Hello, here’s another round of Esamir Rework reviews. I’ll also cover the Indar base changes, the storm, vehicle balance changes and new infantry gear. I’m not going to touch on outfit resource changes here, since this post is long enough already. I’d like to give shoutouts to aln-isolator
, [NWYT]Praefectus, the pilots of [SACA] and everyone else who helped give feedback.
Here’s the image gallery. This time around the bases listed in the document match the order in which they appear in the gallery. https://imgur.com/a/5pd5VFj
Esamir has a new skybox which is much less bright. I can now see vehicle weapon tracers when shooting. This is a long asked for change. Andvari:
3 points now, 12 min cap with 2 points, 4 mins with 3 points. Consider adjusting the timers. Ymir:
No changes to terrain that I can see. It’s a 12 minute cap with two points owned, and 4 minutes with 3 points. Might consider reducing those slightly.
Apex Genetics has had its wall adjusted somewhat, as well as the rocks surrounding the triple stack. There are now more routes for infantry to enter the base. Aurora Materials:
Sunderer garage and surrounding terrain seem to have been lowered slightly. Also, there’s now a rock at the end of the garage, which reduces the possible angles the bus inside can be shelled from. The slope between the crescent building and the road has had some paths added for infantry. Overall, good changes. However, there’s still one issue here, and that’s the possibility of shelling the triple stack balcony from the ridge NW of the base. Additional purple spikes from the cluster behind the spawn room could be positioned to block this firing angle. Eastwake Harborage:
Point has received a new structure above it. It’s now on the bottom floor of a triple stack that has an expanded balcony around its second floor. This gives point holders a lot of additional cover, but the problems with this base still exist. There’s still a ridiculous distance between spawn room and the point with minimal cover from vehicles/bolters/LAs- a literal Death Valley. The area immediately around point is still extremely harasser friendly and could use some props to obstruct harasser movement. In its current position, the teleporter room is useless since infantry leaving it must still advance through Death Valley. Sundy positions are a bit sketchy, too. Fortunately, I’ve had a long discussion and now believe this base could be fixed with a couple tweaks. Consider replacing the AI turret outside the spawn room with an AV gun. This would discourage excessively aggressive vehicles from camping Death Valley. Likewise, replacing the light vehicle pull with an MBT pull gives defenders a bit more potential firepower, and increases the area attacking vehicles must cover to protect their own vulnerable spawns. This base would also benefit from the moving of primary teleporter room to a point higher up the hill and closer to the point, as shown by squad waypoint in this image: https://i.imgur.com/TuEee9F.png
. A second teleporter here at hearts waypoint https://i.imgur.com/JUbXklc.png
gives defenders another route into the point without going through Death Valley. At these two locations sunderer garages could be built to create safer spawn points for attackers.https://i.imgur.com/QWblfz4.png https://i.imgur.com/w4HR05n.png Echo valley:
Rocks have been added on the exterior side of the vehicle terminal to give it some cover. However, they aren’t close enough to each other to prevent me from driving through with a Kobalt bus, nor is there anything stopping me from hacking the terminal or using a GSD to get through the shield and then start driving around the base. Placement of a couple rocks in very specific spots would stop this. Secondly, a crate has been placed between bridges to give infantry another path into the point building. It’s a cool concept, but it needs some form of obstruction to prevent me from driving harassers or possibly larger vehicles onto the two bridges and blasting point directly. Thirdly, consider some form of sight blockers on the west wall to reduce the potential for LAs to spawn camp. Excavion DS-01E:
Cover has been placed over both tunnels, which is an excellent change. MBT pulls have been added to this base, though they could stand to be moved slightly closer to the spawn room to deter attackers from hacking them and flooding the base with AI vehicles. A point is located in a long narrow building near the eastern tunnel exit. B is in a triple stack on the south side. C is located immediately west of the drill site. Capture timer is 4 minutes with two points and 1 minute with all 3.
This base is mostly fine, but could do with some small tweaks for increased cover. At A point the point holders have few options for cover inside. There are two small smokestack structures (pictures in gallery) that could be replaced with actual buildings to provide more cover from aircraft for players moving around inside the base. Timers could probably be increased slightly. Overall though it’s in a decent state. Genudine Gardens:
Some props have been added throughout the base that’ll prevent harassers from turboing around like maniacs, but the gigantic hole in the wall in one corner needs to be closed off somewhat to prevent vehicle entry or at least make it more difficult. This base would be fine if that hole were sealed or obstructed better. Grey Heron:
Additional cover has been placed on the side of the staircase leading from spawn to B/C point. The secondary route for defenders has been fleshed out- the door now is high enough to get under, and there is a hole in the floor that allows defenders to drop down to the lower level. Cover has been added on the B side of this base.
For improvements, I still think a roof is needed over the stairs from defender spawn to the lower level. A wall alone won’t stop tanks from shelling it. C could use a bit of cover, but I’m concerned that adding too much will turn it into a fortress. You can enter this base with harassers, so some bollards should be added to each entrance to prevent that. Jaegers’ fist:
Sunderer garage has been added, and the trench has been improved. This base has some odd issues from an infantry perspective, namely that attackers and defenders have the exact same routes to the point, as shown in the gallery. I have no ideas for how this could be improved. I still believe the point needs some kind of roof to block HESH spam and A2G, preferably a solid one to deter LAs from doing C4 bombing. BL-4 Recovery and Vidar Observation Post
both have spawn rooms and light vehicle terminals. This is a pretty good change, allowing closer vehicle pulls and a shorter sundy reinforcement distance for attacks on the surrounding facilities. Jord Amp Station:
More cover has been added around C point. This is a good change, but doesn’t change the fact that A is still inside the station. Mani Lake:
This one has undergone the most terrain edits, and consequently has become a lot less vehicle friendly. The two trenches leading into the base have had barricades installed, allowing infantry to move through but not vehicles. The hills surrounding the base have had their exterior faces steepened significantly, preventing treaded vehicles from driving up them. This change is excellent, but needs a bit of tuning. The Western Ridge’s southern tip has a shallow enough slope that tanks can still drive up it. On the large mountain to the West on the far side of the road, there’s a small protrusion that should also be levelled. Once these two spots are taken care of, this base will be fine. Overall, the changes are very good here. Mattherson’s Triumph:
The Sunderer NDZ has been reduced in radius, which allows the defenders to deploy inside the south tower for a safer position. This is a good change. The ridgeline to the NE has had its northern face steepened significantly, preventing tanks from driving up that side. However, the SW face has become easier to traverse, so the ridge is still usable for bombardment of the catwalks and A point. If this goes live in this state, it’s not a total disaster since tanks driving up that will be very exposed to AV fire from the tower, but it still could stand to be addressed. Likewise, there’s still a nice spur sticking out of the north end from the NW ridge that allows tanks to easily shell defender spawn and A point. The fix here is simple- flatten the spur completely.
A point needs additional work. At minimum, the windows on each tower in the room where A point/SCU would normally go should be sealed off to reduce the angles point holders must watch. There’s very little cover on the ground, especially when you consider all the angles A can be shot at from. I believe the point could be enclosed in the same type of building used at Chimney Rock’s point on Amerish. The bridges are a mixed bag. They’re identical copies with one rotated 180 degrees, which means that crate placement favors the attackers on B side and the defenders on the C side. Picking one crate pattern for all 4 bridge ends is one possible fix. I’m still not sold on the idea of both points being on bridges. They’re very exposed to A2G spam and bolters. Overall, at the very least the terrain edits are a nice start, and the sunderer NDZ change is very welcome. Nott Communications:
This base is now entirely underground. Attackers enter by overloading a shielded gate, and then drop down into an amp station interior. These gravity lifts are one way, but please consider adding an up lift to replace one of the drop pads. A point is in the position where A points usually are in amp stations. B and C are in the room where SCU would be normally positioned. At the end of this room where the tunnels and back door would normally be is a one-way teleporter, which is the only way for anyone to get out of this base right now. Defenders spawn underground and there’s a one-way shield leading to where the vehicle bay normally is. To improve this base, I’d make the one-way shield a two way shield, and reverse one of the grav lifts. I could not test the cap timer since I did not feel like ghost capping half a continent. Pale Canyon:
Some cover has been adjusted by the big yellow tanks on the SE side. A new route has been placed through the rocks at the NW corner of the base. This is an interesting change, but I don’t know how that’ll play out on live since currently I can park a bus inside the base at the same location. The Rink:
The ground texture at A point is now ice, so it’s actually an ice rink. Too bad you don’t slide around here. Saerro Listening Post:
Trees added to A point to break LOS between attacking vehicles and the tower. The wall between A and B has had some new gaps placed in it to allow infantry to get in. Interesting changes for sure, but I don’t know how they’ll play out. The Traverse:
The bridge has been resurrected, although it’s in a heavily damaged state. It’s now an infantry only playground, unless you’re a bold harasser or magrider driver. Because the storm was here, I really couldn’t stick around and take a long look at this. Lastly, the bottom of the pit has been raised a bit and paths to the bottom have been defined more clearly.
There also have been some changes to roads around the continent, but nothing major. Indar: TI Alloys:
The removal of the bridge is a failure to understand why TI Alloys is such a difficult base to attack. On live servers, TI currently suffers from horrific sunderer placement options which combine with its central location to create a base that’s easy to defend. From the North, attackers must park their bus and attack up a hill through narrow ravines into entrenched defenders backed up by AI harassers, sunderers, ANTs, lightnings and even occasional MBTs. From the South, attackers have two bus spots: One is placed to the south-east, below the point. The other is placed directly south of the spawn room on the far side of the road. Both of these options are suboptimal- on the south east spawn the bus can easily be sniped by vehicles shelling from the Crown, driving down from the Crown, or by vehicles streaming out of the vehicle pull. The south bus on the far side of the road is also not ideal, since infantry have to cross the road and deal with a flood of vehicles as well as an angry AI turret. The only decent spawn location is at the end of the rock bridge, since that one’s reasonably safe from enemy vehicles and doesn’t involve attacking from the low ground. However, this position’s impeded by the fact that attackers from the north inevitably gravitate to the eastern side of the base since that’s safer from the defenders, forcing a three way that never ends. The result is a base that can’t be broken except by routers.
The removal of the rock bridge changes none of this, but instead creates more problems. The safe sundy position on the bridge is gone entirely. Further, the bridge’s removal allows tanks to bombard Ti from the Crown once more, since it served as a line-of-sight blocker. The new attacker foot path to the north east is extremely vulnerable to bombardment from the Crown.
As far as the base interior goes, a new wall has been added to the interior of the point room structure. This might give attackers a better chance to get to the point, but at the same time it might make things easier for the defenders should they conduct an organized push since there are fewer angles to set up a crossfire from.
So how can Ti be improved? I’d start by bringing the bridge back, or at least a small section of it to allow for a safe sunderer position at the east side. For the south, consider a tunnel leading under the road. This allows infantry to get to the base safely. I’d also consider adding in more props to restrict the passage of vehicles through the spawn room area to the northern side of the base. Removing the Kobalt bus fiesta there will make it easier for attackers to push in from the north. Lastly, if the bridge is not restored, consider creating a rock wall at the north east section of crown to prevent tanks from raining hell on anyone fighting at Ti. Crown:
The removal of D point is honestly a good thing. It wasn’t fun for anyone to attack since it’s open ground and below a cliff which enables C4 spam against vehicles and requires attackers push against entrenched infantry. Since Crown becomes a three point again, now the base cannot be stuck in a perpetual stalemate. I’m not a fan of where A point was moved to, either. I think if the rock bridge were kept then Crown would be mostly fine. With the three non-vehicle points it has on live. The issue with A being on that southern bridge is that if the attackers set up sunderers to control B, then they get A almost for free and can contest C as well. B point has been moved farther towards the center of the mountain and the tunnel system lengthened a bit, and a lot of cover has been removed at the initial entrance room that exists on live.The extra tunnel into B is an interesting idea and gives a better chance of an attack from the North succeeding, but at the same time it’s just another tunnel choke point to for aoe spam to create nasty farms. C is also problematic if it’s supposed to be the easy point for defenders to contest. It’s a fair distance from the tower, and it’s also open ground which is prime for A2G farming. I’d suggest moving this one into one of the nearby buildings if A must stay in the position it’s at on PTS. I’m not convinced the base needed any point position changes apart from the removal of D point. The current point layout on PTS favors an attack from the SE very heavily, and attacks from the East or North are far more difficult. While old A was very close to the tower, at least it provided a convenient point for attacks from the East. None of the changes really address the problem of poor bus location options, and with the current terrain there really aren’t many good potential spawn options. At most some garages could be added. Ceres Hydroponics:
Defenders now have a slightly shorter path to the point when pushing from the NE side of the base. The point itself has much less cover. I’m not going to make judgements on this without seeing how it plays out. The Esamir storm:
I’m not sure what this thing is supposed to do. The entire point of the game is large scale battles, yet this thing rolls around the map destroying the biggest fights. There’s nowhere safe from it. Sunderers will get destroyed even if put in garages. When outdoors infantry can be instagibbed by lightning for staying outside too long, and even when indoors their shielding takes frequent chip damage from environmental effects. The shield damage consistently drops players down about 150 shield points that constantly recharge, but this is enough to start messing with TTKs. For example, a commissioner can consistently OHK players. Since the shield damage is not synchronized across all players, it’s possible to be forced into gunfights where you have no hope of winning not because you were in a bad spot or outplayed, but simply because the game decided it’s your time to die. This applies doubly for lightning bolts which will randomly strike you down. There’s a text warning, of course, but random OHK mechanics really shouldn’t be a thing. You cannot use steel rain in the storm.
For vehicles this is obnoxious too. Ground vehicles lose most of their mobility, which will punish new players with poorly certed vehicles even more. Aircraft are even worse off, losing most of their vertical thrust. At times I felt like even afterburning upward was barely enough to keep the aircraft airborne. Vehicles kept in the storm for too long will simply be instagibbed, which cripples sunderers as spawns. The storm also destroys base turrets and terminals.
There are counters to the storm, though. Infantry can deploy lightning rods bought with merit that allow them to fight outside, but it doesn’t stop shield chip damage, and can equip an insulated armor suit at the cost of flak armor, nanoweave, or shield capacitor. This suit slot appears to be bugged and doesn’t actually reduce the chip damage taken by your shields. Carapace seems to be immune to this chip damage. Vehicles can equip insulated armor in the defense slot. This mitigates the performance hit to vehicles, reduces the damage taken by lightning, and prevents the storm from instagibbing your vehicle. Now, this is less of a problem in the first place for aircraft and tanks, but it screws over sunderers. Sunderers are already fragile enough even with deployment shield equipped, but forcing spawn buses to use this module and rely on their low hull HP is a very bad idea when paired with random lightning strikes and the severe lack of garages Esamir has.
With all that out of the way, the question I have to ask is why is the storm designed like this? It seems like a band-aid fix for zerging and actively punishes trying to create large fights. It cripples the vehicle game, negatively affects the infantry game, creates inconsistent TTKs, and only adds frustrating game mechanics. If the center of the map ends up with stalemates, it’ll circle around there endlessly preventing any kind of progress through the pile of three point bases. Why this, when there’s a lot more interesting concepts that could be used? For example, maybe the storm could reduce the rate at which players can spawn at a base/sunderers/routers. Maybe it could jam radaprevent Q spotting. Consider reducing shield chip damage to 50 shields instead of 150 to reduce TTK variance. There’s a lot more interesting ways it could change the game without being the anti-fun mechanic that it’s currently set up as. Infantry gear: Lightning grenade
: Cool, you can launch a targeted lightning strike when in the storm. More instagibs is what the game needed. Lightning rod:
This temporarily redirects lightning strikes near you. This is a solution to an obnoxious problem that doesn’t need to exist. Condensate grenade
: Reduces movement speed and ROF by 20% for six seconds. This is a terrible idea in an FPS game. This doesn’t create interesting gameplay situations. Instead of being outplayed, players hit by this just lose since the game’s punishing them for playing. Keep this in RPGs and RTS games. Now, we do have status grenades already, but do we need one that’s as powerful as this one is? BEC grenade:
Similar to Condensate Grenades, this is a horrible addition to the game. Anything that hurts player mobility/damage output is a bad idea. Neutralizer Device:
Campaign reward that allows players to acquire abandoned vehicles, and apparently strip ability energy from players too. I like the idea of vehicle acquisition, but I don’t know if we’ll ever see the second use of this tool. Abandoned vehicles:
Around the continent are the hulks of abandoned tanks, sunderers and aircraft. They come with a special ability that I haven’t really tested, HEAT cannons and the first generation ES top gun. For the sake of loadout parity for all 3 abandoned MBTs I’d like to suggest the Prowler get a Gatekeeper instead of the Vulcan. Vehicle changes:
Havoc missiles: Are these things still necessary, with the liberator nerfs? These things seem redundant now, and they’ll punish rep gal balls unnecessarily hard while valkyries with rep monkeys can probably still dodge these things easily. Phalanx AA turret range increase:
This doesn’t fix any of the problems with the current AA setup. Instead, it’s going to just annoy A2A players who are flying along at high altitude and getting plinked by base AA guns, which is the reason the things got their range capped to begin with! Honestly I think these things should be replaced by weapons like Bastion CIWS guns. Those things are nasty at close range but their damage output falls off heavily at range. Liberator
: -500 HP and ESF nosegun resist from 85 to 80. While the liberator needed some changes regarding its durability and repair tanking in particular, this change spectacularly misses the mark on many levels. This change skews ESF vs Liberator combat too far in favor of ESFs. When paired with air locks this brings down the TTK to incredibly fast levels (around 9 seconds, which isn’t even enough for three dalton shots) In this post, mystoganofedolas https://www.reddit.com/Planetside/comments/ivjg8t/rock_paper_scissor_balance/
explains in great detail the liberator issues- it’s a blatant hard counter to ground vehicles, and gets brutally hard countered by ESFs on PTS. Hard counter mechanics are terrible in an FPS game. In this sort of rock-paper-scissors gameplay, things boil down less to individual ability and more towards who has an exact counter to something, which is extremely boring. There’s no skill in using A2A missiles, just as there’s minimal skill in hovering over tanks and daltoning them. In this post here https://www.reddit.com/Planetside/comments/ivsssx/did_some_basic_math_regarding_the_upcoming/
demonstrates that -500 HP barely changes anything in the case of liberators eating multiple AP shells before hitting fire suppression and flying off. Skilled gunnery should be rewarded, and sloppy flying should be punished.
So how can this be improved? Consider reducing vulnerability to ESF noseguns slightly. Adjusting Liberator resistance against tank shells, light anti-vehicle, gatling guns, and infantry rockets will increase the damage libs take from ground fire and punish poor flying/reward skilled aim. Possibly consider increasing MBT main gun elevation angles slightly, to reduce the ability of liberators to hover over tanks with minimal counterplay. Harasser:
Nanite cost to 300. Oh boy this one misses the mark completely. The problem with harassers has never really been cost related, but rather one that got introduced with CAI. The harasser itself is not overpowered and its efficiency in combat drops off hard at higher levels of gameplay. Only when harasser numbers become overwhelming (3 or more harassers vs 1 MBT) do the harassers stand a chance of defeating the best tank crews, and even then the tank usually can take 2-3 harassers with it. Harasser vs tank gameplay is extremely boring and very binary. If the harasser has a CQ AV gun it’s forced to fight at point blank which means I delete it easily. If it uses halberd or ES long range AV we both enter a boring poke fight where neither one does significant damage to the other. Even if the harasser opens up with rear hits the MBT still has an overwhelming advantage in firepower and hit points. With tanks, the problem since CAI has been poor muzzle velocity of HEAT shells which makes hitting difficult and what most players will have equipped, pathetic Basilisk DPS against everything (Kobalt kills stock harassers 4 seconds faster), Skyguards being helpless against every ground vehicle, and the Viper not having the accuracy to deal with small moving fast targets. Small changes to these three weapons will reduce harasser vs tank complaints.
Harasser vs Harasser is broken, for a different reason. Harassers have a weakness to gatling guns, which means that the Vulcan and Aphelion rip through harassers while the Mjolnir specializes in fighting heavy vehicles. In practice, this means that for low/average skilled car crews, vulcans are disproportionately powerful since less skilled players won’t know to keep outside minimum damage range. At higher levels an Aphelion car is very hard to fight. Toning back harasser weaknesses to gatling guns might improve this situation, but at the same time it might nerf the Aphelion too much. At the very least this’d probably reduce vulcan whine somewhat.
Overall, I have mixed impressions. The base changes are mostly for the better, but the storm, infantry gear, and vehicle changes are mostly bad or miss the mark completely.
Alright, home stretch foax. This section's a beast. Hang in there and keep sharing your insights! All together now... Section 66 submitted by
"You will want cause and effect. All right." (663) What an opening - it's almost confrontational, mocking our need for clear narrative structure and causality.
We discover that Thanatz was tossed overboard in the same storm that sent Slothrop off the Anubis and off on his adventure with Frau Gnahb. Thanatz is rescued by someone even stranger - an unnamed Polish undertaker
(think on the etymology of that word) who happens to be a lightening aficionado. I'll stop here and comment that, earlier, when Slothrop fell into the water before and
after getting on the Anubis, it brought to mind the river Styx in Hades - another underworld. It washes clean one's identity and memory. Makes you forget who you are. And there's traditionally a ferryman, Charon, to help people cross it. Can't help but think that's who saved Thanatz here, carrying him from the land of the dead to the land of the unliving, the preterite detritus of WWII. (An aside: Speaking of Styx, has anyone listened to Mr. Roboto recently? That song has some Gravity's Rainbow vibes.)
Our undertaker here is inspired by the Franklin myth and is trying to get struck by lightening in order to experience that "singular point, [that] discontinuity in the curve of life" (664) passing from a rate of change of positive infinity to one of negative infinity in the blink of an eye. Seems there's something of a conspiracy among those who have been through this point of infinite inflection - a secret society of lightening heads who are aware not of another
reality but of a new layer of reality laid on top of our own
. Insight into a higher level of reality, of hidden systems.
We get an example of the content of the lightning-aficionado's publication A Nickel Saved
and it's supposedly full of coded messages for Those Who Know, each part being a veiled reference to other topics that contain the true meaning, requiring a true paranoid's ability to see (make?) connections. For example, there are repeated mentions of April, Easter, and Spring - the season of rebirth. To an Amperage Contest and lightbulbs failing - Byron the Bulb's attempts to strike back, perchance? A screen-door salesman - what is a screen door except a permeable interface?
But our undertaker isn't interested in secret knowledge - he just wants to be a better businessman - and he deposits Thanatz on the shore and rows back off into the storm. Here, Thanatz meets a group of 175s - men formerly imprisoned in the Dora camp for being gay - who have formed their own solitary community in this isolated section of northern Germany.
I suspect some of this imagery may initially shock readers - concentration camp victims who want to return to their prison
? Who set up their own 175-Stadt to recreate the conditions of their imprisonment? But think about it - just last section, we saw Katje, someone who's been used and abused by those in power, balk at the thought of being truly free because she had become dependent on systems of control. She had integrated those control systems as part of her identity, her sense of self. "She needs the whip," Blicero wrote of her (662). Just like Katje, these men became so conditioned to depend on a system of total control and rigid social hierarchies that they don't know how to function without it. Their 175-Stadt doesn't seem like such a ridiculously dark, inappropriate caricature now, does it? Because isn't that a central point of this book - that everyone has been conditioned to need
control, to need Their System, to not know how to function without it? Slothrop was our perfect everyman from within this system, and look at what it took for him to actually be free (and even then, the ideal of America still has a colonial outpost in his head). But in their 175-Stadt, these men at least control their system of control. They built it, they staff every level of it, and it's entirely under their control. An isolated state, separate from the broader System. But is there a ruler in this system, a king? No, simply the figment
of Blicero. His name, his specter, looming over everything. A system of control with no real king? We've seen that before.
Not only that, but this micro-society is not based strictly on the SS command from Dora, but what the prisoners inferred
about the rocket command structure in the Mittelwerke. So even their "recreation" of their imprisonment is an approximation of a different system. I'd also stop here to comment that, is this imagery really as ridiculous/insane as it first appears? I'd say no, since the queeS&M community absolutely took inspiration from Nazi uniforms as symbols of dominance and control, repurposing it into fetishwear. But then, as in this 175-Stadt, the control is by choice,
as is the submission. As we've seen elsewhere in this book (Blicero's Oven-State), turning submission into a fetish can be a form of rebellion, since it subverts Their means of control (fear of pain) and turns it into a source of pleasure. Is it truly control if you're choosing it? Enjoying it? No one said this book asks easy questions of its readers...
Thanatz keeps looking for answers, and gets swept up amidst the vast swarms of preterite Displaced Persons being shifted across the zone. What's concerning is that these supposedly-free, albeit displaced, people, are shuffled without purpose across the Zone, with minimal food, water, or medicine, being "herded into wire enclosure[s]" and shipped around in freight cars, "deloused, poked, palpated, named, numbered, consigned, invoiced, misrouted, detained, ignored" (669). It's almost impossible to miss the painful similarity here to the treatment of Jews and other victims of the Holocaust. Only here the mistreatment isn't out of some pathological hatred, simply a system without a place for so many people, and without the committed resources to actually, effectively help them. The thought is unsettling, since we like to imagine that only Naziesque hatred could prompt such brutal mistreatment, not apathy.
Finally, he's rescued by the Schwarzkommando thanks to his knowledge of Blicero and the firing of Rocket 00000. Here, we learn a bit more about what happened that day. Looking into Blicero's eyes, he saw windmills reflected, though none were in the area. Another four-way mandala, like we saw last week with Slothrop. Thanatz isn't in great mental shape by this point, and he's beginning to equate Gottfried and Bianca both as his children. Why? Because he felt some sense of responsibility to them? Because he failed them? Either way, the Schwarzkommando learn all they need from him about that fateful noon on the Heath, though we do not. The section ends with a simple touch of hands between Enzian and Christian, a moment of connection, of trust. Section 67
Man, how do I even start
summarizing this complete doozy of a section? As Weissenburger writes, "In this episode the narration begins to fragment." (344) Ya don't say... Well, here goes.
We being one serious trip of a section with Slothrop, as part of a rather unimpressive team of quasi-superheros (the "Floundering Four") fighting against evil ol' Broderick Slothrop amidst the factory-state (a Metropolis-like iteration of the Rocket-State with movable buildings?!
). Broderick, in the role of comic book supervillain, keeps trying to off Slothrop, but our hero has a lucky streak just wide enough to keep him alive.
Right off the bat, we see another image of the chessboard - the whole factory-state is laid out in a grid, and it's all A Game of Chess, as der Springer already informed us, and our movements are limited. Crucially, "Your objective is not the King - there is no King - but momentary targets such as the Radiant Hour."
(674) How can you win at chess when there's no King?
How can the land be restored and the cycle renewed if there's no King to die and be replaced?
Slothrop is joined by a truly slipshod lot: Myrtle Miraculous, the only one who seems to have actual powers; Maximilian, a suave Black club manager who can flow with all natural rhythms and thus able to navigate any scenario with ease, and Marcel, a mechanical chess player (an embodiment of the Mechanical Turk
, but crucially, one without the hidden human operator
. No hidden Grandmaster lurking inside Marcel here - nope, this android's the real deal.
This section includes one of my favorite quotes from the book: "Decisions are never really made
- at best they manager to emerge, from a chaos of peeves, whims, hallucinations and all-round assholery." (676) I can think of several times where I've been able to relate to that scenario all too well.
Their chances for success and failure are equal, but these opposing odds don't cancel each other out
- instead, the two opposing forces just create a "loud dissonance". The crew undertake some truly hallucinatory adventures through the Racketen-Stadt which I will not attempt to summarize, as that would be an exercise in futility. But we are treated to flashes of Slothrop, "Broderick and Nalline's shadow-child, their unconfessed, their monster son," (677) getting locked in an icebox, piloting a mobile building
through the grid-streets of the factory-state like a giant chess piece. One line really jumps out at me, here, that I think is important: "Their struggle is not the only, or even the ultimate one. Indeed, not only are there many other
struggles, but there are also spectators
, watching, as spectators will do, hundreds of thousands of them." (679) Makes me think of the "glozing neuters," mentioned earlier - of the masses of people who are just trying to live their lives, neither part of any conspiracy nor actively aware of being subject to one. Must be nice. At the same time, the idea of other, simultaneous struggles, is noteworthy - it brings to mind the concept of intersectionality, and how people realizing their unique, individual struggles share common sources, and common traits, which they can work together to fight.
We end this sub-section in an arena for these exact masses, where our heroes are on a stakeout, with Slothrop in full drag waiting in the Transvestites' Toilet for a message.
You may be wondering about the multiple instances of cross-dressing, in various iterations, throughout the book. Slothrop in drag and Blicero in a wig and merkin come to mind. One aspect, I'd say, is that it reflects a blending of two (as far as society is generally concerned) binary opposites. A crossing-over, a transgression against the status quo and an option other than 1 or 0.
Eliot, in his Notes on The Waste Land, wrote,
"Tiresias, although a mere spectator and not indeed a 'character', is yet the most important personage in the poem, uniting all the rest. Just as the one-eyed merchant, seller of currants, melts into the Phoenician Sailor, and the latter is not wholly distinct from Ferdinand Prince of Naples, so all the women are one woman, and the two sexes meet in Tiresias. What Tiresias sees, in fact, is the substance of the poem." (Emphasis mine).
Cue Crutchfield the Westwardman's world of only one of everything. Likewise, the women in Gravity's Rainbow often blend together, share traits or imagery. So do the men. The joining of the two sexes in Blicero, as well as Slothrop here at the end, is significant. The Low-Frequency Listeners
The introduction here of the character of Rohr, the Keeper of the Antenna, specifically as a Jehovah's witness, was odd. It's such a specific subsect of Christianity. Then we see - he heard a man on the radio, dying, asking for a priest. Rohr says, "Should I have got on and told him about priests? Would he've found any comfort in that?" (682). In what? I had to look it up, but when I did, it clicked - Jehovah's witnesses apparently do not have priests, because they are all ordained
. There is no separate priest caste in their church, and thus no Preterite/Elect division. In this section, we also learn that the Nuremberg trials are getting underway. Mom Slothrop's Letter to Ambassador Kennedy
You start to feel even more sorry for Slothrop as you realize just how terrible his parents apparently were. His mom cares enough to at least write another letter asking Ambassador Kennedy as to what the hell happened to their son, but her letter quickly devolves into drunken ramblings complaining about striking workers and managing to make an innuendo about Jack Kennedy while also dismissing her love of her sons. Oof. Maybe Otto was right with his conspiracy of mothers... On the Phrase "Ass-Backwards"
An entertaining linguistic debate between Säure and Slothrop on American idioms, specifically ones involving a reversal, as in the case of "ass-backwards". The section then slips into a story of Säure, in his youth, breaking into the home of a young woman, Minnie, who is unable to hear or pronounce umlauted letters, and thus manages to shout the word "helicopter" rather than "cute robber" well before the vehicle was ever invented. Her cry is heard by none other than a young aerodynamics student. The word is taken as a prophesy and a warning of the helicopter's symbol of the police state, with armed officers hanging out the sides, aiming down at their targets. My Doper's Cadenza
It begins with a serenade from Bodine, and then an exploration of the tenement building "Der Platz" that is home to numerous drug addicts, dope peddlers, and general ne'er-do-wells. They are building an anti-police moat
around the building, entirely underground so as to avoid detection, saving breaking through the street for the end. Shit 'n' Shinola
Another idiomatic diversion for Säure. A beautiful line is tucked away in here - "from outside, the Hall is golden, the white gold precisely of one lily-of-the-valley petal in 4 o'clock sunlight, serene, at the top of an artificially-graded hill." (687) This building, the Schein-Aula (Seeming-Hall), suggests "persistence, through returns of spring, hopes for love, melting snow and ice, academic Sunday tranquillities, smells of grass just crushed or cut or later turning to hay..." (688) Yet again, imagery of spring, of a return to life from the dead season of winter, of the cycle.
We return to the Roseland Ballroom, where shit 'n' Shinola do actually come together. "Shit, now, is the color white folks are afraid of. Shit is the presence of death, not some abstract-arty character with a scythe but the stiff and rotting corpse itself inside the whiteman's warm and private own asshole
, which is getting pretty intimate. That's what that white toilet's for.... that white porcelain's the very emblem of Odorless and Official Death." (688) Here Pynchon cuts straight to the point - the almost pathological fear of death and its connections to fears of blackness, excrement. Shit, Death, and the Word. Edwin Treacle hit on this back on p. 276 when he tried to show his colleagues at the White Visitation "that their feelings about blackness were tied to feelings about shit, and feelings about shit to feelings about putrefaction and death." The cycle of life is too organic, too messy. Better to replace carbon with silicon, to hide shit with porcelain, to treat people with dark skin as "other" or sub-human to avoid acknowledging that their non-European, communal ways of life were, in fact, totally natural. An Incident in the Transvestites' Toilet
Not King Kong, but a small, costumed ape comes up to Slothrop, who's wearing a Fay Wray dress while waiting in the bathroom for a still-unspecified message. We get a Miltonic blank-verse poem (thanks, Weissenburger!) about the movie King Kong, written in the voice of Anne Darrow (Fay Wray's character). It's honestly quite good - I love the line "in your own stone living space" - the internal rhyme there sounds really nice, and I like the riff on living stone / Livingston, both of which have popped up previously. In the poem, Darrow talks about when she was tied up, hung by the natives as an offering to "the night's one Shape to come" (689), echoing both Greta Erdman's scene in Alpdrücken and the Hanged Man card of the Tarot (willing sacrifice, sacrifice that prompts a return, a renewal of the cycle). Darrow says she prayed, "not for Jack," her suave costar, but for her director Carl Denham, "only him, with gun and camera... making the unreal reel / By shooting at it, one way or the other-" (689). Throughout GR, we've seen a film motif, and this really brings it home. The analogy of a gun to a camera, both of which make the unreal real (a camera creates films that interpret real life - the "unreal reel
", a gun makes death, which we've blocked away and tried to avoid, real and inescapable). The director is in control of the movie, the actors, the story, of how it works and what is told. Darrow ends by asking Carl to "show me the key light, whisper me a line..." - a key light
is used in cinema and photography to not just shed light on the subject, but to do so in a way that provides form and dimension to the subject and the scene. So Darrow is asking for the director to literally give her form and definition, to tell her what to say next.
This ape, though, isn't so Romantic as ol' Kong though, and is much more direct. It hands Slothrop an anarchist's bomb straight out of the comics pages, and takes off. Slothrop freezes and is saved by a helpful transvestite who takes the bomb and flushes it down the toilet. But it explodes anyway, sending geysers of water up out of all the toilets. A Voice comes out of he Loudspeaker informing everyone that it was, in fact, a sodium bomb that explodes upon contact with water. Tellls everyone to get the "dangerous maniac" who threw it. That was supposed to be Slothrop, but he was saved by his indecision and the kindness of a stranger, who is now set upon by the other occupants of the toilet. A Moment of Fun with Takeshi and Ichizo, the Komical Kamikazes
We now jump to a pair of comically-mismatched Kamikaze pilots stationed on a remote island well away from any conflict. One flies a Zero, the other flies an "Ohka device" which is basically a rocket-bomb with a pilot's seat. They get moonshine from their radarman, Kenosho, who mocks them daily for the lack of opportunities to fly to their deaths and who comes up with haikus that, while in the right format, really miss the heart of what a haiku is supposed to be. Streets
Back to Slothrop, now, and a catalogue of the streets he's traveled down and what he's seen. We get a meditation on the absurdity of army chaplains, who worked for the Army and "stood up and talked to the men who were going to die about God, death, nothingness, redemption, salvation." (693) And it does seem a bit absurd when you consider that the Army that employs the chaplains is the same entity sending the men off to die. We see a bus driver (perchance our maniac bus driver from earlier?) driving through town in the night, his passengers looking out the windows, their faces "drowned-man green, insomniac, tobacco-starved, scared, not of tomorrow, not yet, but of this pause in their night-passage, of how easy it will be to lose, and how much it will hurt..." (693) Going back to the Waste Land, the phrase "I do not find / The Hanged Man. Fear death by water." is symbolic of a death without return (drowning) contrasted to the sacrifice/return symbolized by The Hanged Man. These poor passengers, it seems, aren't to expect any return.
Slothrop also, at this point, learns of the bombing of Hiroshima from a discarded Army newspaper, the photo of the atomic blast placed in poor taste next to an image of a pin-up girl. The bomb's mushroom cloud is compared to the Cross, to a capital-T Tree. But which tree? Is this a meditation on the deadly, unforgettable knowledge of how to split the atom, or of the tree of life, with the citizens of Hiroshima as a sacrifice made... but to what? I'm honestly not sure. Would love your thoughts. Listening to the Toilet
As others have noted, this book in many ways is about the drug counterculture and hippie movement of the 60s/early 70s. This is the most overt in this section, in which we learn that listening for the cessation of the flow of water to the toilet in the pipes is a cue that a police raid is imminent - shutting off the water being a way to prevent the flushing of illicit substances. But it takes a special ear to hear the cessation
of a subtle, pervasive white noise. What if the sun, in fact, massive furnace that it is, emits a constant, low-level roar that is so incessant we don't even hear it? What if eddies in the current of the Soniferous Aether cause rare spots of true quiet, where the noise is no longer transmitted and anyone in that spot can hear their own heartbeat it's so quiet? Interestingly, there are "quiet rooms" designed to absorb nearly all sound, used for precise sound calibration. I remember reading that most people can't sit in one of those rooms for more than 30 minutes or so because it's literally so quiet that you can hear the blood flowing through your veins, and people have even reported auditory hallucinations as a result. But why this digression? Maybe because we need to be asking what other white noise is out there that we've become completely deaf to? I think Roger and Jessica found a pocket of this quiet, early in the book, where the "noise" of modern society and all its associated obligations was muted by the War. Witty Repartee
A return to our Komical Kamikazes, and a meditation on the ubiquity of the Hotchkiss machine gun across nations, independent of alliances. We get an image of a false King - an inbred idiot lying naked in a dumpster, attracting the attention of potential revolutionaries. But they can't decide if he's "a diversionary nuisance planted here by the Management, or whether he's real Decadent Aristocracy to be held for real ransom" (698). While the would-be revolutionaries are debating in the alley, sentries with the aforementioned Hotchkiss guns take positions on the rooftops, aiming down... Heart-to-Heart, Man-to-Man
A dialogue here between Slothrop and ol' Broderick, with dear old dad interrogating his wayward son about a modern electric drug. Slothrop reassures him that he'd never shoot raw electricity - no, they dope themselves with waves
. Major pre-Cyberpunk vibes here, with Broderick warning "Suppose someday you just plug in and go away and never come back?" to which Tyrone replies, "What do you think every electrofreak dreams about? .... Maybe there is
a Machine to take us away, take us completely, suck us out through the electrodes out of the skull 'n' into the Machine and live there forever.... We
can live forever, in a clean, honest, purified Electroworld-" (699). Matrix, anyone? Not to mention the waves of radio, TV, etc. and the simple, episodic, controlled reality they offer. Pleasantville also comes to mind, with all its commentary on the shows of the era. Some Characteristics of Imipolex G
We learn that Imipolex G is the first erectile
plastic, stiffening in response to certain electronic stimuli. The potential of a layer of controlling wires just under the outer layer of Imipolex, making it a second skin - a synthetic interface. Alternately, there's the potential to control it via a projection of "an electronic 'image; analogous to a motion picture." (700) My gods, I made it through this section... Section 68
Tchitcherine now, dealing with a spook, Nikolai Ripov, from the C
ommissariat for I
ctivities. His pal Džabajev has run off with "two local derelicts" (700) and is impersonating Frank Sinatra
and wooing the ladies of the Zone. We get the line, "While nobles are crying in their nights' chains, the squires sing. The terrible politics of the Grail can never touch them. Song is the magic cape." (701) - Seems another example of folks recognizing the game, the Grail quest, for what it was and checking out - deciding not to play and just enjoy themselves while the Elect lose sleep over the endless searching.
Ripov explains to Tchitcherine how "the basic problem... has always been getting other people to die for you." (701) Religion used to serve as an effective control for that reason - death isn't quite as scary if you think you're going to heaven. But modern society has moved on, and needs more secular sources of control, like a commitment to "History" as if you're part of some great narrative, sacrificing yourself for some imagined end-goal of what society is "supposed" to be.
Seems Tchitcherine was doping on Oneirine theophosphate. Wimpe, his dealer, argues that a man is "only real at
the points of decision. The time between doesn't matter." (702) Points man again - the moment of decision, of choice, that splits the future in two. Points of control. Contrast that to:
"Datta: what have we given? / My friend, blood shaking my heart / The awful daring of a moment’s surrender / Which an age of prudence can never retract / By this, and this only, we have existed." (The Waste Land, Part V: What the Thunder Said - emphasis mine).
Both are arguing that it's these key moments, irreversible junctures in our lives that make us real. Not what comes next, not what people say about us, just our
moments. Integrate those moments, run them fast enough (say 24 frames per second) and you might even approximate something close to a person...
We learn that Oneirine apparently leads to "the dullest hallucinations known to psychopharmacology" (703) - hauntings of the mundane, the almost-normal. Tchitcherine's Haunting
Tchitcherine hallucinates that Ripov is interrogating him, and he becomes fixated on the question of whether or not he was supposed to die. Seems like part of him wants to believe in life after death, in some hope for meaning, which goes against the Soviet doctrine and thus isn't exactly endearing him to those above him. Thankfully this is just an Oneirine haunting, except... wait, it's too real
- no subtle violations of reality. He tries to escape, but is outnumbered. But no execution for him here - just a reassignment to Central Asia. A cold and operational death. Section 69
"The dearest nation of all is one that will survive no longer than you and I, a common movement at the mercy of death and time: the ad hoc adventure." - Resolutions of the Gross Suckling Conference (706)
In other words, they seek a nation that does not function independently of its citizens
- one that is not some separate identity with a quasi-personhood (much like how corporations are legally "people"). Rather, a nation that is inextricably linked to the people and that will die when they do. No immortality, no denial of the cycle or death.
But poor Roger's still dealing with Jessica, and now with Jeremy, too, who he's at least amicable with. But he's struggling with their acceptance of the System, their embracing of it. Jeremy's all about reassembling the rockets and firing them, asking "What else does one do with a rocket?" (note how disassembling it
or at least not using the weapon
isn't even an option...).
Jeremy's even so kind as to invite Roger to a fancy dinner with a bunch of corporate bigwigs, including folks from Krupp, ICI, and GE, and hosted by one Stefan Utgarthaloki, whose name should be a giant red-flag that something's amiss with this shindig. Roger picks Seaman Bodine as his date, the two having struck up a rather theatrical friendship, dress in their absurdist best (Bodine in the mother of all zoot suits), and join the party.
We get some insight here into the nature of rebellions, and the danger of them not only fizzling out or failing, but of being co-opted as a tool to "help legitimize Them" (713). Of either dying or "living on as Their pet" - it brings to mind the corporate branding of "rebelliousness" as cool, as "a phase" that it's normal to go through and eventually grow up from. Treating the idealism of youth, the desire to make the world better and to fight against the problems of the system before you become numb to them, as a normal phase of life is such an effective way to neutralize it culturally. How many people have heard the phrase "you get conservative [i.e. more resistant to change] as you get older"? How many of us have seen youth-led movements being dismissed as examples of immaturity, for example? Between that and companies stamping their logo on it (hello, Hot Topic), it's a way to change the cultural narrative around any movement against the status quo to one that's dismissive, just accepting enough to let people burn off their energy and eventually fall into line. Because how else can you continue to live a decent life in a society that refuses to change? You either go build a shack in the woods somewhere, die, or acclimate to the system and just focus on being comfortable yourself, not constantly fighting for change. It's a depressing thought, and I'm sure Pynchon saw a lot of that attitude in the 60s. I have to wonder - do non-industrialized societies have "teenage rebellion" as a normal part of life? Is that a part of human nature, like we tend to think, or is it an explicit reaction to reaching maturity in a system that is anti-human and anti-nature?
Anyway, back to the dinner party - between the depressing, anti-social music (kazoos?!
) and the lavish dinner, things seem fine, but there's a plot against the Roger and Bodine. Fortunately a journalist, Constance, tips off Bodine that they might just be the main course of this feast, so Bodine cues Roger to begin the evening show - an absurd gross-out session that they planned in advance with the aid of now-deceased Pudding communicating via medium Carroll Eventyr. The pair recite an increasingly disgusting list of alliterative dishes, triggering "well-bred gagging" and guests to flee, though a few find it all quite entertaining. But it's enough to break up the dinner party and allow our heroes to flee. Note: If you made it this far, actually read all this, thank you
. Bloom warned me this was a longer section, and boy, he wasn't kidding. I think this is longer than some college essays I wrote... Damn fun, though, and I hope you've found my thoughts informative, interesting, useful, or if nothing else, sufficiently diversionary for a spell. I truly look forward to seeing what you other fine foax have to say on these labrynthine sections. Questions
- In the lightning-aficionado's "A Nickel Saved" excerpt, are there any other references or hidden ideas you can find? I have to think there are.
- What is the meaning of the windmill reflected in Blicero's eyes? How do you interpret the imagery in this scene in general?
- 175-Stadt. Oven-State. Hund-Stadt. Rocket-State. Factory-State. We've seen numerous examples of specialized micro-states across the Zone, experiments in different forms of society. What are your thoughts on these? Are they hints at ways to find alternate societies, or manifestations of humanity's tendency to divide by category and put of fences?
- In the "Shit 'n' Shinola" subsection, Pynchon connects Jack Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Tyrone Slothrop. What do you make of this intersection?
- In "Streets," the bombing of Hiroshima is presented as being similar to the Cross, "it is also, perhaps, a Tree..." - the capitalized "Tree" here could be the tree of knowledge, the tree of life, the tree from which the Hanged Man dangles, or perhaps something else. What's your interpretation of this imagery?
- In Section 69, we see references to the Albatross, famous symbol from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It's presented that Slothrop is the (now-plucked) albatross, but it's not clear who killed this bird, or who's wearing it around their neck. They? Any ideas?
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