It doesn’t seem possible, but…

It’s my blogiversary!!

Isn't he just so sweet to have some new pix hit the wire just in time for the celebration?

Isn’t he just so sweet to have some new pix hit the wire just in time for the celebration?

Thanks to all my followers, old and new and to everyone who’s dropped by here and there.  I don’t say it often enough, but I really appreciate everyone who takes the time to read my ramblings!  I feel like I’ve only just gotten started, so stay tuned for more to come!

You’re doing THINGS (?!) to my vocabulary Richard Armitage! (or the ancient Greeks had headcanon too!)

I knew I wanted to post a piece about a particular vase painting today, but I was struggling a bit with exactly how to introduce it.  While I was reading a bit of background, I had an epiphany (nope…that is a pre-Armitage word in my arsenal).  The recent addition to my personal lexicon is HEADCANON.  Having never really participated in fandom activities prior to tumbling head first into Armitageworld in 2012, I had never heard the term, which an UrbanDictionary entry defines as,

Used by followers of various media of entertainment, such as television shows, movies, books, etc. to note a particular belief which has not been used in the universe of whatever program or story they follow, but seems to make sense to that particular individual, and as such is adopted as a sort of “personal canon”. Headcanon may be upgraded to canon if it is incorporated into the program or story’s universe.

The realm of fan fiction is heavily populated with this concept as fic writers expand on or reinterpret chaRActers and stories.  But headcanon are not confined to authors.  Whether we define them as such or not, virtually every fan has his or her own personal and chaRActer/story related Richard Armitage headcanon – with so much information in the realm of supposition, it’s almost impossible not to.

I'm a little afraid to contemplate the headcanons this pic inspired!  ;)

I’m a little afraid to contemplate the headcanons this pic inspired! 😉

The concept of headcanons is a relatively recent one, and is largely confined to fan based activities.  In fact, a search of will bring one to exactly zero definitions of the term in mainstream lexicons.  Imagine my surprise when it jumped out as perfectly applicable to a piece of ancient Greek pottery!

"Vatican 344" by Exekias Source

“Vatican 344” by Exekias

The vase above is considered by many to be the masterpiece work of the potter/vase painter Exekias.  It was made in Athens around 530BC in a style known as Black Figure, which refers to a method of decorating and firing the vessel so that areas painted with slip appear black while the unslipped portions retain the characteristic orange-red color of the local clay.

Detail of Vatican 344

Detail of Vatican 344

While the style of the period and the limitations of the Black Figure technique result in typically “Archaic” looking figures, evident in the heavily stylized indications of musculature and the characteristically rendered eyes, there is no question that Exekias was an artist at the pinnacle of his craft here.  I have always marvelled at the incredible intricacy of the garments the figures wear.  In this technique, each and every bit of detail is added by incising lines into the black areas after firing.  Looking carefully at the cloaks, you can see just how skilled the artist was.

This vase is certainly exceptional in terms of artistry, but the subject of the scene is also very interesting.  On the surface, we have two male figures, dressed in military garb, their armor and weapons close by.  We don’t have to guess at who they are since Exekias was in the habit of labeling his figures.  On the left, still wearing his helmet, is Achilles.  Across the table from him is Ajax.  Achilles and Ajax were the greatest of the Greek heroes who fought in the legendary Trojan War.  Interestingly though, Exekias didn’t show them in the midst of what they did best – fighting.   Instead, he chose to depict these two outstanding Greek warriors…playing a board game?!  There is no question as to what they are doing…again, the artist has captioned the “action” for us as each player calls out the number he’s thrown – Achilles rolled a four, Ajax a three.

Scenes associated with the Trojan War are extremely common in Greek art, and although Homer’s Iliad is the most well known source of Trojan War lore, it actually only covers a very small portion of the whole story arc.  There are a whole slew of other bits and pieces of the Trojan Cycle that survive in fragments from a variety of different sources.  Here’s the catch though – this particular episode is not to be found in any of the extant stories that discuss the Trojan War, yet it became extremely popular as an art motif in the wake of Exekias (there are over 150 known vases decorated with this scene in the 50 years following Exekias’ career).  John Boardman, a heavy hitter in the world of Greek vase painting, suggested that perhaps Exekias was pulling a vignette from local “bardic traditions”  that had never become part of the mainstream story.   In the absence of any strong evidence pointing in another direction, I’d argue that it’s equally possible that an artist like Exekias was tapping into his own imagination…developing a headcanon for what might have gone on in the considerable downtime that the Greek heroes would have had during the ten year siege of Troy.  What was I saying about things changing and staying the same?

I was looking around for an Armitage related image to weave in here, and it turns out that there are not very many filmed scenes of chaRActers playing games, but look at this great piece of original fan art by Natascha illustrating another fan’s prompt:

Thorin and Dwalin arm wrestling....FANtastic headcanon!! Source:

Thorin and Dwalin arm wrestling….FANtastic headcanon!!

Pathos Personified: The Dying Gaul and a Panoply of Richard Armitage Characters

Welcome to another installment of the  Ancient Armitage tour through some of my favorite pieces of Greco-Roman art.  I’ve made no secret about having a certain preference for the art of the Hellenistic period, so I doubt anyone will be shocked when I reveal that another of my faves belongs to that period.

"The Dying Gaul" 2nd cent AD Roman copy of 3Rd cent BC original Source

“The Dying Gaul”
2nd cent AD Roman copy of 3Rd cent BC original

This Roman copy in marble is modeled after an original Greek piece, probably cast in bronze, that was commissioned for the king of Pergamon to commemorate his victory over neighboring Galatia – populated by Celtic or Gaulish peoples.   The sculpture depicts a mortally wounded Gallic warrior, identified by his mustache and torc, as he lies, slumping down among his weapons.  If we look closely, we can see the mortal sword wound just under his right pectoral.



Unlike similarly themed works from the 6th and 5th centuries BC, the severity of his wound is evident in his posture and expression.  The viewer can almost feel the valiant effort the wounded warrior is exerting to stay upright as the weight of his pain bears him down.  While the ancient Greeks were exceptionally good at trash talking their enemies (cf Herodotus’ The Histories where the author goes to some length to describe the surpassing oddity of most things Persian) they are also exceptionally skilled at depicting the enemy as noble and strong, even in defeat.  Makes sense…after all, it wouldn’t be much of a victory if the enemy were ignoble and weak specimens.

Hellenistic art is often emotionally evocative, and the pathos of this piece is particularly striking to me.  In Greek, πάθος in general terms means “that which happens to a person or a thing,” and it also takes on a more specific connotation of suffering or misfortune.  The Dying Gaul’s suffering and misfortune is clear from the heavy, slumping position of his body and is further enhanced by his expressive face.

A portrait of pathos..

A portrait of pathos..

The bowed head with it’s furrowed brow, pensive eyes and slightly open mouth present a fallen warrior determined to endure his suffering stoically, but unable to wipe all trace of it from his features.

Pathos is also an interesting word in the sense that it comes into contemporary English usage as an element of communication.  As originally articulated by Aristotle in Rhetoric, pathos is a device used to appeal to an audience’s emotions.  Richard Armitage is quite adept at playing with this quality in any number of his characterizations by means of a variety of verbal cues, but like The Dying Gaul, he is also able to tap into the power of pathos through purely visual means…

Whether it’s Guy of Gisborne’s excruciating interchanges with Marian or the Sheriff,

guy pathos 2

Guy of Gisborne – S2 Source

Paul Andrews desperately trying to keep his secret


Between the Sheets Source

John Thornton facing financial ruin,

North and South - E4 Source

North and South – E4

Lucas North’s anguish in the face of all that he’s lost


Spooks S7 E2 Source

John Porter’s grief

Strikeback S1 E6 Source

Strikeback S1 E6

or the heavy burden of Thorin’s duty,

The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey Source

The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey

the ability to visually evoke the powerfully emotive qualities of pathos is something that Richard Armitage and The Dying Gaul share.


PS…I would remiss if I did not share the following gratuitous rear view:


I’ve said it before: if the whole acting thing doesn’t work out….sculpture model?



S.O.S. : My WP reader is driving me insane!

Help!  Several times over the past few weeks a number of blogs I’ve been following, and have had no intention to or recollection of “unfollowing” have disappeared from my follow list.   I don’t have email notifications turned on because my leg was starting to go numb from my phone buzzing in my pocket, so I just take a look at my WP reader a few times a day to see new posts.  Occasionally I’ve noticed a reblog of a blog I thought I was following, only to find I’m not following…it’s maddening!

1.  Has anyone else noticed this issue, or is there some kind of pixie messing with me (I understand that pixies often take the form of 8-1/2 year old girls who constantly pilfer my iPad, so there may be something there….)

2.  If you see me appear and disappear and appear again in your followers, I’m not *trying* to be a tool…it just comes naturally.   😉

Input appreciated…

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

This is a proverb I’ve found to be true in a great many cases.  The basic principle is one that I try to instill in my students.  I teach ancient history, which is often very remote for 21st century undergraduates until they are able to see that regardless of time, hairstyles or a centuries long “oddity” of men wearing skirts, human beings are more or less the same.  Placed in similar circumstances, humans are rather predictable in their attitudes and decision making.  A piece of ancient news (how’s that for a fabulous oxymoron?!)  came across my Facebook feed today courtesy of a pal (Hi Pal!) that illustrates this beautifully.

I have been complaining pretty much non stop the past few days about being sick.  I had great plans for my Spring Break which have been more or less been canned by a rotten stomach flu.  Yesterday afternoon, still feeling crummy, I had just shipped my daughter off to a Lenten service with my parents and was preparing to lay down for a while when my sister called needing help in a transferring her two cats between the vet and home with only one carrier.  I ended up sitting in the car for thirty minutes with the post surgical cat sans carrier while she was inside with the other one.

My internal whine-alogue was in high gear wondering why no one seemed to realize that I am unwell…sitting in a car babysitting a cat who won’t come out from under the seat…why didn’t she just buy another stupid carrier…and so on.  When she came to reclaim her cat, I went on my gloomy way, planning to stop at the market.  I needed more ginger ale to settle my stomach, and while I was there, I would grab something for my husband to eat for dinner since both kids were covered, and heaven knows an adult male who once worked as a chef won’t be able to manage by himself if I’m physically in the house.  I was almost through the store when I got a text from my oldest looking for a ride home from play rehersal…I could have cried.  NOW?!! I texted back….no answer…typical.   My mind had already settled on the comforting reality of going home to grab a short nap while the house as still quiet, but that was not to be.  My martyred sensibilities were griping all the way to the school and then back as I crabbed aloud about how nobody cared that I didn’t feel well…that I would need to be actually dead before somebody wasn’t calling me to do something for them…and on and on and on.

I’m sure it was a pretty good show…my son certainly seemed to enjoy it based on all of the eye rolling and sighing he was doing.  I was gratified to see that my put upon attitude is not unique to me…it’s not even unique to my millenium.  Humans have always had a tendency toward passive aggressive melodrama, as a recently translated letter, written on papyrus in the 3rd century AD illustrates handily.

The fragmentary state of this papyrus illustrates nicely why so much of our knowledge of the ancient world is bracketed by ??

The fragmentary state of this papyrus illustrates nicely why so much of our knowledge of the ancient world is bracketed by ??

From what the translator, a Rice University graduated student can make out, this is a letter written by a Roman soldier of Egyptian heritage (Egypt had been annexed by Rome in 31 BC) writing home from his post in Pannonia in south eastern Europe.  A long way from home and missing communication from his family, he wrote,

Translated by Grant Adamson, Rice University

Translated by Grant Adamson, Rice University

Ah, that vaguely bitchy, passive aggressive, aggrieved tone.  Yes, I know it well.  This isn’t a particularly ancient sentiment, or a modern one either.  I’d say it’s more of a universally human response.  In a world that sometimes seems to change faster than I can keep up with, it’s somewhat comforting to know that some things, like good old pissiness, are essentially immutable  🙂

It did make me think though,

...and I can't, for the life of me, see Porter or Thorin being quite so whiny.  (but it might make a great fan fic!)

…and I can’t, for the life of me, see Porter or Thorin being quite so whiny. (but it might make a great fan fic!)

Back from the brink…SpReAd the Love Update

Well, I am slightly less verklempt today than I was Tuesday.  Despite Staplegate (It’s huge!!) and half full classes due to a pandemic of Spring Breakisnextweekitis I am in the home stretch now – papers are graded, midterm grades are submitted and Spring Break Is NExt WEEK!!! (I’m not very excited…no, not excited at all!)

Thorin's much better today too! Source

Thorin’s much better today too!

The SpReAd the Love Children’s Book Challenge is wrapping up, although we might have a couple of posts trickle in from time to time.  Mini Me was so excited about her guest appearance that she mentioned the challenge to the members of her reading group at school.  Three of her colleagues have also provided me with memorable titles – Mini-Me forgot the questions, so all I’ve got are the titles.  (I am omitting the names of the contributors in the interests of not creating little girl drama that becomes intra-parent drama)

Meet Felicity (the first in a series about the Revolutionary War era American Girl Doll who has since been “archived” – sounds very ominous!)

Beauty and the Beast (A timeless classic reinvented by Disney for a new generation…)

Meet One Direction (I would rather not contemplate why this book is so meaningful to the 8 year old set)

MiniMe and I will donate these three titles in addition to the books that we highlighted to the Half Price Books Half Pint Library Book Drive – they will match our 6 donations with an additional six, making a dozen books that will be distributed to needful readers in the local area.  Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy!

Including book challenge posts from Servetus, alyssabethancourt, Fanny and Jazzy Jr. we added 17 kindnesses, so our new grand total of donated kindnesses and books is 281!  Jazzybaby1 and I have been really thrilled at everyone’s response to the SpReAd the Love idea and we hope that you will all continue letting us know about kindness you give or receive.  The world can be a really ugly place sometimes, but every person who reaches out, in even the smallest way, is doing his or her part to make it better.  Looking ahead, we’ll have a few more challenges and some fun and games to keep the ball rolling.


I was meaning to, but I just can’t even…

I should be giving you an update on SpReAd the Love…the Children’s Book Challenge was great fun, and had a wonderful turnout for a first time event.  However, having been battered by reading some really, really ugly student papers over the last few days, and with midterm grades due tomorrow, I’m feeling kind of like this…

I've been making a weird squacking noise all day, which might be a stifled version of Thorin's majestic scream. Source:

I’ve been making a weird squacking noise all day, which might be a stifled version of Thorin’s majestic scream.

In the interest of not slathering my current bad mojo all over STL, I’ll defer a few days…feel free to continue to submit reports of kindnesses…I promise I won’t Thorin roar at you 🙂

achievement unlocked: book love spReAd

This is awesome – We’re donating to the Half Pint Library drive too – double your pleasure!!

Autistic Wordpainter

Saturday ended up being a bit crazy, so I wasn’t able to make my book donation until today. When I told the spawn where I was going and why, he wanted to come along and make a donation of his own. On the way, we talked about what book he planned to share. His immediate, emphatic answer was Ender’s Game. All discussions about the very disappointing movie aside, he explained that it was the first book that went into him as more than words. I know just what he means.

At the book store, I was suddenly faced with an unexpected dilemma:

Holy cheese! Which one do I choose? Holy cheese! Which one do I choose?

So many editions! Too many choices! I was at it for a while, but I eventually settled on a winner.

with Tolkien's original illustrations With Tolkien’s original illustrations.

Although this one was a major temptation and made me think right away of Obscura and

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SpReAd The Love Book Challenge: a Book-lover’s Dilemma

What a fantastic array of titles…thanks Alyssa!

Autistic Wordpainter

I know this is literally the last minute and I meant to do it earlier, and it’s technically no longer the 7th for me, but there are still a few minutes before midnight on the West Coast, so let’s hope this counts.

Like others who have done this challenge, I didn’t think I would be able to participate because I could not even begin to choose one book from among the dizzying quantity I read and loved as a child.  I was (am) a reader.  I was the kid whose poor mother was popping in at three in the morning to find her child with the light still on, reading instead of sleeping on a school night.  Pick just one book?  How?

There’s the first book I can remember having read to me, The Hobbit.  I’ve already talked at length about the way this experience is…

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