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Peter T Chattaway

300 (2006)

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Exactly! It's way cool. But .... should we even being goig there?

And with Parardise Lost getting so much pre-production buzz, I predict that Holywood will be scrambling to make lots of angels-in-combat-gear knock offs of Paradise Lost during the next 2 years. So I'm thinking the Paretti books This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness will get some press also.

I think Fox had the rights at one point, and was pursuing development on This Present Darkness back in the late 1990's. Nothing ever developed from there.

Peretti has issues with those books now? Interesting.

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Clint M wrote:

: I think Fox had the rights at one point, and was pursuing development on This Present Darkness back in the late 1990's. Nothing ever developed from there.

And then the director who was developing the film went and made Bless the Child instead. Ewwwwww. (His most recent film was The Scorpion King, so he does the big ancient battle stuff, too!)

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Is it fair to derisively compare movies that focus more on visuals than plot and character development to video games? More on the "games as art" and "games vs movies" fronts, to which attention is paid by many who play games and not much of anyone else...

Reviews for "300" were across the board, but those who disliked it shared a derision that reveals at least as much about today's film critics as it does their thoughts on the movie.

http://www.variety.com/article/VR111796114...d=1079&cs=1

Edited by theoddone33

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Is it fair to derisively compare movies that focus more on visuals than plot and character development to video games? More on the "games as art" and "games vs movies" fronts, to which attention is paid by many who play games and not much of anyone else...

Reviews for "300" were across the board, but those who disliked it shared a derision that reveals at least as much about today's film critics as it does their thoughts on the movie.

http://www.variety.com/article/VR111796114...d=1079&cs=1

A few days after I saw the film, I went into a video game store and asked in the game for 300 was out yet. The store owner said "No," and added that I was the third person to ask. I explained that it would make an awesome video game because it was wave upon wave of assaults, and I thought surely they made a game ahead of time like they do with so many franchise films.

(Turns out he was wrong. This Variety article names the game.)

Edited by Plot Device

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A few days after I saw the film, I went into a video game store and asked in the game for 300 was out yet. The store owner said "No," and added that I was the third person to ask. I explained that it would make an awesome video game because it was wave upon wave of assaults, and I thought surely they made a game ahead of time like they do with so many franchise films.

I'm guessing it won't sell very well. The power of the casual market should never be underestimated (the Madagascar game sold over 2 million copies, or something ridiculous like that), but it appears that the 300 game is for PSP only... which will be a big strike against its sales.

Plus, as the Variety writer pointed out (and I mentioned to some friends a few days ago), a phalanx battle game could get old pretty quick.. but perhaps the stand of the Sparatan-led army at Thermopolyae (which was much much larger than 300, fwiw) against far-superior numbers makes the single-hero vs unlimited enemies theme of most modern games a tad more believeable.

If I was going to do a 300 game, I'd ripoff the Myth series. They were real time strategy games where you often had to use terrain to your advantage, had to be extremely careful with your troop positioning, and used the same soldiers from battle to battle (so if one of your best soldiers died in an encounter, you'd definitely miss him later on.) This would fit well with the movie from a gameplay perspective, but it wouldn't be as flashy... which is probably what people want in a 300 game in the first place.

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Iranians Outraged by `300' Movie

The hit American movie "300" has angered Iranians who say the Greeks-vs-Persians action flick insults their ancient culture and provokes animosity against Iran. "Hollywood declares war on Iranians," blared a headline in Tuesday's edition of the independent Ayende-No newspaper.

Associated Press, March 13

Iran's up in arms over WB's '300'

Shangari calls film 'psychological warfare'

Variety, March 13

Sparta in Ancient Times--1962

What got Frank Miller obsessed with the story of the 300 in the first place was "The 300 Spartans," a 1962 epic that, although it suffers from tin-man acting by Richard Egan (who keeps smiling awkwardly) as Leonidas, is worth seeing because of the ways it illustrates the era when story came before style.

Kyle Smith, New York Post, March 19

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I just saw this, and found it morally ambiguous, artistically flat for all of its stylization, and while overwhelming in its action, underwhelming in its impact.

I was expecting more of a film, and got more of a video-game.

The queen's betrayal - for that is what it was - was disturbing to me, even as it was meant to feel heroic.

It's hard to identify with the chiseled, muscular Spartans. It's even harder when they ridicule the Arcadian citizen-soldiers. Those guys are more like the military of today - architects and lawyers who put their lives aside to defend their country - and also more like the patriots of old. Yet this movie derides them as cannon fodder and incompetent. Yet, they are the closest the movie comes to identifiable characters.

Blah.

I haven't seen it, but I just have this hunch that 300 isn't a rich story of developed characters (I mean their character, not developed pectorals) in the same sense as The Lord of the Rings. And I have a feeling that it's wound to make audiences anticipate fireworks of bloodshed, and to cheer at the amazing blows, rather than cheering out of a deep sense of conscience.

FWIW, that's one of the biggest issues with the film that I raised in my review. I kept being reminded by the battles in Lord Of The Rings throughout 300, because on the surface, they're quite similar. But what bugged me was that 300's battles lacked everything that the LOTR's battles had in spades: a sense of loss and tragedy, a sadness that was mixed in with the thrills. The charges of the Rohirrim have me in tears every time even as they thrill and excite me. The charges of the Spartans left me feeling a wee bit of an adrenaline rush, at the most, and often with a serious case of the rolling of the eyes.

As for the hyper-stylized visuals with regards to the violence, they actually stripped out all of the visceral-ness and impact of the violence. Despite all of the blood spraying across the screen, all of the chopped off limbs and heads flying across the screen, the film just felt way too [ib]clean to me. It was difficult for me to feel anything for the Spartans' plight partly because of the over-stylized violence: I couldn't take it seriously.

And yet the film was so serious and weighty -- or at least had the appearance of being so serious and weighty -- that I couldn't not take it seriously. Honestly, I probably would've enjoyed the film if it had been, in fact, more mindless and tongue-in-cheek minus all of the portentous stuff about "glory" and "honor" that was layered on as thickly as the computerized gore.

Great points, opus!

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Reflecting on this movie last night, it struck me that by the end of the film, the 300 - as embodied in King Leonidas - actually had little left to fight FOR. What is Sparta? An abusive society that is overrun by corrupt religion, corrupt politics, and a betraying wife. When Leonidas makes his speeches about justice and freedom, it's hard to see what he is talking about in Sparta. It seems like a city full of perfectionistic bullies and self-congratulatory evil. I am not sure why I should root for that over the pagan hedonism of Persia.

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FWIW, as of this weekend, 300 is estimated to have grossed $193.4 million to date (and it is still in the weekly Top 6), which means it has outgrossed Gladiator (2000; $187.7 million) to become the top-grossing Greco-Roman epic of all time. Or maybe I should say "BATTLE epic" -- does the modestly staged The Passion of the Christ (2004; $370.3 million) count as an "epic", simply because it is set in ancient times?

Of course, this is before we adjust for inflation -- going by THAT standard, the all-time champ is still Ben-Hur ($74 million in 1959 dollars = $644.8 million today), followed apparently by Cleopatra ($57.8 million in 1963 dollars = $442.1 million today) and The Robe ($36 million in 1953 dollars = $430.7 million today) and who knows what else.

At any rate, all these figures are domestic only. 300 has earned another $173 million overseas, for a worldwide total of $366.4 million -- which is impressive, but actually still falls short of the foreign and worldwide records set in this genre by Troy (2004; 133.4 + 364.0 = 497.4 million). Yep, Troy did better worldwide than Gladiator (187.7 + 269.9 = 457.6 million), and -- if we're counting it -- even better overseas than The Passion of the Christ (370.8 + 241.1 = 611.9 million).

But the day is young, and 300 is still rolling out overseas, so it might still break a record or two more.

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Just a quick comment...

I have not yet reached a point of discomfort over box office records. Meaning: I have not yet been dismayed to learn that certain films just tickle people pink to such a degree that they go back and see them again and again to the point of breaking records.

The success of 300 does not fill me with dread and despair. I think it's kinda cool.

And, Peter, to answer your question, I don't think TPotC qualifies in the same category as 300. I slot TPotC as a Biblical epic and 300 as a sword and sandals battle epic.

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300 has earned another $173 million overseas, for a worldwide total of $366.4 million -- which is impressive, but actually still falls short of the foreign and worldwide records set in this genre by Troy (2004; 133.4 + 364.0 = 497.4 million). Yep, Troy did better worldwide than Gladiator (187.7 + 269.9 = 457.6 million), and -- if we're counting it -- even better overseas than The Passion of the Christ (370.8 + 241.1 = 611.9 million).

Just a note to say that 300 has now grossed over $200 million in North America and over $200 million overseas, thus making it the 84th film to gross over $400 million worldwide. And as one report put it, the film hasn't exhausted its potential yet -- it has yet to open in Japan!

FWIW, not too long ago, David Poland said 300 would have the lowest gross of any movie that had ever opened with over $70 million, but I don't think that will necessarily be true. The current lowest total domestic gross, in that category, belongs to Austin Powers 3, which made $73.1 million in its first weekend in 2002 and ended up with $213.3 million total; the second-lowest belongs to X-Men 2, which made $85.6 million in its first weekend in 2003 and ended up with $214.9 million total; and the third-lowest belongs to The Da Vinci Code, which made $77.1 million in its first weekend in 2006 and ended up with $217.5 million total. I think 300 has a sporting chance of passing those numbers -- and percentage-wise, it already owes LESS of its total gross to its opening weekend than do The Da Vinci Code (35.4%), Harry Potter 4 (35.4%; opening $102.7 million; total $290 million), Harry Potter 3 (37.5%; opening $93.7 million; total $249.5 million), X-Men 2 (39.8%) and X-Men 3 (43.8%; opening $102.8 million; total $234.4 million).

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It has already defied normal box office expectations for domestic. Most films drop by 40% to 50% per week. This one hung on week after week and had soft drops.

And it has the advantage of a "small" budget (something like only $67 million if I recall correctly). So it's already made back that much 4 times over. No one's gonna claim this movie tanked.

As for Japan, I recall up above (about three weeks ago) I commented that I'd be VERY interested in seeing its Japanes performance. Still am.

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Plot Device wrote:

: As for Japan, I recall up above (about three weeks ago) I commented that I'd be VERY interested in seeing its Japanes performance. Still am.

FWIW, I just checked the IMDb and discovered that the film isn't opening there until June 9 -- almost two months from now!

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Plot Device wrote:

: As for Japan, I recall up above (about three weeks ago) I commented that I'd be VERY interested in seeing its Japanes performance. Still am.

FWIW, I just checked the IMDb and discovered that the film isn't opening there until June 9 -- almost two months from now!

Cool.

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Can't believe I'm nowhere to be found on this thread. I thought 300 was amazing. That's really all I have to chime in with.

Peter Pointed Out something that really ticked me off recently, and I find it humorous that films like 300 are ripping off Julie Taymor's Titus, or at least its score. Feel free to Take the Test yourself, the two scores are laying side by side at Myspace, available for comparison.

-s.

Edited by stef

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Thanks for that link, Stef. The similarity there was pretty striking, no doubt about it. Then again, there really wasn't much that was original about 300 at all, is there? I haven't gotten a chance to read the original graphic novel, but others have said that many of the most striking shots and stagings are straight out of it - and I don't find that hard to believe, because the scenes which were apparently part of added storylines, like those with Leonidas' wife back at home, were pretty visually bland to my taste.

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Thanks for that link, Stef. The similarity there was pretty striking, no doubt about it. Then again, there really wasn't much that was original about 300 at all, is there? I haven't gotten a chance to read the original graphic novel, but others have said that many of the most striking shots and stagings are straight out of it - and I don't find that hard to believe, because the scenes which were apparently part of added storylines, like those with Leonidas' wife back at home, were pretty visually bland to my taste.

I guess when I stop and think about it, you're right. There really isn't much that's original in 300. Hadn't thought about it that way. But I think the way that it was done with the level of artistry involved completely saves it.

It's very much a "guy" film, the kind of film that my avatar up there would probably love to see. But I think it will survive the coming years and not end up, for instance, like one of Schwarzenegger's Conan films -- the reason being that it was done so well, with an incredible look and feel. So what it lacks in originality, it makes up for when it actually plays itself out.

The music, though, doesn't sound unoriginal -- it sounds like a carbon copy.

-s.

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Note to Plot Device: What was that you were saying about the Miller-Japanese connection?

- - -

WB nabs rights to 'Ronin'

After turning the Frank Miller graphic novel "300" into a hit, Warner Bros. has optioned the rights to Miller's "Ronin" to adapt into a live-action feature.

Sylvain White ("Stomp the Yard") will direct.

In the story, a ronin, or disgraced samurai warrior, bears the shame of allowing his master to be assassinated by a shape-shifting demon in 13th century Japan. When the master's sword is unearthed in mid-21st century New York, the ronin and the demon are brought to life and battle gangs of mutants and thugs to try to take possession of the mythical sword. . . .

Variety, May 1

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Note to Plot Device: What was that you were saying about the Miller-Japanese connection?

- - -

WB nabs rights to 'Ronin'

After turning the Frank Miller graphic novel "300" into a hit, Warner Bros. has optioned the rights to Miller's "Ronin" to adapt into a live-action feature.

Sylvain White ("Stomp the Yard") will direct.

In the story, a ronin, or disgraced samurai warrior, bears the shame of allowing his master to be assassinated by a shape-shifting demon in 13th century Japan. When the master's sword is unearthed in mid-21st century New York, the ronin and the demon are brought to life and battle gangs of mutants and thugs to try to take possession of the mythical sword. . . .

Variety, May 1

I was commenting that 300 will probably pay VERY well in Japan because, out of all the Western incarnations of soldiery, the Spartan seemed to most-resemble the distinctly Japanese aura and myth of the uber-warrior with a mystical/spiritual destiny to BE a warrior, and nothing else BUT a warrior.

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Though very late to the conversation, here's a few random thoughts:

For an excellent novelization of the battle, read Stephen Pressfield's "Gates of Fire" (I picked up a used abridged audiocassette narrated by Derek Jacobi for $5 at Half Price books; it's a great way to spend a road trip).

The intriguing thing about ancient Sparta is how its virtues and vices were so entwined. Its much-ballyhooed militarism was admirable in many respects. The agogi system produced truly remarkable men--not just soldiers, but statesmen. However, the cost of such a system was terrible in terms of lost life.

Modern folks like to hold those ancient societies in contempt for their supposed benightedness. However, I wonder if the infanticide scene jarred any of the viewer's sensibilities? The Spartans sacrificed their infants on the altar of a communitarian vision of ethnic survival; we moderns sacrifice our infants for what exactly? So we won't have to delay college by several years? Evil is evil no matter the purpose, but it does say something troubling about we moderns, I think.

As regards sexuality: gender-exclusive societies have always dealt with homosex. Genetics, nature, or nurture notwithstanding, human psychology is such that unusually unbalanced gender situations create an environment which fosters it. Prisons, the Royal Navy, boarding schools, some religious orders. Laying aside the question of "innateness", it is a proven historical fact that circumstantial homosexual behavior is common in these situations. It's not uncommon to hear of it dissolving when the participants return to normal society. I think this says a lot more about how we order our various societies, from small to large, than it does about genes, orientation, or other questions, which of course, deserve their own consideration.

As for how 300 depicts these phenomena, I sense no sinister anti-homosexual subtexts in the narrative. They were macho men. It was a macho society, like all militaries. Subsequently, the comic and movie is a macho comic. It tells the tale of an incredible society in terms very close to what that actual society may have told its own tale. Some Spartans (probably far fewer than is often suggested, if it matters) engaged in homosex. Many did not. If it had been the norm, it would not have been the subject of jokes. Yet, it was both joked about and tolerated, much like it is among us today.

Regarding my sympathies with the various characters: I admit I was also perplexed by the Queen's actions. Did Miller intend to excuse it circumstantially? I don't know. Perhaps it was a statement of cynicism. I feel it was meant to be troubling in any context. It succeeded. I do think it provides a good crucible for personal examination. All moral episodes have this kind of power--to make the viewer ponder justice in their own heart, and ask how they themselves would act.

Perhaps it was meant to put Sparta's utilitarianism into starker relief. The society accomplished so much, but sacrificed so much of its own good in the process.

Regarding the graphic violence: I do not feel that the film squandered the inherent shock of its violence for no good purpose. It seemed to do what the story demanded--to portray terrible war, terrible odds, and tremendous valor. I'm sure there are more subtle ways to drive this home than by depicting lots of beheadings, but the beheadings do the trick in a pinch.

Are we a society desensitized to violence? You betcha. Is that a problem? You betcha. However, it's not the violence itself which creates the problem. It's a spiritual malaise which can't be solved by reducing the violence in movies (although real artistic excellence which knows how to depict struggle and eros with more modesty would be a welcome overall development in our society).

Speaking as a commissioned warrior myself, I have a few opinions regarding Christians and violence. They may draw some ire, but here goes.

We have to remember that all violence is God's violence. Therefore, when the psalmist speaks of dashing infant's heads upon the rocks, we are not dealing with a bronze age barbarian who doesn't know God yet. We are dealing with someone to whom God said "my enemies dying is a good thing." Violence is inherent to justice. It is part of creation as we know it. Fallen creation, yes, which means that we have innate knowledge of an order in which violence does not exist, and we yearn for it. Yet we also know that war, like divorce, exists because hearts are hard toward God. The great burden is to understand how to prosecute things like war and divorce in a way which protects the weak and helpless and keeps the truly hardened at bay. Thus, we know of the great warrior at the end of time who wreaks havoc upon his enemies in spectacular fashion in order to protect the weak and helpless.

In the meanwhile, of course, knowing that we are reconciled when we deserved to be destroyed, we have a new kingdom in which we sense God destroying his enemies not by killing them, but by converting them. So we work in this paradigm. Yet we seek, with varying levels of success, to apply these truths in realms like the magistrate, where they seem awfully hard to apply sometimes. The great tragedy of human life is that we, as a race, resist mercy, and have to be restrained by our fellow sinners from harming one another.

Anyhoo, there's a random smattering of thoughts provoked somewhat obliquely at least by 300. I heartily recommend "Gates of Fire" as a fascinating way to better understand these ancient folk as fellow human beings--a thing which movies admittedly make it harder to do, sometimes.

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Are we a society desensitized to violence? You betcha. Is that a problem? You betcha. However, it's not the violence itself which creates the problem. It's a spiritual malaise which can't be solved by reducing the violence in movies (although real artistic excellence which knows how to depict struggle and eros with more modesty would be a welcome overall development in our society).
Great stuff, Mairn

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It is indeed consternating, isn't it? It's almost as if the film has two layers--one which depicts an ancient society, and another which depicts our own. Both layers for better and for worse.

I think in the same way about depictions of the marriage act. I can think of sooo many films which had so much artistic excellence, yet yielded to the temptation to depict the act, when the body-on-body simply wasn't necessary in any way for the excellence of the rest of the film. Hearty eros could have been shown without being "shown". Some filmmakers seem to know how to do this, some don't.

As for 300's violence-I speak as a character who is probably somewhat desensitized to violence myself. To what extent, I do not know. 300 was based on a comic book, so the violence was cartoon-like. I suspect that aesthetic plays into the picture to an extent.

In other words, I was more disturbed by three very realistic head shootings at the end of "The Departed" than I was about all the violence in 300.

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Now, there's a lot of room for interpretation on what that "wreaking havoc" is all about, and how it is accomplished. Is God literally slaughtering human beings? Or is he slaughtering evil? Is the blood the blood of God's enemies, or is it the blood Christ himself shed for the sake of reconciliation?
Actually, I don't think there is much room for this sort of interpretation. To my knowledge, none of the great interpretive traditions of the church, east or west, have ever taken John's revelation as a purely spiritual allegory of Christ's death-as-vindication. They all view the epic bloodshed as the justified end of those whose hearts are so hard that they despise God's mercy.

They differ on how exactly this judgment takes place, and to what extent it is spiritual. Some view it as being more fufilled than others. The popular evangelical tribulation school has gotten lots of press these days. If you scour the internet, you will invariably find some wingnut who takes it and infuses it with a real twisted blood lust, but the vast majority of people who ascribe to this interpretation are quite peaceable. The popular accusations against them are overblown.

Interestingly, Nero's court used similar smear against early Christians, accusing them of "hatred of mankind". Early church Jeremiahs siezed on the fires as an opportunity to denounce wickedness, pronounce the judgment of God, and exhort repentance, but it's dubious any of them were calling for Christians to rise up in arms, just as even today's rapture-ready evangelicals aren't calling for any such thing.

Biblical characters always use a mixture of sorrowful and you-have-it-coming language when it comes to the punishment of the wicked. (This includes Christ and just about all of the new testament writers, by the way). I don't think this indicates a fatal schizophrenia; to the contrary, I think it reveals God's own mind (especially if you can take the Jesus statements as accurate records of what he really said).

If reducing 300-like violence at the movies isn't going to solve the problem, because the problem is in our hearts, do we just let shrug at films like 300 and shake our heads at the viewers who revel in them?

Or do we call artists to consider the tendencies of their audience and to proceed with caution and compassion, restraining themselves for the purpose of avoiding the consequences of irresponsible viewing?

Or do we say, "Do your art, and if the audience misinterprets or exploits it, that's their problem?"

I ask because I don't know what to do. If the audience for 300 walks out laughing and reveling in their favorite beheadings, do we just shrug and say, "It's not really the problem of art, but the problem of the audience?"

In my opinion, the strength of 300 is the way it lies in such close proximity to ancient sensibilities. The exaggeration, the soliliquoys--they all come straight out of Homer. With the modern live action milieu, this is almost impossible to do. Such attempts invariably fall prey to modern preachiness. A modern filmmaker can only approach such source material by putting it into a comic book context, where nobody is tempted to "take it seriously".

By doing this, the filmmaker is able to smuggle in some ideas which are often strangled in modern live action film. Ideas like "Brotherly love is good." "The martial virtues are good". "the marital virtues are good". "Ethnic solidarity against genocide is good". "Community solidarity is good". "Treachery is bad". "Tolerance of pusillanimity is bad".

When the audience sees these ideas, they cheer. Yes, they cheer--not just because the evil baddies get their heads lopped off. That's just the Homeric flourish which incites the visible reaction, but the emotions themselves are roiling around there under the surface for the whole movie, because the audience is being engaged in ways that movies seldom engage them.

Imagine an ancient bard reciting an epic battle poem in a great hall. The audience cheers and jeers at all of the great events. The traitors are twisted caricatures. The wives are beautiful, stoic, alabaster columns. The heroes are shrewd, mighty, and devoted to their brothers in the phalanx. Honor forces them to the battlefield, and love keeps them there. The enemies are implacable and monomaniacal. Only by putting their bodies in harm's way will the heroes achieve honor.

It's the same idea, moved forward 2,500 years.

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Thanks. The last couple of years have given me way too many occasions to ponder injustice. On the upside, the psalms are a lot closer to my heart these days than ever before.

I'm a U.S. Navy man. I've never fired a shot on Caesar's behalf, and I never did an extended active tour, but I did swear an oath that I'd go to war if he called. At any rate, my commission technically expired in December, so I'm happily civilian these days.

Mairn

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