REAL WORLD EVENT DISCUSSIONS

Marines Versus Romans: who would win?

POSTED BY: PIZMOBEACH
UPDATED: Thursday, June 14, 2012 14:34
SHORT URL:
VIEWED: 3441
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Wednesday, June 13, 2012 6:59 AM

PIZMOBEACH

... fully loaded, safety off...


Saw this in a recent Wired, an interesting what-if and story about reddit fame:

Based on a thread started in reddit, James Erwin wrote a 350 word response to the ques of a MEB in Roman times. The rest is history. Warner brothers has picked up the rights and Erwin took off from his day job to write a screenplay.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/digital/fact-vs-fiction/rom
e-sweet-rome-could-a-single-marine-unit-destroy-the-roman-empire?click=pm_latest


James Erwin was browsing reddit.com on his lunch break when a thread piqued his interest.

A user called The_Quiet_Earth had posed the question: "Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU?"

The question struck a chord with the 37-year-old Erwin, a technical writer from Des Moines, Iowa, who happened to be finishing a book called The Encyclopedia of U.S. Military Actions (Through Facts on File). Erwin tells PM that he wasn’t impressed by other users’ early attempts to answer this question, and so, posting under the username Prufrock451, he came up with his own response. Erwin wrote a 350-word short story chronicling the fictitious 35th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), which suddenly disappears from modern-day Kabul and reappears on the Tiber River in 23 B.C. Erwin posted the piece, finished his meal, and went back to work.

After work, Erwin checked reddit. Thousands of users had read his post and they demanded more. Excited and overwhelmed, Erwin continued submitting pieces of this growing Internet phenomenon. The next day, Los Angeles–based management firm Madhouse Entertainment contacted him about representation. Within the week, after Erwin had put just more than 3500 words to screen, Warner Brothers Studios bought the movie rights.

Erwin’s story, which he titled Rome, Sweet Rome, has a cult following among reddit members, its own subreddit on the site, and has inspired fan music and art. But from the beginning, his posts received comments critiquing the accuracy of his conjured tale. Other redditors commented. Historians commented. Marines commented. "You can definitely tell that the story was something that I dashed out on my lunch hour without doing a lot of research beforehand," says Erwin, an encyclopedia writer and two-time Jeopardy! champ. "Any Marine is going to see mistakes in it, and I’m sure if there were Romans around, they’d say the same thing." He plans on doing intensive technical research during the screenwriting process.

So—disregarding troubling questions about time travel and just why some temporally displaced Marines would feel compelled to destroy an empire——could a single MEU destroy the Roman Empire? To sort through the flood of online responses, PM talked to a Roman military expert and found out how the two sides would line up.

Infantry

An MEU typically contains about 2200 troops, along with their artillery and vehicles. According to Erwin’s original reddit story (which will be altered for the movie), the Marines are transported back in time with what they have with them, including M1 Abrams battle tanks, bulletproof vests, M4 rifles, and grenades.

The year Erwin chose (23 B.C.) falls in the reign of Augustus, great-nephew of Julius Caesar and considered the first Roman emperor. His legions numbered nearly 330,000 men. They wore heavy leather and metal armor, carried swords and javelins, and operated catapults. They would have never heard the sound of an explosion before. "Obviously, there is a massive difference in firepower," says Roman military expert and author Adrian Goldsworthy. "Not only would Roman armor be useless against a rifle round—let alone a grenade launcher or a .50 caliber machine gun—it would probably distort the bullet’s shape and make the wound worse."

In the reddit story, however, Erwin said the Marines would not be resupplied with bullets, batteries, or gasoline from the modern world. "There would be no way of obtaining replacements for these supplies in the ancient world," Goldsworthy says. "An average unit of Marines is not likely to be able to make an oil refinery, start generating electricity, or create machine tools to make spare parts for equipment." And even if they could figure it out, it would take many months or even years. So, as soon as the Marines ran out of gas, their tanks would become little more than hunks of metal.

"In the short term and in the open, modern infantry could massacre any ancient soldiers at little risk to themselves," Goldsworthy says. "But you could not support modern infantry. So all of these weapons and vehicles could make a brief, dramatic, and even devastating appearance, but would very quickly become useless. Probably in a matter of days."

Reinforcements

Erwin’s reddit story stipulates that no more Marines will come back in time, although they may recruit in the ancient world. The Marines would have to; even at their lowest periods, the Roman Empire could conscript hundreds of thousands of soldiers whenever it wanted.

"A Roman centurion would say ‘Let’s take 1000 of these guys. Five hundred of them don’t come back? Get another 500 guys,’" Erwin says. "Americans have never been very good at sending people out as cannon fodder. Marines are better trained and are much harder to replace. No Marine sees himself as a cog, and no Marine is."

Both sides pride themselves on having competent leaders down to the smallest unit level. Goldsworthy says the battle would depend on who had the better officers. Erwin believes it would be shock and awe versus numbers.

"Marines are the best warriors ever trained," he says. "But they can’t fight an endless wave of soldiers. No one can."

Tactics

The Roman legions and Marines are both highly trained with a clear unit structure and hierarchy of command. They emphasize aggression, dominating the opponent, unit cohesion, and being flexible on the ground. "It’s easy to arrange people like chess pieces and march them in a direction," Erwin says. "But when you’ve got basically huge gangs of people going toward each other at knifepoint, it’s very hard to maintain a plan. So they have to improvise."

Romans depended on intimidation to psych out their opponents. They marched in unison and appeared as big and conspicuous as possible, overlapping shields to protect each other from attack. But wearing bright colors and lining up straight isn’t going to do much good against a unit of Marines, who would be best off attacking guerilla-style while the Romans marched.

One advantage for the Marines: a knowledge of military history. The Marines would know from Rome’s history that its legions could be susceptible to ambushes, such as the one that led to their crushing defeat at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. The Marines would have serious disadvantages such as navigation, Goldsworthy says. Besides losing all satellite navigation, their modern maps would be practically useless—everything from the course of rivers to the placement of forests would be different. But, at least in their first encounters with the Marines, the Romans probably wouldn’t know that.

The key for the Marines would be to stay on the move and avoid getting bogged down in one place. If they stood still, Goldsworthy says, the Romans could easily surround them and then take advantage of their huge numbers advantage. The Romans would probably use a variety of nasty siege weapons on the Marines, such as the scorpion, a large crossbow that rapidly fired long bolts. Romans were also known to cut off opponents from water and food supplies, forcing them to surrender or die.

Who Would Win?

Historian Goldsworthy says the MEU would probably lose in the long term—without the ability to resupply their modern weapons, they simply wouldn’t be able to overcome the Roman numbers. However, he says, they could destabilize the Roman Empire, encourage civil war, and initiate regional fracturing. "[The Marines] might discredit the Emperor by defeating the closest army to Rome," he says. "But they would lack the numbers to control Rome itself—with a population of a million or so—let alone the wider empire."

What about in the film? Erwin says he knows the ending, but won’t reveal it anytime soon. He’s currently on leave from his technical writing job to work on the screenplay full-time. A release date for the film version of Rome, Sweet Rome, or what it will be called, is still unknown.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012 7:30 AM

KWICKO

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." -- William Casey, Reagan's presidential campaign manager & CIA Director (from first staff meeting in 1981)


My money's on the Romans. Sorry, but for all the Hoo-rah bullshit they spout, Marines really aren't much good without constant resupply, and 2200 of them up against tens of thousands of Romans just isn't going to be much of a battle. Romans were used to absorbing losses in the tens of thousands in battle, something even the Marines couldn't handle psychologically today.



"I supported Bush in 2000 and 2004 and intellegence [sic] had very little to do with that decision." - Hero


"I've not watched the video either, or am incapable of intellectually dealing with the substance of this thread, so I'll instead act like a juvenile and claim victory..." - Rappy

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012 7:37 AM

STORYMARK


Had they some magical, auto-refilling magazines, then the Marines would have a shot. Otherwise, numbers would seal the deal.

Neat story though.


Note to anyone - Please pity the poor, poor wittle Rappyboy. He's feeling put upon lately, what with all those facts disagreeing with what he believes.

"Goram it kid, let's frak this thing and go home! Engage!"

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012 7:43 AM

ANTHONYT

Freedom is Important because People are Important


http://www.amazon.com/The-Misplaced-Legion-Harry-Turtledove/dp/0345330
676


Hello,

There was an interesting book series written (link above) about a Roman legion transported into a fantasy D&D style realm where foot soldiers were not considered a significant force on the battlefield.

The Romans sold themselves out as mercenaries to a local lord and recruited and trained locals to replenish their numbers. They ended up being a significant force in the world, but only because they integrated themselves into that world and its politics. The Roman equipment was different than what the locals were used to, but it was the Roman organization, strong leadership, and adaptability that kept the Roman legion alive.

Marines would not do well unless they similarly integrated themselves. They'd do well to likewise become a mercenary force for hire, and spend much of their time adapting to the new reality of their situation, reserving their technology to win decisive battles while preparing themselves for the inevitable time when that technology would cease to avail them. They'd have no future unless they integrated into local politics and used their early victories to secure political patronage and long-term benefits.

--Anthony



Note to Self:
Raptor - women who want to control their reproductive processes are sluts.
Wulf - Niki is a stupid fucking bitch who should hurry up and die.
Never forget what these men are.
“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.” -Thomas Szasz

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012 8:10 AM

BYTEMITE


I would agree with Anthony, and add that a reasonable catalyst for conflict between the U.S. Marines and the Romans would be the Romans tendency to take foreigners as slaves and only give rights to landowners.

When any Marine gets taken slave the rest will become very pissed off. Then you can have a mercenary scenario like Anthony suggested, and then tricks such as intentionally being taken slave to get close to military leaders and the Emperor and to release marines who had been captured.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012 8:19 AM

KWICKO

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." -- William Casey, Reagan's presidential campaign manager & CIA Director (from first staff meeting in 1981)


Quote:

Originally posted by BYTEMITE:
I would agree with Anthony, and add that a reasonable catalyst for conflict between the U.S. Marines and the Romans would be the Romans tendency to take foreigners as slaves and only give rights to landowners.

When any Marine gets taken slave the rest will become very pissed off. Then you can have a mercenary scenario like Anthony suggested, and then tricks such as intentionally being taken slave to get close to military leaders and the Emperor and to release marines who had been captured.



"I am Spartacus!"

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012 8:25 AM

ANTHONYT

Freedom is Important because People are Important


Quote:

Originally posted by Kwicko:

"I am Spartacus!"



Hello,

No joke. Freeing slaves would be a great way to replenish their numbers.

--Anthony



Note to Self:
Raptor - women who want to control their reproductive processes are sluts.
Wulf - Niki is a stupid fucking bitch who should hurry up and die.
Never forget what these men are.
“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.” -Thomas Szasz

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012 8:38 AM

BYTEMITE


The gladiatoral slave release angle was one I was considering, but there's a caveat - some of them were criminals sentenced to that for pretty serious crimes. In the very least, you've have to be able to make the violent serial killer/rapist/psychopath types play along, though for most of them revenge might be sufficient motivation.

I also note it would be very interesting for this slavery issue and the superstitions of the time to be pitted against certain schools of self-righteous nationalistic and religious thinking that can be found in our ranks. Character development is the mark of good plot.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012 8:40 AM

PIZMOBEACH

... fully loaded, safety off...


Quote:

Originally posted by ANTHONYT:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Misplaced-Legion-Harry-Turtledove/dp/0345330
676


Hello,

There was an interesting book series written (link above) about a Roman legion transported into a fantasy D&D style realm where foot soldiers were not considered a significant force on the battlefield.

The Romans sold themselves out as mercenaries to a local lord and recruited and trained locals to replenish their numbers. They ended up being a significant force in the world, but only because they integrated themselves into that world and its politics. The Roman equipment was different than what the locals were used to, but it was the Roman organization, strong leadership, and adaptability that kept the Roman legion alive.

Marines would not do well unless they similarly integrated themselves. They'd do well to likewise become a mercenary force for hire, and spend much of their time adapting to the new reality of their situation, reserving their technology to win decisive battles while preparing themselves for the inevitable time when that technology would cease to avail them. They'd have no future unless they integrated into local politics and used their early victories to secure political patronage and long-term benefits.

--Anthony



I agree to some extent. I think that would be the first big turning point of the movie and the real race between the Romans and Marines: who can see the end game first. Initially, as the Marines try and grasp what just happened, they probably just react with force. Early skirmishes go well and perhaps the first large probe by the Romans would also be easily rebuffed, but then the Marine commander finally works out the different possible scenarios and they all pretty much end the same way - not with them winning, not with the supplies they showed up with. That's when he comes to the conclusion that Anthony comes to - "we can't win with bullets, we have to adapt." I'm not sure they would integrate though. I see them as too stubborn, as long as they have bullets I think the modern Marine will always want to fight or die before bowing to someone. Maybe a few do slip out and integrate? Would the rest have time to find slaves or make deals with enemies of Rome?

Thx for the article btw - looks interesting.

Scifi movie music + Firefly dialogue clips, 24 hours a day - http://www.scifiradio.com

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012 8:46 AM

ANTHONYT

Freedom is Important because People are Important


Quote:

Would the rest have time to find slaves or make deals with enemies of Rome?


Hello,

The good news here is that back in the day, there were seasons for war.

Think back to Washington and his long winter.

If they can free enough slaves just prior to the non-fighting season, and train the slaves (and be trained BY the slaves, too) they might be able to make a viable enterprise of things.

The main thing that would help them is if the marine commander was a genre savvy sci-fi fan. ;-)

--Anthony





Note to Self:
Raptor - women who want to control their reproductive processes are sluts.
Wulf - Niki is a stupid fucking bitch who should hurry up and die.
Never forget what these men are.
“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.” -Thomas Szasz

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012 10:21 AM

ALIASSE


A while back there was a great BBC TV programme in which two teams enacted a sort of game scenario - one side was always in charge of Roman strategy and the other side was always running the strategy of some Celtic tribe that had actually had their arses kicked by the Romans for real. The computer was programmed so that the Romans would act like Romans and the Celts like Celts, so basically whenever a battle was re-enacted the Celts always ran away whenever the Romans attacked in formation, even though there families were standing there watching and would inevitably get taken into slavery. The game Celts never beat the game Romans but it was immensely entertaining watching them try.

Off the point, I realise, but you know.......

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012 10:30 AM

GEEZER

Keep the Shiny side up


Sort'a been done, from H. Beam Piper's "Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen" (Smart present-day guy travels to alternate reality similar to 1100 A.D. tech and introduces gunpowder)to Eric Flint's "Ring or Fire" series (The town of Grantville is transported lock, stock, barrel, and coal mine to 1632 Germany).

If the Marines vs. Romans story follows type, the MEU will find someone else opposed to the Romans and attempt to become their allies. They'll use these folks as scouts, auxiliaries and supply and labor sources while hoarding up-time ammo, fuel, etc. There's usually a history buff along, maybe a re-enactor type, who'll be able to provide advances in current weapons technology (longbows, scale armor, different tactics, etc.). Battles will often be re-plays of historical battles fought in later history.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012 10:33 AM

BYTEMITE


Guess they weren't Scottish. The Roman's reaction to meeting the Scottish was to build a huge wall and say, "okay, screw you guys, stay over there."

Celts and other cultures (Vikings, Goths, and other nordic people) of the time kept slaves too though, so I'm not sure just how much the marines are going to get along with them if we make this primarily a conflict over slavery.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012 10:34 AM

ANTHONYT

Freedom is Important because People are Important


Hello,

Well, if you're going to bring up influences, don't forget Samuel Clemens.

--Anthony



Note to Self:
Raptor - women who want to control their reproductive processes are sluts.
Wulf - Niki is a stupid fucking bitch who should hurry up and die.
Never forget what these men are.
“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.” -Thomas Szasz

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012 4:49 PM

RIONAEIRE

Beir bua agus beannacht


Wow, I'll totally be first in line to watch this movie. I agree that the Romans would win in the end, the Marines would do well at first, with their fancy new fangled weapons etc. but that only lasts so long and the Romans will quickly deduce that the Marines only have so much firepower before they aren't on top anymore. The Marines would do well to help the Celts fight the Romans, give them a better outcome at least, they still might not win though.

The Marines would do well at first, then poorly during the adaptation period. But could they pull it together and come back into the game? Maybe, but probably not. How long are the Marines there? Are they going back to the future at some point? If they are then maybe they won't want to bother fighting since they're going home soon anyways?

I assume you're my pal until you let me know otherwise.

"A completely coherant River means writers don't deliver" KatTaya.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012 4:58 PM

ANTHONYT

Freedom is Important because People are Important


Quote:

Are they going back to the future at some point? If they are then maybe they won't want to bother fighting since they're going home soon anyways?


Hello,

This is what disappointed me about the move "The Final Countdown." A modern (at the time) nuclear-powered aircraft carrier somehow goes back in time to just before WWII. It can single-handedly (probably) stop the attack at Pearl Harbor and prove to be an incredible boon in any warfare operations. But it goes back to its own time basically before anything interesting happens.

--Anthony






Note to Self:
Raptor - women who want to control their reproductive processes are sluts.
Wulf - Niki is a stupid fucking bitch who should hurry up and die.
Never forget what these men are.
“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.” -Thomas Szasz

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Thursday, June 14, 2012 7:28 AM

KWICKO

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." -- William Casey, Reagan's presidential campaign manager & CIA Director (from first staff meeting in 1981)


Now let's take that Marine battalion and their equipment and plunk them down in the middle of the steppe, to face off against Genghis Khan and his hordes.

It's 1200 years later now, Khan leads the greatest horse soldiers who likely ever lived, and they're equipped with bows and are expert archers to a man (or woman).

How long do said Marines last in this scenario, against the strategic retreat strategy of the horde, the feigned collapse which leads directly to ambush, the hit-n-run tactics employed by them?



"I supported Bush in 2000 and 2004 and intellegence [sic] had very little to do with that decision." - Hero


"I've not watched the video either, or am incapable of intellectually dealing with the substance of this thread, so I'll instead act like a juvenile and claim victory..." - Rappy

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Thursday, June 14, 2012 10:56 AM

ANTHONYT

Freedom is Important because People are Important


Hello,

You would need a very compelling reason for the Marines to fight Genghis Kahn. I'd rather fight the Romans.

--Anthony


Note to Self:
Raptor - women who want to control their reproductive processes are sluts.
Wulf - Niki is a stupid fucking bitch who should hurry up and die.
Never forget what these men are.
“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.” -Thomas Szasz

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Thursday, June 14, 2012 12:10 PM

RIONAEIRE

Beir bua agus beannacht


Be still my heart, Genghis Khan?!!!!! I'd be there at midnight for the first showing for that one. Temujin will cream the Marines once the shock and awe has died down, he's so adaptable and creative and ... yeah. And really mean and brutal too, but sometimes you can't help who you have crushes on can you. :)

I assume you're my pal until you let me know otherwise.

"A completely coherant River means writers don't deliver" KatTaya.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012 1:59 PM

KWICKO

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." -- William Casey, Reagan's presidential campaign manager & CIA Director (from first staff meeting in 1981)


Quote:

Originally posted by ANTHONYT:
Hello,

You would need a very compelling reason for the Marines to fight Genghis Kahn. I'd rather fight the Romans.

--Anthony




More compelling than suddenly just disappearing from Kabul and appearing on the Mongolian steppe in 1206?

In the interests of full disclosure, though, I was listening to Dan Carlin's "Hardcore History" today at work, and he spent a couple hours on the Khan, and the timing of it and this thread just kind of conspired in my mind to make me wonder...

Riona, I highly recommend you download the podcast. It's a couple hours, and it's only Part 1, but it's well worth the time. Dan's a little slow to warm up, but he really gets into his history, and you get quite a sense of his awe and amazement with his subjects.

ETA: Linkies are our friends!

http://www.dancarlin.com/disp.php/hharchive/Show-43---Wrath-of-the-Kha
ns-I/Mongols-Genghis-Chingis




"I supported Bush in 2000 and 2004 and intellegence [sic] had very little to do with that decision." - Hero


"I've not watched the video either, or am incapable of intellectually dealing with the substance of this thread, so I'll instead act like a juvenile and claim victory..." - Rappy

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Thursday, June 14, 2012 2:12 PM

ANTHONYT

Freedom is Important because People are Important


Hello,

I very much enjoy his podcasts, and even his commercials are good.

Albion, someday I shall purchase thee...

--Anthony


Note to Self:
Raptor - women who want to control their reproductive processes are sluts.
Wulf - Niki is a stupid fucking bitch who should hurry up and die.
Never forget what these men are.
“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.” -Thomas Szasz

NOTIFY: Y   |  REPLY  |  REPLY WITH QUOTE  |  TOP  |  HOME  

Thursday, June 14, 2012 2:34 PM

KWICKO

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." -- William Casey, Reagan's presidential campaign manager & CIA Director (from first staff meeting in 1981)


Quote:

Originally posted by ANTHONYT:
Hello,

I very much enjoy his podcasts, and even his commercials are good.

Albion, someday I shall purchase thee...

--Anthony




I kinda figured that would be up your alley! I thought of you when I first heard that spot.

I thoroughly enjoyed the series "Punic Nightmares (Parts 1-3)", and "The Ghosts of the Ostfront" was incredible, probably just because we in the West so rarely hear the stories of the Russian side of the war.

He's an amazing storyteller, and makes the history really come alive. I had a professor like that in college, and he really grabbed my attention from the first day of class to the last. I signed up for every course he taught whether I needed the credits or not!



"I supported Bush in 2000 and 2004 and intellegence [sic] had very little to do with that decision." - Hero


"I've not watched the video either, or am incapable of intellectually dealing with the substance of this thread, so I'll instead act like a juvenile and claim victory..." - Rappy

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