Tuesday, April 26, 2011


This semester I've spent a lot of time talking about my IMC class, my Global Media class and had a ton of posts about my Personal Growth class.  The one you've heard next to nothing about is my history class.

If you recall, I started out the semester rather dismayed about my history class.  What I didn't understand then, but know better now is that the exotic character that is "Cleopatra" is truly only one of the more fascinating characters in history and as much as I'd like for it to be all about equality and female empowerment, it's not, it's about how we came to our present state of being.

Dr. B has taken me on a whirlwind trip through history, not so dissimilar from the one I took with Doc T two semesters ago through world literature.  It's on the same kind of parallel, both classes started with the Epic of Gilgamesh and has wound through history like a very selective snake looking for prey.

Being a selective snake through history is a good thing.  It lets you take in tasty, exciting morsels while still getting the good nutritional value of what's there, leaving the not-so-savory on side.

The one part I enjoyed most was the trip through classic Greece and the Roman Empire.  Greece was a hoot.  My favorite lecture (which I gave Dr. B. an apple for...yes, I actually had a really good apple in my bag that I was intending to eat during my break between classes), anyhow, my favorite lecture was about the Athenian navy.  Yes, that's right, Dr. B. characterized them as Athenian shake-down artists.  I could just imagine an Athenian Eddie Izzard getting off a boat after landing on a small Greek city-state and saying, "We're here for your contribution to the great Athenian democracy...what?  You don't want to pay us?  Well, we'll just put your babies on spikes!  With the little city-state guys going, "No!  Wait!  We'll pay you in...monkeys and...jam."  Ok, if you're not a fan of the big Iz...oh you have to see this...

Ok, now it doesn't hurt that Dr. B. is a huge fan of Eddie Izzard.  He and I both go bonkers over his sketch in "Dress to Kill" called "Empires."

Now imagine me sitting in class while Dr. B. is lecturing about Greece, the Spartans, Rome, listening to the lecture but hearing Eddie Izzard in my head.

Then we moved on to the America and the American Revolution.

But the title of the course is "Citizens and Slaves" meaning that if you take a walk through history, slavery was at the root of democracy.  Crazy right?  Yeah I didn't get it at first either until we hit Sparta and most of classical civilization where these slave societies (not based on race...Dr. B. was adamant that we remembered that fact) were built on the idea that citizenship is built on freedom, meaning that you have a say in how things go, you feel more inclined to take part.  Ok, stop for a minute...does that mean we'd be more involved in politics if we actually FELT we could make a difference?  Ponder that for a minute while I wind us back on topic.

Anyhow, as Dr. B. would say, "We've read our Plutarch," (who by the way was a great storyteller).  Remind me one day, I'll tell you about Marc Antony and the whole Cleopatra thing.  Yes, she spoke seven languages and was one of the first women to have political pull, but Marc Antony was the real story, did you know he used to dress up as a beggar and run around the streets just to have fun?  Yep and he was a drunk too.  Big story with Marc Antony is that he was the ultimate failfest when it came to judging character.  He'd give away power to people who didn't even begin to deserve it or have the common sense to use it wisely.  Because he was such a twit, Marc Antony got his not-so-happy ending in a very famous way.

While we were looking at all of the Roman guys with Plutarch, there was a fella he wrote about named Tiberius Gracchus...his whole deal is that he came back from war and found slaves working the Roman fields and tried to put the kaibash on it by bringing new land reforms in the senate.  Remember, the Roman army back then was filled with farmers who would buy their own gear and trudge off to war; when they got done being soldiers, they'd go back to the fields.  Well, where's a soldier supposed to go if he comes home and his farm has been taken over by a greedy senator and his job has been outsourced to slave labor?  Yeah, that was Tiberius' whole point.  What were they supposed to fight for if they have nothing? Well, his grand oratory in the senate didn't go over very well.  Ever tick off a senator and have them feel like you're taking money out of their pockets?  Well, that and a combination of bad hand signals marked the end of poor Tiberius Gracchus, he got his in the middle of an assembly hall.

After those guys, we talked about Augustus.  You know that Octavian guy that Roddy MacDowell played in Cleopatra (you know, the one with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton), right?  Ok, well, it seems as ol' Augustus was a pretty brilliant guy, and not half as wormy as Roddy MacDowell played him in the movie.  Augustus was actually pretty cool if you go back and look at the historical accounts.

(Side note, I watched all of those big historical epic pictures with Mom when I was a kid.  Thank goodness I did, because when we talked about Marc Antony, I saw Richard Burton in my head...ironic casting being that Richard Burton was an alcoholic too...)

Then after the classical world, we had to go through Christianity.  Here's the only thing I'll say on this:

We went through ancient Sumeria...looked at their gods...marked them off as myths.
We went through ancient Greece...looked at their gods...marked them off as myths.
We went though ancient Rome...looked at their gods...marked them off as myths.
We went through the hebrews and so forth...looked at Christianity...marked it off and said, "Oh look!  There are the dark ages!"

I'll pause for a moment for you to stop laughing...

Still waiting.

Still waiting.

Ok, better now?  As the Big Iz would say...

"Um yeah..."

After stumbling around in the Dark Ages, we headed off to the Renaissance.  Great thinkers like DaVinci and the whole gang of really great guys...who said, "But wait!  There's more to the story besides what Christianity says..." as they run away from the gang trying to burn them at the stake..."oh wait, maybe we should play nice..."

Then came early modern Europe...and more Eddie Izzard as he asked..."Do you have a flag?"  Yes, it was lots more of that combined with me and mom spending weeks talking about Martin Luther and his views and things that can only come from actually growing up in Lutherville.  Yes, my mom grew up Lutheran, makes a nice bonus for understanding why ol' Martin nailed that document to the church door.

Then came the British Constitutional Revolution also known as "The Glorious Revolution."  As we wound around and looked at the politics of the day, it all resulted in the moment where we got ol' King John signing the Magna Carta (remember my post on Ridley Scott's Robin Hood?  There ya go...Magna Carta time).  Watch the movie again and look at the big picture.  Girls, don't stare at Russell Crowe, he's over.  Move on.  Basically, Robin Hood Begins is also known as the story of how we got the Magna Carta on the books.

Then we started Colonial America.  Ok, I'll only say one thing.  Did you know that George Washington was basically the Cary Grant of his day?  Yes, believe it or not, and he had a thing for uniforms, seems as he designed his own and showed up to an event dressed in it...now I'm sure Eddie Izzard would love to jump in here and call George an "Action Transvestite" considering George wore a wig...but I digress.

We spent part of one morning looking at the grand estates of the founding fathers, from Mount Vernon to Montecello and all of the Greek Revival architecture of the day.  Yep, oh so fun.  Pretty houses really.

Up to then, I was understanding how the whole slavery thing in the classical world worked.  Ok, not great, not happy about it to begin with, to be honest I was overjoyed when I read the account of a slave uprising that basically chewed up and spit out two very cruel slave owners.  I was all about that.  I cheered when I read that.  No one is cruel to another human being without being held accountable in my book.  Being cruel to another human being should come with a "stupid should hurt" clause at the bottom.  If you're dumb enough to be cruel to another person, it should hurt like hell when karma comes back around to bite you in the keester.

After the whole classical world and it's slave systems, I really didn't want to deal with it anymore, but what's the title of the course?  "Citizens and Slaves," so guess where we headed to next...slavery in the colonies.

Ok, not happy about that.  I'm sorry, I'm one of those people who looks at another human being and SEES them as another human being.  I can't look at people like they're nothing, I'm far too empathetic for that and on top of that I believe everyone has their own nutritional value so why wouldn't they be valuable human beings to empower and help them reach their potential?  Alas, I had to read horrifying accounts of what happened to African-Americans on the slave ships.  I nearly lost my lunch a couple of times.  I'm aware of what happened to them from previous history classes, but the graphic detail we got was a little too much for my very weak stomach.  The whole idea of not valuing another human being as a unique individual really made, and still makes, me ill.

Then, after that, we got a treat...Dr. B. is awesome...now I already described him as a hybrid of Stephen Fry and George Harrison, right?  Wrong...think Stephen Fry and David Bowie.  LOL!  That's right, Dr. B. has a soft spot for David Bowie as he started our lecture on the founding fathers with THIS on the huge lecture hall projection screen.

Hit the button to play the tune, you'll need it in the background for the rest.

I literally was sitting in my seat jamming down to David Bowie at 10 a.m. on a Thursday morning.   Is that cool or what?  AWESOME!  I sat in my seat happily jamming down, singing along and bouncing to the beat because, come on, who DOESN'T love David Bowie in one incarnation or another?  Personally my favorite David Bowie moment was him in the yellow suit in the video for "Modern Love," but Dr. B. says Bowie looked too skinny in it.

And for the last two weeks we've been doing just the American Revolution, which I found out today that Dr. B. has a soft spot for Ben Franklin while my fave is Thomas Jefferson because he was a great writer.  We, of course, revisited during lecture the fact that George Washington was a great dancer, that John Adams (his day was started with a clip of Paul Giamatti's version from the mini-series on HBO) was a bitter guy who just wanted to be remembered throughout history for his thinking (don't worry John, you made it), Thomas Jefferson had a serious lack of a sense of humor, Ben Franklin had a way with women and diplomacy, Alex Hamilton wrote with the Classics in mind and little Jimmy Madison was a master of committees.   What's funnier in all of this is that Dr. B. stressed that the founding fathers weren't demi-gods and we shouldn't think of them in that regard, that they were men that were of a unique time that just rose to the top.  Personally, I think it was all a matter of the right guys at the right place at the right time.  I think it's a unique temporal event, almost like someone went back in time and pulled those guys together on purpose.  It's bizarre and something that is eerie as hell to me.  But, with George's charisma, John's drive, Jimmy's ability to handle committees, Alex's eye on the past and Thom's angelic prose styling, it enabled a bunch of pissed off guys to clearly say what they wanted out of a government.

Anyhow, today we did "The drafting and ratification of the Constitution" which is outlined in my textbook written by a guy named Morgan...who by the way writes history like a romance novel.  Once you get started on Morgan, there's little to no chance you can put him down.  So I get to spend what little waking time I have left tonight reading so I can get in on the discussion on Thursday.

Sufficed to say, I've had a blast with history.  Andy, as I like to call Dr. B. when he's not looking, is so sweet.  He really is a nice guy and I get up every Tuesday and Thursday saying to myself, "Ok, time to go listen to Andy."  However, it's kind of tough sometimes.  He's got the exact same rich timbre and soothing cantor of speech as the Ex did, and for those of you who have ever heard my Ex speak, oy, you've really got to want to listen and learn if you're going to stay awake, and it's not because the material is boring or his lecture is bad, he's a really wonderful teacher, but because his voice is so calm and soothing that you feel comfortable and safe, it's like a warm and fuzzy blanket, once you get curled up in it, odds are you'll be out for the count in no time flat.   So what I do is pack an extra granola bar in my bag for during lecture.  If I feel myself slipping off, I open up the granola bar and start munching because here's the thing...I want to learn this stuff, it's fun (when you can find the fun parts) and more importantly, what is history if we don't observe it and try to learn something from other people's mistakes so we don't have to learn the hard way?  On top of that, Dr. B. is a really great guy and he deserves for me to pay attention, so I've sat many a morning just waiting for him to break off into some funny historical antecdote, cheering him on in my head, thinking to myself, "Come on Andy!  You can do it!"  and sure enough, he breaks into something funny and I'm right back in the action.

So, there it is, my semester in history.  While it might not be the world's most eye-popping subject matter, it really is worth it to understand it.  Besides, it's fun to imagine all of the movies, the comedy bits and all the other stuff during lecture because people have taken the time to learn their history and are wise enough to record it and make fun of it so we can laugh but learn at the same time.

By the way, my favorite historical person, Marcus Aurelius (who by the way is known as the last of the "Five Good Emperors") got a whole day devoted to him and his fellow stoics in lecture.  YAAAAAY!

As Socrates said, "The wisest man in the world knows that he knows nothing."  We covered him too.  hehe.

But, the one thing I've missed out on telling you about is the fact that every semester I try to at least go and see each of my professors during office hours once a semester.  It tells them I want to learn and I'm interested in what they have to say.  It also makes it so I have an easier time asking questions.  Well, today, I stopped in to Dr. B.'s office during office hours to visit with him.  He's really super sweet, we talked about the Myst Universe and the relyimah (slaves) of Terahnee (which I thought he might want to know their story is out there and relates to what we've been studying all semester), one of my favorite games, Caesar IV (it's a city builder that I relax with) which I think is a must for a guy who has his doctorate in the Classics, and Schoolhouse Rock's "America Rock" which features The Preamble, Shot Heard Around The World and so forth.  Ok, well, you and I remember Schoolhouse Rock, we're American kids who spent every Saturday with a pillow and blanket in front of the television.  Dr. B. didn't get that as a kid, he was raised in the UK, which I found out they didn't get Saturday morning cartoons back in the 70's.  So I had to tell him all about how cool Schoolhouse Rock is.  But, he did know Blind Melon's version of "Three is a Magic Number."

In total, I sat and visited with Dr. B. for a good hour, which was cool because I was glad I did because he said, "No one ever comes to see me during office hours."  Awwww!  I felt so bad for him, so it made me doubly glad I went to talk to him.  Maybe I can persuade him to help me study for my final.  hehe.   See what I mean?  Everyone deserves to share their nutritional value and no one should ever be neglected or denied the opportunity.

So, just for Andy, today's song of the day is "Heroes" by David Bowie.  Thanks Dr. B.!  I've had a blast.  Anyone who can pull together Bowie, Izzard and Athenian shake-down artists into a semester of work is aces in my book.

For all of my Crackmores...we're headed into Finals Week along with the finales of my Global Media presentations along with the culmination of a semester's worth of Ad/PR learning,  the big show, my presentation of my ad campaign for IMC.   After we deal with IMC, it's going to be time for the big Personal Growth paper that I'll be posting for you to see.  It's been a long road in Personal Growth this semester and I want all of you in on the finish with me.   During the second week of May I'll be wrapping up the semester in my usual style, expect it around May 10.  Until then, I'll be posting more good stuff, so stick around.

One more time, give a cheer for Dr. B., he totally deserves it, he's the hero of the day.

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