sky while aimed at our chasing killer. Axis is on top now, above me in the front seat, and in front of Axis is the chin gun, pointed sixty degrees up into heaven.
“Barb,” the helicopter whispers, like my mother in my ear. “Missile ten seconds. Music? Glare?”
No. No jamming. The Werewolf missile will home in on jamming like a wolf with a taste for pepper. Our laser might dazzle the seeker, drive it off course—but if the missile turns then Axis cannot take the shot.
It is not a choice. I trust Axis.
Axis steers the nose turret onto the target and I imagine strong fingers on my own chin, turning me for a kiss, looking up into the red scorched sky—Axis chooses the weapon (30MM GUIDED PROX AP) and aims and fires with all the idle don’t-have-to-try confidence of the first girl dribbling a soccer ball who I ever for a moment loved—
The chin autocannon barks out ten rounds a second. It is effective out to one point five kilometers. The missile is moving more than a hundred meters per second.
Axis has one second almost exactly, ten shots of thirty-millimeter smart grenade, to save us.
A mote of gray shadow rushes at us and intersects the line of cannon fire from the gun. It becomes a spray of light. The Apache tings and rattles. The desert below us, behind us, stipples with tiny plumes of dust that pick up in the wind and settle out like sift from a hand.
“Got it,” Axis says.
“I love you.”
“Axis.”
Many of you are veterans in the act of gender. You weigh the gaze and disposition of strangers in a subway car and select where to stand, how often to look up, how to accept or reject conversation. Like a frequency-hopping radar, you modulate your attention for the people in your context: do not look too much, lest you seem interested, or alarming. You regulate your yawns, your appetite, your toilet. You do it constantly and without failure.
You are aces.
What other way could be better? What other neural pathways are so available to constant reprogramming, yet so deeply connected to judgment, behavior, reflex?
Some people say that there is no gender, that it is a postmodern construct, that in fact there are only man and woman and a few marginal confusions. To those people I ask: if your body-fact is enough to establish your gender, you would willingly wear bright dresses and cry at movies, wouldn’t you? You would hold hands and compliment each other on your beauty, wouldn’t you? Because your cock would be enough to make you a man.
Have you ever guarded anything so vigilantly as you protect yourself against the shame of gender-wrong?
The same force that keeps you from gender-wrong is the force that keeps me from fucking up.
The missile is dead. The Werewolf Apostle is still up there.
“He’s turning off.” Axis has taken over defensive awareness while I fly. “Radar off. Laser off. He’s letting us go.”
“Afraid of our fighters?” The mercenaries cannot replace a lost J-20S. And he probably has a wingman, still hiding, who would die too if they stray into a trap.
“Yes,” Axis says.
“Keep the gown on.” In case he’s trying to bluff us into shutting down our stealth. “We’ll stick to the terrain until he’s over the horizon.”
“Can you fly us out?”
The Apache is fighting me. Fragments of the destroyed missile have pitted the rotors, damaged the hub assembly, and jammed the control surfaces. I begin to crush the shrapnel with the Apache’s hydraulics, pounding the metal free with careful control inputs. But the necessary motions also move the aircraft. Half a second’s error will crash us into the desert. I have to calculate how to un-jam the shrapnel while accounting for the effects of that shrapnel on my flight authority and keeping the aircraft stable despite my constant control inputs while moving at a hundred and thirty knots across the desert.
“Barb,” I say. “Not a problem.”
And for an hour I fly without thought, without any feeling except the smooth stone joy of doing something that takes everything.
The night desert is black to the naked eye, soft gray to thermal. My attention flips between my left eye, focused on the instruments, and my right eye, looking outside. I am a black box like the Pear Mesa AIs. Information arrives—a throb of feedback in the cyclic, a shift of Axis’ weight, a dune crest ahead—and my hands and feet move to hold us steady. If I focused on what I was doing it would all fall apart. So I don’t.
“Are you happy?” Axis asks.
Good to talk now. Keep my conscious mind from interfering with the gearbox of reflexes below. “Yeah,” I say, and I blow out a breath into my mask, “yeah, I am,” a lightness in my ribs, “yeah, I feel good.”
“Why do you think we just blew up a school?”
Why did I text my best friend the appearance and license number of all my cab drivers, just in case? Because those were the things that had to be done.
Listen: I exist in this context. To make war is part of my gender. I get what I need from the flight line, from the ozone tang of charging stations and the shimmer of distant bodies warping in the tarmac heat, from the twenty minutes of anxiety after we land when I cannot convince myself that I am home, and safe, and that I am no longer keeping us alive with the constant adjustments of my hands and feet.
“Deplete their skilled labor supply, I guess. Attack the demographic skill curve.”
“Kind of a long-term objective. Kind of makes you think it’s not gonna be over by election season.”
“We don’t get to know why the AIs pick the targets.” Maybe destroying this school was an accident. A quirk of some otherwise successful network, coupled to the load-bearing elements of a vast strategy.
“Hey,” I say, after a beat of silence. “You did good back there.”
“You thought I wouldn’t.”
“Barb.” A more honest yes than “yes,” because it is my name, and it acknowledges that I am the one with the doubt.
“I didn’t know if I would either,” Axis says, which feels exactly like I don’t know if I love you anymore. I lose control for a moment and the Apache rattles in bad air and the tail slews until I stop thinking and bring everything back under control in a burst of rage.
“You’re done?” I whisper, into the helmet. I have never even thought about this before. I am cold, sweat soaked, and shivering with adrenaline comedown, drawn out like a tendon in high heels, a just-off-the-dance-floor feeling, post-voracious, satisfied. Why would we choose anything else? Why would we give this up? When it feels so good to do it? When I love it so much?
“I just . . . have questions.” The tactical channel processes the sound of Axis swallowing into a dull point of sound, like dropped plastic.
“We don’t need to wonder, Axis. We’re gendered for the mission—”
“We can’t do this forever,” Axis says, startling me. I raise the collective and hop us up a hundred feet, so I do not plow us into the desert. “We’re not going to be like this forever. The world won’t be like this forever. I can’t think of myself as . . . always this.”
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Wrestling Observer Rewind ★ Mar. 12, 2001

Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives.
PREVIOUS YEARS ARCHIVE:
1991199219931994199519961997199819992000
1-1-2001 1-8-2001 1-15-2001 1-22-2001
1-29-2001 2-5-2001 2-12-2001 2-19-2001
2-26-2001 3-5-2001
  • This issue opens with a really in-depth look at the dangerous transitional period that American pro wrestling is facing right now, with the death of ECW and the impending sale (maybe) of WCW. Starting with WCW. If/when the sale goes through, they are still in for a major uphill battle for survival. On paper, they're in a similar situation to 1993, when business was at rock bottom and they were fortunately able to recover from that. If WCW can create a new superstar and create some hot angles, then they have a chance. The key ingredient is television exposure and fortunately, they have that (whoops). But creating new stars and running hot angles is easier said than done and WCW sure hasn't proven that they know how to do that anytime recently. When WCW recovered from the 1993 bottom, they did so by signing up guys like Hogan and Savage. That's not an option these days. There are no huge marquee name stars that WCW can poach from WWF the way they did then. Rock and Austin aren't going anywhere. There's no more exciting Mexican or Japanese stars they can bring in to make WWF look slow and boring by comparison because WWF is no longer slow and boring. WCW's roster is filled with past-their-prime guys in their 40s (with some pushing 50) and the young stars are still so young and inexperienced that they're years away from becoming marquee names. And, Dave adds, WCW ratings are in the toilet and Ted Turner no longer has much power over the company, so it's not a guarantee that WCW will always be on Turner networks if ratings don't improve. For decades, Turner has had a loyalty to pro wrestling and pretty much vowed to always carry it, but with him no longer in charge, WCW is in the same position that anyone else on TV is in: they could be cancelled at any time. (nah, that doesn't seem very likel.....what's that? Two weeks, you say?)
  • 18 months ago, Dave felt a lot more optimistic about the industry. WCW was struggling, but they had a lot of good young talent to build around and a competent person should have been able to reign in costs and turn things around with a good product. That didn't happen. Most of the good young talent is gone. They lost untold millions and the product was godawful. And now, even under new ownership, it's going to take a miracle for WCW to climb out of the hole they've dug for themselves. 18 months ago, ECW had just landed their first national TV deal, but the ratings were about half of what TNN was expecting and they lost $2.5 million during the year 2000, when they had more exposure than they'd ever had before. Vince McMahon nearly bought WCW last fall before the deal fell through and Dave talks about how bad it would be for the business for only 1 company to have a monopoly on the industry. Wrestlers would lose all negotiating leverage and there would only be so many spots and a lot of wrestlers left looking for jobs. Japan is barely using Americans these days and Mexico's economy can't support bringing in any name-value American wrestlers for the money they would demand.
  • Dave thinks for WCW (or whatever comes along after them) to survive, they have to present something different. Copying WWF never works. WCW's original resurgence came when they signed Hogan. These days, Austin or Rock walking out of the WWF and signing with someone else would be huge, but that's just not gonna happen. And even that might not work. In a monopolistic wrestling industry, Vince McMahon would be king and even someone like Austin wouldn't have many viable alternatives to make big money outside the WWF walls. The only person who would probably be okay is The Rock because he seems to have a budding Hollywood career waiting on him if/when he decides to walk away from wrestling. Whatever comes next has to be different to compete with WWF. Paul Heyman did it with ECW originally, but hardcore wrestling has lost its edge and isn't the attraction it was a few years ago to fans. All the other big things have been done and killed. Junior heavyweights? Nobody takes them seriously in America anymore. Inter-promotional angles? With what promotions? Celebrities? Been done to death and doesn't draw anymore. No one cared about Rodman's returns or Jay Leno's match and David Arquette as WCW champion will be remembered as one of the most boneheaded booking decisions in wrestling history. Worked shoots? Russo loves them, but we've seen how that goes. Real shoots? Brawl-4-All showed what a bad idea that is. All the old washed up names from the 80s mean nothing anymore (as evidenced by the raging success of Heroes of Wrestling) so that won't work. So what kind of tricks are left? Dave thinks a pure shoot company like UFC could become a viable #2 promotion if they could get some kind of TV deal and get all the commission and PPV issues worked out. If WCW folds, every little no-name indie company in America is going to claim to be the #2 promotion, but that's a meaningless statistic. Without a strong TV deal, nobody is going to remotely come close to touching WWF. And even with TV, you need a strong product. Dave lists several failed promotions that had some big money behind them and bought their way onto national TV with syndication deals in major markets, but they all flamed out almost as quickly as they came. Dave thinks that if any new start-up company comes along, they would be best served by starting small, running live shows and set up regional TV deals in small markets before trying to grow nationally. But if WCW can't survive, things look pretty bleak for American professional wrestling right now if your name isn't Vince McMahon (it's interesting to note that Ring of Honor basically did all these things when they started in 2002: totally different style of product, focusing on the best in-ring wrestling, started locally and grew regionally, etc. And they're the ones that are still around today).
  • The departure of Jerry Lawler and his wife Stacy Carter (aka The Kat) from WWF and the subsequent hiring of Paul Heyman as his replacement has been a strange story. There's been a lot of rumors that Vince McMahon wanted Lawler out in order to replace him with Heyman and that he knew Lawler would quit in protest if they fired his wife. Lawler himself has said this might be true, but Dave doesn't know why WWF would want to break up the best announcing team in the business. On the surface, the word is Stacy had become a disciplinary problem and after complaining about an angle she was asked to do at No Way Out, several people backstage complained about her to Vince. The day after that, at the Smackdown tapings, McMahon made the decision to fire her and told Jim Ross to make it happen, even though she was already written in for an angle on that night's taping. Ross told Lawler about McMahon's decision only 2 hours before the taping was to begin that they were dropping Stacy's angle (she was doing a Right To Nudity gimmick against the RTC group) and firing her because they felt she had an attitude problem and was difficult to work with. Lawler was pissed, denying Stacy had an attitude problem or was difficult to work with, and said if she was leaving, he was leaving. Ross asked him to reconsider, but Lawler responded asking JR if he would stay with the company if they fired his wife for no reason and Ross agreed that he probably wouldn't. Lawler said both JR and Vince know him well enough to know that he would stand by his wife so he assumed they wanted him gone also. Lawler first went to Kevin Dunn and said it was clear that Dunn already knew, but said his hands were tied. So then Lawler and Stacy went to Vince's office and confronted him directly. When asked why they were firing Stacy, Vince played dumb and claimed to not know all the details and that it was a talent relations issue, thus kicking the ball back to Jim Ross. Lawler said that if there was a problem with Stacy's attitude, someone should have said something to her first before just firing her without ever letting her know there was an issue. Vince agreed that someone should have....but he still didn't change his mind. When Lawler said he was leaving with her, Vince replied that "I hoped you wouldn't" and then finished by shaking his hand and saying, "I want to thank you for all the hard work you've done here" and showing him the door. The whole conversation took less time than it took to read it here (Lawler writes about this extensively in his book but it's pretty clear he's talking to Dave at this point, because the Observer has exact quotes from people involved and everything).
  • Lawler still has 2 more years on his WWF contract and although McMahon has agreed to release Lawler, it's unknown if he'll get a full release (which would allow him to go to WCW) or a conditional release (allowing him to go everywhere but WCW). It's believed Lawler and Bischoff have already talked. His son (Grandmaster Sexay) is staying with the company and this isn't expected to affect the developmental deal with MCW, which Lawler is involved in (just wait). Up until recently, Stacy had been off TV and Lawler had been pushing for an angle to get her back involved. Lawler had previously pushed an angle where Chyna and Eddie Guerrero's relationship fell apart because it would be revealed that Eddie was cheating on her with Stacy, but Chyna apparently nixed the idea and didn't want to do it. So then they pitched this Right To Nudity angle. On TV, the idea was that Lawler lost a match and thus, Stacy was forced to join the RTC. And that's as far as it ever got. In case you're wondering what the long-term plan was, it was for Stacy to tear the group apart from within, as she slowly seduced each member of the group and their morals would weaken and they would eventually succumb to her advances and sleep with her, until the leader, Steven Richards, would eventually break down give in to her also, destroying the group and ending the RTC gimmick.
  • Word is Stacy's firing may have been about a lot of things over the last few weeks. Even in Memphis, on the MCW show, Stacy has been unpopular because she gets tons of TV time on the local show there because, well, she's Lawler's wife and naturally, people feel like there's some favoritism going on. At No Way Out, Stacy and Lawler apparently bickered with writers over the finish of the match they were involved in and at one point Stacy allegedly yelled at a backstage employee about something (she denies that). Lawler says "never say never" in wrestling but thinks it's unlikely he'll ever return to WWF. He's pretty upset about the whole thing. A few days later, Lawler took matters into his own hands. He posted a lengthy story on his website, explaining the situation, and encouraging fans to email various WWF creative team members about the situation.......and he posted their individual email addresses. That went about as well as you'd expect, with thousands of fans sending the writers tons of hate mail, forcing the WWF to change their email addresses. Later in the week, Lawler went online again and urged fans to bring signs supporting him and Stacy to Raw and to chant for them. He then posted the mailing address and phone number for Titan Towers and urged fans to write letters and call to complain about Stacy's firing. Security at the arena for Raw confiscated all LawleStacy related signs but there were several audible "We want Jerry!" chants during the show. And that's where things stand for now.
  • Shinya Hashimoto's new Zero-One promotion had their debut show and it was a huge success. It's believed Zero-One hopes to operate as somewhat of a neutral ground between all the Japanese promotions and wants to work with them all and do inter-promotional angles. This show set up a possible dream match between Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Naoya Ogawa for somewhere down the line. Yuji Nagata and Keiji Muto from NJPW worked the show as well as K-1's announcer doing commentary and, of course, Ogawa represents Inoki's UFO group while Misawa is from NOAH. It drew 11,000 fans, selling out the arena. They're also talking about doing Misawa vs. Hashimoto which is another dream match and could be a historic title vs. title match. Misawa is expected to book himself to win NOAH's new world title (it would have been Kobashi, but with him out injured, Misawa is the biggest star they have) while Hashimoto is expected to win the NWA title soon.
  • Raw did a 4.57 rating, which is the lowest non-holiday Raw in several years. And Nitro did a 2.06, which is a new all-time record low for the show during its regular live time slot. The combined audience watching wrestling on both nights was around 7 million, also the lowest figure in years. And this is without NFL competition. Oh hey, speaking of football, XFL's game on NBC this week did a 2.4 which is the 3rd lowest rated show in the history of a major network during prime time. The games on TNN and UPN also set near-record low ratings.
  • In an attempt to re-create the success of old El Santo movies in Mexico, they are making a new movie called Infraterrestre which will star El Hijo del Santo, Blue Panther, and others. The plot is Santo investigating mysterious abductions that lead him to discover a society of supernatural underground beings.
  • Kenta Kobashi had more surgery done on both knees this week, which is the 3rd surgery on both knees in the last year. Plus he had double elbow surgery recently also. Doctors have advised Kobashi to stay out of action for at least one year and that he really should retire. But obviously, he's Kobashi so that's not going to happen. Dave says knowing Kobashi, he'll probably try to return before the end of this year (nope. In his defense, Kobashi finally listened to doctors this time and stays out of action for over a year. And it was still too soon. When he finally returns, he immediately blows his knee out in his first match back and misses another 5 months. He doesn't return to full-time action until mid-2002).
  • Misawa held a press conference to announce that NOAH wrestler Yoshihiro Takayama will fight for PRIDE later this year. Takayama is one half of NOAH's top heel tag team and Dave can't fathom why Misawa would allow one of his top stars to work a shoot fight and be put in the position to be humiliated. Takayama has had some shoot matches before and they didn't go well for him, and Dave thinks this is a bad idea (yup, this happens and Takayama ends up losing, but we'll get there. This becomes a bigger story).
  • Kensuke Sasaki has an IWGP title defense against Scott Norton next week and Dave ponders the possibility of Norton winning the title ("god forbid") because NJPW is trying to cut his pay and Dave thinks they may try to throw him a bone by giving him the title to make him okay with it (yup. Norton wins the title and I'm sure Dave is going to just love that).
  • The latest NJPW show, with Scott Hall working the tour, didn't even sell out Korakuen Hall, only drawing 1,600 people. Hall looked okay but not great.
  • Masato Tanaka, Hideki Hosaka, Gedo, and Jado have all reportedly quit FMW. Dave doesn't know if it's real or gimmick (turned out to be real. FMW was having some pretty serious money problems at this point, deep in debt with the Yakuza).
  • ECW still has a PPV time slot scheduled for this weekend, but last Dave heard, Viewers Choice is planning to show a re-run of January's PPV. No event has actually been booked.
  • The Women of Wrestling PPV did a 0.01 buyrate which is among the lowest PPV buyrates of all time.
  • Nothing much new on the WCW sale. Time Warner and Fusient officials had a big meeting this week to try and close the deal, but it didn't happen. Dave doesn't know how significant that may or may not be. Until the sale is finalized, booking is basically just in a holding pattern, and in reality, that's pretty much been the case for months now, ever since Russo got a concussion, went home, and never came back. In all honesty, the WCW/Fusient deal was clearly announced earlier than it should have been. But Brad Siegel pushed for the announcement back in January because they wanted to announce it before the AOL merger was announced (which was announced later that same day). But the announcement was obviously premature, as here we are some 2 months later still trying to finalize it and they keep running into hiccups. As of press time, everyone involved still seems to believe the deal is on but there's whispers that it could still fall through (we're going to hear a WHOLE LOT more about this very soon).
  • Bischoff hates the new PPV names (Sin, Greed, etc.). Reportedly, WCW's May PPV will be called The Big Bang, which is a nod to the hit CBS series and #1 prime time comedy on television! Oh wait, sorry. I'm being told it's a reference to the start of the universe.
  • In an attempt to keep fans from leaving the TV tapings before the end of Thunder, WCW is now giving away trips to the next PPV at the end of the tapings to entice them to stay. Didn't work. Last week's Thunder was said to be an embarrassment, with only a few hundred fans left in the arena by the time the main event started.
  • The reason Arn Anderson was suspended last week is because prior to a Luger and Bagwell match on Nitro, they asked if they could cut a promo and Arn, the agent for their match, said yes. But that wasn't approved above him and it threw off TV timing since it wasn't scheduled and all that stuff. So Arn caught the heat for it.
  • Road Warrior Animal has a weird deal with his insurance situation. Several years ago, he got a huge settlement from one of those Lloyd's of London insurance deals for what was supposed to be a career-ending back injury. If he came out of retirement, he would be expected to re-pay the money back. But through some wacky loophole, Animal is only forbidden from wrestling singles matches. So therefore, part of his current deal with WCW is that he can only work tag team matches. Dave says he had the same deal with WWF during his stint there awhile back (yeah, Bruce Prichard confirmed this on his podcast awhile back. So ridiculous).
  • If WCW does end up doing a temporary shut-down angle, Dave thinks they should make a deal to send all their young, green guys (especially Sean O'Haire, since he has the most potential) to NJPW so they can spend a month or so working tours there. That way they'd be working with experienced vets 5 nights a week and probably learn a lot more in a month than they've learned in years of working out at the Power Plant. In fact, with O'Haire, Dave thinks they should send him away for a good 6 months to let him get experience in Japan and then re-debut him in WCW with a serious push and see if it clicks.
  • Notes from Raw: it was a great show with a controversial Trish Stratus angle and the debut of Paul Heyman as Jerry Lawler's replacement. Dave says Heyman did well in the role, acknowledging right off the bat that Lawler had quit the company after Kat was fired. The RTC angle Kat was involved in was dropped and never mentioned on Raw. They had Kurt Angle "injure" Scotty 2 Hotty with an ankle lock to write him off TV because he's got neck issues. The angle with Trish and Vince got a lot of people talking (the famous segment with Vince ordering her to get nearly naked and bark like a dog on all fours). Dave seems a little put off by it, saying he's glad he didn't have anyone else watching with him and found it embarrassing. He also thinks the fans who were cheering for it were just living out their fantasies of humiliating every pretty girl who ever spurned them in their lives. TSN in Canada edited the segment off the show completely (no mention of Paul Heyman's "I'm in DC and I'm gonna get to see Bush!" line that nearly got him fired on his first day on the job. Anyway, if you've never seen this segment, it's just about as close to NSFW as you're going to get in wrestling so be warned if you're watching at work).
WATCH: infamous Vince McMahon/Trish Stratus segment (NSFW)
  • Don Frye was backstage at Raw, looking for work. He was told to finish up his commitments with NJPW and then they'd talk to him.
  • Over in the XFL, the desperation is becoming apparent. Announcer Jesse Ventura has been working a one-sided feud with coach Rusty Tillman, taking shots at him and trying to get into an argument with him on the field after a game. But Tillman isn't going along with it. "They're trying to manufacture something, and I'm not going to do it," Tillman said in an interview. "I've said all along, if it's like the WWF, people are not going to like it. I'm not going to do it their way. That's not me. I didn't want to turn around and have an (insult) contest on the field. My wife and children are watching. I'm not going to do it, because I think it cheapens the game." Tillman has been completely uncooperative with Ventura's attempts to start a feud with him. Ventura didn't let up this week and Dave thinks it's pretty sad watching Mr. Tells-It-Like-It-Is be exposed as a paid shill trying to work a pro wrestling angle while being the governor of Minnesota. Dave points out that Phil Mushnick called this months ago, that as soon as ratings dropped, Vince would immediately resort back to what he knows, which is wrestling gimmickry. Dave understands why a lot of wrestling fans hate Phil Mushnick, but he also says that when it comes to predicting Vince McMahon's actions over the last 10 years, Mushnick almost always sees through Vince before anyone else and calls him on it. It's no wonder Vince hates him.
  • Linda McMahon also spoke about the XFL this week on an investors conference call and said the company is committed to sticking with it through the end of the first season and would examine it from there. That immediately led to speculation that WWF is ready to give up on the league, and the next day, Linda put out a statement denying that. She blamed the ratings decline on bad games and said critics were judging it too early and that it takes time to build a brand and create new stars. She hinted that they're basically reevaluating all the business decisions and may be making some changes in the future but that they have a lot of long-term plans in place. Dave calls bullshit and talks about how the advertising for the most recent game never even mentioned the teams or players and instead focused on hyping up the cheerleaders. Dave is reminded of the dying days of Vince's failed WBF bodybuilding company. When that venture began to fail, it shifted from bodybuilding to becoming a T&A show full of women in bikinis to try and pull in viewers. Same here. Dave thinks they're desperate and the cheerleader angle is their last-ditch effort to draw male eyeballs.
  • And in more bad news, the XFL is now offering major discounts to sponsors for ad sales. In a recent trade magazine, the XFL took out an ad touting them doing a 3.9 rating, which beat out every other sporting event that weekend aside from the NASCAR Winston Cup race. Here's the catch though: that 3.9 rating comes from adding up the ratings of all three XFL games that weekend and then comparing it to single events in other sports. So needless to say, that's a pretty wildly dishonest claim. Dave breaks down a bunch of numbers here with advertising and how much WWF has to pay based on ad-rates and ratings that were promised and projected percentages and blah blah yada yada. Point being: the XFL is on pace to lose more money this year than WCW lost last year. And that's assuming ratings don't fall any further, which they almost certainly will. Dave estimates that WWF and NBC will each lose at least $46 million on this deal and probably more. WWF is projected to make around $100 million in wrestling profits this year, so fortunately for them, they can absorb the losses and take the hit and be okay, but it's still a staggering failure.
  • Are we finished dunking on the XFL yet? Not by a long shot. They had cameras in the locker room during a game and the camera caught someone taking a piss, leading Jim Ross to say the line, "That's somebody going to the bathroom." That line has been picked up and made fun of everywhere and was one of the more embarrassing moments in TV sports history. Jesse Ventura did an interview where he basically just talked shit about the media and blamed them for the XFL not succeeding due to the negative criticism. They changed the bump and run rule to try to increase the passing game because the scores have been lower than they want. Dave says sports has rule changes all the time, but they don't usually just make them up as they go along during the middle of a season.
  • Some notes from OVW: Leviathan, real name Dave Bautista, is out with an ankle injury but should be back soon and Dave thinks he has a great look. Jim Cornette predicts he'll be a Wrestlemania main eventer within 5 years (yup, almost exactly). Brock Lesnar and Shelton Benjamin have shown improvement but neither is ready for the big time yet. Dave thinks Benjamin is almost a sure thing to become a star and has limitless potential. Randy Orton has a good look and is improving rapidly and if he can show some charisma, Dave thinks he'll be a star too. Russ McCullough used to look too much like Kevin Nash but now he cut his hair so he doesn't anymore. But he's pretty generic otherwise and Dave doesn't see much in him. Dave thinks John Cena needs to move from UPW to OVW soon because he's got the look and charisma but he needs to be working in front of crowds more often and UPW doesn't run nearly as many shows as OVW.
  • Fun ratings demographic news. Last week, Raw beat Nitro in teenage viewers by a 94% to 6% margin. But the news isn't all bad for WCW! They actually beat Raw in the women ages 50-54 demo.
  • It's unknown if WWF plans to run an ECW invasion angle now that the company is dead and Heyman and several other ECW stars are signed to WWF. As of a week ago, WWF asked Rhino to come up with a new ring name, so it doesn't appear that they have any ECW invasion plans as of now, but that could change. Dave says there's positives and negatives to this. An inter-promotional angle always boosts business in the short term. But there's no chance that anyone on Team ECW will be portrayed as a threat to any of WWF's top stars, so in that case, why even bother?
  • Several letters from people who think the Trish/Vince angle went too far, saying this went beyond TV characters and was humiliating to watch.
  • Another guy writes in and talks about Bret Hart and comparing his life and career to that of Michael Corleone from The Godfather movies: "They both started out as wide-eyed innocents who swore they would never be a part of the family business. They both had fathers who had goals for them that were not their own. Michael's father wanted him to be a President or a Senator. Bret's wanted him to be an Olympic wrestler. Both ended up being drawn into the family business, temporarily, and both never got out. Due to a series of evens, both became more entrenched in the business they never wanted to be a part of than any other member of their family. At the end of Godfather II, Corleone was a broken man, beaten down by the life he led. As Hart has ended his career, you could say that he's coming to a similar end, but let's hope his story ultimately has a different ending, that he makes it out of the business and never looks back. He said in "Wrestling with Shadows" that would be his biggest test. In the last Godfather movie, Michael says, "Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in." As much as I'll miss Bret Hart in wrestling, I hope for his own well-being, that I never see him wrestle again."
FRIDAY: the future of WCW suddenly looking very questionable, fallout from the Vince/Trish segment, more on Jerry Lawler and the WWF, and more...
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Examining 1999's Culture Through Its Best Movies

In college, I had this class where we were supposed to learn about 19th century upper-class British culture by analyzing hundreds of paintings commissioned and hung in wealthy British estates during that time period. Some insights are surface level, like British people loved to hunt foxes. Other potential insights were hotly debated in class, like whether the presentation of women tended towards subservience or maternalism, or both, or neither, etc.
Either way, it was surprisingly fun, and I enjoyed sort of doing it again with Best. Movie. Year. Ever.: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen, by Brian Raftery.
The book examines dozens of 1999’s best movies, ranging from entire chapters dedicated to Blair Witch Project, Fight Club, and Sixth Sense, to brief interludes on American Pie, The Mummy, and Varsity Blues, to passing mentions of many more films. Between the stories, Raftery offers his own nuggets of speculations on the cultural, filmmaking, and business trends that caused 1999 to be such an incredible movie year.

To prove the book’s title, the following is a long, but by no means exhaustive list of the best, most famous, and most influential movies of 1999:
- Fight Club
- The Matrix
- American Beauty
- The Blair Witch Project
- The Talented Mr. Ripley
- The Mummy
- South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut
- Office Space
- Magnolia
- Eyes Wide Shut
- Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
- The Sixth Sense
- Toy Story 2
- Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
- The Green Mile
- Boys Don’t Cry
- Any Given Sunday
- The Iron Giant
- American Pie
- The Insider
- Three Kings
- Girl, Interrupted
- Being John Malkovich
- Sleepy Hollow
- Election
- Pokémon: The First Movie
- Deep Blue Sea
- The Virgin Suicides
- Analyze This
- Rushmore
- Galaxy Quest
- The Thomas Crown Affair
- Varsity Blues
- Cruel Intentions
- 10 Things I Hate About You
- She’s All That
- Big Daddy
- Dogma
- Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
- Mystery Men
- Blast from the Past
- Following
- Go
- SLC Punk

Also, TV shows that began in 1999:
- The Sopranos
- The West Wing
- Family Guy
- Freaks and Geeks
- Batman Beyond
- Who Wants to be A Millionaire
- Roswell
- Courage the Cowardly Dog

It’s also worth listing the biggest news stories of 1999:
- The Columbine High School Massacre
- Impeachment of President Bill Clinton
- Height of the Dot-Com Bubble
- NATO bombs Yugoslavia
- Massive protests against the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle
- JFK Jr dies in a plane crash
- Woodstock ‘99
- The build-up to Y2K

The following are my own insights on the major trends in 1999 based on the book’s descriptions, Raftery’s analysis, and my own speculation from seeing many of these movies. I’ll divide the sections between “Film Trends” and “Cultural Trends.”


Film Trends

Big Studios Were Willing to Spend Big Money on Risky Ideas

As seen in: Fight Club, The Matrix, The Sixth Sense, Mystery Men, Galaxy Quest, Three Kings, Being John Malkovich, Magnolia, Eyes Wide Shut, The Iron Giant
This is the single most significant and succinct reason that 1999 was such an awesome year for films. Due to a combination of many seen and unseen factors (some of which will be elaborated upon below), the big film studios threw crazy amounts of money at risky projects, a significant percentage of which became classics.
In retrospect, it seems impossible that most of these movies were made at all, let alone with considerable budgets. (For comparison, Star Wars: Episode I had a budget of $150 million.) Eyes Wide Shut was given a budget of $65 million, The Matrix $63 million, Fight Club $60 million, The Sixth Sense $55 million, American Beauty $50 million cost $15 million, Three Kings $48 million, The Iron Giant $48 million, Galaxy Quest $45 million, and Magnolia $35 million. Even Being John Malkovich, which most studios thought was a literal joke, was given $13 million. All of these movies were based either on entirely original scripts or obscure literature.
The biggest budgeted movie of 1999 was Wild Wild West with $170 million. And even though it was backed by Will Smith, one of the biggest stars on the planet, it was pretty bonkers for a big studio movie.
Basically, if most of those movies were made today, they would either be pushed into tiny-budgeted Netflix/Amazon territory, or turned into tv shows. No major studio would give a movie like Fight Club (an inflation adjusted) $92 million today.

Indie-Mainstream Hybrids Reached Their Peak

As seen in: All the same movies
According to Raftery, this trend started with Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape in 1989. The Weinsteins at Miramax bought this no-budget indie at the Sundance Film Festival, threw it into theaters, and made $35 million. Then in 1994, the Weinsteins found Pulp Fiction and did the same thing, unleashing not only one of the best-reviewed movies of all time, but grossing an astounding $107 million (10th highest of the year) domestically. This triggered a massive drive of big studios descending on indie festivals (especially Sundance) to try to poach cool small films and flip them for prestige, awards, and box office profits.
This trend was so powerful that it began to reshape the filmscape. Slowly, indies became less… indie. Studios started greenlighting more-and-more small projects, basically trying to make their own indies. Naturally this drove up indie budgets, which led to bigger and better movies. Rising auteurs took advantage of the trend, often making their own tiny legit indies or even short films to catch the attention of the studios, and then getting small-mid level budgets to make their own movies.
1999 seems to be the year when this trend hit its peak. Indie-minded auteurs like Spike Jones, David Fincher, Sam Mendes, the Wachowskis, David O’ Russel, and Brad Bird were actively courted by the major studios and offered boat loads of cash to make scaled-up indie films. David Fincher even told Fox Studios that Fight Club could be a $3 million indie, but it would be so much cooler with $60 million.
Over time, this process would morph into the unfortunate form of “Oscar-bait” and lose its edge. Raftery points to 1999’s Cider House Rules as an early example.

1999 Was the Year of the Screenplay Writer

As seen in: The Matrix, American Beauty, Cruel Intentions, Dogma, Office Space, American Pie, The Sixth Sense, Stuart Little, She’s all That, Being John Malkovich
The writers for most modern big budget blockbusters today are typically in-house workmen who are very good at ticking the boxes for marketing, but aren’t auteurs in the cool, artsy sense. Even something like The Avengers isn’t just written by Joss Whedon, but rather goes through dozens of drafts commissioned by the studio. But because of the indie-mainstream hybrid boom in the late 90s, studios relied more on outside talent than ever. Random nobodies like M. Night Shyamalan, Charlie Kaufman, the Wachowskis, and Alan Ball were wandering into Hollywood studio meetings and getting multi-million-dollar sales for their screenplays.
Adam Herz couldn’t figure out what to call his movie, so he handed it to studio execs with the title: Untitled Teenage Sex Comedy That Can Be Made For Under $10 Million That Most Readers Will Probably Hate But I Think You Will Love. He sold the American Pie screenplay for $650,000.

Prequels, Sequels, and Remakes Had Yet to Take Over

As seen in: 1999 Box Office Records
I didn’t count, but according to Raftery, there were about 12 sequel and remake films in 1999, compared to 30+ for a normal year in the 2000s.
Granted, Star Wars: Episode I, Toy Story 2, Austin Powers 2, and The World is Not Enough were all big hits… but that’s pretty much it. I guess The Mummy and Wild Wild West are technically remakes, but their source material is so obscure they shouldn’t count.
Raftery attributes this trend both to audience desire for indie creativity, and to some high-profile sequel/remake commercial and critical failures from the last few years, including Batman Forever, Godzilla, and Lost in Space.

Nobody Could Predict Commercial or Critical Hits

As seen in: The Matrix, The Mummy, The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project, American Beauty, Big Daddy, American Pie, She’s All That, Analyze This, Three Kings
Studio execs were consistently baffled by what did and didn’t make money. Most WB execs admitted that they literally didn’t understand what The Matrix was about, but despite being R-rated, it was the 5th highest grossing film of the year. The Mummy, despite having a sizeable budget, was assumed to be a bomb throughout production since it would have to compete in the same month with Star Wars, but it ended up being the 8th highest grossing of the year. M Night Shyamalan prayed that The Sixth Sense would recoup its $55 million budget so he would be allowed to make another movie, and then it ended up being the 2nd highest grossing movie of the year, only behind Star Wars. And The Blair Witch Project is still the most successful movie of all time on a budget-to-revenue basis.
Maybe the best indication of 1999’s film quality is that critics were so split on its best movies. Some people thought Fight Club was generation-defining, others thought it was juvenile edge-lord bullshit. Some people thought American Beauty was the most incisive look at American society in decades, while others thought (and many still think) the movie was a pretentious wank fest. Some thought Magnolia was one of the most beautifully ambitious films of all time, others thought it was a display of blatant auteur hubris (where do the frogs come from?). Some thought The Blair Witch Project was the scariest movie of all time, other people were literally vomiting in theaters.
According to Raftery, the only major films which received and sustained universal critical acclaim were Being John Malkovich and The Sixth Sense.

Audiences Loved Twist Endings, Time Lapsing, or Just Any Super Weird Narratives

As seen in: The Sixth Sense, Fight Club, Run Lola Run, Following, Being John Malkovich, Magnolia, Eyes Wide Shut, The Blair Witch Project, Go, Julien Donkey Boy, The Limey
1999 is full of movies which bend, break, or annihilate traditional narrative structures. Not only did critics appreciate the avant-garde streak, but studios figured out that audiences can really love this weird artsy stuff too.
Raftery attributes a lot of this trend to Pulp Fiction which redefined the narrative landscape in 1994. Suddenly lots of movies operated outside regular time flow, like Following (Christopher Nolan’s first movie), Go, Run Lola Run, and The Limey. At the same time, Fight Club and The Sixth Sense had two of the best twist endings of all time. Meanwhile, insane people like Spike Jones and Paul Thomas Anderson were making indescribably bonkers movies like Being John Malkovich and Magnolia.
I guess the late 90s had some sort of happy confluence of creative filmmakers, excited audiences, and unusually risk-tolerant executives, which all came together to produce a slate of daring movies.

The Rise of the Internet

As seen in: The Blair Witch Project, Star Wars: Episode I, The Iron Giant, Wild Wild West, The Matrix
The internet was still being adopted by normies at the end of the 90s, but 1999 seems to be the precise year when it started to have a big impact on the film industry.
Star Wars: Episode I was the epicenter of the first truly internet-wide war as supporters and detractors of George Lucas argued whether the movie was complete garbage or merely mediocre. Studio execs blamed stupid nerds for tanking Wild Wild West after leaked special effects shots were shared before release. On the other hand, Brad Bird’s Iron Giant was almost single-handedly saved by online fans who built hype for the film as it languished in development hell.
But undoubtedly the most internet-impacted film of 1999 was The Blair Witch Project, whose marketers more-or-less invented online guerrilla marketing. They invented fake blair witch legends, put up fake wesbites, made fake documentaries, and even hung up MISSING posters of the cast members on college campuses. By the time the movie released, the studio estimated that 50% of The Blair Witch Project viewers thought the footage was real.

1999 Was The Last Teen Movie Boom

As seen in: American Pie, 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s All That, Cruel Intentions, Election, Varsity Blues, Never Been Kissed, O, Dick, Superstar
Not all trends are due to some deep shift in the zeitgeist; sometimes tastes just cycle. According to Raftery, teen movies had their peak in the 1980s with John Hughes, then completely crashed in the early 90s (try to think of an early-mid 90s teen movie), but then Dawson’s Creek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer led a revival in the late 90s. Studios found that teen movies were cheap and low-risk, so they went on a production spree.
1999 teen movies are notable for being edgy but earnest. 10 Things I hate About You has a strong neo-feminist backbone, Varsity Blues was a somber look at high school sports and student pressure, and American Pie greatly pushed the bounds of teen sex on film. Arguably Cruel Intentions was even more extreme, featuring suggestions of quasi-incest, and a straight-up lesbian make-out session. Election is a more nihilistic Fight Club/American Beauty-ish take on the interactions of teen and adult life, which IMO, is still super underrated.
However, the most financially successful of all these edgy, daring, genre-defining movies was She’s All That, which is easily the cheesiest among them (it originated the “a girl is ugly until she takes off her glasses” trope). Though, amusingly, it was heavily re-written by M. Night Shyamalan to get out of a shitty contract with the Weinsteins.
In retrospect, 1999 was probably the final crest of teen movie quality. After that point the only classic teen movies I can think of are Superbad, Mean Girls, and maybe Easy A, but all three are spread throughout the following 20 years. It seems like audiences got overwhelmed by the teen movie deluge, culminating in 2001’s underrated Not Another Teen Movie.

“Black Movies” Established a Niche outside “The Hood”

As seen in: The Best Man, The Woods
Raftery notes two small-mid budget films that were written, directed, and starred almost exclusively by black people, both of which quadrupled their production budgets at the box office.
In each instance, the production studios supposedly picked up the films to have a “black movie” on their roster, thereby making the studio look woke (in modern parlance). The executives all thought the movies would have trouble making money because black audiences don’t watch middle-classish movies, and white audiences don’t watch black movies, but The Best Man and The Woods ended up being sleeper hits any way. The former’s director, Malcolm Lee, says the same studio sentiment exists to this day, with his 2017 Girl’s Trip becoming an unexpected sleeper hit.

Romantic Comedies Were Still a Thing

As seen in: Runaway Bride, She’s All That, Never Been Kissed, Mickey Blue Eyes, Notting Hill, Forces of Nature, Message in a Bottle, The Bachelor, Blast from the Past, Three to Tango
Isn’t it weird how rom-coms sort of died? I mean, they still exist, but they seem mostly relegated to minor releases on Netflix and Amazon Prime now. I can’t remember the last rom-com box office hit; maybe those two “fuck buddy” movies? At best, quirky rom-coms like The Big Sick have a presence on the indie scene, but mainstream audiences don’t seem to care about rom-coms anymore.
There were no classic rom-coms in 1999 (maybe Notting Hill is the closest?), but the genre was still alive and well. In one of the biggest box office years ever up until that point, there were plenty of straight-forward decently successful rom-coms, the top of which was Runaway Bride, the 10th highest grossing movie of the year.
I’m not a rom-com fan so I don’t consider the decline of the genre to be a tragedy. But for what it’s worth, 1999’s Blast from the Past is probably my second favorite rom-com ever (behind Punch Drunk Love). It’s another super underrated movie, and is maybe the only non-religious, pro-cultural conservative movie I can think of.

TOM CRUISE!!!

As seen in: Eyes Wide Shut, Magnolia, almost every other movie in 1999
Every single film production meeting in 1999 had a moment where some executive suggested getting Tom Cruise in the movie. It didn’t matter how big or small the movie was: execs floated getting Tom Cruise to play “Neo” in The Matrix and “Laurence” in Office Space. New Line was so desperate to keep Paul Thomas Anderson around after Boogie Nights that they gave him carte blanche for Magnolia, which included buying him Tom Cruise.



Cultural Trends


Everyone Hated Comfortable Middle-Class Existence

As seen in: Fight Club, The Matrix, American Beauty, Office Space, Being John Malkovich, Election, Cruel Intentions, SLC Punk
There were a lot of excellent comments on this here, but I’ll try to encapsulate.
Based on a lot of 1999’s best movies, there was a sense that the American life was hollow. People imagined this template of a large suburban house, a white picket fence, pristine interior design, a steady well-paid office job, a decently attractive wife, and 1-2 moody kids, as the apex of civilization. This was the thing that we, all of humanity, had been working towards throughout all of history. It was the ultimate prize that the masses could ever hope to achieve – safety, security, wealth, comfort, and companionship. By the late 90s, this vision was in our grasp. The Cold War was over, the stock market was booming, everyone was getting their own computers, and so it seemed like humanity had achieved its apex of existence.
And apparently it sucked.
Many of 1999’s best movies are about people “trapped” in this lifestyle. The best part of Lester Burnham’s day is jerking off in the shower. Peter Gibbons considers every day of work to be the worst day of his life. The narrator loathes himself for being excited to flip through an Ikea catalogue. Jim McAllister envies his disgraced coworker because he got to have sex with one of his high school students. Thomas Anderson is so bored and detached that reality itself feels metaphysically unreal.
These are the realities of the supposedly perfect middle-class white-collar suburban family-oriented existence. It’s a whole bunch of people (usually men) feeling bored, unsatisfied, and especially meaningless. They all did what they were supposed to (went to college, got a job, got married, got a house, etc.) and basically completed life. And they found nothing at its end. No excitement, no deep value, no meaning, just going through the same motions as everyone else in a well-worn mold.
That’s what these movies are about. They’re about the deep existential misery of doing everything right but being unfulfilled. They’re about realizing that the things that are supposed to bring you happiness can become straight-jackets.
I think all the listed movies focus on a different aspect of this core theme. Fight Club focuses on the loss of masculinity, Office Space on corporate work culture, American Beauty on the family, Being John Malkovich on the suppression of passion, The Matrix on existentialism, Election on sexual unfulfillment, etc. Some great comments from the previously linked thread really nailed it:
u/venusisupsidedown:
Interestingly three big movies came out in 1999 about the weird feeling of wrongness one gets from a routine of getting up, going to work and building a comfortable and safe middle class life. All three present some kind of fantasy of how one might escape.
For the artsy hollywood types there was American Beauty. This was about the fantasy of saying fuck it, giving up your boring office career, smoking pot and realising that you could have fucked the hot cheerleader all along (but don't since you're too moral for that)…
For the edge lord intellectuals we have Fight Club…
Finally, for everyone else there was The Matrix. The Matrix got to the point the most effectively (my opinion on this was largely cribbed from this podcast). Morpheus explicitly tells Neo during the pill scene, yeah you can wake up and see what a prison society is and drop out, really understand how artificial and fake all your achievements are. It means though that you give up everything. Every creature comfort and safety net and all of the stability you get from this system. That's the trade you make to be come and reclaim your masculinity.
u/Faceh
But at the same time [Office Space] tapped into the culture's spite for office jobs and encapsulated the misery that is submitting to a meaningless 9 to 5 job under a boss that you hate with co-workers you mostly don't get along with all while knowing full well that you're a replaceable cog. And of course the wish-fulfillment fantasy of saying "screw this" and just checking out to go do what you want and then really sticking it to the man by getting rich by scamming them for a couple hundred thousand dollars.
So it resonated.
u/JTarrou
I too noticed the pattern of movies that venus notes in this thread. They all had an impact, that was a big year for me. But by far, my favorite was Fight Club.
Two years after that film dropped, I dropped out of college, joined the Army, and found that there really is gold at the end of that rainbow. There really is fulfillment and purpose and bonds that strain the definitions of "friendship". All you have to give up is everything you thought you liked and needed. It's not the military specifically, which is mostly a fetid bureaucracy of such scale of incompetence it beggars belief. But it is the vehicle that will put a man in combat, and that will bind him to the other men with him, and should he see combat and meet the challenge, it will change him forever. Everything a man does in life, sport and work and civic engagement is all just a tiny, pale substitute for what he's supposed to be doing. Combat has a way of sandblasting one's character down to the sliver of essential-ness. You find out who you really are, what you really need, and who will give it to you.
There has been a lot of backlash against these movies and themes in recent years, with modern critics considering the “heroes” of these movies to be privileged, entitled, and winy, but I think that perspective completely lacks empathy. To me, these movies present the ultra-empowering message that you control your own life. No matter who you are, what you’re doing, or what inertia you’re trapped in, you always have the ability to steer your life to where you want it to be. Granted, there are plenty of terrible ways to steer your life (I do not condone joining fight clubs or blackmailing your corporate boss) but there are always better paths available. You just need the willpower to find them.

Everyone Thought Marriage Sucked

As seen in: American Beauty, Being John Malkovich, Double Jeopardy, Story of Us, Fight Club, Election, Eyes Wide Shut, Magnolia, The Insider, Varsity Blues
I didn’t dig into the statistics, but Raftery notes that American divorce rates spiked in the 1980s, during a cultural shift towards empowering women and the aftermath of the sexual revolution. The filmmakers of the late 90s were the children of these divorced parents. So it’s no surprise that so many 1999 movies were about unsteady or crumbling marriages.
To me, 1999 feels like a flare-up of the long-winding post-1950s cultural attitude towards marriage. The 1950s placed the strength of a traditional marriage and family life at the heart of society, as displayed in tv shows like Leave it To Beaver, Father Knows Best, and I Love Lucy. Even into the 90s, this was still the mainstream portrayal of families with shows like The Cosby Show, Home Improvement, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But then came along subversive shows like The Simpsons and Married with Children which pushed back on the idyllic family images. They portrayed fathers as plodding, clueless, and clearly not satisfied with their lot in life, while wives tended to be bored and frustrated. It may seem quaint and broad today, but Married with Children’s Al Bundy was something of a proto-Lester Burnham.
More proximately, the biggest scandal of 1999 was President Bill Clinton cheating on his wife with a young intern. The most clean-cut, refined, presentable husband and wife in America were having marital problems for all to see.
By 1999, it seems like the idolization of the family had broken down in popular culture and a Simpsonized portrayal had taken hold. The big movies of the year further explored this territory by looking at marriages that started as the ideal but had eroded under the realities of life.
Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman are two of the hottest people on earth, but they’re a sexually frustrated couple in Eyes Wide Shut. Lester and his wife in American Beauty appear perfect to their neighbors, but have a sexless, hollow marriage which leads the husband to constantly fantasize about his teenage daughter’s friend, and the wife to cheat with her business competitor. The protagonist couple in Being John Malkovich both fall in love with the husband’s co-worker, and they end up body-jumping in their attempts to seduce her. Even the unmarried narrator of Fight Club laments his father for leaving his mother to start new families in multiple cities like he’s “setting up franchises.”
A particularly interesting case is The Insider. Michael Mann’s movie is based on the true story of a big tobacco executive who becomes a whistleblower against his industry. Arguably the main antagonist in the movie is the exec’s wife, who urges her husband to not speak out against his employer out of fear that he will lose his affluent lifestyle. In a story packed with corporate intrigue, media analysis, fights between old and new culture, etc., Mann decided to focus much of the narrative on the protagonist’s marriage.

Everyone Was Intrigued by What Future Technology Would Do to Society

As seen in: The Matrix, eXistenZe, The Thirteenth Floor, Deep Blue Sea, EDtv, Bicentennial Man, Virus, Being John Malkovich
There’s a good case to be made that the late 90s were the biggest leap forward in mass-consumer technology ever. Between the rise of personal computing and the internet, everyone had this infinitely large, complex world unfurl before them, and apparently a lot of people had no idea what would happen. A lot of 1999’s sci fi movies are explorations of the technological possibilities of these trends, with varying degrees of predictive accuracy.
The Matrix is about all of humanity being enslaved by rouge AIs who keep their human batteries happy by locking them in a computer-simulated dream world. In eXistenZe, a VR world is so realistic that pro-reality extremists try to destroy it. Both movies, along with The Thirteenth Floor and Being John Malkovich speculate on how the concept of “identity” might break down as we transition more of our lives from a static real world to an infinitely fluid digital one.
It’s notable that most of these movies were fairly optimistic about technology. Even though The Matrix shows a worst-case-scenario, it also displays technology as a source of personal empowerment to make yourself who you want to be, and as a means of finding genuine, like-minded communities. Both ideas undoubtedly resonated with the directors of The Matrix, a pair of (future) trans women.

People Wondered If They Were in the Pre-Apocalypse

As seen in: Fight Club, Magnolia, End of Days, The Matrix, Blast From the Past
While people were broadly optimistic about technology, there were a decent number of movies which included the apocalypse, or something like it. This was undoubtedly related to fears over Y2K, whether of the hokey religious/new age variety, or the apparently legitimate computer bug sort.
The 2000s have been dominated by post-apocalypse films/video games/tv shows, like Hunger Games, Walking Dead, Fallout, Mad Max, etc. But 1999 was focused more on the pre-apocalypse. Fight Club showed the downtrodden forces which fight back against a decadent society by blowing up credit card companies and wiping the debt record clean. Though The Matrix actually took place in the post-apocalypse, its focus was on the computer-generated simulation of the pre-apocalypse and the complacency which led to its downfall. More abstractly, Magnolia concludes with a shower of frogs falling from the sky for no reason which inexorably alters the lives of its many characters.

Americans Loved and Feared Violence

As seen in: The Matrix, Fight Club, American Beauty, O, 8MM
Raftery mixes brief forays into news stories between his movie summaries to provide some current affairs context to what cinema-goers were thinking about. By far the most impactful news story of the year was the Columbine High School massacre.
In the aftermath of the school shooting, the biggest question on everyone’s mind was “why?” Naturally, a lot of pundits turned to youth culture for an explanation. Suddenly the 90s were being recast as a decade of extreme violence and moral degeneration. Kids spent all their time listening to weirdo Marilyn Manson and watching ultra-violent Pulp Fiction. The US Congress even launched a series of formal investigations into the causal link between violent movies and youth crime. Columbine would hang heavily over the rest of the year and impact how films were made by studios and received by audiences and critics.
While it’s easy to look back and mock the moral panic, the unprecedented horror of Columbine caused understandable distress, especially when a film-influence on the killers was at least plausible. The black leather trench coats worn by the killers was reminiscent of The Matrix (which was in theaters at the time), and Heathers and Basketball Diaries were two recent high-profile movies which featured school shootings.
Though Congress never ended up passing any violent movie laws, spooked movie studios took the investigations as a message to get their houses in order. A lot of movies featuring youth violence were cancelled. O, a completed teen movie based on Shakespeare’s Othello, was shelved and not released until 2001.
Critically, many violent releases in 1999 (especially those featuring teens) received colder receptions than they otherwise would have. Fight Club was especially hit hard by accusations of promoting exactly the sort of nihilism that the Columbine killers embraced. The film may even have gotten a delayed release in anticipation of the controversy.

Americans Were Still Figuring Out Sexual Liberation

As seen in: Cruel Intentions, Election, American Pie, American Beauty, The Virgin Suicides, Eyes Wide Shut, Boys Don’t Cry, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Never Been Kissed
1999 was a big year for putting taboo sexuality on screen.
Cruel Intentions had a much-publicized lesbian make out featuring the most beloved teen actress on earth (Sarah Michelle Geller), and suggested quasi-incest. American Beauty and Election featured older men fantasizing and having sex with young female students. American Pie was packed with unprecedented horny teen debauchery and, of course, fucking a pie. Eyes Wide Shut had two of the most recognizable actors in the world going to orgies and talking about open marriages. Boys Don’t Cry was about a trans man pretending to be a cis man to seduce a woman, and had hardcore-enough sex scenes to receive an NC-17 rating on its first cut.
(Even Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo is kind of edgy with its male prostitution, amputee female love interest, and take on what drives female sexual frustration.)
I was seven-years-old in 1999 so I don’t have much of a sense of what the sexual cultural mores were at the time. But the year’s films seemed like an attempted to push them further.

There Was Something Weird Going on With Religion

As seen in: Dogma, End of Days, Stigmata, The Matrix
I’m not sure what to say about this except that 1999 had quite a few weird movies which used Christian imagery, themes, and theology for horror, action, and fantasy stories. Maybe these movies were early examples of subversion of mainstream religious views; possibly precursors to the “religion vs. atheism” internet wars of the early 2000s.

LGTBQ+ Wasn’t Mainstream, but It Was Right Beneath the Surface

As seen in: American Beauty, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Fight Club, Girl Interrupted, Magnolia, Cruel Intentions, Being John Malkovich, The Matrix, Blast from the Past, Boys Don’t Cry
I thought this was one of the most interesting trends I found in the 1999 movies. With one exception, there were no notable 1999 movies directly about queer identities, but there were tons of movies with queer subtext or themes on the margins.
The Talented Mr. Ripley, Fight Club, and Girl Interrupted are all quite homoerotic with their highly intimate same sex friendships at the centers of the narrative. American Beauty and Magnolia both have closeted gay characters who are simultaneously terrified of being outed but crave recognition for their true selves. Cameron Diaz’s character in Being John Malkovich unexpected falls in love with another woman, and after test driving Malkovich’s body, briefly declares herself to be a trans man. And while it was mostly played for salaciousness, Cruel Intentions broke boundaries with its hot lesbian kiss, especially since both characters were straight (ish).
The big exception to the rule was Boys Don’t Cry, which was genuinely ahead of its time with the true story of a trans man who was raped and murdered in Texas after his trans status was revealed. Prior to Boys Don’t Cry, trans people tended to be portrayed in films as crazy/manipulative villains, like in Silence of the Lambs, Crying Game, and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
The other interesting case was The Matrix, which upon release didn’t seem to have a queer element besides one minor character who is implied to be trans (Switch). But with both Wachowskis coming out as trans women years after the film’s release, it’s easy to read The Matrix as a trans narrative.
Through 1999’s filmscape, I think I can see that queer issues were bubbling right beneath the surface in American society. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was passed in 1993, and gay marriage legalization was still a fairly marginal view, especially outside of deep blue territory. So while queerness wasn’t brought to the artistic forefront in the way it is now (by my count, 4/10 Best Picture nominees in 2018 have prominent queer characters/themes, 3/10 for 2017), queerness was just starting to go mainstream in 1999.
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WHAT IS MARGIN TRADING IN MARKET Margin Trading  Trading Terms - YouTube Trading 101: What is a Margin Account? - YouTube Ventura Securities Limited - YouTube Margin Trading

To curb malpractices in collection and reporting of margins from clients, SEBI has given exchanges the power to take disciplinary action for false/incorrect reporting of margin collections by Trading Members and Clearing Members. The regulator has stipulated that these margins can be paid by stock investors in cash or by depositing approved securities with their broker. Tag Archives: margin trading No Margin? No trades from January 2020! Posted on December 26, ... Ventura Securities Ltd. is a well diversified financial services firm offering Retail and Institutional Broking in Equities, Mutual Funds Distribution, Commodities Broking. Ventura operates in a network spread over numerous cities and locations in ... Ventura Intraday Trading & Benefits. Start intraday trading with this brokerage house, and you will get a host of benefits to enjoy. The different benefits of using Ventura Intraday Trading services are as follows: For intraday trading, the trading terminal plays a great role. The terminal offered by Ventura is known as Ventura Pointer. Ventura Exposure Limit. Ventura offers margin trading facility to increase the buying limits of the investors and help them generate more profit. The stock broker provides different exposure limits for different segments. For equity intraday trades, the leverage offered by Ventura is 5 times the funds available in the customer's account. Ventura Margin Commodity. Talking about the Commodity trading margin, this Ventura Margin calculator talks about 30 odd commodities that you can trade for.. Now, within these 30 commodities, the buy and sell margin values. For the ‘Buy’ trade, most of the commodities come with a margin range of around 5% to 9% (which is relatively low) and as far as the ‘Sell’ trade is concerned, the ...

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WHAT IS MARGIN TRADING IN MARKET

One trading jargon that you’ll hear very often is margin. It’s usually in terms like margin account, margin trading and even margin call. It seems a bit comp... Learn what is Margin Trading in stock markets, how can we do margin trading, and is it good to do margin trading? Know all about Margin Trading in this video... Benefits of using Ventura’s Margin Trading Facility and How to activate it - Duration: 2:18. Ventura Securities Limited 11,582 views. 2:18. What is margin trading? What is a margin? What is the difference between a cash account and a margin account? In episode #34 of Real World Finance we dive de... An investor who wants to take a position in a stock but doesn't have enough funds can use borrowed funds to purchase the asset. This is called a leveraged position, and the investor is said to be ...

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