Been There, Done That

commentary on many different thoughts

Month: October, 2014



Happy Halloween!

More NCAA Idiocy

I thought the NCAA had reached point non plus ultra with the suspension of the Georgia athlete for taking money for autographs.  It’s worse.  The NCAA is now backing a Georgia legislator’s bill which allows colleges to sue anyone who coerces athletes into breaking NCAA rules.  It allows colleges to sue for lost revenue caused by self-imposed disciplinary actions including suspensions that occur when players receive improper benefits.


Unless someone held a gun to the kid’s head and forced him to sign their football, or threatened his family, how on earth can you coerce a college athlete into signing something?  And wouldn’t you think that the athlete had the sense to go running to his coach when someone did threaten him at gunpoint????  Come on, legislators.  You define these college scholarship athletes as student-athletes, and you have claimed publicly that they are college students.  A college student is supposed to be, by definition, old enough to be able to distinguish right from wrong.  And more to the point, from the time these youngsters were old enough to even dream of an NCAA scholarship, the requirements, restrictions and prohibitions were drilled into them.  If they’re not smart enough to be able to recognize an illegal payment when they see it, they don’t belong in college in the first place.  They’re wasting space that could be more profitably used by a more worthy student.

Yes, the people who offer improper payments to student athletes are in the wrong, but this particular offense has TWO sides, and the colleges need to accept responsibility for the sins committed by one of their own (they awarded the athletic scholarship in the first place, didn’t they?)

A New Stadium?

While Atlanta looks to be losing one of its gems (the Georgia Shakespeare Theatre, a repertory playhouse) due to lack of funding, and while the ASO (Atlanta Symphony Orchestra) is in lock-out ditto, the Atlanta Braves and the Falcons are building new stadiums.  (Stadia?)  The current stadia are apparently not modern enough to attract fans, not enough sky boxes and luxuries.  Don’t hear anything about the fact that the teams aren’t worth the paper their tickets are printed on …

HOWEVER, if you really want a stadium built for the ages, take a page out of Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:

The Coliseum, built in the reign of the emperor Titus late in the first century (before you ask, previously entertainments were offered in the Circus Maximus, which is not the Coliseum) has to be seen to be believed.  Let’s take a look at Gibbon’s description:

“It was a building of an elliptic figure, five hundred and sixty-four feet in length, four hundred sixty-seven in breadth… rising to the height of one hundred and forty feet.  The outside of the edifice was encrusted with marble (some of that still remains) and decorated with statues.  The slopes of the vast concave, which formed the inside, were filled and surrounded with sixty or eighty rows of marble likewise, covered with cushions, and capable of receiving with ease about fourscore thousand spectators.  Sixty four vomitories (for by that name the doors were very aply distinguished – that’s Gibbon’s comment, not mine) poured forth the immense multitude; and the entrances, passages, and staircases were contrived with such exquisite skill, that each person, whether of the senatorial, the equestrian or the plebian order, arrived at his destined place without trouble or confusion.”  (I wish)

To continue: “They were protected from the sun and rain by an ample canopy, occasionally dawn over their heads.  ..” and the boxes of the VIPs were partitioned off with mosaics, beautifully painted scenes, and surrounded by gilded cords.

If I’m not mistaken, the new stadia which are currently under construction for the use of our rather disgusting professional sports teams, have nothing on the Coliseum.

Fall Frolic


It’s Autumn.  One of my favorite seasons.

I also like winter, spring and summer …

Fall has Fell


Pretty picture for the day.

Who Cares?

1. On the front page of the Atlanta paper for the last couple of weeks has been guess what?  Ebola? Syria? ISIL? Ukraine?

Wrong on all counts.

Taking center stage in the “most important things in our lives” category is the NCAA’s hissy-fit about a University of Georgia athlete who took money for an autograph. Gee. Apparently this is not the first time this has happened.  Double gee.

I have many, many issues with this.

1. “Student-athletes” is an oxymoron and a waste of oxygen.  The athletes who take football scholarships to fund their college education are not getting a college education – they are participating in the NFL’s version of baseball’s farm team system.  Instead of calling it what it is, the NFL is getting free training for its budding professional players.  And the NCAA is milking this for all it’s worth.

Under NCAA rules, a “student-athlete” gets $100,000 education, room and board in exchange for his “valuable” services on the field.  He may accept NO other forms of payments (cars, drugs, girls, endorsement contracts, payment for autographs all have to wait until he’s formally part of the NFL (should he be that lucky). The NCAA sort of polices this – mostly by one school squealing on another about violations (true kindergarten-recess behavior).

Quick fix:  get these “student-athletes” out of the collegiate system and into a farm league where they belong. Alternately: hold “student-athletes” responsible for the same curriculum and grade-point standards to which their less-fortunate brethren and sistern are held. No special-ed classes, no private tutors (unless they pay out of pocket for them), no “just let it slide” attitude from the head of the Alumni Association so that a star player can play even though he hasn’t shown up for class all year and missed the final.

2.  My gripe number two:  paying for celebrity autographs.  Period.  I see this at DragonCon every year, where the Big  Name Stars (stage, screen, television, print) charge exorbitant fees for the privilege of an autograph or a photo op.  Even more so with sports stars, who won’t sign anything unless the fan  forks over a wad of bills. Yes, in a free-market economy the law of supply and demand rules, but still!!!

What irritates me most is the fact that WHO MADE THESE PEOPLE FAMOUS?  Who put money in their purses?  Why, the fans who bought tickets to the movie, to the show, to the game.  Where do the actors and players think that their retirement funds came from?  And to have the gall to demand yet more money for the privilege of having their autographs?  Bah humbug.  I vowed long ago never, ever, to pay someone to sign something for me.  If they weren’t gracious and savvy enough to realize that my wallet contributed, however little, to their success, then I’m not interested. The writers (and the one star) I respect enough to ask for autographs give them freely.

Which brings me to the hypocrisy of the whole situation:  this college student (well supposedly, although judging from the reports I get from local educators he hasn’t taken much – if any – advantage of the “student” part of “student-athlete”) asked for payment for an autograph.  My first question is: how can you be so stupid?  You know the NCAA rules on taking payments.  Second:  how can you be so arrogant  as to assume that you’re above the rules, or that you wouldn’t be caught?

Although, the more I think about it, res ipsa loquitur.



The Norman Conquest radically changed the face of the English landscape.  Prior to the Conquest, the Romans and Saxons had built fortifications of earth and wood.  They tended to be more pen and wall than anything else.

The Norman castle, designed to impress and intimidate, these imposing structures were homes for the new nobility and a base from whih the Normans could effectively rule the country. The early castle keeps consisted of a motte (a man-made hill for defensive purposes) and a barrier wall of wood,  bailey.  Once native resistance to the Normans declined, these castles were rebuilt in stone and contained living querters, a great hall and a chapel.  Many of the Norman castles still standing in England (and they really are impressive) still show the outlines of the wooden earlier constructions.

In 1086, to tighten his hold and finally obtain a reliable record of just exactly what he’d gotten his hands on, William instituted a great, nation-wide survey, known to history as the Domesday Book.  It gets the name from the peasants’ belief that, with the Conquest and the ensuing turmoil, the end of the world couldn’t be far behind.

The survey was a door-to-door, hut-to-hut, hovel-to-hovel, count of every person and animal (when that could be done) in the kingdom.  The Domesday Book still exists and is on display in London (I believe – at least that’s where I saw it) and is an eye-popping experience.

Eve of Battle

Matthew Paris (someone my faculty advisor thought was an imaginative historian but one of the few chroniclers whose works still exist) and William of Malmesbury (slightly more reliable) both indicate that the English and the Normans spent the night before battle according to “their own national custom”.  Note that William of Malmesbury was sort of an embedded journalist with the Norman forces – according to other sources he was a monk in the tail of the Conqueror’s army, other sources say that he was miles away and was reporting on hearsay. Whatever.

Anyhow, the English spent the night before the battle without sleep and with plenty of drinking and singing.

The Normans spent theh night confessing their sins and saying their prayers.

On the morning of the battle, the English sharpened their axes and marched out.

The Normans received the sacrament and headed ut in ranks of infantry and cavalry.

Thought you might find this interesting.



Once William, Duke of Normandy, had succeeded in vanquishing the English at Hastings, he set out to tighten his hold on the rest of the country.  Reasonable thought.  Instead of marching straight to London, he took time to capture the major southern ports.  Dover surrendered without a fight.

While at Dover, a large number of William’s army went down with gastroenteritis.  William also fell ill and the mobile portion of his army camped at Canterbury (that, incidentally, is a city you should put on your bucket list.  It’s crawling with history and literature and the cathedral where Becket was “martyred” – T.S. Elliot “Murder in the Cathedral” – is well worth the visit.)

Thus do sanitation and sanitary practices rear their ugly heads.

More Normans

One possible reason why Harold was defeated at Hastings in 1066 was that he had a lot on his plate.

One would have thought that fighting an invader on home turf would have given home-court advantage to the English.  Also, the fact that the invasion came in by sea – and by sail – should have given Harold some time to prepare.  Sailing vessels with heavily armed soldiers are not exactly stealth bombers.  There were, however, other problems.

Harold was busy in York putting down a series of insurrections and invasions by King Harald of Norway.  The Norse landed in Scotland, found allies there, drove their way into England and on 20 September 1066 fought a pitched battle just outside of York – Fulford Gate. They then proceeded to burn the city of Scarborough to the ground.

on 25 September, King Harold (not Harald) arrived from London, put up a good fight, and felled Harald (not Harold).

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Normans land unopposed (everyone else is busy elsewhere) on 28 September.  On 2 October, Harold (not Harald who is dead) left York and headed for London.  They arrived in Hastings on 13 October, which in itself is a remarkable feat.