Nape curl vortex…Chicago edition

I am diligently exposing my honors class to the Classical tradition at the Art Institute of Chicago…

And look what I found!  (Example on right only :) )

And look what I found! (Example on right only 🙂 )

Good thing they have WiFi here, or I may have blown my professorial cover by squeeing to my students!

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I think I’ve found my new preferred work spot…

For the past few weeks I’ve found a writing refuge in a really quiet little local library.  I’d found a hidden spot behind a bookshelf with a table and power access for my laptop.  Score!  Free WiFi…check.  Ear buds and Pandora to mask any ambient noise…check.  It’s been working pretty well.  I arrived today to find that someone had the audacity to sit in MY seat!  *Sigh*  I look around a bit for an alternate and I found an even better spot in the teen section.  Comfy booth to sit in, natural light from the window (annoying construction outside the window that discourages me from gazing absently), no teens at noon on a school day, and best of all…look who’s here with me!!

Who am I to argue with this?

Who am I to argue with this?

ὅ παῖς καλός: Richard Armitage at rest

Kicking back... Source:  Microlina

Kicking back…
Source: Microlina

When I first saw this image yesterday I was struck silent (if you know me at all, you know that is saying A LOT!), and evidently, I wasn’t the only one.  What’s not to love? About thirty seconds later I was slightly uncomfortable.  I’ve been out of the Tumblr and blog loop since late last week, so I wasn’t aware of the source of the image.  At first glance, it looked to me as if Richard Armitage was unaware that he was being photographed.   We all have our own ideas and limits on our fangirling.  I’ve generally decided that I will not recirculate any image that appears to have been taken unbeknownst to the subject, especially in a personal setting.  (This is only my personal position, and I make no judgement on anyone who chooses to do otherwise)  Given that this image seems to have been taken in some sort of production “green room” and it appears on the DVD extras, it’s highly unlikely that Richard Armitage was completely unaware of the photographer.

Now that I know that this is a screencap from EE (excellent catch Microlina!!), not a photo snapped by the cellphone of a now unemployed member of The Hobbit catering staff,  I much relieved.  This is a rare glimpse of Richard Armitage at rest.  Not posed, not staged, just relaxed.  I don’t know that I’ve seen another image where he looks quite so laid back as he is here, schlumped on a sofa, not quite idle as he scrolls on a tablet with pages beneath.  The open, un-tucked shirt, the Belstaff jacket, the combat boots…don’t even get me started on how his hair looks damp in the front!  (just come from make-up/prosthetic removal?)  All in all,  it’s a potently artless display of relaxed male.  Here’s where it gets a bit weird…

I saw that image of Richard Armitage, which tripped all of those triggers,  and I immediately thought of a sculpture that I saw when I was in at the Met in New York in March.

Sleeping Eros Source:  Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sleeping Eros
Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

This is a Hellenistic representation of Eros, the Greek god of love, laid out, sound asleep and totally relaxed.  Now, before you go there, allow me to explain that the image of Eros as a chubby winged baby belies the potently sexual nature of this divinity to the Greeks.   In some ways, this image of Eros is so innocent that it is dangerous.  That is, people see Aphrodite, in all her voluptuous splendor and run for the hills to escape the power of her sexual spell.  Baby Eros?  Not so much.  He can kind of sneak up on you and hit you with a shot of lust right to the…  – er – … you know what I mean. No so different from the image above…just a guy kicked back relaxing on a couch at the end of a long day…but then….BAM!

ὅ παῖς καλός

inter alia: Thorin Oakenshield and “Irons in the Fire”

We all go through ups and downs in life.  I look at my kids and remember when my biggest problem was that my mother refused to buy me the Nike shoes I wanted unless I paid for half, or that I was forced to comply with an 11:30 curfew when my friends could stay out until 12:00.  As an adult,  I can drive, I can vote, I can stay out all night if I want, but I still have to pay for my own damn shoes!  That’s the thing…I can have all of those adult freedoms, but the flip side is that I also have all of those pesky adult problems.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not the existence of the problems – they will always exist in some form or another.  The thing that has been really wearing on me lately is that resolving many of the current issues in my life has gotten to a point that is beyond my control.  I have done my part, but now I must wait until the powers that be do theirs.

I honestly don’t know how Richard Armitage copes with the constant uncertainty that seems to be part of the life of a professional actor. What will the next role be?  When will the next role come?  Will there be a next role?!  I suppose I’m a bit of a control freak.  I do not cope well with the anxiety of waiting while someone else decides my fate.

For the first time, I’ve felt a kind of kinship with Thorin Oakenshield.  Thorin is a capable leader who was powerless to stop the destruction of his home and the scattering of his people.

He does what he can to keep his people together and provide them with a future, whether it is leading them in battle or selling his services as a blacksmith to eke out a living.

After a century of scraping and struggling, of striving for a better life but always living at the whims of forces beyond his control, is it at any wonder that he is tense and taciturn?  When these situations come up one at a time, I can deal with relinquishing control, but lately it seems like virtually every sphere of my life requires me to wait and worry.   Like Thorin, I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire.   The anxiety can be excruciating and exhausting.

too-many-irons-in-the-fire (1)

When one of those irons comes out of the fire, successfully forged and worked into it’s finished form, it is a small victory.

iron Hammered Ladle small

Here’s where I fear that Thorin and I will differ.  I suspect that Thorin’s single-minded desire to recover Erebor will not allow him to see the value of lesser accomplishments.  For me, it’s precisely the small victories that provide the strength to persevere and finish working all the irons in my fire. This time the result might only have been a ladle, but the next finished product could be something so much greater!  Something worth the struggle.  Something life changing!

inter alia: Richard Armitage…take me away!

Long time no post…it has been a hellish few weeks of mostly work related drama and I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck that then backed over me again on its way out.

I really try to keep the tone positive here.  Armitageworld has brought so much light into my chaos.  That lightness is what I usually feel when I’m blogging, but I’ve run into kind of a rough patch lately and it seems to be bleeding into everything.  I want to post, and I don’t want to pretend, so here I am.

A 21st century take...

A 21st century take…

The politics of adulthood are just piling up lately.  Most of the time, I can manage the accumulation, but sometimes the reality of a looming career change, growing children, aging parents, an intermittently unemployed spouse, a suckish economy, constant BS at church – yes, at church… et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum, gets to be more than I can stand.

To add insult to injury, some people feel the need to question the fact that I (and others like me) find some relief from the stresses of daily life in fandom activities.  It’s bad enough when people outside the fandom do it, but lately, it’s been a creeping thing within the fandom too – not directed specifically at me, but present nonetheless.  I am really starting to detest any sentence that begins with “You should…”  It’s usually something to the tune of, “You should find something more worthwhile to do with your time,” or “You should act your age,” or whatever other form of “you’re doing it wrong”  sentiment comes to mind.

So I wonder, if looking at pictures like this

Richard Armitage profile from BAFTA Tea Party in LA
Photo by Kevin Winter
Image can be viewed at Getty Images by searching Richard Armitage

or watching Richard Armitage’s performances and interviews or listening to him read Venetia helps me to go from this:

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to this:

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without the aid of drugs or alcohol or any other mood enhancers, how can it be bad, or wrong, or irresponsible or immature or WHATEVER?!  Why is it of any concern to anyone but me anyway?  Isn’t a certain level of escapism one of the main points of entertainment in the first place?

Thanks for stopping by my pity party…sorry there’s no cake!

Golden Boys: King Midas and Thorin Oakenshield

“It’s this attraction to gold which becomes their downfall, has always been at the back of his mind.”

 -Richard Armitage (http://collider.com/richard-armitage-the-hobbit-interview/)

The allure of gold, the danger of succumbing to greed, is a recurrent theme in many world societies, and it was certainly of interest to the ancient Greeks.  Arguably the most famous cautionary tale from Greek mythology is the story of King Midas.   As the Greeks tell the story (and a lot of them do!)  Midas was a powerful king of the kingdom of Phrygia in central Anatolia.  He was renowned for a lot of things, including wisdom and a love of the arts and literature, but it is the story of The Golden Touch that most everyone remembers.

A lot of authors tell this story and virtually all the versions start with the wanderings of the reveling followers of Dionysus, his favorite satyr friend Silenus in particular.  The revelers were travelling through Midas’ neck of the woods and Silenus was separated from the group, ending up in the famous rose gardens of Midas.

Silenus brought before the king... Source: http://www.ancient.eu.com/midas/

Silenus brought before the king…
Source: http://www.ancient.eu.com/midas/

When the drunken old satyr (half man, half goat) was apprehended and brought before the king, Midas treated him with cordiality and hospitality.  When Dionysus heard of the friendly reception that Silenus had received from Midas, he offered the king anything he wished in thanks.  Midas asked Dionysus to grant him a golden touch…that is, that everything he touched would turn to gold.

In theory, this sounds like a good idea, but in practice it turns into one of those “be careful what you wish for” scenarios.  Dionysus told Midas as much, warning him of the potential dangers of such a wish, but Midas would not be talked out of it, so the wish was granted.  Initially, Midas was ecstatic…touched a branch – Presto! – gold branch.  Touched a rock – Shazam! – er…you get the picture.  Midas made his way home, touching everything in sight as he went.  (Good thing ancient kings always traveled with large retinues – somebody had to carry all that gold!)

By the time he made it back to his palace, Midas was jubilant…and famished.  Gold making is hungry and thirsty work!  He ordered a feast to be laid out for him and quickly encountered the catch of his golden wish.  Everything he touched turned to gold…everything, including the bread he picked up to eat and the wine he tried to drink.  When he tried to sleep, his comfy bed with its sumptuous coverings, turned to cold hard gold too.  Before long, the very sight of gold was abhorrent and Midas was headed back to beg Dionysus to reverse the “gift.”

This story served two purposes for the Greeks.  It was an etiological myth that explained why gold was so plentiful in a certain river in Lydia…Dionysus instructed Midas to bathe in the river Pactolus to lose the golden touch.  It also served as yet another illustration of the Greeks’ assertion that sophrosyne was the way to go.   Midas would have been fine with a moderate gift of gold from Dionysus, but his greed in wanting it all was his undoing.

Thorin’s ability to withstand the lure of the “dragon sickness” that had consumed his grandfather is certain to be a major theme in the remaining films of The Hobbit trilogy.   Thorin is even more aware of the potential dangers than Midas.  Midas had only been warned of the threat…Thorin has seen for himself the damage that greed for gold wrought on his house.  I will be very interested to see how Richard Armitage characterizes this growing obsession in Thorin’s character….the peeks from the trailer are alluring!

Paludamentally yours…Thorin Oakenshield in Roman Military Wear

Thorin Oakenshield looking very Roman generalish in the DOS trailer. Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com Source:

Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) looking very Roman generalish in the TDOS trailer.
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

I have been trying very hard to isolate myself from the impending deluge of promotion preceding the release of The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug in December.  I just can’t afford three solid months of constant distraction.   As such, *braces self for hue and cry* I haven’t watched the trailer yet.  I did, however, catch a glimpse of the image above and was instantly struck by how very Roman Thorin (Richard Armitage) looks.  With a mind toward NOT being sucked into the distraction, I noted it and moved along.  Then Servetus had to post this…dammit, now I have no choice! I will lose my Classical Tradition Club membership if I don’t formally address the Roman military inspiration of this look.

The paludamentum or sagum purpura (purple cloak) was the iconic red cloak worn by a Roman general (Legatus) and his staff officers.  Originally, it’s distinctive red/purple color clearly delineated between these officers and the rest of the army, which sported the sagum gregale (cloak of the flock).  Although the sagum gregale, worn by the rank and file, started out the color of the flock (i.e. undyed wool), it seems likely to have transitioned to a coarser version of the sagum purpura by the imperial period (27BCE – 476CE).  Outfitting the entire army in red garments would have been a mark of the great wealth of Rome – well, that and the fact that the Romans controlled the source of purple dye by then.

  • Brief sideline into the color purple… The Romans did not have an extremely detailed vocabulary for color (they would have been completely dumbfounded by the Crayola color palette!)  and their understanding of purple encompassed a variety of shades ranging from red to maroon to purple.  A deep, rich color like this was quite difficult to achieve with the dyes available in the ancient world.
Shells of Bolinus Brandaris

Shells of Bolinus Brandaris

  • In fact, the Phoenicians made a fortune selling Tyrian Purple, a dye extracted from the Bolinus Brandaris or Spiny dye murex, a mollusk that resides in the waters off the coast of Phoenicia (modern Lebanon).  The potency of this dye made it “worth it’s weight in silver” according to the ancient historian Theopompus, and put it well out of reach of all but the extremely wealthy.

Sorry…I got a little carried away there!  The paludamentum was a cloak that was specifically associated with warfare.  A general donned one for the ceremonial procession leading an army out of the sacred precinct of the city of Rome and was required to remove it before returning to the city…a sign that he was no longer a general, but a common citizen.

paludamentum mixThe paludamentum was usually worn over one shoulder and fastened with a fibula (ancient version of a safety pin).  Arguments abound over what shoulder was exposed, but it seems fairly clear that the garment was fastened loosely enough to move around, (if you look through the Cleopatra caps, you’ll see that the sagum worn by Epiphanes (Richard Armitage) shifts freely when he’s involved in a tussle in defense of Octavian (Rupert Graves)).

fibula cuirass detailIn addition to the details of the cloak and the fibulae (Thorin wears two), it looks to me as if he might also be wearing a leather chest protector (cuirass) that is detailed with an elaborate metal section.  If you look at the image of Ciarin Hinds as Caesar above, you’ll see a similar arrangement, which is well attested historically.  All in all, this is very Roman regalia indeed.

There is one thing that stands out as distinctly not Roman however, and that is Thorin’s hair.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Thorin’s mane, but the Romans were sticklers about hair.  In his biography of Caesar, Suetonius recounts that not only did Caesar keep his face shaved and his hair cut short, he also insisted that all of his body hair be regularly removed.  (Here’s to job security for depilatory slaves!)

Thorin’s long, braided hair and beard would have immediately marked him as a barbarian, a German even (no offense my German friends, but your ancestors scared the togas off the Romans!).  By the later stages of the Empire though, there were plenty of Romanized barbarians who had been assimilated into the Roman army.  In this guise, Richard Armitage could be any one of a number of Ostrogothic kings who rose to prominence as Roman power waned in western Europe.  I’m especially partial to Theodoric the Great.  He had grown up as a hostage in the Byzantine court at Constantinople and went on to recover and rule the remnants of the Roman west, promoting religious tolerance in an era of persecution.  I seem to recall Richard Armitage saying in an interview that he’d like to play an historic character, but not someone too famous…I think I might have found the perfect fit.

VALÉ Armitageworld