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February 6, 2006

A most wondrous Labor-saving Contraption
Posted by Patrick at 08:18 AM * 72 comments

In the great tradition of this post-9/11 piece, Chris Bertram moves us one step closer to a world in which there will be no need for original weblog posts at all.

Comments on A most wondrous Labor-saving Contraption:
#1 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 08:41 AM:

. . .

#2 ::: Mike Bakula ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 09:53 AM:

Or, to save on postage;

Down with this sort of thing!

#3 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 10:04 AM:

xeger's post offends me.

#4 ::: Henry ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 11:28 AM:

The "post 9/11 piece" which started the great tradition was also written by a Timberite in a former life ...

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 11:54 AM:

All positions other than mine are dangerous and obscene and must be prohibited in the name of freedom.

#6 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 12:13 PM:

Since I believe in what is Right! and Just! and True! anyone who disagrees with me must me wrong, unjust, and/or mistaken.

And all right-thinking people agree with me.

#7 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 01:32 PM:

You can see I've been right all along by just who agrees and who disagrees with me, and by who pretends not to even notice.

#8 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 01:48 PM:

The "I am right, everyone else must be wrong" mentality is on par with the mental capacity of a five year old child. And yet, over and over again, people demonstrate their lack of mental development by forwarding what is essentially a "I am right, everyone else if wrong" mentality.

The ability to admit mistakes and wrongdoing on our own part is something that I think comes into development in teenagers. (not huge development, mind, but it becomes available on some level at least.)

Most political speeches leave me with the urge to reply "Oh, grow up", spoken from the point of view of an adult who does not relate to himself as perfect, and all who disagree as imperfect.

oh well.

#9 ::: Vardibidian ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 02:03 PM:

To extend Kip W’s point, and that of all right-thinking people, what’s truly offensive is the extent to which offense is taken by people when the offense is not sufficiently offensive, or alternately, when people fail to see the offense when an offense really is offensive. That offends me, as it does all right thinking people, who are only offended by what is truly offensive, that is, offensive things. I’m talking here about those people who, as Kip W says, have been right all along, and not on the one hand those thin-skinned people who are offended by things that are not offensive, such as inoffensive stuff, and on the other those who see no offense even in the most offensive stuff, such as that which is truly offensive.

And when I say offensive, let me be perfectly clear: I am not referring to those things which, although certain people claim to be offended by them, are by their nature inoffensive. No, those people and their so-called “offense” really offend me. They offend me just as much as offensive people do, when they say that their offenses are inoffensive, when they clearly are offensive, as you can tell by the offense I take. And when I say that something is offensive, I am specifically referring to its offense against right-thinking people, who are offended by offensive stuff, and not offended by inoffensive stuff.

No offense,
-V.

#10 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 02:05 PM:

The ability to admit mistakes and wrongdoing on our own part is something that I think comes into development in teenagers.

Ever seen John Wayne's She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, Greg? He plays yet another Cavalry officer, but older. There's a scene where a young officer apologizes for making a mistake, and Wayne responds:

"Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness."

I guess that says a lot about John Wayne and the other John Ford that they'd come up with a line like that for someone we're supposed to emulate.

#11 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 03:11 PM:

Modern america's fascination with teh old-west seems to be part infantile fantasy. As if good and bad were more clear, more black and white. It takes a certain level of fantasy to relate to the cowboys in the old west as the Good Guys when they necessarily had to have wiped out an entire population of native americans to get where they were. There was a John Wayne movie set in Texas. and they were being harrassed by indians. and John Wayne was the good guy and the indians were the bad guys. And the only reason it worked as a story was because the story started AFTER the indians had been pushed out, after the cowboys had set up their town, and brought in their cattle.

Put another way, it takes a certain level of maturity to look at ALL of history (and your contribution to the current state of things), rather than just focus on the part that is inconveniencing you now. Or, to put that John Wayne movie into perspective:

infantile: Those darn indians are harrassing us.
mature: Maybe it's because just five years ago, this texas town was their hunting grounds.

And being mature isn't being weak, either. But to a 5 year old, that's what it looks like, and it's practically impossible to tell them otherwise. What I haven't figured out just yet, is how to invoke a global growing-up movement. I'll have to get back to you on that.

#12 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 03:15 PM:

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is one of three movies based on writings of the Indian wars by James Warner Bellah ( stories collected as Massacre). The particular words quoted above are in the source. The context is one of small unit military command in Indian country in which to show weakness in command is too often fatal. Just the same the remark is made to Joanne Dru -

Olivia Dandridge: [after the massacre at Sudrow's Wells] You don't have to say it, Captain. I know all this is because of me; because I wanted to see the West; because I wasn't - I wasn't "Army" enough to stay the winter.
Captain Nathan Brittles: You're not quite "Army" yet, miss... or you'd know never to apologize... it's a sign of weakness.
Olivia Dandridge: Yes, but this was your last patrol and I'm to blame for it.
Captain Nathan Brittles: Only the man who commands can be blamed. It rests on me... mission failure!

In fact both in that culture and in the book and in the 3 John Ford/John Wayne movies characters both noble and ignoble demonstrate [t]he ability to admit mistakes and wrongdoing Consider the Henry Fonda Lt. Col. Owen Thursday lines from Fort Apache - I must rejoin my command as an admission of mistake and a form of atonement by his own lights. In the book "Rome Clay aka Pvt. John Smith" is given a story of his own in which his enlisted service (Airman Shaw style) in the cavalry that burned his own home and destroyed his family can be seen against his service as general officer in rebellion.

Doing the right thing, or the best you can, at some cost - consider the eventual family cost to the John Wayne character Capt. Kirby York (later Colonel) in Rio Grande frex - is much of the theme of the stories. Life in a world where shooting your own wounded was a reality (Bellah not Ford) is a little different and I don't think Bellah or Ford suggested we emulate the behavior of that society in this society.

Bellah like say David Drake can be seen as writing of war as he knew it in his fiction - considering memoirs as fiction ex thread Drake's first Hammer story is one Drake specifically describes as more or less true giving the name of the community where the Blackhorse actually did what the fiction describes Hammer's squadron as doing.

#13 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 03:34 PM:

they necessarily had to have wiped out an entire population of native americans to get where they were

- Not exactly in accord with the historical record. Lifestyle perhaps but hardly population.

FREX there are stories in Idaho of a milk/beef out of season for seasonal fish trade that worked out fairly well for both groups.

Just as decimate - reduce by 10% - so horrified the ancients that it entered the language as a synonym for devastate - and so we use it today for damage far greater than 10% -

So too did a relatively few deaths (not contesting the validity of "after the first death there are no others") enter history as great massacres. In Colorado the Sand Creek Massacre was about 250 deaths with many survivors - young at the time Bent, child of Fort Bent, included it in his old age memoirs and got some details wrong - the famous original Wounded Knee was about 150 innocent people. The Trail of Tears had at least 2/3 survivors and of course many stayed home and faced only normal perils.

#14 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 03:49 PM:

I don't see how "at least 2/3 survivors" can be described as "relatively few casualties". If the 9/11 attack on Manhattan had succeeded in wiping out half a million people, I don't think anyone would feel relieved that over 2/3 of the population survived.

#15 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 04:30 PM:

And even if it was relatively few casualties, the moral difference between a genocide and a failed attempt at genocide is relatively subtle.

#16 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 04:30 PM:

Weakness in command can be fatal, I agree, but I don't neccessarily see that having to translate into "to apologize is to be weak", unless it is possible to separate out "apologize" from "responsibility". A friend told me of a carrier captain who lost his command because one of his low ranking enlisted people committed suicide while on a six-month tour. Someone had committed suicide on the previous tour, and the captain had been told to make sure it didn't happen again. When it did, they took away his ship. Now, maybe he didn't have to apologize for it, but there is a concept of complete and total responsibility for everythign that happens under your command going on there.

I suppose it's the romantic view of war, never having to say you're sorry.

#17 ::: Alexis Allen ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 04:37 PM:

One of my worst character flaws is that I condemn the condemners. I am outraged by these outrageous people! People who judge, suck! My opinion is that everyone should shut up about their damn stupid opinions! It's true that outrage always simplifies an issue. I like to think I'm smart, but there is so much heavy-handed emotion out there on the TV and in the newspapers and online and I am so distraught by it all that I don't even realize how easily I'm put on the defensive.

Point is, Clark E. Meyers: you rock.

#18 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 04:39 PM:

After watching the Manhattan section of September 11 'live' into the small hours of a dark Sydney night, I was relieved to eventually read that less than 3,000 people (USians & others) were killed in those fires & collapse. I'd thought it would be thrice that.
Despite being compared to the number of deaths in the US from other causes, like gun-murders, car-crashes, etc, the "9/11" death toll seems to be one that still strikes deeply into the USian consciousness. Similarly, the percent of the population who died in the Irish Famine was smaller than I'd expected from the stories, but it still had a huge impact.

#19 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 06:07 PM:

This site has a goodly number of depictions of the Prophet Mohammed, both Islamic and non-Islamic, throughout history:

http://www.zombietime.com/mohammed_image_archive/

It also makes the interesting assertion:

Furthermore, when a delegation of Danish imams went to the Middle East to discuss the issue of the cartoons with senior officials and prominent Islamic scholars, the imams openly distributed a booklet that showed not only the original 12 cartoons, but three fraudulent anti-Mohammed depictions that were much more offensive than the ones published in Denmark. It is now thought that these three bonus images are what ignited the outrage in the Muslim world. The newspaper Ekstra Bladet obtained a copy of the booklet and presented the three offensive images on its Web site (though not in an easy-to-find place). All look like low-quality photocopies.


#20 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 07:02 PM:

"Not only am I offended by the current offense, but something vaguely reminescent of this once happened during the Clinton administration.

"And because you failed to be suitably outraged then, you have forever forfeited the right to be offended by all current abuses, forevermore."

(I get this version all the time from my wingnut pal.)

#21 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 08:44 PM:

Jim, a blog from the Telegraph agrees.

#22 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 10:12 PM:

Jim D: When Muslims in London (where the offending cartoons have not been reproduced) threaten terrorist attacks and call for the abolition of free expression (as happened this past weekend), we're moving to a new level of insanity. I would like to transfer to an intelligent species, if there are any openings.

#23 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 10:43 PM:

I would like to transfer to an intelligent species, if there are any openings.

Or reset the ethical constant considerably higher, before things get worse.

#24 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 05:09 AM:

I'm 2/3 surviving right now.

#25 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 08:49 AM:

1. Check out the high dudgeon in the Crooked Timber comments thread! Everyone seems to have read something different and highly malicious into his post.

2. The odd thing about "current America's fascination with the Old West" is that in the entertainment media, it's almost gone. Sure, some sort of neo-Western captures people's imagination every few years, but these days they're usually revisionist takes on the subject, aiming at either greater realism or some kind of subversion of the category. They never quite lead to a wholesale revival of the good-guys-and-bad-guys, stalwart-settlers-and-evil-Indians stuff that was all over fifty or sixty years ago.

Right now, in TV and movies, that kind of black-and-white storytelling is far from gone, but it's more the realm of police procedurals and secret agents. It's not so much John Wayne who's shaping attitudes as Kiefer Sutherland, who stumbles into a different torture-the-terrorist-to-stop-the-ticking-bomb thought experiment every hour.

#26 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 10:55 AM:

The Telegraph blog referenced by Marilee should be understood to be parented by the rightmost of the intelligent British newspapers (in US terms that's not rabid, but moderately right-wing).  For the other extreme (moderate left-wing), see the Guardian.

#27 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 11:31 AM:

My people are being persecuted by the forces of Evil. It's so unfair!

But at least we have Right on our side.

#28 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 12:04 PM:

Found while unpacking some of my old office bumf: a postcard that was written but never addressed and sent. The message reads:

Sounds to me like you've gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick entirely; common sense suggests we need to talk. I'm game. How about you?
I have no idea who it was originally meant for.

#29 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 12:35 PM:

Sounds like a very offended writer, Teresa. I've heard that happens sometimes between them and editors.

#30 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 12:43 PM:

If anyone would get hold of the wrong end of the stick, it would be my dog. But I don't know that he ever reads his mail. He generally just chews it up into a big, sloppy mess.

#31 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 12:47 PM:

There is no wrong end of the stick for a dog, Greg.

#32 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 12:52 PM:

Teresa, if I found that among your effects, I would assume that you wrote them out in lots of a dozen, and kept them around just in case.

Lots of people who need their sticks reversed. And occasionally a carrot placed in their hands as well.

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 12:57 PM:

Wasn't there a joke on Are You Being Served? that involved the wrong end of a cattle prod?

#34 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 01:04 PM:

The postcard, written but never sent, was unearthed from the ruins of the apartment building some six centuries after the Ten Minute War.
The man who unearthed it from its shroud of molten glass and shattered brick was a travelling friar from the fishing villages of the lower Hudson, on his way to begin his studies at the Great Monastery of St Lawrence.
After finding the postcard, he instead rode into the west, towards the Ash Country, spreading the news that, even in the hours before it, people of good will had been attempting to prevent the Ten Minute War by calling for a final dialogue.
He planned to use the words on the postcard - "Sounds to me like you've gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick entirely; common sense suggests we need to talk. I'm game. How about you?" - as the foundation of a new gospel of reconciliation and tolerance.
As he rode west, his faith attracted followers tired of the harsh doctrines in which they had been instructed. The words were embroidered on a great white banner which his acolytes carried before him on bamboo poles, the fringe at its lower edge brushing the brims of their hats.

Sadly, on the Baron's Road outside Sandusky, Ohio, he was ambushed by a marauding band of Walter M. Miller fans, and his body thrown into the lake.
So perish all who defy prior art.

#35 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 01:15 PM:

There is no wrong end of the stick for a dog, Greg.

The end where my hand is holding the stick is definitely the wrong end.

#36 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 01:20 PM:

Come to think of it, I recently came home to find a message on my answering machine that said Sounds to me like you've gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick entirely; common sense suggests we need to talk. I'm game. How about you? The only problem is that they never identified themselves, and I have no clue who left the message.

It wouldn't be so annoying if it didn't happen about once a week...

#37 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 01:44 PM:

PJ: That would be nice too!

#38 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 02:01 PM:

When the technology of interspecies mental transference was first introduced to humanity hardly anyone could have foreseen the psychic virus to be unleashed that brought down two galactic civilizations and paved the way towards interstellar dominance for a humble trading consortium.

#39 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 02:07 PM:

So that's why the pitcher and everybody all laughed at me.

#40 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 02:52 PM:

Clark E Myers, on decimate;

I have no support for this, and rather doubt its accuracy, but I have been told that the horror of decimation was either:

a. Roman soliders lining up people in rows and columns, and methodically killing every tenth one. The creepy-factor was that your fate depended on where you ended up in line by chance, a sort of pre-industrial Russian roulette*

b. The experience that those soldiers had when every tenth buddy they had marched with across half the known world was dead after a battle. (Considering that at some points the Roman army included "recruits" from fairly far northern europe, and marched pretty darn far south at times, this would have been a pretty severe unravelling of one's social group.)

Anyway, I'm too tired to fact check today.
-r.

*hmm. That's probably an offensive expression, isn't it?

#41 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 03:09 PM:

Decimation:
I've heard that for the soldiers, the worst part was having to kill someone in their group, because it was one out of ten in a squad. It wasn't a punishment used too often, obviously, or it would demoralize the troops in a fairly literal way.

#42 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 03:21 PM:

There was a scene in The Fall of the Roman Empire where the troops screwed up so their general has them line up on top of an aqueduct. He walks behind them then starts knocking one of every ten soldiers off the aqueduct.

#43 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 05:37 PM:

line up on top of an aqueduct. He walks behind them then starts knocking one of every ten soldiers off the aqueduct.

By any chance, was the aqueduct named "Ribbon Creek"?

#44 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 06:00 PM:

I'm a day to late for this to follow the appropriate comments, but I'd just like to say that I miss Bloom County, purely for Opus the Penguin and the "Offensensitivity" cartoon.

Well, that and the dandelion patch. I want one of those right now.

#45 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 06:53 AM:

"Ribbon Creek", Greg?

#46 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 07:57 AM:

"An Occurrence at the Owl Creek Aqueduct", possibly.

#47 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 10:05 AM:

I'd like to say that after reading some of the comments at Crooked Timber, then reading the comments here, I like it here.

But I'm still offended by the use of "Russian roulette", which is a dire insult to those of us in the Soviet casino industry. I can't understand why so few of you so-called "liberals" don't understand that this sort of cavalier dismissal of entire sectors of humanity shows your basic disregard for the Enlightenment values you purport to espouse.

(Yeah, I could make it big time in the winger troll industry.)

#48 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 10:58 AM:

Michael: (Yeah, I could make it big time in the winger troll industry.)

::pats hand:: You keep trying, dear.

#49 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 11:09 AM:

russian roulette:

from wikipedia
If the game did originate in real life behavior and not fiction it is unlikely that it started with the Russian military. The standard sidearm issued to Russian officers from 1895 to 1930 was the Nagant M1895 revolver. The design of the Nagant makes it impossible to spin the cylinder and randomize the position of the cartridge, making the gun unsuitable for the game.

<ObTroll>
See what happens when gun control gets out of hand?
</ObTroll>

#51 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 11:29 AM:

Thanks, Greg. Back to your original question, I think that, in the movie, the General went thru the decimation because of some of his troops running away instead of standing their ground in battle. But it's been a long time since I saw the movie. The gist of it is that this decimation involved one of every 10 soldiers. Of course, that may simply be a case of the movie making assumptions and not of actual research.

#52 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 11:54 AM:

I thought I read somewhere that Roman soldiers were under some interesting constraints to prevent them from running away, etc: First, to run away was an offence punishable by death. Second, soldiers were required to kill on sight any soldier who attempted to run away. Lastly, if a soldier did NOT kill on sight any soldier that attempted to run away, that lack of enforcement was itself punishable by death.

Together, this created a massive incentive to stand and fight. And for everyone to make sure everyone else stood and fought. It was not possible to look the other way when someone took off. If the man next to you tried to run, you had standing orders to kill him or be killed yourself.

I don't know if this is historically accurate, but it makes for interesting stories.

#53 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 03:13 PM:

Well, wikipedia has a page on decimation which at least cites its sources. The key thing to remember is that Rome lasted a long time, and that by the time of the empire "decimation" may have had the same loose meaning that it has for us. The Romans speculated on etymologies too. (I like the fact that the page says at one point that decimation "remained popular" in the Empire - not the phrase I would have used.)

Roman discipline wasn't just about running away, though. Sallust tells a story - or rather, has Cato the Younger tell a story - in which a Roman general kills his son for engaging the enemy (and winning!) before the order had been given. This may not have actually happened, but there were plenty of Roman stories about the moral problem of military discipline.

Roman soldiers certainly got a long way into the Persian empire - they even left graffiti there for us to tell. I wasn't aware that they were believed to have got to China, but I don't see why not. There is even a famous description of the Roman Empire by a Chinese writer, which I can't link to right now because it apparently sets off the "questionable content" alarms on the ML server. But you might find it by searching for "Wei Lue" or "Da Qin".

#54 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 03:28 PM:

It's been a long time since I read my Caesar (or acccompanying materials) but as I recall, decimation was applied to very few offenses. Mutiny, or refusal to follow the commander's orders, was one of them.

The shield wall and related Roman tactics depended greatly on unity - if anybody broke and tried to back away, an obvious weak point would appear for the enemy to assault and try to "roll up" the line.

Collective punishment such as decimation may have been used to further enforce unity among the troops by making everyone feel at risk for any desertion or mutiny of any of their comrades, but according to what I've read were only rarely invoked even then because of their harshness.

#55 ::: Doctor Slack ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 04:44 PM:

Michael: I'd like to say that after reading some of the comments at Crooked Timber, then reading the comments here, I like it here

You have to admit, though, there's a certain beauty in the way some members of the CT trollosphere took it upon themselves to provide illustrations of the point. Lots of "I'm offended by this post for mocking my offendedness" -- it's really quite entertaining.

#56 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 04:57 PM:

The template certainly makes trolling easier. I especially like Vardibidian's version of it: taking deep offense that someone has taken offense is an art that was practiced on me extensively yesterday. There is a short version which can be summarized as, the real problem here is that you are a bitch. Since I am now fully in touch with my inner bitch, I am no longer bothered by people taking offense at me taking offense. I have transcended.

#57 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 06:52 PM:

I am now fully in touch with my inner bitch. I have transcended.

What is the sound of one bitch slapping?

Zen koan meets smackdown.

Someone opened a can of whoopass on my waterbuffalo...

#58 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 07:10 PM:
There is even a famous description of the Roman Empire by a Chinese writer, which I can't link to right now because it apparently sets off the "questionable content" alarms on the ML server. But you might find it by searching for "Wei Lue" or "Da Qin".

If you would email me the URL I'll look to see why it's banned.

#59 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 08:10 PM:

Well, better every tenth man than the Spartan alternative: you got to redeem your honor by advancing in front of the troops...

#60 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 09:08 PM:

The discussion of Westerns reminds me of a few years ago when a local theater arranged to show a series of Westerns made in East Germany where the settlers/cowboys/army weren't the heroes: the "Indians" were. They even flew in the male lead who had been made a member of a couple of the tribes some years earlier for the opening of the first film. Unfortunately, the local right-wingers did huge amounts of screaming about commies trying to pollute the minds of innocent, God-Fearing Seattle folk which tended to drive off possible viewers. I wish I hadn't been sick so I could have seen a couple...

#61 ::: Doctor Slack ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 09:18 PM:

The Chinese reference to the Roman Orient (Da Qin) is in the Hou han shou in the texts section of the Silk Roads Seattle website.

#62 ::: coffeedryad ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 12:42 PM:

candle: Interesting to see that cropping up in Roman army discipline too. There's a bit in The Art Of War where a promising young officer gets beheaded for advancing before the order, also.

#63 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 01:47 PM:

What is the sound of one bitch slapping?

I like that.

#64 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 01:53 PM:

Regarding trolling and the saving of labor, the best way to save labor on trolling is not to do it in the first place.

Does there exist anywhere on the Internet -- surely there must --an essay on why trolling isn't a good idea for the troll? Real soon now I'm going to write an essay on the art of comment section interrogation which I expect will cover some of the same ground. But has someone already covered this from the perspective of the troll?

#65 ::: Doctor Slack ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 02:11 PM:

KC: But has someone already covered this from the perspective of the troll?

The problem is that there really isn't much by way of "the perspective of the troll," because the number of people who actually see themselves as such is small. Purely disruptive trolling is usually what the other guy does; in fact, some of the most obnoxious trolls I've ever seen saw themselves as sworn, virtuous enemies of trolldom.

Incidentally, since you've mentioned it in a couple of places, which particular thread brought this issue to the fore for you?

#66 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 02:24 PM:

Boromir's exultant announcement "They've got a cave troll!" with the immediate prospect of slaughter, strongly implies that he had spent time moderating www.visitminastirith.com.

#67 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 02:59 PM:

The problem is that there really isn't much by way of "the perspective of the troll," because the number of people who actually see themselves as such is small. Purely disruptive trolling is usually what the other guy does; in fact, some of the most obnoxious trolls I've ever seen saw themselves as sworn, virtuous enemies of trolldom.


Doctor Slack, I'm shocked, shocked, I say. Have you never heard of the time-honoured practice of getting drunk and flaming someone?

I've never tried it, myself,* but I know people for whom it is the online version of tipping someone's privy—admittedly anti-social, and obnoxious, but curiously satisfying. The perpetrators know they're trolling. They revel in it. Most of them figure the folks they're trolling had it coming. It usually ends with someone getting banned.


*I don't drink. Instead, when I'm having a truly bad day, I hang out on blogs and in LJ communities whose politics I don't like, and ask intelligent questions. It seems to annoy people, and it makes me feel better. I call this trolling when I do it. Of course, I too am a sworn, virtuous enemy of trolldom.

#68 ::: Doctor Slack ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 03:26 PM:

jennie: Have you never heard of the time-honoured practice of getting drunk and flaming someone?

Uhhhh, no, actually I hadn't. I stand corrected! It probably didn't occur to me because I'm rarely near both a drink and a computer terminal at the same time. Luckily.

when I'm having a truly bad day, I hang out on blogs and in LJ communities whose politics I don't like, and ask intelligent questions. It seems to annoy people, and it makes me feel better. I call this trolling when I do it.

Intriguing. Usually, I get into this mode when a random issue catches my interest -- whether it's a blog I usually agree with or not. Not a "bad day" thing, but a "grew up debating politics around the dinner table" thing; I find I often don't have good instincts for realizing that people have different thresholds for that kind of thing. So, that could be trolling depending on the perspective... but it's not something I'm ever conscious of doing as such*. I suspect a lot of the people who seem like "trolls" to me could have a similar dynamic going on.

(* Well, except when I run into instances of genuine net.k00kery, like the odd person who threatens to beat one up or drive one from the Interwebs with their mad hacker skillz. Taunting those is always tempting, and that's definitely trolling...)

Of course, I too am a sworn, virtuous enemy of trolldom.

As are we all! :)

#69 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 03:49 PM:

Doctor Slack, I suspect the difference between asking questions when an issue catches one's interest for the sake of debate and trolling for illogic in communities one knows to be ideologically different from one's own lies in the intent and the desired outcome.

I like a political debate as much as the next gal, but when I'm in a shit-disturbing mood, I'm not trolling in order to advance the debate or introduce reason or new ideas to the discussion. I just want to get right up someone's nose, and watch them stagger around trying to come up with responses to my reasonable questions, or refutations to my facts.

Then, if their arguments are specious, I point out their rhetorical flaws.

I try to do it with panache, irrefutable facts, respectful language, and sound logic, but I'm still doing it in order to be a pain in the arse. So, I rather suspect it's trolling.

(No, I'm not really proud of this pasttime. In my own defense, I will say that I have never said "you folks," or any variant of it.)

#70 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 04:36 PM:

I just want to get right up someone's nose, and

ow, ow, ow! someone make the image in my head go away, please!

#71 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 09:29 PM:

Dear Madam or Sir,

You may be right at that.

Sincerely,

#72 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 09:37 PM:

Or, alternately,

Dear Sir or Madam,

I regret to inform you that some unscrupulous individual has hacked your email account and is using it to disseminate, under your good name, opinions which can only be characterised as deranged, vicious, unsupportable damned lies such as can only bring you into disrepute.

I tell you this because I know you will wish to take steps immediately.

Sincerely,

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