atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#3937: I'm Masta G Julius Motherf--in' Caesar, bitch!

Burying the lede again: Mrs. Fungus bought, several months ago, a dongle which is supposed to let her iPad run an HDMI display, with the idea of watching some stuff from HBO GO on the blab slab in our family room. She wanted to watch Downtown Abbey but when that wasn't available on demand, we started Lost and she ordered the dongle.

After Lost was done, we hunted down the dongle and tried it, and it almost worked. "Almost" because I could get the TV to display video from the iPad until I put it down, at which point the display would go blank and no amount of fiddling with cables would get it back unless I picked up the iPad again. (Sound would stay on, but not the video. Whee!)

Downtown Abbey wouldn't play on the 'slab, in any event, because it's "protected". That's the lovely interoperability standard the MPAA and RIAA have managed to saddle us with, so if you want to watch your show streamed from the Internet on anything other than a 9" screen you need a dedicated media server. *sigh*

So Mrs. Fungus decided to try Rome, and that is where I had my best success: it would play on the 'slab, as long as I was sitting next to the TV and holding the iPad and carefully not moving.

Dongle? Cable? Who knows why? I tried two different HDMI cables with similar results, so it wasn't that. The dongle probably sucks, but I gave up after twenty fruitless minutes of trying to make it work. What I do know is that the 'slab in the family room--which came from Mrs. Fungus' apartment--was a display model, so it's entirely possible that it might not be 100% in the electronics department. (I do suspect that it's the same model Toshiba that has the problem with power supply capacitors going bad, so that one's probably going to be on my "honey do" list someday.)

...since the dongle didn't work, we watched Apollo 13, and then we started watching Azumanga Daioh; and partway through last week a package came for Mrs. Fungus from "fulfillment services" which turned out to be the box set of Rome.

Now, when that series was originally being broadcast, I didn't have access to HBO and didn't care to. According to the information I had on hand, it was some kind of soap opera set in ancient Rome and was (I assumed) full of ahistorical sex and violence that would fit in just about any setting.

What I did not expect was a mostly historically accurate retelling of how Gaius Julius Caesar became the first emperor.

...and so I have been seriously enjoying this series. Not just because of that, but because of the details that keep cropping up. Beseiged by the hoi polloi, Atia is planning how her family will commit suicide when they inevitably break in; but when the noise goes away and they cautiously peek outside, the crowd has dispersed. There's graffiti on the doors and walls, and I laughed because I could semi-understand what it meant: "Atia has sex with everyone" and "Atia gives blowjobs", more or less.

Graffiti shows up here and there all over the series, and it's accurate because this is probably what Rome actually looked like when Caesar was taking power. Unemployment (because slaves are cheaper than employing citizens), poverty, lawlessness, crap littering the streets--not at all the image we have of Rome, in other words. But also? Colorfully painted walls (rather than bleached limestone) and intact buildings.

But then last night I finally got a good look at the calendar they were using, and I said, "Wait a minute! Isn't that the Gregorian calendar?"

--so today I looked it up on-line, and it turns out the calendar in the series is accurate. When Julius Caesar was seizing power, the Numa calendar was in effect, and that's the one they show in the series.

Who knew our 12-month calendar with its wonky day structure went back that far? Certainly I did not, not until just now. ("30 days hath September, April, June, and November. When short February's done, all the rest have 31." And what did that sound like in Latin?)

Anyway, so far this series has been very good, and it's worth watching.

But there's a scene where Caesar's lover slaps him, so he slaps her back, twice, and twice as hard.

Me: Bitch, I'm Julius Caesar! You don't slap me!

Mrs. Fungus: AHH HA HA HA HA

...somehow it morphed into "Samuel L. Jackson as Julius Caesar!"

"Bitch, you don't slap me! I slap you! I'm Julius mothafuckin' Caesar!" And then I started making wisecracks about "the G man" and "Gangsta Caesar" (because his first name was Gaius) and so forth.

This also touched on what happened when we were in Stratholme the other night. Excrypta got a nifty new belt (Thuzadin Sash) and I wanted to put it on before continuing, but of course you can't swap equipment when you're in combat. The main combat had ended but before I could swap belts, the other players in the instance had gotten into a fight with "plague roaches" from a trap.

Me: Damn it, I just want to put on my sash!

Mrs. Fungus: (Chef's mother's voice) Lemme put on my sash!

Me: Dayum! They all attackin' bugs an' shit, an' I just wanna put on my SASH.

Mrs. Fungus: AHH HA HA HA HA HA....

Me: *snerk*

This will probably get us branded as racists. *sigh*

* * *

Ann Barnhardt is migrating to a real blog! Now what's my excuse? I said, around #4,000, I'll be moving to a real blogging platform and confining my whining and WoW and anime stuff to the LJ. You'be been warned.

* * *

Speaking of racism, Advice Goddess talks about the soft bigotry of reduced expectations.

The LA Times has a story up about a black kid who got a better than a 4.0 GPA in public school, and who is now struggling in college. I would wager that one reason he's strugging in college is because it was even possible for him to earn more than a 100% grade in the first place.

In his book Expanded Universe Heinlein wrote an essay about grade inflation and the ability of students to spend four years in the California state university system, earn a degree, and not learn anything whatsoever. This was the 1970s; I doubt it's any better thirty years on.

In the example given by the article linked by Advice Goddess, the kid has never known academic failure in his life before arriving at college. His 4.06 GPA in public school gave way to a 1.7 in college--bumped above 2.0 only by an A- in "african american studies".

See the problem?

My maternal grandfather stopped attending school after, IIRC, the seventh grade, and worked for the rest of his life. He was a businessman, a community figure, well-read, well-educated; he wrote, played the violin, painted, owned his own business; if the Depression hadn't happened when and how it did, my mother's life (and mine) would have looked very, very different. But in the 1920s a person could do that because grade school taught a hell of a lot of useful things, and by the time you were fourteen--if you studied--you were able to handle basic algebra and write a coherent paragraph, grammatically correct with all words correctly spelled. You had a good grasp of history, too.

Mathematics, language, and history are the three disciplines you must master if you wish to become educated. If you have a good grasp of those three subjects you can learn anything and your knowledge is limited only by your retentive faculties.

...but we don't teach those things in public schools any longer. It's more important to the federal education establishment that we teach kids recycling, global warming, social justice, unquestioning obedience of authority, safe sex, and dependence on government. Kids who learn to think won't vote the right way, but if we hook them on the federal teat early enough (with breakfasts and lunches provided by taxpayers) we can train them to depend on government largesse for survival, and then they'll vote for more government every time.

The kid in this story thought he was doing everything correctly; he went to school and did his homework (and probably got excoriated by his peers for "acting white") but when he got to college it turned out that all his effort in high school--in fact, all the time he spent in public school, period--was wasted.

The problem with this kind of story is that right about here is where I get so depressed that I can't continue talking about it. The public school system approximates "free" for most people, but as is the case with many free things it's worth every penny you pay for it.

It's why I refer to it as "socialized education"; that's what it is--a government monopoly on education--and it is the exemplar of why government is the poorest choice to be in charge of anything. The system is designed to discourage--prevent--competition for student dollars, because everyone must pay their taxes regardless of where their kids go to school. Like any other socialized government program, it consumes money and delivers a very poor product.

And if you lie about your address to get your kid into a better public school, you can go to jail for "stealing" a free public education for your child. You can move if you want to send your kid to the better school, but otherwise you'll send your kid to the crappy school provided by your government, and you'll like it, buddy...unless you want to shell out $1,000 per month for a private school, over and above what you already pay in taxes to support the socialized educational system.

The educational system is rigged against the poor and the downtrodden, and it's been rigged by the very same people who claim that they are trying to help the poor and downtrodden. The result is a system that hurts the disadvantaged, because it doesn't hold them to any reasonable standard--but rather heaps praises on them for accomplishing the absolute bare minimum. "You can read a supermarket sign and understand most of the words! You get an A++++++++! You can add single digits! That's another A++++++++! Your GPA is the second-highest in the district at 4.06 out of 4.00! Congratulations, you've graduated from high school and are ready for the real world!"

...but we're not allowed to name a valedictorian (unless the entire class is so named) and any attempt to reform this shit is met with cries of "raciss!" Any attempt to teach inner city blacks to write proper English is "cultural colonialism" but the federal agency heads who decry that kind of attempt would never hire someone who can't write proper English for a high-level job.

There's a double-standard, and it is racist; the people in D.C. who are in charge of all this would never tolerate the deliberate mis-education of their children, but because most of the populace that's ill-served by the socialized educational system is black and hispanic, they actively oppose all attempts to reform it. The entire edifice seems designed to keep them poor and uneducated, because poor and uneducated people almost invariably vote Democrat.

Dewey proposed that public education should be used to indoctrinate, and that's exactly what we've got now. Which is why the elites, the aristocracy, absolutely do not send their kids to public schools, ever.

* * *

Jeeze louise, I could go on and on and on about it. Suffice it to say that I'm not surprised by Advice Goddess' post or the story that inspired it, because that's just how things are; the educational system of this country is a godforsaken nightmare.

There are two ways to fix it.

The first is to set up the system such that the money follows the kid, as is done in [Scandinavian country I can't recall]. Anyone can open a school, and each kid they enroll guarantees them some amount of money from the government; parents can send their kids to whatever school suits them. This means that schools must compete for students, and this will guarantee the highest possible quality of education. Anyone can be a teacher, because poor teachers tend to get fired, and because "90% of everything is crap" there will be serious demand for good teachers. (Bonus: teachers will make more money. The good ones will, anyway; the crappy ones will end up in other careers. This is a feature, not a bug.) Teachers (and their unions, especially) oppose this because it means they have to deliver.

The second is less effective, but still good: emulate Japan's system, where compulsory education ends after ninth grade. (This requires changes to our labor and welfare laws, of course.) Students wishing to attend high school must pass entrance examinations for those schools. They can always go to public high school, of course, but private high schools can compete with them for the best students. (A voucher program to cover some of the cost of the private school would not be misplaced here.) But--again--this fosters competition which is anathema to the socialists running the educational establishment.

...and because these things would result in educated voters the government will actively resist any attempt to change things. Right now the government controls education in the US, and will not easily relinquish that power. Colleges will resist it because it means changing how teachers are educated, losing them a lot of dollars for education programs (which are, in fact, a waste of money--at least when you consider what kind of product comes from these programs. Education majors suffer from the worst grade inflation in higher education). The public school teachers' unions will oppose this because it would mean a massive de-unionization of the educational system: instead of all schools in a public school system automatically being unionized, a dozen individual schools would have to vote to be unionized, and the non-union schools would have a distinct competetive advantage over the union ones. That would, inevitably, lead to a high percentage of non-unionized teachers.

I'm just going to stop now.

* * *

Man, it's such a nice day outside! What am I doing here?

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