Most recent update:2/1/2004; 11:11:15 AM

 Tuesday, January 27, 2004

CHATTER: Maybe a Rant ... Megasites, Blogs, and Classics

The 'biblioblogs', as I call them -- Jim Davila's PaleoJudaica, Mark Goodacre's NT Gateway, Torrey Sealand's Philo of Alexandria blog, and Stephen Carlson's Hypotyposeis (that reminds me, I have to update my sidebar) -- have been engaged in a rather interesting interblog discussion of the desireability of the existence of a megasite (or sites) for New Testament/early Judaism and the logistics associated with such an effort. It might be useful to point out that the 'megasite' model they seem to be proposing already exists for Classics, but the thing that tied it all together disappeared, apparently due to lack of funding. There are piles of extremely useful Classical sites, of course, such as the Perseus Project, Lacus Curtius, the Latin Library, Forum Romanum, as well as numerous pages of more specialist interest like the Cicero Home Page, the Petronian Society's Ancient Novel site, House of  Ptolemy, the Stoa and so on.

What tied these all together was the Argos search engine -- now defunct. It was a limited area search engine which had 'editors' and searched just a specific group of sites which had to be nominated etc.. It was initially useful, but increasingly seemed to give page after page of hits of dubious relevance as it grew in scope. It 'went out of business' due to 'lack of resources'.  Surely the technology exists now to revive such a concept and make the 'megasite' idea a rather easier thing to put together than it might seem.

That said, the major danger of the megasite concept comes when sites change location (e.g. a professor moves to a different university and takes his stuff with him or her) or name -- most search engines don't have the ability to recognize that a site has moved (a case in point is my own website from years ago ... until rogueclassicism began, my new domain hardly appeared in Google (a great disincentive to publish things as regularly as I do in rogueclassicism), while the old one continues to get hits). It would also be useful if there were some way to incoporate the Wayback Machine into regular searches or have a facility to automatically check the Wayback Machine if a page came up 404.

The other major problem with the World Wide Web -- and this, after more than a decade of proving its usefulness for research -- is that 'the guys in charge' of academic tenure committees still seem to be reluctant to accept a website as a 'publication', no matter how much is put into it (I'm not sure if this is the case in New Testament/Biblical/Near Eastern studies but it does seem to continue to be the case in Classics). Until it is, it will remain largely something delegated to grad students to do.

What I'd really like to see the web used for is to provide a sort of forum for virtual conferences. Ages ago, when listervs were the latest thing, I had proposed that the format could be used to create a sort of group commentary of some ancient author. For example, a poem of Catullus could be posted and all the folks who were well-versed (groan), as it were, in Catullus could contribute to an ongoing commentary. Something of the sort did get started at the Stoa in regards to Cicero, but doesn't seem to have made any progress in a long time (and I can't find any reference to it any more). Similiter, I once proposed the medium could be used for vetting 'papers in progress', as was being done in other disciplines at the time (I had seen some scientific website which did this). It was met with the usual 'what a great idea' response that I've come to expect from the Classics community but very little else ... no offers to host, no offers to participate, etc.. I've come to the conclusion that if it isn't something that will enlarge one's CV, it won't be taken seriously by scholars.

I now think the listserv model was somewhat flawed, but the existence of blogs has changed the paradigm greatly. It would be a fairly easy thing for someone to set up a Movable Type blog and put into place the sorts of thing I had once proposed for a listserv environment. I might even take it a step further ... we've just had the APA meeting in San Francisco. There were plenty of very interesting panels which I'm sure were well attended and probably could have generated much more discussion than the time allowed. Imagine if all conferences set up a post-conference blog for each paper that was presented. The paper could be posted and discussions could be filtered through an editor and posted in a chronologically-sensible order by an editor. If the papers in question were destined for print, perhaps when the print version went to press, the blog version would be replaced with an abstract, but the discussion could remain. Wouldn't that be a great thing for those folks who couldn't make it to the conference or a particular session? Wouldn't the mere existence of such a thing on the web be possibly the best example of outreach that the Classics profession could do? And if scholars made the effort to take such efforts seriously, surely tenure committees and the like would 'come around' to considering this to be publication worthy of being considered for tenure.

I still think the group commentary has merit. On the Classics list someone recently proposed setting up a site of some sort wherein profs could make textbook recommendations -- again, the blog paradigm works well for this.

If there are any Classics scholars (perhaps grad students?) out there who can convince their fellow conference participants to participate in an experiment of this sort, I'll gladly set it up. If there is a group of profs who want to try a group commentary, ditto. If they want to do the textbook thing, ditto again. Drop me a line.

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CHATTER: Thymos in the National Review

The National Review has an interesting bit of ClassCon in a piece by Mackubin Thomas Owens about John Kerry and various myths associated with the Vietnam War:

The first cliché is that atrocities were widespread in Vietnam. But this is nonsense. Atrocities did occur in Vietnam, but they were far from widespread. Between 1965 and 1973, 201 soldiers and 77 Marines were convicted of serious crimes against the Vietnamese. Of course, the fact that many crimes, either in war or peace, go unreported, combined with the particular difficulties encountered by Americans fighting in Vietnam, suggest that more such acts were committed than reported or tried.

But even Daniel Ellsberg, a severe critic of U.S. policy in Vietnam, rejected the argument that the biggest U.S. atrocity in Vietnam, My Lai, was in any way a normal event: "My Lai was beyond the bounds of permissible behavior, and that is recognizable by virtually every soldier in Vietnam. They know it was wrong....The men who were at My Lai knew there were aspects out of the ordinary. That is why they tried to hide the event, talked about it to no one, discussed it very little even among themselves."

My Lai was an extreme case, but anyone who has been in combat understands the thin line between permissible acts and atrocity. The first and potentially most powerful emotion in combat is fear arising from the instinct of self-preservation. But in soldiers, fear is overcome by what the Greeks called thumos, spiritedness and righteous anger. In the Iliad, it is thumos, awakened by the death of his comrade Patroclus that causes Achilles to leave sulking in his tent and wade into the Trojans.

But unchecked, thumos can engender rage and frenzy. It is the role of leadership, which provides strategic context for killing and enforces discipline, to prevent this outcome. Such leadership was not in evidence at My Lai.

But My Lai also must be placed within a larger context. The NVA and VC frequently committed atrocities, not as a result of thumos run amok, but as a matter of policy. While left-wing anti-war critics of U.S. policy in Vietnam were always quick to invoke Auschwitz and the Nazis in discussing alleged American atrocities, they were silent about Hue City, where a month and a half before My Lai, the North Vietnamese and VC systematically murdered 3,000 people. They were also willing to excuse Pol Pot's mass murderer of upwards of a million Cambodians. [the whole thing]

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CHATTER: Oh ... never mind

This just came in the scan under the headline "Roman Gladiator Wins Trial":

Roman Gladiator displayed fitness to resume racing with a win at the Gore trials on Sunday.

Wow ... the gore trials were on a Sunday; can't wait for the main event on Friday ... [source]

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GOSSIP: Yet Another Alexander Movie? reports that there is yet another Alexander the Great movie -- or maybe trilogy -- in the works:

Newcomer Sam Heughan will play the title role in Macedonia's Alexander the Great, producers Ilya Salkind's biopic of ancient Greece's famed conqueror. Canadian director Jalal Merhi is helming the film.

The project, with an original screenplay by Dan Skinner, takes a look at the coming of age of the heroic Alexander from his youth in Greece to the time he is named regent of the land after proving himself worthy of succeeding his demanding father, King Philip of Macedonia.

The producers hope to make a trilogy of Alexander's life, exploring his formative years, romances and legendary battles.

cf: The Hollywood Reporter via Reuters

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ante diem vi kalendas februarias

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CHATTER: The Good Old Days

A rogueclassicism reader (and another Canadian blog owner!) saw this snippet in an opinion piece in the Telegraph  and passed it along (thanks Richard!):

It is petty bureaucratic interference and pointless law-making of which the seller's pack is a prime example that people find most galling. But what, they ask, can we do about it? Ministers have promised for years to reduce the burden of regulation, but have failed to deliver.

John Staddon, a behavioural neuroscientist, wrote to suggest that for every 10 words of new legislation there should be a repeal of 10 words of old. An even more enticing proposition came from David Thomas of Carmarthenshire, who pointed to the practice used by Zaleucus at Locri, one of the earliest Greek colonies in Italy, at around 660 BC.

According to the historian Gibbon: "A Locrian who proposed any new law stood forth in the assembly of the people with a cord around his neck and if the law was rejected the innovator was instantly strangled.''

I've always been a fan of the Locrian system ... it probably has applications far beyond the legislatures of the world, such as, say, departmental/staff meetings, so-called "task forces", anything requiring a "mission statement" to get underway, etc..

5:23:50 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

NUNTII: Latin Alive and Well (still)

The latest 'Latin-is-alive-and-well piece (I think this might be the one mentioned on the Latinteach list yesterday ... I was a bit too quick on the delete key):

Teachers say students who study Latin have higher SAT scores and a better understanding of history and culture.

"The improved SAT scores, that's a known fact," said Zee Ann Poerio, who teaches Latin to elementary students at St. Louise de Marillac school in suburban Pittsburgh. "The hidden treasure is that it just gets kids so excited and wanting to learn about other cultures, other people and other ways of life."

Lindsay McCarty, a senior at North Hills High School and president of the school's local chapter of the Junior Classical League, said fellow Latin students are dressing in togas, enjoying Roman-inspired banquets and competing in athletic, artistic and academic events at an annual statewide convention.

"We're celebrating Roman history," she said. "It's so much fun."

According to the U.S. Education Department, the number of high school students enrolled in Latin nationwide rose by more than 18 percent from 1976 to 2000. Allegheny had more than 13 percent of the state's 13,700 high school Latin students in 2002-2003.

Terry Klein, one of five Latin teachers at North Allegheny, said she'd tired of hearing that Latin is dead. Nearly 15 percent of the district's total secondary enrollment is taking Latin.

"That's just a bum rap that people are not actively speaking Latin," she said. "They speak Latin in France. They just call it French. They speak Latin in Spain. They just call it Spanish. They speak Latin in Italy. They just call it Italian now."

"If you look carefully at English, approximately 65 to 75 percent of what we call English is actually Latin or Greek," said Lawrence Gaichas, dean of the department of classics at Duquesne University.

In the 1960s and 1970s, foreign languages were no longer considered a priority for American students, Gaichas said, and that led to the decline of Latin instruction.

"You don't need to speak it to get on a subway or to find the ladies room, so apparently it had a lack of utility," Gaichas said.

What it lacks in such usefulness, it makes up in intellectual demand and the richness of its literature, Gaichas said.

"It won't make you a better steamfitter, but it might make you a better person," he said. [Nepa News]

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AWOTV: On TV Today

11.00 p.m. |HINT| The Sunken City
The ancient Roman city of Ostia was once a vital seaport. Yet it
died a slow, painful death. This documentary explores the reasons for
its demise and looks at the abandoned wasteland today.

HINT=History International

4:59:44 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

Click for Athens, Greece Forecast

Click for Rome, Italy Forecast

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