Spread the Love: The Children’s Book Challenge – The Light in the Forest

darn my WP reader…I think I have it fixed now – Thanks Perry!!

Armitage Agonistes


I could only think of one childhood book that I remembered and while I recall it fondly, almost sentimentally, there isn’t much to write about it and, as it is a collector’s edition now, donation is impractical. The book, passed on by my cousin, was Kiki Dances by Charlotte Steiner.kikidances$_35

Instead, for the Spread the Love Children’s Book Challenge sponsored by Jazzie and Obscura, I’ve chosen to write about an historical novel I taught to seventh graders (ages 11-12), The Light in the Forest, by Conrad Richter (1953).

The Light in the Forest takes place in 18th century Ohio and Pennsylvania, and is based on a 1764 event in history when an American colonel ( also a character in the book, Colonel Bouquet) marched into Ohio with 1,500 soldiers and ordered that the Indians return the white prisoners they had captured.

True Son, (John Butler) a 15 year old boy…

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Spread the Love Children’s Book Challenge: Madeline’s Rescue

Love Madeline!! Thanks to KatherineD for writing and Perry for hosting

Armitage Agonistes


In furtherance of Jazzie and Obscura’s Spread the Love Children’s Book Challenge, Guest blogger KatharineD writes about everyone’s favorite, Madeline, in Madeline’s Rescue.

As a child I was surrounded by books; both my parents were librarians, so there was a constant stream of new books entering the house. We didn’t have TV, because my parents considered it to be non-educational, so books were everything to us- to be read, to have read to you. We were also taken to our local public library regularly on Friday evenings so we could choose for ourselves, quite apart from what Dad brought home for us to read. There are any number of children’s books that have made a lasting impression on me, but I’ve chosen one from my young childhood, Madeline’s Rescue, first published in 1953.
The author, Ludwig Bemelmans wrote a series of Madeline books, so if you fell in…

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πτοιώδης καὶ ὑποδύσκολος: Richard Armitage plays shy and awkward…

I should be grading some papers right now, so of course I’m writing a blog post…it has to be brief though, those students might revolt if I don’t have their papers tonight!

Fortunately, I have just the thing…When I was at the Art Institute of Chicago last fall, moving through the Of Gods and Glamour:  The Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries of Greek, Roman and Byzantine Art, the raison d’etre of that pilgrimage to Chicago,  I noticed this vase:

Attic Red Figure Hydria attributed to the Leningrad Painter - mid 5th century BC

Attic Red Figure Hydria attributed to the Leningrad Painter – mid 5th century BC

(This is a photo that I shot and I apologize for the glare in some spots…the high gloss fire of the slip along with the curve of the vase and the halogen spots in the exhibit was not a winning photographic combo.)

This is a  beautifully preserved vase dating to the period when Athens was reaching the height of its political and cultural influence.  The central couple was what really caught my eye…a couple who appear to be engaged in a rather shy kiss between a woman and much taller man.  His left arm is around her waist, his right appearing to hang awkwardly between them as he stoops over.

At face value, this scene reminded me very much of the body language used by Richard Armitage in his role as John Standring in Sparkhouse (BBC, 2002).

Wow, this is awkward...(John Standring and Carol Bolton on their wedding night)

Wow, this is awkward…(John Standring and Carol Bolton on their wedding night)

Richard Armitage does a great job embodying the shy awkwardness of John Standring as he interacts with a much smaller, but much more worldy Carol Bolton (Sarah Smart).  His hesitance, his great care to measure his movements towards her, his willingness to let her take the lead, sits in touching contrast to his much larger physical presence.  (I got the impression he would have stood in that stairwell all night had she not taken his hand to lead him up the stairs.)  This is one of my favorite things about Richard Armitage, how he uses tiny cues to make himself believably vulnerable despite his imposing physicality.

Close up...what is that hand actually doing?

Close up…what is that hand actually doing?

For all that I appreciate the superficial similarity of scene, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that hesitance and shyness is probably not the intended tone of this vase painting.  Yes, this is a much taller man bending to reach a shorter partner, but the difference really lies in how one “reads” that sort of awkwardly hanging right arm.  Without prior knowledge, it is easy to interpret this as an inexperienced young man who’s not quite sure where to put his parts during this embrace…that is a possible reading, but it would be unusual to see such a scene in the Corpus Vasorum (yes, that is an actual term 🙂  )  In fact, that arm is most often read by scholars as cupping toward her crotch…so much for shy and awkward!

I can’t for the life of me see “Sweetie John” moving in for the full frontal grope!  Although…..who knows, Carol might have made a lot of different choices if he had 😉

Tempus Fugit: SpReAd the Love Update

Good Lord!  Where did the last week go I wonder?  Between drama at work and a crushingly busy weekend followed by parent-teacher conferences for my oldest last evening, I completely lost track of time and updating everyone on our SpReAd the Love progress.

celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday March 2 by donating a book to a needy child

celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday March 2 by donating a book to a needy child

The book challenge has gotten underway with posts from Trudy Brasure and Servetus on favorite children’s books.  I really do need to get going on this…I’ve been re-reading my selection.  I will also have a guest post from my daughter MiniMe who, I think, has made her final book selection, but that may have changed since yesterday.  There is still time to write a post if you’d like, of if you’d rather not, you can always get in on the act by simply donating a children’s book where it can be of use.  I also found a fantastic triple dip opportunity for many in the US….

Half Price Books has stores throughout many parts of the US

Half Price Books has stores throughout many parts of the US

This means if you choose to donate to the Half Pint Library, Half Price Books will match your donation, and if you let us know about it, we’ll count it as well and money will be donated to Richard Armitage’s Just Giving charities – that’s a lot of impact for the donation of one small book  🙂

After meeting our first challenge goal in only 6 weeks, we are still steadily tallying kindness from all over and I am confident that we’ll reach our second matching gift donation with kindness to spare.  It’s really clear to me that for many people in this wonderful community, kindness and generosity are a way of life, not something most find needful of credit.  SpReAd the Love’s main goal is to highlight and celebrate the amazing capacity for kindness that so many Armitage fans embody, and if we can raise a little money for some worthy causes in the process,  that much the better.  As of Sunday February 23rd, we’ve recorded 226 kindnesses given or received.

In the spirit of the recently completed Sochi Winter Olympiad, I’ll leave you with a pretty cool Olympic kindess that Jazzy passed along to me

olympic kindness

“Light of the world shine on me…LOVE is the answer.” : SpReAd the Love Update

bleak midwinter

Yesterday was an awful day for me for a number of reasons, including the most recent half foot of snow that fell on my habitat. Too much time cooped up in the house, every one is getting on each other’s nerves and I’m beginning to feel the effects of the winter blues…(often now classified as part of SAD).  Today was immediately better as the sun broke through the clouds on my way to work…turns out light (phototherapy) is a common way to treat the winter blues in a literal sense.

SpReAd the Love was a source of figurative light in the past week too.  Here are some highlights of the weekly totals:

imageThe RAworld Secret Valentine a plethora of lovely Valentine wishes in all shapes and sizes, and was great fun for one and all.


Last week we also marked a direct donation to Richard Armitage’s Just Giving page which credits SpReAd the Love for inspiration…fantastic!!

Jazzy also has some great news about the children’s book challenge…check it out here

It seems like there was something else that I wanted to mention…what was it?  Let me think….oh yeah – THIS!!!


As of Sunday February 16, we not only met our first goal of 200 kindnesses, we surpassed it by 10!!!  LOVE really is the answer, let’s keep SpReAding is shall we?!

Hearts, flowers, candy and blood sacrifice? Happy Valentine’s Day Armitageworld!


People seem to be very interested in sleuthing out the ancient origins of modern customs, and Valentine’s Day is no different.  I had a general idea of what I’d find when I started looking more closely…and as it turns out, the origins of the romantic-y lovey dovey side of Valentine’s Day are rather murky.  The holiday itself is a Christian feast day in honor of St. Valentine (or Saints Valentine…there seem to have been several martyred by the still pagan Romans), but how it came to be a festival of love and lovers and it’s possible connection to any ancient pagan rite is much less clear.

It is not uncommon to find Christian festival days coinciding with  ancient ones…in fact, I came across entries from several rather irate atheists who are really put out that the Christian church has routinely glommed on to pagan festival days for it’s own nefarious purpose of shoving Christianity down the throats of perfectly happy pagans.  That is just a bit of an overstatement.  It is true that many later Christian holidays coincide with ancient pagan festivals, and sometimes this is deliberate.  Christmas, for instance, was a relative late comer to the holiday schedule.  By the time it was decided to celebrate an official birth holiday, any records of the actual date of Christ’s birth had long disappeared, so a decision was made to overlay the new Christian holiday with the existing Roman festivals associated with the winter solstice – sacred to virtually every culture.  It worked well for a number of purposes…religious syncretism being only one.  Truthfully, the Christian Church would have been left precious few days to choose from if it had been required to avoid all Roman festival days…the Roman Religious Calendar was packed!

Now, back to Valentine’s Day…the closest Roman festival day, which is often linked as an ancient origin, is Lupercalia.  This linkage is pretty flimsy.  Lupercalia was one of the oldest Roman religious festivals and was connected to their remote origins as shepherds.  By the first century BC, even the Romans had either forgotten, or taken great pains to protect the identity of the actual deity and the meanings of many of the rituals.  Without getting too complicated,  Lupercalia was clearly associated with purification and fertility.  Every year on February 15, the Romans celebrated the Lupercalia which included the ritual sacrifice of young goats and young dogs by two young men of noble birth (evidently, all notably sex driven creatures).  They then cut the skins of the sacrificed goats into pieces, using some of it to cover parts of their bodies.  The rest of the skins were cut into strips.  The two young men then ran through the streets of Rome striking people, especially women, with the strips of skin.  Women would actually line up along the streets to get closer since being struck with the goat skin was believed to enhance fertility and ensure them an easy delivery.   Rather a far cry from conversation hearts and assorted chocolates, but, depending on who’s wielding the skins, I might be persuaded to reevaluate my traditional Valentine’s Day celebration….

Queue up ladies...

Queue up everyone…

Felicia Lupercalia Armitageworld!!

Love for Obscura

Look at my awesome secret Valentine…thanks Diabolomenthe!!

RAworld Secret Valentine 2014


My dear Obscura,

You do not know me, though I have been a frequent lurker on your blog.

I just wanted to tell you how much I, and I am sure many others, appreciate your insights into both RA fandom and history as well. As a follow history enthusiast, I get very excited by many of the topics you cover and enjoy the erudite aspect of your own personal fandom. RA is different things to everyone, and I love what he is to you, and the way you express that in your blog.

Also, your focus and initiative in the SpReAD the Love campaign takes that admiration and shares it with countless others in a wonderful way. I admire you.

So this is me, your “secret” admirer, thanking you for all of the love and pleasure that you bring to our special little community of RA lovers.

I wish you…

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Holy Shrimp…I almost forgot! SpReAd the Love Weekly Update

By the way…before we get started,

DO NOT look up “Holy Shrimp” on Urban Dictionary — I know you’re gonna do it, just don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Logo designed by Gisborne's Boy

Logo designed by Gisborne’s Boy

Now, back to STL…


Our new total of kindnesses given and received reached 175 on Sunday!  We had one enormously huge donation that has renewed my faith in my fellow humans.  Negativity is always out there, lurking, but every time I think it just might get the better of me, someone comes along and tells me something incredible.  The giver of the kindness would prefer to remain anonymous, but trust me when I say the world would be a kinder place with more of her in it!

I do have a kind of cool story that happens to have come from my own neck of the woods…my front yard actually.  Last week Tuesday I received the following text message from my husband:

Obscurus is a man of few words, and even less punctuation  ;)

Obscurus is a man of few words, and even less punctuation 😉

Kindness must be contagious!  You could have knocked me over with a feather.  Don’t get me wrong, my husband is a good guy, but I practically have to light a fire under him to get him to unload the dishwasher!  I take this as a sign that the universe is soaking up all of the kindness.  He was there, at that place, at that time to offer a little assistance to an elderly woman who was stranded and alone in the snow and cold. Turns out she knows my Grandma Anna and they had a nice chat!

Plans are moving along for the March book challenge…there is still plenty of time to reflect on a book that was important to you as a youth or one that your children loved.  Let us know if you need a blog to post your reflection on.  Mini Me is busy scouring her shelves in anticipation of a guest appearance…stay tuned.

Also, don’t forget the Secret Valentine…I’ll bet if you whisper sweet nothings in her ear, Guylty can probably hook you up!

Have a week filled with kindness, and pass it on!

PS:  to the clerk who made me go back out to my car to fetch my ID before he would sell me a bottle of wine…

Your kindness counts too!

Your kindness counts too!

inter alia: “Hey Richard Armitage, I think your G-string is a bit tight…”

That got your attention didn’t it?!  Nope, this is not a further investigation in to anyone’s underwear preference…

...just a little string instrument humor!

…just a little stringed instrument humor! **

I was listening to my old new favorite collection of music this weekend and remembering how much I love the sound of the cello.   A convenient coincidence I suppose given the Richard Armitage connection, but really, my love of the cello extends back a long way.  Where I grew up, music lessons were (and still are – for now) a part of the public school curriculum, beginning in the 4th grade.  We had our choice of instruments, and I ruled out horns right away  SO   MUCH   SPIT!!  (yeck – leave it to my kid to take up the oboe!)  I was much more attracted to the strings.  I really, really, really wanted to play the cello, but it would have meant hauling it to school on the bus every other day, and that seemed like a daunting prospect since even at 10, I would likely have been playing a full sized instrument.  Violin it was.

I was a proficient violinist.  I suppose that if I had bothered myself to practice more, I could have been more than proficient.  Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda…  In any case, by the time I reached high school,  I had carved out a more or less permanent place as the second chair of the second violin section.  If you know anything about string arrangements, you’ll know that melody is a preciously rare commodity in this section.   Feeling unappreciated (in my 16 year old brain) and seeking greener pastures, I changed over to the viola.  I like the sound of the viola – more mello than the violin, but without the bulk of the cello, but not quite the same.  Not a whole lot of melody to be found here either, but it put me in much closer proximity to the bass instruments (we non treble cleffers had to stick together in that sea of violins) and together we produced the back bone of the ensemble.  The vast majority of the music I encountered was classical.  I love classical music, especially Bach and Mozart, but imagine my surprise when I encountered a cello in a wholly different context.

I mentioned a while back that I had recently rediscovered the music of a band that I loved when I was in college, and that it really took me back.  This band was unique in any number of ways, not the least of which was their integration of the cello in their fusion of funk and rock .

See that guy there?  The one with the bass...yes, the one with the bass and the mohawk...he's also a cellist.

See that guy there? The one with the bass…yes, that’s him on the right too – with the bass and the mohawk…he’s also a cellist.

The bassist for this band, pictured above, is also a classically trained cellist.  The combination of sounds was something that, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I hadn’t heard before, and I liked it…a lot.  Take a listen to the two tracks here…the cello is prominent in the beginning, but is there throughout, bringing a depth to the sound that an electric bass alone can’t provide.

Big Bang Theory – “So Much More”

Big Bang Theory – “Livin’ in a Dream”

Richard Armitage has said that the cello comes closest of an instrument to sounding like the human voice…listen to this version of Led Zepplin’s Kashmir to hear what he means…

I imagine that Richard Armitage has the potential to be a pretty decent cellist….There are certainly plenty of extremely talented female cellists, but it is no secret that there are a lot of very well known male cellists.  I imagine that some of it has to do with the fact that men simply have larger hands and longer fingers which allows them greater reach over the fingering.  Longer arms can’t hurt in reaching around and gaining really deep bowing strokes either.  Long arms and long fingers Richard Armitage has plenty of!

I wonder if years playing the cello have anything to do with the famously open sitting position?

I wonder if years playing the cello have anything to do with the famously open sitting position?

**Check out a masterful list of music puns here