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cornu copiae

The “horn of plenty,” cornucopia in English, has long been a symbol of abundance and prosperity…

one of the Penates holding a cornu copiae and a patera (Source)

one of the Penates holding a cornu copiae and a patera (Source)

In ancient Roman material, it is very often seen in the hands Roman household divinities…the Lares, and especially the Penates, who were the guardians of the household pantry.

In more recent times, the cornucopia has become a symbol of the abundance of the fall harvest, and for Americans, a ubiquitous symbol of Thanksgiving.

cornucopia

This year (like last) I have declined the summons of my sister that we trek 60 minutes to the north to join the “whole family” for Thanksgiving dinner.  I have decided that I am lately most thankful for the newfound ability to say “No thank you.”  I’ve even tempted my parents to own that they’d rather not drive that distance to endure the inevitable angst that had become our “whole family” gathering.

So, this year my parents are taking the 1.5 mile trek to my house for dinner.  I’m shooting to eat around 4pm (dark enough for dinner, but leaving time for digestion  :) )

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Since there will only be six of us (one who doesn’t eat meat “if bones are present) I’ve opted to make just a turkey breast instead of the whole bird.  The turkey is kind of a secondary attraction…at Obscura’s house, it’s all about the sides – mostly veggies (I count 7 individual vegetable dishes not including the mandatory mashed potatoes)  I don’t entertain often, so I’m also especially delighted to have the opportunity to use the beautiful crockery (pictured above) that I picked up near Kalovryta, Greece this fall.

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Last but not least, there’s the pies.  I baked them last evening (I’ll thank you to ignore the broken crust on the pumpkin pie…maybe I’ll pipe on some cream to camouflage it!).

I’m off to grab a last minute latte at the Kwik Trip before I settle in to begin the prep in earnest, but before I do, I wanted to take the opportunity to wish everyone who celebrates it a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving…and a Blessed and Happy DAY to the rest of Armitageworld!

Frozen Motion: Richard Armitage and the Discobolos of Myron

I’ve been tossing this piece around for a couple of weeks…since watching episode 1 of Berlin Station.   Then I was distracted by a trip to New York to see some play…my account is coming soon.

I’ve been kind of hot and cold about Berlin Station – I’m no TV critic, but for it’s genre, I’ve found the overall pace of the show to be rather slow and it’s plot to be extra convoluted, even for a spy show.   I think the last few episodes have picked it up a bit, so I’m hanging in there.  Who am I kidding – I’d be there to the bitter end as long as Richard Armitage is a part of the cast 

One element that grabbed my attention in Episode 1 was a brief flash of mostly bare Richard Armitage.  Apart from purely prurient interest, this is enticing to me from an artistic perspective since the artistic material I study generally features figures depicted in the buff, and similarly nude shots of Richard Armitage are fairly few and far between.  In case you’ve forgotten it, the scene I’m referring occurs about midway through episode 1.

Pretty dark...pretty grainy, but you get the drift.  (my screen shot)

Pretty dark…pretty grainy, but you get the drift. (my screen shot)

In this scene, Armitage’s character, Daniel Miller has just stepped out of the shower and is bending to pull on his briefs.  The bent position, that long, LOOOONNNNNGGGG length of leg and subtly rippling back reminded me immediately of the motion that is frozen by Myron in his iconic Discobolos (Δισκοβόλος – Discus Thrower)

Discobolus of Myron

Discobolus of Myron (Source)

All of the examples pictured are Roman copies in marble of the Greek original.  Like so many ancient Greek sculptures, the original piece by Myron was sculpted in bronze and has been lost to time.  What we can piece together from the copies is that the original belonged stylistically to the very end of the Severe Style of the 5th century BC.

Myron was a contemporary of the sculptors Pheidias and Polykleitos and was well known for his frequent depictions of athletes.  Here he has captured the discus thrower in mid-motion…the viewer can almost feel the arrested energy of the athlete.  The Discobolos is a masterpiece of both frozen motion as well as the ideals of beauty, symmetry and proportion of 5th century Athens.

armitage-discobolos-side-by-side

Laying the images side by side for comparison, a couple of things become evident:

  1.  While not exactly the same pose, I’m again struck by the general similarity of the frozen motion.
  2. Richard Armitage is clearly not conformant with the proportional canon as idealized by the ancient Greeks…his legs are much longer and his torso somewhat shorter.               2.1:  Who cares?  :)  

**Happily, I capped the scene right before I had to look away in horror as Daniel picked up the towel he is standing on in the cap above and used the surface recently in contact with the bathroom floor to dry his hair.  ICK cubed.**

Red Lip it is…

My little poll came up even, but since I’m currently sitting in the airport waiting for my flight to New York, the timing for “a red lip” seems spot on.

I am certainly no fashion maven. I tend to veer away super trendy style choices in favor of more “timeless” or “classic” styles – read things that aren’t out of style by the time I get home from the shop.  My personal style is predicated by budget (Obscura likes a good deal) as well as a certain sprinkle of goofball.  

I suppose my current travel ensemble bears this out…

Nothing terribly exciting…jeans and a long sleeve tee.  I bought the rust colored jeans last year on super sale…the color is a little out there for me, but they’re growing on me.  The houndstooth slip on sneaker (Old Navy’s version of a Van) is not only fun, but perfect for scooting through the TSA check.

Overall, I like what I like, but I always have a moment of pause when I travel…what to wear, what to wear?  I hate standing out in a crowd as immediately identifiable as TOURIST.  Nothing wrong with being a tourist, I just like to blend in a bit with the local habitat.  

I noticed on my last trip to New York that I had no trouble blending in…dark wash or black denim, boots, dark coat, seemed to be a uniform of sorts.  When I started to plan for my short weekend in NYC for LLL, the offspring formerly reffered to as Showbiz (said offspring has requested to be called Miss Desmond henceforth…yes, in reference to Norma

He approved all my choices (centering mostly around black bottoms and a selection of my favorite tops and accessories.) Lately Miss Desmond has discovered a talent for makeup artistry and so shared the immortal advice,

“You can never go wrong with a red lip Mom”

And so, one trip to the Walgreens cosmetic aisle and about four rejected reds later, we settled on:
“Red Revival”  

💋💋💋💋💋

….coming soon to a stage door near you!  😉

The Hydra and the HydRA

Show of hands…who knows what the Hydra is?

Source

Source

Sorry Armitage fans…not that Hydra.  Same underlying concept…different “universe.”

I’m talking about the original Hydra of Greek mythological fame (pictured above as envisioned in the 2014 film Hercules starring Dwayne Johnson – that’s right, The Rock – in the title role)  Like most of Greek mythology, there are a number of slightly differing tales of the Hydra, but they all seem to agree that it was a horrible serpent that lived in a swamp at Lerna and was ultimately killed by Hercules (Herakles) as one of his famous 12 labors.

As Hercules found out, the Hydra, a nine headed monster, was no pushover.  His usual simple brute force methods didn’t work on her (as usual, the great monster is female), since her best defense – in addition to her toxic cloud breath and fatally venomous blood – was that every time one of her heads was cut off, two more grew in its place.

I’ve been using this myth lately to sum up how I feel about the current state of my professional life.  Since I returned from Greece, it seems like everyday I figure out a solution to some thorny issue only to find out that up popped two more problems in the interim.  It’s maddening and exhausting at the same time – the undefeatable stream of minutia seems endless.

Then it occurred to me yesterday that I have another HydRA in my orbit…another thing that I just can’t keep up with…

berlin-station-1

A new television series running in Prime Time on my TV…

love-love-love

Love, Love, Love, running live off Broadway

live-tweeting

Live Tweeting?!?!?!  What the actual f….

*cough*    See what I mean?   HydRA indeed…how’s an already besieged Hercu-ME supposed to deal?!  I have a bunch of things that I want to blog about, but I don’t have time to do all of them right now, so I thought I might throw it out to the hive mind to help me prioritize…

1. The "structural" similarities of Daniel Miller and the Discobolus of Myron

1. The “structural” similarities of Daniel Miller and the Discobolus of Myron

 

2. "Go with a red lip Mom!" NYC fashion advice from offspring...

2. “You can’t go wrong with a red lip Mom!” NYC fashion advice from offspring…

What say you to a little poll?

Domum dulce domum Armitageworld!

I can hardly believe that I’ve been back from my trip for two weeks already!  I had a fabulous time in Greece…both on the tour and on the side trip at the backend of it.  Apart from a few hiccups along the way – let’s just say that at least one person saw far more than she expected of the inside of a Greek village medical clinic – I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people.  There were twelve of us in all…ranging from mid thirties to mid sixties in age, from a variety of backgrounds.  The group ended up being about half students and alums from my university and half Armitageworld peeps.

Early on, I passed out badges, which had been generously donated by Guylty,  so that the Armitageworld peeps could identify each other without “outing” themselves to the group at large.  I’m actually not sure how this worked…I already knew who was an Armitageworld peep going in.  I’d love to hear from others if they covertly discovered each other, or proclaimed their Armitage Allegiance loud and proud!

Every time I do one of these trips, I gain a bit more insight on how to make the next one better.  One perennial issue is the amount of climbing required to access some of the sites.  There’s not a whole lot to be done about this in general as nearly everything one wants to see in Greece is uphill.   However, I think reversing the itinerary might break it up a bit…

Marching up from the Agora for lunch...at least we'd already been up to the Acropolis by this point.

Marching up from the Agora for lunch…at least we’d already been up to the Acropolis by this point.

It’s hard to avoid the march in Athens – so much to see, so little time, but I could handily lighten the workout in the next few days since in the immortal words of one group member (you know who you are  :)  ), “You said food and culture…not Greek fat camp!” after two days climbing around sites in Athens and the Argolid.  I would note here, that the speaker was in fact one of the most intrepid cragswomen in the group.  She scaled every citadel, castle and rampart we visited…I cannot wait to see her pictures!

All in all though, people did great – they went up as far as they felt comfortable (Mystras and the Nafplion Palamidi are not for the faint of heart (or lung, knee or hip!)).  Fortunately, in the digital age, it is wonderfully easy to share photos so that even if one didn’t climb to the top *waves* one might still see the pictures of those who did.

Mystras...we cheated and entered 2/3 of the way up to the top of the fortress.

Mystras…we cheated and entered 2/3 of the way up to the top of the fortress.

One thing that I wish had been better was the tour guide.  On past trips, we’ve had a professional guide who travelled with us and guided us around the sites.  I will admit to a certain amount of impatience with this since we are sort of hostages to the guide’s schedule.  This trip, my Greek tour agent George was travelling with us, and I thought, guiding us.  Apparently, I thought wrong.  When we rolled up to the Acropolis on our first full day in Athens, George informed me that he doesn’t go into the sites and that I would guide.  Say what now?   It’s not that I lack the background, but there were two small wrinkles in this plan:

  1.  I was not aware this was the plan.  Contrary to popular belief, I don’t have instant recall of 500 years of Greek history and archaeology.  With some advance notice, I’d have jotted down a few crib notes!  (and the words to one song – all I could think to sing at Epidauros was Roll out the Barrel!)
  2. Perhaps more importantly – technically I am prohibited from guiding on sites since I don’t have a license issued by the Greek Ministry of Culture.  (I’ve since discovered that evidently, there is some wiggle room for University professors, so back to 1.)

These little details aside, I can say without a doubt, that my guy George (aided by a fantastic driver with the famous name of Leonidas) put together an amazing tour that checked a lot of different boxes.

George and Leonidas

George and Leonidas

I would love to do another one of these in the future…in fact, at dinner in Kalamata, I got the distinct impression from the 45 minutes he spent grilling me, that George would like me to do them every year…a partnership of sorts.

“Listen….you don’t understand…” he says.

I do understand, and I would totally love to lead tours more often, but until Mini Me is not so put out by my absence, (I give that another 2-3 years) I think I have to table that partnership idea for the immediate future.

Faces blurred to protect the innocent...

Faces blurred to protect the innocent…

That said, thanks to the Experience Greece Tour 2016 for a fantastic trip!!

OT: Are you ducking kidding me?!

Warning:  Irate academic rant forthcoming…

I thought I had positioned myself for this to be a good Monday – maybe really good.  Last week was all but brutal…I hit the ground running after returning from Greece and felt like I was swimming in deep water most of the week.  By Friday afternoon though, things were starting to get better.  I had word from Kos that the boxes of dental hygiene kits and school supplies I’d sent a week ago had arrived safely – good news indeed since for the extremely low shipping costs, I had thought they were travelling via donkey cart.  By Sunday afternoon, having spent several hours grading and formatting, I had the most intensive of my three active courses up to date and ready to fly.  I was in good shape for the new work week.  Was.

That all came to an end and my current state of tipping between irritation and disgust started, when I woke up around 1am (I do that often enough) and looking at my phone for the time, noticed an Outlook notification.

**Disclaimer**

I know I should have ignored it and gone back to bed, but sometimes I can’t sleep and I can get some correspondence sorted in the interim.  I’d also sent some emails to associates in Europe, so I thought I might get in front of that.

No. Such. Luck.

Instead, it was this (name redacted to protect the sender…I’m good about that even when the sender is being a complete and utter TOOL)

tool-message

Source of "Homosexual artwork"  discomfort...

Source of “Homosexual artwork” discomfort…

Given the reaction of this student – a fully grown adult student in an upper level college course on Greek History – you might wonder what kind of depraved licentiousness I assigned (in addition to the piece above) that provoked it.  Rest assured, I did not spend extra time delving through the catalog of Ancient Greece’s Most Shocking and Immoral works…the assigned piece was a YouTube video of a college production of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata.

While I will grant you that this play is certainly risque leaning heavily toward bawdy, it is also not out of place in a class week which was centered on the topic of the Peloponnesian War.  Part of what this class is doing is analyzing primary source material in an effort to better understand the history and culture of ancient Greece.  This play is a great primary source.  It was first produced 411 BCE, just two years after Athens’ cataclysmic defeat in the Sicilian Expedition, and is generally regarded as a clear commentary on the war.

The action revolves around the title character, an Athenian woman named Lysistrata (which means ‘Army Disbander’) who comes up with an ingenious plan.  She rallies all of the women of Greece – Athenian, Spartan and all points in between – to go on a sex strike until their husbands agree to end the war.  Not surprisingly, the play is full of a whole panoply of of sexual innuendo and outright dick jokes – complete with male character costumes sporting outsized erect phalluses in ancient staging.  It is also a hilariously funny commentary on gender relations in ancient Greece…undoubtedly made more funny in the original by the fact that every single female character would have been played by a male actor in drag.

This play is pretty standard fare in classical studies courses at all kinds of universities regardless of their religious affiliation, and a quick search reveals that numerous Catholic universities have run productions of the very same play over the years…it is hardly uncharted territory.  I have never, in 15 years of teaching at my current university (a Catholic institution), been asked to avoid addressing any aspect of classical culture for fear of offending a student.  In fact, part of the liberal arts mission is to challenge students to open their minds and experience other cultures without prejudice.  Epic fail in this case.

In the end, I provided this student an alternative assignment…a big, heavy passage from the historian Thucydides (Servetus may be the only person I know who doesn’t groan at the prospect), but I must confess that I am startled and dismayed that in 2016 a student, enrolled at a liberal arts institution, is comfortable relaying such a clear level of narrow mindedness and outright homophobia to me, her professor.    It bothers me as an educator, but it bothers me a lot more as a human and especially as a parent of a child whos sexual identity would apparently cause this person to be uncomfortable.  I am a professional, so I didn’t suggest that perhap a different class would suit better because I find this attitude offensive.  I’ve already come up with an alternate to this week’s film, Alexander (2004) in case it too is deemed “inappropriate” with its homoerotic undertones and all.

Alexander (Farrell) and Hephaestion (Jared Leto)

Alexander (Farrell) and Hephaestion (Jared Leto)

Hopefully I’ve purged at least a little of this annoyance so that I can get through the final two weeks of this class without completely losing my s@#t at someone!  (I’m making a case that we should earn hazard pay for teaching upper level liberal arts classes online!)

Gallery

OT: Appreciating Beauty in the Classical tRAdition

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I new there was a reason I didn’t bother to take many pictures…

Guylty Pleasure

As many of you have gathered from my absence, I spent the last week on a holiday without proper access to the internet. Hence, the weekly round-up – again – had to be skipped. Sorry. I returned on Sunday night, but the last few days I have been working on the photographic loot of the holiday, with the intention of putting together my customary photo slide shows with which I usually delight torture my esteemed audience. While I was very happy with my slide-show, it has been a bit of a nightmare in terms of uploading to a video portal for embedding on the blog. I initially made the capital mistake of setting the video to a copyrighted piece of music. For video portal #1 the finished clip was too large → reject. Video portal #2 deleted the soundtrack, which made the whole video pointless → reject. Video portal #3 also objected to the soundtrack →…

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