Posting issues

It seems a 50/50 proposition lately that anything I write will remain up. Posts have been vanishing completely. I wrote one last night about my worries for the coming semester, and it’s gone. I may have to find new hosting if this continues.

Anyway, my babbling, which was mysteriously deleted, concerned techniques for running a night class, which I have to do this semester for the first time. I’m pretty tired and sore about losing such a long post, though, as well as there not being any more episodes of Deadwood; I’ll see if this little missive survives, then discuss both of those subjects.

Gratianus the Lily-Livered

So I’ve been replaying Total War: Barbarian Invasion again like I said I would, as the Western Empire, and aiming for 100% Christian conversion. Destroying pagan temples makes it so much easier to get the empire running smoothly before the hordes show up. I planned to get rid of all the pagan generals I had, too, but something weird happened.

I had 5 of them in a group with their heavy cavalry personal guard, sitting around in a forest in Germany waiting to get pummelled, and a huge Frankish army attacks the poor bastards at the end of a turn. It was about 2300 Franks vs. 244 pagan Romans. Those who were about to die were led by ‘Gratianus the Lily-Livered’ with +5 command, but about -11 morale for all troops on the battlefield as his traits included being intensely depressed, a craven coward, and tax adjuster for the empire. I figured I’d play it out, just to see him get slaughtered.

He didn’t. Gratianus the Lily-Livered WON. Halfway through the battle I thought I was channelling friggin’ Ender Wiggin.

The Franks came out in a huge line and I threw the 5 generals at the right end of it. They killed a couple hundred archers and spearmen pretty quickly – I thought ‘hey, this is going pretty good’ and then I saw the Frankish general’s cavalry and attacked that. All 5 units swamped and killed him in seconds. About 1200 spearmen were closing in, so I hightailed it out of there to the edge of the battlefield.

My 5 very lucky units were ‘very tired’ – one good charge by a fresh cavalry unit would have broken them – but the Franks didn’t have any cavalry to chase them with – just one unit, which was the new general, apparently. He hung back and took his time forming another big line, and sat on the far left flank. I had plenty of time to wait until the five were rested, and I waited a little more until the Franks got within javelin range. Then I had the five race around the end and run the poor Number 2 general down.

After that it was easy hit and run. They had 400 or so heavy infantry, but their morale couldn’t have been great after seeing the other 2000 guys around them get picked off unit by unit. When I finally charged the last 4 groups, they broke almost immediately.

What’s even crazier is that despite killing 2128 Franks with only 100 losses after being outnumbered 10 to 1, Gratianus didn’t even get +6 Command. I think the game should at least remove the ‘Craven Coward’ trait after a showing like that, especially when him and his personal guard, 44 strong, killed nearly 500 Franks by themselves during at least 8 charges.
Oh well. He’s my craven coward. We’ll see how he does against the Huns and the Vandals.

10 to 1 odds was apparently what Caesar was accustomed to when he fought in Gaul, but this battle was in 370. The Franks should have been much tougher. Then again, the game is not a total stickler to historical accuracy – the ‘Total Realism’ mod, which I’ve been meaning to try, apparently addresses this.

Objectivity – yeah, right

My stomach churns when I read newspaper articles like this one, where the NYT continues its never-ending slide into squirrelly neutrality. They’re so obsessed with putting up a detached, professional front when they’re players in the political game, too. The end result is the default “Paid for by the RNC” sticker, which they never bother to attach.

C’mon. Either don’t bother reporting on what amounts to knee-jerk spin-doctoring, or properly paint Bush and the GOP as shallow opportunists that enjoy taking credit for “good news” that they’re not even remotely responsible for. Both options have more journalistic spine than this article’s lofty hand-wringing, which shamelessly front-loads the Republican position and basically hands them a free breather without having to work for it.

I’ve never trusted newspapers much by themselves (and especially the NYT, ever since they used Chalabi as a source for WMD info) Something resembling truth only emerges after reading many different takes on the same subject, which is the reason I like Google News.

But I think my disillusionment really stems from politics always coming down to “politics,” rather than useful, constructive debate or the execution of careful, thoughtful planning. I used to be fascinated by all the mudslinging, the candidate handling, the canned speeches and the widespread hypocrisy that makes up American politics.

I guess I’m not as easily entertained anymore, and my concept of rhetoric as a neutral tool has lead to dark thoughts. Do the writers and editors at the NYT know what their precious objectivity costs at the end of the day? Probably so, which makes the entire arrangement even worse.

Am I saying the old wall between the editorals and the news should just be torn down already? I don’t know. The web has certainly given advocacy journalism a boost in the last 5 or 6 years, showing that a concerned citizen with a blog can make a difference, and that one can “serve the public interest” without having to be neutral.

Perhaps newspapers still hold on because of the false comfort zone that being a “paper of record” creates. I personally think all journalists should feel free to advocate and editoralize. It might not improve reporting much, but it would at least demolish the facade of objectivity. Then again, if papers lose their “authority”… but that’s something that I, at least, don’t see them as currently possessing.

Trip

Today (or, rather, yesterday, as it is 12:06 am) I went down to Starkville, MS to see H’s sister, J, have her coating ceremony at the veterinary school at MSU. It’s a tough school to get into, and I was envious, as was H, of the tour. They have a huge cross-shaped room there with desks and lab benches for each student, and a ceiling-mounted tracked pulley system, so they can swing horse carcasses or somesuch past everyone for easy viewing. J will have a blast there.

The school also has a really horrific color scheme – the auditorium was in a rainbow hue, if rainbows only contained yellow, red, and brown, such as those found in popular renditions of hell. Some of Blake’s watercolors come to mind. And, much like my beloved Patterson Hall here at the U of M, the entire college is made of concrete blocks that are then rigorously air-conditioned into sterility. Ah, the South.

My current stress level is remarkably even-keeled. I am behind on most everything, but curiously not as concerned as I really should be about any of it. Part of it is that I have decided not to kick myself over being slow to revise my NT metaphor paper, which I have hopes of being pub #2. Over the last week, I have set the ideas on a little mental scale, and the paper comes out as solid – I have no doubt that it is publishable – but it still needs more heft.

It’s chiefly an argument based on the text and barely contains any synthesis, so I feel a bit out of depth. I simply don’t feel comfortable with citing less than 7 or 8 pages of sources. Citations offer a certain ethical buoyancy that I have come to appreciate. Fortunately, my secret weapon, interlibrary loan, has been activated, and a book or two later I should feel better about the paper. It probably won’t go out until early Sept, though.

Gibson

I’m not in the mood to make a long formal agrument. But I thought I should write something briefly about the bruhaha around Mel Gibson.

I am puzzled over the media fascination with Gibson trashing Jews while stinking drunk. I bet several hundred other intoxicated individuals in North America did exactly the same that night and with greater pseudo-eloquence. Does the ADL really need to issue a press release?

Good grief. I haven’t seen the NAACP issue a press release decrying Steve the Drunk’s racist monologues on Deadwood, which are 20 times more nasty than anything Gibson said while plastered, not to mention E.B. Farnum’s even worst racism and anti-Semitism from the same show. They crank out vitriol every week and get paid for it; historical bigotry is subsidized for your entertainment. Not that I’m complaining – it’s educational.

Now, in the last few days I’ve seen a little more John 8:7 than the initial stone-throwing. That’s good. But I’d still like to see more attention to the DUI than the inane jabbering afterward, though. Drunk driving kills over 16,000 people per year and injures over 300,000 in the U.S. alone. That’s worthy of media scrutiny.

There’s real anti-Semitism in the world. A lot of it. But even if Mel Gibson thinks Jews blew up the Twin Towers on the Day That Will Not Be Mentioned, he’s still not even on the radar of people worth worrying or thinking about. He’s just an easier target than America’s various allies of convenience, which have populations teeming with such inane assessments – Saudi Arabia and Egypt, please stand up.

My impression of Gibson is that he’s had some indoctrination from his dad (whose bizarre beliefs are well documented) that fortunately didn’t take; but it’s still there, a poison simmering just below the surface, waiting for a lack of inhibition – a poison that will take another generation or two to disappear. I hope his kids are ok.

As for the Passion movie… one of the more regrettable aspects of Christianity is that it has a certain amount of latent or at least suggested anti-Semitism that can be read into it – especially in John. This is tempered, at least in the gospels, by the stressing of Jesus and his disciples’ innate Jewishness.

But any movie made about Jesus’ death is going to have to include that a Jewish prophet, false or not, was crucified and no one stopped the Romans from doing it, including the apostles and the Temple – and also that Jesus’ thinly veiled anti-Roman rhetoric was a huge political problem for an occupied Jerusalem. Killing Jesus prevented (or, rather, post-poned) a revolt that would have been ruthlessly crushed, as the one in 66.

But there’s also the point that Jesus, in stating over and over that the events surrounding his death were already determined, essentially absolves anyone from wrongdoing as they had no free will. If it was all meant to happen, and he did die for humanity’s sins, then it’s more than a little hypocritical for a Christian to blame the Jews present for something they had by definition no control over and are forgiven for anyway, as necessary actors in a deity-ordained play. And of course, by extension, it’s even more ridiculous to blame people who just share the same religion, or descendents.

Is it clear that I don’t grok anti-Semitism?