The Harmony Gold Kickstarter campaign for Robotech will probably fail…

and that’s a good thing. Because fuck Harmony Gold.

Okay, maybe that is a bit harsh without any context; so I’ll back up a bit.

Robotech was originally released in 1985. It was one of the first successful Japanese anime shows in the United States. Harmony Gold USA (HG) acquired the rights to three separate shows from their Japanese creators – Marcoss, Mospeada, and Southern Cross – cobbled them together, and dubbed them to form Robotech. An original story was written to make these pieces fit together.

I managed to watch the entirety of Robotech sometime in the early 2000s after I borrowed the DVD set from a friend. It was… it was okay. It wasn’t great. I was born in 1984 and was just beginning to be able to critically digest media. I was still a teenager so I had a while to go, but I was getting there. Of course I was enamored with shows such as Dragonball Z when it was first introduced to me. However, I quickly got over most of the standard storytelling tropes of anime (Neon Genesis: Evangelion being one of the worst offenders, in my mind). So Robotech being a hodgepodge series really does not do it for me.

To cut to the chase, to me Robotech is rather mediocre. And apparently I’m not the only one as the Wikipedia page shows a long line of failed continuations of the series. Yet, that isn’t the worst part of it. The worst is HG’s ironclad grip on the trademark for the anime series it cannibalized and the images associated with them. Those three anime series have actually seen success and several expansions in Japan for over 30 years. Unfortunately, they’ll not see the light of day in English dubs in the US because they would fall outside of HG’s control, which they would never allow as it violates their “trademark”.

At this point you are probably asking yourself, “Wait, if this guy doesn’t like anime, then why does he care?” And you would be right. I don’t like anime, so why do I care? Answer: BattleTech.

I discovered BattleTech in 1994 thanks to the animated series. Sure it wasn’t perfect, but I loved it. Giant ‘mechs covered in weapons stomping around blowing shit up? Dude, I was 10. It was fucking incredible. So then I discovered the SEGA Genesis game. Then I discovered the boardgame. Then I delved into the fiction. My life was changed forever. I kid you not, it taught me that the world was not simply black & white, but rather shades of gray. That’s just for starters.

G.I. Joe? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Professional wrestling? Fuck that shit. I’m much happier in my 12 meter tall, multi-metric-tonage, fusion-powered, death-machine that may or may not be carrying a giant ax. Add a hearty portion of references to real history, complex interstellar politics, and a cast of intriguing characters and the story carries you well into adulthood. BattleTech is the future of the 1980s set in the 31st century. And it is awesome.

BattleTech was originally published by FASA as BattleDroids in 1984. George Lucas didn’t like seeing the word “droid” anywhere but in his material. FASA went back and renamed in 1985. One of the impetuses for the creation of the series was love of the design of the mecha, but not the story tropes of anime. They built a world heavily influenced by a lot of the science fiction that came before it, history, and the idea of the medieval knight riding BattleMechs (or ‘mechs) instead of horses. Although maybe not the best decision, the creators licensed the design of the first ‘mechs from the series Macross, Dougram, and Crusher Joe. This may not have been a smart idea at the time, but they are certainly some of the most aesthetically pleasing designs ever illustrated. Minor details would be tweaked to solidify them in the artwork published in various game supplements. Dougram‘s Bigfoot would become the BattleMaster. The Macross Tomahawk would become the Warhammer. These designs would be heavily used in the game history for several years. They were the rides for famous pilots. Scenarios published for players to use would include several of these in force compositions. Somewhere on some planet, a mechwarrior in a Marauder changed the fate of a whole battle. They were not just part of the universe; in many ways they seemed to be the universe.

FASA went directly to the Japanese studios/distributors for the rights to these images. I would like to think that in a logical world, this would make sense and be completely okay. Sure, there were two parties using the same designs, but the original rights holders were totally fine with that. So what’s the problem? The problem is that international law is trickier than that, and HG had been upset for years about this.

Back in the mid-90s, a show called Exosquad debuted. It was pretty good. Playmates made the toys for the show. They also made the toys for the BattleTech animated series. Playmates would eventually take a prototype for a BattleTech toy and use it for their Exosquad line without permission. FASA didn’t take this lying down, but in response Playmates managed to convince HG to take FASA to court.

I’m not entirely sure what happened as I haven’t read the actual court papers, but the conclusion is obvious. FASA needed to stop using the Macross images. As a result, FASA pulled all their borrowed images out of concern of a repeat of this court issue. Those iconic images that formed the bedrock of the BattleTech universe were gone. The designs they represented were still valid, but the images couldn’t be used: no drawings, no representation in video games, and no more miniatures.

To me, there is a clear problem in the fairness of all this. Why does HG get to control media that it did not even create? The original creators had no problem with this sharing. And even if they did at the time, a couple years ago for the 25th anniversary of BattleTech it was cleared up until the leprous, ugly body of HG reared it decaying head again. But that isn’t all.

See how I wrote 25th anniversary? Yeah.

For all its faults, BattleTech is still a viable and successful franchise. When FASA closed its doors, BattleTech was still a desirable intellectual property. Catalyst currently holds that IP and has been successful. Over the course of three decades, millions of words have been printed. Every year several new products are published. The line has consistently been able to win awards at gaming conventions for their quality. Since 2006, their team of miniature painters has put together massive dioramas that draw crowds at GenCon, which is the largest gaming convention in the world.

More so than the fairness issue, I think that is what galls me the most. Robotech under HG has limped along, barely surviving. It is the old dog with a bad back, congestive heart failure, urinary incontinence and rotting teeth (I am a veterinarian) that just needs to be put down. It’s a burden on everyone with no quality of life. In comparison, BattleTech is still going strong and has expanded as a universe for nearly 30 years now. They actually did something long-lasting with those images. They actually did something! I know that we are at a point now where the BattleTech universe has been without those iconic images for longer than they had them, but dammit I still miss them. And HG has denied fans of the original anime series from experiencing the actual originals.

So yeah, I hope that Kickstarter project fails miserably. Because fuck Harmony Gold.

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Tongue Twisting Pronunciations

If you’re one of the three people reading this blog, you probably know I like my history.  This zeal for the Hellenistic age started when I began taking Latin in my undergraduate.  The manifestation of this interest has been my participation in the Total War modification Europa Barbarorum. As a team, we have been working toward a new version of the mod from the ground up. Along with the various corrections and expansions, I have been developing a pronunciation guide to help the average fan with many of the Greek and Latin words used in the mod. If you are curious, here are the latest versions of the two guides:

Greek Guide V2
Latin Guide V2

They aren’t final versions, but I feel quite proud of them. I have not yet included a bibliography in the guides themselves, but here are links to the books I referenced.

- Wheelock’s Latin
- Allen and Greenough’s New Latin Grammar

- Introduction to Attic Greek
- Reading Greek: Grammar and Exercises

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Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski

Superman: Earth One

Superman has always been a favorite character of mine. I grew up watching the cartoon show in the early 90s and even had an old VHS from the ancient animated series that I received as a gift from some obscure relative. Truth, justice, and the American way. As corny as that might sound, it is something that reverberates within me; particularly since my waking American revival within the past few years as I’ve learned more about what went into the primordial soup of the United States. It’s been unfortunate then that for the past several years, Superman hasn’t had a good run of stories. There certainly has been exceptions such as Morrison’s All-star Superman and Waid’s Superman: Birthright, but the monthlies have been weak. So when it was announced that J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) was coming to DC to write Superman there was a lot of buzz. When the Earth One concept was announced and that JMS was writing the Superman book for it, there was a lot of excitement. After a year of development, what followed was a disappointing, albeit satisfactory product. Continue reading

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Not that there are many of you reading this — maybe one or two — but I’ve been busy with class and personal issues. I’ve had some ideas of new posts, which includes a long post on the Harry Potter books. Just a wait and see for now.

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What’s the Matter with Kansas? by Thomas Frank

That’s a good question. What is the matter with Kansas? Why would the populace of a state continually vote against their own interests? Thomas Frank, who grew up in Kansas, aims to answer this and does a good job of it too.

For someone my age — born in the mid-80s — Kansas has always been just Kansas: a fly-over state, deeply conservative, and irritatingly self-righteous… and that’s just to start. This contrasts (at least the conservative part) with where Kansas was 100 years ago or more. I think many of us who took US history and paid at least a little attention know of the charismatic, radical abolitionist John Brown and his uprising in the years leading up to the Civil War. In the early 20th century Kansas was a hotbed of the socialist activity many of its current citizens would recoil at. Hell, Superman was raised in Smallville, Kansas and a champion of socialism as envisioned by two Jewish men in the early 20 century. In fact, up until about 1991 Kansas was a left-leaning state.
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I can’t remember when exactly it happened, but it was early in my first year of my undergrad that I became increasingly involved in following politics. I found myself on the left side of the spectrum and have stayed there ever since. I’m not about to move either, but that’s a bit besides the point. For seven years now I’ve noticed two key distinguishing features of politics in the US.

1. Many Republicans and people on the right say some of the most shockingly dumb things that could be said. And what is worse is that many of their supporters eat it up. This is not a hard and fast description, but it’s pretty damn accurate. A whole book could easily be written documenting America’s infatuation with the “gut” instead of the head and shunning higher education and critical thinking while demonizing their opponents.

2. The Left and Democrats seem completely incapable of defending themselves and deconstructing the arguments of their opponents. The Left has its idiots as well, but they are not nearly as loud.

As it stands, Democrats are in a well-known tight spot this year. The midterm elections of a new president are known to be difficult for the party in power and history shows that. Combine this fact that it is the Democrats in power in a terrible economy, who lack a spine, and the Republicans, who say whatever the hell they want regardless of the truth, and it seems that there is going to be a significant number of seats changing hands. But why should this be?

If you’ve followed the goings-on in the political world you are well aware of the Tea Party. This over-inflated, nebulous political group is incredibly ridiculous. They bounce back and forth on their stances, are amazingly puerile, and clearly have no idea what they stand for. They create strawman arguments, look up to figures such as Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Dick Army. They are funded by incredibly conservative businessmen such as the Koch brothers. They also seek to rewrite the history of America and wish to elevate white people even higher than they are now (I’m white, for the record). They also lie… a lot.

All of these are things that the GOP leadership is carefully trying to rein in to their advantage — and yes, they lie as well. One of their favorite phrases is the, “American people think X,” even when polls show clearly the opposite. But that pales in comparison so many of the other statements that are said. Most recently has been Newt Gingrich’s jaw-dropping idiocy: What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich asks. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.

That’s quite amazing, isn’t it? How does anyone respond to that? Either Gingrich is incredibly fucking stupid or incredibly wicked as this statement is only going to appeal to what is essentially the racist element of America. But this is just a single step in the Right’s march toward complete, resounding asininity. Most of the time, so many of their claims are really just attempts to ignite irrational emotions against their political opponents. When examined, they quickly break down and their fallacies should be seized upon by the Democrats. These are issues with great big targets painted on them. In fact, we should analyze one right now.

Take Sharron Angle. She’s running for Senate in Nevada, which also happens to be the same seat held by the Senate leader Harry Reid. I have my qualms with Reid (he’s a pussy, for one), but he’s done a fair amount of good; Angle is also batshit crazy. I’m sure anyone who has followed the news in the past several months is well aware of her radical statements. A good one is her call for “Second amendment remedies” if the election does not go her way. Recently she reaffirmed this view, which is incredibly scary. For someone who constantly invokes the US Constitution, she certainly seems to enjoy shitting all over it. Really, think about that:

If the country does not vote for the GOP and Tea Party, then those voters who did not get what they want should look to their guns. They should literally overturn a democratically decided election by force of arms. Granted, that isn’t likely to happen, although the idea that anyone should advocate this is clearly, clearly, clearly un-American. Reid should be jumping on this. He should be holding this up on a sign to highlight how dangerous she and her ilk are to the Union. The Right often yells about the Left being unAmerican, but if this doesn’t turn that oft-stated notion on its head, what does?

This is what I’ve been talking about when it comes to the easy hits that Democrats have when it comes to their opponents. It is an example such as the Angle comment that should be the reason why Democrats should be riding high still on their win in 2008. This does not even begin to bring up the fact that the Obama administration has actually achieved a number of legislative victories. Despite the somewhat watered-down nature of the bills they’ve passed, they have been generally successful and busy despite the political climate. To campaign on what they’ve accomplished should be obvious, but they aren’t doing it. To campaign on the sheer insanity of their opponents is easy and not even dirty, but they aren’t doing it. They’re doing the same thing they’ve done for so very long, but it’s those who are the most lionhearted that are doing so well where other, more centrist candidates are struggling. I sincerely hope that they do get their act together, because a slogan of not giving the keys back isn’t going to work.

You can’t make an argument on sucking less than the other guy.

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Why I Hate the Way History is Presented on TV

For all the crap the topic sometimes gets, people do enjoy history. They enjoy learning it. They enjoy studying it. They enjoy understanding it. And those who say they don’t simply haven’t found a focus in history that grabs their attention. Or it could be that they just have yet to find a way in which it is portrayed interestingly enough to grab their attention at all. Enter The History Channel and its ilk.

Within the past decade — maybe 15 years — history has gotten a lot of attention. The ability to make documentaries and programs devoted to specific subjects and to put them all together on a few channels where there is a guaranteed audience means that a lot gets produced. Of course, that means a lot gets rehashed as well, and anyone who has watched The History Channel knows its penchant for World War II. Regardless, quite a bit of other eras get attention that otherwise would not due to their distance from modern memory. Unfortunately, the quality sucks.

This problem of quality isn’t limited to just The History Channel either (although it is perhaps the worst offender), but to almost all forms of such media. Recently I had the opportunity to view a show from a few years past called Time Commanders and broadcast by the BBC. It had a rotating caste of “historians” with the one constant being Dr. Aryeh Nusbacher, a military historian at Sandhurst. What drew my attention to it was that it utilized a slightly modified version of the Rome: Total War (RTW) engine to represent battles played between four contestants, who were generally clueless about the battles or history. RTW is the game that got me truly interested in history (Hellenistic specifically), despite its faults. So naturally, I was intrigued about the show.

I was disappointed.
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A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Image from the interior of A Princess of Mars. Also used for the cover of the original printing.

There are some books out there that just seem to hit all those beats in a way that makes it seem more familiar to you than it should. Readers of science-fiction will find that the case with A Princess of Mars, which makes sense because it was one of the first of the genre and has been an inspiration to writers ever since. It was also one of the first stories written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who is known for his Tarzan series — which is even more prominent in the social consciousness — and would become the foundation of his Barsoom series of books. Originally published in 1912 as a serialization entitled Under the Moons of Mars, it follows the late-19th century Virginian gentleman John Carter in his adventure across the Red planet. The setting of the story is based upon Percival Lowell’s observations of Mars and so perceived features of the time figure into the story (e.g. the canals). This was furthered by the inclusion of artwork by Frank Schoonover, who is apparently well-known in his own right.
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Alexander the Great Failure by John D. Grainger

Alexander the Great Failure by John D. GraingerThere is a part of me that would very much like to consider myself a polymath – a renaissance man. Although I study veterinary medicine, I do try to spend time in various other hobbies and pursuits, of which one is history (specifically of the Hellenistic variety). As a result of my focus within that focus, the historian Grainger is someone that I’ve actually become quite familiar with.

Grainger has described himself as a sort of independent agent in the field of history, who has a very large catalog of books he has written focusing on either Hellenistic history or more modern developments. While I have not read his works on, for example, Cromwell or Yorktown, I have done so on a number of his Hellenistic histories. Of particular note is his The Roman War of Antiochos the Great, which does a lot toward reopening discussion on a part of history that usually is glossed over. So when I saw that he had recently published a book addressing Alexander the Great, I was curious not so much by the title, but rather by the author.

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Hello world!

Why, hello world indeed!  Several years ago my friend Ben offered me a little corner of his website to blog my inane ideas.  After a few years I began to realize that, to my chagrin, I sucked at blogging.  I was terrible in fact.  God-fucking-awful to be truthful.

Within the last few years, after the abandonment of my original blogging enterprise, my friend Ben has shifted the theme of his blog mostly towards book reviews.  His “52-in-52″ a staple of his site.  In recent months and after reading numerous books between my time spent studying, I’ve been motivated by an urge to do something similar (although most likely without the regularity that he does).  I’m hoping that this time I find more success in it than I did in my first attempt.

And so, without further ado, it’s kind of nice to be back and all props to Ben for putting up with me again.

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