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I'm gonna live forever
I'm gonna learn how to fly
Those of us scarred and traumatised by the 1980's will no doubt recognise lyrics from that song belonging to a television series which I'm pleased to say I managed to avoid entirely. But what is fame? A reputation? A state of being? A mysterious blessing from fate? Curiously enough, people generally either see it with some degree of religious awe or an excuse for utter contempt.
I made the mistake once of describing myself on my CV as 'known worldwide' for one thing or another. At the time I considered that appropriate given the attention I was getting on the internet, though to be truthful I never counted thousands of followers on social websites. I naively thought it would add some colour to my dreary collection of dead end jobs and idle interludes. To my suprise the manager of a certain catering company, interviewing me for some worthless office job, asked "So you think you're famous?"
Erm... What? No, I don't think I'm famous.
"It says here," He said, looking at my CV before him, "that you're known around the world.".
Oh good grief. Well I explained that fame was a measure of attention people paid to you, that it was not an on/off switch, more like shades of grey. I did not use the word 'famous'. If I thought I was, I would've described myself as such.
"To me this says you're famous" He snarled, holding up his copy of my CV and pointing at it like it was evidence of criminal behaviour. No point being reasonable with this sort of attitude, so I quite correctly told him my name was mentioned in print and that was good enough for me. I didn't get the job.
I did learn to fly eventually. Still working on living forever though experience suggests I might struggle with that one.
Audience With King George
I seem to be getting into the habit of an annual visit to STEAM, Swindon's modest railway museum. It's not a bad experience, and the dummies in period costume are disturbingly real at first glance. A young mother just ahead of me was fooled, she suddenly realised that the old lady sat at a typewriter behind a desk wasn't quite as alive as she thought. I always enjoy that open door to a small office where the manager is telling his employee that if he's late for work once more there'll be a parting of the ways.
I like the way the museum starts with this administration background, moves on to stores, then trades, then a diorama of wartime steam engine manufacture with two female mechanics chatting, until finally you wander into a large space with just Caerphilly Castle on her own, a full on express steam locomotive from those glorious days of God's Wonderful Railway. Looking a little shabby these days, but still a powerful exhibit.
Secretly though I have another engine to visit. The first GWR King class, No.6000 George V. Not because I especially like that class of engine, or I admire the technical excellence, or respect the history of that particular locomotive, but because as a little boy I briefly stood on the footplate when it had stopped at Swindon station.
George had been retired from mainline service long before. On one particular day though, a special train was due to pull into town and my mother took me and a friend along to see it. By sheer chance, I happened to be standing by the cab when a kindly engine driver kidnapped me to experience that forbidden metal cavern where the crew drove this engine for real. I remember the darkness with the firebox closed, the patina of grime, and a few burnished copper pipes. Truth was, I felt a little intimidated, and didn't have the questions the proud crew were hoping to answer. So they kindly returned me to freedom.
Of course George is now somewhat cleaner in the cab, bereft of any coal or water in her tender, her firebox cold and empty. Machines are always female, whatever the name. It's hard to describe how I feel when I pause at the top of the steps to look around the empty cab. Part of me is pleased to be there. Nostalgia for that brief insight into a lost era, sensing that attachment to a piece of history, a complex and powerful machine, built by craftsmen in days gone by.
All the same I cannot help feel sad the engine no longer steams, no longer moves. All that noise and motion of George in her heyday gone, possibly forever. Like visiting a disabled relative stifled by the regime of an old people's home, it's time to move on, so I pat the side of the cab wall. Great to see you again George.
Back in those heady days of the eighties, my main concern was striving for fame, to live forever, to learn how to... Well, you know the score. It was a time when music stores were commonplace, where you purchase all manner of instruments, gizmos, and accessories to help you on your way to rock stardom.
When did I last play a drumkit in public? Must be more than twenty years now. You would think it would be all forgotten, but a reputation is a hard thing to suppress, whether justified or not, and let's be honest, I've never shied away from reminding peple that I used to be a working musician.
I passed a bunch of lads lurking in an alleyway between shops on the high street. I heard them point me out, debate the merits of asking me to fill the vacant spot in their band, until one bright spark observed that I was almost old enough for a bus pass, that irrevocable indicator of old age and disqualilication for entry into rock stardom. My music career died long ago, but it seems fate just won't let me me forget it.
Audience of the Week
The pubs have closed for the night. So gangs of revellers tramp up and down the road outside on their way to a nightclub or maybe just struggling to get home without falling over. Most laugh, shout, or throw punches at each other. Some however continue to make appraisals of me as they pass. Scorn, anger, and amusement. So it seems everyone has an opinion about me, good or bad. Just the price of fame I guess.
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...was about time and last chance, the old forum software was about to expire for good (meaning no more security updates).
With this 4.0 version we should be good for another 4 to 5 years and than who knows....
I am also strongly consider to change the whole site to a CMS (custom management system), with about 2.000 hand coded pages no small task, but whatever keeps one busy...
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Many years ago I was killing time in the IBM bldg atrium next door to NYC Trump tower; it had tables for public in the days before vagrants, amidst bamboo and even a computer museum open on weekends. I was about to bolt for opening time at the Metropolitan Museum when I saw a security man swing open a hidden door from Trump lobby to IBM atrium. I zoomed thru in order to save steps walking around bldg, eyes riveted forward to clear thru the ugly bordello-like marble decor and pop out the main entrance.
It was deserted except for one tall frizzy blond man with armful of documents who straightened up in an escalating haughty scowl as we passed. No eye contact, and I dimly realized I was invading Trump personal space, but he wasn't much on my radar and I had a higher mission to focus on. Later I learned that his first wife designed the lurid decor, and it perhaps had the same function as some Roman ruin props at the entrance of my parents retirement home complex - make a certain unwelcome demographic uncomfortable. Probably explains decor in a biker bar, etc... not that the customers like it but it scares away the folks who don't fit in.
In the early opening time at Metropolitan museum, probably on another visit but maybe the Trump one, I encountered artist Andy Warhol. I was just exiting the deserted Egyptian temple which was bathed in yellow light, and the approaching pasty be-wigged celebrity urgently locked eyes with me. It would be logical that his concern was that I leave him alone with his trailing photographer to do poses. But it felt more like he as a needy person was feeding off my recognition of him. I recently thought of an even less palatable motive, but anyway I blazed past as a sightseer on a higher mission.
Other features of NYC in the past were the higher crime rate. Before the pacifier effect of cellphones, women walked in fear, and as a long legged male you couldn't help but tailgate slower walking women almost quaking in fear as you finally passed. I had to do the quick walk sometimes, when I would go to saturday night musical events in Harlem and Bedford Stuyvesant. If the doors weren't open yet, you had to keep orbiting or else be swarmed by lounging troublemakers.
Certain musicians have a hold on you...they get you early in life, and then stay with you forever. Not in a bad way...just that something about their work resonates with you forever. And everyone has more than one. For me, the list includes:
- Duke Ellington
- Jimi Hendrix
- Yoko Kanno
Who's that last one, you ask? One of the most prolific Japanese anime and soundtrack composers and musicians ever.
The funny part is that I'm not an anime fan, per se. Quite literally 99.9% of it I couldn't give rat's patoot about (as my dad's family is fond of saying). Then again, that's true for most entertainment--I'm just not interested in most any of the story plots, acting, etc. The last time I consistently watched a scripted and acted television show? Um...it's been a while, although the latest BBC offering of Sherlock does have me completely hooked. Even this year's season of Archer I haven't kept up with, mostly because Mr OfLove is too tired to be awake and paying attention at 10pm--since it's a favorite of us both, it feels a bit like cheating if I watch it without him.
When I was in high school, Macross Plus came out--obviously first in Japan, but it quickly came over here to the US. The story hooked me completely: set in the future and potentially in an alternate universe, it combined Romeo and Juliet (but majorly higher on the maturity level) with beautiful animation of mecchas in flight, and all with the underlying themes of justice and social acceptance permeating throughout. Yep, teenager DoL was completely hooked...and the music. Wow...how do I describe it? It was created by Yoko Kanno, who then was just starting her career of creating music for entertainment, but more specifically for anime and certain video game titles. But the soundtrack for Macross Plus was jazzy, complex, with a definite techno application to jazz, and this is especially true since one of the 'characters' in the movie/series is Sharon Apple--a computer-generated singer, with the voice and stylistics of her 'producer', Myung Fang Lone. The entire soundtrack is not of one language, but technically four: Japanese, English, French, and Zendradi (the made-up language of main alien race in the story). I love it...and have never been able to shake it.
Fast forward many, many years, to when I met the now Mr OfLove. Being that he's half Japanese, it's practically genetic for him to latch onto anime, but in his case he became a complete anime nerd. If it's a choice between watching anime and anything else on the entertainment field...nope, anime every time. When he first learned about my general disdain for anime, but my love of Macross Plus, he took it upon himself to figure out what possible shows I would like. He's very selective and careful in his choices, and some of the ones he's shown me I have fallen for (Soul Eater being chief among them).
And then he tried Cowboy Bebop. Story...excellent. Combo of drama, comedy, action, and suspense. Set in the near future but in an alternate universe, the core characters are all bounty hunters with intriguing pasts. Some episodes are silly, others are freaky--even one that damn near gave me nightmares due to some horrific images. But overall, holy carp, really, really good. But even beyond the story line, what I love about Cowboy Bebop is the soundtrack. The opening theme is what I'm linking here...but the entire soundtrack is a combo of swing, funk, jazz, with very complex rhythms. My musical mind went into overdrive...I know this style! Sure enough, in the credits: Music by Yoko Kanno, she of Macross Plus. It was a signature sound that I just couldn't get...oh, and the band that performs the opening, The Seatbelts...that's Yoko Kanno's band, or one of them; she has a tendency to do a composition project, then form a band to play the music, even record it for sale...but rarely goes on tour with them. She prefers to stay in Japan, since she readily admits that, while she understands and speaks some English and French, she doesn't do it well. What a pity...I'd love to hear them live!
Side note: You know you're in a major drought when a minor weather system has the potential to dump a whopping .25 inches of rain, at max, in your area...and it's a major news story. Yikes...could someone send us some storms, real storms, please? Not just one or two...but a couple, then a break for a week, then a couple more...then another week-long break...continuously for 2 months? Then we *might* be ok for water 'round these parts.
- Duke Ellington
The Grand National was run this weekend. For those who don't know about it, it is the biggest horse race in Europe.
The reason I mentioned it in my blog is that something caught my ear this time, and that was when, after the race, the BBC commentator said, ". . . there were no fatalities this year", in a tone that indicated a degree of pleasant surprise. Think about it; it's worthy of a mention that no-one died in this one off, 10 minute sporting event. That's like a football commentator saying, "and eight or fewer of the players died during the match . . . how good was that?"
I'm not complaining. I just thought it was worthy of comment.
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We punch above our weight down here at the bottom of the world. We are the rugby champions of the world; the rugby league champions of the world; we make it to the World Cup of Association Football with a pool of 22 players to choose from (and then draw against the current world champs) to name but a few of our many sporting accomplishments.
A couple of days ago the New Zealand cricket team (The Black Caps) beat the Australian cricket team. In the bigger scheme of things, this is not earth shattering news. But in the context of the peculiarly cut throat, competitive relationship that we Kiwis have with our Kangaroo cousins across the ditch, THIS IS MASSIVE.
Why, I hear you ask with baited breath?
I'll tell you. Us (NZ) beating them (AUS) in cricket is like a penguin beating a killer whale in a fight to the death, and then flipping it around the ocean playfully for a bit before devouring it piecemeal. IT JUST SHOULD NOT HAPPEN.
But it DID. We ripped them a new bum, and they weren't (aren't) happy.
I won't bore you with the details of the game; I'm a cricket fan and even I concede that watching your cat defecate is more exciting than reading about the nitty gritty of a cricket match.
Suffice to say that New Zealand should NEVER beat Australia. We are the equivalent of a cricketing amoeba, they are a cricketing red giant sun. It's their national game and the only one of the many sports in which they excel that unites the whole Australian sporting public behind it. Like Rugby in New Zealand, cricket is an integral part of the Australian national identity. They go into mourning whenever they lose. They go into absolute writhing apoplexy whenever they lose to US!!
The last time that we had a victory over them in their own country was around 1984. That was 27 years ago - a very long time between drinks. I was still wearing short shorts and sandals to primary school, and my mum was making my lunches. In the time that has elapsed since then, they have whipped us like curs with depressing regularity. Until now.
Kiwi cricket fans, like myself, have to crow loud and long whenever we experience the giddy heights of a win against the Ockers on their own turf because it could very well be 27 more years before we get another. You have to be ungracious and rub it in as much as you can, much like an Australian would.
So here I am, doing just that. Haha Australia, you suck.
If there are any Australians reading this, feel free to make excuses or abuse me roundly. It can't change the fact that you lost....to US!!!!
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I have 2 main objections to all political systems. First when a political movement gets power over state institutions it brings it's own people in the bureaucracy and they are often incompetent, corrupt or biased but they are untouchable because they have political support. Second, most political organizations have an ideology, a set of simplistic tenets that can not deal with the amazing diversity of reality, but regardless of how useless all ideologies are for dealing with real problems the action of the bureaucracy have to reflect the official political dogma.
When modern European political systems appeared the appointment of politicians to directly control the bureaucracy was not in the plan. The administrative apparatus was to be appointed by the king and placed under the supervision of the Parliament. The birth of political parties and the eventual victory of elected politicians over royalty meant that a party could control both the bureaucracy and the institutions meant to check it and keep it efficient.
In rare occasions a meritocratic system was allowed to work without much political interference, like the Civil Service of the British Raj, with excellent results.
Now, for the first time, we have these European institutions that the national political movements can not take over and that have clear, public, competitive and merit based employment and promotions.
Why this is a blow to politicians is clear, they can't use this bureaucracy to reward themselves and their friends and they can't turn it into an ideological tool. For these reasons they are always critical and hostile to European institutions. The main accuse they make is a nebulous deficit of democracy but if by democracy they mean a politicized bureaucracy I trade democracy for efficiency any day.
I have to offer my most sincere apologies to members of the UNRV site who put in so much time and effort to keep the community alive and vibrant, and of course to Viggen/Christian who does so much to really keep up with the promotional efforts. Most of you know him as the guy who wields the vitis around here anyway.
As much as I love this site (which I hope can be evidenced by all the work that was put into it over the years), its obvious that I've been largely absent for a considerable time in any meaningful and recognizable fashion. The site marches on without me for the most part of course, but my waning participation causes a certain deep personal anguish. With my career promotion a couple of years ago, the increasing responsibilities have taken on a life of their own, and it's all I can do to manage them while also keeping some semblance of family life in order for my wife and boys. I'm not complaining by any stretch, as there are definitely advantages, but its obviously made my presence on UNRV woefully inadequate.
I really just figured it would be a good idea to make some sort of statement as to my activity level here. World and human history remain a personal passion, and the UNRV absence does not equate to a lack of reading or ongoing self study - I wish I had the knack for book reviewing that some of you seem to have but its not something that comes together very easily (I actually find it terribly stressful). Alternatively, at some point I'd love to add to the narrative that I started so long ago (and it sure wouldn't hurt to give it a few solid edits), but I have to be honest with myself and accept my own limitations (both on time and perhaps more importantly the actual ability to write anything).
With that said, I'm resolving myself to start interacting more frequently with the site and the forum. I miss doing it and I miss the conversation in its many forms: from heated debate to simply providing a few reference links to the occasional passerby. It's neither a promise nor a threat , just a personal statement that I felt like making.
So what I'm saying is - sorry I haven't been around much, but I hope to remedy that shortly - and thanks so much for making this such a great destination for Romanophiles.
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This was an interesting article, and I'm always very thrilled to see quantitative analyses of Roman history. That said, it seems like the article ignores an important insight gained from the many previous attempts to understand what caused the changes that occurred in the late Roman empire. That insight is that the variables that appear to explain change in one part of empire (e.g., the Western empire) fail to accurately predict what happens in another part of the empire (e.g., the Eastern empire).
So suppose the authors' theory is right: climactic change causes disease, famine and war. If so, the theory explains their observations of climactic change occurring with the Germanic migrations in Central Europe. So far, so good. But what about the rest of the empire? The theory predicts that there would be much less climactic change occurring in North Africa and the Levant, which were relatively healthy, prosperous and peaceful during this period. But that prediction seems highly unlikely to be right. In North Africa, for example, there was massive desertification and shortages of water, leading the agricultural frontiers of the empire to move back toward the coasts. Yet, the empire was fine in North Africa throughout this period of climactic change, and it only began to decline when the same Germanic people that invaded central and western Europe made it to North Africa, where they busied themselves impaling babies and butchering children (which I'm sure the authors would argue is just a rational response to climate change....)
The history of North Africa, then, presents a real problem for the theory. That is, given climactic change, we have an equal likelihood of experiencing disease/famine/war (like Central Europe) or continuing health/prosperity/peace (like North Africa). Framed that way, the article totally loses its Cassandra-like punch regarding modern climate change. Framed another way, however, we could observe this: given massive migrations of violent, anti-GrecoRoman foreigners, we have a much greater likelihood of experiencing disease/famine/war (like *both* Central Europe and North Africa).
When you look at the *whole empire*, and not just a fragment of it, you come away with a very different historical lesson. Namely, the most likely threat to civilization isn't climate change but cultural change, specifically people starting to act like those early Germanic hordes. Of course, I'm sure no one in New York, London, Madrid, and Moscow could possibly imagine that there's a group of armed fanatics who hate the Greco-Roman way of life....
Anyway, that's my two cents.
As such, I've returned to UNRV and it seems alot have changed on this forum, but they are all subtle and I'm still at a lost of trying to figure what happened.
But anyways, did I mention I was without internet for two weeks. Oh my Lord, there has to be some form of withdrawal term for my addiction to the internet.
Oh, did I mention Comcast is an Evil Corportion, crappy service for insane prices if you're AN EXISTING CUSTOMER.
I'm back. I expect nobody knew i was missing but nevermind.
Well I'm at uni and its been approximately two years since i have even touched my book but after battling depression and uni in equal measures I'm ready to get back into the full flow of writing. As ever the blog will be for casual readers who are interested in my goings on, both book related and life.
Meanwhile the usual list of questions will inevitably hit the forum. I might start posting galleries of art i draw and the stuff i get up to too.
Heres a little section of my book i thought I'd post, criticisms and advice muchly appreciated as i don't quite like the way this section reads
A distressed woman of about forty with dishevelled hair was being held up by the arms by a legionary. She flailed and writhed, bawling herself senseless, until finally she broke free and ran at the crowd that had gathered by her villa
This is a photo my father took in Johannesburg recently while running an errand. South Africa is notorious for its creative ads (many of them involving wild animals). This is living proof that creativity is alive and well in the "Rainbow Nation" in spite of its many problems.
Here are a few more samples of creative South African ads:- Vodacom is a South African mobile phone operator. This is a play on the classic 80s film, The Gods Must Be Crazy.- Nando's is a chicken restaurant chain. Its ads are always a bit spicy.
As you all know I have been completely inactive from the UNRV community for roughly a year and a half. When I say completely inactive, I mean it in the most literal sense. I haven't even kept up with friends that I used to often talk to outside of the site. Specifically Tom Isabella aka 'Gaius Octavius'...
He called a couple of times last year when I was completely indisposed and his messages were increasingly distraught in that he felt he had offended me and had lost my friendship. This of course was not the case but for a variety of now seemingly ridiculous reasons I never did return his calls and let him know.
I got the note from his wife Jean in late August last year about his horrible trip to ICU where they drained a liter and a half of fluid out of his heart (caused by metastatic adeno-carcinoma) and the loss of his left leg to gangrene because his circulation had pretty much shut down there.
I sent my regards to him then and knew that he had made it home (under hospice care) in early September last year but my own family was going through a very rough time then and I did not follow up with Jean about Tom
I received my Bachelor results yesterday, and I was presently surprised to discover that I am now the proud owner of a First Class Honours degree! Apparently, my dissertation is to receive some form of commendation!
I would just like to thank everybody in UNRV who took the time to answer any questions I had in regards to my subject area.
As for my future plans, however... I shall probably have to get back to you on that.
I was away at my dad's this weekend and had a great time! We visited my grandad in the hospital (he broke his back and is not doing well ...) on Saturday morning, then after that we went to New Hope, where I got my ear pierced again...
Shiny new inner conch piercing:
(and of course kick ass spirals as well).
Sunday was our picnic- we had an amazing time there as well! After that we had a Wii tournament- word of advice: Wii tournaments make it really hard to walk or do anything a couple days afterward! LOL It was so much fun though.
I found out my dad and Katie and I have way more in common than we thought. I'll probably be going back next month for my cousin's School of Rock concert.
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Just saying hi, as I don't have much for homework tonight. Seems that college may actually be easier than high school. Sorry I haven't been on for maybe a year. Too much going on these days. A nuclear engineer wannabe has lots on his plate. I may make a conscious effort to try to hang out more, but I think I may have overtired my interest in history. Actually, to better put that, I've learned enough here to satisfy my interests, which is mostly the combat. There's prolly a boatload of ppl here that I don't know now. Ehhhh.
I recently joined a local SCA group and am taking up Historic Rapier Fencing. Looks really fun, but I'm starting out on footwork. When I get good enough and actually get some money (college is expensive), I want to get a swept-hilt rapier and make a sweet tunic and paint my mask. Months down the line when this happens, I'll be sure to post pics!
So.. currently im at that stage in my life when you decide on your possible career path and if you intend to go to university you do..Anyway on to the actual thing.. i've decided to take a double degree in Secondary Education/Bachelor of Arts at the University of Notre dame.. a small Catholic one in Sydney. I am majoring in History and minoring in Theology and this semester im taking Western Civilisation.. the only unit close to ancient history as it looks like im gonna get and for the theology im taking Christology and Introduction to Theology. So far its been quite good i mean the people there are great aswell as the atmosphere though i mean the workload sux but doesnt it always? other then that im stuck in a class with 3rd year people in my Christology one.. so im totally lost up the back of the room lol..
Arbeia (present day South Shields) was at the Eastern extremity of Hadrian's Wall. The modern town could be described as "post industrial" , with the re-created fort gate and barrack blocks of the fort sitting on a dig site within a late victorian townscape. At Arbeia A T Croom (of Tyne and wear Museums) has worked on the re-creation of Roman furniture , and indeed published a work of that name which i am presently annotating. I would like to show some interesting items that may elicit comment and questions.
Firstly we have a baby couch/bed (best to use these terms interchangably in all references to Roman "beds" as the purpose was nearly always twofold)with a simple restraining rail to prevent rolling:
We move along to a more prosperous rom with a substantial couch , enclosed to protect the user. Do not forget that the Romans did not use backed chairs in any quantity , either one reclined or sat upright on a stool:
Thirdly ,wardrobes and chest storage..looking very modern indeed. Again the rich were the only people with storage problems for clothes , the relative cost of clothing meant that ordinary folk had little choice and of course other household ephemera (childrens toys as a prime example ) were a virtual unknown in Roman times, so putting the kids stuff into a cupboard would be unheard of (or falling over train sets and barbies).
There is more to say on the buildings as well.Please check my msn blog for an Arbeia entry.
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I'm in a celebrity dead pool and I need your help!
For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, a celebrity dead pool is a pool whereby you pay a $20 entry fee and select a roster of celebrities (20 in our case). If one of them "goes" during the year, you subtract their age from 100 and that's how many points you get. Person with the most points at the end of the year wins the pot.
Go ahead. Get it out of the way. Feign your moral outrage. Your righteous indignation. Everyone does. I don't mind. But before long, they also start throwing out names too. They always do. You can't help yourself. So I'll give you a couple of minutes to go through all the emotions and then we'll continue.
All set? Good!
I ended up in 3rd place for the 2007 season, as my one and only score last year proved to be a big one in the form of 39 year old Anna Nicole Smith (good for 61 points!). I had jumped out to an early, sizable lead, only to see it get chipped away at throughout the year as other entrants scored with the likes of Pavarotti, Evil Knievel, Boris Yeltsin, Lady Bird Johnson, Jerry Falwell, and Tammy Fay Messner. My 3rd place finish was good enough to win my $40 though, so I'll take it.
That leads us to the purpose of my post. The 2008 "season" will begin as of 2/1/08 and I'd like some help finalizing my roster. Here are the 20 celebrities I've got so far:
Ayman Al Zawahiri
Osama Bin Laden
Ruth Bader Ginsberg
I usually try to balance it with a number of aging actors, child stars gone bad, drug addicts, and those whom others are actively seeking their demise.
If you have any suggestions for fine tuning my roster, I'd love to hear them!
Thanks in advance.